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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 trumpets"?

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 than under-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 loved.

p.p.s. Happy New Year to you too. For me, it's 2007, but you can use this wish any year you please.


Dear Reader,

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 checked recently.)

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 prose garden.)

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?

Dean Blehert

(I'll be your poet tonight. The other guy will bring your menu and water in a moment.)

Blank pages

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 blankness]

[But the rest of this page is really REALLY left blank intentionally – here it comes:]










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