Friday, August 24, 2007

 

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

 

I’m going to be heading down to the Outer Banks for a few days, and, as always when I’m trying to take a vacation, I’m leaving the laptop tethered to its docking station. I may post while I’m gone, should I wander into a library or similar web-connected facility, but I’m making no promises.

A vacation from my QWERTY keyboard seems appropriate for this blog’s fifth anniversary, which comes up next week. I thought up this little venture on the porch to a two-room cabin on Brier Island, off of Digby Neck along the southwest corner of Nova Scotia, on just such a vacation. Who knows what’ll come to me this time?

This blog had its 1.25 millionth visit yesterday, which means that there have been 250,000 additional visits since it passed the million mark just last February. That seems amazing to me, also humbling, but as I’ve noted before, the real news this year has been the number of page views, which shot up dramatically last September as several classes added the blog to their reading lists. Still, the blog set a new mark for the most visits on a single day just last Thursday. And last weekend I got a lovely thank you note from a poet in Iran. The idea that I might be doing something useful for poets in such faraway places pleases me no end.

There’s a certain irony in being added to syllabi, given my existence well beyond the periphery of the academy. The days when I could easily say yes to a short-term visiting writer’s gig pretty much vanished with the birth of my kids – my stint last year at Naropa was made possible only by a sabbatical on my day job, and there’s no guarantee that will happen again in this lifetime. Over the past twenty years, I’ve turned down a couple of permanent, even tenure-track teaching jobs that paid a fraction of what I make in the computer industry, as well as a number of invitations for one-class or one-semester adjunct spots. If anyone offered a serious position, I’d seriously consider it. But it would appear that the chances of that happening are about the same as the Democrats ending the war in Iraq.

So I think what I’m going to do for the next week is just to put my feet up, slowly read my way through this stack of books here that have been calling my name now for some time, and then maybe go down to the beach & stick my feet in the water. See you in September.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

George Bowering:
This I Believe

§

Robert Pinsky
on
C. Dale Young

§

Eagle Pond Farm

§

Remembering
Liam Rector

§

Paul West’s
stroke book

§

Ralph J. Mills Jr.
&
Maureen Glaude
&
cowboy poet Colen Sweeten
have all passed away

§

A review of
Di Brandt & Robyn Sarah

§

Bookstores
in Amish country

§

Saying yes
to becoming laureate

§

Greg Pape
becomes
Montana’s laureate

§

In Portsmouth,
a reading with
two laureates

§

Which leads to the old conundrum:
John Perrault
&/or
John Perreault

§

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece
la palma
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

§

Hey, Mrs. Shakespeare,
Mrs. Shakespeare, please,
Hey, Mrs. Shakespeare,
Mrs. Shakespeare, please,
I’m down on my knees

§

Hamlet.doc

§

Yann Martel’s
book club of one

§

Chinese novels
go online

§

Percy Bysshe,
you may already be a whiner

§

Remembering
Robert Frost

§

Remembering a Brahmin
in denial
of her role

§

poetry’s epicenter” –
Adam Kirsch
must have some
fantastic drugs

§

Baseball haiku

§

Jon Carroll
has discovered
wikkus

§

When everyone’s
suddenly an expert
in your subject

§

Unscrambled Eggs

§

The ongoing saga
of the Barnes

§

Habermas &
a theory of the coffee house

§

The politics of opera,
a rightwing perspective

§

The Terrorism Index

§

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

 

Recently Received

Books (Poetry)

Amy England, Victory and Her Opposites: A Guide, Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT, 2007

David Giannini, Others’ Lines (Series I and II) * Tricollage, Peter Ganick’s small chapbook project, West Hartford, CT 2007

Noah Eli Gordon & Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Figures for a Darkroom Voice, Tarpaulin Sky, Townshend, VT, 2007

Gabriel Gudding, Rhode Island Notebook, Dalkey Archive, Champaign, IL, 2007

Nancy Krygowski, Velocity, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2007

Bobbi Lurie, Letter from the Lawn, Custom Words, Cincinnati, 2006

Dan Machlin, Dear Body:, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2007

Sheila E. Murphy, Skinny Buddha, dusi/e chaps, dusie.org, 2007

Simon Perchik, Rafts, Parsifal Editions, Richmond Hill, Ontario, 2007

Christopher William Purdom, Shades of Grey, Volume III, self-published, 2007

Karin Randolph, Natural Selection, Green Zone, Brooklyn, 2007

Emma Rossi, Becoming, Green Zone, Brooklyn, 2007

Hugh Steinberg, Our Virginities, dusi/e chaps, dusie.org, 2007

Carol Szamatowicz, Le réchauffé, Green Zone, Brooklyn, 2007

Tony Trehy, Reykjavik, Safn, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2007

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Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Not that long ago I received a mailing envelope from England in which there was a small matchbox, the top of which reads, black boldface against a yellow background, one word per line, Scott / Thurston / Internal / Rhyme. Inside, postal authorities will be relieved to learn, were no matches, but rather many little slips of paper, plus, near the bottom, the negative of a single frame of film inside of some protective plastic. The “largest” sheet of paper (roughly three inches wide, one & one-eighth inches high) describes the project:

INTERNAL RHYME

Originally seven poems of four stanzas each, arranged two by two, and readable both horizontally and vertically.
In this presentation each stanzas is to be read individually and/or as part of a 28 stanza sequence, in new two by two patterns (recommended) or in entirely new combinations. See www.matchbox.org.uk for more.

A sample stanza (each is a quatrain) reads:

internal rhyme
I can feel your
eternal flask
of relief at the end of

The website is particularly useful in its demonstration of possible combinations, which can be found through the link under Scott’s photo on the “Boxers” page of the site.

The result is a particularly simpatico example of poetry as ludic language. The implicit argument – that there is no “wrong” way to read these lines – is itself a claim about the truth value of poetry itself, that it lies beyond (or at the very least beside) any question of reference. My reaction on delving through the box, trying out different possibilities, is one of great pleasure.

The image on the negative appears to be an automobile photographed with a “fish-eye” lens, giving it that Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror look. There is an explanatory sheet for this as well, which reads

INTERNAL RHYME photographic responses by Simon Taylor

A single negative from a set of 150 responses by Simon Taylor to Scott Thurston’s Internal Rhyme.
For details of how to develop your original print visit Simon’s page on the Matchbox site: www.matchbox.org.uk/simon.html

This in turn recommends

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR
UNIQUE SINGLE
NEGATIVE


For pristine results you'll need a prolab, not a high street photo-shop. Acrom in London are cool. There will also definitely be a prolab in your area. It's easier to find one in The Yellow Pages than on Google. Give them a ring. Tell them that you want to develop from a single negative and they will be able to make a print for you.

Some prolabs say they can't print from a single negative. Don't believe them. An A3 image will cost you about £20.

And suggests that you write to Simon to discuss your image.

Nor does the fun stop here. The bottom of the box contains a wee photo of Scott Thurston, along with two modes of poetry trivia, one a “Did you know” question & answer, the other a puzzle –

According to Frank Kuppner, how many Second Best Moments in Chinese History are there?

The answer to which can be found on the website.

In all, this is the 9th in the series – it’s the eighth one I’ve got (missing only number 6, Tim Atkins) – out of what appears to be a projected 12. Other authors include Ray DiPalma, Bill Griffiths, Lisa Jarnot, P. Inman, Allen Fisher & Craig Dworkin, definitely a first-rate roster of poets.

Matchbox, which is the brainchild of James Davies in Manchester, carries the idea of the micropress to its logical conclusion & is a perfect marriage of text & event. You can’t really use them to fill a bookshelf, but my collection sits very happily on my windowsill, alongside a series of equally tiny minibooks by Richard Hansen as part of his Poems-for-All project in Sacramento. Each book is two inches high, one and three-quarter inches wide, with a single saddle staple. Like Matchbox, Poems for All has published a number of well-known writers, many more, in fact, since its series has now reached number 786 (!!), including (just to pick a few from the first couple of years of this six-year-old series)

d.a. levy
Ted Joans
Robert Creeley
Roque Dalton
Peter Kropotkin
Charles Bukowski
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Jack Spicer
Bertolt Brecht
Anne Waldman
Arthur Winfield Knight
Kit Knight
Douglas Blazek
William Blake
Jack Hirschman
Delmira Agustini
Peter Orlovsky
Patti Smith
Allen Ginsberg
Dr. Seuss
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Robert Burns
Tom Waits
Ruben Dario
Pete Seeger
Tuli Kupferberg
Jack Micheline
Ko Un
W. H. Auden
Harold Norse
George Harrison
Steve Dalachinsky
Michael Basinski
William Wantling
Jean Arp
A.D. Winans
Lyn Lifshin
Richard Brautigan
Diane di Prima
George W. Bush (APRIL FOOL)
Gerald Nicosia
Kenneth Patchen
Ann Menebroker

In general, Matchbox focuses on post-avant writers from the past 30 years whereas Poems-for-All tends more toward a Beat & New American focus from the historical period immediately prior to that, which makes them generally poetic cousins. Perhaps their greatest area of divergence is their distribution strategy. Matchbox lists a total of five known distribution points other than subscription as a means of getting these boxed delights – three are in Manchester, two in London. Poems-for-All’s website describes how its books are

scattered around town – on buses, trains, cabs, in restrooms, bars, left along with the tip; stuffed into a stranger's back pocket.

Both of these projects are in the tradition of Joyce Holland’s legendary Matchbook, published in Iowa City during the 1970s. Ms. Holland, a fictional editor in the Pessoa-esque tradition of Araki Yasusada & Ern Malley, was herself the creation of Dave Morice. Morice, a.k.a. Dr. Alphabet, is one of the inspired anarcho-goofs that poetry seems to generate, having once published an Alphabet Anthology containing nothing but one-letter poems & currently translating all of The Divine Comedy into a limerick. The poems in Matchbook were no longer than those in Hansen’s Poems-for-All books, such as “The Truth” byTed Joans, the second of Hansen's books, which reads (in its entirety):

if you should see
a man
walking down a crowded street
talking aloud
to himself
don’t run
in the opposite direction
but run toward him
for he is a POET!
you have NOTHING to fear
from the poet
but the TRUTH

There was a time when I had a fairly good collection of issues of Matchbook, but that was 30 years ago & today I couldn’t tell you where a single copy was. I feel/fear that this may be the fate of these delightful little projects that I now have in hand, as it has been also for more than a few broadsides of mine over the years.¹ These literal ephemera make something like the Hanuman Press books, four by two & three-quarter inches & thick enough to warrant perfect binding, feel like Maximus or The Cantos in comparison, and they seem almost to flaunt their fragility. In so doing, they make the case for the presentness of poetry itself (this may be why these projects always pop up on the post-avant side of the continuum) as well as for the temporary nature of poetry, so like words melting into air.

 

 

¹ The worst situation being my copy of Robert Grenier’s Cambridge M’ass, a booklength epic on a huge single sheet, that was “liberated” from my office at San Francisco State back in 1982. I’ve never been able to obtain another and a search of the web’s rare books’ engines turns up not a single available copy.

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