The Nacreous Oughts

30 March 2004

The Raelians have landed.

Wonder if they write or read poetry? Could be fertile ground for recruiting, Umbrists!

K. S.

29 March 2004

Importing Chipmunks--a good thing?

I found that on NZ Pundit blog.

Fear made the superior sea
The colour of his new car;
From a window in the hillside
He saw the sky bare
All but the handhold of a cloud
On a derelict gate. Ashamed,
He knew the weedy fog showed
His mother's hair uncombed;
And all for that the snaking road
In low gear climbed.
Before night he punished them,
The bright scenes hostile,
By a boy and girl in the young broom.
He told that story well."

Allen Curnow

27 March 2004

"...If we give
different names to those
they were made or
born with

are we changing
or merely re-
arranging it?..."

Mark Young on Pelican Dreaming.

I wonder.

K. S.


Thus having brought together the herds of stertorous flesh
hung hooks clanking to the wind their wispy tails

blow into the killing shed Jenkins wrings his hand.
A gelding accident, some six years past: the blade flipped

from his stumbling fingers; and now his mangled digits
are udders that sail and flop at the waist. Yet a man

Jenkins is, whether knocking back his Speights
at The Four Seasons, or here, working that gnarled fist

in the folds of his hat, as he guides those dumb beasts,
their great haunches whirling and clicking like cogs

in a giant clock made of meat, as he shoos those bovines
down the funnel of a thousand years of technological progress:

their lips blurting to the bolt shivering in each spine,
the soft marrow of their skulls shattering into sausage."

Richard Reeve, in Glottis.
"I keep my visions to myself."

Fleetwood Mac.

English-Maori translator. (Single words only.) Maori Spell Checker. (Invaluable.) Just don't use them for any action figures.

K. S.

26 March 2004

I wrote a new poem today:

"On the Alterity of the Other"

Long pale factories in the thin rain
The completely ominous fact
Of an alternative
Why I'm not a blogger
And some immortal commissar who remembers
The paua and the glory
Distinctly bans Manhunt.

K. S.

P. S. Is the name of a video game supposed to be in quotemarks or italics? My Chicago Manual of Style does not say.

25 March 2004

Watch out for Poetry Dot Com! I think they are not on the level.
(Heard it from The New Zealand Poetry Society...not that I'm a member.)
I think every vital poetic movement has a very specific dialectic which drives it to expand and develop. For example, Imagism comprised terseness plus concrete, usually visual, detail; Langpo, social contextualism (often Marxist or post-Marxist), plus vernacular contrarianism ("I hate speech").

Umbrism's sharpness and engorgement could be such a dialectic. I'm thinking that sharpness could mean something like "One word ends then another begins"; and engorgement: "Every phrase shall be pregnant with meaning".

K. S.

Silliman mentions trobar clus again; cool. This led me to an article that links its appearance in the French Riviera with Sufism.

I would even go so far as to say: wherever trobar clus is formed, one of its essential motives is concealing mystical beliefs from the orthodox.

K. S.
One of my drafts I call the "Anti-Draft": I hold my poem in the mirror, and read it backwards.

This engages, I believe, the other hemisphere of the brain.

K. S.

24 March 2004

Good work.
This talk of a grid or X,Y-coordinate system has made me ask myself: What are MY axes of orientation? Certainly in NZ there are two inescapable polarities, which might be symbolized by Books Vs. The Bush, and Maori Vs. Pakeha (European). The Bush is where life exists in terror and splendor, the uninterpreted Noumenon; whereas Books are the Mind's shield against too much beauty or ferocity or silence. I should explain that, here, we have a Europeanized grid laid over the terrain, but in places very thin or tenous; and Maori culture (unlike, say, the North American Indians'), while under pressure, first from colonialism and later, globalism, has always retained a certain vitality. Nevertheless, as a Pakeha I have to acknowledge it stands, for me, as more of a potential--a life in accordance with Nature, or the Spirit--that may have been, might be once more, someday.

Then, personally, I feel the combined vectors of three places: Auckland ("The Big Noise"), St. Petersburg (a foggy, mystical place where everyone is a Poet), and The Internet (the Cornucopia of Data Overload).

I'm not sure how to graph this, even if I had the computer skills.

K. S.

23 March 2004

"Only very few of the Russian symbolists had any considerable first-hand acquaintance with the work of their French god fathers, and Edgar Allan Poe had certainly a wider and deeper influence than any single French poet."
D. S. Mirsky in A History of Russian Literature.


Yellow mist of the Petersburg winter,
Yellow snow on the walks and the ground...
I don't know where you are--or where we are;
I just know we're inseperably bound.

Did the Tsar's royal fiat invent us?
Swedes forget to drown us in attacks?
In our past, in the place of pure fables,
There are just stones and terrible facts.

All the things that the sorcerer gave us:
Stones, the Neva--the color of fawn,
And the deserts which are the dumb squares
Where the people were hanged before dawn.

And whatever we had in this region,
What raised our double-eagle and sent
The giant in dark laurels on the rock there...
For our children will be merriment.

How courageous he was! Awe-inspiring!
By his violent horse he was betrayed.
For the Tsar could not trample the serpent.
And the snake was the idol we made.

No shrines, no miracles and no Kremlins,
No mirages, no smiles, tears and ache.
Only stones from frozen, empty spaces
And the knowledge of this cursed mistake.

In the month of May, even when shadows
Of the white nights spread out on the stream,
There's no magic spell spun by the springtime;
There's the poison of each fruitless dream."
I. F. Annensky, as Englished by Markov and Sparks in Modern Russian Poetry.

22 March 2004

My spiritual home--St. Petersburg. But not the actual city; the city of the Poets. Which was mythical to them then, and by partaking of this myth, I live there now.

Which has nothing to do with the contemporary poets of St. Petersburg, though that in itself is interesting enough.

K. S.
"That most poets cannot handle their own insignificance in the regard of language and the relationship readers have to language without a poet's presence is an issue for individual poets to work out but not important to poetics proper. It is a side-bar, significant only because poets enjoy cultivating a cult of personality."

Mr. Norris is onto something.

21 March 2004

A new one by Jack Ruby Hummingbird. It's called "113".


moisture leaves feather glare
shade wet crunch path
clouds path lost pray
branch psychology snag drip


I should note that he does not count his poems. The number-titles are names, because (he says) a number is nothing but a name.

I'm not sure I understand him.

K. S.

19 March 2004

"The Other Poem

Oh no!
What if I’m the only person in the universe
And everything else is my imagination?
My God!
I must be the first person ever to have thought of that."
Isaac Freeman.

No, I don't think this is a good poem, but it made me laugh.

K. S.

This beatiful poem is supposed to have been a spam message, but I for one don't believe it:

"scrotum rainstorm announce eagan chemise
madison steprelation omitted casino
combination elinor turmoil brazil
colorate immersion sourwood cackle dialect

foothill lithosphere snigger cowpoke
gape lettuce impertinent flowerpot
widthwise elastomer d'art imperate denny
alder bryan hermes paradigm

neve dogtrot pastel dewey boast
crestview madden exhaustive crocodile
galbreath codify basket leatherneck
cheerlead disambiguate henequen"

foothill lithosphere snigger cowpoke. God, I wish I'd written that!

K. S.

Hugh Young's translation of "Oedipus Rex" into Solomon Island Pijin.

Simon Jansen's "asciimation" of Star Wars.

The History of Philosophies, from The Wizard of New Zealand.

"Peter Jackson could ask to be made Prime Minster now and his hoards of loyal Kiwis would storm parliament, slaughter Clark and install Aragorn as chief whip, Sauron as leader of the opposition, and Gandalf as speaker of the House."
Fraser in Telling Stories About New Zealand blog.

"...Expecting a tank mine, or bullet to tell,
or a Russian made rocket - to take us to hell.
At Assembly Place "Lima", the site of an old kraal,
we finally halt - and put our backs to the wall.

Raise the stars of our nation, raise the Brit's Union Jack,
put the dread right behind us - for there's no turning back.
Not there for the fighting, not there for the fall,
we are the friend of no one - and the enemy of all.
...We are the Peacekeepers."
From "Kiwi Peacekeepers" by Mike Subritzky.

All poems should have nipples. Even, supernumerary ones.

K. S.

18 March 2004

"Yet was it a repose from dreams,
that unknown interval between times?"

From Cthulhu's Faust.

Might be...?
I was very disappointed that Jennifer ended up in the bottom three. C'mon people, DON'T YOU KNOW A GREAT SINGER WHEN YOU HEAR ONE???

K. S.

P. S. I put my money where my mouth is. Ten dollars' worth!

17 March 2004

"Condom for a Dirigible"

Maray kiosk autopsy way
Than more I to needed know,
Commissar, or seldom glimpser
When badly whispers fail
Among golden the birds)
Room, things they made him do

And transitional likewise law

K. S.

16 March 2004


A Poem should be "engorged" when it needs to be, and for as long as it needs to be, but no more.
And as for "sharpness", it should be sharp enough to have a direction, but not so sharp it causes pain.
Who wants a poem to hurt them?

K. S.

15 March 2004


You fly a kite against a silver sky;
Your tranquil loveliness, pale by the wane
Of sighing tides, gleams like a butterfly
White-crystal-winged in slanting straws of rain."
Charles Spear.

It's raining.
According to one line of thinking, a poem with a plagiarized first line can be construed as a Glosa. However, that form has one feature lacking in "Mind My Have Still I"--namely, the source-line in italics.

There were NO ITALICS on the first line of the poem as I received it yesterday.

Graywyvern attempts to obfuscate the issue by bringing in the case of C. G. Gibson in Landfall. Apparently he is ignorant of the Pacific tradition of the 'Parrot-Answer Poem' (which you may find among the works of Ono no Komachi, among others), where a rival's poem is quoted VERBATIM--with the exception of ONE WORD (occasionally, two)--this change being all the skillful perverter needs to make a complete refutation. And that, I think, was what C. G. Gibson was doing there.

NOT plagiarism.

And for that matter, Gibson exists. I have met his daughter, who tends bar in Christchurch.

K. S.
I am shocked, I am flabbergasted. I have just been told (by "Cuneiform D. Ream", obviously not his/her real name) that a poem I recently published on my web site, "Mind My Have Still I", contains a plagiarized first line taken from another poem, "His Revisable Inlet Will Annihilate", by the poet known as Alfred The Mail Agent. SHAME ON YOU, DELUXXE 247!!!

Plagiarism is, in literature, perhaps the only crime.
Every poet's imagination is HIS OWN.
If you are too impoverished of thought to come up with your own stuff, BETTER NOT WRITE AT ALL.
That's what Ken has to say on this regrettable subject.

K. S.

I have received communications from someone identified only as "Deluxxe_247", who claims to be an UMBRIST, and who encloses this "proto-vintage R=A=P":


"Mind My Have Still I"

Degenerately diabolic amidst the foxhound
Yap I found the uncrowned whiffle czar
Me and my most cumbrous Umbrist
Batting the poem to Kandahar!
Freak it!
Shriek it!
Riffle elf fur!
Diabolic square and contributor to Sulfur
Pigeons on the grass goggle eyed and sanctified
Scatter when my chauffeur
Go past!
Colorless green is they whiffle scene
Is my funky sleep
Where the Brass Monkey keep
Delphinestrian eye for the landlubber guy
And a louche shofar
Old blood, on the new car


(Personally, I have my doubts about this one. For one thing, the prepositions outnumber the adverbs three to one.
When I asked him what makes it "Languagey", he replied that he had changed the word "my" to "they" in the twelfth line, which subverts the hegemony of the first person pronoun.


14 March 2004

"The Shining Years"

The thousand answer
Of the Secret God's priest
Tom can bop it
Tom can toss it
Voracious angry moths
Where fall and farther
Beetles away like frightened clues.

K. S.

13 March 2004

"I think I probably had a go at writing like every American poet I came across: I could show you my John Crowe Ransom poem, my John Berryman poem, my John Ashbery poem, my Robert Bly poem, my Gary Snyder poem, my Denise Levertov poem, my W.S. Merwin poem, my Allen Ginsberg poem . . ."
Bill Manhire confesses.
I find out from Fark that that Rumsfeld fellow wanted a souvenir.
"...windows broken/
And the floor white with bird dung..." as Baxter says.

12 March 2004

"James Cowan, in The New Zealand Wars (1922 - 23) provided a sample of this 'glossalalia,' taken from Te Ua's notebook, 'Ua Rongopai' ('The Gospel of Ua'), the single surviving textual source for Pai Marire:

Kira, wana, ti, tiri, wha – Teihana!
Rewa, piki rewa, rongo rewa, tone, piki tone – Teihana!
Rori, piki rori, rongo rori, puihi, piki puihi – Teihana!
Rongo puihi, rongo tone, hira, piki hira, rongo hira – Teihana!
Mauteni, piki mauteni, rongo mauteni, piki niu, rongo niu –Teihana!
Nota, no te pihi, no te hihi, noriti mino, noriti, koroni – Teihana!
Hai, kamu, te ti, oro te mene, rauna te niu – Teihana!
Hema, rura wini, tu mate wini, kamu te ti – Teihana!

And Cowan provided a 'translation' into English:

Kill, one, two, three four – Attention!
River, big river, long river, stone, big stone – Attention!
Road, big road, long road, bush, big bush – Attention!
Long bush, long stone, hill, big hill, long hill –- Attention!
Mountain, big mountain, long mountain, big staff, long staff – Attention!
North, north-by-east, nor'-nor'-east, nor'-east-by-north, north-east, colony – Attention!
Come to tea, all the men, round the niu – Attention!
Shem, rule the wind, too much wind, come to tea – Attention! (41)

The chant could as easily be 'translated' into Maori ('Patu, tahi, rua, toru, wha – E tu!/Awa, awa nui, awa roa, pohatu, pohatu nui . . .' ), because, although only Maori sounds are used, all the words are transliterated from English words (except for 'niu' which Cowan translates as 'staff' and then leaves to stand as niu, the mast-like pole used as centrepiece in Pai Marire ritual, although 'niu' could, in fact, be a transliteration of 'news', appropriating the 'good news' of the Bible to other ends) and, moreover, the word order is English rather than Maori. Glossalalia is often used to describe a divine babble (Babel) of incomprehensible sounds, whereas this chant of Te Ua's has a lot of rhyme (echoing of other sounds) and not a little reason. It is written in an amalgam language, a language of 'no such world', or perhaps, more accurately, one might say of 'a new world'."
From an essay by Murray Edmond.
Love walked in, and C Company walked away.

"I introduced cranky constraints, strange systems of chance. For instance: 'Write a haiku using only the words you can find on the racing page of the Evening Post.' "
Bill Manhire on creating a new poetry.

11 March 2004

Just to put things in perspective, here's some Kiwi Baha'i Schismatic Ghazals.

Baxter on the Shadow.
My "hoa" (friend) and drinking-buddy Jack Ruby Hummingbird sends me this poem:


blossom trickle azure feather

St John turquoise drip

trumpet flutter plop gospel

rain scarlet vermilion screech


As one whose profession is tiki carving, I think you can see a sculptural touch to his poems.

We have a standing disagreement on how to write.
I believe you should write it all down as a story, then start REMOVING WORDS until the poem is left. (I think I got this from Smithyman.)
But Jack COLLECTS WORDS until he has enough for a poem. (He usually uses sixteen, but for some reason refers to this as "one-zero".)

It is possible to write combining both of these methods--although I haven't tried it yet.

10 March 2004

A cautionary tale. Decadence, Poetry, and Youth are like Charcoal, Sulfur, and Saltpeter mixed. Me, just put the last disc of "Das Lied von der Erde" on REPEAT, and I will soon be in an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

Ron's weblog is, as usual, "box of birds"! I knew instantly that "Swamp Formalism" was written by an ether-huffing dwarf; "95.9" (what a giveaway) by a walleyed backpacker named Opie; "Word Worm" by a revolutionary Lesbian with a degree in marketing; and "1" by an identical twin who likes kimchee and anal sex, though not necessarily at the same time. But we can't all be as gimlet-eyed as the Springster, eh?

08 March 2004

"Brief History of Western Philosophy: The Bicycle

Did Bertrand Russell first adjust his hat?
Probably not, but carefully he wrapped
his trousers round his ankles, then clipped,
hiked his leg over and pushed off
pedalling away towards his mistress.
Marriage was finished, as he thought.
The road ahead was fairly level going.
Traffic was not heavy.

Heidegger never learned to drive a car.
The enemy was getting close; he might be
arrested on the spot. He took his bicycle,
pedalling east towards his old hometown,
Messkirch. The good life in Freiburg was behind.
Student Nolte pedalling faster overtook:
"Professor, sir, your wife has sent you this,"
a knapsack stuffed with laundry freshly ironed,
some food. Thoughtful Elfride, ever on the job,
she knew the road ahead would be tough going
and the traffic—best not dwell on that.

‘There are, indeed, things that cannot be
put into words. They make themselves manifest.
They are what is mystical.’
Wittgenstein, 6.522"

--Kendrick Smithyman

"With them I walk'd in love and awe
till I was ware of that grim maw
and lazar-pit that reek'd beneath:
what outcast howlings these? what teeth
gnashing in vain? and was that bliss
whose counter-hemisphere was this?"
An excerpt from "Epilogue 1908" by Christopher Brennan.

How close he came sometimes!
--Well, someone named Camille Meesh (sp.?) has informed me that the word "umbelliferous" means "umbrella bearing", and thus has no actual connection with the Umbra.

I ask you: does that make any sense?

AFTER ALL, isn't the Umbrist group-blog entitled, "Umbrella"??????????????
Can you think of any phrase, any phrase at all, that makes a better "kenning" for Umbrism, than "The Umbelliferous Dark"?

"Come in, she said, I'll give you/ Shelter from the storm."

A fellow named Zimmerman wrote that.

K. S.
Umbrists! I draw your attention to the following poem by Ern Malley:

"Night Piece

The swung torch scatters seeds
In the umbelliferous dark
And a frog makes guttural comment
On the naked and trespassing
Nymph of the lake.

The symbols were evident,
Though on park-gates
The iron birds looked disapproval
With rusty invidious beaks.

Among the water-lilies
A splash — white foam in the dark!
And you lay sobbing then
Upon my trembling intuitive arm."

Notice the tenth word.

07 March 2004


I. The Poem is not about You, it is not about Me; it is always and everywhere about the Entelechy of Silken Otherness.

II. A Poem is situated in both Time and Space; therefore it should contain both Adverbs and Prepositions. But being a spoken utterance, Time should predominate. The Adverbs must outnumber the Prepositions.

III. A Word means what it has meant in everything you've ever written--and nothing else besides.

IV. We are the Shadow of Things To Come, and say more than we know.

V. The Dictionary is the Samovar of Poetry.

K. S. 2004 A. D.
"I am not your rolling wheels;
I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride;
I am the sky."
Part of a song by Audio Slave. Whoever writes their lyrics is a true poet.

06 March 2004

"The beginning of the building of the mausoleum of the twentieth century. You can’t imagine how heavy this is; this mausoleum is really meant to last." In a lecture by Lyn Hejinian.

I imagine this point will be reached, when both the ease of writing and the difficulty of reading, become INFINITE.
" “What is it about haiku that cannot be defeated?” asked Jim Kacian, one of the founders of the World Haiku Association, in a paper delivered at the first conference of the WHA in Croatia, 2000." From David Prater- "Searching for the Young Haiku Rebels".

I wonder.

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