joseph duemer: reading & writing
. . . he's sure got a lot of gall / to be so useless & all / muttering small talk at the wall . . . [dylan]
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Wednesday, July 02, 2003
OK, this weblog is moving house. Please update your links & bookmarks to

As in any move, the new place will be a bit chaotic for a while while the painters finish up & the new owner moves the furniture around. The R&W archives will stay here on Blogspot until everything is settled at the new address, then they, too, will be moved & all you'll see here is a redirect to the new place. Save yourself the extra click & update your links now.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:41 AM.

Thursday, June 26, 2003
wtf: The new weblog is here. Just don't expect it to look the same each time you come back.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:03 PM.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
I have a shiny new MT weblog that I'm going to unveil over the coming weekend. At the moment I'm messing around with the settings & making sure everything works. And at some point I'll have to get all my Blogger archives into the new system. I'm also going through my blogroll & dropping dead links or sites that haven't updated in a long time. Still thinking about how to organize the template, so I'll probably use the plain basic white for a while, though I do love to tinker so that probably won't last too long. Many thanks to Shelley & the members of the coven, ur, I mean coop.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:50 AM.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
I don't know about you, but I feel a whole lot more secure now that Digby is back blogging. Honestly, I am more frightened of the Bush Administration than I am of terrorists. And if I had to choose among terrorists to be afraid of, I'd put the Christians who might kill a local doctor ahead of Muslims. Sure, I live out in the country, so I'm not in a target area for terrorism. But I sure as hell am in a target area for fanciful economic theories & outright mendacity from my own government. There is a Faustian arrogance about the neocons in charge of things. But is the Faust narrative still viable? Or have the relativistic narratives of the extreme right drained the energy out of the old story?
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:00 PM.

Monday, June 23, 2003
Jordan Davis, from Million Poems:

What I want from democracy
is the chance to stand not behind
my beliefs or even for them but
as the integrated history of paths
gets created on a dare on a rainy
late spring afternoon, the argument
takes its weight from a wish to
undertake the living and not
the other thing. Tonight I'll put
roots in the oven and imagine
a landscape supervised by birds,
and the rituals of bedtime will
stretch back across generations
and off into an unclarified sadness
not unmixed with safe-and-sound
property, pro-landlord, let's
pull our weight now for a moment
not code for keep putting money
in my till. The mayor's friends
get together and make ads
to press the point -- it's just better --
and the court says they have
the right, so who are we not to put
on headphones and listen to
"Keep smiling" until the sun
puts us asleep and the moon
covers our bones? We're me. I'm
that. It's almost a life.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 4:40 PM.

Imperialist chic: Have you seen the Land Rover commercial in which a religious procession & a huge new Land Rover with smoked-glass windows come to an intersection of small village streets in a vaguely Indian but generally just ethnic setting? The Land Rover stops, the procession stops; a hand emerges from the muslin-draped sedan chair being carried in the procession & waves the Land Rover ahead with a gesture of a gold-encircled index finger. Screen goes to black with the white word: Respect.

You are a god.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:17 PM.

Blogging from the deck, overlooking the river. Hot today. Some yardwork this morning & worked on fixing up my little writing room, but mostly a day for lassitude. Angel & I are sitting on the deck. I've got a beer & the trusty laptop. There's a very light breeze just stirring the surface of the patch of river I can see through the trees. Sound of an empty log truck going over the bridge. They sound different from loaded ones. Yesterday I set up a mini-irrigatioin system for a couple of flower beds that have a tendency to dry out in hot weather. Couple of soaker hoses & a little submersible pump I had from when we first moved in & had to drain the cellar. Put the pump in the creek & plugged it into a heavy duty extension cord that runs up through the woods to the house. Strictly a temporary setup for the hot weather. But in just two days there has been a noticeable change in the microclimate & ecology of that little patch of the yard. The water brings insects & the insects bring birds, specifically flycatchers. The soaker hoses attract White Admiral butterflies, named after the striking white bar on their black wings. Angel just bolted off the deck after a chipmunk. They love to torment him. It's now sitting high up in a maple scolding the poor dog, who's walking back up toward the deck panting, tongue drooping.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 2:54 PM.

Splinters is the books weblog of Spike Magazine out of the UK. Excellent writing about books, writers & readers. This is going to become a daily read for me.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:55 AM.

Sunday, June 22, 2003
Lanny Q's permalinks are not functioning, so I'm taking the liberty of posting this entire. I think it's very good--out-Gibsons Wm. Gibson, or maybe is the sort of thing some stowaway in a Gibson novel might write on an interstellar hop when he woke by accident & realized he wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep:

Technician Found in the Aisles of Production

alas, the lunatic raves alone tonight
here in my stellar cube
modular hermitage of the phaneron turned
awry and inward, ingrown
by a phantasm sheathed in mad jowls
how might it have been different
years ago I might have been a joiner
might have learned to move easily
in the midst of others
but now like an old door
rusty hinges, broken slats
wind whistling through the cracks
i peer at the dancing candle
like a jolly goblin,
mewling to green stars
melting in the goo of numbers
head leaking
as i march, dumb and remote
as a sea-lion, tiny as a thrip
glass-eyed and useless
staring at life's information
"Is it good?"
there are no words to describe
the incandescence of failure
to suffer the splendor of the sublime
they vomit tickets
i sew on the same old coat of pad-locks
its forever
and i feel nothing but a hankering
for ice tea, and the smell of rain
a kind of existential droop
and a tingling like ants
beneathe a skin
like emerald rabbit's fur
bah hummbugg, you're all
puppets of spaghetti code
schlepping in the madness..
not one poem about Ohm's law..
i will not perform the labor
of the lonely
i have found a valley within..
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:21 PM.

Saturday, June 21, 2003
Poetry & Cooking: I've frequently had the experience of finishing a poem after many drafts and having a sense that I have discovered rather than made the thing. I can praise it almost as if I had nothing to do with its composition. Cooking operates the same way for me. Unless I've got a very particular assignment, I almost never cook from a recipe. (I do carry around in my head a fairly large collection of general recipe's & a decent knowledge of cooking techniques.) Most of the time I make variations on five or six basic things that Carole & I like, but occasionally I take a notion & produce something new. Doesn't always work out, of course; but when it does, I have the same relationship to the food I've made as to the poems I've written. I can stand back in admiration almost as if I hadn't made it. Today Carole has been off riding her horse, so I wanted to make something for my dinner that she could eat if she came home late. It's a summer Saturday so time wasn't really an issue. When I went into town to get some stuff at the hardware store, I was thinking that I had cilantro I needed to use & that it was a good day for grilling. The process of coming up with something to make often runs in the background while I do other things. Cilantro suggested chicken--this is a common combination in both Asian & Latin American cooking--& once I had thought of chicken, I thought lemon & lime juice. Decided to go Asian. Added fresh basil to my mental shopping list. Went through what I already had at home: red onion, rice wine vinegar, peanut oil, rice sticks (noodles). So, a Thai-Vietnamese noodle salad was born. One of the best things I've come up with for a while. Carole did come in late, after helping her pals at the barn try to wrestle a reluctant mare into a trailer. She loved the noodles. Carole usually has what I'd call a Nordic reserve about expressing herself, so I knew it was a hit when she said several times how good it was.

Chu Joe's Vietnamese Grilled Chicken with Rice Noodles
2 lemons
2 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh basil (about a half cup of roughly torn leaves)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup peanut oil (or any light oil)
1 package rice sticks
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup finely minced red onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic
freshly ground black pepper
2 whole boneless chicken breasts

Marinate chicken in 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar, juice of 1 lime & 1 lemon, 1/4 cup peanut oil, black pepper & 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce for at least an hour. Grill the chicken. While the chicken is grilling, combine in a large bowl, the onion & garlic finely chopped, juice of 1 lemon & 1 lime, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, roughly chopped cilantro, sugar & freshly ground black pepper. When chicken is done, let it rest for 10-15 minutes while the flavors in the dressing come together. Boil the rice sticks until they are soft, drain & let cool for a couple of minutes. Cut chicken into strips & put in dressing, toss with noodles. Just before serving, mix in basil leaves & top with coarsely chopped roasted peanuts. Best served at room temperature or just slightly warm.

Notes: This is a northern Vietnamese version of this dish; for a more southern-style / Thai version, substitute fish sauce (nuoc mam) for the soy sauce in the marinade & the dressing, double the amount of sugar & substitute red chili flakes for the black pepper. Chu is Vietnamese for uncle.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:47 PM.

Friday, June 20, 2003
Blogging, Blogger, Blogger Pro, Movable Type & the Burningbird Coop: It looks as if my weblog will be the first to get up & running on Shelley Powers' new cooperative server. As I write I have next to me the O'Reilly volume Essential Blogging, to which Shelley contributed. I have the sense that I am in good hands technically; but because I have also been a reader of her weblog, I also have the sense that I am in good hands personally. So, I am about to move from Blogger to Movable Type & from Blogspot to a server that will be leased cooperatively by a really weird--& I say that with affection, you understand--group of literary bloggers with a taste for the technical. That's me, anyhow. Though I was an early adopter of Blogger Pro & Blogspot Plus, I am writing this post from the regular Blogger interface because Blogger Pro is down this evening. But that's all right. Blogger is an amazing tool & one that I will continue to use. I am a teacher & the ease with which I can set up a class blog with Blogger will always make it my quick & dirty choice. I am also deeply indebted to Blogger for introducing me as a writer to an entirely new publishing milieu. I have published several books & contributed in a minor way to American literary culture over the past three decades. I'm not advancing any great claims for my self here. But I am delighted that a (mostly) younger generation of poets seems to have take to blogging. I read their blogs with great interest.

Many of these poet-bloggers are listed in the sidebar of my current site & when I make the move to new software & a new server, I hope to produce something like a comprehensive listing. Shelley is working on her "for poets" essays, which will explain the technology behind the screen to us literary types; I am hoping I can convince her that there is a need for a tool that would syndicate the best hundred or so poetry blogs. The notion of best is of course subjective, but I am unashamedly talking about pulling together the online work of poets with some reputation or status within literary circles. I want to make sure that circles is always plural. So yes, the poetry aggregator would be a meritocracy, but it would be radically democratic in terms of schools, groups & circles of influence. The shift to MT will also allow me to more easily organize collaborative projects under a single rubric. I am particularly interested in the academic & creative use of weblogs. Later: It strikes me that the current crop of mostly younger poet-bloggers are using blogs to publish in the same way that young poets in the fifties & sixties used mimeographed & stapled little magazines to get their work out & to create a buzz. It is a way to sidestep the limitations of the mainstream structures of literary power.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:07 PM.

My former student Elvis thinks that writing as therapy can only work if there is some relationship to language, but he doesn't specify what that relation would be. I'd propose that it is form. As a physicist, Elvis would assent, I think, to the idea that the physical world presents human consciousness with certain irreducible facts (thought that is a contested word). As a poet, I think that the physical world in all its freakingly weird complexity, insists on only one thing. Form. Coherence. Poetry, which is my little bag, acknowledges this reality in language. Later: Jeff Ward pushes this discussion forward at This Public Address.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:28 PM.

Shelley of Burningbird (sounds like a saint's name!) quotes Halley this morning & though I'm male, the sentiment really resonated with me. And the comment to the post by Joel strikes me as deeply insightful. It is simply a fact of life that some people behave as if they have a divine right to decide things for others. They can be the owners or dominant voices of email lists, academic deans, vice-presidents of insurance companies, literary critics or what have you. What binds the type together across occupations is a sense of entitlement & a (willing?) blindness to the ways in which they marginalize those who have not accumulated power (either by choice or because they have been shut out). I'm not griping. I'm very fortunate to be in a position where such folk can't hurt me in significant ways, but my situation is not the norm. It is incumbent of people like me, who are in a position to do so, to speak out & to act for the common good. It is important for us to recognize that our good luck is built on the commons. I have not always behaved in this way, to my shame. Something I'm going to try to remember, though, as I go about my business.

Update: My response above was to the paragraph Shelley quoted from Halley's Comment regarding women & weblogging. I've now gone back & read all of Halley's remarks on marriage as well as Shelley's response to them. Without trying to support or refute anything either blogger wrote, I'd simply observe that whatever will replace marriage will probably be called marriage, even though if we came back in a hundred years we wouldn't recognize it. Marriage has been an amazingly flexible institution over time & across cultures. I'd also suggest that whatever will replace marriage as we know it at the beginning of the 21st century in the US probably already exists. People are amazingly inventive with social arrangements. As an aside, I'd note that all the fear & loathing generated among conservatives by the notion of "gay marriage" is a reaction-formation to something that actually already exists. It's just that our vocabulary & civil systems haven't caught up with reality. Married couples--gay or straight, legally sanctioned or not--that choose not to have children represent another stem of development. Nancy F. Cott, author of Public Vows, testified before the Vermont Legislature during hearing on that state's "civil unions" legislation. [Yale UP book description of Public Vows; see also Katha Pollitt on why successful women drive America crazy.]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 9:37 AM.

Haven't posted anything here the last two days because I've been involved in an academic pissing match. I spent yesterday writing & deleting furious emails. This morning I woke up just wanting to be free of the whole thing so I've been out lying in the sun with Angel & pulling weeds in the garden.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:41 AM.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Yesterday in the late afternoon I watched a small garter snake, yellow & tan, traverse the whole length of the flowerbed beside the driveway. We kept each other in view, but it was a friendly encounter. The snake, maybe sixteen inches long, was certainly aware of me, but seemed unconcerned. I didn't stand stock-still, but moved naturally along the edge of the bed as the snake moved carefully in & out among the hostas & fescue. At one point the snake moved to within about eighteen inches of my feet, then veered away. A paradisal, prelapsarian moment.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:03 AM.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
This blows my mind. I published this chapbook in 1980 & it is butt-ugly. I think it sold for five dollars. I'm not sure I even have a copy myself. There are maybe one or two poems in the thing I'd put in a selected poems, should such a volume ever become warranted.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:04 PM.

Correspondence: Out of the blue, I have acquired a correspondent. It began with a note about Mark Strand, but soon developed into something far more charming:

Dear Joseph,

Have you ever encountered the word "qua"? It is an actual word in English; it means "in the capacity or character of " or "as." It is pronounced, simply, "kwah." Here is a sentence in which the word "qua" is used:

Example sentence: "My physician qua friend suggested that a vacation would be good for both my mental and physical health."

Now, I bring to your attention a species of extinct African zebra called a "quagga." Let us suppose that one day you are discussing the habits which the now defunct quagga exhibited.

Well, it is important to note that sometimes the quagga behaved just like any ordinary zebra; other times it acted with characteristics distinct only to quagga. It is not inconceivable that at some point you will want to stress this fact--that a quagga acted at times only like a quagga and no other kind of zebra. Thus, would it not be perfectly reasonable to find oneself, at some point, making use of the phrase:

a quagga qua quagga ?


To be followed by this:

Dear Joseph,

According to The British Cactus and Succulent Society Handbook (1991), there are about two thousand species of plants called "Asclepiads," which are divided into some 300 genera, of which about half are succulents. A number of these succulents belong to the genus Quaqua, pronounced "kwah-kwah."

Now, all Quaqua belong to the Asclepiads, but they have substantially different attributes than other Asclepiads. For example, all Quaqua are cactus-like, even though many Asclepiads are milkweeds. In fact, there are physiological features characteristic only of Quaqua which are not generally seen in the rest of the Asclepiads.

So, in discussing the genus Quaqua--as succulent plants distinct from other Asclepiads--I do not suppose it would be entirely unlikely that one might have recourse to the phrase:

a Quaqua qua Quaqua.


Trouble is, I'm a generally lousy correspondent. Just ask the various friends around the world to whom I owe email. I always imagine I'll be able to write a better letter tomorrow, so put off writing, sometimes indefinitely. In fact, this belatedness characterizes many of my human interactions. My correspondent had already told me he had written a thousand letters to one poet. Consequently, I was a little frightened by this gift the gods of letters had dropped in my inbox & so last night wrote:

many thanks for your recent letters qua emails. Is that right? You have, obviously, a good deal of--what shall we call it?--epistletory energy. I'm charmed to be among those you write to, but like my old teacher Mark Strand I may not be able to keep up. I'll post stuff you send me from time to time on my weblog & answer directly when I can & when I have something to say.

My friends call me Joe, please follow suit.


To which, this morning, I received:

Dear Joe,

Sincerely, I thank you for your offer to post some of my correspondence on your Weblog, at least from time to time. But I am very despondent. I cannot find anyone who'll become, with me, an epistolary prose-poet. It is a tiny genre practiced only be me, it seems.

Do you know, I really think many people are just dull and tepid, and it doesn't matter what kind of titles they have or letters affixed to their names. You can be an M.Ed. or a Ph.D., but that doesn't save you from being a C.O.W. The crime of evolution, Joe, is that most people aren't more human.

Do you know anyone, anyone at all, who'd correspond with me? I've come to a complete standstill with poetry, painting, and my math studies (I've tried very hard to understand the concept of a tensor)--it's because I can't find anyone to share with. What's the good of trying to do anything if there's no recipients? Does a musician go on playing to an empty house?

And this is really where I am now, really feeling like I've left the continent.


All right, I've taught the ancient Greek dramatists. I know that fate cannot be avoided & that when the gods--however minor--begin messing with you, you can try once, politely, to refuse to play; but after that, there's nothing for it but to plunge into your fate. I've written to Gordon saying that I am in the game. After all, I'm the one who recently wrote that minds do not exist in isolation, that language is a collaborative effort.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:24 AM.