What follows is the complete email correspondence between Nick Piombino and Ramez Qureshi (b.1972 -d.2001):
Date: Sat, 5 Feb 2000 22:56:13 EST
Subject: Re: Theoretical Objects
Dear Nick Piombino:
My name is Ramez Qureshi, & I lurk on the UB Poetics List. I found your
recent post on your titles interesting, especially since I happen to be doing
a review of _Theoretical Objects_ (for the e-zine _Lynx_). I was just
wondering whether you could help me out a bit and tell me whether these
"objects" were written exclusively in the 90's or whether you wrote any in
Subject: Re: Theoretical Objects
Dear Ramez Qureshi:
Thanks for your note. I appreciate your letting me know about your review of Theoretical Objects for Lynx. I have not seen this e-zine but I've heard about it. Thanks also for your response to my posting for the titles thread on the poetics list.
About the history of my "theoretical objects." Assembling them took on a life of its own as I searched through the various temporal and conceptual layers that make up my work for the origins of these theoretical objects. One of the earliest TO's, "Time Bomb" was written as an in-class assignment in Bernadette Mayer's workshop in 1972. The assignment was to do a piece of writing as if were the last piece of writing you would ever do. In contradiction to what I said about titling on the list, this title was created for the publication of the piece in this book. The original piece had been left untitled.
The earliest theoretical object in this book, also originally left untitled, by the way, is "Transformation of Objects," probably written around 1970. Some pieces like "Rapid Transit", "Unidentified Theoretical Object" and "Vows", date from the middle to late 70's to the middle 80's. There are a couple of others from the 80's including "X" which was written in 1985 and was published in the premier issue of "Avec" (edited by Cydney Chadwick) in 1988. "Solitaire" notes the year it was written (1987 ) in the text itself.
The opening sequence, the "Automatic Manifestoes" were all written in the 90's for successive issues of "Ribot", edited by Paul Vangelisti, from #2 in 1994, through the most recent, Ribot #7 edited in 1999 by Paul Vangelisti and Standard Schaefer (just published). Automatic Manifesto #7 is in the current issue of Boundary 2 in a selection edited by Charles Bernstein. There are also a number of other theoretical objects written in the 90's and previously unpublished and others written in the 90's and published in Aerial, Potepoetzine, Situation, Torqe, Avec, The Gertrude Stein Awards, Witz , Rhizome and Crayon. All of the works in Theoretical Objects appear here in book form for the first time.
As in my first book "Poems" (Sun and Moon, 1988), the work is not arranged chronologically, but more on a thematic basis, yet not so much thematically in the sense of content, but more in the sense of sonically interconnected and recurring verbal, rhythmic, and musical motifs.
Since you lurk on the poetics list you probably already know about my author's page on the EPC-(www.wings.buffalo. edu/epc/authors/piombino).Perhaps you've already noticed the material available through the "google" search engine.
If you have any other questions, please let me know. My snail mail address is 119 West 95th Street, #3, NY, NY 10025. Please email me or mail me a copy of the review. Thanks again for your interest.
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 19:55:56 EST
Subject: Re: Theoretical Objects
Dear Nick Piombino:
This is Ramez Qureshi. You may recall that I wrote you regarding your latest
from Green integer, Theoretical Objects. You gave me a generous reply for
which I am most grateful. You had asked to see my review when completed.
Although issue of 15 of Lynx is not yet out, the review is on the web, at
I'd love to know what you think of it. I don't think I've done justice to
your work, but anyhow... I'd like to know why it is, that unlike other
"Language poets" (I don't know how you feel about this label; I do know you
did appear in "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E") your poetry does tend toward the lyrical.
This is one aspect of your work I did not explore, and which I may in an
expanded essay form of this review. Anyway, do tell me what you think.
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 20:03:43 EST
Subject: theoretical objects, address correction
Dear Nick Piombino:
sorry, wrong address, its,
just left out the "/"
Subject: Re: Theoretical Objects
Thanks for letting me know that you have completed your review of TO. However, unfortunately, I do not have access to the Web at present. If it is possible, I would appreciate your sending it to me via email, although I will understand completely if you do not feel comfortable sending it. If so, I am sure that someone will look it up for me soon and send me a copy.
As for the lyrical aspect of my work, I think this derives from my love of music. When I was a very young child I was interested particularly in the piano, but since my family traveled (my father was an Army officer) this interest was deflected by my being provided with an accordion, an instrument which I almost grew to like, but never quite. As a high school student I sang in the chorus, as a tenor, and even joined the "all city" chorus, which sang at Carnegie Hall once a year. But soon my voice descended to halfway between tenor and baritone, and that was over. Not long after this I discovered poetry, which to me seemed to be a kind of verbal music making, and I have always since then wanted to highlight this musical aspect in my writing. By the way, I have a piece about music in the latest, and possibly final, issue of Ribot, which is devoted to the theme of music in poetry.
Once again, I very much appreciate your interest in my work.
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 19:11:39 EST
Subject: Re: Theoretical Objects
Dear Nick Piombino:
Thank You for sharing your background in music with me. I did see your piece
in Ribot, which I did enjoy. What did you think of Standard Schaefer's
prelude? (I found it pitch-perfect). About your lyrical bent though. You give
me illuminating material for source criticism. Is there anything you can add
in the theoretical vein about why you, unlike other Lang poets have elected
the lyric. I have attached my essay, as I've found it inaccessible through
internet browsers. Please let me know what you think about it.
Attachment converted: Macintosh Hard Disk:PIOMBI~2.DOC (WDBN/MSWD) (0000F997)
Re: Musical Objects
I was able to get a copy of your article, "Musical Objects" though another browser today, not my own. I was delighted by the emphasis on music, musical structure, the quotes, psychoanalysis, and I appreciated your enthusiasm and the entire article immensely. When will it appear in Lynx? I got a brief glimpse of the February issue and it looked very interesting.
I need to think a little more about your question about Language poets and the issue of lyricism. A lot of so-called language poetry comes across as anti-lyrical when it stays with irony and sarcasm, when it is tough. intellectual, critical and confrontational. But sometimes, maybe I am reading in, but I find lyricism in it the way I might have once found it in Godard movies like Weekend or Alphaville. I am working on writing something more specific about this for you, where I talk about the multiplicity of voices in language poetry, which maybe at times are too dutifully intellectualized and philosophically worked out, yet I do find a touching lyricism in poets remaining so committed to an ideal or ideals. I find an intense level of commitment to thorough going ideas, political and philosophical critique, along with innovative approaches to poetic process, to be lyrical in the sense that it is contains a perhaps covered over, or ironicized, hope for the future, for a future for poetry, for poetry to be a changing and dynamic field, which incorporates what it has already learned and moves on. All of this is better, to me, than being too overly worried about, in ones poetry, personal passages through the tests of individual life. It's just that I started to want my work to have something in it that a person in pain could hold on to, even if this work sometimes might look less like innovative writing and a little more like the old affirmative, or supportive approaches[Come to think of it , this reminds me of a distinction which might be made between the, for me, earlier formalistic Freudian approaches to psychoanalysis and the more contemporary, for me, approaches best characterized as relational or "self psychology" as discussed by Heinz Kohut, let's say.]This is different from a lot of language poetry. Juliana Spahr wrote about this in discussing my book Light Street in one of the issues of Witz, saying my work is more about healing than most language poetry, "we're here, so how do we keep from going crazy" she wrote, characterizing Light Street. Of course, this may come partly from my experiences in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, but you are right to mention Rilke also. I'd like to hear what you think, and to discuss this further with you.
Again, I appreciated your piece about my Theoretical Objects very much. By the way, you mentioned the Barnard Colloquium and some upcoming events here today on the poetics list. Are you living in New York ? How is it that you write for Lynx, located in Bath, England?
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 21:11:05 EST
Subject: Re: Musical Objects
What a letter! It certainly made me think about some things I haven't
considered before. I am gratified that you liked the piece. I do live in New
York (Westchester), but came to know of Lynx through the poetryetc listserve,
run by John Kinsella in England. Its a rather interesting discussion group.
Discussion ranges from twentieth century international modernism (Rilke,
Cavafy) to Olson, Spicer & company. Participants hail from all over the
world. Some people from the UB list participate, including Pierre Joris. I'm
not sure when the issue is coming out.
Anyhow, yes, I never realized the lyrical impulse you've pinpointed for me in
Langpo. I'm reminded of Bloch on the utopian in art. One thing I didn't (and
I was quite conscious about leaving it out) discuss in my review was your
politics. Your prose in _L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E_ was very left-wing, even, correct
me if I'm wrong because I've gotten into trouble with using this label
before, Marxist. Yet, I detected only two overt political references in your
book. What were your subtextual politics, if any? You mention _Weekend_. This
happens to be one of my favorite films! Certainly, that utopian impulse is
there. I'm not too sure about this analogue, but so is the direction, that
long tracking shot, the close-up scene with the Marx voice-over, which may
correspond to LangPo's innovative use of form. But what is also in Weekend is
not just a lyricgeist, but a lyrical materialism, say the use of red paint,
whose lyrical materialism is your musicality, which one simply does not find
in most Language poetry. A qualification. Your musicality, like Langpo, does
not seem to be voice-based, more instrumented? Does this make sense? Perhaps
I am projecting my own fledgling poetics here. But do you see what I'm
driving at. Yes, you have pointed out a lyricgeist common to much of Langpo,
but on the material level, yours remains a unique lyricism.
Thu Mar 23 23:30:18 2000
Subject: Re: Political Objects
I've appreciated our exchange very much and have been thinking a lot about your question about my subtextual politics. This is a hard question for me to answer. It is clear to me that my political orientation grew out of being an activist in anti-war politics during the Vietnam war era, as well as my formal training in Social Work. I have worked as a Social Worker since 1965, shortly after I graduated from the City College of New York. At college I was an English major, an interest which deepened considerably during the honors sequence in literature which I participated in. However, shortly before I graduated I decided I couldn't go forward with professional training in this area for a number of reasons. First, I did not feel comfortable with the idea of teaching as a profession, especially since I had been already writing poetry since High School and felt that if I had to undergo the repetition of constantly discussing literature formally I would not be able to continue writing in an ongoing way. Although I loved the reading and writing, at the time the experience of public discussions of literature made me feel very uncomfortable. To some extent, this is still true, although I do not have the discomfort with public speaking I had then. This is probably the result of giving poetry readings at least yearly, and in recent years several times a year, since the early 70's. I had been interested in psychoanalysis since High School, so after a couple of years of working in the field of Social Work I went on to get my degree and in the late 70's obtained a certification as a psychoanalyst.
One of the things that steers me away from writing or talking about politics in a formal way is similar to my feeling of writing about literature or even psychoanalysis in a formal way. This is due to what I might call the necessarily forced "logic" of linear dialogic talking, thinking or writing. This is another reason why I like innovative writing, or even innovative talking such as occurs in psychoanalysis. Marxists talk about the dialectic. But where is the dialectic when people talk publicly? I find that when people take official positions, or talk in a formal way about very complex things which are usually less obviously accompanied by very strong emotions they frequently seem artificial, robotic, repetitive, naive, sarcastic, ironic, manipulative, etc., etc. That is to say, false. This is what I found in my English classes in college, this is how I find how people are when they talk in courses, seminars, even lectures. So often they are trying to be impressive, put on airs, become pompous and try to one up everybody else in the room. One of the reasons I've always been attracted to poetry is that innovative or risk taking poetry tends to take what I am saying here as a given. Why is inner thinking so different from the way people talk? Frequently poetry seems so much more like the way thinking takes place than talking, especially formal talking as takes place when people are discussing their opinions, especially in a formal context.
I guess this is why I have trouble with the idea of discussing my "politics." Or with any kind of discussion of "politics." As soon as such discussions get started, generalities take place which seem to have so little to do with what people actually feel about what happens and why they want to live the way they do and relate to other people the way they do. As far as politics, I certainly value the idea of generosity, I certainly value the idea of people trying to help each other. But long before pieces of the Berlin wall were put up for sale in little boxes, I distrusted Communism, or the idea of people being forced to be generous to each other. I remember Lenny Bruce's joke about comparing a communist country to one big telephone company. Having worked in bureaucracies all my life I quickly understood the hopelessness of organizing entire countries around the idea of a state bureaucracy.
This is probably the best I can do right now around the idea of a subtextual politics. I loved Godard because he presented the situation of workers very honestly, the situation of the primitive emotions underlying everyday life so clearly and with great lyricism but also with unapologetic intellectuality. I am not the first person to notice the great disparity between the impulses of intellectuality and the impulses of revolutionary communism. For me, it goes back to the whole talking issue I was writing about above. I think until people learn how to talk to each other more rigorously, more extensively, more imaginatively, as occurs in psychoanalysis, their talk will never equal the rigorousness of thinking in advanced forms of intellectuality. If I would hazard a guess, this is also the problem of representative democracy. Not only do people distort when they talk in order to get their own way and advance their own beliefs, or their own egos or political power, but they also have very short attention spans and do not talk long enough and rigorously to really get to the core issues, to the very complexity of the core issues they really think about and respond to and almost constantly worry about within themselves.
As for the voice based or instrumented, I very much like your idea of the instrumented musicality in the kind of poetics I am interested in.
Once again, I very much value our correspondence and your questions, as well as your generous support. I've also enjoyed your comments on the poetics list.
You mentioned that you live in Westchester. Do you also work there? Are you taking a degree right now?
Very best wishes,
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 23:57:29 EST
Subject: Re: Wandering Objects
I too have enjoyed our communication, and although I have been a bit
remissive on my end, I do hope it continues. I know this is not a poem, but
as you can see, I liked your piece in _Rhizome_, and this missive has finally
wandered through my unconscious, through cyberspace, to your scopic field.
Did you read my review in _Rhizome_? It was the first review I ever wrote
actually, last August. I've done six more since, a piece on labor for
_Tripwire_ on Olivier Cadiot's _Art Poetic'_ being the most recent; I haven't
heard from David Buck about that one yet. Your "Wandering Poems" piece has
actually inspired an as yet unwritten response of my own, which is
drastically in danger of being too derivative!
You asked me the "what to you do?" question. I always hate when this comes up
(not to inculpate you in anyway, thanks for your interest). I got my B.A. at
UPenn in '93. (Yes, chatted with Perelman once) Started doing grad work
there, but came down with a severely disabling case of what was initially
diagnosed as bipolar, then paranoid schizophrenia, then bipolar again, then
schizoaffective, now some sort of bipolar. This would interest you
considering your field, I suppose! I am on x, y, & z (I
know as a psychoanalyst you don't prescribe meds; don't know if your among
those who are agitating for the right to do so, as is allowed in France). I
was initially very hostile to psychiatry, being unsoberly under the influence
of the Foucault of _Madness and Civilization_ (As someone who "does Theory"
what do you think of him?). I felt the "psy sector" to be right wing,
enforcing conformity, adaptation to society, rather than changing society. I
have, though, finally found a good doctor who is also a gifted therapist. I
do like your idealist model for the transference/counter-transference scene,
and think it does present a progressive political spin to the "psy sector,"
besides all the good social work they do. Oh, back to me, I obtained an M.A.
this year from Bath Spa University College in England via the e-mail. I am
currently undergoing job-training. I have been accepted as part of the
inaugural class of the M.F.A. program at Otis College in L.A., where I will
be teaching Reading and Semiotics, and studying with Ray Dipalma, Leslie
Scalipino, Paul Vangelisti, Dennis Phillips. I'm pretty excited about this.
Financially, I am provided with room and board by my parents, and subsist
aesthetically on SSI. I'm looking for a part-time summer job. I'm currently
taking an arts journalism course at Purchase.
I have read your essay on the "Aural Ellipsis." Brian Kim Stefans told me
I must read _CL_ after we had a brief discussion on sound in contemporary
poetry. I had foolishly avoided _CL_ because I'm more of a reader than an
auditor, but I couldn't believe all the fantastic stuff, including yours, I'd
been missing. I think I can now explain your antipathy toward style: as a
psychoanalyst you consider it thanatotic, no? Also, if poetry is talk, a sort
of transference (as in "automatic" [ally written] manifestos), thus
voice-based, then whence the instrumentality -- you see the aporia. Anyhow,
I'm being disorganized but one issue that struck with with the A.E. was
pan-textuality, the Derridran theme of the literary and non-literary: to what
extent is there always an A.E? (This theme of pan-textuality came up in your
Rhizome piece also, in which I loved your conceit of reversing our typical
notion of the economy of "poems" and "poetry"). Let me quote you some Lacan
here (I don't know what you think of him), from "What is a Picture?" in _Four
Fundamental..._ "There is something whose absence can always be observed in a
picture -- which is not the case in perception..." May I be a bit
synesthaesic? Lacan goes on to say that this is a central field, and that
what is missing involves what he calls the dialectic of identification, which
connects, I think to the mirror stage. How does this relate to the a.e? And,
the million dollar question, what about the artwork endows it with this
"aura?" In the same essay, Lacan says the artist is motivated by thanatos. Do
you agree? How does this tie in? Style? Incidentally, there seems to be no
a.e. in music, no? Explanation. The sign/ Emergence of the symbolic against
the purely imaginary (as in music).
Well, I've told you a bit about myself, asked about your work. I'm
trying to get my paws on "Boundaries of Blur" and your Sun & Moon volume. Do
you live in NYC yourself? Who is Toni Simon? Please do write back to me when
you can, I'm eager to hear from you.
Subject: Re: Physical Objects (Books)
I will be writing a full answer to your letter, but meanwhile I would like to send you copies of my other books. By the way, do you have my book "Light Street" published by Zasterle? Please send your snail mail address and I will send out the books right away.
Thanks for your quick response to my "Wandering Poem" piece. I haven't yet received my copy of Rhizome. Looking forward to seeing your piece therein.
Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 22:43:38 EDT
Subject: Re: Physical Objects (Books)
Thanks so much for your offer! No, I don't have "Light Street."
My address is:
34 Black Birch Lane
Scarsdale, NY 10583
Alpha-60: What illuminates the night?
Lemmy Caution: Poetry.
Subject: Re: Physical Objects (Books)
If all goes well, I'll mail the books out to you tomorrow.
By the way, our favorite filmaker's name is spelled with one "d"- Godard.
You must have been thinking of the college.
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 20:42:04 EDT
Subject: Re: illuminating objects
Just thought I'd let you know I've received your books. Actually, my favorite
filmaker's probably Bergman. But do love _Weekend_, _Alphaville_, like
_Contempt_, not crazy about _Breathless_. Must see more Godard.
Eagerly waiting response to my wandering object,
Alpha-60: What illuminates the night?
Lemmy Caution: Poetry.
Subject: Re: interrogative objects
Glad you got my books. Did I include an invitation to my reading at the Ceres Gallery (with Douglas Messerli and Corinne Robins)? Maybe you can make it. Charles Bernstein mentioned to me that you met each other at the performance of that portion of his opera with the grand chorus at the Y. I wonder what you thought of it.
Still haven't gotten Rhizome. It always takes so long for California mail to get to me. So I still haven't seen your review.
Sorry for the "What do you do question." I'm usually more discreet than that, but yes I think I was trying to be polite. Well, isn't that what always happens when a person "tries?" Actually, I don't know about the medications you mentioned except for X. Being in the profession I am in, I am of course very knowledgeable about one thing; I think I might have a pretty good idea of the dimension of some of the difficulties you have been through. I am very glad, in this regard, to hear about the able therapist you have. This, in my very biased opinion, of course, is the most important thing. But, since you will be attending Otis, too bad you will have to give this person up. There are plenty of good therapists in L.A., of course, so that shouldn't be any kind of problem at all.
I found very interesting your comment about the thanatotic aspect of my antipathy towards style. Could you explain this further? What an interesting sentence: "...if poetry is talk, a sort of transference....you see the aporia." Could you also explain this further? Also, the pan-textuality and the Derridean theme. I think you are into something interesting here which is not yet clear to me, but very intriguing. What I mean by the "aural ellipsis" has to do with elliptical aspects in writing which are intentionally provided by the poet, artist or filmaker. I give many examples of this, no? I regret not having mentioned Richard Foreman, a most important example of a theatrical artist who employs the aural ellipsis constantly. I don't mean by "aural ellipsis" just thinking or fantasizing. I don't see too much connection between what Lacan seems to be saying about absence in pictures and what I am saying about the "aural ellipsis." But I do think you are putting together something useful here about my essay and I hope you have the opportunity to develop this further. Actually, I confess to not knowing or comprehending all that much about Lacan. Despite a few somewhat unenthusiastic attempts to unearth something valuable I could connect with in Lacan, much of it remains completely mysterious to me, though interesting and poetic because of this. I did read lots of Derrida back in the 70's and early 80's, though I'm not sure anymore what I was so excited about. I tried to read a new book of his recently and I confess to getting very sleepy. I did find Foucault's writing about the history of "the clinic" very valuable, but admit to not having done a thorough enough reading. Can you recommend something?
I like your question about the aural ellipsis in music. Music can't have it, I agree with you, because there is no literal meaning to drift away from. Can we theorize that the aural ellipsis offers poetry the hollows for the instruments and voices of its music and meanings to echo within?
My wife Toni Simon and I live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. You will notice that the cover art on Poems and The Boundary of Blur was hers. Also, she created the drawings in Light Street.
Bergman shows so much empathy for the human struggle to live and love. My favorites: Winter Light and Scenes from a Marriage. Of course, the early Virgin Spring ,etc., all great.
Hope the above in some way offers some useful response to some of your questions in your last wandering epistle, and that it offers some incentive for you to continue our exchange.
With warm best wishes,
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 21:28:50 EDT
Subject: Re: clarifying objects
You've set out some clarifying for me to do.
But first some initial replies. Meeting Papa Bear was fun. I did enjoy the
choral performance, which was indeed "grand." Bernstein's piece (I can't
recall the composer) and the Schubert, especially the Wilheim Meister song
cycle, were especially good. Actually, I'm surprised you didn't show,
considering you 1.live in Manhattan 2.are a friend of Papa Bear's
3.Participated in a choral group yourself once. Anyhow, it was really
terrific. I'm looking forward to seeing the whole opera, being such a huge
Benjamin fan. By the way, Bernstein said that being anti-stylistic is itself
a stylistic stance (which strikes me as formulaic, being anti-a is itself a,
which is not to strike aspersions on papa Bear's statement); perhaps you'd
like to respond?
Another for starters. I have an image of how your spouse looks! I don't know
why I'm telling you this. I guess you'd be amused. This image is based (an
exercise in associationalist psych) 1.on the fact that you are a
psychoanalyst 2.on her art 3.on her name 4.on my having met Bernstein's and
Pierre Joris's wives, which I guess is based on the fact that you are a poet.
Re: Bergman. Yes, he has many masterworks. I'm so glad you like _WL_. You're
the fourth Bergman fan I've come across, and the first not to give me a
quizzical look at the mentioning of that film. I think the film is an
overlooked piece, coming at a transitional period between his religious work
and his turn to human relationships. It is so overlooked, that the author of
_The Passion of Ingmar Bergman_ omits it from his filmography. My first
cinema essay may be on this film. I'm not surprised you like it as an
analyst, it containing a therapeutic situation -- Jonas visiting Tomas for
help over his depression. You also mention _VS_. This is not among my favs. I
mentioned to my therapist (I've told him about you. He's a Bergman fan. Quite
an aesthete. Majored in English in college. Loves poetry. Mostly mainstream,
but does like Ashbery) this film, and he said a therapist would love the
Freudian associations of a spring sprouting for an avenged rape! _Cries and
Whispers_ and _Fanny and Alexander_ are also favorites of mine, especially
the latter. The grandmother reading from Strindberg as Alexander sits on her
lap at the conclusion must be one of my favorite scenes in all of film.
Considering you focused on Bergman's "humanity" I'm surprised you didn't
mention _F&A_; it is, I think, the most human of his films. These days, of
course, it is suspect to be accused of being a "humanist," and I am reminded
of Stevens's mocking put-down of Frost: "He is said to be full of humanity."
Re: Foucault. If I had to recommend two books I would recommend _Discipline
and punish_ and the first volume of _History of Sexuality_ These come from
his "geneology" period, in which he investigates power. If your interested in
the Kuhnian stuff read _Order of Things_ or _Archeology of Knowledge_ from
his earlier "archeology" period. But do read his collection of interviews,
"Power/Knowledge." They're a great intro. The Foucault interviews are to the
books as Keats's letters are to the poems. They're just as interesting, and
one doesn't have to read the primary stuff to learn.
Now the clarification. By the thanatotic aspects of the stylist, I mean that
the stylist (for Lacan, the artist is motivated by thanatos. Freud thinks
s/he just fantasizes to escape reality. You seem to think, correct me if I'm
wrong, s/he is regressing and constructing a transitional object) is
interfering with transference by breaking up ideal communication through
stylizing and hence divesting from human relationships, one way of defining
thanatos. I hope this explains what I'm trying to say. I'd figure that as an
analyst, and as someone who sees poetry as an ideal form of communication,
this is what you might have against style. I guess this is one random place
in my letter to mention that I'll be reviewing C."pb"B.'s _Rep's_ and Lyn
Hejinian's _Happily_ and continue a project I started in my review of you:
that the Language Poets don't fit so easily into a fixed mold.
My aporia. If poetry is a kind of talk, transference, speech, isn't this an
ego speaking? Isn't this then the return of the traditional voice that the
language poet abhors? How then are we to admit a poetics of musical
Final clarification. Pantextuality. This came up in your _Rhizome_ text and
your _Close Listening_ text. The _Rhizome_ text: is poetry everywhere? Is the
world a text? The "Aural Ellipsis:" if the world is a text, behind which a
symbolic lurks, can the aural ellipsis occur not just in art, but in anything
in which there might be the symbolic; for Lacan it is everywhere; I know you
don't like Lacan, but he really does illuminate the "aural ellipsis" issue
with the terminology of where the symbolic lurks, pan-textuality, and whether
the "aural ellipsis" is confined to an audience situation.
Well, I hope I've clarified, and I look forward to more stimulating exchange,
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 17:04:07 EDT
Subject: your address/Adorno Essay
Haven't heard from you in a while. There's an Adorno essay on music and
language in which I think you'd be interested. It's in Adorno's _Quasi una
Fantasia_. I know you're a Benjamin fan, so you may have it already, but if
not, it is difficult to obtain, so I'd like to snail-mail it to you. Or,
maybe you'll be at either the Baraka reading on 4/26 or Poet's house on 5/2
(I really regret I can't make your reading). If you won't be at any of these
events or don't have/can't obtain the book, please send me your address,
and/or anyhow, I would like to hear from you.
Subject: 5/2; Adorno essay
Just back from a few days in the Boston area. Among other things visited the grave sites of Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau, all very close to each other; and went to visit that "rude bridge that arched the flood."
Also had a chance to drop in at the Grolier Book Shop and was gratified to see they do carry my new book.
Yes, I expect to be at the Bernstein/Messerli talk on 5/2. No, I don't have a copy of the essay on music and language in the Quasi una Fantasia book, which is one of the few books by Adorno I don't have. Thanks for offering to send me a copy of the essay. My favorite book by Adorno is " Minima Moralia."
My snail mail address is: 119 West 95th, Apt. 3, NY, NY 10025.
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000 12:52:25 EDT
Subject: Alienation on 5/12
I had that Adorno essay for you (in which I think you really will be
interested) on 5/2 but I didn't get to meet you. Papa Bear suggested you may
have been committed to patients. Anyhow, I could mail it to you (but I'm so
lazy in getting to the post office) or maybe you'll be at Papa Bear's reading
on 5/24 at the P.P.
Anyhow, I thought I could discuss something with you. I attended the book
launching for Roof yesterday at some SoHo gallery. My therapist thought it
would be healthy for me to socialize. It was. I met Gary Sullivan, Papa Bear,
and a few interesting artists. But I felt soooo alienated. There was
something so fake, so pretentious about everything. I don't know. I feel like
you'd be a good person to whom to tell this since 1) you move in the same
circles 2) you've indicated similar sentiments 3) you are a representative of
"what it means to be" mentally healthy. I don't really feel like I could
discuss this with my therapist as openly (though I'll try) since he'll just
tell me I'm a sociopath or something. Am I suffering from anomie? Was I the
only person alienated? I had this sense of both belonging (since I was
conversant) and not belonging. In many ways I hate the cultural world, all
the money, I don't know, the pretentious fashion. But I love talking to
artists about their work etc. I really don't know. There was this sense of
not fitting in. Benjamin talks about the "state of emergency" of the
oppressed. Maybe the chronically ill live in a state of crisis, and things
can seem so frivolous. What did I expect do, talk of The Revolution or
something? Do you know that Dylan line "Let us not talk falsely now because
the hour is getting late?" Not that I don't mind or even prefer
lightheartedness. I don't know, this is a very confused missive. I know
you're not my therapist, but perhaps you'll know what I'm talking about.
Any thoughts on the other stuff we were discussing? I can't even remember it:
pantextuality and your "Wandering Poem," style and thanatos. Have you
received _Rhizome_ yet? See my review?
Please get back to me. Hmm. I do sound a bit desperate, don't I. Don't worry,
I'm not decompensating! I really would like to hear from you on my feelings.
You should know that I will be sharing our communication with my therapist,
unless you prefer that we keep it private.
From: Nick Piombino
Subject: Re: Alienation on the Roof
I'm very glad to hear from you as I was planning to write to you tonight anyway. First, to apologize for not showing up at the event I told you I was coming to featuring Charles Bernstein and Douglas Messerli. I would have written to you sooner, but after giving a reading one week at the Ceres Gallery, as it happened I had to go to Washington DC this past weekend to give a reading there. As you might guess, with a full time job and a growing private practice my time is really cramped. So I had to use the little time I had that Tuesday to get this reading together for the Ruthless Grip reading series in Washington. Still it really wasn't as much time as I really needed to prepare the reading. The school term doesn't end until June 28 so this schedule of mine will continue for awhile. Thanks for bringing the Adorno essay. I am very much looking forward to getting it, hopefully in person.
I'm looking forward to talking with you in person about some of the things you mention in your note, "alienation on 5/12". However, I also think it is useful to discuss these things this way, as it also gives us a written record which could be useful, no? First I wanted to mention an idea I had once which I presented to Ed Friedman who is the Artistic Director of the Poetry Project, someone who I've known since the early 70's. The idea was the have a symposium on the "Career of The Poet." I think he said something about seeing it more as a calling than a career, a remark I felt that begged the question. These topics (the ones you bring up, plus the career one) are subjects I must have talked to Charles Bernstein and many others about dozens of times over the years, maybe hundreds! (by the way, can we not refer to him as "Papa Bear"? I'm not complaining about the joke, I know you mean it kindly, but after all, he is a very close friend of mine; by the way, he mentioned to me that he met you, and it was clear that he took pleasure in it).
You are right to suspect I share many of your feelings about the sham aspects of the poet's social life. I hope this is made clear in Theoretical Objects, but if it isn't I hope you will tell me so I can write something else which will make this even more clear (particularly many of the Automatic Manifestos). Part of the fakery of these social situations in the poetry world grows out of the mixture of goals that people have in socializing. Obviously, the Roof event occurred to publicize the books. As I am sure you know, there is very little opportunity to publicize poetry books. By the way, I have not forgotten your efforts for my book in this regard, which was a very fortunate event for me! Part of my motivation, quite frankly, in developing this correspondence with you partly emerged from your having mentioned that you might at some point consider writing a larger essay about my work. Your interest in asking me questions and receiving my books encourages me in our exchange that you might look more deeply into my literary efforts and write about them. But, meanwhile, of course, we seem to be developing an exchange of views and feelings which, for me has become interesting and useful in itself and which goes beyond, while still including, these entirely selfish motivations. I feel the alienation which grows out of the kind of social situation you are describing in the Roof party has to do with the mixture of feelings and motivations which arise in poets (like myself) who are hoping to get some useful response and attention to their work while they are still alive enough and not yet too senile to still enjoy it.
Possibly the most successful people are able to be more assertive and direct about their wishes. I have thought, for example, of asking you straight out if you would like to do a more formal interview with me as we seem to relate so well. At the same time I am hesitant to bring this out for fear that you might lose interest in our exchange if I expose a selfish motivation. Perhaps this is part of the problem that everyone feels in these kinds of literary situations. Often, everyone seems to be thinking one thing and saying another. If the Roof party was a conference of salespeople talking about selling kinds of fish, perhaps they wouldn't have to be so indirect. But people writing philosophical works based on their contemplative experiences naturally have some difficulty praising themselves and their ideas to each other. It seems the poets that are paid the most attention to are the ones who make some effort to draw attention to themselves. This can be done either like Allen Ginsberg- who was wonderfully political and outrageously wildly outspoken or John Ashbery who is incredibly prolific. You may not realize this, but I have been writing for over 40 years (my first poem was published in 1965, my first book in 1988, first reading in 1972), and you are the first person to write such an extensive paper about my work and ideas. There have been a number of shorter pieces about my work, but by far yours in the most extensive. This may have come about for the reasons that I am saying. I am neither particularly wild, outspoken or prolific. I have always found it quite difficult to blow my own horn about my own work. At first, back in the early 70's it was even very difficult for me to stand before a group and read my work. I took some acting lessons and this helped. Now it isn't as hard, I even enjoy it somewhat. But this is one of the few ways that I felt it was valid to present my work in a more immediately social way. Another way was to write essays about other people's work that I admired or whose ideas I had something in common with.
As for your therapist's recommendation that you go ahead and socialize, I think this is the right advice despite the difficulties. The more you push through this, the more it becomes potentially pleasurable and worthwhile. I don't think anybody finds it so easy, though some people make it look easy. But aren't there a lot of things like this?
I did read your review of Aaron Shurin and I enjoyed it. I also happen to like Aaron Shurin's work. As for the "Wandering Poem" I am not sure about the pantextuality comment, but let me say that I appreciate your interpretations of my work immensely, even when I don't yet completely understand them. Probably if you sense that my "Wandering Poem" is indebted to Derrida, I would tend to feel that your instincts about this are correct. By the way, I checked on the Google search engine, and saw the other day that your Musical Objects is now showing on there. I saw some other new writing about my work on there which I would like to discuss with you, some good, some very bad.
In any case, hoping to hear from you again soon.
All the best,
P.S. As for my views on lightheartedness, have you read my Light Street (the title poem) yet?
PPS- I love the Dylan line you mentioned and have been a fan of his since Hiway 61 came out. Also, the hour IS getting late and I'd better hit the hay.
Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 23:00:19 EDT
Subject: re: Alienation on the Roof
Thank you for your letter and your explication concerning your diagnosis of
my feelings at the Roof party. I found your comments insightful. Also, one of
the things I think that matters is that writing poetry is an intensely
personal matter, not necessarily intended for display and public promotion,
which can only confuse matters. Stein said she wrote for herself and
strangers. Not for money and publicity, though to get to strangers one needs
publicity. Perhaps the poet's primary audience his always him or herself, no,
which would just make the publicisizing of poetry absolutely pretentious,
even hypocritical in a way. Of course one wants to be read, but you see my
I'm quite surprised to find out you think I could really further your
career. I'm glad and honored if I did so in any way. I do think you deserve
as wide an audience as possible. I'm surprised I'm the first person to write
on you since you do have a high enough profile to be in the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
book and the Silliman anthology. I must tell you that the longer essay I
intend to write on you would be part of a book, tentatively _The Works of the
Language Poets_, something of what Johnson did for the Augustans, though I'm
not so grandiose. Do tell me whether you think this would be a
realizable/realistic project, especially since I would be doing this in my
spare time without academic supervision (i.e. it's not a dissertation; I got
rejected from Buffalo). I would discuss you, R.S., S.H., R.A., C.B., C.C.,
B.W., L.H. -- as much of the gang as I could, with overarching generalizing
essays as well. I'm glad you admitted your "selfish" motives for
corresponding with me. My "selfish" motive was simply the thrill of speaking
with an established poet. But I believe in the Kantian principle of treating
each person as an ends and not a means, the Frankfurt School critique of
instrumentality -- I hope we could do this as much as possible if we keep our
correspondence up. And yes, I would be glad to do a formal interview with
you, though you would have to suggest publication possibilities. I know I
could get you in _Read Me_, Gary Sullivan's magazine, since I have a good
working relationship with him, but perhaps you would want a more visible
Adorno! Will you be at Charles
Bernstein's reading on Wednesday? If I don't here from you in time I'll bring
it anyway just in case. Otherwise I'll just mail it to you. I'll try to read
an essay or two of yours soon; maybe we could discuss your work further if
Tue May 23 00:40:10 2000
Subject: re: Alienation on the Roof
I will be at Charles' reading on Wednesday, so please bring the Adorno.
I agree with your point about writing poetry. Tonight I am reading Karl Shapiro' book The Bourgeois Poet. I had picked it up in a used bookstore a few months ago because it intrigued me. Last week he died at the age of 87. I had never really looked much into his work before. Why did it take so long for me to learn about him? The obituary made it sound like he had an early success, but then basically kind of faded out. But didn't Emerson write: "Write one poem and rest on your oars forever"? The book is bitter in many ways but there are a lot of lines I like: "All things remain to be simplified. I feel I must break free of the poetry trap."
I'm glad if my comments about the poetry scene were useful in any way.
Actually, you are not the first person to write about my work. There have been many very nice articles. What I liked about your article is that it was thorough. Yes, although there is an intensely private and personal aspect to poetry (I am sure that few serious poets have been as private as me- it took me 24 years to publish my first book!) once a book is out, I am learning that very few of the people who might actually be interested know that the book is out! Once I told Jackson Mac Low about a very extensive review of his work which had been published 5 years earlier that he didn't even know about. I could go on with this, but let me tell you, the issue is not one of pretentiousness or career at all. It is really a question of people finding out about the work.
Now why I suggested this to you is to get it out on the table so we can enjoy our discussions, but meanwhile I wanted to encourage you further in your suggestion that you might do a longer essay about my work. Right now I am very interested in you doing an interview with me. I feel I have waited around discreetly long enough for people to discover what I have been doing on their own.
I wouldn't have suggested any of this to you if you hadn't expressed so much enthusiasm for my book on your own in Musical Objects. Since you seem to have been interviewing me anyway, why not do this more systematically and share it with others? It seems there are number of people out there interested in my work and my ideas. You and I seem to be able to communicate more or less openly. So why not work together on this? I am very interested in the interview idea, and I am glad that you are interested. As for where to publish it, I will work on this meanwhile. This, of course, does not have to be done quickly. You already have a lot of material in our letters. I'm sure you have other projects to work on, and of course you need time to read more of my work so as to be able to respond to it seriously- and honestly.
I am sorry to hear you were not accepted in the Buffalo program. Maybe you should try again, if you are still interested? Anyway, I want to hear more about what happened.
As for Adorno, Benjamin and all the rest, they loved getting published and people finding out about their work. There is a tension between theory and reality which is endlessly interesting. One thing I have learned- theory should never stop one from enjoying life. Getting the word out about one's work is enjoyable and important. I don't regret waiting this long, but there is, after all, a limited amount of time. I am not so young as you are. I will not be around to enjoy whatever posthumous notice.
This letter is a little disjointed but I wanted to get it out to you right away anyway.
Looking forward to meeting you, finally, in person on Wednesday.
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 21:34:49 EDT
Sorry for being in touch with you later rather than sooner. Maybe you can
psychoanalyze the effect of having actually met you personally? Did you read
the Adorno essay? I don't have much to say actually, just wanted "to touch
bases with you" (gosh I hate using ready-made phrases). What I do have to say
though is important, that being that I am likely to be going to L.A. after
all. This will mean that I will be unable to conduct an interview with you
until December, which may be a good thing, since it will give me ample time
to scrutizine your opus, and to do preliminary correspondence with you. Your
idea of putting out a chap-book does appeal to me. I haven't gotten to your
other books yet, though I do plan to read them all by the end of this summer.
I have been watching some Godard films, though, thanks in large part to you
-- _First Name Carmen_, _Pierot Le Fou_, _Band of Outsiders_, _My Life to
Live_, _Sympathy for the Devil_, _Masculin Feminin_. Recall any of them? I'm
glad you indicated that poetry and psychoanalysis and poetry and music are
the two themes in which you are most interested, or two of the themes in
which you are most interested. I'm going to try to get you to talk about your
politics though! And maybe some Godard for garnish!
p.s. It appears I haven't given you much to respond to, but maybe you could
just indicate whether you are still interested in this project. I certainly
Subject: Re: Interview
It appears that in the running around I did the evening you gave me the Adorno article, I seem to have misplaced it, so I must confess I was unable to read it. Too bad, because I am interested in Adorno.
You have decided to go through with this program in LA, which is a program at Otis College, if I remember? Poetics? Maybe you can tell me more, as I am curious.
Your idea about timing on this interview sounds good, December, or whenever. I will have many suggestions as to what might ask me about, but of course you will have the final say on the questions. To discuss Godard would be OK, but particularly with relation to my political interests in the 60's (burning of draft card, interests in 60's bohemia, hitching to San Francisco in 1967, travels to Europe and Morocco). Godard is actually more a part of my youth, though I still find Alphaville to be a basic part of my repertoire of references. Recently I have been reading Guy Debord who was very critical of Godard. I think it would be useful to go over the letters we have been writing each other if you have them. I have kept them so I can send them back to you if you haven't kept them. It might be interesting to ask me questions about my early connection with the New York School, my workshops with Ted Berrigan and Bernadette Mayer, my work in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, my connections with the Language writers, and others like Jackson Mac Low, my psychoanalytic training, the relationship between my work as a poet and my work as psychoanalyst, the evolution from writing poems and essays to the creation of theoretical objects. But of course, we can go into this more as time goes on. No hurry.
I also have a more immediate suggestion. Since there has been no print publication of your current review of Theoretical Objects ("Musical Objects") I wanted to suggest that you send to xx, editor at the xxx. I am assuming he already has a copy of the book, but if you are interested in sending the review to him, or inquiring first if he might be interested, let me know because then I will ask Douglas Messerli to send him a copy of the book right away. The reason I want to do this is that x chose me to be a semi-finalist judge for a poetry award that his organization sponsors. He chose me out of the blue, I do not know him, and he contacted Douglas. This led to me reading through about 6-8 boxes of manuscripts (mostly terribly dull) to choose 2 finalist manuscripts. And all I got for this was a t-shirt, which is almost worn out already (the award was a couple of years ago). So I figure 1) he is interested and 2) he owes me, BIG TIME. So what do you think? I really do want to get a print version of your great review somewhere, so why not start at the top?
Do you have a copy of Close Listening (edited by Charles Bernstein, Oxford U). Let me know.
Thanks for keeping in touch. I am following your writing on the Poetics List with interest.
All the best,
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 23:07:24 EDT
Subject: Re: Interview
Do have a copy sent to x. Then tell me what to do next.
Subject: Re: Musical Chairs with Musical Objects
Did you send the copy with a note to xx explaining that you were submitting this to xxx, as it has only appeared in electronic form in England? Also, did you ask him if he has received a copy of Theoretical Objects (Green Integer). You can say, if you wish you sent the article at my suggestion.
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 01:56:16 EDT
Subject: Re: Musical Chairs with Musical Objects
Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I just returned from L.A. Had a
good time out there. I do hope to be attending. The program: A writing
workshop with Dennis Phillips, a seminar on translation with Paul Vangelisti,
a class on "Writing as Critical Practice" on the subject of "Beauty" with
P.V., an "Advanced Critical Theory" course with some artist/theorist whose
name I can't recall on Bataille and Foucault and possibly an independent
study on contemporary poetry with Standard S. I'll be teaching "Critical
Analysis and Semiotics," an intro course for first-year students. That's
what I know about my first semester. I'm pretty excited about the program.
What do you think about D.P.'s, P.V.'s work?
No! "No!" meaning I *have not yet* sent the review to xxx. It hadn't occurred
to me to pursue such a lofty ambition. My Morse code like note was request
for advice on how to proceed. I suppose I'll just do as you say: mention you
suggested I send the review. Don't know what to do about whether x's
seen the book though -- that was my problem.
I have seen _Hamlet_ with E.H. Not sure how much I thought of Hawke's role,
but I loved the way they updated it! Ophelia going mad at the Guggenheim!
Hamlet sending R&G to their deaths on a laptop! And a Che Guvera, Malcolm X,
and Mayakovsky fan.
You must tell me -- now what did Debord have against Godard?
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 21:09:29 EDT
Subject: lost subject
This is Ramez Qureshi. I hope you haven't forgotten me. I've had a rough
summer health-wise, but I'm on the road to recovery, I hope. I, today, sent a
copy of my review to x at xxx, so we'll see what happens-- no I haven't
forgotten you. As far as I'm concerned we're still on for December, if
that's OK with you. I have just read _Light Street_ and _Poems_. One thing
that strikes me abt _LS_ is the "Gentle Instructor" section. It's
illustration seems strikingly modernist -- like a Man Ray illustrated text or
something... which would be against your poetic politics. _Poems_ You show so
much pathos in "Lost Horizons," so atypical of a language poet (not to box
you in to any category.) But pathos does not seem like something you value in
your other work. You can be so pathetic -- but you choose not to be: why is
this? Well, I'm quite tired. I suppose the main purpose of this letter is to
reestablish communication in the weeks we have before we do the interview.
I'll get to _Boundary of Blur_. By the way, I'm not going to L.A. I'm taking
computer classes right now, with the hope I can get established independently.
Best to you,
Subject: Re: lost subject
I appreciate your continued interest and I think your recent observations about my work are on the mark as usual. The poems you mentioned are both early poems. You noticed the freewheeling way I ignore chronology in my work; and interestingly, you often notice the seams.
Thanks for sending your review to the xxx. But I have another idea also. Maybe you can get it published in the Poetry Project Newsletter. Ed Friedman is a good friend of mine. I don't know the new editor of the newsletter, but I think this would be a great place to publish your piece.
Recently I asked that your review be added to my Home Page. It is on there now, I checked the other day.
As far as interviewing me, I think I can let you off the hook on this now. Recently I gave a reading and did a seminar with the graduate and undergraduate students at SUNY- Buffalo. One of the students asked to interview me, as I was interested in continuing with the graduate students on the CORE-L poetics list (not the Buffalo poetics list; one just for the students). We've been working on the interview for a month now and it's going very well.
Frankly, I think your selection of computer training may be more practical than the literary program you were thinking of doing. You can always keep on doing (the mostly unpaid) literary work without the benefit of a degree.
I don't mind mentioning again that I continue to be grateful for your interest in my work and your efforts on behalf of my writing.
Sorry you had such a difficult summer.
Hope you will remain in touch.
Subject: Re: greetings
I wanted to let you know that your "Musical Objects" now appears on my homepage at the Electronic Poetry Center which reminds me of how much I appreciated that piece. I hope you weren't inconvenienced by my accepting this student's offer to interview me. As it happens, he will be able to get it out as a chapbook in an edition of 200 as he does letterpress books himself. So that worked out but I was disappointed of losing an opportunity to interest you further in writing about my work. As for "Theoretical Objects" it is still doing well and Douglas is now looking towards doing another printing at some point in the future. My reading went well at Suny Buffalo and I'd like to send you a copy of a very nice review that came out in the student newspaper. They interviewed me and published a very nice review of my reading. Can you send me your snail mail address again in Westchester? Also, how are things going with your work these days?
Subject: Re: greetings
I haven't heard from you for awhile and I am wondering how you are. If you have a moment could you send me your snail mail address?
Warm best wishes,
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 22:11:41 EST
Subject: Re: greetings
Sorry for being such a poor correspondent. There is bad news: xx rejected
my review for xxx. I'm glad you've arranged an interview and I look forward
to seeing it. You must talk about Godard! I spent my whole summer seeing his
work. Seriously, hope all goes well with you, & yes, my snail-mail address:
34 Black Birch Lane
Scarsdale, NY 10583