Saturday, July 31, 2010


In 1965, when I first saw Allen Ginsberg at the Berkeley Poetry Conference, he was introduced as a man who had just been harassed by the police in Prague & expelled from Czechoslovakia. At that same conference, Charles Olson gave such a rowdy & endless “talk” that campus security finally cut the power to the room to shut it down. Immediately after the conference, Louis Simpson, a UC English Department professor, announced he was accepting a position on the East Coast because there was no support for poetry in a place like Berkeley – it was apparent that he meant his kind of poetry. This was carried in the local papers with none of the requisite contextualization.

Just 18, I was already reading the likes of Norman Podhoretz’ attacks on the Beats. And I’d read the introduction to the Allen anthology, which made clear that the feeling was mutual. If I had missed the coverage of the Howl trial in the local media when I was 11, I had certainly seen the coverage of the various court cases of Lenny Bruce, so was hardly surprised when the San Francisco police in 1966 attempted to prosecute both Michael McClure’s The Beard & Lenore Kandel’s The Love Book for obscenity. Since a standard defense of any artwork from an obscenity prosecution in those days – a vestige of the Ulysses trial decades before – was the value of the art involved, I dropped a note to the San Francisco Chronicle suggesting that The Love Book represented an important opportunity to defend the right of a mediocre work to use the same four-letter words. Soon enough, I had the opportunity to watch Robert Duncan (whom, at that point, I barely knew) denounce my reactionary failure to recognize the “new language of love” that Kandel had pioneered, both at a large rally at San Francisco State & on KQED TV.

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Friday, July 30, 2010


Rae Armantrout at the University of Richmond


Thursday, July 29, 2010


Zuihitsu: “a formless text is never without form”
Kimiko Hahn on the influences
in her work


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Recently Received

Books (Poetry)

Wendy Babiak, Conspiracy of Leaves, Plainview Press, Austin, 2010

Tada Chimako, Forest of Eyes, translated by Jeffrey Angles, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2010

Carrie Etter, Divinations, Punch Press, Buffalo, 2010

Andy Frazee, That the World Should Never Again Be Destroyed By Flood, New American Press, Fort Collins, CO, 2010

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

Amy Holman, Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window, Somondoco Press, Shepherdstown, WV, 2010

Andrew Joron, Force Fields, art by Brian Lucas, Hooke Press, Oakland, 2010

Eileen Malone, I Should Have Given Them Water, Ragged Sky Press, Princeton, 2010

Nick-e Melville, Selections and Dissections, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2010

Marianne Morris, So Few Richards, So Many Dicks, Punch Press, Buffalo, 2010


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Ted Berrigan by Alex Katz

Ted Berrigan:

Remembering Leslie Scalapino:
Fanny Howe
Tim Atkins
Robert Grenier
Rob Holloway
Lisa Samuels
Caroline Bergvall
Peter Middleton
Barry Schwabsky
Stephen Ratcliffe
Carol Watts

Laura Hinton’s
How2 feature on Scalapino

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bob Perelman & Charles Bernstein
close-reading Charles Olson

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Monday, July 26, 2010


When I used the phrase New Precisionist, the particular template I most had in mind was Joseph Massey, a relatively young poet – well under 40 – who hails from the Philadelphia area though he’s made his home along the coast in northernmost California for several years. Massey was / is my model because he’s a precisionist on two, sometimes three separate axes of the poem at once:


whacked to pulp
between slits
in cinder
blocks laid
in gravel.
A path
to these
porch steps,
their chipped
blue paint
the rain-
stained wood
cracked through.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010


Today is Leslie Scalapino’s birthday. She would have been 66, a number that would have interested her not at all. Because we grew up in neighboring towns, she is someone who has been an integral part of my world as long as I can remember. We gave a couple of readings together – one of which drew exactly three people at the University of San Francisco. It was a great reading, actually, although only she & I may have known that. And we had at least one deep & long-term disagreement, which we carried out in print, & the result of which was that we became friends for life. Since she’s died, it’s her voice that has come back to me repeatedly, the way she always said “Hi” as though it were a question, with just a hint of laughter half-hidden in the vowel. Nobody else I’ve ever known said hello in quite such a signature fashion.

So today I want hear her more than anything. I want to point to a couple of Leslie’s readings & discussions that are available through PennSound. The first is a reading Leslie gave at Kelly Writers House in November, 2007, introduced by Charles Bernstein & -- and this is unique – followed by nearly an hour and one-half of discussion with the audience.

Introduction by Charles Bernstein (3:33)

Complete Reading (41:28)

Discussion (1:25:43)

Next come a pair of shows that Leslie recorded as part of Leonard Schwartz’ fabled radio program, Cross-Cultural Poetics, from KAOS-FM at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. The first is episode 35 – there are over 200 of these programs recorded since 2003 available on PennSound, a great deep record of contemporary poetics. Leslie reads from It's go in / quiet illumined grass / land. In addition to Leslie, there are segments that include Mary Margaret Sloan discussing Moving Borders, the landmark anthology of innovative writing by women, and a poem by Judith Roche. I like situating Leslie’s work in this larger context. The second is Leslie’s portion of episode 95 in which Leslie reads from & discusses New Time.

Episode #35: Making It Happen (entire show 59:53)

Episode #95: New Time/The Long Moment (28:52)

It’s worth noting that ten years ago, you would not have been able to get such resources as these at your fingertips. And given Leslie’s commitment to small presses – SPD’s catalog lists 32 books, which doesn’t include the volumes from Wesleyan, for example – finding her writing itself would have been hard enough. Now, however, we have no excuse should we ever let ourselves forget Leslie Scalapino’s extraordinary contributions to the community of poetry, and beyond.

O Books


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