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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy

read my poems aloud

in her Dublin accent

and made them seem

not written by me

in my dream

including this one

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cleaning Poem

What if cleaning was your hobby?

You could subscribe to magazines, take classes,

(maybe teach them yourself in night school

once you got really good),


indulge in fine cleaning materials

and tools, treat it like any other pastime

like bridge or mountain climbing,

crossword puzzles or playing a musical instrument,


with the added benefit of cleanliness.

Why do we call some things work and other things hobbies?

You might think I'm being facetious, but this might be a good one for you

or, if not, for someone utterly unlike you in all respects.




“Let me just say that nearly every academic I know — this includes feminists, progressives, minorities, and those who identify as gay or queer — now lives in fear of some classroom incident spiraling into professional disaster,” Kipnis writes in her book. “A tenured female professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

10 Things about Me

The idea is to guess which 2 of these 10 things is false.  The prize is free lifetime access to SMT.

1. I never graduated from high school.

2. I wear a hat almost everywhere I go.

3. I am a huge opera fan.

4. I have an extensive collection of books from the New York School of Poetry, almost every book written by Ashbery, Koch, O'Hara, Guest, Schuyler, and many of the 2nd generation, like Berrigan, Padgett, Shapiro.

5. I suffered from very intense "ear worm" in adolescence, especially with phrases from poems.

6. I often eat salad for breakfast.

7. I have lived in four states: California, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio.

8. I have had coffee almost every day of my life since I was 17.

9. While a child of the sixties and seventies, I have had very little interest in Rock music for most of my life.

10. I didn't go to any Spanish speaking country aside from Spain until I was in my 50s.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Frameworks: late night thoughts

There are several models we might consider.

*Your main problem is your enemies.
*Your source of obstacles is your rivals.
*Your problem is a system or set of circumstances that is rigged against you.
*Your problem is your own self or behavior.
*It is something else? Random events? Sheer luck or the lack of it?

Any of these frameworks might be correct for a given problem. I don't think I have enemies to speak of, and if I do I don't think they are doing much harm to me. My rivals aren't hurting me. I might envy Christopher Maurer and Andrew Anderson their superior knowledge of Lorca, but nothing they do holds me back in any way, and in fact it furthers my own ends.

The system is rigged in my favor so it's not that.

So in my case the majority of barriers to productivity are self-generated. And, frankly, I am productive so even here these barriers cannot be all that frightening.  Yet I find that they are... I'm publishing my book later than I thought it would come out, for example.








Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Barthes on Racine

Racine's theater is highly stylized and formulaic. As formulaic and rule-driven as a soap opera. All Barthes does is point out the patterns. He is not even that psychoanalytic, considering Racine's obsession with kinship, incest, and rivalry (once again, like the soap opera plots). It is hard to see what Barthes would have seemed so controversial: he isn't even applying a structuralist method to Racine, as much as he is pointing out parallelisms and recurring structures. I'm almost finished reading Sur Racine, with only the analyses of the individual plays remaining. Here he intelligently discusses each play and looks for its distinctiveness within the rule-bound structures. Like any intelligent critic ought to do. He never seems to be forcing a plot into a particular interpretative straight-jacket.

What was all the fuss about? Was there really that much difference between Barthes and his detractors?