Ben Mazer


2.1. ( a ) What is literal in poetry must be in some significant way (aspect, regard) incomplete, so that there is no complete discernable literal proposition. ( b ) This is a feature of the idea that poetry, as its mathematics, must be both incomprehensible and incontrovertible.


2.2. Poetry differs from nonsense in being incontrovertible.
It cannot be proved to be nonsense, that nothing is being said.


2.3. The classics are static. They do not change.


2.4. A greater amount of emotion is the effect of a greater
work of art.


2.5. No one is capable of understanding poetry except for
the poet.


2.6. My actions mimic yours. This is what is known
as meter.


2.7. “Form” is what we call the appearance of chaos.


2.8. “Formality” is anything we have seen before. This is quite different from “recognition”, which must always be of something unnamed (i.e. of something which formerly—or outside of the poem—had a name, or, par example, is born
in the poem).


2.9. Beauty is characterized by being indefinable
(see 2.1. ( b )).


2.10. The poems of Dylan Thomas, though among the greatest and most authentic of the twentieth century, are flawed (like the works of most poets, but less so) by being insoluble in the proportions implicitly proposed by their parts. This is not the case in the works of the best poets. These poems may be incontrovertible but they can be shown to lack sense.


2.11. There is no poetry higher than the music of Beethoven. Here the only number we need be concerned with is one. Or we may consider Beethoven the “set” of all numbers. Perfection is incomprehensible and incontrovertible as silence.


2.12. In the mathematics of poetry, number can never be understood as anything more or other than what is both incomprehensible and incontrovertible.


2.13. Beauty is recognizable by its ability to appear to be
what it is not.


2.14. Poetry is implicitly more true than anything else.


2.15. In poetry the first must also be the last.


2.16. Proportion may be said to be a condition of incomprehensibility. It is not an absolute condition of poetry.


2.17. As the poem must “mean” something other than the
“poem”, so the poet must write something other than what he thinks. “Conception” is a feature of the poem, and not of the poet. [Epigraph.] “These errors are correct.” —Stephen Sturgeon.


2.18. “Traditional” and “avant-garde” are interchangeable terms referring to formal mastery of the range of available techniques (including the not yet articulated).


2.19. Emotions which evoke memory are incomprehensible
and incontrovertible.


2.20. The mature poet aspires to greater incomprehensibility
and less complication.


2.21. The true (fertile) readership of poetry is unassuming.


2.22. Skin is the flesh of words. Death is the flesh of memory.


2.23. God gives and takes away. What He gives is poetry, what He takes away is the poet.


2.24. The better the metaphor the less clear its meaning. The better the metaphor the more clear its style.


2.25. Style is entirely a matter of an unresolveable harmony between the familiar and the unfamiliar.


2.26. As genuine and great a poet as Frank O’Hara was, and he undoubtedly was, the poems of Frank O’Hara are not much more than those of a student poet. This is self-implicitly a proposition of poetry mathematics.


2.27. Art and the like. Why is it that we remember the voice of Nietzsche as that of a younger brother? It is because we forgot him.

2.28. Names. All must be unnamed. Or else the word must be stripped of the all.


2.29. More talk. Less poems. 


2.30. Fundamentals of style—same as not answering questions. In the best sense, this is a matter of being original. Harshly indefinable. Style must love something.


2.31. If you think of an explanation with a higher probability, it is probably correct.


2.32. The moon is green cheese. This has long been established as fact.


2.33. The number itself, 33, is among the most sacred in poetry. It is inseparable, implicitly, from its nearest probably axiom | coordinate, number 34.


2.34. It would be nice to think that there had been a very long established literary tradition which had been lost and which deviated from had caused a rift in the condition of poetry itself.

2.35. A says B is psychotic. B says B is not psychotic. Does 1 minus 1 really equal 0? B does not have to say that A is psychotic to hold an antithetical position to A, unnamely that B is not psychotic. What if A really were psychotic, and it were unknown to B, who could say of itself that it were not psychotic? Who would care? This is where worrying a point leads to too much pandering about a notion and unless the Lusitania has no bearing on the minds ordering things, and the link, or like, precisely, it is precisely the nameless which obviates all pandering. Specifically what can’t be named is—and this is still prose—that which by nothing else can be replaced: as it has been named in the great poets. I will call this C. C may stand for certitude, if you like.


2.36. In memory of the year 1936. It is not easily forgotten what it would be contrary to our purpose to name. We are not “wandering”.


2.37. The phone book. I don’t want to becoy and leave the matter undressed, so let us admit the centrality of this text. The necessary-to-be-forgotten.

2.38. Repetition. It is a matter of leaving unaddressed matters—letters—in the hands of others. As weather can be cold in California, and whereas serious philosophers can be poets, frogs, waiting to speak over a long time, spoken for already in the silence of mirroring oars, itself doubled, á cello, only the lyric is mimetic a goddam. You and I see the same thing because we wish to. That is the meaning of the exchange of utterances, as in a game of chess.


2.39. Decisiveness. The same as decisions. If it is impossible to tell the number of these, literally impossible, because there are so many of them, then the poem is a job well done.


2.40. The enemy loved. Being a fantasy, this is more or less not what it appears to be.


2.41. It is to be understood that whereas the sum of these propositions can be taken to be correct, none of the individual propositions are meant to be taken as correct in itself. This is proof of the existence of the author. We think we know what we mean when we say, “the author”.


2.42. Understanding something is not the same as knowing something. This is advice of ladies.


2.43. I have fucked up again, and done what I said I wouldn’t do. History wishes to end itself for the old reasons. Do we really wish to know what they are?


2.44. Heil Hitler. What does this really mean? Why do we enjoy saying it so much? If I said something more here, would my point be not clear? Postmodernism. It is the inconclusion—I don’t want to say inconclusiveness or inconclusivity—of his productions which makes it possible for one to say of them that they are poetry. It would be silly to call any of them a poem. The achievement of a poetry without expectations.


2.45. Let us consider the aims of art. If we really have one, what they are.


2.46. The Jewish Mind. Would you say the Marx Brothers are high art? Could one say of them that they shine?


2.47. Propositions. Why is it that we prefer they wouldn’t exist? It is a sign of our love. In the same way we don’t answer the telephone.


2.48. A box of Whitman chocolates. We are not likely to want any of them, when we can have what it is we really want. That is our badge, as it were.


2.49. Clouds do not have to be clouds. This is as simple an expression of number as I can think of.


2.50. I have a fantasy in order not to live it out really. In this way the poem does not say what it means. 


2.51. I think that your hands are more beautiful than any other hands I have seen. No one else finds your hands to be the most beautiful. Am I a superior judge of hands? Is it in your hands that I see a reflection of your actions—as it were a series of propositions about yourself?


2.52. Is there a time when to ask these questions is a betrayal of their answers for which we should not wish to hope?


2.53. I once was driven by a very pretty descendent of Stanford White from a rather pretentious programme in a mansion in Marion, Massachusetts, to the street on which she lived in Cambridge. All I wanted was a kiss, and that was all I got. The point is that she was in a position in society in which it was possible for her to do anything she would want, in regards to a vocation, and within the confines of the actual set of her personal experiences—something which could no more be assigned to chance than the particular set of experiences which led me to become a poet, in the sense that one does become a poet, only vaguely if pivotally different from the way in which one is born one.


2.54.The face of things. Do we want to define it when it provides us with a clearer picture of reality undefined? I have decided that you cannot understand me. Therefore I am free to say what I mean. If you don’t understand me, it is because what I mean is not what I would wish to tell you. But I am telling you a lot, in comparison with what you appear to be telling me, by telling you this. 


2.55. Lexington. Often the most important things are the least acknowledged. We are ashamed of them, and leave them for last in the arrangement of our affairs. These come down to simple decisions, reductions, which pivotally involve a return to the scenes of our first presentiments. In the real sense of things, we start up where we left off. This is how you can have grown up in one town, and I can have grown up in another, and we can still talk about the same things. 

2.56. Faces again. Different kinds of faces. I like yours the best. This is because it does not say to me, “You are different than what you tell me you are.” Another face is part of this same face.
It is the only one which I wish to speak to. A reduction, containing an endless number of such faces is necessary before I can greatly consider the force of such a thing. If I were to say, your feet should be where your face is, then I should have to recognize that the number one is infinitely changing, and that I cannot be certain by what it has divided or multiplied. We find the number one constantly fluctuating. One, two, three, . . . and so forth. If I say, I’ll always love your eyes (or lips, or ears or nose or hair, or if I say your face is like the moon) is it because I recognize all the stages and phases in which the face can be experienced? If I find myself near at a faint because you hold your hair so that I briefly catch a glimpse of the shape of your head, is it because this particular shape, when animated by your thoughts and gestures and attitudes, stimulates in me unexpected emotions which strike me as suitable, albeit eminently, to my taste?, or do those unpredictable qualities of your actions which constitute any number of impossible to define futures—only one of which may turn out to be correct—suggest to a higher degree of probability a supposed entire range of superior returns along a cycle. Imagine a poem which would wish to solve this problem by its action. 

2.57. Supposing one were assured that everything one would write were poetry. Then would not one be freed up to see things in an entirely new fashion? No longer having to be a poet, one could assimilate poetry into the set of normal and extraordinary experiences. How could a poem suggest the range of such possibilities without being written? How can silence exist without the poem?


2.58. “Teach me to heare Mermaides singing”. Is Donne thinking about Eliot?


2.59. It is possible to say of an athlete, “You are brain dead from the neck down.”


2.60. REFRACTION. One lens sees another lens seeing another lens. What time is it?



The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics was first published as a chapbook by Cannibal Books. Special thanks to Matthew & Katy Henriksen.

Editorial Staff

Publisher and Managing Editor:
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Editor: Ben Mazer (Boston)
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