Saturday, May 14, 2011


NOTE: The first part of this correspondence is “E-Mails/Jared Schickling #3,” posted below. I would’ve changed the title, but my Blogger Edit Layout won’t seem to allow it. Anyway, I’ve begun posting excerpts of my correspondence with Jared because I’ve discovered that we say some of our best things this way…off the cuff, freely without concern that you would eventually have access to it. So you’re something of a voyeur after the fact, dear reader. And what you have in these correspondences is, in some cases, better than the fiction or poetry myself or Jared may have composed that particular day. I also think superior writers might find it amusing that Jared and me worry about such stupid things. Our peers may find our thoughts entertaining, and our few “students” may find these e-mails stimulating and helpful to their sincerest efforts in the” language arts.” Cheers to all, boos to none. Unless it’s booze…with Peace!

Chuck Richardson to Jared Schickling:

I had intended to write up a draft today of my general views re: Zero's Blooming Excursion in the hope of finding a few possible blurbs, but I ended up researching XXXXXX for nine hours instead. I'm writing…XXXXXX's fictional biography, sort of. I'm setting the bar very high. I spent most of the day copying and pasting samples of 1920s' writing so I can begin feeling the period [I'm going to relate somehow the horrifying circumstances of her birth and the obstetrician's malpractice--too much silver nitrate in the eyes, blinding her in one eye and severely scarring the other--today she'd be a millionaire...a comment derivative of a 1920s ideal, which was derivative of] in terms of language. I'm also scrutinizing advertizing, the economy, global situation, etc. & et al. Once that's all sunk in to a point that the first sentence pops out, I'll be on my way. But I see myself researching for a few days. I'll be following the same method 11 more times covering the periods of her 83-year life [pretty much the personal story of the 20th century and turn of the 21st]. It's possibly going to be told in the third person objective from a narrator who knows she's dead in her chair...she's experiencing her life eternally recurring in an apparently random order...this is the only chapter written in the past tense because the subject has entered the past tense...while this is going on, there's knocking on the door. She lived alone, her successful writer son having moved away and taken the animals with him... Obviously, I'm very wrapped up...This is something I'll want her to read, so you know the pressure I'm feeling.

That said, I'll have something on Zero for you within a week. And hopefully it will be right and I'll post a public version of it on my blog and at NHR if they want it. Good exposure for you and it's an interesting conversation on the very subject I'm struggling with regarding my colleagues' much of it seems informed by an entropy that they seem to refuse to fully wrestle with [I'll be more specific later]...and as I said, I have the same level of admiration and disappointment for Cohen's Heaven of Others that I do Zero's Blooming Excursion [a kind of Romanticism I might like except for the "hero's" being a "protagonist" of a "nil" sort...]

That said my disappointment's minor and a matter of taste and I'm open to the idea I might be wrong about your aesthetic decision...the way I'm open to the idea Obama might be a genius in consciously pissing off everybody...don't Americans deserve and need to be pissed off at Americans before anything gets straightened out? Maybe there's a method to his and your's just that the coolness of the whole approach tweaks me...the apparent refusal to get relatively dirty and smartly fight to the end...and the fact that, despite the hope for change and nihilistic tendencies, there's an element of maintenance about to keep things going...or to conserve something while things keep going...except the poem. It's a very good poem and I want it to go further, then have a fable of sorts transitioning into the essay. Really explode the forms. It would be an uncategorizable must read. We slap the term "poetry" on it as a catch-all that you prefer over "fiction," which is OK because it would actually be neither one or nonfiction...I see your potential, the book's may not yet be time for it to kinetically expend itself in the "market." You're building a bomb and I say there's room for more TNT, plastique, nitro, etc. Go Nucular! Advance your stategeries a few more goosesteps, brother, and humankind might perceive itself evolving into the "next" human...and actually feel the part of something continuous rather than its mere ending in close conjunction with its own, or stopping, of something...

I'm too vague. Never mind. I know you feel you're done with it, Geoffrey's about to start work on it and it would be asking too much at this point to delay it, and you're probably right with regards to the aesthetics, being a more refined and sophisticated chap than me by nature. I like my women to mud wrestle. I'd also say compared to the other contemporary work I've been reading, Zero achieves a heartfelt complexity with a precision I haven't seen. It makes me think of no one or nothing else but your weeping and laughing genius. So don't let my criticism get you down. Just tell me to fuck off if you feel like it. You're "the poet Jared Schickling" for chrissakes.

I'll have something for you in a week rather than a day. Molasses.

On Sat, Dec 19, 2009 at 11:27 PM, jared schickling wrote:

Hey Chuck,

Started writing this yesterday and then figured I'd come back. I'm sick thanks to Mollie and spent the past nine hours getting our reading series junk in order. After a day of grading. But it's a load off the back. Anyway. Continue composing message --

That's fine and understandable -- doing your own work today -- I spent *all* of today grading. Glad that's over. The course and its papers are predictable at this point. More or less plowed through 600 pages of freshman writing. As the semester's over I don't need to comment, just have a look and mark it. Some of em caught my attention.

And I'll risk irritating you -- by suggesting a second read before you begin writing about what's unsatisfactory or insufficient in Zero's.

"the personal story of the 20th century and turn of the 21st": Zero's is the personal story of one's most recent history -- that being, a text to be read -- told from the outside, the bird's eye, cloaked in the form of a person. One suspects this by recognizing the multiple poems within poems, spilling into each other -- consistently a given construct is deconstructed by the context in which it’s occurring, and the thing deconstructed on the other hand deconstructs the initial deconstructor. And out of this entropy a threshold is reached at which point a new organizational principle emerges -- always larger than whatever human. This happens formally -- voices colliding, obviously -- but other ways too. In each case the multiplicity of tongues creates one readable poem, and within that one can trace any number of threads, different poems -- follow one font by itself, another by itself, or both together. They'll say different things -- complimentary, antagonistic -- read clusters as separate, or take the flying leap across charged (not empty) space to find the syntaxes and cadences ordering parts and wholes. In all cases read left right up down and all around. This fragmentary unity leaves the place to be...

And I bring this up because there is no protagonist, contrary to your suggestion. There is a place -- that's all -- and a human experience within that, only part -- a necessary thing to write because, so it seems to me, the place will always only be understand in this dimension by its human author (or reader). The text itself, which might usurp that role (both roles), remains forever a human production. The human is the frame through which you see -- anything else sounds to me like lip service.

I'm more curious about the ways we're stupid than any intelligence

I also find it necessary because otherwise, without giving the poem over to another's poem, a given character turns unfairly used by the text, a limited dimensional representation. i.e., no longer alive. A slave to the author's needs -- it seems to me easier to write about the thing than to write the thing. And I'll repeat something said in a previous email, death as death is not possible in any true sense until...the text, in order to accurately be, must find a way to give itself over to that which is other than "my" intention, my imagined text. Neither will this be any kind of death, and is utterly human, this imaginative potential.

"Advance your stategeries a few more goosesteps, brother, and humankind might perceive itself evolving into the "next" human...and actually feel the part of something continuous rather than its mere ending in close conjunction with its own..." The thing is, I'm not interested in escaping "this." The "this" is always already continuous and part of something larger. Zero's is concerned with helping us see this, It. And I feel it does this. The human being within it is merely one cog within Its by which we might notice it -- and in turn the elsewhere of it. Not central in the sense of importance...but central in the sense of what one has to go on, mine of data, bag of Its alleles. I was always more partial to Akhmatova and Mandelstam and their acmeism than Blok and their symbolism -- the latter arguing art must reject its precursors to imagine something new while the former arguing that's precisely the problem, future hypomnesia. Where has postmodernism gotten us? We're still waiting for the Big Machine, old Panopticon and Disciplinary Mechanism, capable of absorbing all contradictions, to simply run its course. The symbolists were little dandies of the Bolsheviks for a while, while the acmeists were killed, exiled, families arrested etc, all that wonderful stuff. Why? Why is Myung Mi Kim paid so well? David Foster Wallace? Federman? Across the board, why is postmodern art that doubts the imagination and its potential so well rewarded? Art that writes Its (and others') colonies? Not for me. I hate machines. The thing about the Carcasses is they're dead. Hence their nowhere -- which would be their biggest problem.

I also am not interested in escaping "this" because by paying attention to "this," and empathizing with it, one is more prone to understand that in the supermarket it's wise to make wiser consumer choices. Just one example.

The thing about Zero's is it's an eco-poetry, with "ecology" broadly understood (note the broad referential vectors of "they" in the epigraph, the only time [sic see epigraph] in the ms the word is used -- and note the seldom, consciously used word "it," the resistance to Its objectification -- possessives becoming the intimacy of Its simultaneous presence and absence). It's not romantic, insofar as it does nothing more than see and *hear* the mind's play as environmental phenomena. As derivative, a site-specific charge. The poem (not the fiction -- fiction sounds to me more purely Its staged production) is where the "he" is located and across scale, Its/his own synonym and antonym, simultaneously. The poem is always undoing itself; the he within it is always other than itself. Shit, we're not even sure if he is alive in this thing. Whatever "new" human we'd like to see, that's already "us."

If you decide on a second read, use the attached. In light of our conversations I've added a footnote here and there, but most importantly focused its mythic dimensions with some grand insertions. What I'm after can't be well enough understood before this draft. I think you know it well enough for some blurb, but I'm suspicious otherwise when I begin to hear about a "protagonist." If you're reading it in such terms, well...I've attached the prospective cover image, "pagoda." It's an accurate depiction.

None of this is to suggest the poem is finished. All of it fails. That's the beauty of it and a bit of the point.

Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 10:15:01 -0500
Subject: Re: zero
From: Chuck Richardson
To: Jared Schickling

Jared, believe me, I'm going to give Zero several readings. And I already have read it a second time and then gone over it and referring to it, etc. Our e-mail correspondence, prior to this response, totals 5,729 words, filling 11 single spaced pages. I can say without equivocation I totally get you and where you're coming from. I wouldn't change a thing that's there. I would simply add a fable between Reger and the essay to further "bloom" the form. "Zero's" form of sense--sensibility--or absence thereof--seams a necessary "fiction."

I see ZBE as a flower that hasn't quite fully bloomed. The excitement is not knowing whether it actually has or not because every flower's different. You'll see this in greater detail in a day or two once I've straightened everything out in my head enough to adequately share the confusion, which is aesthetically pleasurable so far. Zero's Blooming Excursion is already a very good book because it's put my mind to work willingly and pleasurably on the ramifications of what appears to be happening on the page.

This is an utterly brilliant book so far and you're going to have several blurbs to choose from, all of which will sound hyperbolic but won't be, as I'm going to try and lay out my reading as lucidly and calmly as possible without too many details. You don't need the details. My fundamental opinion is that Zero requires something in the fable form to serve as a transition mechanism between "Reger" and the essay. The shift as it is seems unnecessarily harsh and reduces the pleasure. I like getting slapped with an essay, just not until after I've orgasmed. The essay's a post-coital cuddle or cigarette and I haven't got off yet. You're a selfish bastard for lighting up and spooning now. I'll be less crude in a day or two once I've gone over all my notes and our lengthy correspondence one more time. I would say Zero has the potential to truly expand the literary debate of what we can do in the face of our death and global deterioration from the human perspective. Right now it's a very meaningful contribution. You, Jared Schickling, are capable of more...just a little.

If you don't write the fable, perhaps I will...I'll take Kafka past Zero in an effort to find out that last thing...then let the reader take it from there. My duty is to go as far as I can...humankind benefits from Prometheus and Icarus, etc. & et al.


On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 12:10 PM, Jared Schickling wrote:

Well now that you've lubed me up...and I do see where you're coming from. My thoughts re the essay as it's currently placed, something along the lines of, the reader is inclined after the first section to start seeing people, and focusing on that, perhaps lulled into forgetting the place-ness even of these people, at which point the essay redirects our attention. More or less. A fable, or something, could provide all the stuff you're suggesting. Thing is, at this point, I'm freakin empty. The end of my ind. study with DBQ took dumped as I dropped everything to slave over this thing. Luckily he's supportive. And with all this reading series and job app crap to deal with over the break I'm not sure I'll find the time or the ideas to make anything happen. There is a poem excluded from the ms that might get re-worked into prose and deal with the necessary things. I don't know. Babbling. Federman hit the nail on the head with you...[being dangerous].

And ps congrats on the Artvoice promotion. That's sure to sell some books. It looks like Buffalo's experiencing a second literary birth, and importantly, outside of the official channels. I swear I just miss everything. Dammit.

Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 12:39:04 -0500
Subject: Re: zero
From: Chuck Richardson
To: Jared Schickling

First, please re-work the deleted piece. Add something...some mechanism that isn't so rude...The ArtVoice promotion wasn't about me, didn't mention me [did it?], just BV and Starcherone, putting BV on top with the term "SubPop." I'll have to re-read it and see if I saw my name. I don't think I did, but I sometimes forget I'm me...

and i feel for you, my friend. you're definitely going through a crunch time. hopefully you both will land something nice in WNY and we'll start being a physical community again. shit's really happening here, i think. and, for better or worse, it's home...i relate.

On Sun, Dec 20, 2009 at 12:47 PM, jared schickling wrote:

The author asks Geoffrey to recommend some books -- he recommends yours and I think the cover image is there --

Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 13:06:05 -0500
Subject: Re: zero
From: Chuck Richardson
To: Jared Schickling

Jesus Christ. I didn't scroll all the way down. It looked different and I assumed it was ads. I'll have to pick up a print version and see if it's in there. Very cool. I'm returning to XXXXXX at 4:30 p.m. I got a lot and nothing done the last nine days. The research for the novel keeps blooming and taking up more and more time and somewhere in January Geoffrey's sending me the galleys for So It Seams. The less time I spend on the job, the busier I get. I'm taking the rest of the day off from this and tomorrow will write something up on Zero. You'll get your blurbs. The gist of my blog version will be the similar way you and Cohen seem to face peak everything, revealing, perhaps, a hint of how your generation of artists and intellectuals are to likely rationalize the very dramatic events of your life times, which may be occurring at the peak of something called "humankind's life time." There's a confident affirmation in being able to say no--or is it actually an uncertain denial/negation/nihilism also--or just sheer exhaustion, "we are old?"--to various aspects of it, living to fight another day, living to refuse to fight again today, etc. I don't know. But what a magnificent struggle. Personally, it gives me some hope for everything...because there seem valid men doing apparently valid things.

On Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 2:58 AM, Jared Schickling wrote:

You sound really well in these past few emails. It's more than music to my ears. Our conversations have been helpful. I'm having a celebration Pabst. Ask me tomorrow and maybe I've changed my mind, "fable," before the essay. attached. the bestiality of it prevents it from being called a parable. i'd like to think the arc now has that wad blowing effect you were talking about -- still not knowing what the final word is. or has to be. i don't know. Don't feel that you have to get to anything with this right away. When you feel like it. Though it might be easier with all the fresh back and forth. I don't know. I saw Orson Welles's version of The Trial last night, so here's this thing.

I hear you about winding up with less time the more you have. That's the problem with this mfa thing. But in this case i ain't kidding anybody it's a total luxury.

Chuck Richardson to Jared Schickling

You bastard! I was going to write the blurb and blog stuff today, but will hold off. I guess I deserve that. But seriously, I'm going to look at it right away and get back to you. I'm already thrilled. The fact is a "fable" just has to happen at the end of a process. You dream it. You get high, party, have a good long conversation over Pabst with someone who doesn't give a hoot about Romanticism and ecopoetics, and you get in the mood and then all of a sudden BAM! the mind crystallizes something for you out of the flames, and there it is and you wonder what the fuck. It leaves things simultaneously open and have the exact mess you were looking for...what you needed to see for yourself...

I'd also like to say I loathe "escape." Going through the valley of nails is suicide. The poem begins with a suicided friend as a doorway. The fun about writing is you can "do" things there you should and can never do in actuality. I don't understand how it works, but I got my driver's license. Everything I "know" "I" "know" from having dealt with it in my head and on the page. And I didn't have any help and had nowhere to turn but the Swamps and Thoreau and Melville and O'Connor. The only time in my writing life that I experienced writer's block was December 1999 to about October 2001. The towers coming down loosened me up, got me feeling again. And I got off the meds. Right now I'm feeling and writing a great deal. No writer's block. It all just pours out of me despite, or because of, my sadness of late. My sister's pug got hit by a car and killed the other day. Her picture on the Christmas card is on the refrigerator…Death rips me apart. I wage all out war against Thanatos and its forces. I plunge through the valley of nails screaming fuck you! and swinging my fists every single day because I decided if I wasn't going to commit suicide, if I was going to live, I was going to strike a blow for God almighty, whatever the fuck that might be. And now I'm typing. Tears. I'm not better, but perhaps the best I've ever been. My dreams have fallen into such syncronicity with my waking life thanks to my writing that I dreamed lucidly last night that the cover of Smoke was in Artvoice. I've a feeling that 2010 could be the year I finally feel I won a fucking round. Hopefully by next year at this time you and I will be sitting on our respective stools in our corner, sharing a joint, planning how to take the belts away from whatever bastards have them...and by any means necessary because we're playing for keeps.

OK. Enough of that shit. I'm going to read your fable and then try to come up with a few blurbs. I need to finish this now because I'm going to be increasingly busy for the next few months...especially the next two…

Anyway. You're the man. I'm done moaning.


Chuck Richardson to jared

Just read it. Perfect. That piece has found its home...the absolutely correct and natural transition--not a "mechanism" [you should know by now I'm not at all Cartesian, so why you brought that up...]

First we have the larva, then the pupa, then the apparent emergence of the metamorphosed being, and then the placement of "criticism" that is "death." A naturally "progressive cycle" with all of its chaotic messiness and bifurcations, blooming into those things that do end up seeming to "mean" something, where we're running for a moment with the spirit informing things before it outpaces us and moves on, leaving only the essay behind [everyone's fascinated by a corpse] inconclusive autopsy used for the "education of morticians" instead, perhaps?

Anyway, you did it. You can drink something nicer than Pabst now. Go ahead...Send me the bill.

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