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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Thursday, August 29, 2002
Insight from Viviculture, one of my favorite weblogs, though I haven't visited very much in the last few weeks. As for language & concepts, there has been a lot of debate among linguists & philosophers of language over the last 100 years or so about the extent to which different languages enable different thoughts. (AKMA & David Weinberger have been turning this issue in interesting directions lately.) Simple-minded linguistic determinism clearly won't do--we do not understand our world(s) exclusively through the medium of a single language; otherwise, I would not have been able to enter into the spirit of Vietnam before I began learning Vietnamese. But--& this is important--I learned much more about Vietnam in my bones after I began studying the language. Linguistic determinism ignores the fact that all languages are part of Language & the Language is among the most basic things that makes us human. You can get a lot done with even rudimentary elements of a shared language: get a meal, fall in love, arrange the price for something. . .

Not sure if my recent discussions with Chris Robinson fit into this discussion or not, but here's what we've been chewing on. What's pretty clear is that understanding the way that language works--in a sort of feedback loop with physical reality--is crucial to philosophy, ethics, education, politics & . . . everything. In the US right now we have a political leader who has no effective relationship to language at all & I'd want to argue that our political discourse has become blunted & vulgar as a result:

"I'm a patient man. And when I say I'm a patient man, I mean I'm a patient man. Nothing he [Saddam Hussein] has done has convinced me—I'm confident the Secretary of Defense—that he is the kind of fellow that is willing to forgo weapons of mass destruction, is willing to be a peaceful neighbor, that is—will honor the people—the Iraqi people of all stripes, will—values human life. He hasn't convinced me, nor has he convinced my administration."—Crawford, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002 [noted by Jacob Weisberg, creator of Bushisms].

Now, why is this so revolting? It is a truism of linguistics that languages do not become "debased" or "corrupted" in the genetic sense. Back in the 60s, certain conservative linguistics (John Simon?) attempted to make the case that Black English--a dialect with myriad variations--was incapable of subtle expression. In fact, the Black English of the 60s & now is an eloquent medium for expressing, not just the experience of the African American street, but of general philosophical & poetic expression: Etheridge Knight, Clarence Major, Gwendolyn Brooks & many others make this abundantly clear. The same concern over "debasement" of English has been voiced by xenophobes & racists throughout history; a particularly pernicious version of it is at large in the land under the rubric of English Only organizations. How, then, can I claim that the language of our current president is somehow lacking? The short answer is that GWB's language is not a dialect of English--a variety spoken by a group--but the result of an individual affliction (though one aided & abetted by a class identification that makes him particularly insensitive to the relations between words & things, words & acts. This is a man who grew up insulated from consequences.) We can use language to either sharpen or dull or perceptions & concepts: whether we choose accuracy or muddle depends, not upon language, but upon how we use language. That is, our use of language reflects our moral & ethical constructions. By this argument, GWB's morality is as incoherent as his syntax. Which is why American soldiers may very soon be engaged in house-to-house combat in Baghdad.

There was a fine piece in the Boston Globe a couple of days ago by James Carroll that discusses the president's language in a manner less tortured than my remarks above. If I were a journalist instead of a poet, I would aspire to such clarity.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:36 PM.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
School has started. It's an interesting phenomenon with me--during the summer when I have a fair amount of "free time," I become lethargic, especially in August; but once school kicks in--& we start early at Clarkson--I am filled with energy. Partly it's because I really like my students & they lend me some of their youthful liveliness, but I have also discovered this about myself: I get more done when I'm busy. It's as if I'm cold-blooded & need the reflected heat of others to work effectively. I guess this is an announcement that I'll be blogging more, now that I'm too busy to blog.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:30 PM.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Right on! (as we used to say way back when). And while we're at it, here is a letter I wrote to Paul Gigot, Editorial Page editor of the estimable Wall Street Journal concerning a column by one Melik Kaylan:

Dear Paul Gigot:
Though a liberal Democrat, I’ve been something of a fan of yours for many years. I thought the News Hour Friday political discussion went entirely flat after you left Mark Shields high & dry. // I have certain problems, though, with the column you recently ran by Melik Kaylan. Not only does she get her lede completely wrong—Dr. Johnson remarked on a dog walking on “two legs,” not, as she has it, on its “front legs,” the good doctor indicating an image of a dog dressed as a human and walking on its hind legs, a much more plausible scene and funnier that the illiterate version offered by your columnist; in any case, the entire tenor of Ms. Kaylan's piece is, quite simply, depraved. // Does the Wall Street Journal really want to go on record as calling for the bombing of the New York Times? And it is not only this statement of Coulter’s, but a long record of irresponsible hate-mongering that should make her anathema to real conservatives. She has also said that John Walker Lindh should be executed in order to “frighten liberals”—presumably by threatening them with death. I’m a liberal, I take this personally. I have no problem with principled statements of conservatism, but I ask you again, is this the sort of rhetoric with which the WSJ whishes to be associated? // Oh, you say—or your editorialist says—she’s a satirist, she’s only kidding. Please perform the following thought experiment: Imagine that James Carville or Paul Krugman had remarked to a reporter for, let’s say, The Nation, that his only regret was that Tim McVeigh hadn’t left that U-Haul in front of the Heritage Foundation. Can you imagine the hue and cry? We would be subjected to days of outraged commentary on the various news outlets. // Really, Mr. Gigot, an honorable man and a journalist who cared about the political discourse of his nation would publicly dissociate himself from the ravings of Ann Coulter. // I look forward to your response.

You, too, can write Mr. Gigot & ask him to dissociate himself from right-wing terrorist threats. If Ann Coulter had her way, American liberals would live under the sort of routine criminal harassment imposed by the Sharon government on Palestinian civilians.If Ann Coulter had her way guys like me would be in detention without access to a lawyer & without any expectation of due process. Ms. Coulter wraps herself in the flag & Ms. Kaylan adjusts her hem, but both are enemies of the Constitution. If this is Patriotism, I'll pass.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:43 PM.

Monday, August 26, 2002
Deeply subversive of conventional wisdom. There is simple village idiocy like that of Ann Coulter--stupidity not madness though I called her a lunatic the other day, insulting the moon; but there is also a profound madness that is "divinest sense." We seek the letter that contains the name of God even though it makes up blind.

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
T'is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you 're straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.
[Emily Dickinson]

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:15 PM.

I routinely delete email petitions that arrive unbidden in my inbox, but this web-based effort hits me where I live. If you're a US citizen, consider putting your sig on the line. [Via Stavrosthewonderchicken]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:37 PM.

Sunday, August 25, 2002
Seems to have been a bit of confusion. I didn't take the photo of the altocumulus clouds I posted yesterday--it's from the NOAA historic weather album, a great resource. Follow the link for a high resolution version suitable for Windows wallpaper. It is what our sky looked like, though. (I hadn't fully considered the epistemological baggage carried by a photograph of a natural object or process, however. Interesting.)
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 1:56 PM.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

This is what our sky looked like last night. Altocumulus illuminated by moonlight.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:47 AM.

Friday, August 23, 2002
It's frightening, really. The last two nights while trying to fall asleep I have been obsessively thinking about Ann Coulter. It's frightening, but not surprising, I suppose, since for the last several months I have been trying hard to ignore Ms. Coulter, who gives me the screaming creeps. But as any Freudian will tell you, repression will out. The proximate cause of my obsessive nocturnal visitations was a couple of remarks of the pundit reported this week pretty widely in the (left) alternative media. The first, to the effect that Timothy McVeigh should have bombed the New York Times building instead of a federal office building in Oklahoma, elicited general outrage & rightly so; but another remark really struck a nerve with me. It's a remark that has gone largely unremarked, if you will; but it is telling. Ann Coulter is apparently suffering from the delusion that she "speaks for the American people." She is quoted as making this claim in a piece in the right-wing rag the New York Observer. Here's a nasty little snippet, in which the Connecticut WASP is talking about NYC: ". . . 'we’re living in an insane asylum', Ms. Coulter said. She said she 'takes joy in liberal attacks. It’s like coffee. I mean, usually when I write up a column, I know what’s going to drive them crazy. I know when I’m baiting them, it’s so easy to bait them and they always bite. That is my signature style, to start with the wild, bald, McCarthyite overstatements—seemingly—and then back it up with methodical and laborious research. Taunting liberals is like having a pet that does tricks. Sit! Beg! Shake! Then they do it.' Ann Coulter is not a screeching reactionary? 'The American people don’t think so. I speak for them'."

I'd like to see the demographic data on who is buying Coulter's Slander. Somehow, I have the sense that it's not my neighbor Ed, who lives up the road & runs the General Store here in South Colton; & somehow I have the feeling that it's not the father of one of my students I met last night who, after dropping his kid off at my college, told me that he & his wife were going to "get the camper & go up to Blake Falls & do a little fishing." We had been talking about the Raquette River, on the banks of which both of us live. Does Ann Coulter, wearing a short black dress & sipping white wine in a snazzy NY bistro, speak for these guys? How long since she's been in a bass boat? Ed & my student's dad both may very well vote Republican, but Ed doesn't bat an eye when I walk into his store wearing my Ho Chi Minh t-shirt & dad didn't seem concerned to be dropping his kid off at a university, where, it's well-known, all the professors are card-carrying member of The Left. That's because Americans are at heart a tolerant people. Coulter's notion that she speaks for the American people is so ludicrous as to suggest a profound deficit in the realm of reality testing. That is to say, Ms. Coulter is a raving lunatic. Actually, Coulter gives most lunatics a bad name--most crazy people aren't vicious bitch-goddesses who call for the murder of people they don't like.

Fact is, Ann Coulter, child of privilege, born in Connecticut, who lives in New York City [to be read in the outraged voices of those cowboys in the salsa commercial], is a member of the Northeast media elite. She's just another one of the--I was going to say "clowns," but clowns are artists--one of the badly educated, solipsistic products of excessive affluence produced after the idealism of the sixties had died out. So, no, Ann, you don't speak for "real Americans." Ed & my students & their folks & my other neighbors on Mill Street, we're the real Americans. We have various & often conflicting political positions, but we get along with each other; we vote in our local elections, we go to work every day. We contribute our labor, physical & intellectual, to American society. Ann, what do you contribute? Despite your blonde good looks, it appears that you are a parasite within the body politic. You're a fucking alien, Ann. You make us real Americans sick with your lies. I had to worm a puppy the other day--man, he hated that medicine, but today he's romping around with a shiny coat & a good appetite. That puppy loves everybody, too. There were some worms in his gut that he shit out. They're dead.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 11:31 AM.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
It is important that those of us on the left, especially those of us who consider the current Israeli government to be running a rogue state, make it clear that while we support the right of Palestinians to a truly independent state & refuse to lump all "Arabs" or Muslims together with terrorists, that we also stand against tyrannies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia & elsewhere. The case of Egyptian sociologist, intellectual & democrat Saad Eddin Ibrahim ought to be held up around the world as an example of the moral bankruptcy of authoritarian regimes & of our own government's tacit collaboration in repression.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 11:49 AM.

"If you ever go to Houston . . ."
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 11:00 AM.

Friday, August 16, 2002
Larry Rivers, 1923-2002.

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:43 AM.

Thursday, August 15, 2002
Carole & I went up to Ottawa today to go to Ikea for some sheets & pillows, ours being in sad repair. On the way up we breezed across the border with a few questions; after our shopping trip & some pho at the Saigon Restaurant in the Byward Market, we headed home & breezed through US Customs, the only difference from earlier trips being that we had to show ID. No controversy here, just an appreciation: Of all the rights Americans enjoy, the right to travel freely is among the ones I value most highly. My border crossings today put me in mind of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, of the Line of Control in Kashmir & other such places. (I still have vivid memories of a Customs search in Ceuta [popups, sorry] in 1983 in which, first, a Moroccan official rifled our bags & then, after we put them back together, a Spanish official did the same thing.) What a lucky, lucky life I have here. For now, AG Mr. John Ashcroft, closing in.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:39 PM.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Hot: Hot enough that the ideas sag in my mind before I can get them to the keyboard. I've spent the last couple of days building a cabinet for Carole so she'll have a place to store her handmade paper in her studio. I'm "good with my hands," but in this weather slow with my brain. Late in the evenings, before bed, I've been reading Stephen Prickett's Narrative, Religion and Science: Fundamentalism versus Irony, 1700-1999 & I can recommend it on the basis of the fifty pages or so I've read so far. Prickett draws useful distinctions in clear sentences: what more can we ask of a literary critic? I've also been reading Charles Taylor's Varieties of Religion Today, a series of lectures looking back at William James' Varieties of Religious Experience. Taylor writes elegantly, but I'm not sure yet whether this is analysis or simply an apologia for mainstream American religious belief. I'll have more on these books as the weather cools. I also still intend to get around to sketching some ideas I've been mulling over about how to tell good poetry from bad that I think apply as well to theology & (more controversially) to science. Hint: it's the aesthetics. Question: Are all discourses created equal?

I love this bright white screen, but it makes me happy to live in a household that requires a piece of furniture to store handmade paper.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:28 PM.

Friday, August 09, 2002
Reading recommendation: As the United States appears to be hell-bent on making a Big War in the Middle East, I would like to suggest that you read Ward Just's novel A Dangerous Friend. The novel is set in Vietnam in the early 1960s & is a study in the sort of unintended consequences that always flow from arrogance. In both style & theme, Just's novel is a descendent of Graham Green's The Quiet American, which I read for the first time in 1997, in Saigon. "You're a dangerous friend, Sydney," remarks the expatriate American Dede, maried to a French planter; but the phrase applies also to Sydney's boss Rostok & to the US in general. It turned out, of course, that the US was a very dangerous friend to the regime in the South & to those people who believed in it, against all the evidence.

As the United States government considers "regime change" in Iraq, it woud be well to remember the various changes of regiem in South Vietnam from 1954 to 1973 & to ask ourselves whether we believe we can ride this particular tiger. The problem is not getting on the beast, but getting off. I would note that Paul Wolfowitz, according to his Defense Department bio was in graduate school during the Vietnam War. Couldn't find any data on Richard Perle, another of the hawks & the one who recently invited a former member of the Larouche cult to the Pentagon to brief his circle of warbirds.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:41 PM.

Spaced out: AKMA (& David Weinberger & Steve Himmer--just try following the links!) is trying to collapse space again & I'm with him. The problem with metaphors is that we get locked into them; to unlock the box you need the key, which is always another metaphor, which then turns into a box . . . So here's my one contribution to this subject: We don't need a metaphor, we need many metaphors. And at this point, the space metaphor is in danger of becoming one of those locked boxes. In my father's house are many mansions. Metaphors are like revolutionaries: they start out working to liberate you, but wind up insisting that you follow the Party Line . . . or else.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:25 PM.

Thursday, August 08, 2002
Ray Davis emailed the following regarding an exchange on Philosophical Investigations: "I . . . wanted to suggest to Christopher Robinson and you a cheerier interpretation of the Death of the Author, to wit, that it's merely another way of saying that authors are mortal, their books less so. I like plenty of writers plenty, but it's not wishing them harm to declare that their work, once written, becomes more dependent on the survival of language than on their own survival. Quite the contrary: it's to wish for the writers what they wish for themselves. // I admit that "The Death of the Author" was a distractingly aggressive way to put this essentially benign idea, but that grr!-grr!-lookit-me-I'm-a-paper-tiger! tone just seems to be essential to theorizing in French."

I wrote back: "As for the death of the author, yeah, I see your point. And I certainly agree that authors are mortal, their works less so. Hardy’s poems, to take one example, are full of the notion that any person’s immortality is limited to the memories of his friends-an author merely employs a strategy for extending his circle of “friends.” I think both Chris & I-because we know each other-were arching an eyebrow when we wrote those entries. The problem of blog tone is magnified when a blog is co-authored by two guys who know each other in the meat world. // Theorizing in French does, I think, require, how shall we say, a certain over-the-topness. I think, though, that Barthes had more in mind in declaring the author dead than declaring them mortal: I think he was / is consigning authors to a kind of living death by removing them from the causal chain leading to “their” texts. Barthes wants, I think, to “decenter” the author, which, given the Romantic-Modernist tradition he was reacting against, was probably not such a bad thing. The problem arises when you pull this move out of its context & try to apply it theoretically, no? // Well, it’s been a long time since I read much theory, so take the above for what it’s worth."

And a further note to Ray: Lorine Niedecker is also important to me, especially her interest in, respect for & use of "folk materials."

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:31 AM.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Poetry breathes pleasure & desire; politics seeks to control pleasure & turn desire to its own uses. Across cultures & through time, poetry has found ways to resist the domination of the political. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Every rhythm moves the body, every rhyme authorizes the irrational, every crazy story leads toward anarchy. Even the court poets of Imperial Vietnam, with all their Confucian strictures, occasionally got themselves in trouble with the emperor; there was, in any case, always a sardonic oral poetry in the vernacular. I think even Pindar's odes in praise of famous generals are double-edged.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 3:01 PM.

Please name newer poets who have been influential for you (books published in the last twelve years): Charles Harper Webb, Claire Bateman, Carol Frost, Franz Wright, Campbell McGrath, William Olsen.

But really, the whole problem if "influence" is impossible & I'm certainly not the first to question it. Harold Bloom made a big part of his career (before he became a career curmudgeon) with a little book called The Anxiety of Influence, in which he argues that all strong writers engage in an Oedipal struggle to unseat their "fathers." Well, he is considerably more subtle than that, but you get the gist. (I have already admitted to the anxiety still engendered in me by the American Poetry Review.) And it's true that when I was a student I worked at sounding like Sylvia Plath, then Theodore Roethke, then James Wright; but it's also true that I wrote probably 500 haiku based on translations from classical Japanese models. So what I'd say about the poets above is that we share certain interests or approaches or affinities. A kind of naturalism relieved by an aphoristic style. "The insane are right, but they're still insane." (Franz Wright) But I think my poems were "influenced" more by the friends of my youth & the places I worked at the time I was reading poetry most intensely that influenced me the most. I worked in bars & in a porno theater; I managed a restaurant, then I worked in a factory. Or maybe it wasn't in that order, but I worked in all of those places & it was poetry that helped me understand what work meant, what those places meant--both the reading & writing of poetry. I used poetry to think with & to understand my feelings: lust, rage, love, boredom. All this was when I was young--in my early 20s, before I went to graduate school & became something of a professional reader & writer. I miss that time, but it was inevitable I leave it behind--I've always been ambitious.

It's also worth noting, maybe, that I know several of the poets listed above personally & I'd say that much of the influence as come through friendship rather that writing; and an admission: I don't always read even these poets carefully, like a scholar. I just have their books around & pick them up sometimes & dive in. These particular writers just seem to have created swimming holes that I find attractive.

More recently, I've been influenced by my work translating contemporary Vietnamese poetry. I haven't begun publishing this work yet partly because I'm not sure yet about the relationship between the work of translating & the work of writing.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 8:07 AM.

Today, August 7th, is the anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed into law on this date in 1964. I'm grateful to Eric Alterman for publishing the entire text of the resolution, which I reproduce below. But I am even more grateful to Alterman for his sketch of the history of the resolution & its role in enabling a disastrous war that devastated the United States & whose repercussions continue to be felt. And yet the current administration prepares for a war on even slimmer rationales than those used at the beginning of the Vietnam War. There is a dangerous innocence, nay, insouciance, at work among the war planners & I fear the future cost in lives, treasure & political stability at home & abroad. Senators Ernest Greuning (D-Alaska) & Wayne Morse (D-Ore) cast the only votes against the resolution:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.”

The naval "battle" in the Gulf of Tonkin for which the resolution was named almost certainly did not occur as reported at the time & quite possibly did not happen at all, most historians of the period agree.

In Ward Just's novel A Dangerous Friend, set in Vietnam at the beginning of the American War, Claude, a French plantation owner, is having a drink with Sydney Parade, a member of the Llewellen Group, assigned to win the "hearts & minds" of the people of Vietnam: "Claude was listening intently, waiting for the voice of the Jacobin, the one who swept all reason before him. He waited for the fanatic, but what he heard was an earnest imperialist who believed in California. This American was surely right to see the Vietnamese as aerialists, not that he had ever met one. If he ever did, he would understand that there were no nets in South Vietnam. [ . . . ] The information the Americans needed was right in front of their own eyes; but probably they were the sort of people who did not trust what was in plain sight." The "dangerous friend" of the title refers to a character in the story, Sydney's boss Rostok, but also & more pointedly to the United States. With friends like these . . .

Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:19 AM.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Way last year I received a lovely letter from one Indrek Tart, a resident of Tallinn, Estonia. After introducing himself & describing the location of his country, Mr. Tart wrote: "My aim is to extend our understanding of contemporary American poetry. One time in my life (from mid 1980’s till 1993) I knew better English language poetry affairs and corresponded with several American poets. Thus I got a good understanding of 1980s in American poetry. Even more, I participated in the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa in fall 1992. I traveled then a lot around and found more poetry-lovers in America than I expected before. My understanding of mass-consumption society as purely soul-less one diminished in those days greatly." So it turns out that Indrek Tart & I have crossed paths spatially if not temporally in Iowa City, Iowa. I went there fourteen years earlier, also to study poetry. In all honesty, of course, Mr. Tart did not write to me only, but to many American poets. Still, it is more than any American literary critic has done recently, as far as I know. I have found a few--very--of those American poetry lovers; people occasionally write to me, including recently a high school girlfriend I hadn't heard from in 30 years (my fault, not hers)It's nice to know that someone is interested in American poetry, even if Americans aren't. My correspondent included with his letter a survey containing four questions. I aim to answer them here, to the best of my ability, in the coming days. But first I have to disabuse him a a certain notion. In his letter, my fellow poet wrote that his "understanding of mass-consumption society as purely soul-less one diminished in those days greatly." I wish I could say the same. My Vietnamese friends also tell me they love America, but the America they love is not the America in which I wake up every morning. I love my country for its democratic dreams & traditions, but the modern United States is as corrupt as the old Soviet system Indrek's Tart's countrymen are in the process of throwing off. Certainly, none of our politicians are reading Whitman these days. In one sense, there are no poets in America any more--we have all been exiled, though we're not quite sure to where.

Question 1: Please name poets (in any order from any time and generation) who had [sic] been influential for you:

Van Morrison, Sophocles, Vietnamese Ca Dao (folk songs), James Wright, Robert Lowell, Bob Dylan, Thomas Brush, David Wagoner, Rilke, Stan Hodson, Dante, Ovid, Alan Dugan, A.R. Ammons, Wittgenstein, Rudyard Kipling, Edna St. Vincent Milay, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Hoang Hung, Ly Lan, William Blake, the anonymous poet of The Gilgamesh Epic, St. Paul, Leonard Cohen, John Logan, the anonymous poets of Ecclesiastes & the Psalms, William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsburg, Old English & American Ballads like "Sir Patrick Spens" & "Barbara Allen," B.B. King & Howlin Wolf, C.K. Williams . . .

That's not a complete list, of course & it could very well be different next year. Still, I think one can get a pretty good idea of what sort of writer I am by taking a look at some or all of these poems & poets.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 7:56 AM.

A note on blog-block & maybe writing in general over at philosophical investigations.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 6:02 AM.

Sunday, August 04, 2002
Bush's Shame: "Since Sept. 11 all we've heard out of this Bush team is how illegitimate violence is as a tool of diplomacy or politics, and how critical it is to oust Saddam Hussein in order to bring democracy to the Arab world. Yet last week, when a kangaroo court in Egypt, apparently acting on orders from President Hosni Mubarak, sentenced an ill, 63-year-old Saad Eddin Ibrahim to seven years at "hard labor" for promoting democracy — for promoting the peaceful alternative to fundamentalist violence — the Bush-Cheney team sat on its hands." [Thomas L. Friedman writing in the NY Times (registration required)]
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:38 AM.

Friday, August 02, 2002
Lethargy: buying books but not reading them, watching cable TV, drinking Samuel Adams Summer Ale, walking the dogs--it is the dog days of summer--, sleeping fitfully at night, falling asleep in the afternoons. There is, though, some little part of my mind still functioning, thinking about poetry.

Anger: found myself seething with anger last night when, taking the dogs out, two SUVs full of teenagers came barreling down out dead-end dirt road on their way for a late swim. I hollered at them & shined my cop-style flashlight in their eyes & told them to slow the fuck down. Then I came in & couldn't sleep.

Reading the papers: Senator Shelby says our next war, the one against Iraq, is not if, but when. I keep hearing assertions about the danger that Saddam poses & the eliding of such statements with claims about terrorism; but no one has put the definitive evidence out there. How come I get the feeling that Bush Jr. is going to war in order to salvage the honor of Bush Sr.? Add to that the drip-drip-drip of news about corruption at the highest levels of the government of a country I love & well, my state of mind is perhaps explicable.

Maybe those three points amount to a kind of syllogism. Could the perfect poem prevent this war? Answer: Sorry, there is no perfect poem.
Posted by Joseph Duemer at 5:23 PM.