I have these manuscripts sitting on my hard drive, where they do me and the world no particular good at all. So I have decided to start putting them online in pdfs -- hopefully, pdfs which will be easy and pleasurable to read on the computer (which means they are not being designed to be printed out).

I'm going to start with 5×5×5(×5), which, as its name suggests, is a series of 125 five-word poems. They were inspired by Bob Perelman, I suppose. In his poem "Chronic Meanings" he wrote: "Five words can say only." For me, this rubbed up against the idea that people can keep five things, more or less, in mind at once. Then, after an event celebrating the release of his book The Marginalization of Poetry, I wrote these poems in a frenzy, in exactly two hours.

I've often presented these poems in random order, or in random selections, although many of the poems relate to their number in the sequence. I tore through the entire sequence in ten minutes at the Poetland event a few years ago, and one of the poems was quoted in a review of the event in the Oregonian.

The photograph in the cover of the pdf is by Anthony Easton.

Download 5×5×5(×5).

Update: A very nice review by Geof Huth.

Alphabetical Order

We sometimes (often) need an alphabetical order. The one currently in use only satisfies us halfway. We looked for a more rational one. We noted, in the order of their appearance, the letters of the TESTAMENT of the late Dr. I.L. Sandomir, Vice-Curator of the College [of 'Pataphysics]. Here is the alphabetical order thus determined:


We propose, not only to adopt it in future, but also to call it: POURQI ALPHABETICAL ORDER.

(Note: The letter K was found, in the Testament, only in the Greek form, kappa, which is good enough; the letter W wasn't found at all, which put it in the final position, without discussion.)

[From the minutes of the 2nd meeting of Oulipo, 22 dec 1960. My translation.]

0.0 Rodney told me that he was reading Barrett Watten's book The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics and that he saw my name in the index.

0.1 I knew that I had been quoted in one of Watten's essays, because he asked permission to quote me (even though I don't think, strictly speaking, that was necessary, but it was polite to be sure). But this was many years ago.

1.0 My quote consists of one word. I happened to participate in a discussion on the Poetics list back in 1999. I was mostly a lurker on that list, but I had an idea to contribute to this analysis of a word fragment in a poem by Lyn Hejinian, and it this group effort to construct meaning in a resistant text that Watten decided to write about.

2.0 I have only glanced through the book, and don't yet have much more to say about it other than "Hey, I'm in here!" But, hey, I'm in here! I got the book from the library, looked at my name in the index, and then on page 99, and I had a strange sensation. I suddenly felt that I actually existed. My existence was textually confirmed.

2.1 I've had this experience before -- the first time I was in an anthology of student writings, the first time I was mentioned in a newspaper, the first time I had a large article about me in a newspaper, the first time I had a chapbook published by someone else, the first time my music got reviewed... And this is just a little throwaway mention in an experimental poet's book of critical essays, a dense and post-Hegelian analysis that one cannot imagine will ever be widely read (I'm not even sure I will do more than browse it, and I'm interested in its topic and mentioned in the text).

2.2 But it serves as a nice reminder (not that I'm sure I needed one) that when I look at, say, a medieval text where someone is mentioned in passing, where that is all that has been recorded about that person, that that is not in fact all there was to that person, and that the way that person happened to intersect with history may not tell you much about what that person was like.

1.1 Or maybe it does? After all, I think you could make a reasonable strong argument that I am the sort of person who would suggest "Aberdeen" in such a list, that there is a certain amount of humor and seriousness tied up in that suggestion that is typical of my poetics and personality, etc., etc.

1.2 Though for those familiar with the rest of my poetics, it might be clearer that my suggestion of "Aberdeen" was not meant to help create meaning at all, since I found the whole discussion a bit ridiculous. My suggestion was meant to complicate the creation of meaning, to provide an unlikely reading that still might follow the "rules"; I was presenting a possibility that I thought was plausible but absurd. Later in Watten's paragraph, you can see the results of such destabilizing of meaning; meta arguments are brought into play, the meanings of other words become destabilized, etc. Oh etc. Et cetera. And then the bombing of Kosovo. Et cetera.

0.2 I am especially glad to have made it into an index before I made it into a footnote.



I am surprised to find myself in the middle of three books of poetry criticism that I am very excited about. When does that ever happen?

They are:

The Poethical Wager by Joan Retallack.

Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine by bpNichol and Steve McCaffery (this is out of print?! wtf, someone POD this book).

Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie by Lytle Shaw.

If I were an ambitious blogger, I would write a little something about each of these. I am not an ambitious blogger, however. So we'll see.


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