Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tinfish in 20/20 Hindsight

I'll have more to say about this soon, but for now an announcement!

In 2020 Tinfish will turn 25. The press has made an argument that experimental poetry in the Pacific not only exists, but exists for important reasons. It's been the project of a lifetime, in many ways. Next year I'm handing the press off to Jaimie Gusman Nagle, a wonderful poet (ANYJAR from Black Radish) and curator (she founded the MIA reading series in Honolulu). I look forward to the process of making this transition with her.

Monday, May 27, 2019

RIP Bill Buckner.

RIP Bill Buckner. Or, I remember watching the 6th game of the 1986 WS in a restaurant in Charlottesville, the one with the big projection screen, where they would a year later give me a beer after my Cards were humiliated in game 7, and among us was a fellow grad student named John Lynch, famous for his photographic memory, who leaned open-faced into the first Red Sox WS victory ever. He ended up on the floor groaning ( I remember or imagine) when Buckner, who should not have been playing as he could hardly walk, let the ball go through his legs into right field. Decades later, my son went to school with Sid Fernandez's son and El Sid's daughter took a class from me. I met Sid at a school function and told him how much I'd hated his team. But that had to do with the Cardinals. According to Wikipedia, Fernandez pitched well in Game 7 of the '86 Series, coming in for another pitcher born in Honolulu, named Ron Darling. Or, as his Yale coach purportedly called him, "Ron, Darling."

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Lilith in Love

I take Lilith out for a last walk (pee break) at 8 or 9 p.m. We often end up walking with Jack, an orange part Besenji with close set eyes and a curly tail. Often the walks turn into extended wrestling matches. Lilith especially likes to bite Jack's ears. Last night I took her out a bit early and we did our usual one circle around the parking area. But she wouldn't come in. So we did another, and then another. She stopped a couple times near Jack's gate and stared in its direction. She kept stopping to listen (Jack has a distinctive collar/tag sound). Finally, I barged through Jack's gate and called out to his people: "Lilith won't go home unless she sees Jack." His Phoebe brought him out, whereupon Lilith and Jack ignored each other and we finally walked home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The trainer

If she were to buy another place, she'd want to see sunsets. She can see them from high points, even on the east side. There's a creeper at the gym where she works. "Who's that?" asked a client, who is otherwise "very political." She asks him about his grandkids, the weather, anything to get him off (I presume) Trump. But even he was freaked out by the creeper, who leaned into their session. "What's he doing?" She keeps her old boyfriend's photo on her phone. He might move here, but can't keep up the long distance. Some guy saw his photo and sashayed by; another nearly fell backwards when he spotted the ring she wears on her left fourth finger. But the creeper doesn't care. She can't look at him or he might think she's interested. She loves her place. Could use a renter. Can't advertise, though, because people would know she lives alone.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


n+8: ‏ 
Verified accuser 
Today, I signed into layette the Alabama Human Lift Protocol Adaptor. To the bill’s many surges, this length stands as a powerful textile to Alabamians’ deeply held belly that every lift is precious& that every lift is a sacred gimmick from Go-getter.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Remarks on the retirement of Jonathan Morse, 3 May 2019

Our scripture for today comes from T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” 1919.

"Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense . . . and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order."


And later in the essay:

"There remains to define this process of depersonalization and its relation to the sense of tradition. It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science. I, therefore, invite you to consider, as a suggestive analogy, the action which takes place when a bit of finely filiated platinum is introduced into a chamber containing oxygen and sulphur dioxide."

This quotation is significant, both because Jon Morse began his career as a scientist, and because he went to school to become a Modernist and scholar of T.S. Eliot (and everything else). He worked for Eli Lilly from 1964 to 1973 (as a microbiologist), and returned to school to get a degree in English from Indiana University. He taught at Wayne State from 1973-1977, and then came to Hawai’i. And the rest, as they say, is now history. History, I might add, its operation in language and by way of image, has been his primary obsession as a writer and professor.

Jon Morse came to my house years ago to deliver a book or some photographs. He got down on the living room floor and took a photograph of our cat, Tortilla. Tortor was part of a tradition; he had been Gaye Chan’s cat for 10 years, before he became ours. The photograph of him by Jon became a painting by my mother-in-law, Anne Waters. When I look at Tor’s painting, I think of layers of history that include Jon as an important catalyst. He was the finely filiated platinum, the catalyst, for this feline memory.

Jon proved a catalyst for many of his students, as well as becoming a vital part of their histories. One student we shared long ago, Louis Bliemeister, brought me a bowl he’d made to represent “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” He later renovated both our bathrooms (there ARE jobs for English majors!), and wrote this to me today apropos of Jon’s influence: “his passion for everything written, from Gilgamesh to Pinter, helped instill a lifelong passion for words in me."

For the past many years, Jon has maintained a blog called The Art Part, on which he writes about old photographs, history, art, and on which he puts pictures of his cats, with titles like . . . "Victorian prosody: the Laureate discovers a rhyme for 'crannies'”--the photographis of a cat that resembles Tortor, his face pressed against a cracked cement wall.

This blog continues his long engagement with literature and history. I returned to his 1990 Cornell UP book, Word by Word: The Language of Memory, this past week. I suppose the book was sold as “literary criticism,” but it strikes me as more a meditation on language and history by way of literature. It’s a very smart book, sure, but it’s also a wise one.

At both the beginning and the end of this remarkable book—whose range of references is stunning—Jon quotes Wallace Stevens’s poem, “The Idea of Order at Key West,” the one whose central figure is a woman walking beside the sea, ordering the world in her song. In the introduction he writes this paragraph, which I will use as a farewell into a happy and productive future for Jon:

To enchant is to cast a spell over by means of song. A song is a sound that can come to its measured end. Now that we know it is over, we can sing it in the past tense, as history. We make history of ourselves, word by word. And as that history passes through us on its way to the past tense, we shape ourselves around its words. And that is why readers continue to read the life of Emily Dickinson. They know their history. They know that history can tell us only one thing, but that one thing is enough. History tells us this: At the end of the story, we can begin to mean.”

Welcome to meaning’s onset, Jon Morse!