Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Preference has been moved to increase discoverability. Susceptible to giant news camera + million-dollar blonde in the bougie chelsea market I hold this slateboard as if holding my magical member cupped in hand at my crotch on the train where the trimmings and trappings of power provoke a kind of mental armoring. The news camera beckons me, as does the million-dollar blonde, while a plain Jane next to her shapes the discourse = budget and teachers in Mayor Bloomers flower patch. Lots of giant and crawling cameras here atop the highline park. Views, views, views. The iron spikey mental cardio shell of my emotional consistency means you, Mr. Bossy Commuter should not box me out like it's all basketball; and you, young reader with maedchen frills should let me lick your stomach like it was an unnecessarily rough-wrapped extra nice ice cream cone because I like you bunches and want to hear your pleasure soaked voice. Your freckles can only say so much while our tongues are so versatile here in late June, my j-june Janey. Loan me your interest and give me outright your affections and I'll read your hip back to you--what does it say..."Save Our Ships"? Don't expect magical budgetary manipulations to miraculously ameliorate the pitfall of this, the Whole Fucking Rented World.

photos by & rights held by Douglas Manson

Saturday, October 15, 2011


fondle and pull
recollections of a lonely wanderer
from a rotting bog of garbage

the thinness of life
in consumerist complicity
well wish
hole in the chest
books & space
thinking and forgetting
tiny cycle
small wisps around
the nerves of the brain
or whips
canned food
dry feature
Tuesday aubade
electric light
coffee & the men and women
who grew it, picked it
got it here

form foam
cat and mouse and dog
and history
to be interested

the international phonetic alphabet
cultures and nations
living in temperate rain forests
and the ocean

walking and getting wet
no longer having heart attacks
on a train, but thinking only of my book,
its words.
i used to look around searching faces
(as I do at my home
personalized computer society

mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge

cheese and beans
breath and hole in chest
the last barrier is
this red pouch I roll from

big black boots
boring clothes

I think about her every day.


Monday, August 8, 2011

5th Annual Welcome to Boog City Festival

Scenes from the 8th Annual Small, Small Press Fair. August 6, 2011.


Evie Shockley reading from her chapbook of prose poems (Belladonna*, 2010). She also read from her new book The New Black (Weslyan, 2011).

Leigh Stein reads from her sheets and keeps the crowd in stitches.

Magus Magnus exponentializes his Heraclitean Pride (Furniture Press).

Helen Vitoria reads her poems. Sunglasses looks on.

Don Saddles' Francesca Capone played us the recipes of Cariah Lily Rosberg, featuring a kind of ice cream that includes cheap, raw meat and lentils.

After drying my tears, Brenda Ijima sent an attentive hush across all of Brooklyn with her poems from Glossematics (Least Weasel, 2011). Least Weasel chapbooks are letterpress masterpieces, made from the finest materials known to man.

Stephanie Gray reads her work from the new issue of Aufgabe (#10).

Rumor has it that Joe Elliot does all of his son's Homework (Chandelier Press, 2010).

Poetry in the garden courtyard of Unnameable Books.

On my way home through Prospect Park, I saw a young woman on a bicycle careening wildly across the Long Meadow, and was startled when the front wheel of her bicycle suddenly bent under her, and she flew longwise from her perch. I rushed over, and found her lying senseless in the grass.

After applying the gentlest of my healing arts to her most tender parts, she made a full, happy recovery.

"My hero!" she sighed.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scenes from the First Annual New York Poetry Festival

July 30th & 31st. Governors Island, New York City

Quod si me lyricis vatibus inseres
Sublimi feriam sidere capite

Note: video quality seems choppy on my machine, and is best viewed with the audio turned off.

Brooklyn Ferry to Governors Island from Pier 6 from Douglas Manson on Vimeo.

The Ferry ride is quick, but fun. The readings were held along the beautiful & stately Colonel's Row, under a colonnade of ample, lush sycamores.

I spent most of my time at the Admiral's Stage, and heard poets from FOU magazine, No, Dear and the Southern Writers Reading Series.

Here was the first great MC at the festival. Please help me identify some of these presenters and poets!

The first poet was Claire Donato. She's a great poet:

"The kindest poet lives alone." She intoned. She insisted.

Next up was Cynthia Arrieu-King:

Great poet and owner of Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop, Farrah Field read next:

Happy to provide gender equality was the wonderful Chris Martin:

Next was a poet, whose name I missed:

I then heard poets from the Southern Writers Reading Series. Author of Painkiller, Patricia Spears Jones raised the volume!


Just before I was drawn away by the siren song of the Poetry Whores at the nearby brothel, I heard the distinct cadences of the well-received Yusef Komunyakaa, whose most recent collection is The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2011):

At one point, thrown off his line by the booming PA sounds from the nearby "Brigadier" stage, he smiled and asked "How does this work?" I'm not sure he heard me, but I responded, "It doesn't!" Usually the sound systems worked quite well, but at times one heard a kind of mixed combination of lines from different stages, that was sometimes interesting, but usually disruptive. I stood directly between the two stages once and tried to find a point of dialogue, which worked for a few moments as two poets read, but then found it less exciting than it could have been. Perhaps more coordinated presentations of "naval word battle" could extend the dramatic possibilities of holding simultaneous readings. Too bad there weren't some semaphore poems in the mix. My two cents.

It was all free, in an amazing place, on one of the most beautiful days we've had this summer. If you see this in time, go out today (31 July) and check it out! Take water and food with you, though great food and drink were available for purchase. Please support the poets! This is an event to look forward to in coming years. Where O where were you, Boo-Boo??????? Zoom-zoom???


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If You'd Only Known / It's Hid From Your Eyes

Hör auf Mich un Conseil

Focus constantly to make your work
a celebration of the joys of human existence.
Trace the lives and live the traces
of all that surrounds you.
Notice children first and see
in their eyes the world is small,
smaller than the mile in which they move,
the smaller circle of a parent’s hand
more alive than a thought that revolves
& devolves on the edge of pluto's ellipse
or such men who calculate by millions,
pretend visions in heaps of this
& hillocks of that.

Find that each person is innately kind,
& anger is sudden confusion.
Despair is only a longing
for impossible wealth or threats
which cannot present themselves to be realized.
Pain comes with only knowing what is seen.
Comprehension of everything is a pain
created out of false consciousness,
laying your mental history upon objects
unaware of your calculation.
Chaos creeps on the edge of such knowledge
and cracks the foundation of all
that is supposed to be true.
There is a wilder truth
that the mind cannot overcome
once the eye beholds it.

Trust your senses, for they do not lie.

Sun Solo from Douglas Manson on Vimeo.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Americans Aren't Going Out to Get New Stuff as Much as They Used To

We are erogenous and emotional nomads who refuse history as bad conscience, and memory as mental detritus. We are determined, each one of us, to learn all the functional skills necessary to have a life rich in experiences, give and take pleasures by way of our demonstrations of mastery over all kinds of things--ordering food and settling bills and shopping and planning fun-filled adventurous trips across the country, meeting new people and having stimulating and refreshing conversations about topics that are really new and important and cool, turning each other on to new ideas and music and spiritual paradises awaiting them in the lifelong study and accumulation of knowledge that can be eventually packaged into a tiny pill you just pop right into your mouth and there it is, unfolding all-in-all across the canyons and mesas of your brain: someone's life work conveniently condensed and formatted for the instantaneous enjoyment up and down and in and out of the fine diamond-strewn lines and paths of your otherwise overstressed and tangled neural weave. POP!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

a reading of new poetry and fiction

Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Douglas Manson
Molly Prentiss
Nancy Weber

Soul Cafe at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
7420 Fourth Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Time: ‎7:30PM Friday, June 24th, 2011

Jibade-Khalil Huffman is the author of "19 Names For Our Band" (Fence Books, 2008) and "James Brown is Dead" (Future Plan and Program/Project Row Houses, 2011). His works of art and writing have been exhibited and performed at MoMA/PS1, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and Eighth Veil gallery in Los Angeles, among others. He was a 2010-2011 Workspace Artist-in-Residence with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Douglas Manson is a poet living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He is the author of the poetry collection Roofing and Siding and a long poem A Normal Line of Work. He teaches writing at LaGuardia Community College. He holds a PhD from the Buffalo Poetics Program, and writes essays, art reviews and a blog.

Molly Prentiss received an MFA in Creative Writing at the California College of the Arts and is now a resident writer at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She has been published in Fourteen Hills, Switchback, La Petite Zine, The Furnace Review, Miracle Monocle & Staccato Fiction and has forthcoming pieces in We Still Like and Mud Luscious. Her writings and drawings can be found at

Nancy Weber’s work can be found in Evergreen Review, Dicey Brown, VerbSap, Fringe Magazine and the Brooklyn Rail. She was a 2007 recipient of a full Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center Writer’s Residency Program. She is the Youth Program Director at the NY Writers Coalition, and lives and writes in Brooklyn.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Easter in New York" by Blaise Cendrars, 1912.

Pâques à New York

Seigneur, c'est aujourd'hui le jour de votre Nom,
J'ai lu dans un vieux livre la geste de votre Passion
Et votre angoisse et vos efforts et vos bonnes paroles
Qui pleurent dans un livre, doucement monotones.
Un moine d'un vieux temps me parle de votre mort.
Il traçait votre histoire avec des lettres d'or
Dans un missel, posé sur ses genoux,
Il travaillait pieusement en s'inspirant de Vous.
A l'abri de l'autel, assis dans sa robe blanche,
Il travaillait lentement du lundi au dimanche.
Les heures s'arrêtaient au seuil de son retrait.
Lui, s'oubliait, penché sur votre portrait.
A vêpres, quand les cloches psalmodiaient dans la tour,
Le bon frère ne savait si c'était son amour
Ou si c'était le Vôtre, Seigneur, ou votre Père
Qui battait à grands coups les portes du monastère.
Je suis comme ce bon moine, ce soir, je suis inquiet.
Dans la chambre à côté, un être triste et muet
Attend derrière la porte, attend que je l'appelle !
C'est Vous, c'est Dieu, c'est moi, - c'est l'Eternel.
Je ne Vous ai pas connu alors, - ni maintenant.
Je n'ai jamais prié quand j'étais un petit enfant.
Ce soir pourtant je pense à Vous avec effroi.
Mon âme est une veuve en deuil au pied de votre Croix ;
Mon âme est une veuve en noir, - c'est votre Mère
Sans larme et sans espoir, comme l'a peinte Carrière.

Je connais tous les Christs qui pensent dans les musées ;
Mais Vous marchez, Seigneur, ce soir à mes côtés.
Je descends à grands pas vers le bas de la ville,
Le dos voûté, le coeur ridé, l'esprit fébrile.
Votre flanc grand-ouvert est comme un grand soleil
Et vos mains tout autour palpitent d'étincelles.
Les vitres des maisons sont toutes pleines de sang
Et les femmes, derrière, sont comme des fleurs de sang,
D'étranges mauvaises fleurs flétries, des orchidées,
Calices renversés ouvert sous vos trois plaies.
Votre sang recueilli, elles ne l'ont jamais bu.
Elles ont du rouge aux lèvres et des dentelles au cul.
Les fleurs de la passion sont blanches comme des cierges,
Ce sont les plus douces fleurs au Jardin de la Bonne Vierge.
C'est à cette heure-ci, c'est vers la neuvième heure
Que votre tête, Seigneur, tomba sur votre Coeur.
Je suis assis au bord de l'océan
Et je me remémore un cantique allemand,
Où il est dit, avec des mots très doux, très simples, très purs,
La beauté de votre Face dans la torture.
Dans une église, à Sienne, dans un caveau,
J'ai vu la même Face, au mur, sous un rideau.
Et dans un ermitage, à Bourrié-Wladislasz,
Elle est bossuée d'or dans une châsse.
De troubles cabochons sont à la place des yeux
Et des paysans baisent à genoux Vos yeux.
Sur le mouchoir de Véronique Elle est empreinte
Et c'est pourquoi Sainte Véronique est votre sainte.
C'est la meilleure relique promenée par les champs,
Elle guérit tous les malades, tous les méchants.
Elle fait encore mille et mille autres miracles,
Mais je n'ai jamais assisté à ce spectacle.
Peut-être que la foi me manque, Seigneur, et la bonté
Pour voir ce rayonnement de votre Beauté.
Pourtant, Seigneur, j'ai fait un périlleux voyage
Pour contempler dans un béryl l'intaille de votre image.
Faites, Seigneur, que mon visage appuyé dans les mains
Y laisse tomber le masque d'angoisse qui m'étreint.
Faites, Seigneur, que mes deux mains appuyées sur ma bouche
N'y lèchent pas l'écume d'un désespoir farouche.
Je suis triste et malade. Peut-être à cause de Vous,
Peut-être à cause d'un autre. Peut-être à cause de Vous.
Seigneur, la foule des pauvres pour qui vous fîtes le Sacrifice
Est ici, parquée, tassée, comme du bétail, dans les hospices.
D'immenses bateaux noirs viennent des horizons
Et les débarquent, pêle-mêle, sur les pontons.
Il y a des Italiens, des Grecs, des Espagnols,
Des Russes, des Bulgares, de Persans, des Mongols.
Ce sont des bêtes de cirque qui sautent les méridiens.
On leur jette un morceau de viande noire, comme à des chiens.
C'est leur bonheur à eux que cette sale pitance.
Seigneur, ayez pitié des peuples en souffrance.
Seigneur, dans le ghetto, grouille la tourbe des Juifs
Ils viennent de Pologne et sont tous fugitifs.
Je le sais bien, ils ont fait ton Procès ;
Mais je t'assure, ils ne sont pas tout à fait mauvais.
Ils sont dans des boutiques sous des lampes de cuivre,
Vendent des vieux habits, des armes et des livres.
Rembrandt aimait beaucoup les peindre dans leurs défroques.
Moi, j'ai ce soir marchandé un microscope.
Hélas! Seigneur, Vous ne serez plus là, après Pâques !
Seigneur, ayez pitié des Juifs dans les baraques.
Seigneur, les humbles femmes qui vous accompagnèrent à Golgotha
Se cachent. Au fond des bouges, sur d'immondes sophas,
Elles sont polluées de la misère des hommes.

Des chiens leur ont rongé les os, et dans le rhum
Elles cachent leur vice endurci qui s'écaille.
Seigneur, quand une de ces femmes parle, je défaille.
Je voudrais être Vous pour aimer les prostituées.
Seigneur, ayez pitié des prostituées.
Seigneur, je suis dans le quartier des bons voleurs,
Des vagabonds, des va-nu-pieds, des recéleurs.
Je pense aux deux larrons qui étaient avec vous à la Potence,
Je sais que vous daignez sourire à leur malchance.
Seigneur, l'un voudrait une corde avec un noeud au bout,
Mais ça n'est pas gratis, la corde, ça coûte vingt sous.
Il raisonnait comme un philosophe, ce vieux bandit.
Je lui ai donné de l'opium pour qu'il aille plus vite en paradis.
Je pense aussi aux musiciens des rues,
Au violoniste aveugle, au manchot qui tourne l'orgue de Barbarie,
A la chanteuse au chapeau de paille avec des roses de papier ;
Je sais que ce sont eux qui chantent durant l'éternité.
Seigneur, faites-leur l'aumône, autre que de la lueur des becs de gaz,
Seigneur, faites-leur l'aumône de gros sous ici-bas.
Seigneur, quand vous mourûtes, le rideau se fendit,
Ce qu'on vit derrière, personne ne l'a dit.
La rue est dans la nuit comme une déchirure
Pleine d'or et de sang, de feu et d'épluchures.
Ceux que vous avez chassé du temple avec votre fouet,
Flagellent les passants d'une poignée de méfaits.
L'Etoile qui disparut alors du tabernacle,
Brûle sur les murs dans la lumière crue des spectacles.
Seigneur, la Banque illuminée est comme un coffre-fort,
Où s'est coagulé le Sang de votre mort.
Les rues se font désertes et deviennent plus noires.
Je chancelle comme un homme ivre sur les trottoirs.
J'ai peur des grands pans d'ombre que les maisons projettent.
j'ai peur. Quelqu'un me suit. Je n'ose tourner la tête.
Un pas clopin-clopant saute de plus en plus près.
J'ai peur. J'ai le vertige. Et je m'arrête exprès.
Un effroyable drôle m'a jeté un regard
Aigu, puis a passé, mauvais comme un poignard.
Seigneur, rien n'a changé depuis que vous n'êtes plus Roi.
Le mal s'est fait une béquille de votre Croix.
Je descends les mauvaises marches d'un café
Et me voici, assis, devant un verre de thé.
Je suis chez des Chinois, qui comme avec le dos
Sourient, se penchent et sont polis comme des magots.
La boutique est petite, badigeonnée de rouge
Et de curieux chromos sont encadrés dans du bambou.
Ho-Koussaï a peint les cent aspects d'une montagne.
Que serait votre Face peinte par un Chinois?

Cette dernière idée, Seigneur, m'a d'abord fait sourire.
Je vous voyais en raccourci dans votre martyre.
Mais le peintre pourtant, aurait peint votre tourment
Avec plus de cruauté que nos peintres d'Occident.
Des lames contournées auraient scié vos chairs,
Des pinces et des peignes auraient strié vos nerfs,
On vous aurait passé le col dans un carcan,
On vous aurait arraché les ongles et les dents,
D'immenses dragons noirs se seraient jetés sur Vous,
Et vous auraient soufflé des flammes dans le cou,
On vous aurait arraché la langue et les yeux,
On vous aurait empalé sur un pieu.
Ainsi, Seigneur, vous auriez souffert toute l'infamie,
Car il n'y a pas plus cruelle posture.
Ensuite, on vous aurait forjeté aux pourceaux
Qui vous auraient rongé le ventre et les boyaux.
Je suis seul à présent, les autres sont sortis,
Je suis étendu sur un banc contre le mur.
J'aurais voulu entrer, Seigneur, dans une église ;
Mais il n'y a pas de cloches, Seigneur, dans cette ville.
Je pense aux cloches tues : - où sont les cloches anciennes ?
Où sont les litanies et les douces antiennes ?
Où sont les longs offices et où les beaux cantiques ?
Où sont les liturgies et les musiques ?
Où sont les fiers prélats, Seigneur, où tes nonnains ?
Où l'aube blanche, l'amict des Saintes et des Saints ?
La joie du Paradis se noie dans la poussière,
Les feux mystiques ne rutilent plus dans les verrières.
L'aube tarde à venir, et dans le bouge étroit
Des ombres crucifiées agonisent aux parois.
C'est comme un Golgotha de nuit dans un miroir
Que l'on voit trembloter en rouge sur du noir.
La fumée, sous la lampe, est comme un linge déteint
Qui tourne, entortillé, tout autour de vos reins.
Par au-dessus, la lampe pâle est suspendue,
Comme votre Tête, triste et morte et exsangue.
Des reflets insolites palpitent sur les vitres ...
J'ai peur, - et je suis triste, Seigneur, d'être si triste.
"Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via ?"
- La lumière frissonner, humble dans le matin.
"Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via ?"
- Des blancheurs éperdues palpiter comme des mains.
"Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via ?"
- L'augure du printemps tressaillir dans mon sein.
Seigneur, l'aube a glissé froide comme un suaire
Et a mis tout à nu les gratte-ciel dans les airs.
Déjà un bruit immense retentit sur la ville.
Déjà les trains bondissent, grondent et défilent.
Les métropolitains roulent et tonnent sous terre.
Les ponts sont secoués par les chemins de fer.
La cité tremble. Des cris, du feu et des fumées,
Des sirènes à vapeur rauques comme des huées.
Une foule enfiévrée par les sueurs de l'or
Se bouscule et s'engouffre dans de longs corridors.
Trouble, dans le fouillis empanaché de toits,
Le soleil, c'est votre Face souillée par les crachats.
Seigneur, je rentre fatigué, seul et très morne ...
Ma chambre est nue comme un tombeau ...
Seigneur, je suis tout seul et j'ai la fièvre ...
Mon lit est froid comme un cercueil ...
Seigneur, je ferme les yeux et je claque des dents ...
Je suis trop seul. J'ai froid. Je vous appelle ...
Cent mille toupies tournoient devant me yeux ...
Non, cent mille femmes ... Non, cent mille violoncelles ...
Je pense, Seigneur, à mes heures malheureuses ...
Je pense, Seigneur, à mes heures en allées ...
Je ne pense plus à Vous. Je ne pense plus à Vous.


All text and images used here without permission.

Photo of Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) born Frederic Louis Sauser.

Paintings by
Eugène Carrière, symbolist painter (1849-1906): Christ on the Cross, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon (?); L'aurore, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (?); La jeune mere, Musee Calvet, Avignon.

Wood Block print by
Hokusai (1760-1849) Travellers Crossing the Oi River.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A book I like

I like the proliferative momentum of this book. Hank was published last year (2010) by Action Books. I do wonder, though, just how much my sense of it depends on having heard these poems read--or incanted--or what have you, by the author himself before I opened it.

While reading this book this morning, a phrase from a Kenneth Patchen recording kept popping up in my mind:

"The tune's got shoes!"

Hank delivers a mobile, active poetry that works the idea of form down to the edge of the line, and I'd even go so far as to say he seems to be driving (and succeeding) at the speech-based, intuitive form that I wanted (and sometimes got) while writing A Normal Line of Work. I appreciate the developed, self-conscious, rotund, country-music phrase-turning pathos (& pith) of Smith's poems. Some poetry must be played out. But as I say this, I wonder if, like Bruce Andrews before him, there is a necessary need to hear the poet to know the meter. I'm not sure of this necessity here, as I wasn't sure of it before hearing Andrews. Yet a poetry driven at a certain pitch should be allowed this obligation. We should be willing take seriously a poetry that depends on its performance. Here are some lines that take up griefs as they kneel down on subaltern greaves, but still outsmart the schmertz with their comprehensiveness:

then what am i but a cog
waiting on the gentle barbarism
of the next cog over
to give click

This is from the poem "*$^%#*^%$#" (or page 68), and could stand as a fitting comment on how bloggers, twits, or other anxiety-ridden desk serfs discover their self-worth almost exclusively on the virtual visits of others--on their "analytics," rather than on what may matter even more: paychecks. Just take a look at the discussion currently going on about the Huffington Post's big payoff while it is still wanting to post articles without paying authors a dime, since "exposure" is purported to be reward enough. And there is also the fact that the New York Times will now require paid digital subscriptions. Hot topics aside, the best thing about Hank's musicality is the developed, formal poetics of its paragrams--those words we want to be there, as in the last line: that we're waiting for somebody to give a shit, among other possibilities. There is also a wealth of evocative phrasing and colorful speech that tumbles along in the well-worn grooves of our inherited phrases and intonation patterns. I think this is what Patchen meant when he said "the tune's got shoes." It's what I mean about Hank.



Cover of Hank by Andrew Shuta.
"Pax" or "Peace" is a detail from the painting Allegory of Good Government by Lorenzetti (active 1317-1348)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Works Received

Here is a list, in no particular order, of poetry books accumulated over the past 6-9 months: they were given to me for review; given as a gift from authors, publishers, editors; or I bought them. I want to acknowledge those who have sent me works, read them to me at readings, or told me a lot about how they were made. Poets and poetry publishers will sometimes give their books away (don't tell the fiscal authorities!) They do this mainly, I think, because they recognize the avid reader, a like minded poet, and because, in general, poets and publishers are incredibly generous people when they forget that the prevailing assumption has them boxed in as elitist narcissists. I think this is one reason I am happy with my chosen field--poetry is a musical way to think, and most poets have a great sense of belonging to something. Usually. My desire to post this list was prompted by a gift from Henry Israeli, publisher of Saturnalia books, and by my attendance at the CUNY Graduate Center Chapbook Festival a few weeks ago. I've had a great time over the past month hearing world-class poets read their works, and by a great amount of grace, and some tenacity, I think coming months will offer an environment where I can (AT LONG LAST) feel like a useful contributor to art & poetry efforts that are incredibly worthwhile. I have had to deal with some horrible shit.

I am sure you have had to deal with horrible shit, too.

Gary Geddes. Swimming Ginger. Fredericton NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2010.
This book is a series of personal narratives sung by the inhabitants found in the Qingming Shanghe Tu scroll, which is assumed to have been painted in the 12th century by Zhang Zeduan. Reminiscent of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, except that Geddes' poems are carefully metered, and that these portraits vividly describe lives of city folk. The urban milieu is painted here from high to low. Not quite as significant as the Canterbury Tales.

Frederick Farryl Goodwin. Buber's Bag Man. Toronto: The Gig, 2010.

Paolo Javier. MEGTON GASGAN KRAKOOOM. Brooklyn: Cy Gist Press, 2010.
Cover and 9 interior illustrations by Ernest Conception.

Abraham Smith. Hank. Notre Dame, Indiana: Action Books, 2010.

Kate Colby. Unbecoming Behavior. Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008.
Shhhh! I mean, this sh-sh-sure is a good poem. It is!

Alicia Cohen. Debts and Obligations. Oakland: O Books, 2008.

Lauren Russell. The Empty-Handed Messenger. New York: Goodbye Better, 2009.

Timothy Liu. Polytheogamy. Philadelphia: Saturnalia Books, 2009.
15 greyscale reproductions, cover and 11 full color reproductions of paintings by Greg Drasler.

John Yau (poems). Thomas Nozkowski (artwork). Ing Grish. Philadelphia: Saturnalia Books,2005.

Sebastian Agudelo. To The Bone. Philadelphia: Saturnalia Books, 2009.

Star Black. Velleity's Shade. Philadelphia: Saturnalia Books, 2010.
Paintings by Bill Knott.

Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg, editors. Gurlesque: The New Grrly, Grotesque, Burlesque
Poetics. Philadelphia: Saturnalia Books, 2010. Poetry and Painting Anthology.

Adonis (born Ali Ahmad Said Esber). Selected Poems. Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010.

Kay Ryan. Say Uncle. New York: Grove Press, 1991.
At her reading at LaGuardia Community College, they brought out boxes of free books and gave them away to everyone.

Sherry Robbins. or, The Whale. Buffalo: BlazeVOX, 2010.

Whit Griffin. Pentateuch: The First Five Books. Skysill Press, 2010.

Dorothea Lasky. Awe. Seattle: Wave Books, 2007.

Camille Martin. Sonnets. Exeter UK: Shearsman Books, 2010.

Ted Berrigan. Dear Sandy, Hello: Letters from Ted to Sandy Berrigan. (1962) Minneapolis: Coffee House, 2010.

Brenda Iijima, editor. )((eco(lang)(uage(reader)): the eco language reader.
Brooklyn and Callicoon, NY: Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs and Nightboat, 2010.

Florine Melnyk. Suspended Imagination. Buffalo: BlazeVOx, 2010.

Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.
These books seem to have long titles.

Series 1.
Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn. Selections from The Collected Letters 1959-1960. Edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano. New York:Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009.

Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara. "this pertains to me which means to me you": The Correspondence of Kenneth Koch & Frank O'Hara 1955-1956. 2 Vols. Edited by Josh Schneiderman.New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009.

Muriel Rukeyser. Darwin and the Writers. Edited by Stefania Heim. New York:Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009.

Philip Whalen. 1957-1977 Selections from the Journals. 2 Vols. Edited by Brian Unger.New York:Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009.

Robert Creeley, Daphne Marlatt and Fredric Franklyn. The 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference / Robert Creeley's Contexts of Poetry, with Daphne Marlatt's Journal Entries. Edited by Ammiel Alcalay. New York:Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009.

Series 2.
Margaret Randall. Selections from El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn 1962-1964. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

Diane Di Prima. The Mysteries of Vision: Some Notes on H.D.. Edited by Ana Bozicevic. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

Diane Di Prima. _R.D.'s H.D._ Edited by Ammiel Alcalay. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

Robert Duncan. Charles Olson Memorial Lecture. Ammiel Alcalay, Eds. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

Jack Spicer. Jack Spicer's Beowulf. 2 Vols. Edited by David Hadbawnik and Sean Reynolds. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

Muriel Rukeyser. "Barcelona, 1936" and Selections from the Spanish Civil War Archive. Edited by Rowena Kennedy-Epstein. New York: Center for the Humanities and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2011.

I misplaced Ivy Johnson's chapbook on my chapbook shelf. It was published by Boog City Literature. The reading was at the ACA gallery in Chelsea, where I got to see some of Romare Beardon's collage works, and a disturbingly lifelike sculpture of a nude woman. The poems were good, and there was a very good musical act playing, too.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Sweetest Surrender

It is an unusual feeling, looking through the corrective lens of hindsight. And it is harmful to eschew foresight in making any life-altering decision. To think of what one is capable of walking into, and willingly--it defies reason. Talk about it. Tell people. From the perspective of friends, or occasional confidants, there is a sympathy that does not seem understanding enough. THIS, one decides, belongs to no one but myself, and yet, it isn't anything that one would willingly own. And what is "this"? A special form of chaos--quite real in terms of where one lives, and what one does on a daily basis--a kind of madness certainly, yet so seemingly ubiquitous that it becomes hard to extract oneself far enough to recognize one's role, take the dancer from the dance, pluck the single stalk from its field. Without wanting to, I can contribute to circumstances that are clearly destructive. I have the greatest desire to see my personal, proprietary chaos as a particular historical and social form--that I am simply acting through, and with the available means: relationships, jobs, modes of travel, clothing, food, meeting the tick-tock of constant overhead--to maintain a residence, a place, a mood, a space of familiarity. It seems so vague and abstract, really, to give narrative shapes to the broad contours of feeling that occur to one over years of time. If I think I went through a number of serious depressive episodes, each fast on the heels of its predecessor, I am reluctant to objectify my life over the past four years like that--because the clinical is so clingy. Diagnosis has to do with the elusive, imprecise nature of defining one's own nature. Or reiterating, and standing on the fact that I will define it for myself, thank you--and you may say what you please. But with a diagnosis, one gains the pleasure of working through the steps of cure and recovery. There is certainty. This thing has a name. It is my body, and my body is perfect in the fact that it will NEVER be perfect. Relief. One meets it in the gaze of another, and in polite, and not so polite rejections. Invitations declined or gone unanswered. It is the same impulse, perhaps, that brings a pissed-off crowd to the forum, to stand and say, "We have had it!" with the prevailing narrative, the controlled message. Because it IS wrong. And it IS harmful. Why can't that be said of our own personal life and circumstance? That all narrative is predictive, predicated form? That form is merely an object of study, and the object of an action based on its prediction. Because what I was living was the unpredictable, and it is still just as much what I am living with. I was welcome to chance, happy with transience, hanging with the outlaws, heaping up with the outbursts.

It all seems so gentle now, from this necessary distance. By ownmost nature, I had kept my eyes glued to the eyes of the nurse, and not on what was in the little cardboard cup. That's how it goes. I have been attempting to act from a sense of sanity, with senses that have grown and been cultivated for over half of my adult life. Working with every reserve, verging on deplete, for the sense of being precise, generous, both yielding and firm. Then, I am told, and by one whose word I count as weighty as gold: your sense of it is exactly the opposite (even if that's a bit of an exaggeration) of what will pass as normal. No, on a hurried pavement of mad hungering souls, and a million drives cascading over me like a shrapnel wind, I'll never grasp the half of it. I will be strange. It will feel good, too. In a context of chaos, it is foolish to think in terms of the normal, the pathological, the comforting and the weird. Especially here. On the gentle edge of this mossy hillside there is a truth: I have had it. And the lover of that thought: no one will take this away from me ever again.

i love you.


Monday, February 28, 2011

May 31, 2008 to August 21, 2008

May 31, 2008


What can you do?

Three of us wore blue.

McCaffery shot two.

Please check out:
Karen Mac Cormack's _Implexures_ complete text (Chax Press, 2008)
Steve McCaffery's _Slightly Left of Thinking_ (Chax Press, 2008)

A nice pair!

June 2, 2008


Monday afternoon. Emerging from printed cocoon of old texts in English translation, emerging onto this tight little electronic slate on which language (not bread, not seed, not tuneful tone) is placed, letter by letter. Emerging from long day of slow trawls over an electronic sea of clicks, creaking mouse wheels, images and texts. Yawn.

little scratch pad now officially owns but the site is still being "constructed", and today brought with it a little anxiety and confusion about the press business account, dropping me $25 further in the hole in insufficient funds fees. I was offered a tutorial in Quickbooks this afternoon, so, after i learn to keep better books, i will soon have more accountancy acumen--registering taxes, setting money aside, not assuming that the $25 i used to open a checking account will actually be available in my account balance.

[I'd like to go walk on Bird Island Pier right now, but there's been a real swarm of helicopters out there today, the most placid day yet this spring, and their drone would ruin the soothing rushing sound of Niagara waters in which i'd most like to disappear. OR i'd like to write a song with my friend who writes songs, but her silence is as loud or louder than the helicopters. So its just you & me 'ol keypad buddy]

i started my press, little scratch pad, in order to name a collection of poetry i had written and bound into book form, and dedicated to my summer love of 1996. i took my first poetry writing workshop in the subsequent semester that fall with Maggie Anderson, during which i asked my ex-girlfriend to send the book back to me, after she had moved to Rochester. it's an odd book: i called it Eating a Stone, because i was taking something lithic at that time, a latin word for "rock". Every day i'd swallow three stones to keep myself mellow. Supposedly there is a mineral that was discovered in Minnesota, in a town whose waters contain a high amount of calm-inducing content. Not having any documentation at hand, and too lazy right now to look online for more information, i'll simply say that the people in this town were known for their continuously easygoing manners. They rarely got excited about things, or anything. So they analyzed the water and found a miracle drug for people who got way too excited over next to nothing. Eating this stone for a year had made me docile and friendly enough to be an attractive mate for a beautiful, intelligent, amazingly tender person. Eating a Stone was my most effective homage/tribute to the ways these "informing conditions" had helped bring our love into fullest flower. But it is also a book about some very awful experiences i went through, events that made it clear i should eat stones in the first place. Gulp.

Seven years later, little scratch pad editions were encouraged into existence by Michael Basinski (in the winter of 2006), who hinted at some possible funding in order to publish Tom Yorty's book Words in Season. We, or maybe just i, also decided to publish a set of chapbooks, by L.A. Howe, myself, Mike, Kristianne Meal, Nick Traenkner, and Jim Lang. I was given a copy of the Indesign editing suite, and the verbal promise of funding to have two of the chapbooks printed. Time rolled on. I decided to print up hand-bound editions of Kristi's chapbook and my own, in small editions called Buff & Rust. I didn't have any money to print these, so we only made 25 copies of each. I did use the indesign software to design them, however. Kristi and I cut all the paper, waxed the binding thread, punched holes in the thick paper stock and cut fabric to glue to the covers in her bookstore the Sunday before the Buffalo Small Press Bookfair.

All this coincided with the rather painful breakup with my girlfriend which also coincided with my decision to stop seeking college-level assistant professor jobs. i was then very torn between wanting a secure job with benefits, or staying independent to write, think, and work on my poetry, art & publishing. Since 2003 (i had finished my dissertation that fall), i had been applying for assistant professor jobs every winter. In four years, i had succeeded to gain one job interview. In my interview, i talked about putting poems and poets on TV and getting poetry placards installed on buses. They wanted to know if i could teach a commercial publishing course. i talked about reaching out to all of Cleveland's communities from their poetry center: south side, east side, west side. i tried to seem enthusiastic, fun and lovable under a hazy sheen of sweat and anxiety. i had heard that witty, like-able, super-intelligent and well-organized were good traits to show an interviewing committee. i did my best to show them. i look back and see that my efforts were, in academic job market terms and in terms of MLA professionalism, only halfhearted. i never really felt truly academic and professorial in sanctioned ways: believe me, it was certainly a goal of mine to have these feelings, but other anxieties seemed to be crushing me down. i didn't know if i was supposed to play a role, or just be myself. All the advice i had gotten seemed to suggest that you shouldn't be yourself, unless you were 100% through and through a living, breathing geyser of fun-loving interpretive, student-nurturing, love-of-literature-inspiring critical enthusiasm. At the time i was circumspect, incredibly shy, passive, and scared out of my wits. A blinding light was reflecting from the high-rise across the street into the 35th floor window of the Philadelphia Hilton where we sat. One strike for not having studied at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and another strike that i was overwhelmed by the over-structured nature of the conversation with three complete strangers who needed me to prove myself "right" for their students, their classes, their poetry program and book publications, their department, their State College. This was my one chance so far. Two strikes, and you're out.

just remember:
little scratch pad is fun, lovable, and enthusiastic.
the writer of this blog is, instead, feeling sorry for himself right now.

But never fear, my friend, brighter days are indeed ahead . . . "for the whole planet"

June 3, 2008

just living

It turns out all the helicopters keeping me from Bird Island yesterday were observing/assisting firefighters at a huge warehouse fire on Niagara St. that caused a few of them to have to seek hospital treatment & also burned barrels of pool chemicals, causing some evacuations in the neighborhood.

i've been reading William Bronk. His poetry in Living Instead (1991, North Point Press) is spare, highly conceptual (world, time, life, death) but coincides exactly with a lot of my own personal realizations and insights in the last month or so. But he goes a lot farther than i have. He is a philosophical, spiritual poet. i've recently started a email pen-pal correspondence with someone living in Russia, and told my friend, "i want someone to love me for who i am, not what i can do for them." This idea has grown into an understanding that, to be loved for who you are is to be loved on a basic level that has no real distinguishing characteristics--that to be loved is a simple grace, there's no reason (personal, practical, social, emotional) why you should be loved, individually, apart from anyone else. What i've come to see is that i have, fundamentally, only my own human experience, which can coincide with anyone else's. Love, in whatever it can mean, outside of a context of mourning/proximity, is purely accidental. i have no say in who i love or who loves me, when to withhold it, when to let it go. When it becomes a "decision" it has taken up other factors (such as "what are you going to do for me?") that are not it. If it exists in one's life, its because there is nothing else to attach itself to the feeling it is made of--no need or desire or grasping. It's just "there", all the "work" of a relationship is found in our means of taking all the "reasons" for its existence out of the basic shared space and time in which it lives, everything we catch and hold onto as an excuse to not pursue its influence. So we are turned away at every stage we decide to hold on to a memory, or anything, instead of moving past that into the present moment where it can actually exist. Wake up to the accident, the contingent, the event. I remember singing a love song on a stage not too many days ago, and a person saying afterward (someone i'd never met) "i love you", which was true, the feeling, and having it shared with me was a beautiful thing, but i knew it wasn't "me"--it was the song, and its energy. i didn't intend to turn this person away, and i only intended to invoke what was inherent in that song. i guess i take responsibility for bringing that love into the room, but i couldn't do more than accept it. i couldn't own being the 'source', and if i sang it for a certain specific someone, that person also couldn't take it as 'mine' either. i admit that love can be very confusing. In one sense, i could squint at someone's expression of love towards me, and be squinted at as well by another person who could see my singing a love song as an attempt to invoke it in her (otherwise blocked by some other reason to not give in to its invitation, its consequences, its motives). There was a lack of trust, maybe, on all sides. I have to believe it will get there, the love, but it has to start in one place, one place alone, or simply be a fortuitous accident. There is no special reason why i, you, or anyone should be loved--and that's the exact reason why we deserve it continuously. i guess what i learned was that it is nothing i have consciously willed to exist, and it never can be willed. All the pain of love arises when you decide you can will it into existence (because of X, Y or Z which are your attractive qualities, your assets, and sense of the other person's obligations, promises) rather than acting consciously to make yourself prepared for it, instead, out of what is MOST universal within you. The unendowment.

June 5, 2008

placards (a blog post with footnotes)

despite admonition i'm posting aphorisms today--talismans charms & mantras--use of the word to get beyond the word

"Belief is like love: it can not be compelled; and as any attempt to compel love produces hate, so it is the attempt to compel belief which first produces real unbelief."

- Arthur Schopenhauer (note A)

We want to believe but the factual is a belief

less fact the farther in or out we push.

(note B)

Even So

The god we need to learn to love gives

us no reason to—no knowledge, power, or other

magnificences: being female or male

or neither of these. If we come to love ourselves

we need to love ourselves the same way.

(note C)

The Swab

if i did it at all

it was because i believed

it was wanted

and if i did it the wrong way

can't not doing it

make better do?

(note D)

A: i don't know the source, Wayne Coyne put this quote on his christmas card in 2000, then put it on the flaming lips website

B: this is half of William Bronk's poem "Unbeliever"--i didn't like the other half as much.

C: This is the entirety of William Bronk's poem "Even So" (1991) which led me to reread/look at Kenneth Patchen's "But Even So" (1968), a book of visual-verbal aphorisms. It is a perfect book ("the book that needs no blurb"). It was given to me by Kathy Korcheck for my birthday one year. For a while she would find, buy and send me Kenneth Patchen rarities. Thank you kathy for these endless gifts. Kenneth Patchen has a myspace page, but he still hasn't added me to his list of friends. Even so, I believe Kenneth Patchen is my friend.

D: this last one is mine. Alternate title: "Overdue (an apology)"


June 7, 2008


i'm taking my damn guitar into the swamp

to listen hard

hoping the birds & frogs

will teach me a new song

or at least a few new words



June 14, 2008

poetry week in review

It's been a wonderful week, especially for the press, as last Sunday's poetry marathon resulted in many favorable outcomes: Elizabeth Mariani's book launch was a success, and is doing well. To order your copy of the book, go to and click on the image of the book.

I'd like to take some time describing what the week was like, perhaps as a "week in the life of a poet" since it is important for me to try giving shape to what it was like, and what it means to be "immersed" in a community of active, public writers, poets, artists, booksellers (archivists!) and musicians.

The first event was my recognition that I could not travel to the University of Maine this weekend to attend the Poetry of the '70's Conference sponsored by the National Poetry Foundation. It was not an easy decision to make, as I have for some time been longing again for the atmosphere of great discussions, wild flights of ideas and influences on my own poetics that a great conference can provide. I just have to say I really miss all the people I would have seen there, and I hope the conference is shaping up to be an important one. My own presentation topic was to be on bpNichol's own work as a publisher in the 1970s--the importance of his mailing lists as forming a community of readership, and the work of publishing poets by way of the best possible execution for the nature of the text/object and its intentions (I hope to write more about this, and about my scholarship project with Celery Flute, soon).

Last Friday I walked down to Eli Drabman's third floor loft on Richmond to hear Scott Puccio deliver a lecture on bee dancing, Kristi Meal read her "scroll" poems (entitled "Who Is Caliss?") for the last time, and Jaye Bartell read a work of 20 Choruses, punctuated by instrumental sequences, and enhanced with projected paintings. Each artist provided a different modality to the evening, from the informative, to the scriptural/recitative, to the "intermediary" of a dense textual poem enhanced by painting and guitar.

Saturday I escaped into a small suburban woods, was duly apprehended by a local megafaun (a very sensitive, thus still-wild deer), and offered a few new words and tokens. That evening I attended the opening of Steve Kurtz's show "Seized". This is an important show, not simply for the level of thinking art involved, but for its deeper historical/social meaning, the sad fact that artists can be attacked and be put on trial by unthinking, censorious and reactionary authorities for their (the artists') critical and creative challenges to the ethical implications of contemporary trends in science, agriculture and technology. (see for more information).

My woodland jaunt was in some sense a way of clearing the mind for Sunday: holding the monthly Poetry Tasting I've conducted since last December (averaging 1 visitor per month), the book launch for Liz Mariani's imaginary poems (about 30 people attended), and then later that night, Liz's open-mic/featured reader series Spoken Word Sundays (about 20 attendees).

At the poetry tasting we read a poem by Joshua Mehigan entitled "Father Birmingham" from the Carl Dennis-donated 30:1-2 (2008) issue of Parnassus (which disturbed us for a number of different reasons, some we suspect were intended, and others symptomatic of its form), a poem from Kazim Ali's new book The Fortieth Day (lauched the day before in that very bookstore), which gave us a lot to talk about, and to admire (sadly, I can't remember the title of the poem--the context is that the speaker standing at a railroad station, observing the place, and then feeling a deep questioning of being and purpose--an image of a "spider biting the back of the neck" had a visceral effect on us, a sudden apprehension of alienation), and finally, we read a poem from the magazine Yellow Edenwald Field composed of a series of postcard letters, arranged over time, providing a telegraphic history of a love affair by way of that intimate absence which is much of what constitutes literature per se, in my view (as I've been dipping into Blachot's The Space of Literature this morning). Sadly, since I don't have a copy of this magazine, I forget both the title and author of this very accomplished poem. This prompted a long discussion, not of the poem (which is a great example of an effective series-poem), but of Eugene O'Neill's play Strange Interlude, involving a long-term love triangle that, I was told later that day, was really about O'Neill, John Reed, and Reed's wife.

By this point I was pretty wired by the Ethiopian coffee I was mainlining, so we concluded the June '08 Tasting. Next up was the book launch. It was a real pleasure for me to hear writers I am not especially familiar with. Patrick O'Keefe played three songs. He describes himself as a "comedy musician" and his songs were funny, but delivered with a great awareness of his audience, in a style that reminded me of Woody Guthrie's (& Bob Dylan's) "talking blues"--a song about a "cat-dog" called a "cog", and a song about Sesame Street Revisited. Then Marina Bitshteyn read some "blood & guts" poems about relationships, a Bukowskian rant against getting advanced degrees in writing, including a rather gratuitous image for a conclusion (I didn't find this poem very effective), and finally a beautiful praise-hymn song with hip-hop/Hebrew meters that celebrates Jewish tradition and family. This last was a remarkable work and performance. I was caught up by its rhythm of an expanding/contracting open metric.

Gary Earl Ross delivered a short, intense "set" of poems--most memorable is a love poem composed of many fictional brand-names for technologically-enhanced body parts. It is a great poem/ satire, up there with that brilliant movie, Mike Judge's Idiocracy. He then introduced Liz Mariani, who read her chapbook in its entirety, from beginning to end. I was very impressed by her articulation. If you want to hear someone recite a poem expertly, and if you haven't heard her read yet--you really should attend one of her readings. Here are the remarks that I read to the audience at the opening of the event:

"Elizabeth Mariani. With so many of us discovering poetry as a consistent resource in our lives, it is rather remarkable when a poet or writer stands out as an exceptional talent, and also provides the community the space and means to offer their talents. Liz Mariani stands out, and she stands up for the spoken word. Her spoken word poetry has the amazing ability to blend the deepest rapids of her personal life into the rhythmic fabric of our social selves. her poetry offers prayer, perplexity and provocation: the poem is offered to us as a means of critical communication as she offers herself up to its shifting, unpredictable weathers. She gives us the goods direct and immediately to the page and to the world, from their first insistence. She stands back from the tide and then plunges in to let it wash over her. You never know what you're about to experience in her works or readings, or what you'll taste in any given bite of her stampeding linguistic cake."

I was glad to meet so many new people at the book launch, that I have to thank Liz once again for the whole experience of working, editing, and publishing this book, it has been a real learning experience for me.

Finally, the day came to an end with Spoken Word Sundays. Both Liz and I were pretty tired. She interspersed reading from her new book with the featured readers Anthony Neal--who sings/intones beautiful and rhythmic poems--Li Farallo--a cornucopia of metaphoric imagery--and Kazim Ali--a poet of contemplative yet urgent lyricism. Ali was brave enough, at one point, to "talk shit about his own poetry" when he admitted to not feeling certain about writing in a new form. And so the day came to a close--I even got a chance to "speak" some of my shorter poems at the open mic.

I'd like to go on and talk about the Grey Hair Gala that Ryki Zuckerman hosted on Wednesday, as much as I'd like to post about the state of the books of poems and readership in the current age, as much as I'd like to beg everyone to help me figure out if I should continue publishing Celery Flute (I really want to, but am experiencing a little fatigue--I have about 30-40 poetry works I've promised to review, at least in capsule form, and I've fallen WAY off schedule for the magazine), as much as I'd like to lament the growing pains of establishing a business and website (also delayed at present)--but I've got to go--more tomorrow.

Please buy little scratch pad editions!! just email me at inksaudible at gmail dot com, provide your address, titles you want, and then scoot the dollars or check (made out to little scratch pad) by the regular post to:
little scratch pad
82 livingston 2
buffalo ny 14213

loveloveloveloveloveloveloveloveLOVELOVELOVELOVELOVElovelovelove etc.

June 16, 2008


Here are some slowly mulled-over remarks on Ron Silliman's great, useful analysis of "the world of poetry",

which was prompted by his need to explain his long lists of links to online poetry journalism, and a way of addressing the structures of readership in the USA by means of marketing and the institutions of literacy (universities, arts organizations, competitions and awards). The example Silliman uses to define the conflict, and by implication to valorize the democracy of the web, is the choice by the Lambda Foundation to award its annual prize to Henri Cole. The first conclusion reached is that awards are determined in part by the need for a book to gain wider readership, and that the structures that enable that readership (foundations/organizations/businesses) already depend on distribution and marketing resources that significantly surpass the resources of the small publishers who print the majority of new poetry books. This means that writers and publishers with long affiliations to these structures are much more likely to derive the benefit and readers they provide. While middle-tier and independent publishers do achieve success and awards from time to time, it isn't likely that this recognition will happen with frequency. Another conclusion he makes is that, in his own practice, he can promote an "alternative logic" to the prevailing book publishing and promotion system by offering a wealth of access to new and important works, events, poets and styles through his website. I think both forms of logic try to promote wider readership, especially for works that themselves offer an alternative (in this example, of works enacting GLBT subjectivities and issues). Yet, he argues, one means should be understood as inevitably reducing access to these books, and another for its giving a much wider access.

But there is another issue at work: in the late 1940s, each year one book was published for every 18,500 people, whereas today there is one book published for every 750 people. If poetry has consistently been 1% of all books published, and going strictly by the numbers, a book of poems published in 1948 was guaranteed a readership of 185 people, whereas today this translates to 7.5. This conclusion is pure fantasy, obviously. It leads me to question the value of having such a statistic at all, outside of its urgent call for poetry publishers to get busy!
It does say that publishing a book in 1948 was a rare accomplishment and that publishing a book today, while still a great accomplishment, is less rare.

There are other implications to the contrasting logics: a major national award is likely to go to a "product" that can be quantitatively proven to succeed (thus reducing the degree of risk, not only in the "product" but in the kind of writing found under the wrapper), whereas the small presses and newer writing take on a high degree of risk in the name of some other purpose, perhaps one irrespective of markets. While it would be of great importance to draw these tensions out more explicitly, I think it is safe enough to say that poetry and publishing are a cultural necessity that exceed the structural forms utilized to sustain them (while many would agrue the true function is constraint). For me, personally, it makes the art of publishing primary, and allows me to concentrate on that dimension without the constant management of readership markets. There was a time when these logics would have been discouraging to me, but instead, they are in fact a welcome relief from the constant deference to profit models that would have to take place in both the work, design and furthering of the activity. To me, this opportunity to work within an alternative model is nothing short of miraculous. Ron Silliman provides the chance to see that the scope of the available works is much wider than ability of the institutions to convey them to audiences, which is, in the best light, their main duty. My press does not exist in some rarefied field untouched by the need to market, to promote, and to seek funding. But the sources of its support are diverse and of no single source--it comes direct from the writers, from individuals who give me $10 here or $100 there, from discounts by booksellers and printers, and a significant amount of my personal income. I am happy to know that institutions can provide a significant benefit to our active cultural life, but I also know that readers and writers need not always choose those sources as the only means to activate their creative spirit, and hone their intelligence. The issues of publishing and reading are, in my view, inspirational, and my thanks goes to Ron for his frequent listings & of course, to the web as a crucial forum for playing out these new means of communication.

But this problem of "too many books" is not a new one--it was a problem for Robert Burton in 1621 as well:

"What a company of poets hath this year brought out!" as Pliny complains to Sossius Senecio; "this April every day some or other have recited." What a catalogue of new books all this year, all this age (I say), have our Frankfort marts, our domestic marts brought out! Twice a year, proferunt se nova ingenia et ostentat, we stretch our wits out, and set them to sale, magno conatu nihil agimus [we do nothing with a great expenditure of energy]. So that, which Gesner much desires, if a speedy reformation be not had, by some prince's edicts and grave supervisors, to restrain this liberty, it will run on in infinitum. Quis tam avidus librorum helluo? [Where can we find such a glutton of books?], who can read them? As already, we shall have a vast chaos and confusion of books, we are oppressed with them, our eyes ache with reading, our fingers with turning. For my part, I am one of the number, nos numerus sumus: I do not deny it, I have only this of Macrobius to say for myself, Omne meum, nihil meum, 'tis all mine, and none mine. As a good housewife out of divers fleeces weaves one piece of cloth, a bee gathers wax and honey out of many flowers, and makes a new bundle of all, Floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant [as bees in flowery glades sip from each cup], I have laboriously collected this cento out of divers writers---"

The Anatomy of Melancholy. 1621. New York: NYRB, 2001. 24-25.

what roofing better than this breathing sky?
what siding more secure than this living wood?

June 28, 2008

We ask: what is postmodern metafiction?

little scratch pad is wondering what POSTMODERN METAFICTION really means. If we live in a world after modernism, does that mean we're all truly just robots, like the guy in Woody Allen's movie Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask who has a whole little city inside of him helping him have sex with his hot date? And is metafiction instead so "beyond fiction" that it accurately portrays real events? If you go beyond fiction, aren't you just talking about something that really happened? I'm very confused. I would like the press to be able to publish postmodern metafiction, but I have no convincing proof that we know what this term means. Does it mean that it is poetry? Or is it just a trendy label intended to encourage consumers to purchase wares, like yogurt bars and jello shots?

We encourage all our writers to take serious risks, to ride in cars without wearing seat belts and to talk on their cellphones when they drive in heavy, 80 mph urban traffic (just kidding); to hang-glide to work on offshore oil rigs and to vote democrat no matter how long ago the party became the little sweeping-up-the-moral-conscience janitor for the military-corporate feudalist oligarchs. But somebody, please, tell us what POSTMODERN METAFICTION is!! Its making me feel like a grumpy old fart to not know.

thank you.

and we also ask: WHAT STAR IS THAT?

July 1, 2008

Bee Relapse

Current mood:busy

Have to rewind back to the "bee" days. I used to post a lot about bees and bees as metaphor for all sorts of things. I still use my slogan, tho: pollination for every nation!

I had a depressing conversation with bee keepers and honey merchants last saturday. First fact: the brown bee, native to the North American continent, was driven to extinction by imported European bees. Second fact: as far as we know, bees are suffering from a kind of dysentery brought on by travel stress. Third fact: delicious Asian pears are all grown on a specific island (unnamed) on which all the bees recently died. So the trees had to be pollinated by hand using tiny paint brushes.

Finally, in literary terms, there is a wild archive of goodies at the Beehive.

August 16, 2008


Today, some weird homeless guy handed me a crumpled piece of paper:

"they were advocates of violence in the age when North American avant-gardes were cleverly re-writing the Greco-Roman & European classics, suitable for software everywhere, all the soft wars up against the black liquid bursting in tight round cylinders in long caterpillar strands across the asphalt, inching, straining in the blindest last age of isolation and the sense of ownership. The tempo of the times purely lost as the blood and eyes tuned in, every head with hand plastered to ear confirming their being alive but it was only the signals and waves meeting the various mechanisms, eventually these outer shells of motion would fully swallow up the supposed hominids within them, just as mitochondria became the central molecular processors of the cell between the codings of the nucleus and materials and energies arriving to sell their wares at the plasma door. Great blood-buses would bring the oxygen down into their homes. Everything else was swirl, debates about some larger corporeal entity irrelevant in the day to day negotiations with bills and soccer games and the length of the grass outside the front door."


August 21, 2008

we're going back to NYC, I do believe we've had enough--

Dear friends of the little scratch pad,
We would like to invite everyone and everyone in the world to come to the Boog City Festival in New York City this September 18-21. little scratch pad authors Jaye Bartell, Kristi Meal, and Douglas Manson will be there, reading their works. There will be a small press book fair where all our books will be for sale. Other Buffalo ex-pats from House Press like Damian Weber and Eric Gelsinger will intone. And Eileen Myles, Bob Holman, Lee Ann Brown, and many many others, including a performance of Lou Reed's album New York City by hot new sound-benders. I'll be posting more details about this event in upcoming blogs, but until then, don't forget to order thousands of copies of our books so we can eat at French restaurants and get room service at our swanky hotels. Kristi's book is $8, Jaye's is $6, and there's Basinski for $10 and Manson for $8. Send a buck for postage: little scratch pad, 82 livingston st. 2 bufffalo NY 14213 or email inksaudible at gmail dot com.

luv luv luv

Friday, February 25, 2011

March 4, 2008 to May 30, 2008

March 4, 2008

learning to ask

in the past year i learned more about myself than in the previous ten years.

April 17, 2008

who is that?

As far as I can tell, there are two or three readers of this blog. Reasons: 1. i don't tell anyone i have it (i'm shy). 2. i don't post very often.

The result is that i love my little bloggy. it feels like mine, there all along, singing its song. And anyone can have it.

Mercury is my "planet", but to be mercurial is to be inconstant, fast, and "early". Also good at getting a message across. Travelling along the boundaries. personally, this means I swirl around a lot. Playful. Sometimes not. People seem to see me as pokey and proddy. I stir things around, sometimes inconsiderately. One friend told me I like to blow on little sparks and make big fires out of them. That's irresponsible, I think. I don't do that. What I do is find relationships, and not always the ones people want to see, ones that they'd say don't belong together. So I do, I do! guilty as charged. Sometimes it feels like riding a wave of contradictions. Looking for unities. Always philosophizing, questioning the truth claims we keep making. Restless in language.

But there are costs to having a Biercian tongue: it's got lots of bandages on it. I'm a seeker. I'm looking. I crave connection, but need some downtime for myself.

I am lost when in love. And I'm always in love. "He who needs least loves best."
Here, this is for you, my flower-sipper, sweet to taste, cool on the tongue.

Please taste & see.

May 1, 2008

Happy may day

Okay, I lied about having 2-3 readers. I now have ZERO. But blogging is about writing. So I've decided to move out from under the "bee mask" and present my own humble mug on this site. I've also decided to shift towards a more straightforward discussion of poetry.

Today's "notes" are also aimed to help clarify some ideas I've had lately about the role of the poem. As a writer, I've never really questioned its value. But poets often have to defend these notions, especially when people express perplexity at why one writes something so unremunerative with any kind of dedication. Thanks to a link from Ron Silliman's site, I was taken by Gillian K. Ferguson's splendid introduction to a large poetry-project devoted to the Human Genome Project. So what follows are a few gleanings about poetry taken from the internet with a little bit of my commentary.

My own small small press, little scratch pad, is becoming more and more a collaborative effort of a number of people here in Buffalo, and I'm getting great mentoring help from Ted Pelton, whose own Starcherone Books are becoming more widely known. Our press was featured Tuesday night at the ACA Galleries in Chelsea, NYC. Curated by the great David Kirschenbaum, Kristi Meal and I read to a small group, with Grace Hartigan's paintings in the background. We also performed two works by Michael Basinski. I hope to have some photos up in the photo section in the next day or two.

Reading Exacts a Heavy Cost:

just listen to this summary of what it "costs" to read a book:

"Self-publishing companies may produce books for less than $5, but how much does all this production cost readers? In "So Many Books," Zaid playfully writes that "if a mass-market paperback costs $10 and takes two hours to read, for a minimum-wage earner the time spent is worth as much as the book." But for someone earning around $50 to $500 an hour, "the cost of buying and reading the book is $100 to $1,000" — not including the time it takes to find out about the book and track it down." "You're an Author? Me Too!" NYT, April 27, 2008, by Rachel Donadio

Oh, the agony of connecting to the creative mind! So much is revealed here. Its good that Zaid "playfully" draws this comparison, rather than have anyone take these remarks seriously. Even I, in my dissertation conclusion, provided a formula for the "cost" of poetry in terms of energy used, and value of the paper—trying to quantify the value of my dissertation, but rather ironically. Most common ideas of the "worth" of poetry are perplexing, as we are all attempting to actualize our creative potentials (at least, I think we should be). But again and again, for academic job applications, grants, for friends and family, I find there always seems to be some kind of needed justification for the activity. What are the basic questions writers ask in their efforts to write literature? Are these really a "valuable" set of questions being asked of writers? As writers are now more and more frequently asking themselves about their place in the larger society, about the relation of writing to economy (always a complicated affair, but an important one), but also to all our other relationships, communities, writing friends & connections, our aesthetic ideas, our reasons for the WORK, I find writing to be the affirmation of personal/introspective relationships, a social responsibility, and an endlessly renewable resource. Hard to box in!

Some other recently blog-googled-internet comments have helped. Bob Grumman (an eminent visual poet) breaks down some basic, though necessary distinctions. He is responding to a rather lunkheaded essay he read in the New Criterion (bleagh!) that lamented poetry's "loss of audience" since the days of Longfellow. A friend of mine reminded me the other day that she doesn't "get" poetry or painting, and yet, she is, on her own terms, a very accomplished new media artist. I take her opinions seriously, and feel the questions raised need to be addressed. Grumman explains why poetry is not "popular": it is simply that the most prevalent examples of poetry are poorly defined. Distinctions can be usefully made about WHY people read a poem at all. And we can find poetry/poetic works easily available in any number of places & forms. These poetic forms are just not defined in the same way as those forms that typically announce themselves as poems. But poetry is an art form. It is a literature. One doesn't spend 20 years of their life in the study of a subject and in the practice of their art without recognizing its validity. That we are challenged so continuously to validate it for others is actually part of the practice itself. But I'll let Bob explain a little:

"The reason poetry is no longer as popular as it may have been in Longfellow's day is that newer forms of art can do what it used to do for the aesthetically unsophisticated much better than it could. For instance, (1) still and cinematic photography are its superior at capturing easily-digested moments of beauty in both the natural and man-made world, and are widely and cheaply available; (2) the novel--and now--the movies and television--easily surpass it in story-telling, and are widely and cheaply available; (3) television talk-show hosts, news commentators, televangelists and the like are vastly more facile than it in expressing moral dogma, and are widely and cheaply available; and (4) pop musicians (in particular, rap artists--whose lyrics are memorized as lovingly as any prior poets' texts) outdo it in providing the simple fun of doggerel, sentimentality and plain stupidity, and their texts are widely and cheaply available.

The few poets who do reach a wide audience do it by conventionally expressing simple human truths that appeal to the masses, but only if they are establishment-aided representatives . . ., unusually effective careerists like Billy Collins, or celebrities like Jewel. As for our best poets, they compose for people with functioning minds and viscera. The result is poetry using traditional means that is, for the most part, dauntingly complex, and/or poetry that is innovative in the manner of Cummings or Pound, or of contemporary language-centered and pluraesthetic poetries. And the limited, and quiet, audience. It's as simple as that."

A good confirmation. I was also blown away by Gillian K. Ferguson's "manifesto" this morning, who is taking rhetorical direction from Wordsworth, no less! Her work can be found in the newly launched, completely free online publication of a "1000 page" poem on the Human Genome. In her introduction to the poem, she has this to say about the role of the poet:

"The role of the popular science writer as a 'filter' is obviously vital; but along with this, I believe there is no better 'way in' than the arts; and no better language than poetry to help this process. Poetry is the 'right' kind of language; it can be used to express grand concepts, but will not abandon feeling, reactions, emotional responses as invalid or 'wrong' because these things are 'non-factual'; or rather, cannot be expressed as equations, computations or chemistry."

"Poetry's special language is able to incorporate, bridge, and explore these parts of understanding as first nature; as an expansion of vision and perspective, thus contributing to greater understanding. The prevalent view of science as being somehow an absolute dictator whose stark facts must be accepted unquestioningly as the entire truth - contrasting with the intuitive notion of the messier, more blurred, interconnecting, seeping understanding of life that being alive instead presents to us - is no longer adequate. And even the most detailed blow-by-blow minute breakdown of the anatomy and processes of a flower, down to the very last chemistry and molecule, misses out something vital in the nature of that flower if this description conveys nothing of the flower's beauty and aesthetic impact on the human senses. The purely factual picture lacks adequate range of vision to present the whole meaning of the flower. In addition, we are simply missing out on some of the most fabulous and mind-expanding findings ever made by mankind; life revealed at its most marvellous, creative, and spellbinding."

I agree! I agree! Please go and read her entire introduction. While I appreciate the critical abilities of serious intellectual work, especially when it is helpful in defining one's terms of value; of late, and increasingly, I am much more inclined towards work that inculcates positive visions of communication, and have a sense of a clear purpose and goal, especially when I read discussions about poetry. Wild proliferation catches me every time, rather than timid passivity or useless aesthetic surgeries.

May 3, 2008


little scratch pad is a poetry press--poetry as a poetics--for the reorganization/revitalization/reboot of the senses.

It will scratch you, like a scrubbie, or a kitty if you rub its fur the wrong way.

little scratch pad is the metal kink in the supersupple Brancusi sculpture that is your life.

little scratch pad is a big launch pad.

A little scratch pad is a small, bound set of leaves for writing notes, fleeting ideas, dreams, images, or sudden realizations.

A little scratch pad is ready-to-hand, there when you need it.

little scratch pad is a little house for even littler devils, small imps, or hungry mini-demons.

Demons prevent us from achieving clarity--they muddy the waters just enough to play tricks on our weaknesses. It is said that the great Chinese poet Po Chu-I could not achieve true enlightenment or liberation because he was bound down by his "poetry demon" or "word karma".

little scratch pad will free your ghosts, send 'em on home, back into the dust.

Nobody knows what Jesus was drawing in the dust when they brought the alleged adultress before him.

The little scratch pad knows.

Honor the dust.

May 5, 2008


Current mood:blustery

okay, my page used to be set to "private", but not anymore, or at least i think so. that's why i had no readers. i'm still not sure if i'm available to "everybody" yet--hmm. i got readers now! hooray. keep writing poetry. And study plants. And go outside and do something useful and fun. you done been told.

May 7, 2008

Coltan Mining with DigDug

Dig it! I helped out a with a neighborhood artist's video game project (she's actually a full-time professor of media studies). I am working at the School for Perpetual Training. I also did some of the voice-overs for the the intro video. I was paid 8 biodegradable wheat-based guitar picks for my efforts.

To learn more about this and other exciting art projects, look up Stephanie Rothenberg on the internet.

May 8, 2008

city natures

last night i visited the UB Green Library for the first time. It hosted a lecture and readings by Jonathan Skinner and Ben Lyle Bedard. Jonathan Skinner discussed his journal Ecopoetics, recent notes on constraint-based poetics and pastoralism, and how this activity influences some of his writing projects, especially his "Warbler Series" poems. He then read some examples of these works--dense, engaging, homophonic, onomatopoetic. His primary model for these works lies in Louis Zukofsky's late-career poems 80 Flowers. Bedard began by reading two poems from his new chapbook Implicit Lyrics. He then offered poems from an unpublished series entitled Mayflies. This series is composed of 24 sonnets, to reflect each hour of the one-day sexathon orgy that is the mayfly's above-water existence (another Zukofsky-inspired constraint--the "24" sections, not the sexathon, as far as I know). He hit upon the idea for sonnets when he discovered that the mayfly's body is typically divided into 14 sections by entomologists (though, as he noted, many of these segments are, above water, completely useless--which doesn't mean that most of his lines were useless/vestigial, in fact, every line resounded wonderfully). A high- (or low, depending on your vantage) point was reached when Ben boasted the first poetic use of the term "sub-anal plate". "Buggery!" Skinner quipped from a safe distance. I'm writing this well after the fact, but my impression of Bedard's poems were of a vivid recasting/remolding of a particularly frustrating/satisfying relation of body to body, and the emotional/intellectual ways to reflect that tension and release through musical speech. Skinner's poetry is a "condensery"--a way of filtering a plethora of information and sense-experience into tightly charged lines, bristling and radiating on the verges of sense and substance.

Ben Lyle Bedard's book.

I'm also happy to announce that Little Scratch Pad Editions will be publishing a Jonathan Skinner chapbook this summer!

May 9, 2008

No. 66

Current mood:content

I'd like to post a few links here today. The first is self-serving: a link to the audio files from Urban Epiphany 2008. If you'd like to hear me read four poems from my book Roofing and Siding (BalzeVOX, 2007), scroll down to ol' 66 and click:

I also really liked the poem read by Peter Vullo (67). I was really impressed by the quality of all the poems and readings this year.

My second link is to one of my favorite poet's blogs, "Lisablog" by Lisa Jarnot. Yesterday she explained the way of flowers in clear, demotic english:

I heard Jonathan Skinner and Brenda Coultas reading their amazing work last night at the Butler Library at Buffalo State College. It was really great to see old friends like William Sylvester, and good Buffalo State friends like Greg Bigglieri, David Landrey, Allen Shelton, and the curator of the Rooftop poetry series Lisa Forrest. Everyone who attended got a free broadside of Jonathan Skinner's poems from Buffalo Vortex!

I realize now that I'm very sensitive when conversations turns to academic jobs. Someday I'll be able to talk about them, but for now it really hurts.

May 10, 2008

heavy belt

Yesterday, for the third straight night in a row, I attended a poetry reading. It was Meredith Quartermain and Stephen Collis at Rust Belt Books. After a rather disappointing dinner of striped sea bass, amply made up for with the great warmth and brilliance of good company (so good to meet & talk to Nomados Press //Robert Duncan editor & legend Peter Quartermain!), I heard some of the most interesting, funny, Vancouver wild berry anarchic poetry I've heard in a long time (though I can't remember ever hearing that kind of poetry before--). Oh how i'd like a week out there on the Pacific rim! Thanks to the readers for rounding out a very busy, intense, heavy week. Jim Maynard and Rich Owens gave eloquent, detailed introductions, as well.

I'm getting ready for my once-a-month "poetry tasting" down at the bookstore tomorrow--after the amount of natural/supernatural boundary walks I've been on through the week's close listening, I'm hoping to discuss work in Ecopoetics and Field book's recent publication of Robert Kocik's Rhuhrbarb. Sadly, I didn't get a copy of Brenda Coultas' new book. But I've also been marvelling at Matt Chambers' most recent issue of Pilot (a collection of 16 individually-bound booklets featuring new poetry from England), so I may have to bring that along with me. Also, whatever falls off the shelf of Rust Belt Book's "Hot Fresh Local" section. Remember: hot coffee :: fresh bread! Buy local, think purple!

Looking forward to the publication and launch of little scratch pad's Imaginary Poems for my Imaginary Girlfriend Named Anabel by Elizabeth Mariani, a gale force local spoken word poet, in the coming days.

wee personal notes (WPNs):
The starlings are just now picking over the neighbor's backyard. My own is, sadly, all concrete. The arrival of songbirds now fills the morning air with sweet song. I dreamed a crow flew in my open window and stole my capo.

May 11, 2008

phase space harmony patience

Phase n (1812): a particular appearance or state in a regularly recurring cycle of changes.

Space n (14c): a period of time. (Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary)

time of appearances, regular cycle of changes, periodicity.

reading: Rene Daumal's Mount Analog, Saint Augustine's Confessions.

poetry tasting: olive batard with pesto or cream cheese, Guatemalan La Voz. Poetry by Josh Smith, Douglas Manson ("Poor Poem II"), Scott Thurston, Earth's Daughters, William Stafford and Lila Zemborain

(thank you thank you to Rust Belt Books
: :
harmony n [14c]: CORRESPONDENCE, ACCORD : internal calm : TRANQUILLITY : an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative)

hexagram: 29 K'an. "If you are sincere, you have success in your heart, and whatever you do succeeds." Water, a plunging in, the middle son: the heart. the soul locked up within the body, accustoming oneself to the objective, not the subjective; danger. Change in lines 1 and 3: he has lost the right way: misfortune. He must wait until a way out shows itself. There is nothing to be done. These lines change into: 5, Hsu. Waiting (Nourishment). Have patience, perservere. The rain and food are on their way.

Have patience, have patience.
God is patient, too,
think of all the times that others had to wait for you.

May 13, 2008


We sometimes, if adventurous, seek constancy in the most unlikely of places.

I was floored/flooded today with an impetus towards "the source" in my reading, and spent six hours at the PBS site Religion & Ethics Weekly reading interviews collected in the book The Life of Meaning. Chris Hedges: "in zones of conflict the only antidote [to the pervasive worship of death] is people who find their fulfillment, their sense of being, in love." He remarked that those who can overcome the local antagonisms are usually in mixed marriages across religious, ethnic or racial divides. As I encounter more and more arguments of late that swell/steamroll a discourse of "the death of nature," I can't help but feel that we are being red herringed into the same old/ new sounding "threat" discourse as a way of mitigating the economic shift in American life away from blatant consumerism towards sustainability and local agri/ergo/apicultures. Thich Naht Hanh: We speak of suffering in terms of food. Nothing can survive without food, even your love. If you don't feed your love properly, your love will die. Your suffering is there because you have been feeding it, rather than your love. If you know how to recognize the source of the nutrients of your suffering, and you know how to cut off the source of that nutrition, then the suffering will have to vanish. Seyyed Hossein Nasr: "I think there is no more crucial a problem for our day than to be able to cross religious frontiers while preserving our own integrity. In fact, I think this is the only exciting intellectual adventure of our times." And finally, Studs Terkel, whose book title sums it all up: HOPE DIES LAST. I hope we, as a species, can surpass the ingrained notion that our "biology", "instincts" or existential categories for explaining why "you are you because of your instincts, race, ethnicity, genes, or upbringing, and that's just BAD," will be replaced with an ethics that allows for mistakes, for our giving ourselves and all "others" room to CHANGE & understand before the labels, brandings, and prejudices overwhelm us with mystifying/self justifying exclusiveness.

Everything grows.


did I forget to say "I love you" ?

May 14, 2008


I had a good time on Monday night: hearing Gretchen Schulz and Doug Morgano perform some amazing music as the early show for Mike Meldrum's open mic at Nietzsche's. Then a young man played a haunting melody on a wooden flute, then a song on a smaller flute, and finally, he used a coffee stirrer as a mouth harp. Rose Bond sang three songs: the haunting story of "Gypsy Boy," "Columbine" and a song about a former boyfriend. Then it was Natalie Ben-Wa (sp?), who sang a song "Chutes and Ladders", and two others I can't remember. Then I sang three songs: "Mutiny," "Burned Clean," and "Soup Circuit". Then Josh Gage of the Genuflektors played--the two I remember are "You're Gone," and a song that might be titled (i'm guessing here) "Too Good For Me."

"Soup Circuit" tells the story of two people who worked together in a busy diner, and while they always liked each other, it took a little accident for them to realize they had something going on. One day they stayed after closing to prepare a big kettle of soup to give to Food Not Bombs. It was the first time they had worked side by side (she kept the counter, and he was one of the cooks). That night they shared chores preparing the broth, cutting the vegetables, getting just the right balance of spices into the mixture, and putting everything into the pot. After all the ingredients had been added, and the soup had simmered for an hour or so, they both leaned over the kettle at the same time, and the rich smell of the cooking vegetables, garlic and broth rose up in a sweet steam that enveloped and intoxicated them. Their eyes met. They held each the other's gaze in the warm mist, melted into a kiss, and tumbled into a loving embrace. . . .

Soup Circuit

He played a scientist atop
of a lonely crag always looking up.
He was a teacher with no blackboard
or students seduced by his knowledge hoard.
She smiled in her pearls one night,
climbed the leaning towers just to study the light.
He woke up again alone
in a misfit tension with no version of home.

He wondered what it would mean
to wake up from his fevered dream.
She said his edges were all too rough---
but smooth ain't easy when the world's fucked up.

so come on
she whispered to him in the indigo dawn,
and the wheel rolls on and on
get your grip on it son, or leave it alone.

but he never thought his words would sink,
melt into sweet sweet water from which she would drink.
so come on--
come on!

She asked did you ever think that we could be
living backwards in time from the stars to the sea?
Misplaced grapes grafted to an asphalt vine,
we could knot up the highways with our unclaimed wine
He said, you're a mirror so polished I just might see through,
that this well of reflection could return to you.
I hear the bell ringing at the diner door,
it's a band of hungry ghosts I can't feed anymore--

Or wonder what it would mean
to wake up from this fevered dream.
The game we're playing is far too tough,
if you'd just hold on tightly, we might both stand up--

So come on

he called out to her across thirty-two lawns,
and the wheel of my love rolls on,
put your hands on me, baby, or leave me alone,
'cause I never thought my words would sink,
melt into sweet, sweet water from which you drink.
So come on
come on
come on
come on!

(copyright held)

May 16, 2008

A Poem By William Bronk

The License

Summer is the deepness of trees. I am won
by the wonder. Riches. Splendor. The tree itself
the fruit I feast on. I am unforbidden.

William Bronk (Talisman 2, 1989)

May 17, 2008

Ewart & Stephanie

--rain comes rolling in off the lake
--lying in saturday a.m. grass
--swifts, loons, terns, gulls, redwing

last night: griot bitter cola nut, beers, Rick Smith singing, then down to Hallwalls for Douglas R. Ewart, who played with (take a deep breath)--rey scott, steve baczkowski, greg horn, ringo brill, verneice turner, odell northington, greg piontek, greg millar, and ravi padmanabha. A tentet arkestrative double set of enormous landscapes 100 instruments swells expansions contractions liberations defenestrations dense riffs rilling converging into cataracts of wail-bone Aboriginal evokations---i'll stop here--TOO MUCH

Today's poems are brought to us by Stephanie, and they were found next to a chain link fence by the lake:

Leana is my sissy
she loves green beans
I love to give her kissy's
She's like one thousand queens.

My name is Stephanie
I go to school 101
I have one dog
and I love to have fun.

I hate to read
So I try to speed
I have a favorite book
It is about looks.

I love my best friends
we always lend trends [sp?]
one's name is Katie
she's a little lady
I have a bracelet that bends.

Thank you Stephanie for you poetic exercises! I'm sorry you lost your homework.

I hope you grow up to love reading as much as I do.

Cheers--much LSP goodness is in store for upcoming weeks!

May 20, 2008


homeopathic strawberry

and a lilac tree

and the pleated cotton of a dress,

and a cloth belt sailing its turquiose tail

along and down her hips

are signs merely

but of significance,

as what some otherwise

needed agreement

speaks, the hand scripts,

falls quickly into dust.

the taste

sweet red & cool

and the beautiful air

of these purple blossoms,

the texture and fold of fabrics

and the loose color

of a sash

these remain.

May 21, 2008


"Our friendship, all friendship consists in this: I can learn, acquire or attain something only when you also have learned, acquired or attained the same. our friendship is for perpetual re-creation. Our first work for attaining friendship is to break with all that is ordinarily considered friendship: alliance in deceit, familiarity (complicity in the fall), commodity, connivance in sleep, rejection of responsibilities one for the other. Therefore, in front of you, I must not allow myself any weakness. All our encounters must be sacred moments."

letter to Luc Dietrich, 1944. From Rene Daumal: the Life and Work of a Mystic Guide by Kathleen F. Rosenblatt.p.28

Dear friend,
I would acquire the skill to bake bread. Learn the note that carries you through the night. Repair the roof over your house of contemplation. Attain the water to dissolve the limestone of your heart. Learn to teach what wisdom we share.

All faults have become disciplines.

May 21, 2008


isn't that something--we all wore red.

sue, in green and blue, didn't bring her camera.

May 25, 2008


the blog took a hiatus to wander in the new verdancy--tiny white musk flowers, lilac trees, birds singing sweet through any possible sorrow--and yes, people is crazy crazy apes, us stone folks know. Forgoing the use of a car really sharpens the perception of hurryscurry these machines invoke in the human animal. If i can be so bold, i'd even suggest that automotive temporality SHRINKS our time & perception rather than enhancing it. Consider your walks a symphonic performance that the world orchestrates, the first note beginning with the first foot out the door. Whereas running errands in the car seems like some kind of life-threating survival game accompanied by a heavy metal band screaming thunder and thor into your ear. But some people love that shit. Who am i to tell you what to love? we is what we be.

little scratch pad is working hard--it just occured to me that a "scratch" is also slang for "money", as in "how about a little scratch, sister?" And resonates in "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."

i bought a TON of used books yesterday, so i'm holed up today getting drunk on the ambrosia of the written word. Here's what i got: O.ARS/1 magazine (Don Wellman, ed. 1981) so good!; Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx; a cool clutch of mid-1950s penguin/pelican paperbacks--The Civil Service in Britain by G.A. Campbell, The British Worker by Ferdynand Zweig, English Society in the Early Middle Ages (1066-1307) by Doris Mary Stenton, Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys; Living Instead, poems by William Bronk; Nine Talmudic Readings by Emmanuel Levinas; a so-so version of Plotinus' The Enneads; The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It by Richard Hofstadter; Talking All Morning by controversial old-school deep-image Iron John guy Robert Bly (one of the old Indiana University "Poets on Poetry" series, that, dadgummit, i just LOVE); The Outsider by Colin Wilson, recently voted one of the top 50 all-time favorite cult books by the London Times; i finally got my hands on a copy of Charles Bernstein's Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 ten years after taking my first seminar with him at UB--and blown away by the opening "Three or Four Things I Know About Him," since i now work in an office by day & can relate to what he's saying; Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, Palestine by Joe Sacco; stray issues of Ed Foster's Talisman magazine and Nate Dorward's The Gig--the only magazine that seriously reviewed any of my poetry--Yes, i know, all these books but one were written by men, who were once little boys.


oh, i have to add a p.s. to the mention of "maleness" above--it really strikes me how in the books from the 50s-70s, these writers almost to a "man" make sincere mention in their Acknowledgments of their partners as co-editors and practically co-authors of the books they wrote. Perhaps it is a mistaken tradition that books were/are inscribed with single authorial tokens. And it may be argued that mention in Acknowledgements is no substitute for due recognition of the effort of spouses/partners. But at least. And, i don't see that kind of sweetness as often in books published after 1980. i ain't trying to be retrograde. But how come?

May 26, 2008

Utah Phillips // personal

It seems to be a day for remembrance, serious reflection, acknowledging the scope of the work and activity ahead of me, ahead of all of us. It is both Memorial Day and my own birthday today, so that the context of a memorializing holiday is combined with a desire for celebration. This makes it a kind of strenuous, intense day of celebration, hopefully one that is more comprehensive--an expanded sense of how we actively, progressively accommodate our feelings and respect for those who have died within a larger sense of a joy and reverence for the here and now--in this celebration of life.

On friday I was carrying heavy bundles of roofing shingles up four flights of stairs at the Buffalo Zen Center, and occasionally resting on a landing and listening to the radio sitting there. The NPR program was devoted to accounts of servicemen and women who had died in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, with narratives of the circumstances of their dying. It was incredibly somber, and deepened my sense of the work I was doing to help provide a space of contemplation and rejuvenation. Somewhat overwhelmed by the stories I was hearing, I was looking through a window on the stairwell, and there, on a ledge, was a small robin's nest. Every few minutes the mama or papa bird would land, and the otherwise invisible hatchlings would rise up with their open mouths forming a bouquet; yellow cups of eager new life--waving and trembling under the offered food the parent was bringing. Here was new life in its most delicate, innocent form. The contrast between this scene of care and the stories being told on the radio brought to me a deep realization of the proximity and interdependence of life & death. And today, as I listened to some excerpts of the testimony from the Winter Soldier hearings in D.C., I also learned of the passing of folksinger/storyteller Utah Phillips. So, today I both celebrate and remember: I will honor what is in each of us our commitment to that delicate, tenuous, and complex universe of life and light that sustains us.

Here is the obituary and biography of Utah Phillips, Korean War Veteran, and forty-year Peace Warrior (thanks to Marcus Williamson for posting this to the Kenneth Patchen listserv):

"Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73"
Nevada City, California:

Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed
extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died
Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California a small town in
the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his
wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son
of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life
that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a
lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud
member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the
Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor
struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last
decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he
would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the
devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United
States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His
struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat
veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left
to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a
freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless
shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic
Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his
"elders" with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later
constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could
employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often
hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

"He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the
ears," said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend.
In the creation of his performing persona and work, Phillips drew from
influences as diverse as Borscht Belt comedian Myron Cohen, folksingers Woody
Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and Country stars Hank Williams and T. Texas Tyler.

A stint as an archivist for the State of Utah in the 1960s taught Phillips the
discipline of historical research; beneath the simplest and most folksy of his
songs was a rigorous attention to detail and a strong and carefully-crafted
narrative structure. He was a voracious reader in a surprising variety of

Meanwhile, Phillips was working at Hennacy's Joe Hill house. In 1968 he ran
for a seat in the U.S. Senate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The race
was won by a Republican candidate, and Phillips was seen by some Democrats as
having split the vote. He subsequently lost his job with the State of Utah, a
process he described as "blacklisting."

Phillips left Utah for Saratoga Springs, New York, where he was welcomed into
a lively community of folk performers centered at the Caffé Lena, operated by
Lena Spencer.

"It was the coffeehouse, the place to perform. Everybody went there. She fed
everybody," said John "Che" Greenwood, a fellow performer and friend.
Over the span of the nearly four decades that followed, Phillips worked in
what he referred to as "the Trade," developing an audience of hundreds of
thousands and performing in large and small cities throughout the United
States, Canada, and Europe. His performing partners included Rosalie Sorrels,
Kate Wolf, John McCutcheon and Ani DiFranco.

"He was like an alchemist," said Sorrels, "He took the stories of working
people and railroad bums and he built them into work that was influenced by
writers like Thomas Wolfe, but then he gave it back, he put it in language so
the people whom the songs and stories were about still had them, still owned
them. He didn't believe in stealing culture from the people it was about."

A single from Phillips's first record, "Moose Turd Pie," a rollicking story
about working on a railroad track gang, saw extensive airplay in 1973. From
then on, Phillips had work on the road. His extensive writing and recording
career included two albums with Ani DiFranco which earned a Grammy nomination.
Phillips's songs were performed and recorded by Emmylou Harris, Waylon
Jennings, Joan Baez, Tom Waits, Joe Ely and others. He was awarded a Lifetime
Achievement Award by the Folk Alliance in 1997.

Phillips, something of a perfectionist, claimed that he never lost his stage
fright before performances. He didn't want to lose it, he said; it kept him

Phillips began suffering from the effects of chronic heart disease in 2004,
and as his illness kept him off the road at times, he started a nationally
syndicated folk-music radio show, "Loafer's Glory," produced at KVMR-FM and
started a homeless shelter in his rural home county, where down-on-their-luck
men and women were sleeping under the manzanita brush at the edge of town.
Hospitality House opened in 2005 and continues to house 25 to 30 guests a
night. In this way, Phillips returned to the work of his mentor Hennacy in the
last four years of his life.


May 30, 2008

haunted snow man world

Today's "found" selection comes to us courtesy of Norwood Ave., stopping me as I zipped along on my way to work to pick it up. The stark lines and "snowman-as-planet" hybrid convinced me it had to go up on the blog. Move over Frosty! (oddly, this drawing reminds me a lot of the style of a young friend of mine, James, whom I haven't seen in quite a while... He has drawn many a planet in his young artistic career. Could this drawing be one of his???!!!)