Field Notes is an ongoing bulletin for literary news, notices, micro-reviews, annotations, found materials, works-in-progress, and correspondence. For details about submitting material, please contact: Field Notes will be updated periodically between each issue of Word For/Word.

[November 5, 2005]
Tom Hibbard, Hartland, Wisconsin


Redletter Reading Series

I went to the first poetry reading in the Redletter Reading Series organized by Chuck Stebelton on Friday the 21st at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Stebelton recently joined the staff at Woodland Pattern after working in Chicago. The readers were Lina Ramona Vitkauskas and Ander Monson. Vitkauskas is co-editor of the online journal milk. Monson read from his collection vacationland.

Following the reading, I took the photo above. From left to right are: Roberto Harrison, poet and co-editor of Crayon Magazine (Harrison has started his own reading series titled Enemy Rumor); Chuck Stebelton; Lina Ramona Vitkauskas; Jackie Lalley, poet and contributor to the magazine The Onion; and Larry Sawyer, poet and co-editor of milk. The second reader, Ander Monson, had departed before the photo was taken.


[October 12, 2005]
Scott Wilkerson, Columbus, Georgia


Response to Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino’s “Logoclasody”

In the turbulent economy of contemporary critical theory, there exists a restrictive and, therefore, regressive distinction between the philosophical and poetical projects. To be sure, this distinction is more than merely a received view insofar as the philosopher and the poet might imagine differing objectives. Indeed, there may be real, determinate limitations to what either can accomplish, given the exigencies of form, to say nothing of the tyrannies of tradition.

For Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, however, these exclusionary principles and boundary conditions are, finally, points of departure and as much open to conjecture as the puzzles they presume to resolve. Tracing that conceptual arc, "Logoclasody"--his sustained encounter with the question of "poetry as discourse"--delivers an astonishing inter-penetration of logical inquiry and lyrical invention. It is a major theoretical gesture and, therefore, a significant methodological provocation. I propose, here, to begin an exploration the logoclastic synthesis and speculate on its implications for the critical enterprise of textual poetics.

As an exegetical object, "Logoclasody" documents quite brilliantly an ontological crisis in poetry and is, by design, an exemplar both of the problem and the solution. St.Thomasino conceives the central aporia of writing as one of recovering, from the ruin of a necessarily incomplete knowledge, the deep-structure(s) of representation. And by exploiting the tension between grammatical function and the irruptive energies of text itself, the Thomasinian program deploys logos as an expressive motif, through which are diffracted both meaning and its contested relationship to language. This "reverse nominalism" of logoclasticity authorizes the artifacts of poetic syllogism without invoking or displacing templates of semantic calculus, a delightfully subversive reading of the rules subtending metaphoric logic.

St.Thomasino's image of "poetry as discourse/the poem as revealer," is an open rejoinder to the instrumentalist motivation in criticism, that odd, reflexive tropism toward zero sum explication. And if, as he further suggests, passage into "the confidence of the poem" requires a double integration of the poet's "creative intuition" and the reader's "receptive intuition" turning on an axis of "tentative consent," then logoclasticity becomes that sense in which language's triple trajectories converge not upon, but rather, beyond the essentialist horizon of knowledge. It is on the strength of St. Thomasino's eidetic idiom that we are permitted a glimpse of this exotic space.

That his system both invites and resists critical interrogation is evidence of a struggle to derive, from the metaphysical expenditures of writing, an exit strategy for the poet in peril: "the mind knows the word in the figure of its substance." Yet it is precisely at this moment of casting off formal encumbrances that his 'break in discourse" restores, to this aesthetic schema, the mechanism of a complex spatial grammar. This is perhaps the characteristic logoclastic moment, a stately modulation from the scattered coordinates of phenomenological mapping to the vertex of epistemological triangulation, from place to space, from modes of writing, to nodes of knowing.

"Logoclasody" is, at once, a work of scholarly elegance and poetic gallantry. St. Thomasino's considerable achievement here is to illumine some of the foundational architectonics that animate the narratives of post-modernity. Because so much of contemporary poetry and criticism is propagated without risk--and, therefore, surely without revelation-- speculative sophistication must become the new exemplar of investigative rigor. We have now, before us, precisely that object, conjured in the admonition to "make room for that-which-is" and, thus, a celebratory vision of what-might-be.


[September 14, 2005]
Thomas Lowe Taylor, Oysterville, Washington


“…up 4 levels from where I usually view the world, we are 1000 miles NW of the Antarctic and 700 miles west of Chile. We are surrounded by a kaleidiscope of mist taunting us with an occasional glimpse of the sky while the layered hem of its swirling skirt rides the massive ocean swells....swells of 35' and more, each one being an entity in its own right. The winds blow with the frigid fury of a betrayed heart and we must sit and wait to do our work As we pitch from bow to stern, we roll from port to starboard and it is only from the bridge that one can look upon the frothing pinnacles of the swells.

Ours is an itinerary on hold, we are insignificant and have no place in this world. The transparent shell of steel which wraps itself around us is an uninvited guest and no match for the liquid turquoise dunes.”

[ Karen Johnson, on the Knorr research vessel, Oceanographic Institute ]


[August 29, 2005]
Bill Borneman , Helena, Montana


If a rock band called Skeleton Key comes to your neck of the woods do not miss them. (They don't always wear the silly masks--it's a visual thing for one song only.)  Led by bassist, Eric Sanko, who spent a decade with John Lurie's Lounge Lizards, these guys are putting the rock back into post-rock. They get pretty loud but it always stays sublime.  They play Songs. Pretty songs--and with a percussionist who plays on beer kegs, wheel rims, propane tanks, etc. It's all still musical!  However, so far their efforts are not well represented by recordings. Live is better.


[August 8, 2005]
Derek White, New York, NY


"Castling To Safety"
from George Belden's Field Notes


"Orders of Architecture"
from George Belden's Field Notes


"Reproducing the Images from George Belden’s Field Notes"

The renderings above were originally created by George Belden (1885-1952), “an architect who was commissioned by the Philadelphia Explorer’s club, in 1913, to erect a memorial on Antarctica’s Barrier Ice, commemorating the death of Captain Robert Scott and two of his colleagues the previous year.” At least that is what Norman Lock told me when he offered me a manuscript of such texts to publish under Calamari Press. Evidently, this Belden character went mad without ever fulfilling his commission, though he did leave behind some field notebooks, which Lock found in the basement of a sanitarium in Vermont. Lock painstakingly deciphered and transcribed the journals into the stories that comprise Land of the Snow Men.

Suffice to say, I was curious, but also skeptical. I only knew Norman Lock through his works and had never met him in person. I mean, what was he doing in a private sanitarium in the Green Mountains of Vermont in the first place? Could he himself be trusted? When I confronted him about this, he coolly responded that while he was living in Africa, writing his (I must add, brilliant) novel, A History of the Imagination, the strain of living in such an alien and hostile environment caused him to have a nervous breakdown. He was committed to this sanitarium in Vermont where he found Belden’s notebooks while purportedly “cleaning out the basement.” I had read and thoroughly enjoyed A History of the Imagination (which I reviewed for my 5¢ense Reviews), but even while I was reading that book, I was skeptical as to whether Mr. Lock had ever even set foot in Africa. The only way I could know for certain whether this George Belden character really existed was to see the actual journals for myself.

When Lock reluctantly sent me the original journals, my skepticism was momentarily quenched by the sheer appearance of these field notebooks—tattered and torn, with scrawling doodles and handwriting that was virtually indecipherable. I only had the patience to read enough of Belden’s original handwriting, comparing it to Lock’s transcribed text, to confirm that Lock was relaying the truth of what the journals contained. But the more I read the text, the more my skepticism mounted—for the texts were inside stories about Robert Falcon Scott and members of his infamous and doomed expedition to reach the South Pole. Having read Scott’s journals (Scott’s Last Expedition, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.), I recognized many of these other characters and details as truth (if you accept Scott’s account to be “truth”), but there was one big problem—there was no one by the name of George Belden mentioned in Scott’s journals, nor is he accounted for on any of the expedition’s crew lists. When I raised this flag to Lock, he shrugged and told me that I needn’t dwell in the truth or authenticity of Land of the Snow Men, but that it should be considered as the fulfillment of Belden’s commission to erect a monument to Scott, Wilson, and Bowers. Even if the physical monument was never constructed (no remains have been discovered), these texts and renderings could be considered as designs for this monument, regardless of whether this was a fictional monument to Scott, Wilson and Bowers, or a truthful monument of Belden’s own insanity.

Once I had gotten over this obstacle of believability, past the meaning behind the texts, my attention was drawn back to the superficial appearance of the journals themselves. In addition to the hand-scribbled texts and stories, there were also pictures, depictions, illustrations, notes and odd ephemera pasted and taped in the margins, adjoining pages or slipped in between. The notebooks had obviously been distressed by time and the elements of the Antarctic, or at least some other harsh environment. Many of the pages were deteriorated beyond recognition. Others were decipherable, but it was difficult to comprehend the intent. Some of the renderings (such as the two included here) were done on semi-transparent vellum tracing paper, the kind used by architects, and were presumably intended to be overlaid over the adjoining pages. To lend some authenticity to the texts, I decided to scan and try to restore some of the original pages from Belden’s notebooks to include with the book. These are two such renditions, which I leave to your own interpretation. – Derek White

[George Belden's Land of the Snow Men, which was recently discovered by Norman Lock and includes renderings by Derek White, will be available in several weeks from Calamari Press. Another excerpt from the book was published in elimae. ]


[June 1, 2005]
Tom Hibbard, Hartland, Wisconsin


Bookstore Pleasure Cruise

Due to high gas prices and low income, I haven't been able to make my trip to Milwaukee bookstores as regularly as previously. But this Wednesday I freewayed in with the morning traffic. Across Locust Street near Woodland Pattern bookstore a banner boasted the Locust Street Festival with its annual Beer Run on June 12. ( Inside Woodland Pattern ( ) I followed my customary browsing pattern: new titles, local authors, small press poetry, chapbook poetry; an exciting world of idealistic activity unknown to stern commercial presses. Woodland Pattern has a small exhibition and performance room which presently has on its walls photographic portraits by North Carolina author and editor, Jonathan Williams. Some of the photo subjects are Jack Spicer, Charles Olson, Mina Loy, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov and Ezra Pound. The subjects are interesting in themselves, but the raw settings and excellent photo quality make the portraits among the best I've seen.  These and others can be viewed at the Jargon Society website, specifically at .  Williams, a student at Black Mountain College, as editor of Jargon Press was an early publisher of Robert Creeley and Lorine Niedecker.  I didn't buy anything at Woodland Pattern because I was budgeted for two books at one-room People's Bookstore, further east on Locust, near UW-Milwaukee, a bookstore new to me though the owner says he's selling out and moving back to Taiwan. On the crowded counter at the People's Bookstore, hot off the presses, was a stack of wrapped copies of a new autobiography of Frank P. Zeidler, longtime socialist mayor of Milwaukee. I made good on my two books and headed to an old cream brick waterworks building turned Alterra coffee boutique, where I met a friend for a stroll along Lake Michigan shore invigorated by a cool liberating maritime breeze. The lake surface was unusually placid and sparkled like a prism with seeming clarity. The fading smell of spring was in the air from the bluffs along the lake, and in the distance, through the Monet masts of McKinley Marina was the stolid Milwaukee skyline, including Hoan Bridge ('the bridge to nowhere') and the dove-like Santiago Calatrava addition to the Art Museum.


[May 24, 2005]
Thomas Lowe Taylor, Oysterville, Washington


[ by Arthur Lee Herman ]


[May 24, 2005]
Thomas Lowe Taylor, Oysterville, Washington


“...and with the rising of its namesake, the morning has lived up to its name. The saffron egg, nestled in a froth of white, continues on a path within the heavens...still nudging at the golden prisms of light left dancing on the silken skirt of moire.

Below, there is a silence on the deck. Above, on the flying bridge, the breath of the gods tugs at the familiarity of a memory from the glacier clouds in Iceland.”

[ Karen Johnson, on the Knorr research vessel, Oceanographic Institute ]