This is the introduction to a book of poems by Dean Blehert entitled
Blank Pages -- the sort of introduction written by some noted poet
or scholar or critic who appreciates the book and wants others to
know how best to approach it, but in this case the introduction
is by the mostly unnoted (though self-annotated) Dean Blehert, because
I don't have time at the moment to hunt up an appropriate introducer,
nor am I sure one exists, and also because I love this book, think
it my best and want to give it its immodest due.
The book consists of 256 pages, each of which is a poem, though
the book might better be considered a single long poem, since all
the poems share a theme and include many links from poem to poem
and running across several poems. Or call it 256 variations on a
theme. The theme is blankness: the blankness of a blank page (and
how it bedevils, teases, betrays and rewards poets), the blankness
of a psychopath's eyes, the nothing out of which all creation emerges,
the blankness of snow, of light, of darkness, of a gray autumn sky,
of silence, of nonsense babble, of mirrors reflecting mirrors in
a barbershop; the presences and absences that infest apparent blankness,
what's left after books are burned, the blankness following loss
or the act of reading past misunderstood words without looking them
up, the blankness of senility, of tip-of-the-tongue groping, the
alleged blank slate of childhood, the emptiness of American politicians
yes, this book gets around.
Why 256 poems? Because I wrote the book to fill a volume of blank
pages given me by a fellow poet (see "Foreword" below),
and that book had 256 pages. And because I've always liked the number
256 (get out your pens and notepads, numerologists, and tell me
all about me). As a child, I preferred even numbers to odd. If I
scratched one leg, I'd scratch the other, just to keep things even.
Since I liked 2, I liked 4 even more (two twos), and 16 and 64.
I thought of 16 as my favorite number, but then thought, well, 256
is 16 16s what a fine number!
Blank Pages is more discursive than most of us allow poems
to be, loosy-goosy, perhaps aims at occupying the baggy-prosed pantheon
that includes Tristram Shandy, Moby Dick (or
at least the long disquisition on "The Whiteness of the Whale"
contained therein though these poems have more in common
with Melville's later, less well-known work, The Confidence Man)
and Wittgenstein's long, rambling discussions in his Philosophical
Investigations. Other works, less discursive, helped me understand
better the various aspects of blankness, including those of Nabokov
(especially Pale Fire), Borges and Kafka. (And perhaps, aiming
for these stars, I will reach no higher than the ornate pretensions
of James Branch Cabell, all my preenings merely coy. But I don't
think so. The false modesty of the "perhaps" is as close
as I get to coyness. I'm not modest. I know what I've done here.
This is good stuff. I'm just trying to give it a provenance. That
is, I'm name-dropping.)
For some reason, the work that crops up most in this book is Hamlet.
(Duly noted. So what?) But how could a book on variations of blankness
not deal with a drama where the line "The rest is silence"
is immediately followed by "Enter Fortinbras with drums and
The book is free-form and multi-formed. Most of the poems are free
verse, but two are villanelles, there are some pages of linked haiku,
and there are bursts of other rhymed and metered forms. The word
games proliferate rapidly, the puns are often elaborate (and labored?),
the fascination with word derivations, word sounds and word games
is pervasive. I prefer puns that are miraculous to see that
the language contains such connections, there all along, but (I
hope) never before noticed.
But I also use puns to introduce a sort of imp of the perverse,
an element that resists my proudest significances.
For me (and I hope for you) the book is a romp. I aims to please.
Its covert theme is the joy of creating. I think of creation as
instantaneous and never ending (and never beginning). One creates
and creates and creates -- and that includes the creation of all
that one is. Author creates self in order to be that self and communicate
and creates audience to receive the communication. Reader similarly
creates the author in order to receive communications from that
author and creates him/herself to receive and return communications.
Quite an intricate dance.
I don't aim in my work at finding a good point to end. I prefer
to find a perfect ending point that creates the illusion that all
has been said that can possibly be said on the subject, and then
to go on and find a great deal more to say on the subject, then
hit an ending to beat all conceivable endings, then go on.... I
like to find mountain ranges beyond mountain ranges, to toy with
the illusion of being all-encompassing, knowing that on any subject
there's no limit to what can be said, a viewpoint I try to convey
by my tease of not ending...until at some point I simply do end.
I doubt there's any end to our creating, certainly not death, since,
though bodies die, I don't think you and I do. No end except our
deciding that this is the end of something. (And I could end this
intro with those words, but won't.)
To some extent the form of this book derives from Nabokov's description
of his plans for the novel he later entitled Ada or The Texture
of Time. While he was working on it, he described it as an essay
called "The Texture of Time" in which the play of ideas
would gradually evolve into characters and settings and all the
other apparatus of the novel and flux in and out of being
an essay on time. But I didn't want a novel. I wanted the ideas,
not to become characters, but to BE the characters, to be voice
and attitude and dream. I'm lazier than Nabokov or more impatient.
When I have an idea, I want to communicate it. I like to play with
words, ideas and feelings. If I can get you to surround them with
characters, fine. If not, I hope the fact that this book keeps leading
you back to something solid (the page or computer screen a few inches
from your eyes) will allay the nausea that accrues from too many
ideas associated with too little mass.
My ideas don't have names and faces and eyes with named colors
and birthplaces and wives and children. But I did want something
of what I sense in Nabokov's description of his intention. I wanted
ideas to throw off their prosy solemnity and wave at the camera
and say "Hi, Mom!" or mock the reader's intentness or
become indignant or sad. I wanted them, at times, to break up into
words or characters or dots of printer's ink or pixels, incomprehensible,
then re-emerge, unexpectedly as ideas. I wanted them to become voices
that would keep turning into me, then reveal themselves as you
only to become alien to either of us, lost in a maelstrom of puns.
I wanted them to argue among themselves, fall in love, live.
(I guess I wanted all the perks of the novel without having to
sustain a plot or describe details of settings, etc.)
I've mentioned a few literary influences (to which I should add
Joyce's Ulysses, but NOT Finnegan's Wake, which is
mostly a great achievement, since no one but Joyce could turn the
vastness of his wit and creativity into something so boring) and
one philosophical influence (Wittgenstein), but for my understandings
of the various anatomies of blankness (and much else) I am indebted
more than to all the others combined to the work of L. Ron Hubbard.
At the following link, you will find the main source of my inspiration,
though there are many other passages in his writings and recorded
lectures that have contributed to this work and, indeed, made it
possible. If I overrate the quality of my poems, if this book is
a dud, don't blame Hubbard's work, which answers only for itself.
If my work sucks, please keep in mind that one of the signs (and
burdens) of greatness is the inspiration of generations of mediocre
work, none of which detract from the power of what inspired them.
No one does Shakespeare like Shakespeare, and most who attempt it
look foolish. Here is the link:
For the view of games that runs through these poems, the best summary
may be found in the book described at this link:
For the views of communication and entrapment suggested in these
poems, I am indebted to the book described at this link:
I've annotated the poems (perhaps excessively) to lessen the difficulties
and nudge the reader ("get it? Eh! Eh!") where some bit
of word play or allusion delights me, and I want to share that delight
(or insane glee). I know, I know, never explain, and if you have
to, that's the poem's failure, etc. I know it, and I have never
agreed to it. I like to communicate, and I like to communicate about
communication and about my own communications. Both poem and notes
can be of interest. Why shouldn't I write my own Talmud (with its
commentators on commentators on commentators). [Also see Nabokov's
Pale Fire, though my notes on my own work are far less tricky
than the annotations in that novel (where an insane scholar tries
to usurp ownership of a poem). Mine are almost just notes.]
Moreover, I've been amazed in recent years to find that I'm old,
and that many people don't recognize allusions I'd thought universally
apparent to anyone vaguely literate. These days I'd rather over-explain
Probably this book is best read (if at all) in small doses, one
or two poems a day. But if you get greedy and want it all in one
sitting, go for it!
I've added, besides this introduction, a foreword, though I might
as well have put both under one heading. But having both an introduction
AND a foreword is impressive, no? Besides, this introduction is
close to straightforward, nice dry sidewalk for a stroll whereas
the poems are awfully ice-slicked, blinding in sunlight, treacherous
underfoot and over footnote. The foreword will give you a transition,
as it begins to sleet slightly by the end.
Dean Blehert (and I am definitely the best Dean Blehert available)
p.s. Since writing the words above, I have sat through too much
of a New Years Eve/New Years Day marathon of Marx Brothers Movies,
and realized that what they achieved at their best is part of what
I aim at in my poems, gradations of zaniness, though I try to achieve
this without losing the illusion of serious discussion.
Raymond Chandler, wonderful with character and setting and dialog,
was not so strong on plotting. He wrote that whenever things slowed
down, his solution was to have someone enter with a gun. Similarly,
when a Marx Brothers film slows down, they have Harpo enter, destroying
things and creating chaos.
Harpo never speaks (though he beeps and whistles and inspired
the mute, honking, seltzer-squirting clown of a later kiddie's show
(Clarabelle on "Howdy Doody"), so is tremendously expressive,
a phenomenon observed in a more serious context in Ingmar Bergman's
"Persona", where one of the main characters (played by
Liv Ullman) has given up on speech, so seems to say everything and
absorbs the personalities of those around her.
My poems toy with solemnity, but when the solemnity begins to bore
me, the poems "degenerate" (and I don't really accept
the idea that it's a degeneration) into wordplay that if
I play my cards right may suggest the logical illogicality
of an exchange between Groucho and Chico. But the real imp of chaos
in this poem, shattering even the relatively restful madness of
the punsters, is the blank page, that, like Harpo, says nothing,
says everything. (For what is it that speaks all the poetry that
is ever spoken (or "spoken") on a page if not the blankness
of the page or of the poet, since either there IS such a
thing as creation, in which case something comes from nothing, or
there is no creativity, in which case (to mutilate that other font
of zaniness, he of the shaky spear) I never writ, nor no man ever
p.p.s. Happy New Year to you too. For me, it's 2007, but you can
use this wish any year you please.
In December, 2004, a good friend and excellent poet, Hilary Tham
Goldberg, gave me a Christmas gift: A book (black, hard-covered,
with a tiny Chinese painting glued to the front Hilary was
a painter as well as poet and story teller). The book consisted
of 256 blank pages. I decided to fill it with 256 poems, all variations
on a theme: Blank pages (truly a white-Christmas gift). (Actually
a Chanukah gift, since Hilary was Jewish.) (Was. She died in October,
2005. I'm not sure she ever had time to read the manuscript. She'd
seen the first 70 pages and told me she loved them. But few of my
friends managed to get through the whole thing. You may be the first!)
(If you can get through this introduction.) (If you read all 256
pages, you're definitely my friend -- if you still wish to be.)
(To strain my parenthetical strain, I, too, was Jewish, but didn't
have to die to earn my was-iness. I may still be Jewish. I haven't
What does one say about blank pages? I don't know, never having
met "one" but I've met many blank pages, and never
met a blank page I didn't like. Since it is my wont and my will
to fill (with font) blank pages, I suppose you might think I dislike
them, but consider love: I meet a woman, adore her, want to be part
of her life, try to fill up her life with my life not because
I dislike her as other and potential, but because I find her beautiful,
and want some part in that beauty or in the creation of beauty.
A farmer's love of fields full of ripening wheat does not necessarily
preclude a joy in fallow fields in early spring.
That's my life. I'm a poet. I love blank pages. I destroy their
blankness. Yeah, yeah, we always kill the thing we love. Nonsense.
It's not like that. The blank page and I co-create my poems. (I
keep telling people, it's not my fault!) That's us, Ma and Pa Poetry.
Except we have a triangle, since, bored and suburban in our literate
sophistication, we try to liven things up with a threesome. Welcome,
reader! Or, if you prefer the farmer simile, welcome, eater!
The book is a long riff. It wanders in and out of poetry (or recognizable
poetry), puns self-indulgently, shifts in and out of borrowed and
invented voices, and is tricky enough that, on re-reading it, I
find passages I no longer understand. So I'll provide some notes
along the way, to remind myself what I'm talking about. At least
I'll try to provide notes that are notes. The poem's very nature
seduces footnotes, tries to involute them into the poem, but I'll
be good. I'll be very prosy. Even more prosy than my poems. (If
prose blossomed, would it be poetry? But I never promised you a
OK, Dean, you wrote the damned book, enough already. So here it
is, "Blank Pages", broken up into rather arbitrary chapters
named 1, 2, 3 and other famous numbers. Or maybe I'll have just
one chapter. "Chapter" derives from Latin for "head".
I'm a one-headed poet. Why not a one-headed poem?
(I'll be your poet tonight. The other guy will bring your menu
and water in a moment.)
Chapter 1 (and only)
[The rest of this page has been intentionally left blank]
[Except the author, me, Dean Blehert, just wants to say once more
that he thinks (I think) this is the best thing I've ever written,
at least, as of 26 Dec., 2006, as I type this violation of intentional
[But the rest of this page is really REALLY left blank intentionally
here it comes:]