Monday, October 28, 2013

“At least let us not be lulled into such a notion of our entire security, as not to keep watch and ward, even on our best feelings. I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of toleration; sectarian antipathy most obtrusively displayed in the promotion of an undistinguishing comprehension of sects: and acts of cruelty, (I had almost said,) of treachery, committed in furtherance of an object vitally important to the cause of humanity; and all this by men too of naturally kind dispositions and exemplary conduct.”

                  --Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More Boyd

The individuality of authors is no more a product of the West, the Enlightenment, or the bourgeoisie than is the individuality of apes, and has no more reason to be hushed up. As readers of others and readers of authors, we have always had an intuitive grasp of individuality that we enjoy and rely on and need to articulate more clearly as part of literary theory, and that we can now trace to the capacity ofr discriminating individuals and intentions evident in many animal species.

Brian Boyd again

Much of Theory, since Roland Barthes's 1968 announcement of the "death of the author," has sought--or professed--to downplay the individual, using the rhetorical strategy of referring not to authors but to texts, as if they were self-created or the product only of "systems of cultural production." In fact even if they have nominally challenged the idea of the "single historically defined author," most critics have continued to discuss single historically definable authors in articles and books that they would be indignant not to have attributed to their own single historically defined selves.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Explanations in terms of cultural difference tend to lack many links in their proposed causal chains. "Refletionist" explanations of art, which assume that art immediately reflects its time or place, pre-suppose either that ages have a unitary spirit or that different pursuits within a period are inevitably contesting representations of the age. Film critic David Bordwell notes that top-down explanations in terms of an era repeatedly begin from preconceived notions and are very selective in their presentation of supporting evidence, first in the historical data and then in the artistic works they choose and the details they choose from them. He also observes that scholars who commit themselves "to a search for a single overarching pattern tend not to treat historical actions as shaped by a multitude of factors." Such sweeping explanations turn people into passive conduits of the impulse of the age or participants in an unavoidable common debate, rather than treating individuals as different in susceptibility to influence, according to their capacities, positions, roles, aims, and interests.

   --Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Poems online

It's always a nice surprise to receive an acceptance for poems you forgot you sent out. Which happened to me the other day, as I got an email from the poetry editor of The Island Review, a newish and very sharp-looking online magazine, telling me that they wanted to publish two of the poems I sent them last December. (Nowhere near my personal record for elapsed time between submission and acceptance, which belongs to Elysian Fields Quarterly, who wrote me an acceptance message some three years after I sent them a clutch of baseball sonnets.) 

TIR is based in Shetland and focuses on island-based and/or -themed writing. The poems they took are from Track & Trace, so nothing new to readers of my work, but I'm guessing that readers of TIR and readers of ZW are cohorts that don't much overlap, so it's nifty that these old poems have found a new home so far from my own shores. I'm also tickled about the publication because TIR's poetry editor is the redoubtable Jen Hadfield, whose work I admire a great deal.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Get Baffled

It isn't officially out till next month, but you can pre-order a copy of my new chapbook, Baffle, from Baseline Press now. They're only making 60 copies, so if you want one, I wouldn't dilly-dally.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jeweller's "I"

Jeffery Donaldson has done a brilliant reading of my poem "I" over at his new video blog, The Jeweller's Eye. Really worth checking out all his entries. The blog is already a master class in close reading.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Stagger your seams. Vary sizes so that
large stones appear bolder. Resort to
the cold chisel only once all other
options exhausted. Stagger. Don't squander
your shims. You'll need them. So. Good drainage
is key. Stagger your seams. No such thing as too much
backfill. Stagger your. What's buried behind
matters as much as the face. Cultivate
a rustic, rough-finished ideal. Creeping
thyme will hide your mistakes. Stagger your
seams. The wall should lean back, ever so
subtly. If so, it will hold the hill's slow
surge a spell and come to stand for itself.