24 August 2003

Olson Continued

Olson is still at issue, as he has been, always, since the beginning — my reading of the early Maximus poems in 1975. Here and now, Cynthia has brought me vols. 6-8 of the Creeley Olson correspondence, and in the introduction to vol. 6 George Butterick draws attention to Olson's comment that "rhythm is only the expression of the presiding imagism behind it" — where I take rhythm to be that total articulation of the sound of the poem, but realized, not only in its totality, but in its marked particulars — at each moment. Imagism here invokes the entire process of knowing — how imagism is the ability of the poet to come to languages, to images, through everything she or he believes and is — also realized as a totality and in the details, rhythm here being a term in the middle, a detail of the "presiding imagism" but itself expressed in myriad sub-details: movements, lines, phrases, word groups, individual words, syllables, morphemes, and phonemes — and all of their currents and undercurrents.

I sensed something like this a couple of months ago, when I felt that several poets at a reading I heard evidenced a music in their work that was like a jangling of the leaves, yet without the music at the root, without a music that informed the whole, including those jangles. In Olson's terms, a rhythm that was not the expression of any "presiding imagism" behind it. A rhythm that was amorphous, dispersed without body. Effect without urgency — buzzing without soul, although that term invokes an entirely new problematic.

One might also look at the formulation in Olson's poems:

of rhythm is image
of image is knowing
of knowing there is
a construct

But here the terms form nearly a mirror, as rhythm comes out of the construct, but it also is a construct and informs the construct. Or, if construct is taken to be a definition of the state of material in the world, then it is realized through knowing to image to rhythm. Yet any way you look at it, it (perhaps that it that is energy in Olson's terms as stated in "Projective Verse") seems to flow back and forth in an enticing dynamic.

19 August 2003

Love and/or Terror

It's been a long time since I've blogged. There's an excellent artist's book/book arts (the two are not quite the same thing, but the differences aren't quite worth arguing about either) exhibition up at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Excellent because it manages to present many aspects of the book arts while still remaining compelling, whereas it's too easy to be rather soft when trying to do so much at once. Perhaps it's the theme, Love and/or Terror, that keeps things on edge. Xu Bing's work in the show is a standout, a very humorous and intense indictment of the tobacco industry. Cigarettes with poems printed on them, cigarette label strings with The Book of Tao printed on them, and much more. 50 or so books, too many to describe. Just go there if you can, or visit . While you're there, sign up for the corresponding symposium that will occur on September 12 and 13, with talks by Johanna Drucker, Warren Lehrer, and me.

My own book in the show is a brief look at the presence of love and terror in American poetry from Anne Bradstreet to the present. Just a line or two of poems per page, on big pages, altogether forming a 20-foot long accordion-fold book, technically a leporrello binding. On the pages (which are Japanese handmade mulberry paper), other than the type, burgundy acrylic paint has been drizzled. A book thought out and planned for a month, then made in a day with a day for the paste used in binding to dry. Right now I love book making which does not overwork everything and make everything intricate, which tends to be a characteristic of handmade letterpress books. I want a sense of spontaneity, of the raw and sometimes imprecise nature of book making to show. The book is titled Whilst Love and Terror Laid the Tiles, which is taken from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, titled "The Problem." Other than Bradstreet and Emerson, other poets (and one musician) represented are Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, H.D., Ezra Pound, Robert Creeley, John Coltrane, Harryette Mullen, Myung Mi Kim, William Carlos Williams, Ron Silliman, and me. I plan on creating a version of this book in an edition of 12 to 20, later this fall.