Little Emerson

30 June 2005

The Lord of the Rings


I hate Ron Silliman. Should we have met in a boxing ring, he would’ve of knocked me out nine out of ten times. He’s got that way of beating me to the punch. He’s so stubborn that he’ll just jab at anything, so that eventually he finds your jaw, though not with a jab but with that twinkling right cross.

Ron is so stubborn that he now apparently takes innocence as the exclusivity clause of some camp. You got to be sharp to do that, jump rope for months, run for years. That a nine-year-old could write what a mature School of Quietude poet could write any day is just further proof of his theorem. And it’s convincing; seemingly, were it not possible to write what Silliman writes from a grammar school perspective. I’ll not step into the ring with him.

I had something else in mind. Innocence—indeed innocent ignorance—of schools of thought, styles, forms, ethnic backgrounds, politics, growing up, would surely result in something different. Ron’s example is poor and fails because it results in a School of Quietude example of poetics. My, even a ten year old writes like them, and she can do it better. Unfairness—even by Ron's admission—results in cheap tricks. Artists often do that, but dissapearence acts are, well, tricks.

Innocence isn’t that, nor is it purity in poetics. Innocence is awareness of what surrounds, what hurts, what pains, what disappoints: What is. That may or may not be poetry, but surely it isn’t form. It isn’t your predilection for & or that. Poetry eventually drowns on that shit. A child of ten doesn’t know that. Tnakfully (sic). & we must thank Ron for that reminder.

28 June 2005

The Taste of the Age

Red Hooded Sheep by Patricia Traub
Sheep or Wolf?

Jarrell made a comment once:
“The name Little Red Riding Hood seems to me both long and nonessential—why not call the child Red, and strip the story down to Red meets wolf, Red escapes wolf? At this rate, one could tell a child all of Grimm’s tales between dinner and bedtime.”

But then again, not everyone likes Jarrell. Misery loves company and it eventually finds it.

Oh, matters of taste. Ok so I made that up about my famous dead poet friend, the one licking poems on paper. It wasn’t true; the poet was neither famous nor dead. But she did lick poems on a page—something you might laugh about, but which, given time, might just help with the accessibility of poetry in America. I wouldn’t mind a Silliman popsicle myself. (Collins take note, Jimmy take note.) (And just as an aside the results of her licking choices were, well, accurate. She could actually tell the author of a poem by the taste of ink on paper: “Snow” was Frost’s by its cool, frosty touch on the palate; Bishop was identified as being basically fishy once, Lorca as minty green.)

Taste is like that, like that famous saying of it lying in the tongue of the beholder. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the editors of Little Emerson are having their bouts of difficulty with taste and choice. I must defend them, you know. (Others are also talking of taste in a different but related context. Interesting.) What surprises me about some of the reactions to this “experiment”, which is wholly lacking in any scientific rigor—no shit!—but which nonetheless sounds awfully serious as Little Emerson: That Failed Experiment in Quantum Poetics, is that as arbitrary as it is many people are focusing on the competitive aspect of getting through nine judges for a poem to be published. Will that mythical 9-vote poem, should we ever find it, be better than that lonesome ranger that got but one vote? (Mayhew over at C. Dale’s place essentially argues that it is a statistical impossibility; do check the man’s numbers—any person who can get through that calculation can no doubt make it through Little Emerson in a jiffy or at least to a tenured professorship in random stats at M.I.T.) If you want to see further statistical shock see The Hermit Poet via Dumbfoundry.

Will the mythical “niner” be schizophrenic in style as Charles has suggested (also at C. Dale’s place)? Or will it simply be bland, boring, blah? Or will the editors simply sigh in despair and say “Hey, Alberto, to hell with your little grammar-school-experiment-
in-the-attic thing! Anyway, some interesting comments—did I say it—over at C. Dale’s place.

Or we may turn to the simpler solution suggested by A.D.: Does anybody know Ashbery well enough to get him to submit to L.E.? (Oh, you mean-spirited ones, you’d love to see him rejected, wouldn’t you?)

23 June 2005

Taste – Yum, Ugh!

Goya's Thanksgiving Dinner

A poet I once knew, now dead, like all good poets, said that she knew he liked a poem by the way the paper on which it was printed tasted. She actually licked paper, then he would turn towards the mirror in the dresser and would stare for hours at her tongue.

She rejected poems by the way they tasted. An unfair approach no doubt, but one that he felt totally comfortable with. “How else to reject?,” she would say. It was all a matter of spice yesterday, salt today, deep hunger tomorrow.

Thus far the editors of Little Emerson have come up with empty stomachs. Thank goodness for the qualifier “little” before Emerson, as expected. Over twenty submissions and nothing, nil, zilch. A lovely, demanding group. That is not to say that some have not approved. Tongue to paper they said “yes”, though rarely and altogether occasionally. The most votes any poem got: four out of nine, thus far. Is this sad? True? Fair? Are all of these folks simply overstuffed? This one is yummy. Or not. But it just so happens that, despite hunger, not all like vanilla ice cream for dessert. Shit! Not all like ice cream at all. Rare. Rare, indeed, like Cronus' meat.

17 June 2005

Arts & Crafts

chagall - Lovers in the Moonlight
Craftsmen in the moonlight? - Chagall

A few discussions on “craft” lately. Somehow they keep me in tune with the Amish, the way they build things. Any discussion on craft must be a reductio ad absurdum, of poetical sorts. Obviously, you cannot write poetry without a minimum indicia of craft. Words in arrow are a good start. But then again writing poetry according to strict craft may result in poems solid as Quaker chairs. They are solid, unmoving. Though something may be said about the right way to hold nails in your mouth before the last plank goes on to the frame of that house, beware of all houses looking exactly that practical same. Thus “craft” in that sense turns poetry into suburban neighborhoods seen from the sky. I don’t know. How to describe the craft of Lorca? O’Hara? Wordsworth? Shall we call the carpenters’ guild?

It all explains, perhaps, why Donald Hall was once great at scything.

My grandfather taught me scythe mowing, which is a rhythmic motion like dancing or lovemaking. It is a studios sweeping crescent in which the trick is to keep the heel (where blade joins snath) close to the ground, an angle that tilts the scythe point-up, preventing it from catching in the ground. I no longer mow with a scythe …Finding a meter, one abandons oneself to the swing of it; one surrenders oneself to the guidance of object and task, where worker and work are one: There is something ecstatic about mowing with a scythe.”[Donald Hall, Life’s Work, at p. 86.]

There. Don’t you ever forget it. There is nothing ecstatic about mowing with a scythe. Nothing ecstatic about worker and work as one. Ask any worker. Anybody know how to build a hut in the forest? Oh never mind, Mr. Thoreau, I’ll stick to trinkets.

14 June 2005


Floating Poet (1993)
Floating Poet, Drowning Poet?

One of L.E.’s editors writes to me:

I'd like to say here that I am not necessarily looking for perfection. If I were, I'd say "no" to at least a thousand poems before considering a "yes" vote. It is of utmost importance, in my humble opinion, that we as editors empathize with those who submit. As you'd noted on little emerson, it would be unfair to have any preconceptions, as this is an open-submission project. Therefore, we'll see things by people who admire Walcott, adore Stevens, love Pound or Ginsberg or Pinsky or even Collins and Goldbarth. Naturally one's aesthetic sensibilities are in play, but at this point in history the idea of exceptionalism, or that one strain of influence can make a poem "bad" seems to me ridiculous.

I am a fan of Bukowski. He penned maybe twenty great poems, and of those possibly five would reach that "perfection" threshold even in the eyes of a fan such as myself. To ask anyone to surpass that (given Bukowski's fifty-thousand books) would be foolhardy.

Still, I maintain a pretty harsh standard for "good." But this is communication, after all. Does the writer effectively communicate? A few have so far. I like the feeling of a "yes" and I'd almost wager a few out there are eager to say "no." That just seems to be the tendency.

I know it wasn't asked or required, I thought I'd give you a window on my selection process, as I tend to write very short responses.

11 June 2005

Drizzle, Rain, Deluge

Chris Villar - Rain
Chris Villars - Is H20 really that complex?

The first batch of poems out and already some editors are coming back with their sort of editorial comments on the process. One editor says (and I’ll camouflage the writing as best I can):

anyway, yes i do feel like a bitch nonetheless. though i do not think this is necessarily a bad thing. i do know that when i am in a position of editing some kind of publication of poetry, i've not made apologies that i was looking for a certain kind of work. i think it's easier to practice that kind of honesty, telling writers, "i am looking for this." and having them send me work accordingly. some would call it nepotism. which is fine.

That’s after a full set of rejections. What’s interesting to me is the obvious conflict that develops when one faces poetry on poetry’s terms, without the ideologies and prejudices one cannot entirely escape from. Obviously, this editor would prefer to read the kind of poetry she would like to read. I find the editor’s comment extremely sincere. But here she cannot. She cannot ask for what she wants and must try to do with what is. And this is so because as I was telling L. Trent recently poems show up at your door in all kinds of guises and at the most inopportune times. How does one prepare for them? How does one serve a dinner to differences? I ought to like this but….

But there is a challenge to expected ways. In my country—in Galicia, Spain—we say it doesn’t rain to everyone’s choice. (Rain here is multi-layered, like Inuit snow.) And it doesn’t. It doesn’t rain to everyone’s liking.

Poets take note.

10 June 2005

The Debate

Barry - The Debate
Frank Barry's The Debate

Poems started going out today, 9 June 2005, in order of submission. Remember that if one out of nine editors rejects a poem that is it. Finito. Like in the big leagues, except that no one can pull for you. Because anyone can submit to Little Emerson, including editors, I will need a minimum of two rejections on a poem before I communicate the rejection to the author. Rejections, of course, mean absolutely squat. That’s why Little Emerson is. I may even submit. No one knows. I won’t like being rejected, but so what. I’m keeping statistics of poems submitted and rejected—hell that will be most of them—as well as editors’ comments on poems. Remember that editors need only say “no” and that’s it. You’re rejected. That’s so much power, isn’t it? I’ll post some editors’ comments here without identifying the editors so everyone can see what is being said. Unfortunately I can’t publish rejected poems for privacy and confidentiality reasons. It’s exciting though I’m having trouble with concepts: there is a name behind every rejection. And sometimes, of course, I just simply don’t agree with the editors. Their call. Good luck.

07 June 2005

The Poets' Den

Rubens - How many poets? Editors? Lions or lionesses?

Poems have been coming in and for some reason or other I have been less than expedient about getting them out. This is not good since the editors are waiting and the more I wait the more I tire them; the less efficient Little Emerson is. We want quick turn around don’t we? We do. Anonymity, however, carries a price.

Do people who have submitted, for example, know that their identity can easily be revealed to the editors via Word® submissions? Well it can and identities cannot be revealed. Editors cannot know who the submitting poet is. However, by clicking on “Properties” on any Word® file your identity may be revealed if it has been set as such in your computer. That is, if my name is Alberto and I have filed that name as my computer’s then that name will always appear as the author’s name in any Word® file I create. If I send that file to you, then you can click on “Properties” and voila.

So now I have to pass many Word® files sent to me to my computer—thus making them appear to be mine—before I send them to the editors. (All I have to do is go into “Properties” and erase the name of the author and that’s that.) That’s something that all submitting poets can do from now on to clear the traffic jam. (By the way no such submissions have gone to the editors yet, so don’t worry.) But it all has complicated my feeble technical skills; thus the delay we are experiencing, among others.

Also, people should know that some poems sent in the body of e-mails do not “format” correctly. One poet has identified that problem with one of her poems and identified it in time to submit it via Word® attachment. Of course, I can do nothing when you submit a poem in the body of an e-mail with special formatting. Just be aware that special spacing or cursives or whatever may not be picked up by all e-mail programs and your poem may suffer accordingly. In those instances it is best to submit via Word® attachment with the above caveat.

So now you know where the poetry is. And it ain’t here.

01 June 2005

Little Emerson

Goya - Dog

Dog sinking in sand, or water? Goya

"Little Emerson" is an experiment, of sorts. It is a blog entirely dedicated to the publication of poetry. There is no formal definition for this blogzine. There is no theory, no clique. I initially chose—quite randomly ten bloggers as possible editors for Little Emerson. When I say randomly I lie, of course, because I had to think of different sensibilities and then picked as “randomly” as I could within those sensibilities. Mind you, I had to pick some people I don’t particularly agree with, but which I respect. Nine of the ten chosen agreed to participate. These editors do not know each other. This is important. They only know me as they must since I will act solely as messenger. The editors represent various personalities, various ways of looking at poetry, various styles. My job is not to get them to agree, but to get them to read, individually, poems submitted by others for publication in this cheap medium.

All of the editors must unanimously agree on a poem before it can get published. I repeat: the editors do not know each other. They will not know each other. There will be no group, no clique. No one will know who they are except me and they all have MY WORD HERE, quite publicly, THAT THEIR IDENTITIES WILL NEVER BE KNOWN without their express, written authorization and consent. I, for one, don’t really care who they are as long as they try to choose, sincerely, what they would like to see published here. Also, only I will know the names of the authors who submit their work, any type, any length. Kill with line breaks, coded-language, symbols, or rhyme to your heart’s desire. The editors must only choose what they like. They may simply say “no” to a poem. Period. No strings attached. Or they may reason their choices. Up to them. If they reason I will let the submitting poet know the content of the editor’s comments. Nothing more. There must be a 100 % consensus or a poem will not be published. Nil. Zero. Zip.

As you can see it is quite possible that "Little Emerson" may be the only poetry blogzine with empty pages in the blogosphere. But remember that this is an experiment, of sorts. Try to get published here. It will be an absolute miracle. A near impossibility or will it? There are no prizes, no notoriety, no tenure. But who knows what the future can bring. Taste and judgment are awfully tricky things.

Alberto Romero Bermo

P.S. The editors themselves may choose to submit their work. Their families and lovers may also submit their work. Anyone and everyone can submit. No holds barred. And God forbid: no stamps.

All submissions by e-mail to in e-mail body or word attachment. No guidelines: just send poetry in.