25 July 2006

Journal: Hunger method

I’ve had a job cooking for thieves. A novelty at first, and as the weeks mounted I began to cook that which was so obscure or forbidding-looking that only the truly hungry would eat, and that would work for a while. Then there was the matter of my hunger, and I decided to take things further and concoct whatever caught my fancy and was truly unappetizing looking. Then my boss, behind on payroll, asked me what I was cooking for if only I ate it. Word amongst the thieves is that he has cash flow problems.

This is not my literary method, if only it were! But I try to approximate it sometimes, like I do with anything that leaves a good taste in the mouth.


david raphael israel said...

Hmm, the category of the "unappetizing-looking" is one that has scarcely seen much elaboration, so far as I'm aware. The distinction between what is experienced as tasting / smelling / being good, versus looking like it will taste / smell / be good -- it's a distinction whose difference is rarely noted. Indeed, conventional wisdom errs on the side of not recognizing it.

Perhaps it's more a question of familiarity. To one unfamiliar with a dish or cuisine, anything will seem dubious. Once the food has been ingested, and its savory, nutritive, and overall culinary excellences have been favorably assayed, the ground for doubt, hesitation, mistrust, or even frank (anticipatory) loathing is naturally obviated. What looked dubious is converted into what looks delightful.

But this simply covers a central range; on the outskirts of possibility, perhaps things get more tortuous and interesting.

I suppose there would be literary Lotharios who could elaborate on other sensual metaphor-correlatives for the paradoxical "looks bad / tastes good" culinary idea here floated. It does (come to think of it) also remind me of this anecdote a Hindu friend recently relayed. He said that so-and-so (I don't think he actually named a specific teacher) had a student who, though married to a demonstrably beautiful woman, was meanwhile engaged in an affair with an obviously ugly-looking paramour. Now I get confused about who said what; but basically the next stages of the conversation are something like this: "I don't understand how or why you would do such a thing." "Ah, if you were married, you would understand." I told my friend that in fact I, too, was baffled by the story. He remarked, the problem with the too-beautiful woman is that she lacks warmth; she is always overly aware of her own beauty . . . or some such stuff. I allowed that, anyway, bachelors don't tend to think in such a way. And indeed it hardly seems a definitive or final word on the topic; but it's one in a range of words no doubt.

A detour from your post, but perhaps circling around its larger ambit a bit.


Ian Keenan said...

There’s a Bertrand Blier film on the topic: Too Beautiful For You, with Carole Bouquet and Gerard Depardieu, a good one, not one of his best. I’m not suggesting one turns to Blier for insight into relationships, I’m just saying.

david raphael israel said...

Been ages since I've seen a French film; but not surprising the above idea is covered in that sphere. I guess it's an archetype, as it were.

Of course your original blog post is more surreal and curious.

Ian Keenan said...

Having attempted to extract every morsel of entertainment from the post-war French cinema I can assure you that no possible permutation on the love triangle has gone unexplored, and most of the resulting spectacles seem to feature Depardieu.

My favorite of Blier’s is Buffet Froid: I think it is shot in La Defense (as the public was deeming it an unappealing place to live) and can therefore be considered a parody of Mitterrand-era architecture and culture (conjecture on my part, but what are blogs for?). Absurd as films come, sort of in the Beckett meets Tati (precursor to Mr Bean) vein. Going Places (which Miou-Miou aptly summarizes by saying she got bored getting naked and working out Blier’s sexual problems) and Get Out Your Handkerchiefs merit a look.

david raphael israel said...

The Depardieu remark provoked the stray question as to the meaning of that surname. Google of course brought an answer.

Conjecture as the point of blogs?
the question seems rhetorical
the answer is a pair of clogs
whose trek is allegorical
or maybe metaphorical?
it's hardly categorical
all words produce renaissant fogs:
conjecture as the point of blogs


Ian Keenan said...

Since the obscenity trials were phased out the editors backed off and the writers were left to themselves and the caprices of modernity; can’t say many have been up to it. That’s why I like blogs. Ron just blamed the editors for the fact that Langpo got lumped in with the confessional strains in Gudding’s essay – is it really the editor’s fault? Can’t the writers handle laissez faire treatment?

I’m sure Depardieu never said ‘O my God’ but he has inspired the remark in many onlookers both on the screen and in life.

david raphael israel said...

Well I suppose Ron's blame of the writer was implicit; while his surprising (to this reader) but interesting blame of the editors, was more along the lines of a provocative aside; -- rather like a shoptalk remark, where a techie blames the sound guy (rather than the musician) for certain excessive feedback effects. If the sound guy is also the -- what? -- Show Producer, maybe there's an argument. Still and all, writerly self-responsibility remains an ultimate bottom line buck-stopper, no doubt. But I don't know anything about the particulars of the publication and its editorship -- which perchance Ron does (and thus, who knows what high harmonics are aimed in what direction with what spin?) All I know is, this isn't exactly Kansas, Toto.

Another explanation: Ron's sense of peeve proved so profound, railing at the upstart writer would hardly suffice. Furthermore, essentially he felt the guy to be "smart but misguided [vis-a-vis hitting-close-to-home boundary-laden specifics." And who better to offer guidance to an essay-submitting writer than a wise editor?

Maybe this is armchair proxy quarterbacking of a dubious order.

Ian Keenan said...

Reading Gudding's essay there is this coexistence between insightful points and as Ron says, total sloppiness, so I guess it is a no-brainer to invoke the editors. Also Jordan Davis cites the '99 date of the essay, which can be interpreted as relating in some way to editorial intervention, or the intervention of reflection of some sort.

To go there, time is not the best editor, time doesn’t edit nor read about Frank Bidart. I’m as suspicious about time as I am about editors, but my suspicions about time relate more intrinsically to my being.

david raphael israel said...

hmm, I should check out what Jordan Davis says (a generally interesting chap). My friend Rachel Dacus is also apparently in a sort of vivid tizzy apres reading the essay -- though she doesn't quite spell out what specific bee troubles her bonnet, but I've a good hunch it's not the one Ron was ired over.

I finally turned to the essay itself, and so far have read 4 of its 6 parts, without hazard (nor with much apprehension what all this talk of sloppiness etc. intends). I'm hoping all the ammo and mayhem awaits in the finale; else it seems I missed the party.

Ian Keenan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ian Keenan said...

The work proceeds from a caricature of Heidegger’s position on poetry. This comes back to haunt the essay because that which constitutes experience in contrast to the confessional is narrowly defined, based on what has been historically sanctioned by the education system.

The logical construction lags behind the genealogy, which is the strength of the essay. The selection of confessional or empirical does not have anything to do with the practices and standards used to evaluate who is a poet and what is a poem in the eye of the academy and its editorial appendages, the economics of the school do.

Also with the exception to a reference to a Creeley essay, the genealogy presents the academic appropriation and conformist standardization of diverse, individual, and inspired avant-garde approaches to these issues, and the fact that Gudding is not capable of saying Bernstein’s name without taking a cheap shot at him shows the bias that determines this omission. And again, a quote leads way to a caricature of Bernstein’s positions on poetry, and everything Bernstein wrote about confessional poetry is not noted, in a continuing dialogue of lines out of context.

Heard of a guy named Ginsberg? The alternatives Gudding are really presenting is a choice between being Franz Wright and writing national anthems, which is most likely in itself a confession of Gudding’s.

In other words if you go to school you learn about school, something I remember thinking the last spring I departed from there.

Ian Keenan said...

Gudding, on regretting the swipe at Bernstein: "I've strangely found myself invested with a weird tendency to like almost everyone and everything around me."

The ol' 'I like every creature of the universe' retraction.

The Machiavellian goalposts have moved a little so that careerists give Langpo a little lip service, that's what's changed.

david raphael israel said...

Ah, there could be several ways to read such things, no doubt. I rather like his seemingly bemused self-characterization, anyway. Idly curious: source of quote?
Perhaps in tribute to so-called SoQ antecedents, perhaps it should be dubbed the "all creatures great and small" retraction.
Anyway, so far, my thought is this: BOTH traits Gudding identifies (one he places in 19th century, the other he tags on some 20th centurians) are amply present and discoverable in Whitman's work, whether or not he cares to quote a few scholars thinking about such things and identifying 'em.

There are at least 3 levels of thing arguably involved in the topic of his essay (I opine -- though alas I've still not yet gotten back and read the final sections):
1) such principles as writers thought / think they operate based on (viz., (i) I'm a vessel of the communal / cosmic; (ii) I'm my own individual self finding out who I am);
2) what principles may be demonstrably present in their actual work itself (not merely the theorizing of a few interesting folks who may or may not be representative, and anyway are surely not the only shows in 19th & 20th century towns);
3) what principles may be said to "actually exist" regardless of what writers either think or say (or even demonstrate themselves to think) they're doing --

i.e., the essayist hardly approaches these ideas as if they had much relationship to "reality"; they seem to be arbitrary postures of writers -- and then he wrangles out an intellectual history showing a slide from Position A to Position B.

In my view, the possible basic fallacy of the argument resides here: Position A and Postion B are in fact not mutually exclusive. Arguably, the more a writer gets in touch with himself, the more he gets in touch with the cosmos -- and possibly (in many cases it can be so), the more, too, he gets in touch with the community or communities with which he/she is connected.

If this is so (or if it can potentially be so, and if it may be discovered as so and operate as so for writers in question), then the dichotomy is merely a slight shifting of emphasis in a few folks thinking -- on a basic continuum wherein in fact the deepening of either end of the spectrum (self-knowledge / expression and other-knowledge / expression) actually (in end, or in effect) involves and requires a deepening of the other end as well.

All of that can be clearly found in Whitman (and in most mystic poets worth their salt), I'd hazard.


Ian Keenan said...

I agree with all your points, and you seem to be filling in the gaps of the thesis sought here, subject matter that doesn’t mix well with a thesis. The quote is from his blog:


wherein the Hymn of Lovingkindness has been reposted, which may get Charles Bernstein reincarnated as a dolphin in a Robert Lowell poem.

Ian Keenan said...

not a regular Lucipo reader I didn't realize GG was already in a spat with Kent Johnson this week. But having people pick apart your old essays before you go on a meditation retreat may not be such a bad thing, plus he probably doesn't read this anyway.

david raphael israel said...

hey Ian,
where does one access Lucipo? It's a listserv (hence, one subscribes)?

Also btw, this morn (in "Rhyme's church") I carried (to possibly more absurd lengths; but what to do? I like the stuff) my riff on riff on Leithauser's rhyme detective conceit. It may be noted that Ron's blogo-excerpt (ostensibly for brevity, but in effect unjustly) truncates the Leithauser quotation, thereby obviating such rhetorical qualifications and field-of-applicability limitations (ergo seeming to expand to an absurdly over-generalized horizon) as the chap did in fact (though somewhat implicitly) install in the language of his curious (and self-presented as so) proposition.

Argument that jerrymanders the subject of its ridicule possibly shows itself secretly mired with its own hints of the ridiculous -- though this may be over-reaching, and the jury may not buy such. It hints though of a hardball sensibility in Ron's dispatch. Perhaps the seriousness of his gripe against so-called SoQ (and its putative defenders) has to be sized up as holding an angry core. It's true, the $100K Tanning poetry prize hasn't yet been awarded to a Langpoet. Whether such facts are dismissible as ultimately tangential, or really rest at the core of the gripe, could be a question.

Ian Keenan said...

Well, Ron did provide the link to the full article.

I know your penchant for rhyme, but do you really agree with Leithauser’s assertion?

The fact that I came into consciousness with the Allen anthology and its adherents creating the stuff that interested me, as well as the Surrealists that prohibited rhyme, really colors my perception on this issue.

A favorite note about rhythm is in Anselm Hollo’s Caws and Causeries:

“It’s a pulse I’m after, one set up by cadenced phrases. Sometimes it goes on for a bit, sometimes it’s over as soon as it began (Anton Webern’s tiny pieces) – but then it changes, and changes again. Ted Berrigan used to say poets had a little guy in an office tucked away in their heads who “took care of things like meter.”"

I always thought that creating a rhythm completely from scratch was the real fun of poetry.

But I am struck by the fact that Baudelaire not only utilized rhyme, but swore by it. Also, rhyming decreasingly becomes a safe choice and increasingly becomes daring, such as when Ron slammed rhyming poems in My Spaceship on the supposed basis of quality. Have there been new rhymed poems that Ron likes?

Lucipo has moderator-approved membership, which seems to be inclusive although people have been booted for offensive remarks, but anyone can read the posts:


david raphael israel said...


thanks for the Lucipo pointer.

True enough Ron gave the link (and my charge of jerrymandering was excessive). It's just that someone reading the part he quotes would get a different sense of nuance than one reading the words in their own context. But this is a problem nearly universal to quotation per se. ;-)

Today I expanded on my ruminations about rhyming (and a bit, too, on Leithauser's curious statement) in notes that immediately follow my (yesterday's) blogged poem that compared rhyming with opium addiction ("Rhyme's church," link already noted above). I don't really either agree with Leithauser's assertion nor wholly discount it. Clearly he was purposely trying to say something that was astonishing (and a little bit exaggerated), that yet has a grain of truth. But to isolate merely the rhyme words from the lines and from the poem of origin would not really give me a whole lot, unless I already knew the body of poetry fairly well -- in which case, sure. If you see just one frame of a movie you've already studied, it will evoke the whole (though this wasn't quite the Leithauser point)....

The tricky thing is that it is not JUST the end-rhyme itself that shows the underlying sensibility (as the Leithauser statement seems to imply); it's other aspects about how those words figure in the language, the feeling of the language. The rhyming is part of it. I don't (properly speaking) read either French or German (and more's the pity), and my Spanish is poor (my Italian is a bit better); but I nonetheless will read (on occasion) poems in translation in tandem with the originals in all of these languages. So (oddly enough) I have a bit of a feel for poets like Rilke and Mallarme and Villon etc. even without being able to "read" (with full direct comprehension) the originals. Based on this, I presumed to remark on rhyming in some of those guys' work. But we don't have to go to foreign languages. The rhyming in Wallace Stevens, or in any fine poet, participates in the attentive word-choosing that goes on really with every word.

A case could be made that making overmuch of end-rhymes is a bit like the exaggerations (or exaggerated emphrases) of pornographic photography. A person in love will love all that and more; but will not be exclusively devoted to / fixated on readily cateloguable erotic attributes. Yes there is a breast; but there is also an ear and an elbow. The beloved inhabits all of these. Still, end-rhymes and breasts are among the elements nature and nurture utilize (or can utilize) in the languages of form.

I was unaware that symbolists proscribed rhyming! Can you name particular poets? Because when I've looked at several of the interesting 19th/20th century French poets, all of 'em that I've noted seemed to use rhyme (if my Mallarme citation is a case of befogged memory, that would be nice to know).

In the wake of the general cultural splash that the Language poets created in the early 1980s, there was (seemingly in reaction -- or this is one reading of it; I bet there may be others) the launch of a movement (or would-be movement) of "New Formalists," I guess somewhat spearheaded by Dana Gioia. I was aware of that, and in some vague way interested in it, but don't recall being much impressed with whatever poems I happened to read. So I never (certainly) felt drawn to writing formally through that sort of example. My draw to formal poetry has somehow evolved through other routes. Actually, about 14 years ago (after moving to DC from NYC), I went through about a year of writing daily, extensively, in a short form of my own invention (with 21 short lines), that generally was unrhymed -- but also used rhyme sometimes. And I've certainly written poetry (and occasionally still do) without rhyme and meter. But my road to rhyme and meter in fact involved translation from Chinese, as I discovered that classical Chinese (which is always rhythmically precise, and also always used rhyme in antiquity -- though as pronounciations evolved, some of the rhymes got lost) lent itself to metrical and rhymed rendition in English, in ways I grew happy with. I spent a couple of years in the 1970s focused on translating Chinese poetry, and I think my feeling for English formal poetry somewhat developed under that umbrella. In those days, I was barely aware there was poetry in English worth reading. But I began to read Gary Snyder and W.S. Merwin, then gradually others -- and then discovered Michael Palmer and Leslie Scalapino and others in the Bay Area, and my awareness of the contemporary kept widening; but there remains a bit of a seeming aphasia about my penchant for formal verse, considering my appreciation for so many contemps. who abjure it. Still, life if filled with such.

From time to time I'll write in villanelles, sonnets, and I've been quite drawn to possibilities of the ghazal in English -- which, as I'm interpreting the form, requires rather more controlled and complex use of rhyme and cadence than is typical of English language poetry. In Urdu, the rigors of cadenced writing are very strong: not a single added or missing syllable is allowed. By comparison, English "metrical" writing is very loose. ;-)

Well I could ramble and digress all over the place on this topic. I've not quite arrived at a clear point, ah well.

The notion of rhyming as a provaative or subversive practice is counter-intuitive if one assumes that the Rhymers are the Establishment. But these things keep topsy-turveying in varied ways. What's up and what's out, is anybody's guess.

But my poem's conceit of the rhymster as a reprehensible opium-addict -- it presumably inhabits a universe where the Sensible poets have Moved On. Hence the atavisitic, unreformed trait. But this (too) relates to our topic of Antiquity in its way.

In "Make it new" -- the "it" is antiquity, yes? The guy wants it done newly -- but the it is what the Oldsters had.


Ian Keenan said...

Well thanks for all that and more impetus to study more Chinese culture..

>>Clearly he was purposely trying to say something that was astonishing (and a little bit exaggerated), that yet has a grain of truth.<<

Would fit in well with the NYTimes editorial policy.

"I was unaware that symbolists proscribed rhyming!"

do you mean Surrealists? or symbolists? there may be a typo here to review before I react. Rhyme destandardized with Apollinaire and the Cubists over there.

>The notion of rhyming as a provaative or subversive..<

The other thing is hip hop. I like my hip hop and the effect it creates depends on rhyme.

david raphael israel said...

well not a typo, but a misreading (misapprehension) --

so yes, least I can do is sort out my symbolists (sometime-rhyme-besotted, like most pre-mid-20 C. poets) from surrealists (rhyme-renouncing, you note). My awareness of surrealist writers is in fact spotty (come to think of it); surrealism (for what I'm aware of) is more a painterly than a poetry thing. But yes, I guess those texts tended toward prose or the prose poem. Though I guess some of that was foreshadowed by some things even in Mallarme (I was just now browsing a text of his -- nothing like a rhymed abstract sonnet, and a lot more like proto-vispo; but he did the other too).

There's perhaps some ground for metaphor (not exact correlation) between the dichotomy of formal (w/ rhyme) vs. open/free/unrhymed in poetry (on one hand), and that between tonal and atonal music (on other). In fact it's in some respects an obvious comparison: the musicality of rhyme almost literally involves consonant music, while absence of this could imply elements of greater dissonance, chaos, formal randomness...

The venture of 20th century music into atonality found reply, or reaction, or retrenching in a new breed of tonalism among the minimalists and post-minimalists and others of pleasant recent ilk. The musicality of Glass is neither that of Schubert nor that of Debussey; but all of them favor harmony and tonality.

> provaative --> provocative

I like the "vocative" nested therein (for folk etymology)

I'm afraid my appreciation for rap has been horribly limited; but indeed it obviously takes rhyme as a central device.

Recalling Ron Silliman's riposte to Brad Leithauser (how many buckets of oats does one's new hybrid automobile consume?) -- darned if there still aren't things to be seen from horseback, maugre 21st century speed.

The thing about rhyme and rhythmic form in Chinese poetry -- it's something that translations are poor at conveying; though Arthur Waley pioneered the principle I took up: that a single Chinese character naturally seems to lend itself to "one meter" (e.g. an iamb, or anyway, a stressed syllable) in metrical English. The most prevalent form in classical chinese poetry is an 8-line poem, with 5 characters (5 words, 5 syllables) per line. The formal simplicty and clarity and stateliness is astonishing in the original.

Here's an example from memory: a shi -- 8-line-poem -- of Tang Dynasty's Han Shan [Cold Mountain] (my version; I'm now recasting it to bring out at least a dash of rhyme -- though I think the original [in Tang pronounciation] was prob. in scheme ABAB ABAB; whereas this opts for ABAB CDCD).

Once I went to sit at Han Shan
lingering I remained for thirty years
I lately came to call on friends and kin
more than half had gone to the land of tears
it gradually fades as does the dying candle
long a'flowing like the running rill
this morning whilst I watch my lone shadow
unwontedly   tears twainly spill

/ / /

If you look at Snyder's version, the last line reads something like "Suddenly my eyes grew bleary with tears". But the original has this wonderful adverbial "shuang" [twainly] -- more literally it would be "twainly dangle" [a tear from each of my two eyes, implied].
But more important (as influence for me) than the question of rhyme, is the factor of the 5-beat rhythmic line, seen visually in the Chinese, and when recited: just five isolated syllables; and echoed by five stresses in the more verbose English garb.

BTW, if you want a real eye opener among Chinese things, don't miss the superb prose (stories mixed with meandering philosophy) of Zhuang Ze [Chuang Tzu], really superb stuff it has. Burton Watson's translation is decent; the "inner chapters" are the main thing (I've not really read the rest in full). Astonishing stuff.

david raphael israel said...

ps: on blog, I've now considerably reworked the Han Shan rendering

Ian Keenan said...

‘Han Shan’ wonderful. It’s amazing how many orchestra commissions lead to works that are to Schoenberg what Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is to Hugo.

david raphael israel said...

Grazzie --

first time I've dealt w/ a Chinese poem in (what seems) ages. (Hopefully a time may roll around that I can get back to all that.)

From the bon-mot, one infers you've high regard for Schoenberg. I'm a bit vague about Disney's version, but guess you mean the overall gestalt of the cartoon (not the music specifically). Speaking of orchestras though, I noticed this oddity (National Symphony Orchestra performs faves from video games) in newspaper yesterday.

Ian Keenan said...

I just meant that a lot of the new stuff is more palatable versions of Schoenberg’s systems, much of it humorous, like Ashbery’s versions of Surrealism – Soft Schoenberg. Nice to listen to live but sort of here today gone tomorrow like a lot of late Ashbery.