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Laying out the welcome mat [03 Jul 2005|03:25am]

We find that still there still remains ground of Fear, that unless more effectual Care care be taken, we may be exposed to mischief by some of that Barbarous Crew, or any Strangers not of our Nation, by their coming into, or residing in the Town of Boston. . . . Secondly, That there be a Guard appointed at the end of the said Town towards Roxbury, to hinder the coming in of any Indian, until Application be first made to the Governor, or Council if fitting, and to be . . . remanded back with the same Guard, not to be suffered to lodge in Town, unless in Prison.

This law was passed in 1675.

It was not repealed until May 19, 2005.

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Borrowed Love Poems [03 Jul 2005|02:27pm]
Front Cover

I have read the first section of this book, which includes the six "Russian Letter" poems, enough times that the pages are falling out of the book. Fortunately, some of them are online, so after the pages fall out on the train and blow away, I will still be able to study them.

It might be that if I did not already trust him as a poet, I would not proceed after dramatic lines like, in Russian Letter, "It is said, the past // sticks to the present // like glue, // that we are flies //". But I do and I did, and the rewards are many, because his directions are not limited by the philosophical ramblings to which most might let those elegant yet angsty lines drag them. Instead, he takes them to art, and he takes art and its color to its thing, and context is again everything:

Nor am I Rembrandt,
master of the black

and green darkness,
the hawk's plumes

as it shrieks
down from the sky

Robert Creeley says on the back of the book,

'Swift perception of the relation between things is the hallmark of genius,' said Aristotle --- or so Pound remarked. In these singular poems, that relation becomes a complexly articulate play between all such things and the names our common habit gives them.

Yes. I feel better ignoring John Ruskin, who says, "He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his works, the greatest number of the greatest ideas." Yau is fortunately not too worried about tackling the greatest ideas directly.

I read Russian Letter(3) as addressing this directly:

Dear Painter of Clouds
What proof will there be

after the shopkeeper
sweeps our dust into the gutter

And yet these moments are not
anyone's banner, not something

to be waved in the wind

It's hard to stop quoting. As with other successful practitioners of sparseness, chopping pieces into bits makes a mess of things. Yau's "Painter of Clouds" could be Gary Snyder's Air Poet in "As for Poets" before reading "Why I am Not a Painter".

There is a wide variety of styles in this book. People who have not read much of Yau would be hard-pressed to identify any of the above poems and "Boris Karloff in 'The Mummy Meets Dr. Fu Manchu'" as being penned by the same hand, not to mention the series of Mac Low-like sestinas.

The variety of styles and techniques used brings the craft and method to the foreground. Some of this poetry will likely frustrate those who seek to get some sense of the poet as person peeking through the lines, but for readers interested in the further possibilities of the art, that frustration will be a source of interest and entertainment.

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Spam poetry [03 Jul 2005|08:18pm]
Crooked Timber led me to a fantastic thread of "spam poetry". The initial poem managed to not get any promising offers from the International Library of Poetry, which is almost unheard of. It's great, and the ones that follow it in the comments are also entertaining. Faithful spam readers will undoubtedly recognize the opening lines of this one.
I am Mrs. Miriam Abacha a Widow

I salute you in the name of the most high God.
I was the former first lady Federal Republic of Nigeria, married to
late General Sani Abacha the late Nigerian military Head of State.
I am presently in distress and under house arrest while
my son Mohammed is undergoing trial in Oputa Panel Lagos
and Abuja, this Panel was set up by the present civilian regime.

Or, how about the opening lines of the Nigerian Spam Howl?

I, Mrs. Miriam Abacha, widow, saw the best minds of my generation
destroyed by e-mail, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the Federal Republic of Nigeria streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,

I love that people are turning spam into literature, even as the spammers are turning literature into spam. Seems like most of the spam I get these days has an excerpt from "Moby Dick" or other classic embedded.

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