Selections from One-Star Amazon Reviews of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

This post has given me a new idea for a compost writing exercise …

Biblioklept

[Editorial note: The following citations come from one-star Amazon reviews Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood MeridianI’ve preserved the reviewers’ original punctuation and spelling. More one-star Amazon reviews.].


It may be art.

Damn McCarthy.

I find him boring.

unrelenting nihilism

The story is thin at best.

Are we supposed to enjoy it?

I felt abused by Blood Meridian

not a traditionally enjoyable book

this book is simply just not “all that”

wordy, over the top speechy dialogue

endless streams of dependent clauses

I am a devout fan of Cormac McCarthy.

The characters are not really sympathetic

He is obviously a sick man psychologically.

all about violence and no plot what so ever.

if I was a trained geologist I might like it better.

too many words that are not in standard dictionary

I guess people think he is cool because he writes so violent.

This one guy peed on…

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Marlise’s portfolio

Friends. (Oppen said something like, the poem that ends as it should, “ok,” the poem of the world. Tonight for me, it’s the post that begins as it should, “friends.”) I’ve meant to share with you a portfolio by one of my vis po students from this spring. She rides a badass wheelchair and her work is images of and round and beyond her condition, Friedreich’s Ataxia, a truly shitty degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.

I don’t mean to be sentimental here. That’s cheap to those who live with a disability. From here it seems, there are some who live with such visible cruelties, I’m using Marlise’s so apt word here, and others who bear cruelties invisible to all until they flame out horrible, and some who have the bad luck to be lucky till they’re not, and then they know not what the fuck to do.

Even all that considered though. This young woman has moved me no small measure with her guts and her mischievous gleam. So, here are, with her permission and a bit of anonymizing, some words and images of hers.


“One of my passions, my goals, and perhaps my purposes, is to help arts by and/or about the physically-disabled population to gain at least culturally standard recognition. This course has made me see visual poetry as a wonderful and effective forum to achieve this.

Portfolio-3“In creating my pieces, I was most inspired by our course text Nox, by Anne Carson. She delivers poignant messages about grief through photocopies of memorabilia about or featuring her late brother, while still leaving the concepts of familial love and loss open-ended and undefined.

Portfolio-5“Being physically disabled myself, I often think of myself and my as audience members, just insignificant observers of my disease’s progression, effects, and affects. This ‘outsider’ perspective is what I interpret as Carson’s purpose and message behind Nox, and it’s what I have striven to elicit for disability in this project.

Portfolio-2“I’ve explored the photocopy technique, implementing forms of handwritten pieces and material objects. Attempting to play with my method of choice in new ways, I photocopied in the ‘negative’ setting a couple of times to convey the stark labels put in visibly-disabled people, Another way I twisted the work via the photocopier was selection of reflective objects to photocopy.

“The first artifact displays the title of my disorder, Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), through a bag that has one transparent side and one opaque, turquoise side. I chose this to hold the piece because I knew the photocopier because I knew the photocopier would reflect off the bag, and the resulting glare I wanted to evoke the unapologetic cruelty of my handicap.

Portfolio-1“Also, I thought the bright turquoise backing worked as representation of the crippling sadness or unashamed joy underlying nearly every part of disabled life. The writing is done in charcoal, and then smudged, translated to be the destruction of effort. Where I placed the artifact in the photocopier cut off the top fails-at-drawing-a-straight-line of th F, leaving a single, straggling line reminiscent of lives cut short by means of physical disability, including mine. Finally, I inserted the page into its sleeve upside-down to distance and simultaneously inconvenience the viewer, like disability effects everyone involved in the victim’s life.

Portfolio-4“As a visual element, I will steer the viewer’s attention to the cover art. There I have my prescription-medication bottles, showcasing the nameplate-labels. Not only do I associate paid-for treatment with disability, but I see this photocopy of personal and yet widely recognizable objects as the prime subject to introduce this portfolio, too. It compartmentalizes disability, and also starts the project’s accessible journey of disabled interpretation.”

Portfolio-0


POSTSCRIPT. The cellophane technique I’ve been playing with BTW is thanks to Marlise, who on a handwritten poem assignment took my encouragement to view her handwriting as differently beautiful and handed this in –

Handwriting 3a

– but because the charcoal was bleary handed it in, considerately, in a plastic bag, which gave me an idea, so when I scanned it I scanned it in said plastic, with all those unanticipable opacities –

Handwriting 3b

Whoever says teaching creative writing sucks from their creative work needs to check what they’re teaching.

Everywhere Is Aleatory: Chance Operations Where You Ain’t Expecting

A proposal on aleatory poetics to go soon to a conference. Developed in collaboration with poets Stephanie Bolster and Barbara Nickel.


Dice. A coin toss. Yarrow sticks and the I Ching. Newspaper cuttings in a brown paper bag. N+7. Google Translate. There are countless ways to get chance or near-chance into the poem. Many are provocative – seem, indeed, meant to provoke. Tristan Tzara, for instance, must have provoked his first readers, as he still does undergrads the world round, when he assures you that, having cut words from a newspaper article, tossed them in a paper bag, drawn them out blind, and glued them down in the order drawn, you’ll have proven yourself “an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, … though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.” Shock, mischief, irony – maybe a little elitism, even once the irony’s accounted for. But this much seems clear: the aleatory strain in avant-garde poetry shares in the sensationalism of its century.

Without casting any aspersion on these forms of the aleatory – what is complacency for if not to be nettled – our panel will consider the aleatory in some quieter forms. Three poets will discuss projects underway in which accident is drawn into the inception, creation, or operation of the poem far enough for it to be pervasively marked by chance, though the text that results may not look aleatory in the usual ways.

Aleatory practice opens a route around the tyrant ego – a tap into the unconscious, the world spirit, the Duende, wherever you want to say poems come from – and in these projects, such practice is compounded with other methods of bypassing intention or self-expression. So we’ll investigate edges where the aleatory meets the documentary, the prosodic, the projective. Research practices where fact-checking with Google Street View yields news that transforms a poem, or a night at the theatre offers a missing link in a project that had started to close down its parameters. Divination practices in which one glance back at an abandoned house uncovers a sonnet’s path or the holy pages of ancestors are torn into new and pleasing jumbles. Visual poems where the fall of a leaf or how a torn page expresses as photocopy noise can’t be predicted or where the speed of a gesture produces spatial forms the poet feels as accidental.

When contingency is spoken of in documentary, prosodic, or projective practices, it’s usually treated as adventitious, and soon naturalized to the old story of the solitary poet expressing a coherent inmost self. Our notion is that such practices are, or at least can be, quietly more chaosy than that. The aleatory has a gift to give, a way round the demanding demeaning ego, and this panel asks whether the gift functions only in the noise and lights of a blowout surprise party, or whether it may be as quiet as a friend saying to another, Hey, I thought maybe you’d like this. Contingency in the poem as friendship not showdown.

One more for Elise Partridge

Hello friends. A three-way conversation between Barbara Nickel, Stephanie Bolster, and myself on the life and work of our loved friend Elise Partridge has now gone live at the Winnipeg Review. It’s to be found here.

And, if you’re curious, I wrote a bit about the challenge and wonderment of the conversation itself here. You can read some more about Elise herself here. And Barb’s wonderful blog is here. Steph doesn’t have a blog but here’s her publisher’s page here. Enjoy, please, do.


I hope Elise’s spirit won’t mind me appending this.

I was invited to a celebration of Rosh Hashanah tonight and we were asked as part of our lovely evening to express an intention for the year to come. Mine was, to be more patient with others and myself. What’s this have to do with Elise? She wasn’t especially patient with herself or others. In fact I loved her impatience, it was was wise, it was holy! At least when she was skewering someone’s pretensions it was, very.

But my impatience is most often crap. (And that, that’s impatience with impatience. Yeah baby gotcha.) And I’ve just now started sitting zazen again, after years off the cushion, and I’m feeling what a difference it makes to be okay with not getting it exactly right all the time. And a little bit more patient with me, I’m a little more so with some other, too. Does seem to go that way.

Came as this a few ago

TD 90V - imageKshanti paramita = the perfection of patience, or patience beyond patience. Patience so sunk in itself you might not recognize it as patience. That was Elise, too. Barb, Steph, tell me, wasn’t it?

Death’s a dog w/ dragonbreath

Okay, still working away at erasures and illuminations of that minor poem in The Exeter Book, and I think I nailed something, check these moves out, yo.

90V SI 5
Click on me & sibs for bigs.

Source text for this one, you’ve seen before (along w/ a short account of how these images get made):

 5.

Moving among the company,
everywhere always, house throughout,
greeting her lord, she pours his cup first;
in greatness gives and keeps counsel,
they make a house, two
of one mind.

Next up (I thought for a while, these could fall in any order, but they seem to want the order of their first making):

90V SI 6

You’ve seen that one before too, as well as this one:

90V SI 7

Haven’t posted this one yet tho –

90V SI 8

– for whom the source text is:

8.

When the time’s right,

he comes home whole—unless
the wave swell bears him elsewhere;
sea has him in hand, desire’s terror’s pleasure.

(I’m sure that last line’s a mistranslation – the Old English, very obscure, the translator, me, very shaky.) And one more also new to the blog –

90V SI 9

Source text for this one is:

9.

A man his goods, king in castle,
they both sell you crap.
                                                Summer comes,
you take to the home woods and waters offer
and find food, before you’re too weak to.

You can sit in the sun and still starve to death.

To get the streakies I photocopied the drawing on the lightest setting through four layers of cellophane.

I owe the move to one Marlise, a student in my vis po course this spring, whose portfolio made me cry and the whole of which I mean to post soon.

Till then, wishing you joys in your labours.

Shadow w/o the slick

Okay, trying to get that shadow effect, without the slicky quality. Good people (or bad people, I like bad people, too) tell what you think.

SI 6 (90V)
Clicks!

The diff? Paled it with the photocopier, instead of by MSWord’s “wash out” filter. More imprecision, gets more imperfection, gets more texture. Mistah Plato, he dead.

Why the poem’s so affirming, the main face so scary, I dunno. Am not in charge of the contradictions. Source text, for those to whom such matters:

6.

Ship is nailed, shield bound
in staves of light linden wood –
her love comes to the Frisian
wife, keel draws near,
breadwinner home
                                        she cries
out to him
                       rinses the sea
from his shirt, finds him clean clothes,
offers on land what his love asks of her.

Have not, as yet, taken up Theresa’s totally solid suggestion to free the shadow man (or free the shadow, man?) and am curious as to my resistance. Am I yet beholden to M. Plateau after all?

But there’s something persistent in this project about doublings. All the characters are made, e.g., by filling in the gap between a letterform and an imperfect iteration of it. And something compels me about one of these glyphs, broadcast large and pale, being the landscape the mind that thought it gets to wander a while.

Maybe the shadow ain’t ready to be quite that free just yet. Interesting. As I believe Wile E. Coyote said to the air rushing up below him.

Here and far / off

Another made by the erasure & illumination practice I been telling you about.

Click on me, and again, for some close-up time.
Click on me, and again, for some close-up time.

The source text for this one (that same minor poem late in the Exeter Book):

              7.

She’ll stay true to him.
He’ll keep her name clean.

Many are steadfast,
                                           some curious
and one too free with a stranger.

Far off, he thinks of her, hopes
where he cannot compel.

The relation of source to the poem I get to – always mysterious to me. (Just as is, the relation of those two, to the image that arrives, just as much.) But I suppose I, or someone in here, wanted to get under the surface of the sexual jealousy story, ask, what makes this he and this she tick, as they surely do.

If I’ve a worry with this one, it’s that I’ve used a filter to wash out the image so I can post it, big, to the background. A sort of move I’ve mostly foresworn. I don’t want no clipart looks here, and no Photoshop tricksies. I try to get my pretty effects from low tech – Sharpies, tree leaves. When I use high tech for effects I go for fails and distortions – scanner noise, leaf stem blur.

But I just so love how the image, blown that large, makes a surreal hillscape, and it’s gotta be grey. Left black it’s too chunky and too foreground.

Have I sold out? Thoughts, any?


And just a note to self. If I do end up feeling okay about the enlarged and greyed out forms – they have real potential for the animations. Surreal backgrounds and vertiginous shifts of scale.