Wednesday, November 27, 2013

unlucky star of the Lemmist school of poets

  "Lemm's appearance didn't work to his advantage . . . He moved laboriously, swinging his ungainly body forward . . . Some of his movements recalled the clumsy actions of an owl in a cage when it senses that it's being looked at but itself can hardly see out of its large, yellow eyes as it blinks fearfully and yet drowsily.  
  Pitiless, prolonged sorrow had laid its indelible stamp on the poor [German music teacher and would-be composer,] distorting and deforming his body, which was by no means attractive to begin with. . . . Lemm might have joined the ranks of the great composers of his fatherland, had his life been different—but he was born under an unlucky star!  He'd written a good deal of music in his day, but he hadn't been destined to see even one of his compositions performed.  He didn't know how to go about things in the right way, how to ingratiate himself in the right places, how to assert himself at the right moment. . . .
  Lemm finally renounced all his hopes, and the years did their work as well: his mind grew as calloused and stiff as his fingers [on the piano keys]. . . ."

As a Lemmist myself, I identify with this pathetic dilettante who comes to life (and death) in Turgenev's novel "A Nest of Gentry"—

from page 345 of The Essential Turgenev (edited/translated by Elizabeth Cheresh Allen):

"Lemm always greeted every new personage in the [provincial Russian] town of O—, whereas he always turned away from his acquaintances on the street—that was the rule he'd made for himself . . ."


Monday, November 25, 2013


how charming or how insulting: these "poet-clerks" will tell you what books to buy as if you didn't know what you wanted yourself,

though of course they would never tell you to buy my books which they couldn't do anyway since this bookstore refuses to carry my vanity volumes,

I offered to donate some of my self-published throwaways to this "Open" bookstore and they refused to accept them because their shelves can only bear real books, you know, books published by legitimate authentic publishers like the ones that publish Elizabeth Austen and Maged Zaher, the poets who will tell you what books to buy because you're too stupid to make your own choices:


Friday, November 22, 2013


One of the reasons I don't write book reviews, I mean besides lacking any authority to write them,

is that if you like a book and want to recommend it, you have to quote from it.  But first you have to choose the right lines to quote, the lines which, when they read them in your review, people are going to find worthwhile.  Lines which will convince people to buy the book.  Wouldn't that be your duty or goal as a reviewer?—

You can't just shower it with hyperbolic approbation: who's going to take your word alone for its merits, or my word if I wrote reviews—presumably there are reviewers whose word alone is a gold standard attesting to quality, but I certainly wouldn't be one of those reviewers.

But I constantly read reviews filled with laudatory assertions, reviews which then go on to quote lines that aren't intriguing or evocative or dazzling or meaningful or for that matter any good at all,

and that puzzles me.  Take this review I read today, of a book by a poet whose work I'm not familiar with, and which, after reading the lines quoted by the reviewer, I have no interest in pursuing.   

— here's a link to the review:

The reviewer gushes praise throughout, but the lines selected for quotation are laughably inept and flat, prosaic and just plain bad.   Every one of the lines quoted is banal at best.   I understand they're quoted out of context, but so what? 

Not one of them persuades me to look for this book, or to look for other works online or elsewhere by this author. 


Ideally I guess a reviewer would have space enough to quote whole poems, not just excerpts or snippets, or if online could link to whole poems—

I don't review books, but occasionally I recommend poems which I find exceptional, such as this one by Sampson Starkweather, which seems to me to be quite brilliant and well worth rereading:

Of course a commendation from me lacks any weight.  I hold no position of power in the PoBiz. You won't find blurbs by me on the backs of any books: no USA poet is crazy or stupid enough to want kudos from me on their CV.  No prestige can be conferred by my acclamation.  Nor can anybody's reputation be damaged by my disapproval—all the nasty notices I've posted about various poets on this blog haven't scratched their vaingloriousness one little bit.



in the last post I mentioned "Succinct : The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems"

which I bought last week and have been reading since—

it has a surprising number of bad poems in it, and among the worst are the ones by the two editors

Jonathan Greene and Robert West—

if you're the editor of an anthology and you put your own work in it, how pathetic is that—

Louis Untermeyer a now-forgotten poet from last century was an inveterate anthologizer and woe he would include his own poems in the olios he edited—

e. e. cummings wrote a little response to Untermeyer, which all such self-anthologizers should heed:

mr u will not be missed
who as an anthologist
sold the many on the few
not excluding mr u

. . . this cummings poem is not included in the Broadstone short poems anthology.

But who am I to damn their self-antholing when I myself am guilty of the shameful act of self-publishing my own poems?!  The saucer calling the cup white.  No real (legitimate) publisher will have anything to do with my work: I too have been forced to slink away into the dismal vale of vanity volumes, the pit of pelf-pubs, the cellar of selfie-serialization, mongering there in despair as I gehennate over the onanistic issuing of my own throwaway tomes.

Recently I've sporadically been reading straight through every poem in Volume 2 of the Collected William Carlos Williams . . . I'd forgotten how many translations he'd done over the years, from the French and Spanish, several rhymed versions from Yvan Goll's Jean Sans Terre in the 1940s, and then in the 1950s he did wonderful things from Octavio Paz and Parra and Neruda and other Spanish poets, and in 1960's "The Cassia Tree" he co-translated with David Rafael Wang a collection of Chinese poems . . . 
and wouldn't it be a treat to have all his translations gathered together in one volume? They're all in the Collected, but still, I'd love to have a separate book devoted solely to them, with annotations etc. . . .
Remember Frank O'Hara saying there were only 3 American poets better than the movies: Whitman, Crane, and Williams.
(O'Hara is better than the movies.  Koch is not better than the movies.  Ashbery is the movies. And since the Swedes hate the USA so much—and who can blame them—that they won't give Ashbery the Nobel Prize for Literature he's deserved for at least the last two decades, maybe they could give it to him in the category of Cinema?  Alas they don't have a Cinema category, and they didn't even give the Lit Prize to two film-tainted authors who should have gotten it, Marguerite Duras and Jean Cocteau . . . ) 


Thursday, November 21, 2013


well, damn me . . . the last two posts here declare I'm going to try to overcome my addiction to self-publication,

and today I've just spent 3 hours putting together a new edition of my short poems . . .

I bought the new anthology, "Succinct : The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems" — in which they include one by me,

not that they asked me for permission to reprint it, they got "permission" from BOA, from a book of mine BOA pubbed in 2000, 

a book whose rights were reverted to me at least 5 or 6 years ago,

but like many anthologists they don't give a shit about contacting the poets whose work they want to include,

they contact the publishers or in my case some "agency" connected with BOA—

the 'Succinct' editors Jonathan Greene and Robert West (whoever the fuck they are)

used my poem without my permission and I resent it . . .

Compare their unconscionable arrogance with Gary Young and Christopher Buckley, editors

of "One for the Money : The Sentence as a Poetic Form," published by Lynx House Press in 2012,

who contacted me directly for permission to reprint 4 of my poems, and which I was happy to give,

I sent them permission to reprint my poems at no cost, no fee,

and I would have been happy to grant similar no-fee permission to Greene/West if they had deigned to ask me, but it seems they couldn't bother to go to the trouble of communicating with the poets whose works they co-opted —

a curse on them and on all poetry anthologists who refuse to honor the due rights of poets, the poet's innate right to have control over the distribution of his or her work.   

Reprinting a living poet's work without their personal permission is an insult.  

It's not like they couldn't google me and leave me a message on one of the many blogs I've had over the past 7 years . . .  

and as I implied above, I would be happy to grant no-fee free permission to anyone who wanted to reprint my work in a venue I feel is appropriate, as long as they have the courtesy to ask me first. 



Thursday, November 14, 2013


my last post used the word "addiction" to describe my bad habit of self-publishing my poetry,

and that's probably not an exaggeration . . . vanity is an addiction.  An irresistible urge to see my name on a book cover.

I used to print and bind the books myself, using a double-sided printer and large stapler, and then I'd mail them out to various places for free distribution, but that became too labor-intensive, and of course expensive what with inkjet/laserjet print-cartridge prices, add the cost of paper and mailing, etc.  Each homemade book I did cost over 2 dollars, total.

Then I discovered, and for a year or two published my books via their print-on-demand service.  But each copy they produced had too high a cover price (set by them, not me)—

Lulu's price for a 104-page book for example would be at least 7 or 8 dollars, compared to which

I can buy a similar length book of equal production quality for 2 dollars and 15 cents from CreateSpace, Amazon's POD arm.

That 2.15 cost is about the same as my homemade books, but since the latter could only extend around 50 or 60 pages in length due to the nature of their production (folded/stapled), really on the average a CreateSpace book costs about half what my home-printed staple-books were running me—

I assume Amazon makes its CreateSpace prices artificially low so as to drive Lulu and the other POD places out of business,

but I don't care about that, all I care about is that I can get a perfectbound paperback copy of my 104-page poetry book for 2 dollars and 15 cents (plus shipping) . . .

I know bookstores and legitimate publishers hate Amazon/CreateSpace, but those bookstores only carry books from legitimate publishers, the same publishers

who will not publish my books.  They won't publish me, so why should I give a fuck what they think about Amazon or anything else?  

Open Books in Seattle, you know it?  It's a "poetry only" bookstore.  They won't carry my books because my books are published through Amazon's CreateSpace POD service.  

I tried to donate some free copies of my CreateSpace books to this Open Books "poetry" store for distribution, and they refused to accept them.

But in any case, from now on I'm going to try to not publish any more books of my poetry.

No one wants it, even if I give it to them for free.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I am going to try to withdraw all my books from sale at Amazon, and keep them out of print.  I don't see the point of publishing books which no one buys, books which sell no copies.  

I'm going to have to live (and die, obviously) with the fact that virtually nobody wants to read my work, that readers at large (or at little) are not interested in my poetry (which is proved by the fact that no legitimate publishers will touch it, and I don't blame them!)—

and that my attempts to offer it "free" in the form of pdf ebooks, or as print editions priced the lowest Amazon allows me to set (my "profit" was always zero), 

will be met with the same general indifference.

C'est la vie.  I'm still trying to write poems, which I will continue to publish on my private "works-in-progress" blog, but I am also going to try to halt all book publication of my poetry,

if I can.  I may fail in this resolution, but I will try to keep it.  I may succumb once again as I have so many times before to the narcissistic urge to see my poems "in print," but I will try to resist that fatuous narcotic, that vain delusion.

ps Wednesday Nov 13, 4PM EST—
after checking on the Amazon, I see that some of my titles are still there, supposedly for sale, even though I've "removed" them via my account at CreateSpace . . . either I'll have to do the removal-procedure again, or they just haven't taken them down yet  . . .

Saturday, November 9, 2013

link to johnirons: Poem by the Dutch writer Eva Gerlach:

johnirons: Poem by the Dutch writer Eva Gerlach

I haven't mentioned lately the wonderful wealth of poetry at the blog of John Irons, whereon he offers his outstanding translations mostly from the Scandinavian poets, but take a look if you can—and check out his backlog archive.

don't miss out on poems like this one by Eva Gerlach!


Friday, November 8, 2013


I was back on twitter for a week or so, but the problem as always is other people's tweets

and my susceptibility to them . . . I saw an incredibly arrogant tweet by a very bad avantgarde poet (and academic) and was tempted on the instant to

"reply" to its inanity, in fact I typed out an insulting response and then deleted it . . . but I was immediately disgusted with myself for letting my rancor be so easily roused . . .

and so I deactivated my "account" . . .  

I've had similar problems with Facebook, and every time I've joined it have had to leave— I can't maintain the pretense of the easily-evoked acquiescence, the sickening positivity of it— the "like" buttons for example, so readily and pusillanimously positioned for instant obsequiousness . . . and its reckless use of the word "friend" is like some loathsome leech smarmed and grasping at your throat; facetious and ferocious familiarity smothering.

On the other hand: 

It's obvious that many younger poets find Twitter and or Facebook helpful to their writing process, and to the furtherance of their careers, and I'm sure that if I were their age I would also be imbricated in such transactive literaturing, gainfully addicted to those socialmediated elucidations . . . I'm just too old to do it: if I could I would, happily.