Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vain Repetitions

I started reading "A"-10 this morning, which deals with the Nazi occupation of Paris. So far I have completed each section on the corresponding day. Friday looks like a challenge, with the long section 12. I remember the first time I tried to read the "A" 1 - 23 during Advent two years ago. I didn't finish section 12 on 12/12/12/ as I recall. I do remember that I had a cold.

Two years ago I read Barry Ahearn's book on "A" while reading the poem, and that helped me understand it. Last year the memory of the Ahearn book still seemed fresh. This year the poem makes less sense to me. You might say, why not reread the Ahearn? Well, I don't want to rely on his interpretations too much. I want to confront the poem on its own terms. I remember that Roland McHugh devoted a few years to Finnegans Wake before reading any of the secondary materials. Hugh Kenner said of Peter Makin's wonderful book Pound's Cantos that Makin never lost sight of the Cantos' difficulties.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Catullus 21

Well, I don't get much sense from the Zukofskys' translation. They chose against frankness in their translation, although they capture much of the music of the Latin.  I just finished reading a book called How to Read a Latin Poem - If You Can't Read Latin Yet, from which I learned that classical Latin authors tended to avoid explicit sexual language in love poems, but they used if profusely in poems of invective such as Catullus 21.

I've begun my annual Advent reading of "A". It has put me in the mood to listen to Bach. Some people, like Pound, Zukofsky, and Michael Johnson, see Bach as the greatest composer in the European tradition. Others, like Robert Anton Wilson and myself, tend to see Beethoven in that position. I thought about this driving into work this morning. I think the composers I first fell in love with prepared me to prefer Beethoven to Bach (much as I love Bach's music). A teacher in first grade played Haydn's Surprise Symphony for us, and I thought it the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I grudgingly approved of Beethoven at the time because he studied with my man Haydn. I studiously avoided the fact that Beethoven didn't like Haydn as a teacher and had few kind word for Haydn until the end of Beethoven's life.  A few years later I glanced at a collection of light classical music from my parents' collection and noticed a composer who shared my last name. Wagner and Haydn lay the groundwork, and I started listening to Beethoven around seventh grade, an eight track of Van Cliburn playing some famous sonatas.  I really fell for Beethoven at eighteen. I had a cold and stayed home from my summer job at IBM. I put on Toscanini's recording of the Seventh Symphony and entered a whole new world.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Catullus 17

Well, I couldn't find a German translation of Catullus 17 online.  I read the Zukofskys' English version twice, read another English version and read the Latin original for the music.  My Latin does not yet seem up for the task of understanding Catullus.

Just a few days until Advent.  I look forward to rereading "A".

I looked over the preview to Robert Anton Wilson's unwritten The Tale of the Tribe at the end of his TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution the other day because I wanted to see what Bob said about Bucky Fuller there.  A friend of mine had posted some stuff about Bucky on Facebook recently.  I had forgotten that Bob mentioned Louis Zukofsky in that preview, as one of the poets who continued the tradition of Ezra Pound, along with Basil Bunting, Allen Ginsberg, and Charles Olson.

I just noticed that the Zukofsky edition of Catullus jumps from 17 to 21.   (Other editions do as well.) I hope to post on Catullus 21 next week, but with Thanksgiving, I don't know if I'll get the chance.

Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Finishing chapter 16 of Little/for careenagers, I wonder what Louis Zukofsky would have thought of the play and film Amadeus.  I suspect he would not have liked it.

I started this blog a year ago today.  I had hoped to post every week, but I have only done 47 posts before this one, many of them very short (like this one).  I had thought to try post every six days to try to catch up, but I think I would rather try to post every Wednesday with perhaps a few extra posts along the way.

I look forward to rereading "A" next month.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Catullus 16 and Missing the Point

Well, Wikipedia says no explicit translation of the first line of this poem appeared in English until the late 20th century. . I had read the Zukofskys' version a number of times, but I did not understand the explicit meaning of the poem or of the first line until today.  I just read the more literal translation over at Wikipedia, and the poem, as well as the Zukofskys' version, makes more sense now. I don't like some things about 2014, but I do like the available frankness.  I've read about half of the Ellmann's biography of Joyce, and it makes clear the success we've had in the war against censorship in the last century.  (I plan to finish the Ellmann in the next month.)

Once again I find myself enjoying reading a German version of my poem.  My weak German can make out the meaning of the poem better than my weaker Latin can. If I end up teaching Latin again next fall I will have to dedicate myself to developing my Latin.  I find it humbling reading about Joyce's skill in other languages, as well as Zukofsky, Eliot, and Pound's similar skills.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Catullus 15 and/or Fate

The Zukofsky's translation of Catullus 15 contains the word "fate".  The index to "A" lists five pages under the entry for "fate".  I don't think they intended any reference to Dr. Fate.  I smiled when Eric Strauss became the new Dr. Fate.  His name reminded me of my own, with a different German composer linked to Naziism.

I wonder whether I have a fate and/or a purpose.  Why have anti-Semites  like Richard Wagner and Ezra Pound played such a large role in my life?

Page 141 of "A" refers to "the Fates" but not "fate".  The index does not have an entry for "Fates".  The other four pages indicated in the index do use the word fate. When I think of the Fates I think of Neil Gaiman's Sandman.  Man, comic books do form a big part of my mind.  Bob Wilson said, "Mind and its contents are functionally identical."  Tunes by Charles Mingus and the Monkees run through my mind as I think about things I need to do.

I read a little of the Night Lessons chapter of Finnegans Wake last night.  One of the footnotes reminded me of Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew.  I haven't finished the Sorrentino, but I think that footnote inspired the novel, at least in part.  I remembered that Mr. Sorrentino wrote the forward to Zukofsky's Collected Fiction.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Catullus 14a

Catullus refers to his future readers in this poem.  In the future I hope to improve my Latin and read this poem in Latin with comprehension.  Last weekend I finished reading How to Read a Latin Poem (If You Can't Read Latin Yet).  I enjoyed it mildly.  This week the Latin and German clubs at my high school decided which Christmas carols to sing this year.  Today I printed a copy of the three carols, and I plan to practice them from now until December 9 for my daily dose of Latin and German.  After that I may return to reading Catullus in Latin and Kafka in German.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Catullus 14 and/or Joyce

I find it interesting how I become interested or disinterested in various writers.  Over the years I have had periods of intense interest in Louis Zukofsky's writing.  Now that I have committed to comment on it weekly, I don't find myself as fascinated, although I remain interested.  For more than ten years I have worked on a book on the influence of James Joyce on Robert Anton Wilson.  My interest in Joyce ebbs and flows.  I decided to dive back into Joyce last Saturday.  I read a bit of Campbell and Robinson's Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake and a bit of the Wake itself.  Then I read some of the free sample pages on Amazon's from Shelly Brivic's Joyce through Lacan and Brivic and I felt my love of Joyce (and Brivic) burst forth anew.  I ordered a copy of that book by Brivic, but I got email that the bookstore had sold its copy.  Then I ordered another book by Brivic on Joyce and Lacan, and I started rereading Brivic's Joyce the Creator.  I just read this line: "Meanwhile Shem becomes Shaun because he assumes the role of an instructor, an authority fatal to Shem's spiritual independence" (pg. 121).  Hm.  I have worked as a high school teacher for the last sixteen plus years.  I had previously identified with Shem the Penman, the writer, the maverick, but perhaps I have become more like Shaun the Postman.  (Back in the 1980's that name used to make me think of Karl Malone's nickname "The Mailman".)  When I started teaching high school I still thought of myself as a poet, etc.  Now, more and more, I think of myself as a teacher, etc.

Catullus 14 makes a reference to Saturnalia.  On the Equinox on Monday I found myself thinking about pagan festivals and their presence in 2014 C.E.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Catullus 13

Well, I just read a little of Zukofsky's Little / for careenagers.  Pg 74 of Zukofsky's Collected Fiction mentions a volume of Shakespeare on a shelf next to a Babar book and a book by Leopold Mozart.  I found that an interesting juxtaposition.

My film history classes started watching Casablanca this week.  Victor Laslo in that film suggests that we each have a destiny for good or for evil.  I wonder if I have a destiny.  Does it have anything to do with the writings of Louis Zukofsky?  Catullus 13 deals with overeating, one of my life challenges.  As Pound said of his vision, I don't know how to make it cohere.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tastes Great! Less Filling! and/or Catullus 12

The second line of this poem has the word wine.  This reminded me of seeing Pat Boone on the Tonight Show years ago.  Mr. Boone suggested that the wine mentioned in the New Testament had no alcohol.  This seems unlikely to me in my ignorance, but it strikes me how great a role alcohol has played in our culture for so many centuries.  Terrence McKenna has written about how different cultures  favor different drugs.  I wonder about the meaning of the increased popularity of coffee among young people in our society today.  I love the fact the Starbucks takes its name from a character in Moby Dick.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Catullus 11

Not much to say.  I continue to inch my way through Catullus, reading the Zukofsky's versions, reading the original Latin and other English translations and German translations.  Perhaps in years to come my German and Latin will improve.  I finished Anne Sexton's poems, and I've read a good chunk of Ed Dorn's.  I have a Bach violin concerto playing, and I read a little of Zukofsky's Little today.  Perhaps I will have more to say next Wednesday or Thursday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catullus 10, Man

I find it interesting that the Zukofskys use the word "man" in a sort of Beat fashion in their version of Catullus 10.  The Finnegans Wake listserv has had a discussion lately about whether Joyce would have known about zoot suits.  Now, the Zukofskys worked on their Catullus translations beginning in 1958, so they would have heard and read Beat use of language.  I remember a poem by Bob Creeley written in the 1980's which used some Beat-type language, and then he had a line like, "Man, I don't even talk like that any more."  (I think I gave that book away.  I couldn't find the poem online.)

I think I may reread The Cantos in 2018.  If I keep of my habit of rereading "A" every December, which I plan to do, I will read it for the fifth time this December and for the eighth time in 2017.  Now, I've read The Cantos eight times, and I suspect Mr. Zukofsky would want to me reread The Cantos for the ninth time before I read "A" for the ninth time.  Of course, I never met Mr. Z, so perhaps I don't understand him much at all.  Ah, vain repetitions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lovecraftmas and/or Catullus 9

Lovecraft would have turned 124 today.

I just read a few pages of Zukofsky's fiction.  It features a similar delight in rhyme as does his poetry.

I haven't read much Lovecraft in recent years, but he certainly has shaped my reality.  One of my high school students read At the Mountains of Madness over the summer.  I read that back in the 1980's.  I love how Shea and Wilson use Lovecraft as a character in Illuminatus!  In that novel Lovecraft took particular pride in At the Mountains of Madness which led me to read that Lovecraft novel.

Catullus 9 seems to deal with friendship between Catullus and another man.  The translation at Wikisource has the line, "I shall kiss your beloved face and eyes."  The commentaries I looked at did not suggest a homoerotic meaning.

Buster Keaton loved bridge.

Boris Karloff loved cricket.

Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Catullus 8

Well, sometimes I read the week's Catullus poem in German, such as this one:

Armer Catull, hör auf ein Narr zu sein,
und was du verloren siehst, das sollst du verloren geben.
Einst leuchteten dir strahlende Sonnen,
als du häufig kamst, wohin dich das (dein) Mädchen führte,
die von uns geliebt wurde, wie keine geliebt werden wird.
Als da so manches Scherzhafte geschah,
was dir willkommen war und dem Mädchen nicht unwillkommen,
damals leuchteten dir wahrhaft strahlende Sonnen.
Nun aber will jene nicht mehr: du auch, Schwächling, sollst nicht 
wollen und jage der nicht nach, die entflieht, und lebe nicht elend,
sondern ertrage es mit festem Sinn, bleibe hart.
Lebe wohl, Mädchen. Schon ist Catull hart
und wird dich weder suchen, noch gegen deinen Willen werben:
aber du wirst leiden, wenn dich keiner umwerben wird.
Ruchlose, wehe dir! Welches Leben bleibt dir?
Wer wird sich nun um dich bemühen? Wem wirst du schon erscheinen?
Wen wirst du nun lieben? Wessen wirst du genannt werden?
Wen wirst du küssen? Wem wirst du die Lippen beißen?
Aber du, Catull, sei entschlossen, bleibe hart.

It helps my German to read these, plus it gives me another perspective on the poem.  Edgar Pangborn said of playing Bach on harpsichord vs. piano, "Who want to look at only one facet of a diamond?"  (Actually, I don't remember the exact quote.  I think it comes from The Trial of Callista Blakewhich I read in the 1980's.  Man, I used to love Pangborn.)  (What do you know, Kindle has it for free.  I just downloaded it to my iPad.  Darn, I can't find the quote.  I likely have the quote wrong, or maybe I got it from another one of E. P.'s books.)  (No, not that E. P., not Ezra Pound, Edgar Pangborn.)

Catullus 8 made me think of that 1980's song"Drive" buy the Cars.  It has the line "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?"  I didn't know the Cars did this song, and I didn't remember the title.  Thanks, Google.  (The Wodehouse lover in me still wants to Ask Jeeves.)

Catullus 8 also reminds me of Pablo Neruda's "Love Poem #20," especially the English version by Christopher Logue in Red Bird.  Man, that takes me back.  In the summer of 1983 I started getting into poetry.  I read Guide to Kulchur by Uncle Ezra.  Rafi Zabor wrote an article in Musician about Mike Westbrook's version of Blake, which led me to buy William Blake's Collected Poems. (My copy has begun to fall apart.)  Then I got Keats's Collected Poems.  I still read a lot of science fiction back then (um, "speculative fiction" as I think Harlan would prefer).  In an intro by Harlan Ellison, he mentioned that Ted Sturgeon called Logue's translation of Neruda's "Love Poem #20" "the saddest poem in the English language."  (I think I have that quote write.  Please correct me at any time.)  I went looking for it, but I couldn't find it.  I did read all the Christopher Logue I could find and a lot of Neruda.  I lived in Tempe at the time, but visiting my parents in Tucson I went down to the U of A library, and they had a Chris Logue book which included Red Bird.  Hot dog!  However, someone had torn those pages out of the book.  I didn't find the poem for a few years.

Last year a college student of mine read the original Spanish in class, and his dramatic reading blew us away, even those of us like me who don't understand Spanish.

I found this English translation of "Love Poem #20".  I don't know who did it.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: ‘The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.
I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.
I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.
Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.
The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.
My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.
We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,
and these are the last lines I will write for her. 
I wonder if Catullus influenced Neruda?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Catullus 7

I've recently become interested in the word "middlebrow."  According to Wikipedia, Virginia Woolf  said middlebrows, "select and read what they are told is best."  I certainly do that a lot of the time.  I respect my own opinion, but I have accepted the guidance of those whose recommendations have worked well for me in the past.  In junior high school I read Phil Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life which included a lot of information on Phil's Wold-Newton Family Tree.  Phil hypothesized links between characters in a lot of (mostly adventure) fiction.  I loved that book and the Doc Savage and Sherlock Holmes books, so I read a lot of the books relating to that family tree.  In junior high I also started reading Galaxy magazine.  If I believed in fate, I might see its hand in the fact that my first issue of Galaxy included columns by Spider Robinson, Richard Geis, and Jerry Pournelle, all three of whom would have a massive influence on me.  Spider (Ghod bless Spider Robinson!) wrote the book review column, and I learned that if Spider said he loved a book, I usually loved it.  That led me down several wonderful paths over the ensuing decades.

At seventeen I started reading Musician magazine, and similarly I discovered that if Rafi Zabor said he loved an album, I usually loved it.   (Remember albums?)  In a few years I started reading Ezra Pound (because Bob Wilson recommended him).   (And I started reading Wilson largely because Spider recommended him.)  Now, I didn't necessarily love what Ez recommended, but his overview of world poetry made sense to me, and I wanted to understand it, so I kept reading.

I also started reading Louis Zukofsky (largely because Bob Creeley recommended him), and Zukofsky's recommendations often echoed Ezra's.  Both of them loved Gavin Douglas's translation of the Aeneid (although Basil Bunting finds him overrated by his two friends).  The ASU library had a copy, and I checked it out a number of times, but I never made it very far into Douglas's blend of Scots and English.  As I've gotten more into Zukofsky in the last 17 years, I've desired to give Douglas another try, but none of my local libraries had a copy.  Well, it came back into print, and I got my copy this week.  I have not put a bookmark into it, however.  I've mentioned before that a few years ago I decided that I had started too many books of poetry and not finished them.  I took the bookmarks out of a number of the volumes in the Empress.  (I decided to name my poetry bookshelf the Empress back in the 80's after the prize winning giant pig in Wodehouse's Blandings novels, as well as the tarot trump.  Ishmael Reed advises readers to "Feed the loss," and he often uses the number 22,  inspired in part by his February 22 birthday.  Well, 22 suggests the tarot trumps, and reading poetry seemed one way to feed the Empress.)

Anyway, I decided I only wanted to only have as many active poetry books as the given year: nine in 2009, 10 in 2010, etc.  I got back down to 14 a few months ago, but I found myself in a doctor's waiting room without a book for a few hours, and I gave in and started The Collected Poems of Robert Herrick on my wife's iPhone.  And today I put a bookmark in The Norton Shakespeare: Comedies since I start teaching my Shakespeare Comedies class on Monday.  And I plan to start "A" again on December 1, 2014.  Perhaps I will finish my Anne Sexton book and/or my Ed Dorn book and get down to my arbitrary limit again.

Catullus 7?  It discusses the importance of kissing, of which I approve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Catullus 6

Dr. Johnson asked which translation of Catullus I'd recommend.  I've only read the Zukofskys' version.  I also liked Louis Zukofsky's earlier translations of a few of the poems and Pound's few translations.  I've glanced at the Loeb bilingual edition.  (I don't have the bilingual Zukofsky edition.  Zukofsky's Complete Short Poetry [great book] includes just the English version.)  I think Sir Richard Burton did a complete translation of Catullus, but I only glanced at it once.  

I loved these lines about Zukofsky by Guy Davenport: "Zukofsky must seem to be not so much a poet's poet but a poet's poet's poet," and "When enough people become familiar with "A" so that it can be discussed, the first wonder will be how so many subjects got built into such unlikely patterns, and what a harmony they all make." 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Catullus 5

When I asked my Latin teacher about Latin prosody, she quoted a line from this poem.

Two years ago I made another stab at reading Catullus in Latin.  I struggled with this poem a bit, and then I went back to watching the film Cleopatra.  In the film Julius Caesar quoted that line (in Latin) from the poem I had just studied.  I liked that coincidence.

I live in Southern California, and I don't know Spanish.  I yearn to learn French, but I feel I need to focus my linguistic studies on Latin for at least a few years.  Perhaps then I will attempt to learn either Spanish or French.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not Catullus 5, Not Yet

"I have nothing to say and I am saying it." - John Cage

When I attended the Ezra Pound Centennial at the University of Maine, Orano, in 1985, I brought along my copy of Was That a Real Poem and Other Essays hoping to get Robert Creeley to sign it.  He signed it "Thinking of story John Cage tells - 'If you don't know, why ask?'"  (I grabbed the book off my shelf of autographed books to get the quote right.  I hadn't opened that book for years, although it greatly influenced me back in the 80's.  It helped guide me to Zukofsky.)

Thinking of Proust's birthday tomorrow, I remember Pound's notion that he wanted to make poetry as vital to the culture as the prose of Flaubert and Stendhal.  The challenge today might seem to make poetry as vital to the culture as the prose of Joyce and Proust, but does even their prose seem vital to our post-literate culture?  I've toyed with the idea of writing a book called Remedial Reading for the Post-Literate World.  It wouldn't give the reader a reading list.  Rather, it would recount my attempts at remedial reading for myself.

I hope you all read Mike Johnson's recent blog posts at Overweening Generalist.  My  chronological trek through film history has reached 1947.  I started watching Kiss of Death and then listened to some Charlie Parker and Bud Powell recordings from 1947.  Part of my mind dwells in 1913, the year Proust's Swann's Way came out, and most of my mind dwells in 2014.  Of course, I write this in a month name after Julius Caesar.  Bob Wilson and Phil Dick both wrote about how the past remains with us.  I wonder how to best navigate the years to come.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Humoresque (1945)

I watched Humoresque this week, which deals with a violinist named Paul.  This of course made me think of Paul Zukofsky, especially the parts of the film dealing with the child violinist, which reminded me of Louis Zukofsky's Little, the story of a violin prodigy based on Paul.  As a child a saw a commercial for Humoresque which included the opening to "The Flight of the Bumblebee."  This made me think of The Green Hornet.  (I enjoyed the use of the Al Hirt version of the Flight in Kill Bill, Volume One.)  I enjoyed Humoresque and its classical music content: a reference to Shostakovich, a Hammerklavier joke, etc.  I find it interesting that the commercial for Shine also used the opening to "The Flight of the Bumblebee."  I remember as a kid I had a Captain Action figure and the Batman costume.  I didn't have the Green Hornet costume, but I yearned for it.  I also yearned for a die-cast metal Black Beauty from the show.

I watched The Green Hornet at around five or six, but then I saw it again a few years ago, and that served as my introduction to Bruce Lee.  I don't remember registering him the first time around.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rosemary's Baby's Birthday

Yeah, I plan to get back to Catullus next Wednesday.  Christmas comes six months from today, so Ira Levin made that Rosemary's baby's birthday.  March 25 (my grandmother's birthday) used to mark the new year since people considered it the day of Jesus's conception.  September 25 marks William Faulkner's birthday.

I watched Rosemary's Birthday on cable about fifteen years ago.  Joe Bob Briggs hosted, and he did a very thorough job discussing the production.  After each commercial he had more tidbits.  I've never seen a more thorough job.  The show lasted for hours.

Stephen King has a nice discussion of both the novel and the film in his wonderful Danse Macabre.  He comments on the amazing fidelity of the movie to the novel.  Robert Evans said he had to talk Mia Farrow into doing the film.  Frank Sinatra, Farrow's husband at the time, didn't want her to do it.  Evans told her the film would make her a star.  It did, and she got a divorce shortly thereafter.

John Lennon later lived in the apartment in the Dakota where they filmed it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta Seventy

David Thomson seems to me to have a deeper understanding of media and its impact on humanity than Marshall McLuhan.  David Thomson wrote a book called Have You Seen? which consists of one thousand one page film reviews.  I decided to watch all the films in that book I had not seen before, and I decided to watch them mostly in chronological order.  I started in 1895, and I did a little background reading on each year as I moved forward.  1895 marked the height of Oscar Wilde's success as well as his downfall.  As I moved forward through the decades, I found myself getting caught up in the historical sweep.

I've now reached 1944.  As part of my background reading I read the chronologically arranged Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams.  In 1944 Williams published The Wedge, and Louis Zukofsky helped him with arranging and editing the poems.  Reading the poems and the notes, especially Williams' response to Wallace Stevens' notion of "anti-poetry," the vastness of literature struck me.  One can spend a lifetime studying an author and still have so much to learn about them.  "Remove infinity from it, and infinity still remains," as the Upanishads say.  I recall a story about someone introducing a scholar to Robert Frost as "a Hawthorne man."  Frost replied, "Why not be your own man?"  I think I see Frost's point, but I can also understand the yearning for scholarship, for understanding the contexts of literature.

William Snodgrass wrote,

"I haven't read one book about
a book"

but I love books about books.  I've devoted a fair chunk of my life to understanding Robert Anton Wilson, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, etc., but I've barely scratched the surface.  Oh well, I do look forward to 1945 and the end of the war.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Catullus 4

This poem deals with the retirement of a boat.  It contemplates the trees which gave the wood which made the boat (which docks by the house that Jack built).  It contemplates the whole process of life.  It reminds me of the scenes in Bull Durham which deal with aging, with Crash never achieving his dreams in the Show.  I read a bit of the Fusus al-Hikam by Ibn 'Arabi yesterday which echoed Heraclitus's notions that reality never repeats itself.  The patterns seem to, though.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Catullus 3

The father of one of my students speaks a number of languages, and he said that the more one studies them, the easier they get.  Researching Catullus 3 today, I reread the Zukofskys' version, read another English version, and for the hell of it looked at a German version.  Having just read two versions of the poem in English, and with my limited German, the German version made a little sense.  However, I couldn't say what I considered Catullus's true mood in the poem.  Parts of it sound sarcastic in one English version.

It would not surprise me if I end up teaching Latin for the next 23 years.  In that case, I suspect my Latin will greatly improve, which I look forward to.  I did find interesting how Catullus observed his girlfriend's great love for her pet two thousand years ago.  This theme recurs from culture to culture, from century to century.  It made me think of Chekhov's "Lady with a Lapdog."

Right now I have George Harrison's All Things Must Pass playing.  I had forgotten how much I love the "Apple Jam" section of that CD.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Catullus 2a

Poor Catullus 2a, it doesn't even get its own Wikipedia page.  Some have argued over the centuries that these three lines belong with Catullus 2, others that they constitute a separate poem.  I do find it interesting that folks have debated this questions for centuries.  Reading Dante it strikes me that
a.  He had a big idea for a long poem.
b.  He finished it.
c.  It still fascinates people almost 700 years later.
Tom Jackson over at has written about his hope that Robert Anton Wilson's works enter the canon.  I find canon formation fascinating.

Many of us have grand ideas, but most of them don't come to fruition.  I notice how many writers mention books they plan to write but never get around to.  Six days ago marked the Sun Ra centennial, so I've listened to a bunch of Sun Ra this week.  He had some odd ideas, but he kept his large Arkestra together for decades and put out tons of recordings.

On another note, my wife and I watched the Kenneth Branagh film Conspiracy and found it fascinating.  It dealt with the Wannsee Conference where fifteen German man essentially planned the Final Solution in 1942.  I found especially disturbing the use of Schubert's Quintet in C at the end of the film.  Heydrich, who chaired the meeting, played violin and loved classical music.  I also found disturbing how little jail time most of these men did after the war.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Catullus 2

I found this Youtube video of an animated statue reciting Catullus 2: .  This poem deals with the pet sparrow of Catullus's beloved.  This reminded me of Crowley's comment on the Empress card in The Book of Thoth: "Perching upon the flamelike uprights of her throne are two of her most sacred birds, the sparrow and the dove; the nub of this symbolism must be sought in the poems of Catullus and Martial."

I don't know whether I will teach Latin next year.  I need to resubmit my Latin I class to the University of California to get it approved as a college prep elective.  If they reject it for the third time, I probably won't teach Latin at the high school next year.  UC has gotten tougher on approving classes.  I will likely teach Latin the following year and thereafter, since I intend to eventually get it approved.  Perhaps the third time will prove a charm.

If I keep teaching Latin, I hope and pray my Latin will improve, perhaps so much so that I can really understand Catullus in Latin.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Catullus 1

Roman books of poetry tended to opening with an introductory poem, often dedicated to a patron.  This post marks the first of my Catullus posts.  I plan to do one a week for a few years, except for Decembers, when I plan to focus on "A".  Louis and Celia Zukofsky did a version of all of Catullus.

I first encountered Catullus in the fall of 1983 reading Ezra Pound's From Confucius to Cummings.  Back in college when I got a cold I would often buy a book and/or record and go home and read.  In the fall of '83 I read I mostly wanted to get Pound books.

Wikipedia provides this version of Catullus 1:
LineLatin textEnglish translation
1cui dono lepidum novum libellumTo whom do I dedicate this new, charming little book
2arida modo pumice expolitumjust now polished with a dry pumice stone?
3Corneli tibi namque tu solebasTo you, Cornelius, for you were accustomed
4meas esse aliquid putare nugasto think that my nonsense was something,
5iam tum cum ausus es unus Italorumthen already when you alone of Italians
6omne aevum tribus explicare cartis1dared to unfold every age in three papyrus rolls,
7doctis Iuppiter et laboriosislearned, Jupiter, and full of labor.
8quare habe tibi quidquid hoc libelliTherefore have for yourself whatever this is of a little book,
9qualecumque quod o2 patrona virgo3of whatever sort; which, O patron maiden,
10plus uno maneat perenne saeclomay it remain everlasting, more than one lifetime.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"May the Fourth Be with You"

I found this "Copyright Notice by PZ" (Paul Zukofsky, son of Louis Zukofsky) interesting , especially since Louis Zukofksy used quotations so liberally, especially in Bottom: On Shakespeare.

I just watched the movie The Ring twice in two different film history classes.  The use of horses made me think of Louis Zukofsky, although I suspect he would not have liked the film.

I plan to start focusing on the translations of Catullus by Louis and Celia Zukofsky.  I plan to focus on one each week.  It will take me a little over two years.  I plan to put that on hiatus during Decembers while I reread "A".  I suspect I will start the Catullus project in a few weeks.

I just learned that Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote the Star Wars: Episode VII screenplay.  I love a lot of his work, from The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Big Chill and Silverado.  I look forward to seeing Episode VII with my family in December of 2015.  I struck me this week that people with whom I saw each episode of Star Wars the first time make a sort of map of my life.  In 1977 in ninth grade I saw Star Wars with my friends Scott Larson and David Burge.  In 1980 I saw The Empire Strikes Back with my dad.  In 1983 I saw Return of the Jedi with my sister the night it came out.  I saw it again the next morning, and my sister and I saw it again that night.

In 1999 I saw Episode I with my wife, her son Jimmy and his friend Robert and her granddaughter Tayler.  In 2002 Debbie, Jimmy, and I saw Episode II.  In 2005 we had four generations: Debbie's dad, Debbie and I, Jimmy, and Tayler and her sister.  I look forward to seeing the saga continue.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


James Joyce said to Jacques Mercanton of Finnegans Wake, "You are not Irish...and the meaning of some passages will perhaps escape you.  But you are Catholic, so you will recognize this and that allusion.  You don't play cricket; this word may mean nothing to you.  But you are a musician, so you will feel at ease in this passage" (quoted on page ix of John Bishop's introduction to the Wake).  I read Zukofsky's "'Nor did the prophet'" this morning which mentions Jannequin and birds.  That made me think of Pound's Canto LXXV, which consists mostly of a violin transcription of Janequin's "Le Chant des Oyseaulx."  Pound thought birdsong had inspired troubadour Arnaut Daniel's poetry and that the music of Daniel's poetry evoked the music of the birds.  Pound thought that troubadour poetry inspired Janequin's piece where singers imitate birds.

The first time I read that Canto back in 1984 I didn't know all that.  I probably didn't know it the second, third or fourth times I read The Cantos either.  Only I when I started teaching The Cantos did I start to read a bunch of secondary sources.  It strikes me that many books demand many readings for deeper understanding.  Of course, each of us can only read a fraction of the books out there, and we likely only reread a fraction of the ones we read.  I think of the Kabbalistic notion Phil Dick mentioned in The Divine Invasion that 144,000 different Torahs exist for each of the members of the Twelve Tribes.  We each create our own versions of each work of art we deeply experience.  This gets me thinking of Borges.

I've devoted a good chunk of my life to understanding Bob Wilson's books.  Participating in the Illuminatus! group read over at reminds of how limited my perception of his work seems.  "Remove infinity from it and infinity remains."  Bob quoted that Upanishad line in Masks of the Illuminati, and it seems true of all great works of art.  I remember hearing Andre Previn saying he loved conducting because he spent his life immersing himself in works greater than himself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Mantis," A Misinterpretation

Zukofsky wrote a sestina called "Mantis" and a poem explaining it called "'Mantis,' An Interpretation."  I don't think he knew anything about the mantis as a source of Chinese martial arts, and I know he didn't know anything about the Marvel Comics character who became the Celestial Madonna in Avengers.  However, he does refer to his mantis as a "prophetess."  In another of his poems he used the word "inhuman."  Thinking about writing this blog today, that word made me think of the Inhumans in the Marvel universe.  When I read the word "overweening" it made me think of my friend Michael's blog.

Reading Zukofsky makes me think of listening to Bach.  Right now I have Bach playing, thinking about reading Zukofsky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introduction to Nothing

"I have nothing to say
and I and saying it."  - John Cage

I read that Zukofsky chose the publisher for 80 Flowers because they had published a book by John Cage.  For John Cage's centennial I did 4'33" with some of my classes.  On page 433 of the hardcover edition of Finnegans Wake the word "SILENCE" appears.  I've often wondered if that inspired the Wake-enthusiast Cage.

While writing this blog just now a student told me his band had composed a piece by randomly opening a book of scales and using a scale they randomly pointed to.  They chose C minor.

Joseph Kerman wrote a terrific piece called "Beethoven's Minority" about Beethoven's pieces in minor keys.  Beethoven had something of an obsession with the key of C minor.  His pieces in C minor tended to end up in C Major (such as the Fifth Symphony).  Kerman observes how rarely Beethoven's pieces in other minor keys followed that pattern of ending up in the parallel major key.  Beethoven seemed to associate the key of C minor with heroic/Promethean struggle.  I love the line near the end of The Trick Top Hat by Bob Wilson that says something like people such as Beethoven see evolution as an Promethean struggle, when they only need to cooperate with the DNA blueprint.  Following the comments on the morphogenetic circuit in Quantum Psychology, I tend to reword this as "cooperate with the morphogenetic fields."

I plan to read more Zukofsky so I'll have more to say about him in future posts.

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley" - Robert Burns

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

R.I.P. Joseph Kerman

I learned from Michael Johnson's comment last week that Joseph Kerman, one of my favorite writers, had died.  I've read some of Prof. Kerman's writings on Beethoven this week and listened to some Beethoven as well to go along with my reading.

This morning, thinking of writing this blog, I put on the companion CD of Bach's music to Kerman's The Art of Fugue, and when I got to work I put on a Bach Cello Suite.  (I tend to listen to Bach on Wednesdays to help me with this blog.)  In had an email from The New York Review of Books with a reprint of this article by Kerman on Mozart: .  I read this article and two other Kerman articles on Mozart today.  I also looked up Mozart in the index to "A" and I read the pages listed.  Bach dominates "A", but Mozart makes a  handful of appearances.  Many of the references to Mozart in the poem relate to Louis Zukofsky's violinist son Paul.

Classical music seems my music of choice in recent years.  I find artistic canons fascinating, and I've commented before how I find it interesting that both Pound and Zukofsky centered their musical world on Bach.  Robert Anton Wilson, Donald F. Tovey, and others center theirs on Beethoven (as do I).  Mozart stands between them, and his stock has certainly risen in the last century.

I feel like I've begun to ramble.  It looks like I will teach Advanced Placement Music Theory again next year, so I look forward to continuing to improve my understanding of the music of the Common Practice Period (1650 - 1850).  I've spent fifteen years teaching mostly English.  Perhaps as I teach fewer English classes I can improve my writing and my understanding of poetry and also improve my understanding of music theory.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thanks to Wikipedia

I love Wikipedia, especially when I hear other educators disparage it.  I don't trust it completely, but I don't trust any text completely.  I love that I can change it if I disagree with it or find it factually incorrect.  I love that it has so much of the information I want to find quickly.

I looked at Frank O'Hara's Wikipedia page last week.  I learned that the TV show Mad Men has references to his work.  I learned of his birth in 1926, the same as Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg, and of his death in 1966.  I had thought of him as born later and dying even younger.

I've begun reading Zukofsky's Complete Short Poetry again.  I love Bob Creeley's introduction.  I don't understand "Poem beginning 'The'" but I look forward to finishing rereading it and rereading the whole book.  I plan to read some Catullus in Latin along with Louis and Celia's Catullus versions when I reach that section of the book.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arise, arise

Welcome back.  I checked the most recent edition of "A" out of the library and read Barry Ahearn's intro, and I checked Zukofsky's play Arise, arise out of another library.  I inhaled both of that as well.  I struggle reading a lot of things, but I have a huge capacity for Zukofsky and writing about Zukofsky.  Not that I understood Arise, arise.  I enjoyed it, but I could not summarize it.  I think reading Pound's Cantos back around 1983 I developed the habit of reading difficult texts as music, not worrying much about the meaning.  I do that most of the time when I read poetry.   Some poetry yields its meaning easily, but I tend to read poetry out loud, focusing on the sound.

Recently I've read some Frank O'Hara.  Thirty years ago I considered him my favorite poet, but now I struggle to read much of him.  I still love a few of his poems: "The Day Lady Died,"  "On Talking with the Sun of Fire Island," etc.  I fell in love with Ken Koch's poetry in 1984, and that led me to his friends Frank O'Hara and John Ashberry.

Last night I taught "The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock" at the community college.  I marvel at the music of that poem.  Now, do I appreciate it because I've read it so often and taught it so often?  I don't know where to turn to find more poems I'll love as much at that one.  Zukofsky seems my favorite guide at present, but perhaps I'll return to Eliot one of the these years in a more serious way.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rumi to Zukofsky to Chaucer to Sexton.

Dr. Johnson asked, "What qualities do you note as you move from Rumi to Zukofsky to Chaucer to, whomever: Anne Sexton"?  Well, I finished The Essential Rumi a week ago.  Reading Rumi I enter a head space where I see him as having accessed higher levels of perception than I have.  In the back of my head while reading him I think about the possibility of gaining access to this initiated tradition.

I finished Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry last weekend.  Reading him I enter my poet/student of poetry mode.  I feel guilty about my lack of knowledge of languages, and I map I my future reading along a Zukofskian (almost Poundian) program.  Whereas with Rumi I feel like an outsider looking in to the Sufi tradition, with Zukofsky I feel like an outsider looking in to the Western poetic tradition.  With Rumi I don't see a way in without personal contact with part of that initiated tradition.  WIth Zukofsky I see a way in with study of languages and other poets (Ovid, Catullus, Virgil, Shakespeare, Stevens, etc.).

I read two pages of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde this morning.  I found it slow going with my limited knowledge of Middle English.  I enjoyed it mildly, but when I walked outside and looked at the sky and the birds I noticed a definite change and enlargement of consciousness.  Driving to work I found myself thinking about Dennis Moran, my Chaucer professor at Arizona State back in the 1980's.  He used to stop in the bookstore where I worked after graduation, and he would help me with my Middle English pronunciation.

I notice I've commented more on the qualities I notice in my mind than the qualities I notice in the poetry.

My Chaucer book has two columns of text to the page, so it takes me a while to finish two more pages.  I feel little desire to read any more Chaucer at present.  Reading Zukofsky I feel gung ho to focus on reading him and texts he recommends for weeks, months, years.

I read a bit of Anne Sexton a few days ago.  Some people see a decline in her late poems.  I tend to read them thinking of her coming suicide and looking for changes in her mental health.  I find myself a little scared to finish her Collected Poems.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feed the Loas

I named my poetry bookshelf the Empress twenty-odd years ago.  Ishmael Reed frequently uses the line, "Feed the loas."  He considers 22 his favorite number (February 22 marks his birthday), and he sometimes suggests the existence of 22 loas.  I tended to associate this with the 22 trumps in a tarot deck.  P. G. Wodehouse's later Blandings Castle stories feature a prize winning pig named the Empress.  It seemed to me that reading poetry out loud from a bookcase named the Empress seemed a way of feeding that particular loa.

A few years ago it seemed to me I had bookmarks in too many poetry books, so I decided to pull some bookmarks out and to finish a few other books of poetry.  I decided I wanted to get down to the number of poetry books which corresponded with the year, e.g. bookmarks in ten books of poetry in 2010, eleven in 2011, etc.  I had succeeded in this for a few years, but last fall I found a few more books I had started and not finished by Ed Dorn, John Wieners, and Desmond Egan, I started reading a couple of Zukofsky books, and my wife got me a book of poems by Rumi for Christmas.  I ended 2013 in the middle of nineteen books of poetry.

Well, I finished "A" last week, and I hope to finish The Essential Rumi tonight.  Next month I hope to finish Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry and the Desmond Egan.  That will get me down to fifteen, much closer to my goal.  (Man, this might seem silly to some.)

Poets I find myself reading in the Empress right now:  Ray Bradbury, Chaucer, two translations of Dante, Emily Dickinson, Ed Dorn, Desmond Egan, Robert Frost, a collection of Irish poetry, Patrick Kavanagh, Frank O'Hara, an anthology edited by Ishmael Reed, Rumi, Anne Sexton, Spenser, John Wieners, William Carlos Williams, and A Test of Poetry by Louis Zukofsky.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Baroque vs. Beethoven vs. Megadeath

I've declared Fridays "String Quartet Fridays" in my music theory class.  Each Friday we listen to some of the Op. 18 quartets by Beethoven and follow along with the score.  This got me to start rereading Joseph Kerman's wonderful The Beethoven Quartets and listen to lots of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Well, preparing to write this blog today I listened to "A" - 24 which Celia Zukofsky set to Handel.  After 73 minutes of that I find myself in a Baroque mood, so I grabbed some Handel CD's to take in the car.

My music history class focuses on thrash metal this week.  I find it interesting to switch from Metallica, etc., to Beethoven to Handel.  "Out of all this beauty, something must come." - Ezra Pound

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Favorite Day of the Week

On Wednesdays the Finnegans Wake Club at my high school meets.  On Wednesdays I post to this blog, so I read a little Zukofsky.  On Wednesdays I reach the end of my Weight Watchers week, so I allow myself a Finn Feast, using up my unused bonus points and activity points.  On Wednesdays my wife teaches a class.  I drive her to class, and during the class I get some reading done.  Tonight I hope to study a little Latin and music theory, start rereading Joseph Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets (one of my very favorite books) and perhaps finish rereading Shelly Brivic's Joyce's Waking Women.

Just now I read a little of Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry.  When I first read this wonderful book back in the 80's I noticed the deep similarity between Zukofsky's taste and Pound's.  I noticed this again today with the passages from Donne's "The Ecstasy", Shakespeare, and Yeats.  At first I didn't really feel in the mood to read this book, but I felt my body relaxing as I read the poetry out loud, and I felt my breath deepen.  Thank you Louis Zukofsky.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Year of the Horse

Well, Friday marks Chinese New Year and the Year of the Horse.  I suspect this would make Louis Zukofsky smile, although I don't know.  I look forward to reading Zukofsky and reading about Zukofsky and writing about Zukofsky over the next year.  He loved horses, and I think about him when I see horses.  Last night I saw some zebras on TV, and I wondered if they would have delighted Mr. Z.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Zukofskymas Eve

Welcome.  Tomorrow marks Louis Zukofsky's 110th birthday.  Ten years ago I had my tenth graders memorize his poems for extra credit for his 100th birthday.

Last month a wonderful classical piano CD came out from Jai Jeffryes: .  It reminded me of a conversation I had with Jai thirty years ago about Zukofsky's definition of poetry as an integral from speech to music.  Jai commented that that definition put poetry in a central position in the arts.  I think Zukofsky would agree, but thinking about it recently, I don't see poetry at the center of my life the I did thirty years ago, and I don't see poetry as playing as central role in our culture as it used to.

Poetry seemed more central in 1922 the year The Waste Land appeared.  I remember in freshman English in college in 1979 my teacher called the 1920's "The Waste Land Decade."  William Carlos Williams said The Waste Land set American poetry back twenty years.  The poem had a decided impact on a culture without computers or television.  Movies didn't have talking, and radio had just come along.   Poetry could still make a big impact.

The closest thing since then seems Ginsberg's reading aloud of Howl with Kerouac sitting on the platform shouting "GO!" at the end of each breath unit in 1955 or 1956.  That reading shows up in things I've read by Ginsberg, Kerouac, Creeley, McClure, Whalen, Snyder, etc.  Last night I glanced at David Byrne's How Music Works and he mentions Burroughs and Ginsberg living in his neighborhood in New York in the 70's.  Ginsberg and the Beats in general certainly marked a lot of the people in shaped the sixties, from Dylan to the Beatles to Zeppelin, etc.  I don't know that poetry plays as great a role in 2014.  We live in what Eric McLuhan calls a post-literate age.  Reading and appreciating novels seems a step back to a previous age, the age of the novel.  Many people make that leap, reading Harry Potter or Proust.  Appreciating poetry involves taking two steps back, back to the age of poetry which dominated literature up until 250 years and the rise of the novel.  Some people still make that leap but fewer than those who appreciate novels.  Eliot, Pound, Williams, and Ginsberg seem some of the last poets to really mark the mass culture.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The old song goes "Who do you love?"  The English teacher in me goes "Whom do you love?"  Reading A Test of Poetry today, which begins with Robert Herrick's "Trust to good verses, then," I wonder, "Whom do you trust?"  Ibn 'Arabi and Rumi teach to trust God.  When I fell in love with teaching film a few years ago, I often thought "Trust to good movies, then," echoing Herrick and Zukofsky.  I have less faith in either poetry or film today.

I also think of Elvis Costello's Trust and the idea of a trust in the world of finance.

"I don't ask for much, I only want your trust
And you know it don't come easy." - Ringo Starr

The trees outside look lovely in the breeze.  I feel tired listening to Schubert.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Sawhorse of Oz

Well, I finally finished reading all of the words of "A" - 24, and I found it quite lovely.  The family unit of Louis, Celia, and Paul ring out from how Celia organized Louis's words to Handel's music and to each other.  The final fugue reminds me of Pound's desire to write a fugue in poetry.  I think Pound succeeded best in the passage:

"Some minds take pleasure in counterpoint
             pleasure in counterpoint"

The echo in the second line suggest polyphony.  I also think of the passage from Finnegans Wake "O, my back, my back, my bach!" (pg. 213).

I love how the final fugue "A" includes part of Zukofsky's famous poem about sawhorses.  During this read-through of "A" I became more aware of Zukofsky's love of horses and of how often they appear in the poem.  Reading this final fugue I also thought of the Sawhorse of Oz, which I'd never associated with Zukofsky before, linking one of my first literary loves with one of my latest.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Appoggiatura

Celia Zukofsky constructed "A" - 24.  She took keyboard pieces by Handel as well as writings by her husband to construct it.  Four voices read from Zukovsky's Thought (critical prose), Drama, Stories, and Poetry while the keyboard pieces play.  I've almost finished reading through "A" -24, and it has started to make more sense to me.  It reminds me of the footnote chapter of Finnegans Wake.  That chapter contains notes on each side of the main text as well as footnotes.  I've heard people refer to it as one of the hardest chapters to understand in the Wake, but I tend to see it as a Finnegans Wake tutorial, with the notes helping the reader into Joyce's world.  Yesterday for the first time I started to see "A" - 24 in the same way, as Celia providing both a conclusion to her husband epic and a tutorial to assist the reader into his world.