Invertebrate phosphorescence
Shines fiercer than your languid light,
So jinking creatures in the moor
Presume more pride than yours by right.

Hypermortal microbes drunk on
Photons purge them through the dark,
Yet scorn to field your wizened squibs
These ages after they embark.

The heavy earths that choke your core
Like old, sclerotic arteries
Mock worlds you used to stoke to life
In all its teeming congeries.

—Uche Ogbuji—from "Brown Dwarf"

Today I fulfilled requests both old and new by posting a few of my own poems. They are:

"Brown Dwarf" [update: published at Wisdom Crieth Without in 2014]
"11 February 1996" [update: published at About Place in 2014]
"Mantis" [update: published at Verse Virtual in 2014]

These pieces that I picked are about a decade old. I've had enough time to decide that they're good enough to publish. I'm even more excited about my more recent work, but I'd like to give it some time for me to come to a similar level of comfort with it. Certainly not a decade, I expect.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


So long ago—another life.
I can feel your heartbeat.

It's not a dream—remember us.
I can see it in your eyes.

We'll find our place in time,
A place in time beyond the sun.

We'll find our place in time,
A place in time to call our own.

--Amanda Abizaid--"A Place In Time"

Free "A Place in Time"! That's not an advertisement, but an imprecation. If you watched The 4400, a fun science fiction TV series (started last year and—hooray!—picked up again for this year), you'll have heard the gorgeous song in its intro. Lebanese-American Amanda Abizaid (viva emigrante!), a totally small-time (but shouldn't be) singer/songwriter composed and performed this brief ditty (the above are the entire lyrics of the munit or so that make up the song).

If you haven't heard it you can listen to it on the Bosshouse Music Web page Flash intro.

She starts off humming the extremely haunting bars that form the backbone of the song, and croons softly through the verse that's ostensibly a love lyric, but carries a very gothic edge to it because of the way the minor key clutches at your ear. It's soft rock, but hardly as forgettable as you'd expect from that genre. It almost feels as if she's going to break into major key for the chorus, but somehow it loses none of its creepy feel despite the modulation. Lori and I actually used to sing "We'll find our place in time, in space and time..." when we heard it on the series, because of the theme of the series, and the fact that the lyric felt as if it should treat on something at least as exotic as the space/time continuum. Abizaid only hints at such a stretch when she says "A place in time beyond the sun."

So gorgeous song, right? Time to go buy the CD, right?
Uh, nuh-unh. It turns out that, unfortunately, the only way you can hear the song is by watching the show or going to the Boss House Web site. Viacom/Paramount, those notorious IP churls, are holding on to the song with a vise grip. I'm not sure why; the response to the song was tremendous, and people are fairly clamoring to buy it. This should be good promotion for the series. Here's's just one of the forums discussing the matter. Abizaid, when contacted by e-mail was originally very generous in sending people MP3s of the song, but then, in her words:

Thank you for your kind words about "A Place In Time". As much as I would like to [send out the MP3], unfortunately, I got a call from Viacom/Paramount Pictures this weekend saying I am not allowed to give out an MP3 since I do not own the song. If there's any way to get the song, they would be the one's to get in touch with. I hope you understand. Hopefully with all this interest in the song, there will be a longer version. Keep your fingers crossed.

Oh, they're crossed, alright. There's a lot more that's crossed, as well. Sometimes you just want to roach-stomp Big Media. Let's hope Viacom comes to their senses and release a soundtrack with a longer version of "A Place In Time", or at least free Abizaid to include it in an album. Until then, if we want polymer rather than bits, we have to content ourself with Abizaid's EP The Great Plan, which is very good, but not really offering anything quite as breathtaking as the 4400 theme song.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

To die for every day

The other day a friend who happened to check out Copia told me "I really liked that quote-to-die bit". It took me a moment to realize she really meant "Quotidie". Her pronunciation had never even occurred to me (I guess I lack imagination).

"Quotidie" is, of course, Latin for "daily". There is meant to be a pun on the fact that a quote heads each entry ("Quote-a-day")., but this is a bit incidental. I certainly pronounce the o as in "ought", the "tid" as in "teed off", and the ending almost to rhyme with in "dee-jay" (much less emphasis on the "dee"). I'm too lazy to bust out the proper IPA for it.

Anyway, in hopes that it will prevent any misunderstanding, I'll use the syllable length markers in the title from now, with macrons over the first i and the e ("Quotīdiē").

I guess as Michael Kaplan would say:

This post brought to you by the letters "ī" (U +012B, a.k.a. LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH MACRON) and "ē" (U +012B, a.k.a. LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH MACRON)

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


I pitched my day's leazings in Crimmercrock Lane,
To tie up my garter and jog on again,
When a dear dark-eyed gentleman passed there and said,
In a way that made all o' me colour rose-red,
   "What do I see—
   O pretty knee!"
And he came and he tied up my garter for me.

'Twixt sunset and moonrise it was, I can mind:
Ah, 'tis easy to lose what we nevermore find!—
Of the dear stranger's home, of his name, I knew nought,
But I soon knew his nature and all that it brought.
   Then bitterly
   Sobbed I that he
Should ever have tied up my garter for me!

Yet now I've beside me a fine lissom lad,
And my slip's nigh forgot, and my days are not sad;
My own dearest joy is he, comrade, and friend,
He it is who safe-guards me, on him I depend;
   No sorrow brings he,
   And thankful I be
That his daddy once tied up my garter for me!

Thomas Hardy—"the Dark-Eyed Gentleman", Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses

I've since finished Expansive Poetry ("Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism"), but as I mentioned before, I would like to get back to some of the attacks on Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot in that volume.

Richard Moore, who is no lightweight authority, uses Hardy's wonderful "Dark-Eyed Gentleman" to set up an assault on the acknowledged pillars of modern poetry. He shows how Hardy's work was couched in a tradition while shrewdly undermining the ugliest aspects of that tradition. Moore points out that Hardy, rather than rail on in the poem about the near misogynistic standards of Victorian mores, chose to create a vivid character who expressed the problem using a frank, affecting voice with just the right amount of irony. So the point is that Hardy is an poet of extraordinary skill and sensitivity? As a devotee of Hardy, I whole- heartedly agree. After working this point about quiet revolution through a wandering journey in Euripides, Shakespeare and others, Moore arrives at his main task.

Moore starts by blasting Pound's "In a station of the metro". The entire poem:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Moore scoffs at the slackness of the iambic hexameter of the first line and at the second line, which he says "makes no metric sense at all". He then goes on for almost two pages about how the poem shows contempt for the conventions of English poetry by merely "alluding" to iambic pentameter, rather than properly using it.

At this point I'm bewildered. Can this really be Richard Moore writing? It seems obvious that Pound here is translating Chinese and Japanese prosodic conventions into English accentual verse. But never mind the eastern motor within this poem. One needn't know the first thing about haiku in order to feel the power of Pound's 4 stresses per line.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Coleridge used the same 4 stresses non-syllabic in Christabel. You need look no further than the famous opening lines:

'T is the middle of night by the castle clock
And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;

I can imagine Moore praising Coleridge as a metrical genius for the way he mirrors the lines as anapestic tetrameters with iambic final feet, but then how would he explain the "Tu–whit !— — Tu–whoo !" of the next line? What are those, anyway? Two iambs (surely no one would stoop to such scansion)? Two spondees? What of the clue in the em dashes? (Christabel was a favorite of an old girlfriend of mine, and I remember her reading it aloud. She was no prosodist, but I remember that she nailed the crucial caesura in that line.) How would Moore go on to explain the rest of Christabel? (Forget for a moment that even Coleridge can't adequately explain "How drowsily it crew")? Of course a discerning critic such as Moore would appreciate the accentual meter for what it is. Why can't he see Pound's poem the same way?

Clearly "In a station of the metro" is accentual, rather than accentual- syllabic. It would take a truly tin ear to want to stress "of" and "in" in the first line, just because it made them iambic, as it would to add "like" to the beginning of the second, because it makes it approximately iambic. Pound uses the copious unstressed syllables in the first line to emphasize that he's starting from a very quotidian encounter ("quotidian" in the modern sense, as borrowed by English from medieval Latin, rather the classical Latin adverbial expression, as used in the title of this article). The second line explodes into the image as even Moore acknowledges. The lack of unstressed syllables cuts the image into the line as surely as a laser etching. Even the unstressed syllables in the second line have a purpose. It occurs to me to think of "on a" as saying "if you mistook that last word for a cheap-trick trochee, just you watch what comes next".

I have always counted this poem as one of the triumphs of "free verse". De gustibus non disputandem and all that–I can understand a critic's not liking it, but I cannot understand a critic's insistence in setting up such a blatant straw man of false prosody.

Moore then goes on to work on Eliot (I can just hear Robert Graves goading him: "These be thy Gods, O Israel").

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;

(from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")

Moore goes on about how this simile just does not appeal to him. Again this is a matter of taste, and there's not much material for argument. But he also claims that Eliot is being merely capricious and manipulative by (ab)using such an outlandish trope. Surely Moore has read the numerous critics, such as I.A. Richards who recognized Eliot's hearkening back to the metaphysical conceit. Surely he knows that Eliot himself wrote about his debt to the Metaphysicals. Throughout Eliot's work, his exploration of the conceit has always been his most personal application of the ideas he expounded in "Tradition and the Individual Talent". No news there. Surely Moore would not dare castigate John Donne for his extravagance in trope. Should we invoke the Dean of St. Pauls in Eliot's defence? Alas. It seems that Donne can only commiserate:

Who would not laugh at mee, if I should say
I saw a flaske of powder burn a day

(from "The Broken Heart") (Note: the italics are original (I think), not mine. I'm not sure why the Luminarium doesn't italicize that phrase. All my dead tree texts do.

Ah well. Moore's attack on "Prufrock" again reads to me as from a critic who probably knows better when he chooses to ignore the precedents on which the poet is building. The critic doesn't want to admit any mitigation of his attack on the poets supposed sullying of tradition.

Many of the free verse fundamentalist followers of Pound and Eliot seemed truly confused about the craft of those two. They thought that Pound and Eliot helped free them from the supposed tyranny of form. They clearly couldn't appreciate what great examples Pound and Eliot were of the fact that free verse ain't no free lunch. It takes even more craft to execute free verse well than it does to write in form, and that craft right now must be learned rigorously from the metrical tradition. As I've said, I agree with Expansive Poetry in its denunciation of the movement that marginalized form in the middle 20th century, but I find it unfortunate when a critic such as Moore makes the same mistake as the free verse fundamentalists, even in pursuit of the opposite argument.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which has been given for you to understand.
The current standard is the equivalent of an adolescent restricted to the diet of an infant.
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional and deformative symptoms, and could not properly mature on a diet of apple sauce and crushed pears.
Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness.
The role of darkness is not to be seen as, or equated with...ignorance...but with the unknown, and the mysteries of the...unseen.

--Saul Williams--"Coded Language", Amethyst Rock Star

And this passage, of course (and the rest of the blistering start of "Coded Language"), is but a prelude to Saul Williams tearing into his famous and raucous invocation of pan-cultural men gods, heroes and muses (including a few tin wreath wearers) new and old. Like most snippets I feature on Quotidie, this poem/rap is to be heard, not just read.

Williams is one of my Hip-Hop heroes. He effortlessly crafts weaves into sharp assault that leaves you keen, rather than numbed. There is more poetry in one Saul Williams song than in most entire anthologies of middle 20th-century verse. It's not metrical, but then again, remember clause three of the Imagist manifesto:

As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Decades of poetasters didn't take those words literally enough, and as a result produced lukewarm prose chopped into lines, calling it poetry. I believe this clause has little practical use in criticism except in griot traditions of, which have only really come into the commonplace in the West with the emergence of hip-hop. Williams is skillful enough to use all the griot's kit, including allusion (not in the snippet above, but elsewhere in the song), vivid surrealism, personification (without pathetic fallacy), word play (the pun of "crushed pears" and "crushed peers" is especially neat), and contrapuntal caesura, as in the emphasis of "ignorance" and "unseen".

Some of this tradition informs the current world of "spoken word" performance, although most spoken word is weakened by lack of instrumental accompaniment. SOHH.com recently had a very interesting interview with Common (see an earlier Quotidie) and Saul Williams about this genre.

[Saul Williams]: Poetry has a much longer oral tradition that it does a written tradition. So that's one of the ways that Hip-Hop is very connected to the history of poetry; in that poetry was always recited since before people even knew how to write. In Europe, Asia, Africa, you name it; poetry was recited before it was written. So in many ways, it helps not to have the formal training in poetry because the formal is often misinformed.

The best training is not being lectured and brow-beaten by bureaucrats in workshops, but deciding for yourself what you like to hear and working like a slave to imitate it. Clearly this has worked for Williams. I'm grateful not to have ever taken a single course in literature or criticism. Instead I've read widely and practiced strenuously.

But thinking about the potential of the movement artists like Saul Williams and Common represent is a matter of pondering two simple questions:

1) What will Poetry do for Hip-Hop?

[SOHH.com]: The influences of Hip-Hop, The Last Poets, and the Black Arts movement also helped to shape the 90s' spoken word or "slam poetry" movement. After shining for years at poetry clubs like the Nuyorican Poet's Café, the style has now reached new heights of fame through Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam franchise. Arguably this is the form that has done more than anything to bring a new generation back to poetry.

A lot of slam poetry is just plain loud, sloppy whingeing, but to Simmons' defence, he's done a good job of picking the best for his show. Lori and I enjoy it immensely. I think of it as not so much poetry, and not so much music. It's a very energetic form of dramatic monologue that takes rhetoric from poetry and form from music. Artists attuned to this genre have formed the backbone of the camp that has been quietly preserving real Hip-Hop from the decadence of the bling/bitches/hoes era, and who are slowly emerging from the underground into the mainstream in the form of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, MF Doom and more.

2) What will Hip-Hop do for Poetry?

[Williams]: I think [the poetry establishment are] slowly opening up to [Hip-Hop]. It'll take a few more ventures from us onto the written page for them to really embrace it. Once we find a balance between the stage and the page, the academics will realize the importance of what's happening right now. Because we are definitely the ones who have brought poetry back to life.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Frères humains qui après nous vivez
N'ayez les coeurs contre nous endurciz,
Car, ce pitié de nous pauvres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous merciz.
Vous nous voyez ci, attachés cinq, six
Quant de la chair, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est piéca devorée et pourrie,
Et nous les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'en rie:
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

François Villon--"L'Épitaph (Ballade des pendus)"

It's Tuesday again: French day. As usual I spent a good portion of my pre-matinal regime in French reading and revision to get ready for conversational practice this evening. I was feeling particularly fresh, so I wrote a poem based on the first two stanzas of Villon's (I ran out of time for finishing the third stanza and envoi). It's a near translation, and you can get much of Villon's basic sense from it, but I purposefully make some departures. If you want a closer translation, try Swinburne's "Epitaph in the Form of a Ballade", from Poems and Ballads. I shall say that Villon is almost impossible to translate faithfully. He was an incomparable craftsman, and used every resource of his native tongue. It's actually fairly easy French to follow (especially, for me, after Les Symbolistes), so if you paid attention at all in high school, give the original a try (you must read it aloud).

Anyway, the first half of my modest effort:

Brother souls who live beyond our days,
Don't turn towards us hearts of hollow stone,
For if you pity us, such wretched strays,
Goddess redeem indulgence you'll have shown.
You see a hand or so of us thus strown:
Bodies once well fed of ill-got gain
Now ravened by rot and beasts upon the plain
We, the bones who speak, turn dust and ash.
None should deign to laugh upon our pain,
But wish all ghosts kind Fortune's calabash.

--Uche Ogbuji--from "Epitaph (après Villon, maître)", 3 May 2005

The only real thematic change is from the European gallows to the "evil bush" of Igbo custom, reserved for criminals who have committed abominations.

I've been working on and off on getting Cara Musis, my literary site, back in shape, so I can publish some of my work. I think I'll have to make that a priority this weekend. «Aaaaïïïïïe, nooooon!», do I hear you say? Ah, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère... Va t'en.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Out of body experience, hard to explain
Like the pyramids and gods I remain
I know pain, like Kurt Cobain,
Or hate. Or AI playing hurt the whole game.
Dig into the Earth's brain for worse gain;
Focused like Young Blood on his first chain.
I used to write shit to please niggas:
Now I write shit to freeze niggas.
Whether iced out, or American Pie sliced out,
I sit in the room with the lights out.
Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out,
I sit alone in the room with the lights out,
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!

--Common--from "Electric Wire Hustle Flower"--Electric Circus

There's something about Erykah Badu. Not only is she a former teen rapper turned the most soulful and expressive singer of our generation, but she also has the Earth Mother quality of being to be able to inject that soul and expressiveness into others. She dated André 3000 of the brilliant hip-hop duo OutKast and it wasn't long before he was experimenting wildly in music, helping bring about the commercial and critical phenomenon of the group's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. album.

After Badu and André broke up, an event that led to the sublime emotional event of Badu's Mama's Gun, she took up with Common, who could already make a fair claim to be the best lyricist in Hip-Hop (and the sort of mind a lot of today's insipid literary poets could learn from). The result was Electric Circus, a truly daring and musically inspired album. I hope no one thinks I'm using a disrespectful terms term if I echo what someone said on (I think) OkayPlayer: Badu reverse thugged both Common and André in the sense that she catalyzed their transformation from intelligent hard-core to the multidimensional.

"Electric Wire Hustle Flower", for example, is a very well crafted collaboration with hard rock band P.O.D.. Too often in Rap/Rock collabos the energy of the instrumentation overwhelms the lyrics. No such problem when Common is the lyricist. It's refreshing for someone of Common's caliber to admit:

I used to write shit to please niggas

And this song is arresting proof of his boast:

Now I write shit to freeze niggas

Building on Black Power imagery, and touching on the famous Grunge icon, he flips it smoothly into appreciation of Allen Iverson's ankle-breaking skills (or is that a reference to increasingly smart computer game AI)? He keeps working in this way until he closes the verse with the vivid image "Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out, I sit alone in the room with the lights out,

Wicked stuff if you can see beyond the next DJ Kay Slay tape, but the problem was that Common's fan base had always been the hard-core underground crowd, and they were not amused at this transformation. See Art of Rhyme's interview with Common:

[AOR]: Out of your body of work, fans were most divided by Electric Circus, how would you personally rank that amongst your albums?

[Common]: I feel it was the most diverse and out-there album, I can't say it's one of the best or weakest. It got the weakest response, but that don't necessarily make it the weakest. Later on people may respond and say that was some creative stuff, we just weren't there at that time. I may have taken them too far at that time. I would say that it's still a good album to me. It wasn't one of my best if I look at it right now, but it may eventually be something that people say is very, very good. How I feel, it's still an expression of me at that time. It's hard for me to say it's one of my best, but I know this album is one of my best.

Apparently he was too far ahead of some of his fans, but I'm grateful for his daring, and I know that Chimezie is, too. It gets the Copia stamp of approval. We're definitely looking forward to Common's new album BE, especially given his hot single "The Corner" and the other advance song, "The Food".

More on Common later on today.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Sugar can cure everything, so Kindness says.
Sugar is a necessary fluid,

Its crystals a little poultice.
O kindness, kindness
Sweetly picking up pieces!
My Japanese silks, desperate butterflies,
May be pinned any minute, anesthetized.

And here you come, with a cup of tea
Wreathed in steam.
The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.
You hand me two children, two roses.

--Sylvia Plath--from "Kindness"

I've been reading Expansive Poetry ("Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism"), and I've been surprised by several things. I'm in strong agreement with the central point of the essays: that the state of modern poetry is miserable because of institutionalized scorn of form and narrative in poetry. But there are also some worrisome claims in the essays that hint at an unfortunate backlash against free-verse lyric, regardless of quality. No less a critical mind than Richard Moore in "Tristram's Rhapsody" sallies forth swinging in every which direction. In one particular stroke he disparages the cult that has surrounded the suicide-poets of the 20th century, naming Plath, Sexton and Berryman.

From a critical point of view, it's pretty silly to lump in Plath with the other two. Plath is one of the great poetical geniuses of the 20th century, and the other two wrote verse that turns your ear to tin and your eye to wax. John Berryman especially is so woeful that I boggle at his popularity within the establishment. Are there really no critics who can sense that there is no music, no keenness with diction, and no intelligence of theme in, say the celebrated 77 Dream songs? Do they really see him as heir to Pound and Carlos Williams? As for Anne Sexton, at least her work is not palpably offensive to the poetic taste, but it is dull and devoid of craft.

In "The Other Long poem" Frederick Fierstein, also the book's editor, says:

After a while the total work of such poets as Plath and Sexton seems an endless monologue spoken by a character with little insight, who never grows, who is bathetic rather than tragic.

Strangely, I've never felt tragedy in Plath's work. Rather, I've always felt an intense practicality. She gives a sense of taking life as it comes, good and bad, and inserting it directly into her poems without losing much of the quick. It's hard to find any bathos in such perceptiveness. Her suicide was certainly tragic from a biographical point of view, but that impending tragedy hardly oppresses her work.

I don't know the details of the Sexton and Berryman suicides, except that they came in the 70's, after Plath's, but I have trouble seeing what suicide has to do with poetic achievement. Moore seems to argue that the entire mood of "confessional poetry" impels the writer to prove his demons in the ultimate way. Even if one admits this rather backward reasoning, I don't see how it concerns the reader. What concerns the reader is the quality of the work.

Plath had a key poetic quality which I believe is innate, rather than learned: instinct for apt words. She put a lot of effort into the key poetic quality which I believe is learned rather than innate: mastery of form. She wrote a lot of well-measured poetry throughout her career, much of which she later wrote off as "juvenilia", but still had the sense to publish. I think she was impelled towards insistence of free verse by the prevailing winds in poetry at the time, not least coming from her husband Ted Hughes, another great poetical genius who was capable of horticulture in that infertile ground. It does feel to me, reading her work, that she was nearing a reconciliation of her expressive genius with the boundaries that she mistakenly saw in form. I think that if she had lived to publish another book's worth of work, she would have risen to the stature of Eliot and Pound in that work. In the end, she limited herself too severely.

This brings me to the passage I quote above. It has a very odd structure, where approximation of iambic pentameter breaks down to shorter, unformed lines, and then back to the blank verse, and then back to the unformed lines. It seems to me that she uses the blank verse where she is being declarative in what she is saying, and breaks from form where she wants to be fragmentary, and stereotypically imagistic. I think this is on purpose, even if subconsciously so, but it is a dangerous game. Plath has confined herself to a narrow road with failure on either side, yet in the end she is brilliant enough to pull it off. We as readers find ourselves sympathetic to the correspondence of music and sense, even when both music and sense lurch to the dissonant.

The remarkable thing is how little Plath's self-imposed limitations subtract from the great legacy of her work. It does present her with a small problem in consistency. She has one or two score great poems, and a much larger number of poems of much lesser quality. But a poet's success always derives from his great works, and not from the rest, regardless of how voluminous. It doesn't matter that Nerval wrote a lot of drudge since he did manage to squeeze out Les chimères, from which, for example, "Delfica", subject of an earlier "Quotidie". Plath will be appreciated, and her work will influence later poets long after the poeticules Sexton and Berryman are forgotten (which won't take long). She cannot be lumped in with the other two just because they all committed suicide, or because they were all known for free-verse lyric.

Moore also launched an attack on Pound and Eliot, and I think he falls even wider of the mark in those cases, but that's a subject for another note.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Tu crois que le monde est à toi,
Qu'il t'appartient;
C'est ta chose, tu en disposes,
Sans qu'il ne reste rien

--Les Nubians--Demain--Princesses Nubiennes

My generic pass at translation:

You believe the world is yours
That it belongs to you
It's your thing, it's at your disposal
Without which [without you?] there's nothing left

O-ou yes, Hélène et Célia Faussart, Les Nubians. Les soeurs chantant. Les soeurs sexy.

As I recall, I heard "Makeda" in a Boulder record store, and, besotted, ran to faire le connaissance of whomever had produced such gorgeous music. I saw Les Nubians at the Fox Theater in Boulder a couple of years ago. Comme d'habitude, the Boulder crowd was well up on their music, and the energy was amazing. Their encore was a sublime tribute to African music, followed by a crowd-participation version of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster". It strikes me how consistently wonderful my concert experiences in Boulder are. It may be a white bread town in all demographic reality, but in spirit, Boulder doesn't fake the funk. I'm looking forward to seeing Zap Mama at the Boulder Theatre tomorrow. Oui. Soi-même Zap Mama. Quelle chance pour moi.

C'est mardi, which means the day for La Table Francophone of Boulder. I've been going most Tuesday evenings for the last few months. I go to work on my spoken French, and to hang out with my friends, many of whom these days are francophones. Une soirée avec mes amis. Quelle chance pour moi.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other—
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

--Dana Goia--from "Words"

I was reading the collection of essays Expansive Poetry ("Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism"), and Gioia's entry essay "The Dilemma of the Long Poem" reminded me for the umpteenth time that I have to check out the man's work in concentrated form (I've read plenty off his poems, but all as individual poems in journals and anthologies). I wandered over to his Web site and checked out the sample poems from his most recent volume Interrogations at Noon, from which the above piece. It's very good stuff, even as understated as Gioia clearly intends. I think few contemporary poets demonstrate better than Gioia the fallacy of the Beat era dogma that one cannot write personal and empathetic verse within the structures of traditional craft (or at least that Americans cannot).

Earlier on in "Words" he writes "The stones on the path are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted." This seems to be a common theme in Interrogations at Noon, based on the four samples on Gioia's site (I'll be ordering a copy today). He transmutes the notion from the naturalistic to the pathetic in the very fetching epigram "Unsaid", which you simply must go and read in its (brief) entirety. "Unsaid"is clearly not an elegaic distich in form, but it feels a lot like one in matter, passing from somber observation to sharp evocation in three sentences. The poem is twice as long as a proper elegaic, yet it maintains an impressive amount of bite.

I did notice one thing: the capitalization of each line in "Words" and "The Summer Storm" contrasts with prosaic capitalization in "Unsaid" and "The Litany". I couldn't really sense a pattern to this usage. Personally I prefer poetic capitalization, because I still think that the line is the most important unit in poetry, and the unit upon which it succeeds or fails. Capitalizing each line emphasizes this importance, even where poets have largely shunned alignment of meter with grammar.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia