Saturday, May 03, 2008


Recently Received


Books (Poetry)

Heather C. Ackerberg, Dwelling, Burning Deck, Providence 2008

Ed Baker, What’s a Phantasy, Red Ochre Press, Takoma Park, MD 2008

Jan Beatty, Red Sugar, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2008

Stephen Berg, Cuckoo’s Blood: Versions of Zen Masters, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend 2008

Edmund Berrigan, Glad Stone Children, Farfalla Press / McMillan & Parrish, New York & Brooklyn 2008

Joe Bonomo, Installations, Penguin, New York & London 2008

Daniel Borzutzky, Failure in the Imagination, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

John Crouse & Jim Leftwitch, Acts 4675 to 4689, dbqp, Schenectady 2008

Caroline Dubois, You Are the Business, translated by Cole Swensen, Burning Deck, Providence 2008

Michael Farrell, A Raiders Guide: New Poems, Giramondo, Artarmon, Australia 2008

Joel Felix, Regional Noir, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia 2008

Henry Gould, In RI, translated from the English by Anny Ballardini, no publisher listed, Providence 2008

Stephanie Gray, Heart Stoner Bingo, Straw Gate Books, Philadelphia 2008

Ariana Hamidi, Dear Cyclops, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

Tom Hibbard, Critique of North American Space, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

Mitch Highfill, Rebis, Openmouth Press, no location given 2008

Richard Howard, Without Saying, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

Devon Johnston, Sources, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

Lester, Be Somebody, channeled by Patrick Herron, Effing Press, Austin 2008

Didi Menendez, When I Said Goodbye, with an introduction by Jack Anders, BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo 2008

Philip Metres, To See the Earth, Cleveland State University Poetry Center Imagination Series, Cleveland 2008.

W. S. Merwin, The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008

Stephen Paul Miller, Being With A Bullet, Talisman House, Jersey City 2008

K. Silem Mohammad, Breathalyzer, Edge Books, Washington, DC 2008

Aleš Mustar, C(o)urt Interpretations, translated from the Slovenian by Manja Maksimovič, foreword by Robert Simonišek, Blatt Books, Prague 2008

George Oppen, Discrete Series, Mother / Asphodel, Cleveland 1966

Danielle Pafunda, My Zorba, Bloof Books, Central New Jersey 2008

G.E. Patterson, To and From, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2008

Chris Pusateri, Anon, BlazeVOX, Buffalo 2008

Matt Rader, Living Things, Nightwood Editions, Gibsons Landing, BC 2008

Mary Ruefle, The Most of It, Wave Books, Seattle / New York 2008

Jennifer Scappettone, Err-Residence, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

Leonard Schwartz, A Message Back and Other Furors, Chax Press, Tucson 2008

Rod Smith, Deed, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 2008

Chuck Stebelton, Flags and Banners, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007

Gary Sullivan, PPL in a Depot, Roof, New York 2008

Anne Tardos, I Am You, Salt, Cambridge UK 2008

Nico Vassilakis, Holefont, dbqp, Schenectady 2008

Alan Wearne, The Australian Popular Songbook, Giramondo, Artarmon Australia 2008

C.D. Wright, Rising, Falling, Hovering, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008


Books (Anthologies)

Dennis O’Driscoll, Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008

Jason Shinder, The Poem I Turn To: Actors & Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them, with an introduction by Billy Collins & afterword by John Lithgow. Sourcebooks, Naperville, IL 2008. Includes CD. Includes Alan Arkin, Steve Buscemi, Daryl Hannah, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Lithgow, Mary-Louise Parker, Kyra Segewick, Stanley Tucci, Dianne Wiest, Alfre Woodard, more.


Books (Other)

Lord Berners, Dresden, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

Kreg Hasegawa, The New Crustacean, Green Zone, Brooklyn 2008

Michael Heller, Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen, Salt, Cambridge UK 2008

Jay Parini, Why Poetry Matters, Yale University Press, New Haven & London 2008

Joe Ashby Porter, All Aboard: Stories, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

James Wright, Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright, edited by Anne Wright & Saundra Rose Maley, Wesleyan, Middletown CT 2008



Come Hither: The Winter/Thaw Issue (aka no. 2), Paris & Austin, 2008. Includes Alice Notley, Dale Smith, Jennifer K. Dick, John Beer, Hoa Nguyen, Zack Tuck, Denise Szymczak

Spell, no. 4, Chicago, IL, March 2008. Includes Alan May / Tom Wegrzynowski, Michael Slosek, Andrew Hughes, Nico Vassilakis, Sarah Menefee, Jessica Wickens, Jesse Ferguson, Kevin Mcpherson Eckhoff, Aaron Lowinger, Catherine Daly, Michael Carr.

Work, no. 2, no date given, includes K. Silem Mohammad, Jorge Boehringer, CA Conrad & Juliana Spahr

Work, no. 3, Oakland 2008. Includes Demosthenes Agrafiotis (trans. by John & Angeles Sakkis), Jeffrey Schrader, Chuck Stebelton, Rusty Morrison, J.D. Mitchell-Lumsden, Erik King


Other Formats

Karri Kokko, list’n / h’ear, dbqp, Schenectady 2008, one-page book




Just a few more of the items received since January 11
-- to be continued


Thursday, May 01, 2008


Talking with Geraldine Monk


Charlie Simic out as PLOTUS


Jason Shinder has passed away


The Double-Dream of Spring


Michael Palmer in New Zealand


Brad Leithauser on Elizabeth Bishop


Travis Nichols on Phil Whalen


Essays on Women’s Experimental Poetries


In the American Tree
the radio show


In Chicago,
a Poets’ Theater Showcase


Talking with Lydia Davis


Robert Sward on Paul Blackburn


Reasons to remember George Oppen

Contrasting Oppen with Taylor Brady & Rob Halpern


Remembering Césaire in Nairobi

Eshleman on Césaire


A profile of Sherko Bekas


Leonard Schwartz talking to Pierre Joris (MP3)


Talking with Yusef Komunyakaa


Larry McMurtry, bookseller


Reading Creeley’s “Morning”


Talking with Paul Siegell


50 best cult books


CS Perez on Bill Knott’s
interpretation of the PSA Williams Award


Giving a 1,000-page poem away on the web


David McCann on Kim Sowôl


Publishing “a right old mess


n + 1 = ??

All the Sad Young Literary Men

Nothing like a roman a clef to attract reviews


Gary Snyder,
gilding the Lilly


“Form is nothing more than an extension of content


Nick Piombino on Goodreads


A scene grows in Brooklyn


A job for Voltaire


Another 19th century genre
resuscitated by the NEA


A Mark Doty retrospective


What future for Euro-lit?


How to kill Shakespeare


“the daily miracle


The latest bookstore scam


The lineup for this year’s
Philadelphia Book Festival


What’s become of libraries?


A reading in honor of Rita Riddle


A class blog on “fair use


Critic or writer


Poetry Out Loud has a winner


A flight without a book


Is one book a week too much to ask?


Paul Wonner has passed away

So has Henry Brant


Knowing the Weather Underground


1968 at the movies


The weirdesttop 100 moves” list ever


The aesthetics of web video


A short history of shock art

This week’s example

& for next week: head lice


The lure of heresy


Saving modernism’s “mistakes


The (re)birth of British architecture


Talking about Jerome Robbins


Robert Rauschenberg & the limits of appropriation


Olafur Eliasson on the limits of museums


A throat-singing sax player

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Some thoughts looking back on a busy time –

I got to hear live music twice in one week, a rarity at this point in my life. And the two events really do represent the range of what I like: James Fei playing solo sax at the CUE Art Foundation last Friday, then Joe Ely & Joel Guzman at the World Café in Philly on Sunday. Fei I’ve written about here. His solo performance was every bit as magical as the work of his quartet at the Rotunda in Philly earlier in the month. Again his work was the closest thing I’d seen / heard to a cerebral minimalism applied to free jazz. The combination is exhilarating.

Ely, on the other hand, is the Lubbock-raised country / folk / rockabilly veteran who’s a key part of the legendary Flatlanders (alongside Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock), a recurring member of Los Super Seven, & who’s played over the years with such folk as Bruce Springsteen & The Clash. He & accordion-wizard Guzman performed an hour & 45 minutes of mostly up-tempo pieces that included all of the above influences, a touch of mariachi, the requisite Townes Van Zandt song (“Tecumseh Valley”) & even Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind.”

I came away from New York with a sense that Cynthia Miller’s show at the CUE Art Foundation was the best show I saw in New York. Two other shows that were well worth viewing were Ian Baguskas photographs at Jen Bekman on Spring Street & Paul Chan’s exhibition “The 7 Lights” at the New Museum (that strikethrough is part of the title). I have to sit with my reaction to the New Museum itself – I immediately liked the light inside, and the galleries felt appropriately sized, but I’m not at all sure about the wildly fluctuating “maximum occupancy” limitations from floor to floor. Also the fact that an eight-story building only proves capable of having three active galleries suggests that the whizbang architecture will have a long-term impact compromising curatorial impulses.

One show that I found somewhat disappointing, mostly because it was so Spartan, was the exhibition of Joe Brainard’s “Nancy” works (mostly, I think, from the volume If) at Tibor de Nagy, which was crowded into the gallery’s smaller alcove in order to leave the larger one to Ben Aronson’s lumbering & unwatchable urban ‘scapes. This is one of those cases where the book, which the Nancy show is intended to celebrate, is unquestionably greater than the exhibition. Aronson made me want to go view some Diebenkorn, Thiebaud or David Park.

But the real train wreck was the Whitney & its lingering Biennale, even tho there were works there by people I like such as John Baldessari. Baldessari, who provided the cover for the first edition of my book Tjanting, has many virtues, but when he comes across looking like the master craftsperson in the building, something’s amiss. The theme appears to have been rubble (which would explain why the show includes Spike Lee’s magnificent HBO miniseries on New Orleans), but I felt for the most part like I had been sent to art school hell.

I missed the Poetry Society of America’s 98th annual awards ceremony earlier last week, due almost entirely to my pneumonia (which hangs on as I write) and its impact on my day job, plus my desire to be at the CUE opening. In addition to Aram Saroyan winning the William Carlos Williams Award, with Roberta Beary & Eileen Myles a finalists, the other winners (and judges) include:

Michael S. Harper, The Frost Medal (presumably given by the PSA board of governors)

Ed Roberson, The Shelley Memorial Award (judged by Lyn Hejinian & C.D. Wright)

Joanie Mackowski, The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award (judged by Donald Revell)

Brian Henry, Cecil Hemley Memorial Award (judged by Norma Cole)

Wayne Miller, Lyric Poetry Award (judged by Elizabeth Macklin)

Christina Pugh, Lucille Medwick Memorial Award (judged by Timothy Donnelly); finalist Sally Ball

Natasha Sajé, Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award (judged by Dean Young); finalists Kevin Prufer & James Richardson

Carey Powers, Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Poetry Award (judged by David Roderick); finalists Willa Granger & Philip Sparks

Theresa Sotto, George Bogin Memorial Award (judged by Prageeta Sharma)

Jocelyn Emerson, Robert Winner Memorial Award (judged by Annie Finch); finalists Rachel Conrad & Marsha Pomerantz

Catherine Imbriglio for Parts of the Mass, published by Burning Deck, Norma Farber First Book Award (judged by Thylias Moss); finalist Alena Hairston for The Logan Topographies, published by Persea.

What one notices first, or at least what I notice first, is the diversity. From Annie Finch & Dean Young to myself, C.D Wright, Norma Cole & Prageeta Sharma among the judges – that’s the broadest range I’ve seen for a set of awards. Last year’s judges (Thomas Sayers Ellis, Matthea Harvey, Tony Hoagland, Susan Howe, Michael Palmer, Srikanth Reddy, Eleni Sikelianos, Tracy K. Smith, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Eleanor Wilner) weren’t bad either. Whatever one thinks about awards, or these award winners, the fact that the PSA is making a concerted effort to reach a broader range of what poetry actually is can only be commended.

Which is not to say that it’s perfect. I made a point of recommending a specific work for inclusion in the program for the evening:

What I actually find in the program, which just arrived in the mail, is the following:

a man stands
on his
head one
minute –

then he
down all

My original suggestion stresses what is unique about Saroyan’s volume. The poem actually used stresses the ways in which his writing in the 1960s might be seen as continuous with the lyric tradition. Both aspects, as I noted here, are present in Saroyan’s writing. But, especially given the ongoing ghettoization of vispo, which do you think is the more important message?

One final note: readers of this blog clicked on over 5,000 links on Monday, a first.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Laurel Blossom’s Degrees of Latitude is a booklength narrative poem about a woman’s life organized through metaphors of geography, starting with the North Pole & arriving, eight sections later, at the South. It’s smart, funny, well-crafted, thoroughly envisioned and hardly a wannabe novel. Or if it is, then it occupies that strange intermedia space inhabited by Samuel Beckett, Carole Maso, David Markson. In short, very good company.

To call this a narrative poem, as Blossom herself has, fails to acknowledge how uniquely each section builds & focuses dramatic tension, not by getting characters in & out of rooms but through a palimpsest of detail. The narrator, “I,” functions as daughter, as wife, as lover, even as parent, pretty much in that order. The common thread that runs through each relationship, tho, is alcohol. Like the ice-breaker image on the book’s cover, alcohol plows through everything here, a path of devastation that runs from pole to pole.

Looking at how Blossom accomplishes this is worth noting. Here are the opening pages of “The Intemperate Zone,” very possibly the most hopeful in the book:

Hello, I dreamed, and nobody stared. Nobody laughed, thought they all had their clothes on. Margo put her arm around my shoulders, Hi hon. She drew me behind the green counter. She called to one of the others, who brought a uniform; she helped me into the black and white starched cuffs on the pretty white capped sleeves. She tied the apron in a white starched bow. She gave me a pair of white socks and black sneakers. They fit. Then she placed a headband on my black and white hair like a starched crown. It read Happy New Year. She showed me the kitchen. She taught me whiskey down.




I make circles with my pencil (feather duster) in the air.

I don’t know what to do with myself.

I haven’t had a drink in two weeks.






It’s all uphill from here, whispers my dead father in my ear.






Still, I thought everything would be changed.

The first time I stayed up past midnight, the first time I stayed up till dawn, the day I got married.

Ah, but my first drink.






Please, Freddie said when I tried to give up smoking, please have a cigarette.






Raise your arm, says Tolstoy.

You think it’s free will but it’s not. The whole chain of events from the start has led you up to.

Have a drink, said Freddie.






If the earth revolves around the sun, if cogito ergo sum, if reason reasons only with itself, if chance, if no plan, if whatever happens, that’s what it means, if ruled by our subconsciouses, if time equals space, if the world is mostly interstices, if relative, if probably, if we can blow the world to kingdom come, if language grumbles to itself alone.






In short:

For my eighteenth birthday, I bought myself a cocktail dress.

Martinis rampant on a navy field, embroidered down the side the heart is on.






I put glow-in-the-dark tape on the ashtray I used when I smoked in bed.

I may be a drunk, I told Freddie, but I’m not stupid.

This is not the language of lyric verse, nor of the particular sort of Quietist confessionalism one might associate, say, with Carolyn Forché or Jane Miller, both of whom blurbed this book. There is a grit to these descriptions & the language is constantly descriptive, not only of actions but of the unnamed narrator, who at no point in this work makes the slightest effort to be likeable. The ample use of white space accentuates the static nature of the writing – trying to write about a person who is, in so many senses of the word, stuck is profoundly risky.

I think this is almost certainly a project you get, and get in its entirety, or simply don’t get at all. I find it completely persuasive. The other risk – this trek through the devastation of what otherwise appears to have been a privileged life – what I think of as the Anne Sexton problem – will perhaps limit its readership even further. There is even a moment of potential incest, not however with the narrator as predator. I have no idea whether any or all of this might have some basis in Blossom’s own life (seen then as a roman a clef, Lionel taken for Leonard, etc.) and frankly don’t care. Blossom clearly knows deeply about what she is writing – the tape on the ashtray is a perfect alcoholic detail, building in all the little buffers to prevent challenging the larger elephant in the room.

Like Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace, Degrees of Latitude is a book I almost certainly never would have come across absent the Poetry Society of America process. I don’t think it’s for everyone – and it surely wasn’t written with language poetry’s audience in mind – but it’s a powerful, intelligent book. Its sadness will stay with you for days.


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