Friday, 22 June 2012

What Is 'What It Is Like' Like?

Charles North, What it is Like: New and Selected Poems (Turtle Point Press / Hanging Loose Press, 2011)

"Your recent letter is so stupid so utterly moronic its
a little difficult to believe it was
written by a human being let alone someone
who made it past second grade you
miserable bastard do you eat
from a plate thanks for your letter of January 5th
I enjoyed getting it"

North, from 'The Postcard Element in Winter', WIIL, 74.


"The greenish yellow of the gingkos downstairs against the dun of the building.  The dawn.  No the dun.  Dawn would be more interesting. - It's dun.  Overturned in absentia, pulverized and left to sit out in the flocked atmosphere above Broadway: a horizontal heap, that leaves the orange girder on the sidewalk while deconstructing the roof with (ah!) orange streamers."

North, from 'Aug.-Dec. for Jimmy Schuyler', WIIL, 139-40.

"Well, first of all, the one thing that we were all in agreement with was that there should be no program, and that the poem, as we imagined it, should be the possibility of everything we have as experience.  There should be no limit of a programmatic order."

John Ashbery in conversation with Robert Creeley, quoted in a Paris Review interview with Creeley, from The Beat Writers at Work (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 80.  

"If someone is hammering
below, smoothing out our street,
no one is fixing coffee in
a room gradually filling with paintings,
each transforming the room into
an awareness of its lack,
or mine, leaving music
as the prime consolation for the inability
to leave the body, except insofar
as music throws off her clothes
to reveal her secret self:
the absence of a secret."

North, from 'A Note on Labour Day', WIIL, 88.

"The scene he had thus encountered or constructed in his attentive, imaginary travels provoked a sense in him less of desire than of hopeful curiosity.  He felt that something new had been promised him, new, agreeable, and perhaps illuminating.  The promise immediately restored his gift for noticing small, attractive anomalies in the course of his ordinary life.  At lunch his place was set with a fork to the left of his plate, another fork to the right of his plate.  On his way to the beach, a short clothesline sagged inexplicably with the weight of a single stiff, fluffy diaper."

Harry Mathews, 'The Way Home', in The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (Chicago and Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive, 2002), 83.


August 25, 1970
"The wind is making a noise like a tennis racquet, the water is roughly rippled and the waves - if that isn't too big a word for them - stay in one place, just flashing their fingers at you.  Now the wind means business and sounds determined.  It takes the window in its mouth and gives it a good hard shake.  To which the birch scrub responds by bending way over, once, from the ankles."

The Diary of James Schuyler, edited by Nathan Kernan (Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1997), 86. 

                                                   "I'm increasingly aware of
the fragile fortifications between dusk and evening, as though
the former had been erected only for the latter to knock it down. . . ."

North, from 'Boul' Mich', WIIL, 218-219.


Joe Brainard, from Amazing But True (via Ian Pindar's blog)

"It was like blowing your thoughts over the chord changes of everyday whatever life.  Endless lines of words that you followed if only because you couldn't see their ends.  The connection with jazz here is obvious: improvisation.  Nobody had ever spoken to me of writing in this way.  I had thought the writer must first have it all in his head and only then put it into words, but no.  I began to see how it was really excitingly done: You wrote from what you didn't know toward whatever could be picked up in the act.  Poetry starts here."

Clark Coolidge, Now It's Jazz: Writings on Kerouac & the Sounds (Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 1999), 16-17.

"Some days have a soul.  Others
are pasted on like labels on
Italian tomato cans, cherry red, grass green
and an unearthly blue like a football team
on a billboard.  I know it's
supposed to be intimate."

North, from 'Poem ("Sad not")', WIIL, 273.

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