American Sentences Reviewed

Buy the book, $11.99.

Buy the book, $11.99.

Michael Dylan Welch, who has been tracking my commitment to American Sentences for many years, made good on his promise to write a review of the book and wrote a very astute and fair one. I liked that he noted my allusion to a Jack Kerouac haiku and liked especially this paragraph, despite the use of the sixth word:

These and other Sentences show lifefulness, honesty, and an endless openness to whatever happens—not just to the experiences of life, but an openness to whatever ends up in the poems. In that regard they have much in common with Ginsberg’s approach to this form as well as to haiku. It’s an exploration of the aesthetics of Open Form, or what Olson called “composition by field,” which Paul explains as being “what comes into one’s consciousness,” underscoring that “The practice of writing a daily American Sentence will change that field, if one is open to change” (9).

The review appears in the latest edition of the Raven Chronicles and bully for them for running so many reviews in an age when they seem a lost art.

See also Greg Bem’s review:




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Latin American Neo-Baroque

Senses of Distortion (Pablo Baler Interview)
Conducted at Cal State University’s Golden Eagle radio station on November 14, 2016. Our thanks to Jasmine Salgado and Golden Eagle radio.)


Pablo Nelson y Pablo Baler

The objective of art is exactly like that of cosmology. Its aim is to conjecture about the contents and form of the universe. How that has been accomplished in Spanish literature in the 17th century’s Baroque period and the 20th century’s Neo-Baroque and how it has included methods characterized as “distortion” is the subject of a book, newly translated from its original Spanish into English and published by Palgrave McMillan. The book is Latin American Neo-Baroque: Senses of Distortion and the author is Pablo Baler, Associate Professor of Latin-American Literature at Cal State L.A.


In the introductory segment Baler discussed the inspiration for the book, stemming from his graduate work, how the translation is, in his words, “more authentic” than the original and how Roberto Echavarren’s characterization of the neo-baroque is something with which he’d disagree.

Listen to Part 1 – 5:18.

In part two Baler elaborated on two of the book’s quotes: “linear perspective tend to ignore its own artifice” and “arbitrariness and incompleteness of any “total view.” He responded by talking about the “distortion” technique of anamorphosis. He said that anamorphosis reveals the arbitrariness/artificiality of linear perspective. He says it “disrupts representation” and as such is one of the distortion techniques of the baroque and neo-baroque movements in art. He also cited the hyperbaton as used by Góngora and the use of parenthetical thoughts by Santa Teresa. He also discussed examples of perspectivism in Don Quixote and Diego Velázquez‘s painting Las Meninas and the trick of grounding any view, the essential “un-sayability” of reality, a very baroque position. Listen to Part 2 – 6:28.

In segment three Baler discussed another specific example of anamorphosis, a painting called The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein. He also talked about how a “renewed and cheerful nihilism” is a quality of the Baroque and Neo-Baroque and elaborated on that point as relates to another of his book’s topics, the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and how it is similar to what Holbein is doing in his painting The Ambassadors. Listen to Part 3 – 4:52.

In part four a sidebar was offered in the manner of a question about the recent election of Donald Trump, a neo-fascist as President of the United States. Baler answered by suggesting that avant-garde movements in the history of art, including Marinetti, are neo-fascist themselves. He also cited some artists who believe because of Trump’s election we do not live in time to create art that is not political in nature. He referenced Cuban-American performance artist Tania Bruguera as one example of a person who believes this and his feeling that development, or stance, was “worrisome.” He cited Krzysztof Ziarek‘s book The Force of Art as a counter to the narrowing of the aesthetic bandwidth called for by Bruguera and other artists. Listen to Part 4 – 4:01.

In part five Baler responded to a question about Borges and Quevedo and their notion of the act of thinking as an act of language. He talked about the baroque and neo-baroque tendency to disrupt the oppressive nature of language. He also talked about Ramón Gomez notion of metaphors as “little flowers of the ages” and cited an example of one of his Greguerias. Listen to Part 5 – 5:05.

In part six he discussed poet Vicente Huidobro, his work Altazor and how a world is constructed via language and then broken down by use of pure sound. He also discussed the difference between Romantic irony and Baroque Irony. Romantic irony is in his words “a stylistic choice.” In Baroque irony it is a world view, a way of approaching literature. He read some of Huidobro’s poetry. Listen to Part 6 – 5:04. 

In part seven Baler discussed the distortion trope of hyperbaton, or the reshuffling of the syntactical structure which he said Góngora took from Latin. He said in this manner, Góngora is “four hundred years ahead of all of us.” The universe as chaotic and becoming. (In process.) He connects Góngora to Borges again in this way. The flux between meaning and meaninglessness keeps us going Baler concludes. He also talks about the reception and the market for the book among other topics. Listen to Part Seven – 7:26.



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How to Survive Trump? (Cascadia Knute says)

Perhaps it’s vindication for suggesting Bernie Sanders was a candidate more in line with traditional Democratic Party values, or the yuge desire to see an end to the embrace of neoliberalism that allows me not to feel as freaked out about the possibilities of a Trump presidency than many of my friends. After all when “good” presidents are assassinating U.S. citizens, and extending endless violent foreign occupations, how bad can it… (OK, I won’t ask that.)

And it’s not like I have it made by typical materialistic U.S. standards. I earn less than half of the median income for this county and have no health insurance, so I have to be careful about how I go about things. Still, I found it quite validating that longtime local historian and writer Knute Berger would write TWO different pieces on how to view recent electoral developments from a bioregional angle.


…1. Cascadia as a state of mind

The Northwest has its own secession dreamers in the Cascadia movement that seeks to unite the bioregion incorporating Northern California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, parts of Idaho and Montana. While real secession from the U.S. and Canada isn’t an option, we can, as one advocate has suggested, have nationhood without being a separate country. In the age of Trump, thinking and acting regionally will become more important. We can sharpen our definition of what it means to be Cascadian citizens engaged in the region, sharing values, being open and inclusive (unlike some separatist advocates), and striving for social and racial justice. We could strengthen regional cooperation with less regional competition. Consolidating ports? Working on interstate regional mass transit? Building housing? Planning less parochially? Developing regional structures between states and provinces — without reliance on the federal governments — could prove to have lasting value and be more sustainable than if we act on our own…


Our region — the old Oregon Country and California — has been built on immigration and migration, with various ethnicities pulsing into the region: the Irish, Chinese, Germans, Mexican, Brits and Canadians. In the 1970s, we opened our arms to some 30,000 Vietnamese refugees who became a bedrock community in our state. The biggest source of foreign immigrants in the modern Northwest is Mexico.

Such influxes can be gracefully accommodated, which is a good thing: There are more coming.

Already, the Pacific Northwest is expecting an influx of climate refugees, from the Pacific Islands that might shortly be under water to Hispanic migrant workers who have forsaken drought-ravaged California for wetter climes in places like Skagit County… 

Meteorologist Cliff Mass has predicted that climate change will impact us, but that we’ll likely be spared some of the worst effects in the relative near term and thus we’ll be a magnet for other migrating Americans. These might be Californians looking for water, people from the Southern states looking to escape Zika, or folks from coastal communities resettling due to intensified storms, erosion and sea level rise…

Am reminded of the haibun I wrote about Cascadia being home to many “cracker climate refugees.”

us-military-basesWhen one gets connected to a place in terms of a bioregion, the national borders become, if not less real, surely less important in one’s consciousness. They have in mine. Few U.S. Presidents ever act in ways that I would support, even the “best” of them. I won’t get into the number of military bases this country has around the world, or the fact that it is the only major industrial country that does not provide health care for its citizens. The list goes on and on. So thanks Knute. I agree, thinking more bioregionally is not just healthy for people and ecosystems, but if we think about saving the biosphere one bioregion at a time, it looks quite sensible.


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