Saturday, August 30, 2008

The satellite reception back in operation means we get BBC TV in its full glory. 

This evening I had the misfortune to tune into the Proms coverage which has been given a - what's the word? - make-over. Vaughan Williams is the unfortunate being given the treatment.

Appalled, I switch to ITV and find Simon Cowell giving his professional opinion on a performer singing in Hindi. 

It's at moments like this you reach for your copy of Minima Moralia. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Halfway through the Peppiatt biography of Francis Bacon.

Buchner's Complete Plays, Lenz and Other Writings arrived in the post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just watched this - and enjoyed it. Plenty of mirrors and self-conscious reframings so it's impossible to accuse 'Jacky' (how odd that sounds to English ears) of narcissism without entering into a whole labyrinth of traps and tropes and ironies. The old trickster!

What stands out for me? First, the scene in his personal library where the interviewer suggests he's read every volume. No, replies JD, only thirty four (volumes or per cent I couldn't quite make it out) - and he insists he's not exaggerating. A point well made: there's reading and then there's reading.

Second, the anecdote about differance appearing for the first time in the French dictionary and his mother's appalled response. To think, after all that education, he couldn't spell properly!

Finally, as I prepare myself for the school year ahead, Derrida's thoughts on biography and philosophy. How someone simply reading a page of philosophy - critically, reflectively - will know far more, will be truer to the thought of the philosopher than the person who has read the biographies, the overviews, the History of Western Thought. A salutary lesson - and one I'll be trying to instill (and live by) through to next June.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Big news. Frank came and installed a new satellite box and so all is right with the world for the two Wafflettes.

To celebrate, here is an anthology of Ed & Oucho's best moments.

Advice, please!

Anyone know of any good bookshops in San Diego?

My wife is there on a conference and so far hasn't struck lucky with my list of books.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

(Use the Comments or my e-mail: - notice not the one supplied by Blogger profile).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Apparently discussions are under way for the successor to Humphrey Lyttelton as chair for 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue'. I'm divided on this one: call it a day or - maybe in the spirit of the man himself - keep going regardless?

Rumour has it Jarvis Cocker is tipped as a 'wild card' nomination. Now that would be inspired - especially if he really didn't have a clue as to what was going on.

(If he can be tempted back from Paris, that is).

Belgianwaffle's rank outsider: Mark E. Smith.
"Each project I work on develops differently. I mostly work in series of some sort, in groups of related poems that become something like serial poems, though they’re not arranged in, say, a chronological sequence. Sometimes I’ll write a whole poem all at once but that’s fairly unusual. Mostly it’s a constellation of different elements, sometimes written with big gaps (like days or even weeks) in between. I reread these pieces to figure out what they belong with, what other ideas they’re related to, how one thought answers or complicates another. So writing and rewriting are continuous and almost simultaneous. Often I get the momentum and feeling of a poem before all the pieces are there and then it’s a matter of finding the piece that fits the place I’ve made for it. I reread and circle around it and try out changes in punctuation and that sort of thing. When I revise it’s often to satisfy something about the sound of it—more often than it would be a gesture of fulfilling the content. I’m more drawn to the formal and sound elements of a poem—and sometimes in getting it to sound right, there will be a complication or opening up of the content rather than the more traditional closure of content, and I welcome that. It keeps me from thinking of the poem as a soapbox in the wilderness."

(Elizabeth Willis, interviewed by Mark Tursi -

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loose vowels

Quality Dad time with the girls this afternoon watching 'Nanny McPhee' - yet another vehicle for Emma Thompson & Colin Firth (what, no Judi Dench this time?) and yet more English whimsy with which to market Britain PLC and pass the hours on long-haul flights.

Yes, yes, it's 'nice' and even funny in places and the girls lap it up. However, the ingrained class snobbery shows through and makes me wince - it's really 'Pygmalion' all over again. Scrape away the frocks and Dickensian pastiche and it's all about pronunciation: you are what (or, rather how) you speak.

"Behave" or "bee hive" - there you have it.

... another of those voices you're not quite sure about and yet ...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Abstain from beans. Eat only the flesh of animals that may be sacrificed. Do not step over the beam of a balance. On rising, straighten the bedclothes and smooth out the place where you lay. Spit on your hair clippings and nail parings. Destroy the marks of a pot in the ashes. Do not piss towards the sun. Do not use a pine-torch to wipe a chair clean. Do not look in a mirror by lamplight. On a journey do not turn around at the border, for the Furies are following you. Do not make a detour on your way to the temple, for the god should not come second. Do not help a person to unload, only to load up. Do not dip your hand into holy water. Do not kill a louse in the temple. Do not stir the fire with a knife. One should not have children by a woman who wears gold jewellery. One should put on the right shoe first, but when washing do the left foot first. One should not pass by where an ass is lying.


What are the isles of the blest? Sun and Moon. Pythagoras is the Hyperborean Apollo. An earthquake is a mass meeting of the dead. The purpose of thunder is to threaten those in Tartarus, so that they will be afraid. The sea is the tears of Cronus. The Pleiades are the lyre of the Muses, and the planets are Persephone’s dogs. The ring of bronze when it is struck is the voice of a daemon trapped within it.

(From M.F. Burnyeat’s review in the LRB (26 April 2007) of Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching and Influence by Christoph Riedweg, translated by Steven Rendall and Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History by Charles Kahn)






Thursday, August 21, 2008

For completion's sake ...

Monday night's episode of 'New Tricks'* was fascinating in terms of DI Pullman's bright red jacket. A decision by the costume department or deliberately built into the script? The case needing to be cleared up concerned a man's body that had been covered with red paint, mutilated and wrapped in film. Red started to pervade the narrative - a form, I suppose, of Deleuzian intensity? And, it just so happens, that Sandra Pullman is played by ... Amanda Redman (a name with its own rather strange symmetries and dislocative possibilities).

Just thought I'd mention it. That's all.


* - if you're in the UK you can still watch it (I can't!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Riddles of Form – Twelve

Week Nine – Questions and Considerations

It dawned on me over the weekend that the presiding spirit over this whole ‘project’ has been Gilles Deleuze. And there’s a kind of logic at work – it was reading Anti-Oedipus and Thousand Plateaus in the mid-80s which played a large part in me abandoning a thesis. Twenty or so years on, I’m returning to ideas that had been shelved and finding ways that make them breathe.

Thinking aloud then ...

i. There is no Big Theory to impart. It’s really a matter of turning on to poetry – and finding you’re turned on by poetry. Ignition. Brake off. Drive. Go some place. Discover.

ii. Despite appearances, there is no Hidden Truth to be revealed. (I accept that the general development of my readings so far has had an Indiana Jones in the crypt feel. Bad habit.)

iii. What point is there in writing yet another student handbook, a key facts, a Cheat’s Guide to Poetry? Worse still, something that packages poetry as something cosy, ressuring, user-friendly. ‘John Ashbery for Beginners’. ‘L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry for Dummies’. No.

iv. Poetry doesn’t make you a ‘better person’ (if that means all the class-based, moral-finger wagging, preening narcissism, Sensitive Soulism that accompanies such a phrase). But I do believe poetry has the capacity to transform your life.

v. Even while using the words ‘Poetry’ and ‘Poem’ I’ll admit to not knowing what it/they is/are. Perhaps that is a key dimension of the project: to discover what a poem could be?

vi. Blake (William, this time – but Quentin is good, too!) as another presiding spirit. The Holiness of the Imagination. And all that implies – and transforms.

vii. Reading the poem is itself a creative act. The ultimate reading of a poem is another poem. (Bloom). A basic premise of the project: sooner or later you start writing yourself. Writing informs the reading.

viii. Poem as constellation (Zukofsky). We receive the light that has been travelling but which will continue to travel making all the time new conjunctions. The implications of this for any ‘definitive’ reading.

ix. Likewise, the reader – the so-called ‘I’ – in a perpetual state of transformation. Reading changes you. (And yet the poem remains there on the page. A mystery).

x. The Eternal Return (Nietzsche) as a way of conceiving the creative act and a possible (im-possible?) way of living. The most difficult lesson?

xi. As a necessary consequence, the literature we most value has ENERGY. (Which is not to say it has to be violent, rabble-rousing, screaming. Think H.D.’s early poems. Emily Dickinson).

xii. To be ‘true’ to this writing seems – implicitly – to come into conflict with professional academic institutions and approaches. The English Department of the Soul (Spicer). How to resolve this? If this project is to be a book - how to conceive of a book which embodies its own ideas? Would anyone read it? Would anyone publish it? 

xiii. Poems are not written for examination purposes.

xiv. The fundamental poetry of the everyday. Of the everyday word. Of every word. (Nietzsche. Emerson. Duncan). The very move to language is a move towards metaphor.

xv. Haunted by all the old systems of thought. Ghosts, Sefiroth, angels, White Goddess, The Word, Logos.

xvi. If photography is to painting, then what is the ‘X’ to poetry? And that poetry has to struggle against?

xvii. The power of language to affect. Intensities. (Deleuze)

xviii. Poetry forces us to rethink Time and the Line (Derrida)

xix. Difficulty. The Opaque. The poem as a challenge – what we cannot predict, have not learned how to read, dis-locates. Reading then becomes. Reading as becoming.

xx. How to then transfer this to actual teaching practice?

xxi. How to break with ingrained attitudes of ‘elitism’, ‘cleverness’, ‘nerdy’, ‘weird’, ‘good grades’?

xxii. What is at work in the poem? What works in the poem? What can the poem do? Poem as machine (W.C. Williams).

All this. And more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Riddles of Form

Quentin Blake & Mrs Armitage’s Desiring Machines

My first encounter with Quentin Blake was in Camberley public library c. 1971 – and his illustrations for J.P. Martin’s Uncle books. (Actually, I had seen his drawings before in my father’s back issues of ‘Punch’ – slightly different in style admittedly).

For years I’ve loved the drawings and the increasing number of books. Lara and I even met him in Tropismes a few years ago – he was rather astonished to see a first edition ‘Uncle’ I presented for him to sign.

Why do I like Quentin Blake’s work? In part it’s the world he creates. It’s a world populated with characters drawn from some benign Bloomsbury Bohemia. Uncles in mustard yellow waistcoats fall asleep on divans, wispy young ladies in long dresses skip across lawns, down at heel Proustian professors search for parrots in wine cellars. Everywhere there’s an aesthetically pleasing jumble, bric-a-brac, shabby gentility, pots and pans. It’s an atmosphere redolent of the afternoon siesta, a morning stroll to the market to buy fruit, of neighbouring gardens full of adventure. English eccentricity and leisure.

I don’t see any violence or cruelty. Things go splash, and bang, and splat but no one gets hurt. Trees blossom with jellies and hot-buttered toast. It’s a sunny arcadia. More P.G. Wodehouse than Lewis Carroll. Even the Hell’s Angels Mrs Armitage meets are a jolly bunch decked out in clothes plundered from a dressing-up box (pirate patch, soldier’s helmet). Repertory theatre extras.

After a weekend reading Gilles Deleuze is it so surprising that Mrs Armitage Queen of the Road and Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave read as stories of desire? In MAQotR it is perpetual drive (literally) despite a series of breakdowns leading to a new becoming in the Crazy Duck Cafe. In MAatBW it is a succession of needs leading without end (“But what we really need, what we really need, is ...”). Wave after wave.

Both books – although written and published separately – deserve to be read together: systole and diastole, continuous interruption.

Let’s take MAQotR. Despite the uninviting look of the car (a gift from Uncle Cosmo – now there’s an interesting name) Mrs Armitage decides to “give it a try”. From the outset, the text announces improvisation, the for-the-sake-of-it, an act without foreseeable goal or result.

What follows is a succession of breakdowns: hubcaps, mudguards, bumpers, bonnet, roof, doors and boot. Part after part falls off, becomes redundant, is cast off. Is it necessary to state that the car is Mrs Armitage (or that Mrs Armitage is the car)? By the end of the story Mrs Armitage’s machine is stripped down to its basics, its defences dispensed with. “Wow” says Gizzy, before inviting her for a “banana fizz”. An ending that is full of promise – fizz, exciting, crackling energy – a different ‘trip’ with schizzy Gizzy and his pals.

I noticed how Mrs Armitage’s car magnetizes trouble. What does it desire – so many contacts with the world? The bumpy road, the bollard, its bumper caught on old bedstead, the lorry that backs into it, the block of concrete that crashes through the roof. The car acts upon and is acted upon. So many concrete encounters. And each ‘encounter’ is accompanied by its onomatopoeiac refrain: “boing”, “bong”, “dang”. Language as action.

Despite it all, Mrs Armitage keeps going – she’s not blocked (there is a traffic jam but this occasions a further breakdown). “Who needs it?” she replies after each damaged part. It’s as if in true Deleuzean fashion she knows that every rupture occasions a further occasion for becoming. And, indeed, what does she receive at the end of the story but a series of new objects: leather jacket, collar, bendy masts, motor horn.

It’s tempting, of course, to apply a cheap Freudian symbolism: a series of penises and vaginas.* Better, perhaps, to see the collar as a becoming dog-becoming Lulu; the leather jacket as a becoming animal-becoming Smudge; the mast as a becoming aerial receiver-becoming Gizzy; the motor horn as a becoming-breast:mouth-becoming Fedinando. So many new friends, so many new possibilities! (“Breakspear ... this is blissful!”).

But this is only part of the story. The drawings are at work even before the story commences. Mrs Armitage and Breakspear (her dog) have exchanged qualities. Breakspear’s muzzle is Mrs Armitage’s nose which is also her slippers (and, later, the birds’ beaks in the country). Breakspear’s ears are Mrs Armitage’s hair bunches. Where Breakspear has his tail, Mrs Armitage has two dressing gown cord ‘tails’. Throughout the story we see Breakspear’s tail – its curves and kinks and wags – in Mrs Armitage’s scarf.

Shakespeare, Breakspear, Mrs Armitage Shanks, your Uncle is the Cosmos, and schizzy Gizzy is your friend ...

* Interesting in this context to compare MAQotR with MAatBW. In the latter, the little girl – Miranda – is saved from drowning and returned to her parents. A little tempest in a nursery teacup? Quentin Blake’s ‘The Waves’? Or a little Oedipal moral story where mummy and daddy are on the shore to save you from drowning in the surging urges and swells of the Big Ocean? The point is, Mrs Armitage is still desiring: (“But what we really need, what we really need, is ...”).

We're still around - it's just been difficult to find the cracks in the day.

Lots of reading (and looking & thinking) - Deleuze (the book on Francis Bacon in particular) which set me off to old catalogues of Bacon exhibitions and the Sylvester interviews. Then on to Cezanne. Then to my favourite British colourists: Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Howard Hodgkin. A colour buzz weekend.

I've also been going back to Derrida: Of Grammatology. The first section is so rich with ideas relevant to Riddles of Form. Another of those texts which I read with very different eyes and mind twenty years ago.

To come:

i) difficult questions concerning Riddles of Form - what is it? Or, rather, what will become of it?

ii) Quentin Blake and Deleuzean desiring machines

iii) BBC's 'New Tricks'

Tune in next time ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"it is as if a Sahara, a zone of the Sahara, were suddenly inserted into the head; it is as if a piece of rhinoceros skin, viewed under a microscope, were stretched over it; it is as if the two halves of the head were split open by an ocean; it is as if the unit of measure were changed, and micrometric, or even cosmic, units were substituted for the figurative unit ..." (71)


"we witness the revelation of the body beneath the organism, which makes organisms and their elements crack or swell, imposes a spasm on them, and puts them into relation with forces - sometimes with an inner force that arouses them, sometimes with external forces that traverse them, sometimes with the eternal force of an unchanging time, sometimes with the variable forces of a flowing time ..." (112)

these and other passages make this - 'Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation' by Gilles Deleuze - absolutely compelling. It arrived this morning and I read it straight through.

Chapter 11 - The Painting Before Painting - is especially interesting and I'm amazed Deleuze can get through it without once name-checking Nietzsche and The Eternal Return. It seems implicit in everything he says. 

Of all the Deleuze texts I've read this is the most 'comprehensible' - in some ways, maybe, a key text? (Where the more abstract formulations of the other books are fleshed out?). 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A day trip out to Saint-Hubert to see the exhibition of children's books - or rather artist's books aimed at children. Then on to Redu, Belgium's equivalent of Hay-on-Wye.

Anyway, this plus Sunday's inspiration makes me think it's time I went back to the little books of ten years ago.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A very enjoyable lunch today chez Bruno & Nadine.

Bruno shows me some beautiful artist's books by Aida Kazarian (page after page of thumbprints) & gives me a copy of his DVD 'Tirant d'Air'.

Really interesting. I only wish I could speak French better - or that he spoke more English. As it is our conversations are rather stilted and awkward.

I've found this - literally - one-minute film by him at:

It's worth one minute of anyone's time.
Intimate Sonnet (revised)

daylight rhinoceroses
I flee to thy side

my back is broad
and pimply

I didn’t I wouldn’t I haven’t I might
open the zoo which cages delight

who are you
are we are
they are

these are the pronouns I engender

faint is the shadow that follows the lip
and limp lies the finger upon the tongue tip

if one times one is us
the aye-aye knows no abacus

Friday, August 08, 2008

this is worth a look. And I'm thinking immediately about Clark Coolidge's work.
most of today given over to Deleuze's book on Nietzsche. I'm thinking particularly in terms of the Nietzschean understanding of forces and how this might be applied to the poem.

It's a bit of a bumpy ride ...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sonnet (Sunday) revised

words won’t come

it happens
(meaning it don’t

voices from the garden over the road

(would you call a boy "Armani"?)

tomatoes, garlic,
onion and Olive oil
summer lunch

this garden is so full of flowers the names of which I
do not know

“a line you sometimes use

not to draw a likeness …
… but to find out what it is one sees”

pot pink prawn

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sonnet (in fourteen statements revised)

an arrangement of spaces
steps in the stairs

an angle at which
intention congeals

he posits
the position of
the preposition

if there is
an equivalent
this is it:


the sentence rose
and bit him on the nose
posting this again without attempting fancy line indentation - which might have caused the problem earlier.

Sonnet ('The Lover's Dilemma') (much revised)

Madrigal (a maid):

eglogs, epytaphes!
Barnabe Googe
dyzanes & syxaines
glad lyrics hail!

Turberuile (a cynic):

let quires of paper
or choirs of favour
rain praises on your lady?


for breath of love thy line contains
and every word her heart sustains

Turberuile (aside):

he is a fool
who fumbles one
(he is a fool
who's written two)

/ Exit: Barnabe Googe bemused

Talking with Alan and Nelly last week about painting has sent me back to my huge volume on William Scott. It's the tensions between object, space, colour and tone which are crucial. And obvious why I'm finding them of such interest right now.

One of my absolute favourite painters.
Just deleted that Sonnet post - and it seems to have cleared up the problem. I can only assume I did some bizarre Html instruction.

Please let me know if things are OK your end.
Seems to be a problem with Firefox. Safari opens the page and there are no lines.

Any explanations?
Hmmm ... back to normal now.

Anyone else having problems?
Can anyone explain what's happened to this Blog?

There's a line through everything.

Some kind of joke?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The fruits of this morning's work.

A new sequence seems to be suggesting itself.




on a surface

it limits it

the solid figures
















a thick

the sky
is like
a wall

deep light

it speaks to us, surely













these trees these shattered rocks



the way he shapes

the green jug


Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday Sonnet (Early) - revised

din the cherubim
rim of moon
chorus cerebellum


o ear!
give us this day our dailiness
forgive us our pillows
as we forgive those who pillow against us

for we are crows
and sing the undelivered morning

behind the scenes at Belgianwaffle HQ

Riddles of Form

“we keep around for the gist of the drift”

(Further thoughts on Ray DiPalma)


rumour’s rooster
halloos the distorted
strata of analogies

my A is a vegetable A
my Z is a vegetable A
profligate and tangential

is the balance
commercial and run by
the transmission of

the undeclared
or the strange low
coherences of the ear

when and where there
is no such thing
the thought walked

(from The Jukebox of Memnon, p23)


I’ d like to develop and refine certain ideas from my last post on Ray Dipalma. Today I’m taking ‘rumour’s rooster’ from The Jukebox of Memnon (1988). It’s a poem I’ve seen anthologized and thus acquires a kind of ‘representative’ status (rightly or wrongly) for DiPalma’s work as a whole. Certainly, the fourth verse contains a statement which seems significant in terms of DiPalma’s compositional method and a useful ‘way in’ for the reader:

the undeclared
or the strange low
coherences of the ear

However, there are 100 plus poems in the collection – none given a separate title. It is risky to ascribe one greater importance than any other. Presumably they are meant to be read in series. To further complicate matters, the real aficianado of DiPalma’s work would be able to see all sorts of connections stretching back to the earlier works and signs anticipatory of later developments. Sadly I don’t have the time or available resources!

The title itself is worth dwelling on: ‘jukebox’ is suggestive of ‘top hits’ (Dipalma suggesting these are catchy crowd pleasers?) but also repetition (the record drops onto the platter for the umpteenth time). As for Memnon things are typically ambiguous. There are several ‘Memnons’ to choose from, the principal ones being: an early Christian saint in Egypt, the Colossi of Memnon (two statues) in Egypt, or the Greeek historian. Modern day sound technology is set beside Egyptian mythic accounts (“rumour”?) of the fissured rock statue that gave forth a sigh (or groan?) when touched by the dawn. The main idea seems to be the bringing forth of sound from inert material: clearly the basis for a poetics and – once again – evidence of DiPalma’s fascination with occult and physical properties of language. That the very name ‘Memnon’ has an evident symmetry – a statuesque permanence if you like – is highly appropriate for what follows. I can’t help also misreading ‘Memnon’ for ‘mnemonic’ – a system to aid memory. So these poems on the jukebox might be ‘these you remember’?

On to the poem.


Five verses, three lines each, the central three flanked by a verse set slightly further apart. Thus, formal symmetry is established from the start. The first line of the third verse even states “is the balance”, marking a fulcrum point in the poem.

The first verse:

rumour’s rooster
halloos the distorted
strata of analogies

is similarly concerned with symmetries. “Rumour’s” and “rooster” work in consonance and in terms of stress. The second verse carries on this symmetry both within and across two lines:

my A is a vegetable A
my Z is a vegetable A

Lest this should seem merely dry formalism, I’d draw attention to the way DiPalma’s patterning activates language. The placing of “rumour’s” next to “rooster” creates a ‘revving’ effect (something to do with the rolled ‘r’).* I’m more and more alert to DiPlama’s fascination with edges – “cuts a soft rough edge” (p 4, JoM) – reminiscent of Wallace Stevens – “There is nothing, no, no, never nothing/Like the clashed edges of two words that kill” (Le Monocle de Mon Oncle). In DiPalma’s poem the effect goes beyond simply texture (important as this is) and works also in terms of the referential ‘pull’ of the language. ‘Rumour’ and ‘rooster’ occupy distinct word groups – what logic could bring them togther? The effect is compounded by “halloos” which seems to come out of an entirely different period of language. Yet, the ear and eye serve to ‘make sense’ of the seemingly incoherent juxtapositons: the echo of the long ‘oo’, even the alphabetic doubling of ‘o-o’. Once again, we see DiPalma setting sound and referential dimensions of language in a state of tension.


The further I read into DiPalma’s work the more I sense him incoporating his own textual ‘exegesis’ into his poems. The effect is disconcerting and varies from explicit statements (but which are often buried by their context) or more oblique, impacted, figurative phrases:

“we keep around for the gist of the drift” (p1)

“I would not have you think” (p2)

“whistling at the moon with
a mouth full of crackers” (p5)

“a little less than music
a little more than mud” (p7)

A reader accustomed to read ‘through’ a poem’s language and to be taken away on an imaginative joyride feels a jolt. The bonnet is up and the mechanic is talking to us about the motor. It’s another aspect of DiPalma’s poetic ‘surface’ – a flattening of perspective.

An additional effect is to sense an uncanny anticipation of your own reading. DiPalma builds into his poems their own commentary and – in a strange way – sets the reader off balance. I’m not yet ready to develop this reading – but it is interesting how the poems seem designed with the reader in mind, second guessing the interpretive moves. Egyptian practices and motifs run through this volume and it’s almost as if DiPlama is like a master pyramid builder intent on luring the tomb-raider only to block him off or send him plunging down a shaft. The innermost chamber remains intact.


In verse two there’s an evident foregrounding of ‘a’ system of meaning. As in ‘Fragment’ we have a rebus-like mnemonic.

my A is a vegetable A
my Z is a vegetable A
profligate and tangential

I’m reminded of Sesame Street and the slow ritual intonation of ‘A is for Ap-ple’.*

However, what are we to make of

my A is a vegetable A
my Z is a vegetable A


It possesses a formal logic, it sounds authoritative. However, in terms of sense it jams our reading. How, logically, can both ‘A’ and ‘Z’ be the same?***

The answer is through language, the ‘other logics’ at work in the poem. DiPalma revels in the “profligate and tangential” possibilities of words. Furthermore, the term “vegetable” is carefully chosen. Taking the word back to its roots (pardon the pun) it means ‘animating’, ‘vivifying’. What else does such a poem do but encourage the reader to join in the play, respond to the energy within the language, taste on his tongue the ‘tang’ of tangential pleasures.


In verse four the language shifts into financial terminology:

is the balance
commercial and run by
the transmission of

I would suggest that the very phrases are lifted from a source such as The Wall Street Journal. Mean-minded talk of profit and loss is at odds with DiPalma’s poetic economy of excess and overproduction. Each term buzzes with semantic indeterminacy due to being prised from its original context (which only begs the questions what is original and who has possessive rights over language?). “Transmission” is especially interesting for its fusion of disease, money, and communication. Transferring to the next verse, the effect is similar to that of ‘tuning’ a frequency on a radio. Listen to the varying vowel sounds:

the undeclared
or the strange low
coherences of the ear

‘air’ modulates to ‘or’ to ‘ay’ to ‘o’ to ‘ear’. Literally, we hear – ‘hear’ and ‘ear’ speak within “coherences” and on into the first line of the last verse: “when and where there”, which re-establishes the “air” vowel sound.

Truly, “when and where there/ is no such thing/ the thought walked.” The first time I read these lines they seemed wilfully obscure. Reading them now they enact exactly what they say. Thought “walks” through the poem precisely because it is inseparable from the movement of the words. “When” and “where” and “there” are – as such – “no such thing” in being so dependent upon relative sets of circumstances (temporal, the time of the poem, the time of the reading of the poem, etc). The enjambment which orphans “is no such thing” underscores the provisionality of the verb ‘to be’.


If thought walks in DiPalma’s poetry I get an increasing sense of his hostility towards establishing ‘meaning’, an ‘interpretation’, a ‘summary’ (somewhere there’s a line about there being no good summaries – I can’t find it!).

Why? Because this would be to deaden the play of language. I get the impression DiPalma wants his reader’s ear (and eye) to remain active. The art is therefore in not letting the poem solidify into paraphrasable sense. It’s a paradoxical art in that the poem – of necessity – is a fixed form: words disposed upon the page. Perhaps this accounts for DiPalma’s preoccupation with bringing sounds out of stones and what (I sense) is a wider interest in alchemy, the powers at work in inscribed letters, poetry as a magic art.

Follow the mysteries following
Desires following mysteries
This order now come to words

(p 44, Metropolitan Corridor)

Am I therefore arguing for some New York secret sect with DiPalma as head Druid? I don’t think so.

I hit upon this quotation from Nietzsche that DiPalma places in his long poem (aptly titled) ‘The Ancient Use of Stone’:

“I discovered and ventured divers answers; I distinguished between ages, peoples, degrees of rank among individuals; I departmentalized my problem; out of my answers there grew new questions, inquiries, conjectures, probabilities – until at length I had a country of my own, a soil of my own, an entire discrete, thriving, flourishing world, like a secret garden the existence of which no one suspected”. (‘On The Genealogy of Morals’)

It’s another one of the those moments when you feel that the poem is talking about itself – and the poet about himself and (why not?) anticipating the reader as well.

You know, I think that the best way to read DiPalma is to follow the “FOCUS THAT GENERATES” – why? because this is how he writes and true to the poems. Through that Nietzschean process of uncertainty and endless searching to find you have found something of your own.

Which leads me to pose an even more serious question: do we abandon critical discourse tired finally of its predictable (yet reassuring) habits, admitting that it will never really be adequtae to the energies at work in the poem? As Harold Bloom wrote – to bring him back into the picture –

“Poetry begins, always, when someone who is going to become a poet reads a poem. But I immediately add – when he begins to read a poem, for to see how fully he reads that poem we will have to see the poem that he himself will write as his reading. (‘Kabbalah and Criticism’ p56)

Therefore to write that poem or paint a picture is to read DiPalma (why, perhaps, Dipalma himself works in parallel with words and images), to dance is to read DiPalma, to compose and play music is to read DiPalma. Whatever: it is to create that “FOCUS THAT GENERATES” rather than to descend over and over again – an Indiana Jones - into the crypt and to dimly discern a few shadowy hieroglyphs.

there are
words for you
down here

on the Ground
so strewn
not as Bait

but as Fleas
to make the
itch you enjoy

come down
from your trees

(p6, Metropolitan Corridor)

Time to build your own pyramids?


* I’m not an expert in Op Art, however, I sense a similar hypnotic shimmer working here as in – say – paintings by Bridget Riley. Similar:different brought into collision. This, in turns, leads to considerations of tesselation and DiPalma’s “versatile” (p 1) – verse-as-tile – art.

** and what else is language but the ‘Open Sesame’ of the treasure house of meaning?

*** complicated still further by the poem on page 101 beginning “A is legislative to Z”

Friday, August 01, 2008

... and the sausage rolls were Masterchef semi-final material according to the older Wafflette.

Easy peasy, really.
A special post for Walrus & anyone else who might not have encountered the Billy Jenkins phenomenon.

(Internet seems to be behaving again).


There seems to be some problem with our Internet. The initial page loads & then further pages stall. The Comments on this Blog seem to be unobtainable.

Anyway, the younger Wafflette is home today - so we're making sausage rolls and goat's cheese parcels. Our first venture into such haute cuisine. Verdict to come.

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