Tuesday, September 07, 2010

stuff I got at the SF Zine Fest

Labor Day Weekend saw another SF Zine Fest.

What I got:

John Porcellino’s King-Cat Comics & Stories #71 – and a King-Cat Tshirt!

into the grid a tiny zine about being a librarian

We’ll Never Have Paris Spring 2010 – a zine on the theme “things never meant to be” – when I saw the come-on on the cover “NOW WITH POETRY!” I asked the editor if that had killed sales. She said, “I didn’t use to publish poetry.”

Cliterally Speaking mini-comics by April Thompson and Quintessa Malranga, mostly

Notes on Conflict mini-comics by Susie Cagle – a trip to Israel

The Frog Prince a full-size comic by Lauren Skinner

Kent bought some stuff, too.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

“Ease awes.”

“Ease awes,” says Ron Silliman in his essay “Of Theory, To Practice.”

What the hell is he talking about?*

Here’s the context: “Once reading strategies catch up to those of writing, a lot of complexity is going to dissolve. Ease awes. For good reason.”

He’s been talking about the “difficult or obscure” nature of much modern poetry and says once readers “catch up to” the writers that difficulty will “dissolve” into “ease.” Ease? And ease awes! It does? I mean, when someone says, “You make it look easy,” they’re typically talking to a person doing something the speaker has already discovered is NOT easy. So there’s awe in that, awe in appreciating a performance of a difficult act in a manner that makes it look easy.

But once one has achieved a facility in something such that it feels easy, one ceases to be awed by it. It becomes matter-of-fact, just something you can do. So is Ron talking about others who haven’t yet got it? Readers who haven’t yet achieved an ease with the (only apparently) obscure will be awed by readers who have? That sounds unlikely, both as a reading of what Ron means to say, and as something that might happen.


I didn’t quote the sentence to hassle Ron about it. I quote the sentence because it is just so gawdam fun.

“Ease awes.”

Ease awes!

Say it eight times fast. Ease-awes-ease-awes-ease-awes-eez-oz-ee-zaws-ees-ahs-



‘E’s Oz!

source: Postmodern American Poetry, edited by Paul Hoover

Friday, September 03, 2010

from John Cage’s "Themes & Variations"

Activity, not communication.

Process instead of object.

Boredom plus attention = becoming interested.

Music is permanent; only listening is intermittent (Thoreau).

source: Postmodern American Poetry, edited by Paul Hoover

Thursday, September 02, 2010

“Mountain Mountain Mountain”

In the comentario under the poem “Palabra de Mujer” in his book Caminante John Oliver Simon notes that “Cerro Huitztepec,” a place name in Chiapas, Mexico, “means Mountain Mountain Mountain in Spanish, Mayan, and Nahuatl respectively.”

Puts me in mind of my British Life & Culture teacher 22 years ago in London. He said the River Avon (Shakespeare’s brook!) essentially means River River in English and Celtic. This is probably true of more place names than we realize. When a people comes to a land new to them they ask the present natives what things there are called. If “Avon” doesn’t mean anything to you, it sounds like a proper name, so you have to add a clarifying noun. River Avon doesn’t mean River River to an English speaker because Avon doesn’t mean anything to an English speaker.

“Adam”, I once read, means “Man” so any man named Adam is named redundantly. The Dine people (Dine being what the Navajo call themselves) translates as The People people.

I think this is called semantic opacity. Something “semantically opaque … passe[s] through a system without its contents being inspected or manipulated as if it was a black box.” A “black box” being a box no one thinks to open?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

John Oliver Simon on Ron Silliman

In Caminante, John Oliver Simon’s sequence of poems written during a several-month travel through Latin America, Simon includes “comentarios” in prose after each poem. The comentario gives the poem context (where it was written, who was around) and explains obscurities and culturally specific references. Under the poem “Not Language”, Simon takes on Ron Silliman:

“’the lie of closure,’ writes l*a*n*g*u*a*g*e poet Ron Silliman, lying to us and to himself on every possible level. Our raw material as poets is not words but things, not syntax but lives. Mortal, we work toward an ending.”