Monthly Archives: June 2009

An Anagram of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3

“Oh, We Be Few, Oh, We Be Few,” She Huffed

Go softly to the Disneyland Hotel,

Its simulacral threshold grown sublime:

The bedrooms all emit that new car smell,

Like nothing else in bourgie Anaheim.

Where leftist brownies get our mothers high,

Humanity is poorly led, forsooth—

In Eisenhower’s shadow lies the lie;

In Soviet-run brothels lies the truth.

Henceforth let odorous intensities

Of talkativeness, torture, filth, and death

Stiffly arouse posh, gilded melodies

Beethoven might have come up with on meth.

The tawdry footsteps of a bawdy Goth

Are footsteps washed in washed-up Oshkosh broth.

via Wags Revue. How did this conceit end with something that sounds so eerily like Eliot? With this, K. Silem Mohammad is a front runner in the Halfway Decent Poem of 2009 contest.


“Unless you have large pockets”

When I was 8, I got a knock-off version of a Walkman for my birthday and considered myself made. At that age, a few things seemed able to confer instant adulthood the moment they became mine. Sunglasses, trench coats, Walkmans, digital watches. I showed it off at a family dinner and was infuriated with my grandmother, who insisted that my cutting-edge machine from the future was clearly a wonderful comeback of the wireless sets of the 1940s: “They had headphones, too — better for hearing.” Time has its revenges: now a 13-year-old is stunned to encounter what looks like a small gray brick which, he is told, used to be all the rage.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down ‘rewind’ and releasing it randomly

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

To be honest, I can’t really remember what was so exciting about the Walkman. I remember that in that naive period, electronics makers thought they could convince the customer that any device was portable so long as it had a handle on it.

Found Poetry: North Korean press release

Mt. Paektu.

One of the famous mountains of Korea unrolls
peculiar landscape every season.

The rapid thaw forms streams and falls
here and there
The murmurs of snow water at the dead of night
are peculiar. Therorhodion redowskianum
which is called Chonji Azalea
in the meaning of heralding the spring of Mt. Paektu

Shoot out buds and open flowers.

The summer is about 40 days from mid-July,
during which fine days are rare to see.

The autumn is nearly 50 days from the late August
the blueberry around the lake turns into violet color
and only Rhododendron keeps its green.

The lake begins to freeze from the middle of September
The ice is very clear and transparent
One may see the bottom. Forms of ice “sculptures” come into being
in the shore of the lake, which adds beauty to its wintry scenery.

Mt. Paektu, one of the famous mountains of Korea unrolls peculiar landscape every season.

I’m dying to see if this works

Tom Phillips has apparently arranged for a way to get into Westminster Abbey for free. It sounds very Eyes-Wide-Shut-fidelio to me…

[G]o through the arch at the west side of the building into Dean’s Yard where another arch leads into the cloister itself. A man in a red gown will admit you if you say you are visiting the Conflict Memorial specifically. The memorial is on the right hand side about twenty yards along.

Now, we just need to figure out a password to get into St. Paul’s.

Accelerated Frimace

Ezra Pound and TS Eliot used to intimidate the reader right from the start of their poems with untranslated quotes from distant corners of Latin, French and Greek literature.

Ezra Pound, for instance, kicked off Hugh Selwyn Maubery with:

“Vocat aestus in umbram”
Nemesianus Es. IV.

E. P. Ode pour l’élection de son sépulchre

Now an epigraph from Ezra Pound does the same job: is that a badge of Pound’s success as an intimidating cultural touchstone, or his failure to raise our cultural levels beyond the depths of modernity?  Still, I’m trying to figure out why Michael Hoffman might have deliberately mis-spelled the line from Maubery:

The age demanded an image
of its accelerated frimace
—Ezra Pound

But I can’t come up with one. He spelled the Bob Dylan quote just right, down to the ‘ on the blowin’

What’s bad for everyone…

…is good for the IMF.

Reporting and criticism

I can’t think of a better example of how shoe-leather reporting can contribute to criticism than Tom Sleigh’s essay on how sex and drugs combined for Thom Gunn.

I remember the last time I visited Thom at his house on Cole Street. We talked for a long time about how the Haight had changed and was changing ever more rapidly into a well-to-do neighborhood, and about how he himself was changing, taking long naps, finding it difficult to write. And later, when we walked to get lunch, he told me little spicy stories about people whom he knew that certain houses or shops reminded him of, back in the day, before the neighborhood had gone upscale. He was dressed in a black sweatshirt that sported an image of Bluto (Popeye’s rival in the Popeye comic strip and cartoons), black motorcycle boots, black jeans, and an earring that gave him an air of piratical suavity and grace. He spoke about how the last time he’d been to a sex club, everybody had been speeding their brains out, and how it hadn’t been much fun. But he said it in such a way that you knew that this was all part of the adventure, part of his lifelong romance with experience that would end a few months later with him pronounced dead, according to the autopsy report, from “acute polysubstance abuse.” Whatever you make of his death, Thom was a true servant of eros. And in keeping with that devotion, his New Jerusalem was an open one in its generous conviction that the ecstatic could become a communal property, open to anyone, an apocalyptic city of carnal fulfillment and desire, in which his work will forever be one of the cornerstones.

My only criticism with Sleigh is that he picks out the wrong poem to prove that Gunn could be fanatically beautiful on the sweet embraces that follow his apparently enviously wild orgies. The Bed beats out The Hug by miles.