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February 2006
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almost i rushed from home
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attention without a me
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both both
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the brother swimming beneath me
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mr. tong bliss' journal
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nervous unto thirst
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nice guy syndrome
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virgin formica
voices in utter dark
voix off
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you are here
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to the sound
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every other day

27 FEB 06

We live in a fragmented society. We live in story fragments. And in spite of all, we recreate a coherence.

Along with Yesterday, At The Hotel Clarendon, I've also been reading Nicole Brossard: Essays on Her Works, edited by Louise H. Forsyth and including fragments of a conversation between Forsyth and Brossard:

I write to make a statement of presence in language. In order for the alive to win out.

I would say that writing brings into view landscapes, language structures that are infinitely attractive and mysteriously precise and that produce the desire to live, the desire to be both elsewhere and, paradoxically, to settle into the heart of the essential. Writing also secretes nostalgias, violences, lugubrious facades. It is living memory, incendiary memory.

I still write in order to explore and to understand. That is my primary motivation.

For me poetry is limitless, radical and plural, flexible, trying, moving... It goes to the source of tradition and our old reflex to sing of love and death. I think that it will continue to traverse this century, like other centuries, just as much and as long as we know appetite, suffering or vital impulse. It will traverse the language, imprinting bites and burns upon it, like so many acts of presence, like a little light of hope.    

(Nicole Brossard, "Fragments of a Conversation," trans. Forsyth)

Brossard at PENNsound


25 FEB 06

He thinks he's found the problem. Not 100% sure, could be one of two things, either this small (& less expensive) part or the truck's computer. "The only thing the computer can't diagnose is itself."

Notes from talking to the mechanic:
The sensor is a magnet that sits over top of ____.
Reads the pulse.
Calls for fuel and spark.
We never got a "check engine" light.

-- The other day, did you mention an "excited sensor" or "exciting sensor"?
-- Yeah, an exciter. It excites the magnet.


23 FEB 06

From week two, 14 sentences:

A body without light. It's possible our trouble is today behind us. I didn't ask, but wondered why.

I think I was trying to say (in part) aren't footnotes fun. Everyone knew, her family was. "Upholstered." But it takes energy to be myself. If you're a person like me, you will start to guess. I don't need hope to paint.

Some of the pain was "referred pain." Now we were supposed to be just friends again. Only if we all speak French. I re-entered a version of my right mind and became very very tired. The tiny people are dressed for winter but the light is warm.


14 sentences, week three:

The idea that I might tone down "the time stuff." To be modern. To be friendly. My hunch is that the key is in dailyness. There's a hole in the middle of life (the body). Somebody got here following a Google trail for "make Scout's ham costume."

Time together when we're not supposed to be doing something else. Shook hands with the roofers, then the mechanic. I can be swayed. The Magic of Believing?

Something keeps opening a space in the middle of life. I really liked being in there. "She made some coffee, it was just so nice." It's timeless, they say of [inaudible].


21 FEB 06


19 FEB 06
Still can’t trust the truck to start, so I took the gas-guzzling loaner down to the County Courthouse for jury duty. I'd only been to Freehold once before, years ago, when a realtor showed us a troubled house ("The best of the old with the best of the new") in Bruce Springsteen's former neighborhood.

I get the feeling that many people are more familiar with metal detectors than I am. A limitation of the hermit’s life. I hesitated when the guy in front of me set off the walk-through. Waiting for him to find his overlooked metal, I didn't realize I was being addressed when the guard said, "Ma'am! Ma'am, step through!" (Recognizing myself as "Ma'am" is also kind of a weak spot.)

Once on the in side, I stood gazing for a minute at the x-ray monitor: the new-style color display, image inverted, field white. Then I made my way, with a growing gang of prospective jurors, to the Jury Assembly Room in the basement, pleased to see that some had interpreted "business attire" even more loosely than I had. We stood on a long line and I talked with the woman behind me. Not a first-timer, she filled me in on possibilities. "A friend of mine was picked for a murder trial!" (She was eager to be on a jury and did in fact get picked.)

The line led us finally to the front of the room where a cheerful woman looked at our IDs, greeted each of us by name, and pointed us toward a basket of clip-on plastic items into which we inserted our juror # cards. She told us to keep them on at all times so that lawyers wouldn't discuss a case while we were within earshot.

We sat in plastic chairs in rows. I began to wonder which outcome would be lucky for me. I had hoped to get out of it somehow, but now I found myself thinking that being on a jury might be interesting. When I wasn't part of the first group called, I moved out into the hallway, where there were some small tables and chairs. I'd brought along Yesterday, At The Hotel Clarendon by Nicole Brossard, hadn't started it yet. (Coach House Books. Very handsome.)

When the ice storm plunged us into the cold, I read four essays on antiquity under the most tragic lighting. I'm easily influenced, and it upsets me to realize I'm at the mercy of a statistic, of a proverb, of three chapters I suspect were written under the force of the tidewaters of violence or of deepest despair.

Some people sat down at the next table over, discussing the Winter Olympics. They moved on to how things have changed since some of them were kids around here, then to interest rates, real estate, each topic entered with gusto. "I'll just fix or... enhance the one I have." "You know your house!" At some point I realized they were a jury, selected sometime before today, now back for more. Talk turned to weather, the blizzard. "Right away, Ryan's ready to go sledding--he's standin' there like an Eskimo." ("What is your son charged with?" a woman asked a man as they walked past.)

It doesn't take much to upset me. I read a lot. I've a sharp eye for misfortune. I rarely talk about misery.

Brossard's sentences brought The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge to mind. Something in the sound. But wouldn't the sound be in the hands of the translators? Maybe it was the structure. A guy standing in the door jamb kept saying to his cell phone, "Just sittin' here. I'm just sittin' here, waitin'."

Every so often we'd be summoned back into the Assembly Room. Another group of names would be called. Not mine. I went down the hall to the tiny cafe. When the cashier asked, "What are you having?" I said, "Just this." He looked at the wall behind me and asked, "What is it?" I hadn't noticed he was blind. Then I couldn't think of the word for the food in my hand. "Muffin?" he asked. "Yes!" I replied as if having my fortune told. "Butter?" (He was smililing a little, almost like he knew that "muffin, butter" had another meaning. In our house it's the term for a note we've taken that, when we find it later, we don't know why we wrote it in the first place. *)

I liked the cashier. I liked watching him count the bills. He bantered with the regulars, knowing many voices. He could somehow tell the difference between cartons of plain & chocolate milk. Later he was refilling the vending machines out in the hall, moving confidently everywhere. (I thought of that sentence: "You know your house.")

Hours passed. Back in the room of plastic chairs, I fell asleep with 2 TVs on and chatting all around me. Then suddenly at 3 o'clock we were dismissed, for the week. School's out, forever. We lined up to return the clip-on juror-card holders. People headed for the elevators. I went the other way, having found the stairs when I went for a walk during the lunch hour. As I approached the door, there was the cashier, moving stock on a dolly. He went through, started to let it swing shut, then looked in my direction and caught the door and held it.

"Going out?" he asked. He gave me quick directions to the main doors on the ground floor, and called up as I reached the landing, "See ya in a couple of years..."


17 FEB 06

     There were pictures in her rooms and none of them were reproductions. The first time I visited, I noticed gritty trails of oil pastel, the wash of tempera and gouache, torn edges of paper, lumps of oil paint and glue... clues from the forming material world were everywhere evident and often framed. I wandered and looked while she made tea. Another time, at a large party in her uptown apartment, she was the beautiful blonde protagonist in the "whodunnit" mystery, walking among her guests, offering little bunches of purple grapes and slices of green apple from a silver tray.

. . .

     One night, I was at a big gallery opening, in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood below Houston Street, before it was marketed as Soho. It was sometime in 1964... Joe LeSueur, a guardian angel of sorts (and roommate to Frank O'Hara), had decided to watch out for me that evening...and, at some point...he turned to me and demanded, "Have you met Barbara Guest yet?"
     When I said "No," his reply was..."Well you must... Frank told me you must meet each other... They were in Europe at the same time a few years ago, you know, and even though there were piles of friends around, Barbara was the
only one Frank could stand to be with if he wanted to take a serious walk, especially when there was some ancient statue that had to be visited by moonlight. He knew she wouldn't ruin it."

-- Kathleen Fraser, "Barbara Guest: A Memoir"
from Translating the Unspeakable

Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest died on Wednesday night. Forces of Imagination, which came out from Kelsey Street in 2003, collects some of her essays and talks on writing:

---- from "A Reason for Poetics"

The conflict between a poet and the poem creates an atmosphere of mystery.

. . .

Mystery with its element of surprise and, better word, audacity.

. . .

The poet relies on the pitch within the ear... Pitch and ear are the servants of language and cannot make their living anywhere else, even by escapades.

. . .

Poetry sometimes develops a grayness; the light can never get in. The surface is smudgy. Cezanne was irritated by this murkiness in painting and complained "the contour eludes me."


---- from "The Beautiful Voyage"

      Respect your private language.

. . .

Never "negotiate" with the reader by projecting the reader's aims into the poem, such as a "desirable subject."

. . .

When in trouble depend upon imagination.

Picasso, when facing his inquisitors: "Subject matter? You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."


---- from "The Shadow of Surrealism"

Once I sublet an apartment overlooking Union Square. I came to dislike the cold north light of the apartment and I admit I was unhappy while I lived there. However, the owner's library included several books on Kandinsky. There was one book that quoted him on the necessity in art for an "inner sound." To me, this is the essential "noise" of poetry. Another book showed photographs of Kandinsky's Moscow apartment. The artist, his ideas, and his dwelling place became a solace to me.

One day looking down on Union Square from the apartment, the sudden realization arrived that Union Square looked remarkably like the Moscow park seen from Kandinsky's apartment.

Several years passed and I moved near the south side of Union Square. I walked over to Union Square one day and looked up at my former apartment. The building now seemed to resemble the old photograph of Kandinsky's apartment. That evening I began to write a poem about the last evening Kandinsky had spent in Moscow before going into exile. I called the poem "The View from Kandinsky's Window."

(Barbara Guest, Forces of Imagination : Writing on Writing)

Barbara Guest photo by Judy Dater 2004
Barbara Guest    1920-2006

Jacket 25: Barbara Guest and Kathleen Fraser in conversation with Elisabeth Frost and Cynthia Hogue

Jacket 10: Special Feature on Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest page at PENNsound


15 FEB 06

It's white. It starts to come down.

The sky gets white but it's darker. The whole sky is gray.

Wind. There's wind, often.

It's white and dark at the same time. It can accumulate.


*      *      *

If only we had something new to read. . .









La Petite Zine

On the schedule this morning: jury duty. My first time.

. . . . . . . .

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