Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tag! (puff puff) You're (wheeze wheeze) It!

Good Lord — I'm it! I've been tagged as a "thinking blogger" by Steve Burt.

It was Ron Silliman who tagged the unsuspecting Professor Burt while Steve was sweating innocently away in an attempt to wedge his 40-volume set of the letters of Randall Jarrell (vaorium edition, with annotations both explicatory and exculpatory) into an old Tivo box in preparation for his upcoming Steinbeck-like trek from the central plains to Harvard (or am I misremembering The Grapes of Wrath?). Silliman himself was tagged in turn by Ashraf Osman, who was tagged (I think) by Wallace Stevens, who was in his turn tagged by Alfred Lord Tennyson, who was tagged by the zombified hand of an undead Homer while giving a poetry reading at Heinrich Schliemann's archeological digs. Since Homer was tagged by poets of the early Sumerian oral tradition, the ultimate origin of the tag-chain lies lost in the mists of literary prehistory, although I suspect a time-traveling Frank O'Hara may be behind it all in the end. I won't know for sure unless and until the grant money comes in for further research.


Part of me thinks this whole blog-tag phenom is just a schoolyard game. The other part thinks so too. But neither part minds. Who doesn't miss the schoolyard, where one could whip a big red dodgeball at one's peers with impunity, aiming for face or crotch with velocities approaching mach one? I mean, what wouldn't you give to make that sort of thing a regular part of all faculty meetings? (Imagine here Archambeau supine upon the floor, mercilessly pelted by his colleagues, who wield a mace-like untethered tether-ball).

So. It looks like I'm supposed to tag five others. So here's who I'd chase down across the asphalt-and-wood chip landscape of the virtual schoolyard. Only in the virtual world would I, puffing like the bookworm/hedonist I am, be able to catch even one of them and shout "Tag! You're it — a thinking blogger!"

  • Mark Scroggins. I know Mark has already been tagged by Silliman, but since Mark objects to Ron's description of him as "a scrupulous literary scholar who doesn’t take short cuts even in his blog" I thought I'd tag Mark again in terms with which he'd be happier. It isn't that Ron's wrong — Mark oozes legitimacy: he once delivered a scholarly ass-whupping of epic proportions to a manuscript of mine, ridding it of half its pages and two-thirds of its many flaws in the process. Rather, it's that Mark feels Ron's description lays waste to his "cherished self-image of jaunty, effervescent bons mots, of quicksilver connections & startling juxtapositions" and depicts him as "Professor Microscope Drudge." (One could say Mark is over-reading things, but who doesn't fret over representations of themselves? I once blew a nearly John Edwards-level sum of cash on a new haircut after looking in horror at my photo on the cover of an alumni magazine). So here, for the record, is my characterization of Mark (cribbed from P.B. Shelley's Alastor):

    By solemn vision and bright silver dream
    His infancy was nurtured. Every sight
    And sound from the vast earth and ambient air
    Sent to his heart its choicest impulses.
    The fountains of divine philosophy
    Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great,
    Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past
    In truth or fable consecrates, he felt
    And knew. When early youth had passed, he left
    His cold fireside and alienated home
    To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands.

  • Ron Silliman. Is it banal to tag the most popular blogging poet in the world? Probably. But I've been so relentlessly ready to fly off the handle at his worst qualities (his insistence that there's such a thing as a "school of quietude," his calling of Geoffrey Hill a fascist) that I feel a need to tap him on the shoulder and tell him I admire him for his alt-poetry-erudition ("altudition"?). Nobody knows more about the books nobody knows about.

  • Reginald Shepherd. Holy crap he's smart. Some of his recent blog entries are adapted from a forthcoming book of essays — a great preview of coming attractions. He also wins the Congressional Medal of Clarity for that rarest of feats, discussing people like Adorno in graceful English sentences.

  • Mairead Byrne. While the three guys I've already mentioned write essayistic blogs, Mairead Byrne's is a kind of diary-in-poetry. She's a thinking blogger, for sure, but her dialogue with the world takes place in poetry, not prose.

  • Simon DeDeo. Simon writes about individual poems with an energy and insight that leave me as slack-jawed as any roadside yokel watching a UFO suck up his Chevette with some kind of space-hose. And DeDeo should know about space-hose-having UFOs: he's a physicist at Fermilab, where (if memory serves) they invented both the tractor beam and the shamrock shake.