PoMo Refreshed

Premodernism: Reality is imposed from above, i.e. by the church, king, or feudal lord.

Modernism: The attempt to realize a universal shared reality based on observable phenomena. Jean-Francois Lyotard described these utopic universalized stories as “metanarratives”.

Postmodernism: Reality is individually constructed and structured. Metanarratives are replaced by individual narratives and/or by narratives specific to specific sub-cultural groups.

Jacques Derrida

What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

They aren’t heterogeneous, and you can know lots of things and have no wisdom at all. Between knowledge and action there is an abyss, but that abyss shouldn’t prevent us from trying to know as much as possible before making a decision. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Philia is love and sophia is wisdom, so the duty to be wise is what philosophy is. Nonetheless, decisions don’t depend exclusively on knowledge. I try to know as much as possible before making a decision, but I know that at the moment of the decision I’ll make a leap beyond knowledge.


What’s the most widely held misconception about you and your work?

That I’m a skeptical nihilist who doesn’t believe in anything, who thinks nothing has meaning, and text has no meaning. That’s stupid and utterly wrong, and only people who haven’t read me say this. It’s a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it’s difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we’re enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the deconstruction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language. Anyone who reads my work with attention understands that I insist on affirmation and faith, and that I’m full of respect for the texts I read.

~From an interview in the LA Times when JD was 72 years old.

Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, and Renga

Japanese poetry forms have become very popular for writers of poems in the English language. Al Rocheleau, an expert on the technical and aesthetic aspects of good poetry has an excellent article about the use, misuse, and abuse of the haiku.

Rocheleau has a terrific short essay on the history and use of the haiku on his web site at http://members.aol.com/lucyhardng/pointers/form4.htm#forms6.

An excerpt from his description follows:

Haiku is an objective, Japanese short poem based on a nature theme, with three lines consisting of the following number of syllables per line– five, then seven, then five. Note the stress of the word “Japanese”– because this poem is definitely grounded in an eastern culture whose language and intent is far removed from western hands. With such change, comes expansion of the definition.

In Japanese poetic tradition, haiku is actually a relative newcomer. What has been known in the west as haiku are the first three lines (“opening part”) culled from classic renga or from the five-line tanka of haikai renga, with a rule added that these short poems be nature based, containing a kigo, or nature word– moon, wind, water, some type of flower, etc. The delivery of these poems is matter-of-fact, objective to the point where simplicity and clarity actually become transcendent. Haiku has often been identified as artistic equivalent (and sometime enhancer) of the practice of Zen Buddhism. By evoking the simple, one looks for the universal.

One should not confuse haiku with senryu, another three-line, 5-7-5 style that is NOT nature-based, but is much more open in both subject matter (including the human side of existence) and subjective viewpoint, incorporating at times, even humor and political content.

I have recently begun writing “haikus” of my own invention that are structured using a 3-6-9 syllable scheme. I like this scheme because it captures the essence of haiku (really senryu – haikus should be about nature) while also honoring western traditions/ideas. The “trinity” theme from European Christianity, the number 18 from Jewish tradition (the letters used to write the numeral 18 in Hebrew also spell the word “life”) as well the visual effect on the page and the arithmetic effects are all appealing to me.

Acrostics, Mesostics, and Double Acrostics

An acrostic poem has a word, phrase or name spelled out vertically down one of the edges; usually the left edge. A double acrostic has one word down the left edge and another word down the right edge. A mesostic has a word or phrase down a central spine. The word is usually indicated by using upper case letters.

Ok. So you got your basic acrostic and it looks like this:


Poets often write prose
Or they will write a sonnet
Else they oft just sit and think
To find the missing muse
Really it does not matter
Your average poet just likes to write

Then you get your fancy double acrostic and it might look like this:


Heavy breathing is hoW
Animals try to say nO
Rest makes it hardeR
Despite the long road bacK

And then you have your basic mesostic, and it can look like this:


a mEsostic work
is An interesting text
to See on the page
whY one would write one
is nOt easy to say
it’s Not impossible
whEn you think about it

Now if you feel like getting fancy, you can try writing your mesostic poems just like the great composer and theorist John Cage did. He invented extra rules for his mesostics which make them harder to write, and also very interesting. If you decide that you want to do that you can learn a bit more about mesostic poetry from the two blog posts below.

Mesostics and Fluxus

What do mesostic poems have to do with Fluxus?

Fluxus is about “intermedia”. Intermedia is a term used to describe the spaces between media and the places where different media intersect.

Mesostic poems were a favourite form of the composer, John Cage. Cage was a seminal early influence on the Fluxus movement. He saw his mesostic poems as being musical compositions with words and letters being the notes. Like music. he “composed” his mesostic poems so that they could be heard as well as seen.

Many contemporary Fluxus artists also compose mesostic poems. Poetry, especially concrete and visual poetry have been and continue to be important aspects of the Fluxus oeuvre.



Here is one of my mesostics which is also written as a fibonacci:

Look at the capitalized letters.

Fab Fib w/Mesostic Rectum

seConal pills
veTeran soldiers felled
reUniting with the fallen graves
laMbs slaughtered in a single sentence of doubt


What’s a Fibonacci?

Ask Google Here

Mesostics: What Exactly is a Mesostic Anyway?

A mesostic poem is a form of inclusion poetry, or acrostic poem in which the "hidden" or included word, phrase, or name is seen vertically in a central spine instead of at the beginning or end (or both for a "double acrostic") of each line. The form was popularized (if such a thing is possible with such esoteric poetry) by John Cage, who used the term to describe a particular form of inclusion poetry that had compositional rules beyond simply holding the inclusion word or phrase down a central spine. Since the term was first used to by Cage to describe his particular type of meso-acrostic, there is some debate in literary and artistic circles about what can be properly called a "mesostic".

My own opinion is that the term can rightly be applied to any acrostic-type text composition in which the inclusion runs down the spine as opposed to the edge. This opinion is based on the perception that Cage was writing a particular type of specialized mesosic and not the only type of mesostic, even though the term was used mostly to describe his particular central acrostics.

Cage said that, "Like acrostics, mesostics are written in the conventional way horizontally, but at the same time they follow a vertical rule, down the middle not down the edge as in an acrostic, a string spells a word or name, not necessarily connected with what is being written, though it may be. This vertical rule is lettristic and in my practice the letters are capitalized. Between two capitals in a perfect or 100% mesostic neither letter may appear in lower case. …. In the writing of the wing words, the horizontal text, the letters of the vertical string help me out of sentimentality. I have something to do, a puzzle to solve."

From what I have been able to glean hither thither and yonder in Netland there are with three variations of the acrostic form which are called "mesostic".

I’ll begin with the two forms for which Cage and writers/artists/poets following his lead seem to be in total agreement:

1) The 50% Mesostic (A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding capitalized letter)

2) The 100% Mesostic (A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding or following capitalized letter)

3) The basic form (possibly the original form – but not for Cage) is the one on which there seems (at least to me) to be some ambiguity and some room for interpretation.

This might be termed the proto-mesostic, early mesostic, quasi-mesostic or neo-mesostic, depending on where one places it conceptually or chronologically. In one article (see the references below) about Cage and his acrostics/mesostics the basic form was accepted by Cage as adequate to be described as a mesostic. In this article Cage showed a colleague some "acrostic" poems that he had written in which the acrostic word/phrase was arranged vertically down a central spine rather than ‘bookending’ each line at the beginning or end (or both as in a double-acrostic). Cage termed these poems as ‘mesostics’, describing an acrostic form with the the phrase in the middle (hence ‘meso’). He later went on to refine and redefine the form into the 50% and 100% mesostic.

So the issue is, if only the two forms used by cage can properly be termed "mesostic", what does one call the "ordinary mesostic"? It is not a typical acrostic. It is not 50% mesostic, nor is it a 100% mesostic. I remain wont to call it a mesostic as that term seems well-suited to describe an acrostic poem with the phrase down the middle.

From Perloff’s article (referenced below) it seems that Cage may not have written "0% mesostics" or meso-acrostics himself. But the same article (same paragraph) does suggest that the term "mesostic" may still apply to meso-acrostic poems that do not conform to Cage’s mesostic rules, since it may have been Norman Brown and not Cage who coined the term.

"My first mesostic," Cage writes in the Foreword to M, "was written as prose to celebrate one of Edwin Denby’s birthdays. The following ones, each letter of the name being on its own line, were written as poetry. A given letter capitalized does not occur between it and the preceding capitalized letter. I thought I was writing acrostics, but Norman O. Brown pointed out that they could properly be called ‘mesostics’ (row not down the edge but down the middle)" (M 1).

Reference Sites:



Create your own instand mesostic at:

http://www.euph0r1a.net/ (website of Matthew McCabe, a Florida PhD student and composer/geek) he lists the following in his bibliography (http://www.euph0r1a.net/mesostomatic/biblio.html):

John Cage Computer Programs
(Andrew Culver, author. Date of authorship unknown. Accessed May 21, 2006).
Available at: http://anarchicharmony.org/People/Culver/CagePrograms.html

The Music of Verbal Space: John Cage’s "What You Say"
(Marjorie Perloff, author. Date of authorship unknown. Accessed November 18, 2003).
Available at: http://www.ubu.com/papers/perloff02.html

Cage Quotes:

Marjorie Perloff

Fluxus, Recursiveness, and Copyright

The artist, Walter Cianciusi, posted a number of Fluxus events of his devising to the Fluxlist Blog. His posting included the following copyright notice:

These texts are copyright