Friday, October 8, 2010

Process & Perception: Moore & Williams

this is taken from a response written for a class focused on the work of Marianne Moore & Mina Loy


Moore’s criticism presents another dimension to a very particular way of seeing that we encounter in her poems – a statement in prose on the ways in which a poetic self encounters its world. Of particular interest to me are Moore’s pieces on Williams, in which a tone of friendship and mutual admiration facilitate at once a generous and favorable reading of the doctor-poet and a remarkable projection of Moore’s own approach to poetry, both of which contribute to a deepened understanding of the perpendicularity of Moore’s own verse.

In her review of Kora in Hell, Moore notes the “life[…] in the ability to see resemblances in things which are dissimilar” that characterizes Williams’ work. One senses, thanks to Moore’s reading, the modified mimesis of Williams’ poetry, and it’s in her admiration of his ability to represent his world – a world of Place, of Thing – that we find not so much praise of the poetry but instead of a poetic method, a process through which Williams makes poetic his perceptions. In another piece on Williams, Moore positions him as “essentially not a ‘repeater of things second hand,’” rather a poet capable of “contemplating with new eyes, old things, shabby things, and other things.” It seems to me that this reading of Williams is easily applicable to Moore, whose own poetry manages just such a newness of vision. Williams himself, in his “Marianne Moore,” notes in Moore a coming-at-the-familiar from a “new angle as to throw out of fashion” the poetic conventions of their shared predecessors. Closing the essay in praise, he declares: “This is new! The quality is not new, but the freedom is new, the unbridled leap.” This mutual recognition of remarkable newness, of a clarity and precision of poetic seeing, speaks to a connection between the two poets – that of their shared approach to perception. What is liberating in Williams is equally liberating in Moore: that spark of the novel observation, that making-new of the old and already-seen.

We find the observation of newness also in Moore’s reviews of H.D. and Pound, an almost ecstatic praise of the appearance of a new way of seeing the ancient and the inherited facts of modern culture. With Pound, it’s a newness that comes through textual interpretation, revitalizing the history upon which his poetry is built; with H.D., a radical vision of the so-called natural world that eventually calls into question the gender binary used to define woman-poets in opposition to their male counterparts. It becomes clear, then, that Moore is chiefly concerned not with what is seen, but with how it’s seen, and the ways in which that seeing breathes life into the apparently stagnant, makes interesting the banal.

It’s not so much the emphasis on the new that strikes me as novel, but instead Moore’s particular way of reading the work of her contemporaries. Moore does not ask what or why in her criticism – she asks how. This is not to say that the objects and phenomena central to the work are forgotten or neglected – it’s in fact the opposite. In her criticism, Moore manages to engage in a process almost identical to that which occurs in her poetry: the enactment of a particular method of perception serves to emphasize process while simultaneously illuminating its object.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wisdom of the Master

Charles Olson to Robert Creeley, 8 March 1951

(from C.O. & R.C. : The Complete Correspondence, Vol. 5)

Ez [Pound]'s epic solves problem by his ego: his single emotion breaks all down to his equals or inferiors (so far as I can see only two, possibly, are admitted, by him, to be his betters -- Confucius, & Dante. Which assumption, that there are intelligent men whom he can outtalk, is beautiful because it destroys historical time, and

thus creates the methodology of the Cantos, viz, a space-field where, by inversion, though the material is all time material, he has driven through it so sharply by the beak of his ego, that, he has turned time into what we must now have, space & its live air

((secondary contrast is Joyce [...] he trie
d to get at the problem by running one language into another so as to create a universal language of the unconscious [...] Joyce, the Commercial Traveler: [...] this internationalizing of language is more relevant to commerce, now, than it is to the aesthetic problem[...]

the primary contrast, for our purpose, is, BILL [Williams]: his Pat[erson] is exact opposite of Ez's, that is, Bill HAS an emotional system which is capable of extensions & comprehensions the ego-system (the Old Deal, Ez as Cento Man, here dates, is not. Yet

by making his substance historical of one city (the Joyce deal), Bill completely licks himself, lets time roll him under as Ez does not, and thus, so far as what is the more important, methodology, contributes nothing, in fact delays, deters, and hampers, by, not having busted through, the very problem which, Ez, has, so brilliantly faced, & beat

First, a moment to acknowledge the incredible brilliance of Olso
n's understanding of (I argue) three of the greatest practitioners of the project of the Modern Epic.

A note: Olson goes on to examine the problem of approaching the Epic from a single perspective (ego, locality, emotion, history) & comes to the conclusion that all three of the Greats fail in that their progress is collectively tied up in a stagnant history. Olson's working toward
an active history, post-Marxian, which is what sets him apart.

A professor, an Important Pound Scholar, told me that my choice to tackle
Maximus before the Cantos was courageous & overly ambitious, as "Pound is much easier than Olson." I countered by pointing out that Olson, while dense, experimental & almost impenetrable in his referential poetics, gave us an epic in English (or more precisely, American). Call me lazy, but I much prefer the Maximus project, Butterick always at my side, than the monumental task of deciphering Chinese ideograms, ancient Greek & Italian. What I did not say, & would have sd had I the newly acquired vocabulary, is that Olson manages to leap out of that stagnant history, rooting his epic in a multi-lingual collage of voice, moving from a Patersonian locality in Gloucester to a global consideration of identity with fluidity & poetic grace, cementing the theories he laid out in ProVerse & Human Universe & wrestling, without apology or hesitation, with the problem of Ego that all poets inevitably confront. & that's why he's readable, because he admits his struggle.

Pound, Joyce & Williams are masters, & it's my contention that Olson dismisses Paterson somewhat unjustly, as Williams manages with his epic (in my reading) to create a poetics both in- and outside-of-time. The only thing rolling, to me, is the Passaic. But aside from that, Olson outdoes his predecessors as a cultural archaeologist. Where the Fathers scratch the surface, Olson goes strip-mining. He's learned the lessons hidden inside of Ulysses, the Cantos, Paterson, the lessons the Fathers were likely unaware they were teaching, & through experience (both on the page & on the ground) has formulated a new approach to the epic, an approach that allows, simultaneously, an examination of LANGUAGE, HISTORY, CULTURE, LAND, EGO, TIME, ECONOMICS, POLITICS

... all of which Pound, Joyce & Williams tackled, but which Olson approaches without privileging a single problem over another. This is where he steps outside, digs deeper, gives us something more comprehensive, less limiting. The Olsonian dogma, much like Mao's, was rooted in a fierce anti-dogmatism. And that's the key: the palpable paradox, the weight of history & inheritance informing each & every defiant, innovative choice. The ambivalence of the great revolutionary.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Songbirds, Past & Present

My favorite record of all time (yes,
all time) is Hejira, Joni Mitchell's 1976 sprawling & story-driven exploration of travel, love & heartbreak. Each of its tracks, from Coyote to Refuge of the Roads, is a standalone road story; a top-to-bottom listen shows an intricately woven story in 9 chapters of one woman drifting from place to place in search of an elusive truth. This is Joni at her most vulnerable, her most passionate, her most sincere. The voice has deepened in a way that's nearly imperceptible, because she's maintained the soft ethereality of the earlier work, but the change is present, palpable. Simply put, Hejira is the confession of a road-weary traveler, & the weariness appears in the depth of voice. Her songwriting, too, has changed, moved gently away from the brilliant end-rhymes of Clouds or Ladies of the Canyon toward a subtler poetics, one that fits into the Olsonian idea of Composition by Field. The songs occupy space, & the lyrics are actors, space-takers, interactive pieces of the larger sonic project. The song is a field of action, & in the projectivist mode, sound & language extend from one another to create what can only be described as a full experience of voice. The only way to really know is to hear it, & the best illustration is in the album's title track.

Rhyme appears & melts away:

I'm porous with travel fever
But you know I'm so glad to be on my own
Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger
Can set up trembling in my bones
I know no one's going to show me everything
We all come and go unknown
Each so deep and superficial
Between the forceps and the stone

own, bones, unknown, stone -- these words are all getting at something, a thing deeper than the rhyme, something as lonely & dreamlike as the music itself, which is at once airy & thick. Joni's diction & phrasing play no small part in the construction of the songscape, the slow rising & falling of the heart & the voice. Particularly Olsonian in Joni's work here is the breath & its power to shape the line ("the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE," sd O). In short,
Hejira, in its nine parts, is a folk-pop-jazz exercise in advanced Olsonian poetics. It's proof that the title of singer-songwriter barely scratches the surface of Joni Mitchell's talent.

& with the recent release of Joanna Newsom
's latest record, a two-hour, three-part, 18-track opus, we've found the inheritor of the Mitchell tradition. The thing about inheritance that so many critics forget is the central idea of growth. Of course, Joanna isn't a carbon-copy of Joni. Her choices as both composer & songwriter are considerably more complex & multifaceted. Joanna often departs from Joni's mode of composition, expanding & spinning away to historical & tonal places that her predecessor never quite touched, but the essence of Joni's work is there, & it's important to acknowledge that a young woman, a musician of our generation, is capable of making a post-projectivist album. Have One On Me is just that.

The record's best track is Good Intentions Paving Co., a seven-minute love song that follows, quite literally, the road to the hell. Joni comparisons have already been made, & rightly so, but what the presumptuous folks over at Pitchfork seem to have overlooked are (1) that Joni is far more than her radio-friendly early years, & (2) that musical & poetic similarities & artistic reincarnation are two very, very separate phenomena. That said, imagine a Newsom cover of The Gallery or Judgement of the Moon and Stars. I can think of few contemporary musicians who could do justice to a lesser-known Joni tune, aside from Joanna. But again, doing justice is not the same as doing an impression, or fully replicating the original. It's a project of reinterpretation & reinvigoration that I'm thinking of here, & this is precisely what Joanna does with Good Intentions.

Like Hejira, we have a road story, & like Blue Motel Room, one of Hejira's loveliest tracks, we have a soulful & playful examination of just how a doomed relationship affects the woman at its center. What Joanna accomplishes with Good Intentions Paving Co. is an advanced project of Composition by Field: the motion of the music evokes both a propulsion forward & a circular return to the start. One of the song's loveliest lines, "Like a bump on a bump on a log," condenses this feeling beautifully. There's a sense in Joanna's phrasing that she is interrupting herself -- this statement could be a stutter ("bump on a- bump on a log") or a literal description. Either way, the same thing is articulated, a layered stasis that, musically, pulls the listener forward. Form is content.

Vocally, Have One On Me shows a progression away from a long-dismissed "childlike" tone, with Joanna focusing her voice in a way that, in certain phrases, is absolutely reminiscent of early Joni. That soaring higher register & an uncanny ability to allow descents of melody to articulate a deeper, more heartbroken layer to the love song. Joanna goes high with hope & low with reality. & Lyrically, the same beautiful ambivalence that only the best female songwriter can accomplish:

And I know you meant to show the extent
To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold but I'm sold
I am home on that range

This is what sets the great women apart from the great men. A truly subtle female songwriter gives you the full range of emotion, the hot & cold, & a very clear awareness of just how doomed her great love really is. That multidimensional aspect, the fact that Joanna knows the car's headed straight to hell & she isn't getting out, is so beautifully Joni-esque, is a condensation of the female perspective that I've only once seen in the work of a male poet, & not even in a love poem. What's more, the poem I'm thinking of, "I Know a Man," by the much-celebrated (on this blog, at least) Robert Creeley, is paralleled in Good Intentions. & this is where I'll close, letting, for once, the poetry speak for itself.

Creeley writes:

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, -- John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

& from Joanna:

And I did not mean to shout, just drive
Just get us out, dead or alive
A road too long to mention, lord, it's something to see!
Laid down by the good intentions paving company

Monday, February 15, 2010

Call for Collaborators

My unfinished manuscript of poems, One Makes Many, needs illustrators.

Taking inspiration from my one-eyed hero & his second wife, I'd like One Makes Many to be a poetic-linguistic-imagistic project. Words themselves are images, & images words. Their interaction, I think, makes for a fuller experience of poetry as a living thing.

For an idea of my intention, dig the selection below from Robert Creeley & Bobbie Louise Hawkins'

Each one
its own imagination

"at best"



can be thought of?


Because I'm slightly blocked in the writerly sense at the moment, & because collaboration always jump-starts my process, I'm asking now for interested artists to offer a handful of pieces based on the already-written poems. Images could be drawn, painted, photographed, collaged -- Form, as Robert Creeley once said, is never more than an extension of content. All I ask is that the illustrations be a manifestation of yr particular reaction to the poems. To be able to see the way others read the poems will give me, quite literally, another set of eyes as I finish the project.

Ideally, once complete, the manuscript will be released in multiple editions, each version featuring the work of a different artist. In other words, this is not an audition. If I dig the work of 10 different artists, if the images & words work well together, there'll be 10 editions.

Interested, curious, excited or bored artists shld contact me ( for a copy of the 10-page manuscript. Until then, dig the selections below, two untitled pieces, one a collage, the other a single poem:

This being here,
that being that we are
wound, winding within &
around our
selves, each
other .


if you are inside,
within this, you go
out, come back, out. in.
is that all?


open yr
eyes to open
mine. open
yr eyes.
We cannot come
out from

xxxxx(there is nothing but this

& all things
are answered in
their questions .

one makes many,
the world grown large
in its smallness &

now, alone,

xxxxxx(stop asking. & look

the form becomes
itself, no longer another,

clear now, &


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reflections on Creeley in Death

For the beginning is assuredly
the end– since we know nothing, pure
and simple, beyond

our own complexities.

W.C. Williams, Paterson

The death of a poet offers a peculiar moment of reflection, wherein the poem itself becomes a final manifestation of the substance of a writer’s lifelong engagement with language – the record of the shared memory of the poet and his reader. Poems resurface, resonant artifacts of his life and acts on the page, various articulations of a particular voice that coalesce to form a complete body of work. The posthumous reading replaces the formerly living body of the poet with the literary corpus; the constellation of experience, lived and written, is finally embodied in the work itself.

Not simply an inactive record of past experimentation, the work is a self-reflective body, a palimpsestic representation of the whole of a poet’s oeuvre. Nearly five years after his death, Robert Creeley’s work shows no evidence of growth, per se, but is instead representative of a consistent, lifelong engagement with a process of projective introspection. The outside always in conversation with the inside, the particulars made always into the general, Creeley’s poems – from the beginning to the end of his career—are examinations of the complexities of perception, as it occurs momently.

Published as On Earth, Creeley’s last poems are the condensation of a life of such examination. A poet without a masterwork, with only one widely anthologized poem, Creeley’s legacy lies in a deftly executed poetry of
pieces, the divers articulations of particular experiences in a precise language of simplicity. On Earth consists of poems that could have easily appeared in the minimalist experiments of his early career. Time, a pervasive theme, is relevant to Creeley’s poems only in its seemingly circular motion. Less circular, in fact, than an overlapping spiral: moments in time seem to exist alongside one another, echoing, speaking in a context of the poetry itself, rather than in a precise temporality. Take, for example, “Which Way”:

Which one are you
and who would know.
Which way
would you have come this way.

And what’s behind,
beside, before.
If there are more,
why are there more.

Creeley’s questions are punctuated as statements, the implication being that the answer is contained within the inquiry. The employment of this device is an echo of the earlier work; the recurring questions of place, time and human presence, their interactions and effects upon a personal consideration of being-in-time, are approached in their incomprehensibility as self-evident. For Creeley, the precision of language in his poems becomes a means of deciphering the mysteries of content. The question is, has always been, how to make sense of the self in an uncertain setting of expanding space and time. The rarely voiced “I” is referenced only in reflective terms: Creeley’s speaker-self approaches the problem of personal reconciliation through an examination of the unknown externalities of his circumstance. Thus the interrogation of the “you,” its identity, its arrival and point of departure, the trajectory of its movement, is an articulation of Creeley’s curiosity as it pertains to the unknowable. The “you” is one among many unknowns, the manifestation of a projected uncertainty of identity.

An earlier poem, “The Measure,” indicates an early articulation of just such an uncertainty:
I cannot
move backward
or forward.
I am caught

in the time
as measure.
What we think
of we think of ---

of no other reason
we think than
just to think---
each for himself.

The focus shifts to the “I,” its stasis within the confines of time and solitary contemplation. Creeley considers the position of the individual, voiced here as both “I” and “himself,” in terms of an equally static “we.” The immobility of the self-conscious speaker is projected onto an external collectivity, so that the particular aspect of the self is made general. In this case, externality is less representative of a mysterious unknown than a shared inability among the we-self to know anything beyond the I-self’s own thought. That is to say, the only known is the paralytic sense of isolation, a shared condition that unites speaker (“I”) and reader (“we”).

As in “Which Way,” Creeley uncovers the relations between space, time and perception, as they speak to the consciousness-in-isolation. The later poem, however, exhibits a precision of observation that is reflective of a more focused understanding of circumstance. That is to say, the later work represents a condensation of the various aspects of confusion that plague the speaker, reconciling, at least in part, the tensions of fragmentation that characterize his body of work as a whole. The questions are far from resolved, yet the accumulation of experience offers a sharpened clarity of observation – in age, Creeley is able to strip away the excess, articulating his preoccupations with an economy of language that speaks to a maturity of voice not present in the earlier work. Creeley’s growth, then, is exhibited not in a change of theme or tone, but instead in an increased precision of thematic articulation.

Without a sense of finality in any one poem, Creeley’s body of work is a collage of interactive verse, early and late poems conversing on the shared plane of a fragmented collectivity. His beginning is reflected in his end, everything unknown but the fact of the unclear self, composed of self-evident complexities. Thought, space, time, processes of perception – these are all questions, answers in themselves, striving toward a clarity that presents itself only Creeley’s precision of language. Nothing is resolved, not even in death, so that the confused body of Creeley now lives in the confused body of his work.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

State/Meant of Purpose

As I approach the fateful moment of Stating My Purpose as a prospective Ph.D. candidate at various east coast institutions of so-called higher learning, I'm revisiting those texts that pushed me toward my current preoccupations, ones that manifest themselves poetically and politically, the ideas that will likely shape my research & work as a professional intellectual (whatever that means).

My last year at the (sometimes) illustrious Gallatin School was a period of independent research, guided at times by my two intellectual & personal heroes, Rebecca Karl & Antonio Lauria, both of whom offered a way into the dense & fascinating work of some very important dead Communists, who spent several hours on Monday afternoons and Tuesday evenings discussing the tensions and truths of Maoist and Gramscian dialectics with me, and who showed me that intellectual pursuits are not always masturbatory, that a close-reading of a single turn of phrase could break open a new world of thought never before considered. With RK, I learned how to Read the Revolution, so to speak -- to investigate the ways in which the theory and practice of national liberation, cultural re-formation, & consciousness-raising were reflected in the form and content of the work of Marx, Lenin, Mao & Brecht. With Antonio, there were conversations about the function of language as a living part of the Revolution itself, the process (always process) through which Gramsci constructed and de-constructed his (and the collective) understanding of People as readers, speakers and actors of the Revolution. RK offered a structured, faithful reading of Great (Revolutionary) Books; Antonio was a friend & comrade with whom I could work through my own difficulties, academic or otherwise, with the Revolution as an idea and a living thing.

Their influence affected my personal out-of-classroom readings of the so-called 1st- and 2nd Generation Modernists, & allowed me to draw connections between their theoretical and practical exercises in the development of an American Voice & the Revolutionary work of my Marxist-Leninist influences. Almost every week, Antonio would remind me of Gramsci's famous emphasis on "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will," the dialectical relation between criticism and hope, and I would excitedly paraphrase a line from Williams, a paragraph of Olson. When I crossed the stage at Lincoln Center, my fist thrown in the air in acceptance of my B.A. in Poetics and Revolution, I was thinking of Gramsci, of Mao, of Williams & Olson, of my comrades, alive & dead, in the always-changing & constant Struggle, unnamed & waiting for a new Voice.

Now, revisiting those ideas that shaped my concentration at Gallatin -- ideas that earned me a reputation as a shouting Maoist, a chain-smoking & rambling poet, an anachronism in an intellectual community emphasizing post-structural theorizations of prose & the unspoken & insurmountable coercion of a monolithic System -- I'm reassured that structure is necessary, and that we as Americans have a language with which to speak, a language that is our own, and that we must reclaim in the face of fragmentation & institutionalized decentralization of thought and identity. These are the lessons I learned as an undergraduate, lessons I'm beginning to recall at a crucial and necessary moment:

Language is ALIVE. It is not a mediator or a mirror. It is as much a participant in the construction of our cultural consciousness as the breath that manages to keep us living among each other and ourselves.

and BREATH, that is the key: the rhythm, the space, the silence that's full, always, of what's been said, what will be said, what IS said. (Curse the passive voice, inherited & emphasized)

INHERITANCE is not merely to be accepted, but must be considered critically. We must dig into the past to understand what shaped the things we've inherited. Capitalism. Formalism. The iamb, the trochee. (These rules of poetry extend -- the measured & constrained approach to consumption, the veil that covers the social relations of labor -- ask our President for an answer to rampant unemployment & you'll get a beautiful sonnet in response, an inherited answer to a question that seems to refuse to change.)

Change, which does not simply happen, but is instead MADE. By people. On the ground & on the page. We should not wait for a handsome senator from Chicago to deliver it, nor should we turn to the Mothers and Fathers of our form to offer it in the pages of the Paris Review. The longer we wait, the later it'll come.

I'm also reminded that there are, in fact, very real ties between such seemingly disparate characters as William Carlos Williams and Mao Tse-tung. Evidence:

The truth has to be redressed, re-examined, re-affirmed in a new mode. There has to be new poetry. But the thing is that the change, the greater material, the altered structure of the inevitable revolution must be in the poem, in it. Made of it. It must shine in the structural body of it. [WCW]

The supersession of the old by the new is a general, eternal and inviolable law of the universe... In each thing there is contradiction between its new and its old aspects, and this gives ruise to a series of struggles with many twists and turns. [Mao]

By repeating an early misconception it gains acceptance and may be found running through many, or even all, later work. It has to be rooted out at the site of its first occurrence. [WCW]

Our dogmatists are lazy-bones. They refuse to undertake any painstaking study of concrete things, they regard general truths as emerging out of the void, they turn them into purely abstract unfathomable formulas, and thereby completely deny and reverse the normal sequence by which man comes to know truth. Nor do they understand the interconnection of the two processes in cognition -- from the particular to the general and then from the general to the particular. [Mao]

If I succeed in keeping myself objective enough, sensual enough, I can produce the factors, the concretions of materials by which others shall understand and so be led to use -- that they may the better see, touch, taste, enjoy -- their own world
differing as it may from mine... That is what is meant by the universality of the local. [WCW]

It is precisely in the particularity of contradiction that the universality of contradiction resides. [Mao]

They lack that which must draw them together -- without destruction of their particular characteristics; the thing that will draw them together because in their disparateness it discovers an identity. [WCW]
So to state it. The purpose. Here it is:

TO DIG, to discover the contradictions that propel the motion of history In the American Grain, to unearth the parallels and intersections of individual experience that will give rise to a unified voice, to examine (closely) the victories and failures of the poetic Revolutionaries of the American 20th century, so that we, the inheritors of their language & culture, may move forward with our own contradictory experience and being with a more full & complex understanding of that which came before. Because before we can understand the present, before we can create the future, we must -- MUST -- understand what came before.

It's Sankofa. It's my favorite pome:

If we go back to where
we never were we'll
be there [REPEAT] But

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I recently visited the Francis Bacon retrospective now showing at the Met, & will be heading back for a second go in a few days. I am by no means an expert on visual art, & am far from qualified to comment with intellectual sophistication on the subject. I can, however, talk without embarrassment about how I feel in front of a beautiful painting. Good art, in my opinion, is art that does something. Just as my poetic tastes draw me toward pieces that are somehow in motion through time, work that refuses to stagnate in its specific context, my eye is consistently drawn to the painters who bring the canvas to life, often with violence. A good friend once had a poetry teacher who placed a rock in the middle of the table during workshops. He challenged his students to "move the rock" with their poems. Some poems made the rock move, & they were the good ones. I like paintings that move the rock. & I love paintings that throw the rock through a plate-glass window, grazing your face, maybe knocking out a tooth or two.

That's why my favorite Bacon painting is the 1962 triptych titled "Three Studies for a Crucifixion," particularly its central panel. I had never before experienced the painting in person, & therefore had no idea how deeply textured the piece was. The mutilated carcass featured in the center panel literally protrudes from the canvas with such violent grotesquerie that many people walking through the gallery avoided it. Wide-eyed tourists crowded around papal portraits & screaming baboons while I camped out in front of this triptych, captivated by the delicacy of Bacon's violence. This is a startlingly meticulous execution of a human emotion that is anything but delicate. Bacon accomplishes with focused detail what Pollock created with dynamic chaos. Standing in front of this painting, I was struck at once by both panic and arousal. Something about the blood spatters above the carcass is ejaculatory, something about the body's position screams of the post-coital slouch & exhalation. & yet there is blood & horrific mutilation, something like afterbirth surrounding the body's legs. & there's the revelation. Seeing this painting brings me to life. It kills me. And it fucks me senseless. Bacon forces you into a corner, draws your eye up, down, sideways & in, always in, to something so beautifully grotesque that you can't help but want to touch it. It's precisely how I imagine the phenomenon of Crucifixion, & yet the experience of the painting is still startling. Bacon tells the truth you always knew but never wanted to admit. There's something highly projective about his work, something that forces the viewer not only to interpret but to create as she perceives the image. Because of his abstraction of form, & because vibrant blankness is juxtaposed with insistent detail in so much of his work, Bacon gives the viewer the power to experience & not just receive. When you can't keep your mind from racing, when you're faced with the onslaught of not one, but several of the most insistent & consuming physical & emotional responses to phenomena, you are undeniably active. & good art, in my opinion, is art that activates its audience. What draws me to Bacon is what draws me to Brecht, to Olson & Creeley, to Joyce, to Godard. Passivity, when it comes to all of those men, is death. Act, engage, participate always in a process, or fail.