from Volume 2, Issue 4) Sidereality Home Page


Interview with Nick Piombino

Nick Piombino and Toni Simon, 2003
Photo by Nikki Schrager

Conducted by Lewis LaCook


It would be an understatement to say that blogs have caught on with contemporary poets. Blogs, short for "web logs," are a form of online writing resembling online diaries -- entries are datestamped, and often consist of the thoughts and impressions of the "blogger" -- the one who writes the blog.

This said, one can see why the form has become so popular among the poets who migrated into cyberspace. For the poet, blogs offer an opportunity to post first drafts of poems (like Eileen Tabios does on her blog Gasps --, comment on and commend colleagues (Ron Silliman's blog -- -- does this, as well as contextualizes much of what is going on in contemporary poetics) or simply have fun with the form (Jim Behrle's Famous Monkey at pokes fun at the absurdities that sometimes accompany the poet's life these days). Poets have taken the blog and harnessed the web's inherent power of "remediating" (Bill Marsh's term) past communication technologies, writing being chief among them for language artists, transforming the traditional poem into hybrid forms and contexts. A blog is to a poet what Sonic Foundry's Acid Pro is to the sax player.

For New York poet Nick Piombino, the blog is an extension of earlier revelations and praxis. Piombino had already discovered, early on, that his journal entries stood on their own as a strange sort of poetry -- "theoretical objects," poet/publisher Douglas Messerli dubbed them, as much of what pre-occupies Piombino is the relationship among language, community, and time -- and in 1999 Green Integer published Piombino's explorations of this form in a volume named for Messerli's coinage. The book is lit with wry and astute observations on life and art, all filtered through Piombino's exquisite diction (he was, after all, a frequent contributor to the original L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E journal of the late 70s and early 80s, and his essays in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book should be required reading for anyone willing to examine poetry and psychoanalysis side by side and intermingling: Piombino is a certified psychotherapist). Consider, for example, this nugget from Theoretical Objects:

The irony of the situation of contemporary poetry consists of its self-concious, yet unconcious, imitations of the aesthetics of permanence. But things are changing too fast to allow for notions of permanence. Planned obsolescence has ushered in the age of automatic obsolescence -- which finally means simply -- we imitate in all our works our supposition that death is final. 'But the universe is alive!' Things are hidden away, sandwhiched between slices of insignificance. Faster, faster, closer, closer until All combines with Each -- and then go out for a smoke and a breath of fresh air...

from "Automatic Manifesto #1"

Sound like a man on the verge of blogging? Nick Piombino DID make his way to the blog, starting fait accompli ( on February 11, 2003. The September 11 tragedies of 2001 may have pushed Piombino finally toward blogging, at least toward the communities that have sprung up around blogging.

Poet and web artist Bill Marsh has said of fait accompli that " heart, in the middle, underneath (the space of remediation is difficult to manage), the steady return to moments of writing through now written into the domain of Fait Accompli. Offered up as a done deal, the site is nonetheless always recreating itself, dealing again, perhaps just in time to figure things out...." Bill's referring here to Piombino's habit of offering up older poems -- work dating back through the 60s -- on the blog. Nick is adverse to working in a chronological vein -- the objects in Theoretical Objects span the 70s and 90s, and appear in an order best suited for their style and content, as opposed to a strict chronology. This, for me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of the blog as well -- the older poems somehow highlight current strands of thought, as if progress itself were an illusion. As such, its an anti-hierachical approach: or, more precisely, a "poly-hierarchical" approach, in that Nick is obviously viewing the work not as the "master narrative" that peers from every object modernism has left us, but as transparencies, past ideas lying over present thoughts, tracing kinship patterns, sure, but also allowing new shapes to emerge. It's a very zenist approach to composition, and also an approach that lies at the heart of the best of contemporary work.

I was recently granted the opportunity to correspond via email and telephone with Nick about fait accompli and Theoretical Objects:

SMITHSON QUOTED ON FAIT ACCOMPLI: "A great artist can make art by simply casting a glance. A set of glances could be as solid as any thing or place, but the society continues to cheat the artist out of his 'art of looking' by only valuing 'art objects.' The existence of the artist in time is worth as much as the finished product. Any critic who devalues the time of the artist is the enemy of art and the artist. The stronger and clearer the artist's view of time the more he will resent any slander on this domain. By desecrating this domain, certain critics defraud the work and mind of the artist. Artists with a weak view of time are easily deceived by this victimizing kind of criticism, and are seduced into some trivial history. An artist is enslaved by time only if the time is controlled by someone or something other than himself. The deeper the artist sinks into the time stream the more it becomes oblivion; because of this, he must remain close to the temporal surfaces. Many would like to forget time altogether, because it conceals the "death principle" (every authentic artist knows this). Floating in this temporal river are the remnants of art history, yet the "present" cannot support the cultures of Europe, or even the archaic or primitive civilizations; it must instead explore the pre-and post-historic mind; it must go into the places where remote futures meet remote pasts."

Robert Smithson, "A Sedimentation of The Mind: Earth Projects", 1968.

The web is often characterized as ephemeral, and work on the web is at times said to lack an object -- though, of course, this isn't entirely true: programmers speak of objects as collections of properties (traits) and methods (gestures, acts). One "embeds"(a word now stained by the current political regime) a flash object or java applet in an HTML page; indeed, the web teems with objects that lack a certain physicality; it's presence, but a presence we are as yet unused to.

Language seems to share this "object-less physicality" with the web, and can be seen as the REAL prototype for the web. The Smithson quote above fairly screams Lacan, who mapped out the relation between the gaze and desire. But what is being gazed at on the web? Where is the object of desire in your poems, Nick?

NP: I’ve found Robert Smithson far more inspiring to read than Jacques Lacan, who has always struck me as the ultimate pretentious intellectual. Lacan’s writing is composed mainly of terminology, which possibly was outdated by the time his writing appeared in English, maybe by the time it appeared in French, I don’t know, and terminology is a trap, at best, though I indulge in it like any other writer, and any other psychoanalyst. Ever since Freud published his work, many other psychoanalytic theorists have tried to create new architectures while sustaining the old foundation. The best of these were D.W. Winnicott’s and Heinz Kohut’s. As a poet and as a psychoanalyst I’ve found very little of value in Lacan. But maybe you just had to be there to "get the joke." I have a hunch that Lacan, who obviously loved classical psychoanalysis, and seeing that it was already pretty much outdated by the time he arrived on the scene, made a heroic attempt to bring Freud into the present. All these efforts are doomed to fail and also unnecessary. Freud’s ideas, as far as they were successful, and they were very successful, are already completely absorbed into the culture. Lacan may have done more harm than good to psychoanalysis by making it appear more arcane than it actually is in practice, if not in its theoretical manifestations. Much better to read Freud and forget Lacan, in my opinion. Maybe best to start with The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, though, not The Interpretation of Dreams.

If "object of desire"means what am I after in my writing, what do I want from it, this has changed and evolved over the 40 years I have been writing. Early on I was strongly influenced by two cultural movements: psychoanalysis and abstract expressionism. Not long after, in the middle to late 60’s, when I read the work of Ted Berrigan, Vito Acconci, Bernadette Mayer and Jackson Mac Low I found a literary home in the ideas of conceptual art, and this very much included Smithson. I met Smithson only once, we had lunch at Max’s Kansas City, where I was introduced to him by Wayne Timm, an artist I knew who was tending bar there at the time. Smithson expressed his interest in poetry, chided his friend who had joined us who had not been writing any poetry lately. I never saw Smithson again because soon after he was killed in a plane crash in the process of photographing one of his Earthworks. I took a workshop with Ted Berrigan in 1967 who became a friend and helped me to get some early work published. I took a workshop in 1972 with Bernadette Mayer, many of whose ideas about writing more or less took permanent root in me from that time on, and whose work and teaching was a great inspiration. I met Jackson Mac Low in 1967 at an anti-war demonstration and was introduced to him by Allen Ginsberg who I had met in the early 60’s. I took a class with William Burroughs at the City College of New York in 1965, whose work and ideas were also an early influence and inspiration.

Bernadette Mayer at that time worked exclusively by keeping journals. This has been my practice ever since working with her and my journals are the heart of fait accompli. Although I knew Jackson’s work before this and found his methods very inspiring, I did not adapt them for my own. Mayer’s ideas about journal writing allowed me to be both personal and conceptual in my writing, both introspective and theoretical. Many, if not most, contemporary innovative poetic forms, mostly inspired by Ted Berrigan and John Ashbery, call for conversationally-oriented charm, wit and humor, which I enjoy immensely, but are not central concerns in my own work.

One of the advantages of journal writing over conventional poetic practice is the opportunity to think through experiences concerning other people, an interest obviously deepened by the practice of psychoanalysis. After working with people every day for so many years my work began to be consciously based on an assumption that the reader ought to be a co-participant in the creation of the poem. I see my writing practice as mainly concerned with interaction, that is producing interaction as opposed to discussing interaction or assuming interaction or even manifesting interaction: but not necessarily only conscious interaction or even rational interaction. Some of the most productive moments between people are not necessarily clear or even articulated, brought to the surface or revealed; nevertheless, such experiences may be important, crucial or even decisive. This can lead, sometimes, to people not getting proper credit when they deserve it. When I wrote "Explications," I felt exhilarated and it was one of the most freeing experiences of my writing life because it theorized the existence of the poem in the mind of the reader, and not anywhere else.

After the attacks of 9/11, like so many others, I felt a desperate need to connect with a literary community. Charles Bernstein’s SUNY/Buffalo poetics listserv was at hand and I began to exchange ideas with other poets almost every day. This was very productive and helped me to move beyond the resulting fear and chaos. It led to a dialogue with Barrett Watten which was later published by Barrett on a website and in Chain.

When early this year Ron Silliman and Gary Sullivan encouraged me to start a blog I didn’t yet realize that blogging may become the most interactive literary form that has ever existed. It doesn’t have to be so in a plodding, literal way, like composing "collaborations," which can be interesting and worthwhile, but blogging can also be collaborative in a more spontaneous and subliminal way, for example through html linking. What I want from literary practice is for poets to have a more productive exchange, to give and get more credit and enjoy doing the work and sharing the process much, much more than ever before.

The interest on the part of the so-called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets in conceptualizing the poetic process as part of their poetic practice has always impressed and energized me. Also the concern of such practitioners as Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, Douglas Messerli, Leslie Scalapino, Carla Harryman, Ron Silliman and Barrett Watten to encourage recognition for the work of so many poets has been important and inspiring.

What I want from my experience of writing is to discover what I want from life and writing and what I want to have with and from others. Not to proclaim it: to discover it. It goes without saying that approaching art this way means keeping this an open question. This is difficult living in a culture like ours, but not impossible, with more than a little help from my friends.

I just realized that what you are getting at about objects also has to do with the idea of the materiality of the "book" and how that connects with materialism. I have always been troubled by the materialistic aspect of culture and the whole book culture, and the culture of competition and the frequently artificial creation of reputations is part of all of this. This is particularly a problem with males. Males are fiercely competitive and poets are not exempt from the desire to be "top dog." Many, if not all, male poets, and more than a few female poets, indulge in putting down other poets, and comparing poets. Much energy is wasted in trying to reveal the best and the best of the best. This can be seen in the desire to be the one who has the most books in print, be the one most frequently mentioned, be asked most frequently to give readings, be most frequently anthologized, etc. This is equated with success in our culture and is sadly the basis of self-esteem. It is very hard to resist this because there are so few rewards of any kind for doing innovative writing. This might also partly explain the occasional suicidal tendency in older poets when their fame gives way to the successes of younger poets. To get beyond this means to get beyond hierarchical thinking. I think this is at the heart of what motivates many of my poetic theories. Maybe part of the idea of discovering who is best is to try to undermine the way reputations are falsely created. But this will never work. What has to happen for all this to change is for writers to be positioned to acknowledge the importance of other people in their lives, all the other people, not just the kingpin people, and not just other artists and poets, alive or dead, known or little known; I am interested in this sort of acknowledgement being an important aspect of the process of my writing. Every aspect of living is collaborative; therefore, every aspect of thinking and saying is collaborative and it not enough just to say this and acknowledge it. We must go further.

I’ve always seen existence as a weave of dependencies -- and dependency should here be stripped of its negative stain, a stain that has come to adhere to it in the United States, where anything that might deface or diffuse the individual is seen as harmful and "the enemy" (this is the heart --despite the obvious tragedy -- of the current bewilderment and political bullying heading the foreign policy decisions of the United States: how could someone do that, we wonder, safely intstalled in the sovereignty of our cars --how could one succumb to such a mentality?) . It’s cliché, but really, telling someone that "It’s all connected" is both the most reassuring and true thing one can impart.

You mention in this context the idea of interactivity. I would ask, then, this (which is all too often, on the environment of listservs, far too heated a debate): is there bad faith in embracing the computer as a means of literary production, especially in the case of the "programmer-poet"? I know one thing has has often disappointed me in writing about and being an audience for what is touted on the web as "digital poetry" or hypermedia is that it’s far too often too self-referential, and therefore missing the whole idea of the "network" entirely. Why aren’t more of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets experimenting with hypermedia and computer forms other than the blog? I feel often that the basic skeleton of what these poets could be said to be seeking in their individual works collectively is the very meat of hypermedia, and that many of these poets would, if they were so inclined, make incredible and innovative net.artists. Will Ron Silliman ever write code? And what, from your perspective, both as a blog artist and a poet and a human being, is the relation of code to poetry? To living?

NP: Honestly, Lewis, I don't have a clue about why L=A=N=G=U-A=G-E poets don't embrace hypermedia. Your guess would be much better than mine. I only have a very passing interest in it myself. The L=A poets love Jackson Mac Low's work but they rarely use such randomizing techniques themselves. Jackson once asked me why I seemed to admire his work so much but don't use any of these techniques myself. I can only guess it is generational thing. I still do all my writing by hand, for example.

My guess would be that L=A poets, despite their interest in the objective qualities of language, greatly value opinions, as most of them were and are intensely political. Since I am not greatly interested in machine made poetry myself, I haven't looked into this area very much. My interests in blogging have nothing at all to do with such things.

But it seems to me that that generation's political thrust jibes quite well with the political thrust of hypermedia and net art...

It's interesting what you say about Mac Low -- but much of what I read in your "Confessions of a Blog Artist" also point in the direction of hypermedia, or at least are ideas important to me as one working in hypermedia...and it seems that the same things have attracted us to this still-very-young medium...

Machine-generated poetry is of course a variant of hypermedia, but it's one small part. You write in "Confessions of a Blog Artist" that interactivity and collaborative effort were what drew you to the blog medium -- and how this helps subvert the traditional hierarchy of cultural workers:

"With most bloggers, from one degree to another, you have the sense of being potentially invited over (to their blog, of course) for a chat which is very unlike the one-way street of culture industry products. I think this could create much more space for a collaborative and interactive literary community. Contentiousness may seem so frank and honest, but since most writers feel the need to be interested in advancing their own work and names, how can you believe their critical opinions which naturally tend to be advantageous towards themselves? Blogging offers an alternative where each person is their own literary producer and operates from a perspective of equality to neighboring blogs or the universe of blogs."

I feel this also ties in with idea of dependency...after 9/11, you wrote that you needed a deeper sense of community, of consensus...however, doesn't too much consensus lead to a monological paradigm? (Please don't misunderstand me -- I'm not being contentious here, just trying to fit net art and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets into a context --)

NP: Lionel Trilling wrote: "Our culture peculiarly honours the act of blaming, which it takes as a sign of virtue and intellect." In my experience of poets' social clustering, there are invariably a few who take it on themselves to dismiss certain other poets as not worthy of recognition or admiration. And there are others, who struggle to bring recognition to as many poets that they like as possible. There is one poet who I know who is nearly always intentionally nasty to any new poet acquaintance of mine who he would see me talking to at a reading or event. It took me literally years to figure out that this was his way of keeping control of the social grouping. If all the poets in the circle were friends or fans of his, he could try to keep absolute control of the opinions of the group. He has been doing this for over 25 years. Another technique of his was to come to every reading of mine and praise my work highly to my face. However, he has never once in a quarter of a century mentioned my name in print or in any interview, or quoted my work, or complimented my work at all in any way that could be documented, although he has had countless opportunities. Famously, Andre Breton would dismiss certain poets from the surrealist circle if he felt they were no longer deserving of participation, according to his whims. The other day I had a warm conversation with a poet who professed much love for me, and my work, but he immediately dismissed any attempt on my part to mention blogging or bloggers. After awhile, when people have no questions at all to ask me about what I am doing, or my work, they can tell me how much they love me or my work all they want, I know they are not being honest. They just want to get along and count on my "vote" and I guess that is fine, sort of. When a person is really interested in someone, they never lose their curiosity about what they are doing. They want to know more and more details. The rest is politics as usual.

The way poets evolve a reputation is a complex thing, but in many ways it has a great kinship with advertising and politics. Advertisers compete for claims of quality, so do groups of poets, so do magazines, critics, academic departments, and others who set themselves up or are set up as experts. Blogging, as it has evolved in the circle of bloggers I am a part of, does not work this way. It is more like the "wild west." Bloggers stake their "claims" in the mostly free zone of weblogging, just as miners went out west and filed for a claim. Response comes or it doesn't. Who is to say what is "good and bad" in poetry or prose? Time and again, historically, writers were acclaimed during their lives but were forgotten immediately after their deaths. The reason? Often their fame depended more on their editing and anthologizing and politicking and less on any actual interest in their writing. There is no "pure" way to become known as a poet. You just have to take your chances and do the best you can.

Of course I am pleased when I have some work or a book published or when someone, like you Lewis, interviews me, or someone like Clayton Couch asks to feature me on a website. I am grateful, proud and honored. In reality, however, such things happen as a result of a kind of literary and/or social mutual attraction and that is very gratifying to all parties. But others will feel overlooked and will feel that time and space is being wasted on my work. This is expectable and very human. Is this a move to create consensus? I don't think so. It is a move to make some work more known that somebody likes, for whatever reason. It is a kind of advertising and that's what people have to do in our culture to draw attention to something or someone, and has no intrinsic legitimacy over any other publicizing that anyone else is doing. But when this is done, of course, others feel excluded and ask "Why not me? My work is far more interesting. Or, why not so and so. She deserves more attention than she is getting." There is something essentially unfair about the way opportunities emerge that will never be totally eradicated. But at least with blogging it has little or nothing to do with money, fame, or social advantage. Each blogger stands on their own. I like the dailiness of blogging, and this tends to downplay the portentous "arrival" of a book or an issue of a magazine. 99.999% of what is published is forgotten in the long run no matter what anybody does, consensus or no consensus, critics or no critics. That's just the way it is. Only time determines intrinsic quality in writing and art and nothing else.

You write time and time again that what you value in blogging is its dailiness, its diaristic qualities, and there’s much in your book Theoretical Objects that reads like a diary. At one point in the book you assert that poetry and psychoanalysis are competing paradigms; as one who has seen analysts in the past, I know that one of the first steps one takes in therapy is the composing of a journal. What do you see as the major differences between writing "poetry" and writing a blog or a book of "theoretical objects"?

Another issue you touch on is the perceived ephermeral quality of writing on the web. You describe the arrival of a book or magazine as "portentous," and mention how blogging downplays this. And yet there are signs that many literary and art web sites succumb regularly to "archive fever" -- Rhizome’s artBase is a famous example of this as applied to How do you view archiving? Is an archive vulnerable to political motivation?

NP: When I refer to blogging's dailiness I am not thinking only of its diaristic qualities. Ordinary diaries are private. If a psychoanalyst were to recommend journaling (by the way, this is far from a standard recommendation) it would probably be for the patient to have the opportunity to practice free association. Everyday conversation is anything but free associative, though without any aspect of free association conversations are awfully unimaginative and tedious. When people completely free associate in everyday life it is received in one of two ways: as humor or as craziness. I have this hunch that the success of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy arose with the complete success of competition as a way of life, along with the demise of religion among intellectuals. Today it is most uncool, particularly for a male, to talk freely under any circumstances. Expressiveness would involve openness about feelings and this is all but impossible under severely competitive conditions. This is why talking privately with nearly any male (for another male) is usually so boring. "Everything is fine, just fine." Then there is talking about the sports you both know, the news you both know, with all the opinions you both know, the gossip you both know, the books you both know, the movies and tv shows with all opinions about them you both already knnow, the shop talk you both know, "Yeah I feel great, terrific, things are going great, I just got a raise (a new book, article, award, won a tournament, got a part in a play, etc., etc.)." Thus the complete success of psychotherapy. Anonymous sharing of feelings with a trusted professional so you can get back in there are say "Great, fine, terrific" with all your "close" friends.

Weblogging is not like writing a diary. It is more about trying to be open with others in a more honest and personal way. I always smile to myself when people say to me so proudly: "Oh, I would NEVER put my diary online." One of the most popular blogs is that of Jim Behrle and I think this is because he is attempting to be open about his personal dilemmas. His blog reminds me sometimes of the comedian Richard Lewis. They are able to be very funny by telling how they really feel, while giving the impression that they themselves think what they are experiencing is very funny.

My blog fait accompli is unusual because I've kept a literary journal for a long time and have previously published very little of it. It is a very therapeutic experience for me because every day it confirms a maxim I live by: "Take a backward look and transform it into a forward step." I created this koan for myself in an attempt to rid myself of regrets and this effort, so far, knock on wood, has been quite successful. I have always been fascinated by time and doing fait accompli has taught me that the past is a fiction in the sense that once events are past, we have to try to understand that when we replay them in our minds the word "happen" no longer applies. While things in the past have occurred, when we replay them in our minds we have a sense of ongoingness. This is an illusion. Even though the results live on, and sometimes the feelings, since we cannot change these events the only action we can take is understanding. This is the whole point behind Freud's central insight: neurotics suffer from reminiscences.

What I mean by the dailiness of blogging is a dailiness of connecting with other writers. On blogs poetic work is seen for what it truly is: provisional. I had always loved the finality of books. I am quite sure I loved books so much because my father was such a closed and secretive man. Authors were all the wise fathers and mothers who would share their inner feelings, thoughts and memories with me, something my father was unable to do. But I had to imagine all the interactions with them in my own mind based on the dialogues, in the case of the novel, and the reactions of other writers to their ideas in the case of non-fiction. I was after the wise words my father did not offer me. I went to psychoanalysis for a long time for the same reason. Eventually I learned that, as the poet James Schuyler put it: "The past is past/ I salute that various field." But I don't only salute it. The trick I learned was to convert feelings about the past into knowledge I can apply to the present and the future.

I have pretty much lost interest in a certain idea of writing -- whether poetry or fiction -- that presents itself as a permanent object to be reread -- like a piece of sculpture or a painting in a museum. I like the idea of writing that presents itself as an image of thought and interaction in the here and now -- but not in a literal way -- in a way that includes the unconscious and precognitive dimensions. Douglas Messerli gave me the phrase "theoretical objects" to describe the writing I had been doing in my journals. I loved it because I was trying to theorize about what I could do with writing that would more closely meet my needs. The poet Elizabeth Fodaski started a magazine called Torque and was the first editor to specifically ask me for pieces like this for her magazine. I edited "Theoretical Objects" (Green Integer, 1999) with the help of Toni Simon. She loved my "automatic manifestoes" which where free associative theoretical objects. I had complained to her countless times about many aspects of being a poet. Once she said: "So why don't you write about that?" In putting together "Theoretical Objects" I went to my journal entries and published writings, and chose mostly works which explored such issues having to do with the process of writing and the life of the writer. Many of these pieces were diary-like. I began to realize that most contemporary poetry, probably all modern writing, was an excuse to express one's feelings, under cover of serious literary intent. Thus an opportunity for expressing and communicating one's feelings and experiences could now be subsumed under the universally acceptable and obsessive competitive drive for achievement and personal power and recognition.

As for the ephemeral aspects of weblogging, blogs are no more ephemeral than any other kind of writing. Interaction is considered ephemeral while speeches and monologues are considered permanent. This is because interaction involves another person and how can you copyright this? Under cover of art "movements" the collaborative nature of all art can be manifested. But the typical artist uses a "movement" mostly to launch their own work and then goes on their own way to seek "fame and fortune,"make a name for themselves. It is a sad fact of contemporary life that self-esteem must be based on the achievement of personal recognition and making a "name" for oneself. There is little choice about this. This is the way the human mind functions. But that doesn't mean this is desirable or even healthy. To opt out of this means mostly to be left out and left alone.

As for websites, there is a fundamental difference between weblogs and websites. Websites want to restore the illusion of "permanence" and so are presentable as unchangeable and unchanging.

The solitary nature of the drive for personal achievement leads to a "poetics of disappointment" and intense personal depression for many, if not most, writers. This leads, in turn, to a drive towards grandiosity and personal power and "leadership" for some, which contributes to a manic-depressive cycle.

The scientific paradigm of a new discovery outdating all other discoveries when applied to the arts leads to a cul-de-sac. The arts need a different concept of time which is cyclical. Contemporary art and writing seek the timeless by means of "originality." "Originality" is a way of restoring a false, useless and manipulative concept of personal power and dominance. This is how so-called "critics" make a name for themselves and a living, by choosing themselves as experts who will determine what are the original minds. Poetry is not "news that stays news." Poetry is an anachronism because it is based on a false concept of original ideas. Creativity is collaborative in its essence. All art and poetry is an ensemble. Blogging is a form of writing that may have some possibility of temporarily transcending some of these false paradigms. By publishing one's work on a daily or nearly daily basis, poetry can reveal more of its process oriented and interactive components. Just as the internet brought more speed and simultaneity into the scientific community, blogging is capable of bringing many more communicative and social aspects into the writing community. However, as in all attempts to bring community into artistic life, it will be countered by the drive for commercial applications and the drive for individual dominance.

As for the point about archives, I understand that accumulating history is viewed as "conservative." But archives also preserve a record of the interactive components of weblogging.

You also mention, in both personal conversation and various texts, how you view time in relation to a poet's development. You admit that Theoretical Objects is not chronological; but how do you feel about the blog format's use of datestamps? Would you get rid of datestamps on your blog altogether? And how does this view of time relate to your love of diaristic writing?

NB: I like the time and date stamps on blogger. For one thing, with these one can sort of guess when someone’s blogged writing might be a response to something someone wrote earlier, whether intentional or not.

For a long time when doing fait accompli I would sometimes try to "echo" the date -- i.e., I might place something from September long ago on a date in September in the present. Early on I started to notice lots of synchronicities between what I was thinking and feeling at the time of the entry and what I was experiencing at the moment of putting it on my blog. Now, when I read back I see quite a lot of intentional and unintentional correspondences. One of the things I mean by time travel is to notice when events in the present correspond to events in the past. I might also try to find entries in my diaries that correspond to certain experiences I am going through now, or put entries next to each other that are ten or more years apart that have correspondences. When I go back and read fait accompli I see that I am frequently working on similar literary issues over long spans of time. Well over ten years ago I realized that I was writing quite a lot about issues having to do with time, memory, and sort of "planted" references to time travel, some of them bordering on a kind of fiction writing. I loved when I came across these when putting entries on fait accompli.

Sometimes I like to go back into my archives and other bloggers’ archives to look at certain issues that were being discussed. It is particularly interesting to read some of the blog entries during the war in Iraq. That moment in time had a big effect on bloggers, many of whom were very active in anti-war demonstrations.

When I write about the "portentousness" of a book or a magazine, I am specifically thinking of the hopes and expectations that go into the publication of a book. I think poets think of books like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass or collections of Emily Dickenson, Rilke’s Duino Elegies, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal etc., even Olson’s "Maximus" poems and so on, that emerged in a different era of poetry publication. These books in turn echoed countless earlier milestones, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, etc. Nada Gordon’s recent echoes of Whitman, for me, bring home the necessarily ambivalent feelings of a writer in the post-modern era in regard to the classics. There is Adorno’s oft-repeated comment about the impossibility of poetry after Auschwitz. He was thinking, of course, of the classics. But he was also thinking of what might happen to people emotionally, people like Celan, who directly experienced the results of these events and who dwelt too much inside their emotions the way poets used to and thought too much about these things. There is an important relationship between emotional survival and forgetting. We don’t desire cultural "forgetting"and this brings us into the role of the poet in contemporary life. This role has everything to do with history and how it is to be interpreted in contemporary life.

Book culture has a very different relationship to time than blog culture. I am fascinated by the fact that I feel impelled to blog every day, much the way a diarist might feel impelled to write something in their diary every day. I have a group of readers and this group changes over time, of course. I was saying to you earlier on the telephone today that when I was a child I wanted to be a pianist. Since my parents traveled they insisted on my taking up the accordion, but this may have had to do also with my father’s Italian background. I never liked the instrument because I was interested in playing Chopin. Now when I blog from my notebooks I like to imagine that I am playing a musical instrument from my notes. As I write in response to you now, I am writing from notes but also ignoring them, in a kind of improvisational way, but then I am going back to them and consulting them. I like the way diaries and blogs dwell on the details and specifics of everyday life. This creates a flow that is more akin to everyday life than fiction, for me. On blogs, for instance, poems are particular events, not part of a collection. I like to see the way poems jump out at you in a surprising way on a blog, when you least expect it. Collections of poetry, by definition, lack this sense of surprise. Even worse, poets feel compelled to make all the works look the same, as if this were a virtue. I find that boring, so I like to try out all kinds of different forms and vary them in my collections of writings.

Bloggers, when they post daily, or frequently, are not necessarily constructing a collection of works to publish, though I do hope to publish my journal writings on fait accompli. This book would not be unlike my book Theoretical Objects. But with Theoretical Objects I felt uncomfortable with being too obvious about the fact that I was somewhat jumping around chronologically in putting together the collection. I was "time traveling" but I didn’t know it yet. In the collections I am now putting together I will include the dates, but I probably will also have an introduction to explain what I have been trying to do in fait accompli. I didn’t do this on the blog because I have been proceeding intuitively.

I became interested in literary diaries when I realized that that they had many of the features of fiction that I liked, but I also liked the sense of experiencing the daily life of the writer in raw form, less edited. Real life doesn’t flow like a conventional narrative, which has to supply a point and some suspense. I like to focus on the writer’s philosophical musings, but the literary journal also allows for much more insight into the writer’s everyday conflicts, ambivalences, doubts, anxieties. In fiction, whether you are looking at a hero, or anti-hero, the writer feels she or he has to satisfy the critics and be amusing and interesting and find a way to deliberately hold your attention. I prefer it if the writer actually takes a risk to be boring in the conventional meaning of the term -- that is, telling you their actual feelings, their confusions, their superstitions, their secret hopes and expectations. I am interested when writers violate the everyday boundary between private and public, but not in the usual way, that is, to be "shocking." In novels, the writer has to be "interesting." I often get very bored when people feel they have to be "interesting." People always wonder if I get bored listening to patients. The fact is, when you care about someone you never get bored. People get bored when they forget how to care, and then they need all kinds of stimulants just to get through everyday life. Then they get bored with the stimulants because they are no longer surprised by their reactions. Caring is the great stimulant. You do become vulnerable when you care -- but maybe it is more interesting to feel hurt than to feel isolated.


Copyright 2003 sidereality Publishing