Friday, April 20, 2007
In Doubt a Rose Is a Grotesque Thing
The property line
extends to the
a dead otter
I meant nothing by this remark.
In the interest of easing
erotic life. Fur and velvet.
In the attic
a scene of undressing
that describes the patient’s life
in the language of flowers.
This was the first assertion
of her still uninhibited animosity.
With an illusion to a gift or contagion.
As you know
this is the first time
I have regretted
meeting famous personalities
miles from home.
But instead I have chosen
to investigate cadavers
perhaps a hunting scene.
Because I was reared in a hothouse
a final euphemism:
The illusion did not last.
For more than a week
failing the obvious
I was fed up with memories.
This is much more than scenery.
In a waiting room
where a picture on a wall
could spell revenge.
If I may suppose
the scene of the kiss
took place in this way.
But it was not until
the incident by the lake
that we were encouraged
and forced to make confessions.
The younger of the two was the stranger.
In a seemingly endless, paranoid view
of events, I watched from a room I
knew too well on a slender
With his life and mind under daily dissection.
My libidinal compliment
just as one
might refer to
She’d come east in a fashion
that rather took your breath away.
Aspiring to be
the originator of moments.
There is no need for discretion.
A tremendous attraction.
An elegant adversity.
I am a natural runner.
As if a rock hit you
on the head.
Familiar as it may be.
A national betrayal.
A snap of cold weather.
A hard-luck story.
Hailed with a passion.
cultural critic &
visual arts curator
died last week
Books / Broadsides (Poetry)
Dan Boehl, Work, Pavement Saw,
Joseph Bradshaw, The Way Birds Become, Weather Press,
Ray DiPalma & Paul Vangelisti, Uptown Vaunt, Otis Laboratory Press,
Graham Foust, Some Kinds of Poems, Bonfire Press, Fort Collins, CO, 2007
Noah Eli Gordon, A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow, New Issues / Western Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI, 207
Noah Eli Gordon, Inbox, BlazeVOX,
Michael Helsem, Almucantar, lulu.com, 2007
Catherine Imbriglio, Parts of the Mass, Burning Deck,
Devin Johnston, Sources, Empty Hands Broadside #5, Country Valley Press, Gardnerville, NV, 2007
Joan Larkin, My Body: New and Selected Poems, Hanging Loose Press,
Jim McCrary, Oh Miss Mary, Really Old Gringo Press,
Jim McCrary, Being Frida Kahlo, Really Old Gringo Press,
Frank O’Hara, Poems from the Tibor de Nagy Editions, 1952-1966,
Richard Rathwell, Re: The Dead Ants: Selected Writings, Blue Orange Publishing,
Richard Rathwell, Rules of the River, graphics by Pierre Coupey, DaDaBaBy Enterprises,
Jacques Roubaud, Poetry, etcetera: Cleaning House, translated by Guy Bennet, Green Integer,
Tony Trehy, 50 Heads, Apple Pie Editions,
Hannah Weiner, Hannah Weiner’s Open House, Kenning Editions, 2007
Terence Winch, Boy Drinkers, Hanging Loose Press,
Anthology / Catalog
Tyler Doherty & Tom Morgan, For the Time-Being: The Bootstrap Book of Poetic Journals, Bootstrap Press,
Katie Geha and Travis Nichols, Poets on Painters, Ulrich Museum of Art,
Jonathan Wells, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, Pocket Books/MTV Books,
Warren Banditto, This Rhymeless Nation: A NOTE whereunto is annexed a poem lately found by the waters of Michigan, Infolio,
Sandford Lyne, Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice through the Craft of Poetry, Sourcebooks, Inc.,
6x6: A Poetry Periodical, no. 13,
Action Poétique, 187, Ivry-sur-Seine, France, 2007 Includes Bernard Heidsieck, Vélimir Khlebnikov, new poets from Hungary (in French), more.
FoArm no 3,
House Organ, no. 58, Winter 2007,
Modern Review, Vol II, No. 3,
Reading Room, Issue O1/07,
Thuggery & Grace, no number,
Labels: Recently Received
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I’ve walked around all week vaguely nauseated & depressed by the events at Virginia Tech on Monday. Remembering that one of my sons, at the age of four, announced he intended to go there to college – I hadn’t even heard of the place before he mentioned this, but he’d apparently heard from friends that it was an excellent school for science & engineering. The piranha-like feeding frenzy of the cable news networks on campus on Monday was itself as horrifying as it was barren of actual news. Hearing that a German professor had been shot in the head in front of his class, I was able to find out which German class was being held in Norris Hall online in about five minutes & thus knew that Jamie Bishop, the son of sci-fi & mystery writer Michael Bishop, was almost certainly dead almost 36 hours before I finally saw it confirmed by the Wednesday New York Times.
On Tuesday, the world learned that the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was a student who had been taking creative writing courses & had so alarmed his instructors with his writing & his actions in the classroom that they had sought outside assistance from the school administration, the counseling center, even the police, only to be rebuffed consistently. Lucinda Roy, the novelist who co-directs the program, had taken him on, teaching him in a one-to-one setting just to keep out of the classroom with his peers. Even then, The New York Times reports, she felt sufficiently concerned about him that she had a code for her T.A. who would know when to call security.
This reminded me of my own admittedly limited experience as a professor and of one student in particular at UC San Diego whose writing spoke of high school suicide gestures – she had apparently been “a cutter” – and was utterly fixated on food. I spoke to her at the time about the value of counseling and noted that she was so focused on this single topic that she couldn’t write about anything, even it, since the topic so overwhelmed her. But the term ended and with it my employment at the school & stay in
People with psychotic diagnoses most often have their first episode in the 19-22 age range & can seem completely “normal,” whatever that term might mean, before then. On any large college campus, this means that faculty have some opportunity to come into contact with a student once in awhile who is becoming completely unhinged at a time when they may be apart from their previous social supports – family, community, church or temple – and may have become exceptionally socially isolated. There is hardly anyone lonelier than a college student away from home the first time who doesn’t know how to fit in. Toss in paranoia & unfolding schizophrenia and you have a stew brewing that can turn into trouble.
In 1969, a case arose out of UC Berkeley, where a person in counseling there informed his therapist that he intended to kill Tatiana Tarasoff, a young woman who had rejected his advances. Prosenjit Poddar was detained by police for assessment before being released and neither Tarasoff nor her family were ever told about the therapist’s concerns until, several months later, Poddar killed Tarasoff. As a result of the ensuing litigation, all
I don’t know what the laws in
I personally may think that anyone who owns a gun may be an idiot, but I’m not king and don’t make the rules. I do think that history is very clear that gun ownership will never be outlawed in the
And with copycats, it’s really only a matter of time before it is. I wonder just how much of a coincidence it is that today is the 12th anniversary of the
In the 1970s, most colleges in the
Institutions can only respond as institutions, which is one of the primary limits of their effectiveness. It seems obvious to me that every teacher, and especially every writing teacher, would do well to have enough psychology courses to recognize what they’re dealing with when a student who enrolls in their program only because he or she thinks that poetry or fiction is a safe place for misfits – there’s a lot of literature to support that view – goes over the edge. When I was working in the Tenderloin in
I also had a writers workshop while I was at Hospitality House with a no gun in class rule, which is a rule that you invoke on the spot when it appears that a participant has violated it. Because everyone in the workshop wants the facilitator to be in charge, this rule is more easily enforced than you might think.
But what I don’t have unfortunately is a solution. A society that underfunds everything – from its schools to its health care to even its military – is a society that creates a billion holes in the social net through which these kinds of tragedies pop up repeatedly. Closing one hole in the net simply demands a little creativity in locating another every bit as deadly. When the
I do want to note one thing, which is the piece read by Nikki Giovanni, one of the poets on Virginia Tech’s campus (Bob Hicok is another), at Tuesday’s convocation. While it is not her best writing – and is much more powerful to watch than just to listen to, because its power was so amplified by the reaction of the audience² – it may well be her finest moment as a poet. In just 90 seconds, she provided a larger context for suffering and a sense of belonging to every person in that building. She got, and deserved, a standing ovation. If you want to see what the term poet laureate really means, you should look or listen to this. You can download a podcast of her piece here.
¹ The shooting I always think of first is that of Tom Parkinson in Dwinelle Hall at UC Berkeley in 1961. One of Parkinson’s TA’s was killed in the shooting, done by someone furious at Parkinson’s opposition to the loyalty oath. Had the shooting occurred one year earlier, Parkinson’s TA Burt Hatlen would have been the person in harm’s way. The shooter, whose name I’ve forgotten, later was released from custody and wrote a memoir of the event that he sold at BART stations for some time.
² The one video of it on YouTube wasn’t working this morning, and the “streaming” version of the convocation seemed to be overwhelmed by the numbers of people trying to access it online.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I’ve arrived at that stage in life when poets whom I think of as being clearly a generation younger than me – hence “youngsters” – are starting to come out with those major mid-life collections that tell you which ones are going to be the truly major poets of their generation. I was reminded of this the other day when I chose Allen Ginsberg’s 1964 passport photo to illustrate this page on the tenth anniversary of his death. He looks so very young in that photo & indeed was just 38 that year. The following year, I first corresponded with him & even found myself at a party in his & Paul Goodman’s honor after Ginsberg’s reading at the Berkeley Poetry Conference. It was clear to me then that Ginsberg was one of the great elders of poetry, as was Robert Creeley whom I also began reading around that same time. Neither had yet turned 40.
So here is a big fat beautiful new book from Laynie Browne called Daily Sonnets, published by Counterpath Press of Denver. It’s a stunner & a delight, a heady dose of pure oxygen. Almost as amazing is the list of Browne’s 15 previous books (plus one volume of fiction) dating back to 1993. During this same period, Browne has also been an integral part of the collectives that put on readings at the Ear Inn in New York (the series continues to this day at the Bowery Poetry Club) and with the Subtext Collective in Seattle. Now she’s living in
This seems like an awful lot of accomplishment for somebody who wasn’t even born when the Berkeley Poetry Conference took place in 1965 – and frankly it is. But it’s the poems in Daily Sonnets & Browne’s other books that is going to make her an icon for the generation of poets who are about to show up, poets who are, say, still ten years younger than Tim Peterson. Here’s one example, “Love Sonnet To Light”:
I write myself this nightly
Gesture of the turning
This should remind me to blink
And waken to your proximity
Which is continually present to the
Extent that nothing is not of you
Inhale a curve of dark foliage
Look to your shadow made by the moon
Drink a preposition
Which brings me nearer
To my present location
If words were put to that
Sentiment the sentence
Would read —
Or “Two-Fourteenths Sonnet”:
This undressing at security checkpoints
Would never have gone over with the Victorians
Or this, numbered simply “67”:
If the noise doesn’t stop when you turn on the light
You are of how many winters?
For readers of three and up
The mind sometimes a terrible souvenir
unlike his four-year-old face
in nest of night
repeats the motion
Holding his hand to my face
I walk out of the bedroom
of again whose
Remembered the opposite of rushing
Or one of the poems identified as “After-Shower Sonnet”:
Before dressing don’t
cheat on me in my dreams
especially from a distance
Below I hear four boys
breaking mountains into breeze
Before we go to the happiest place
on earth I must remember my
own special paradox
While dressings are everything here
Undressing is everything any other place
we go so let’s go there
not fruitfully, but secretly
and hide from the plastic pots
and smoke of their diagramming snores
There are, especially in the last two pieces, some complex emotions being registered in very compact ways. Browne often makes use of the surface features of the abstract lyric, but – as these four poems make pretty clear – she is seldom abstract herself, focusing instead on a space that has some resonance with the New York School but even more perhaps with the current wave of post-feminists who take the gains of feminism if not exactly for granted, at least as the platform from which to investigate the world anew, including a very serious & intense focus on parenting.
The key to Browne’s sonnets, whether they’re homophonic translations of Rilke or works that take off from a line or phrase from another poet – two of her most prominent sources, Lee Ann Brown & Bernadette Mayer, are themselves serious sonneteers – is her sense of the line, almost always informal, typically with between three & five stresses. Browne may be at her very best with long sentences spread out over multiple lines – the first three lines in the last sonnet above, for example, or the six-liner in the middle of “67” – but she’s also very good with the zing-zing-zing of lines that appear to change the topic with every linebreak, postmodern staple that it is. This is the sonnet as descended from Ted Berrigan rather than Ben Jonson, and Browne is, I think, a good index of the strength of this approach to the genre going forward. For while Browne is not an inventor of new forms, as such, she’s as good as anyone around with this one.
Labels: Laynie Browne
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The new Origin
can be downloaded
as a PDF file
Andrew Schelling / Gail Sher,
Howard McCord, Ethan Paquin,
Brooks Johnson, Hettie Jones,
Clive Faust, Michael Rothenberg,
Duncan McNaughton, Carol Bergé,
Mikhail Horowitz, Kirpal Gordon,
Patricia Smith, Bobby Byrd,
Lisa Jarnot / Robert Duncan,
Joseph Massey, Cid Corman,
Barbara Moraff, Eliot Katz,
Andy Clausen, Ira Cohen,
Brenda Iijima, Sam Hamill,
Albert Saijo, Will Petersen,
Gary Snyder, Daisy Zamora,
Edward Sanders, Ron Padgett,
David Shapiro, Kent Johnson
& much more
Olson’s legacy in Buffalo
(by Mike Kelleher)
Experiencing Black Mountain College
(a profile of the new documentary
extend their reach
“Much of the most
successfully daring postwar fiction
has been by writers committed to
the long dramatic sentence….”
A classic response
National Poetry Month
might not matter:
except for Eshleman’s
this “top ten list”
indie store owners
to be dismal readers
English is no longer
the first language
(& other aspects
of the web)
Technorati tracks 70 million blogs
& ranks this one 7,119
in terms of the number
of blogs that link to it
-- which put this blog
into the top
percent of all blogs)
the ten Jens
Profile of Julia O’Connor,
the very active poet laureate
A Vonnegut piece online
”Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal”
by Naomi Shihab Nye
has become a blog & listserv
sensation in the last few weeks
with some reason
(I’ve seen it several times,
never with the same
Far more treacly
The LA Times guide to poetry
The Amputee’s Guide to Sex
really is the title
to a book of poetry
As is My Body
on Lowell’s Selected
A Joyce scholar
is the new president
of Sarah Lawrence
And a perspective thereon
on Elizabeth Bishop’s
on the joy of rhyme
Attacking Craig Raine’s Eliot
from the right
Privilege still prevails
Great painters from the neck down