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Saturday
May202017

Chuck Berry for the Nobel Prize

Now that poets are forced live in the age of hypercriticality, where the winners deplore the losers and the losers detest the winners, can there be any poetry written whose sole purpose is praise? By praise, I don't mean that a poet needs to say that something is exclusively good or needs to find only the good in something, but that poetry needs to turn something that's both good and bad inside out with words so that it becomes an object itself, one that stands on its own two feet with the intention of singing.

Saul Bellow, novelist, true believer in the American dream, wrote a beautiful novel about an American poet, Humboldt's Gift, in which a sort of conclusion is reached, to the best of my memory, that poetry is indeed the highest kind of praise.

What is praise? The form of truth--the truth of thinking something through so thoroughly that it can finally be also understood emotionally--expressed in song. 

Too often these days I wake up with the thought, something's wrong. A bird may be singing right outside my window, but do I hear it? No!

Just this morning I wondered what benefit might come to me if instead of thinking that Chuck Berry should have won the Nobel Prize rather than Bob Dylan, as I do think, that it would be better for me to to see the good in Bob Dylan winning the prize rather than the injustice.

Friday
May192017

Three weeks written, alone in a mountain cabin

During week one I come to the conclusion that writing a book is basically confronting a problem the writer believes needs to be solved. I take strange comfort in other people's writing, looking through the green notebook I keep for words that might help me locate the problem in the first place and send me on the way toward resolution. "Your mind is constantly capable of surprising you if you work it hard enough" (Donald Barthleme). "Who shall say I am not/the happy genius of my household?" (WC Williams). There's a woman too, the Italian actress, who said she didn't dare look at the ocean for very long for fear she'd lose interest in the earth (I think it's Monica Vitti, but don't have the resources to verify), loving the statement so much I write it out in longhand to see how beautiful it is on the page and how little sense it really makes once I start thinking about it.

I spend the second week identifying the problem, the problem specific to the book I am writing, a book about a man trying to write a novel on a typewriter. The problem is that the man prefers being horizontal to being vertical, inaction to action, the sleep state to the waking state, and so on. The poor writer persists, however, by lying on his back, balancing the typewriter--a small, portable German model--on his knees as he writes his novel.

Then a second problem arises, a problem much greater than the first problem! Eveything the writer writes on the typewriter comes out as poetry instead of prose, and the novel about a man writing a novel on a typewriter is thrown into a profound quandary.

Now the question becomes: what to do with the third week?

The third week is spent walking up and down the cabin walls with the first two problems strapped to my back, knowing there's something worthwhile in both of them but not knowing how to proceed.

Wednesday
May172017

The Electoral College

Can you imagine going to a college that would invite Donald Trump to give its commencement address?

I can't, and I attended some pretty bad colleges.

Tuesday
May162017

Edward Dahlberg: writer not much looked into

Re-arranging books on our bookshelves, I see there are books I own I haven't looked into ever, or if not never, so seldom that they're almost new books to me.

Edward Dahlberg: A Tribute (David Lewis, Inc., 1970) is now out of print. I paid $4.50 at some used bookshop in the mid-1970's. Paying tribute to Dahlberg are Kay Boyle, Allen Tate, Karl Shapiro, Hugh Kenner, James Laughlin, Cid Corman, Muriel Rukeyser, Thomas Merton, and Jack Kerouac, among others.

I'd first became interested in Dahlberg after looking into his autobiography, Because I Was Flesh, at some other used bookshop, and coming across a sentence that stayed with me ever since: "Graveled by many nebulous purposes I traveled north." (Go ahead writers out there, try to beat that!)

From that point forward I bought everything Dahlberg I could find, including Can These Bones Live (New Directions, 1960) the edition with the preface by Sir Herbert Read, in which Sir Herbert with the great name of Read), says of Dahlberg, "There is not a page which lacks vivid imagery, or memorable phrase. It is not the slick prose of the smart journalist, nor the careful prose of the timid intellectual, and least of all the intricate jewelry of the aesthete. It is the crystalline vein of the English Bible, of Shakespeare and Sir Thomas Browne, running through the torpid substance of modern life. It is not writing for writing's sake..." I paid $6.50 for this book, as Read offered such high praise of Dahlberg, and then read little else of the book.

I'd read enough Dahlberg by then to know I was interested in his writing, believing he had something to say to me, remembering the sentence he written in his autobiography in a way I'd never forget, but I didn't read much of him after that, I never looked into him the way I've looked into other writers, I quit reading his books, only looking into his books when moving them from one bookshelf to another.

So why didn't I read more Dahlberg the way I read Beckett or before Beckett, Flaubert, reading their books one right after another?

Because there's something in Dahlberg's character that's not in mine. 

Monday
May152017

The publisher pass thru

Made it home last night, from Cody, Wy. to San Francisco, Ca. 1,185 miles.

Winter's worn everything out--the state highways are full of potholes, or as some like to call them, chuckholes or sinkholes and on Interstate 80 at least two entire overpasses between Riverton and the Utah border fully collapsed--but all the rivers I crossed, even in the vast deserts of Nevada, are full to overflowing, right up to their banks.

The most interesting sign to be seen is somewhere in Utah: 'Indoor Skydiving.'

Two rules for choosing places to eat while on the road: 1) never eat in an empty restaurant: your food will come late and the check will come early 2) McDonald's aren't as awful as portrayed in the mainstream media; I ate a pretty darn good Southwestern salad at 10 p.m. at the McDonald's in Lander, Wy. and enjoyed watching the harmonious interaction of the staff as they prepared to close for the night. 

The most interesting set piece: three older people in a brand new blue pickup truck sitting in front of a convenience store in Dixon, Ca. all three scratching off lottery tickets with great intensity.

When I finally drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, 4 p.m. 5/14/17, I make my final reentry into pop culture and hope to stay there for awhile.