Sunday, September 30, 2007

During September

I have been listening to:

P J Harvey – everything up to & including White Chalk
The Fugs – First Album
Roxy Music – Roxy Music
Tim Buckley – a new compilation
Pat Metheny – The Road to You (or something like that)
Joy Division – Closer

I have been reading:

Ray Dipalma – especially the Sun & Moon early selected
Bernadette Mayer – more recent volumes
John James – dippings into the Salt Collected

I have not been writing


I have been getting vaccinated

(boosters for Egypt)

I have been swimming

(but not as much as usual)

I have been trying to find ways to make 10th Grade students connect with poetry

(and failed in most cases?)

I have been feeling oddly out of sorts and ill at ease

(and then remember that this happens every mid-late September)

and today, the last day of September, I sensed it was Autumn

(that chill to the air at 7:45 am, smell of moist leaves, sound of the year changing gear)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

That time of the year again...

Poetry – ‘For’ and ‘Against’ Arguments

Some Arguments ‘For’

It contains ‘hidden’ meanings

It contains symbols

It makes you think differently

It goes beyond ‘obvious’ feelings or ideas

It can change your mood

It allows you to learn a language

Some poems are good

Poems with a story are good

Poems with rhymes are good

If the subject matter is good then the poem is good

If the poem is about love then the poem is good

Writing poems is enjoyable

Having to work with language and rhyme makes you think differently when writing poems

I wish I could ‘see’ what was going on and then be able to enjoy poetry


Some Arguments ‘Against’

Poetry is irrelevant to life in the ‘real’ world

Poetry is escapist – its ideas are too far-fetched

Poetry is too ‘fancy’ and ‘pretty’

Having to analyse a poem kills it

Having to learn and recite a poem kills it

Poets don’t intend all the meanings teachers find in the poems

Poems don’t have narratives that keep you reading (unlike novels)

Poems are too short to really get into them

Poems are too ‘open’ – there are too many possible meanings

It’s hard to know how to read a book of poems


Poetry is irrelevant to life in the ‘real’ world

What is the ‘real’ world? And whose world?
Do we mean a business model of the world?
Do we mean that poems are not commercially valuable?
Do we mean ‘my’ world, ‘my’ version of the ‘real’?

Poetry is escapist – its ideas are too far-fetched

Are we thinking about a stereotype of poetry?
Are we accusing poetry unfairly (when film or video games do the same)?
Are we really admitting our version of the ‘real’ world is limited?

Poetry is too ‘fancy’ and ‘pretty’

Again, is this applicable to only one kind of poetry?
Might the ‘fancy’ language be of another period? Might the ‘pretty’ language actually be beautiful?
Might what sounds ‘pretty’ actually be working in subtle ways?

Having to analyse a poem kills it

Think of a sports match and the post-match analysis. Does this ‘kill’ the enjoyment of the game?
Think of an excellent meal. Does talking about the ingredients, how the dish was prepared, etc, take away from the taste?
Is there not room for pleasure in unravelling, exploring, deepening understanding?
Does everything have to be immediately understandable?

Having to learn and recite a poem kills it

Perhaps this is one of the best ways to make a piece of writing your ‘own’? The poet’s words now enter your mouth and memory. The rhythms of the words become rhythms in your body. You become the ‘life’ of the poem.

Poets don’t intend all the meanings teachers find in the poems

What do we mean by ‘meaning’? Here are some different possible ways of looking at meaning:

the answer to a maths problem; a glance between two people; Paris is the capital of France; a flashing orange light; a spot on your skin; birds flying in a ‘W’ across the sky; a flashing green light on your printer; a curtain being drawn; the figure 1,000 in a bank account; the four legs to a chair; the sound of rain on a window pane; a silence when you enter the room; a knife, a fork, and a spoon as a place setting; the chalk outline of a man drawn on the floor; the smell of toasters on C level on a Wednesday morning; red is the colour blue; an elephant is the size of an ant; Mr. Ftyephuth is a ghygigkjk; “je est un autre”; a certain chord played on a piano ...

Where is meaning located in words? (Behind, above, between, inside ... ? Before, after, now, then .... ?).

Is a word its sound? Its shape? Its number of syllables? Its dictionary definition? Its spoken form? Its written form? Whatever ‘it’ is in the mind?

Might sound and rhythm and pattern also be meaningful?

Is ‘meaning’ something permanent and hidden (like a gold coin buried in a box in the sand)? Or is ‘meaning’ multiple, changing, depending on how different parts of the poem relate to each other?

Is our frustration at not ‘getting it’ sometimes part of the pleasure and/or the ‘meaning’ of the poem?

Do we sometimes miss what is there by being too clenched, or intellectual, or anxious?

Do poets ‘put’ meanings into poems? Might poets write poems to discover what they mean to say? Thus the poet becomes his/her own ‘first’ reader?

Are we confusing what we need to know to pass exams with what Poetry really is?

Can any one poem exist on its own? Don’t all poems talk to each other?

How do we understand the ‘time’ of a poem?

Is any reading of a poem always a writing of the poem?

Might every word be a poem?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pizza Update

It was good.


Thinking recently of the - at times - thin line between certain aspects of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry and comedy (Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, Eddie Izzard, Lord Buckley ...). This morning an anthology fell open at this poem - you can access a web version (and more) at Bernstein's site. I think it's great fun.


George Burns likes to insist that he always
takes the straight lines; the cigar in his mouth
is a way of leaving space between the
lines for a laugh. He weaves lines together
by means of a picaresque narrative;
not so Henny Youngman, whose lines are strict-
ly paratactic. My father pushed a
line of ladies’ dresses—not down the street
in a pushcart but upstairs in a fact’ry
office. My mother has been more concerned
with her hemline. Chairman Mao put forward
Maoist lines, but that’s been abandoned (most-
ly) for the East-West line of malarkey
so popular in these parts. The prestige
of the iambic line has recently
suffered decline, since it’s no longer so
clear who “I” am, much less who you are. When
making a line, better be double sure
what you’re lining in & what you’re lining
out & which side of the line you’re on; the
world is made up so (Adam didn’t so much
name as delineate). Every poem’s got
a prosodic lining, some of which will
unzip for summer wear. The lines of an
imaginary are inscribed on the
social flesh by the knifepoint of history.
Nowadays, you can often spot a work
of poetry by whether it’s in lines
or no; if it’s in prose, there’s a good chance
it’s a poem. While there is no lesson in
the line more useful than that of the pick-
et line, the line that has caused the most ad-
versity is the bloodline. In Russia
everyone is worried about long lines;
back in the USA, it’s strictly soup-
lines. “Take a chisel to write,” but for an
actor a line’s got to be cued. Or, as
they say in math, it takes two lines to make
an angle but only one lime to make
a Margarita.

by Charles Bernstein


On another note, I spent this afternoon making pizzas with Emma (dough base and all). Will report back on the results.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Numbers and Tempers

One of the joys of the morning - finding a packet waiting in the post room.

I'm really looking forward to reading this one. Even the cover is good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Image problem partially rectified

Not to appear precious, here is the photo I've been trying to post as part of my Profile. The question mark looks so coy. And if you're wondering why I'm looking towards the doorway - that's where the Wafflettes are sleeping (or not).

In response

Stupid article on the BBC website about the heroics of reading fast and The Booker Prize. So, in a fit of pique, belgianwaffle went public with this:

"I see no advantage in 'speed' reading. It is as idiotic as to say I want to live in 'fast forward' mode. Why? To die earlier? Reading - true reading - is about multiple times (past, present, future). We read to find out what words were saying in the future. An impossible tense. That books are reduced to such a level of discussion shows how little The Booker Prize (and other awards) have to do with literature. Reading is re-reading anew. Now then. Tomorrow?"

I'm prepared to stand by that.

(For the article, go to We'll see if they publish the comment).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Image problem

There seems to be some glitch concerning the photo we've posted as part of the Profile revamp. It stays for a day - and then disappears. No doubt it is due to some failure on our part.

Until we've sorted out the problem, you'll have to make do with a question mark. Which might not be a bad solution, in any case.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Look!

So, why not?

It's the first day of a new month and I started fiddling about with the picture. Then I tried bringing the links up to date. And then I wondered about the background.

Of course, I didn't think to save the links - they were wiped with the new template. I'll have to do them again.

Just had a mouthful of the 1990 Margaux we're going to drink tonight. A fitting way to toast the new look Waffle.

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...