Sunday 10 April 2016

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg – one of the founding fathers of the Beat Movement and probably the most acclaimed American poet of his generation - in Ginsberg’s case, an introduction really seems superfluous.

His poetry, showcasing a radically different way of writing, was probably one of the first major influences of my own early writing attempts. Even today, his poems have retained their immense force. If you haven’t read it in a while – dig out that old battered copy of “Howl”. It is worth it - every time.


My below poem is a response to “Howl”.

~ - ~

Write The Internet

include them all
it’s a long list that you are writing
don’t let your white male middle-class background get in the way
start at the top, make your way down slowly:
aborigines abortionists absentees absolutists
abstinence teachers abusers academics
accountants accusers aces achievers
acid attackers acrobats activists
acupuncturists addicts administrators
your voice will finally speak for them all
like the longest comment thread in digital history
ultimate show case of Godwin’s law
are you lining them up for pure provocation?
are you fishing for fame with the click bait of case?
are you sucking them dry or ultimately blowing?
are you the white space background for all of our dreams?
the road has turned into a data highway
it runs past San Francisco now all around the world
I envy you still - just for trying
go, write the internet
I just don’t believe in it anymore

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll is unlike most of the other poets in Hoover’s anthology. The “unlikely poetry prodigy“ (The Guardian) who combined a punk rock career with poetry came to early fame through his autobiographical book The Basketball Diaries (1978). The story of a New York City high school basketball star whose heroin addiction leads him to homosexual hustling, also inspired the 1995 film of the same title, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Born to a working-class family of Irish descent in New York City in 1949, Carroll began writing poetry at the age of sixteen. This first collection of poems Organic Train was published in 1967. He went on the publish five more books before his early death in 2009.

In addition to his career as a poet he also worked as a musician and songwriter. His band’s 1981 album Catholic Boy is considered a significant punk record and the group’s hit single “People Who Died” was used in the sound track of numerous films throughout the 1980 up until today.

Occupying the position as “rock-and-roll poet” (Hoover) Carroll did not accumulate the usual honours received by many of the other poets in the anthology, yet he was one of few contemporary poets to cross over into the mainstream appearing repeatedly on MTV, collaborating with stars like Patti Smith and Keith Richards. He died of a heart attack at his Manhattan home on September 11, 2009.

Links: (Guardian obituary)

My below poem has its starting point in Carroll’s “Paregoric Babies”. It combines a survey of the expressionist use of colour in the poem with text fragments from a scientific paper on the “Spectral Analysis of the Colour of some Pigments”.

~ - ~

Spectral analysis

BLUE – night begins with
the perceiving colour exhibited
by an opaque object
in space the spectrophotometric
measurements leading to precise
positions of characteristic points
of colours in chromaticity
diagrams as shown SILVER –
heavy like desire shone
BROWN – rooted / hollow BLACK –
in hiding shivering preparation
of this sample performed
by the calcination of
the white lead at
high temperature for a
long time to obtain
both its darkness explained
by the low reflectance
in the middle of
the spectrum how far
from a xy-point one has
to go to sense
a change RED – pulsating
human colour a trichromatic
phenomenon from the diffuse
reflectance spectrum one can
see that it returns
over 90% in the
visible domain so the
colour is almost perfectly
WHITE – the breath of

Sunday 3 April 2016

Jackson Mac Low

Jackson Mac Low was more than a poet. He was composer, a writer of performance pieces, essays, plays, and radio works, a painter and a multimedia performance artist. As one of the key influences of the Language writing movement and a founding member of the avant-garde group Fluxus, Mac Low’s practice plays an important role for experimental artists and poets alike.

Born in 1922 in Chicago, Mac Low briefly attended the University of Chicago before moving to New York to study Greek at Brooklyn College. As the Poetry Foundation suggests: “His early work as an etymologist and reference book contributor laid the foundation for his fascination with the possibilities found in units of sound and sense.” Influenced not only by the work of Gertrude Stein and Gerard Manley Hopkins, but also by John Cage’s musical compositions, Zen Buddhism, the I Ching and the Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, Mac Low built his work on a variety of non-intentional methods which created texts from pre-existing works. The aim was to avoid “the intrusion of the author as ego and to foreground language as such.” (Hoover).

Author of about 30 books and published in over 90 collections, Mac Low taught at many schools, including the Mannes School of Music (1966) and New York University (1966-73). His honours include fellowships and grants from the Creative Artists Public Service Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, PEN, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He received the the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1999.

Jackson Mac Low lived in New York City with his wife, Anne Tardos, until his death in 2004.


Inspired by Mac Low’s use of a secondary text as material, I chose to work with the text of J.L. Austin’s ground-breaking collection of lectures “How To Do Things With Words”. In an attempt to explore the relationship between the book’s language philosophical content, it’s ephemeral i.e. spoken original form and the editorial process which manifested the final book, I decided to combine the book’s index with a list of editorial additions and reconstructions of the original lecture texts.

~ - ~

How To Do Things With Words

in a way, at least draws attention specifically to what we want in certain cases.

“uttering words” not so simple a notion anyway
Boolean algebra
even procedures for bringing oneself under procedures such as “I am playing” may still poss to reject all.

editorial expansion
composite version from various incomplete

Demos, R.
restrictions on “thoughts” here?

maybe could classify here “moral” obligation X “strict” obligation:
but what about threatening not called either!
to say, presupposes
Explicit performatives
saying implies
what you say entails


fragmentary at this point
now we use “how it is to be understood” and “making clear”

  (and even, conceivably, “state that”):
but not true or false, not description or report.
need criteria for evolution of language
? misleading:

Kant, I.
it is the device cp. precision

Locutionary act
and inexplicits do both.

ends here
said = asserted stated.
(1) all this isn’t clear ! distinctions etc.
(2) and in all senses relevant (A) and (B) x (C)) won’t all utterances be performative?
or “imply”, is it the same?
Moore, G. E.
secondary sources

illustrations to (1) and (2)

Phatic (pheme)
secondary sources
Phonetic (phone)
Pitcher, G.
contracts often void because objects they’re about don’t exist –
breakdown of reference.
(N.B. said of course never / not state)
Primary utterance
(also “said” has its ambiguities.
Rhetic (rheme)

right to

cf. declare war, declare closed, declare state of war exists.

promise that I shall probably.

or suiting action to words.

Warnock, G.J.
separate short manuscript
Whitman, W.
confirmed by hearer’s notes

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1920. She attended the University of California in Los Angeles and Berkeley before moving to New York City in the 1950s, where she soon became part of the city’s vibrant art scene. Like many other New York School poets, she combined her poetic work with art criticism, serving as associate editor of ARTnews from 1951 to 1954.

While her work of the 1950s and 60s can be described as a tension-filled balance between “a lyric, or purely musical, impulse […] and a graphic or painterly impulse.” (Tyrus Miller in Contemporary Poets), her later work moved its attention more to language itself. As Paul Hoover puts it in the anthology: “Guest is not a poet of social statement; neither is she confessional: her work focuses instead on the possibilities of language.”

In addition to her poetic work, Guest also published a highly regarded biography of the Imagist poet H.D., Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World (1986) as well as an experimental novel, Seeking Air (1978).

Guest’s honours include the Robert Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Society of America, the Longwood Award, a San Francisco State award for poetry, the Lawrence Lipton Award for Literature, the Columbia Book Award, and a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

She died in 2006.


My below poem is inspired by Guest’s magnificent “Red Lilies”.

~ - ~


the finger smudges on the tablet don’t really say anything
what’s behind the now black screen
my words, the Lacanian Other, the snaps from our last holiday
(where did we even go?)

deeper imprints are found elsewhere

the thinned out patch of carpet under your desk
where you spend your blue light mornings

the groves of my spine
scratches, the broken skin

the dark lines of dirty water running down our living room wall
(someone needs to fix the roof)

the little pink post-it note left in your copy
of Simulacra and Simulation
lying on the floor in my room, saying

“phantasms and the imaginary as waste of a hyperreal life”

my thoughts scattered like petals of a withering lily
I keep the browser open in the back

fingers flickering

only theory is flawless
each practice run leaves its trace

Sunday 27 March 2016

Miguel Algarin

Born in Puerto Rico, Miguel Algarin moved to New York City with his family in the early 1950’s. He studied at the University of Wisconsin and Penn State University before completing his doctorate in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University where he served as a professor of Shakespeare for more than 30 years.

Algarin was one of the driving forces of the Nuyorican Movement of the 1980s in New York and co-founded the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in the Lower East Side in 1980. The café turned into one of the key cultural institutions of the movement, offering a broad mix of poetry and prose readings, theatrical and musical performances, and visual arts exhibitions.

In addition to publishing more than ten collections of original poetry, Algarin also translated the work of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. He has co-edited a number of anthologies including Action: The Nuyorican Poets Café Theater Festival (1997), Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (1994), and Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings (1975).

Algarin has received three American Book Awards and became the first Latino to win the Before Columbus Lifetime Achievement American Book Award in 2009.


Inspired by Algarin’s bilingual poems, I took the opportunity to examine the role of bilingualism in my own relationship.

~ - ~

the newness of every syllable between us

we said it early on. effortlessly
in the first frenzy of passion and delight.
speech-bubble easy. you first, me shortly after.
propelled not just by the essence of its meaning
but by its fresh, unfamiliar sound.
said without hesitation because it was lighter.
singular. unburdened of the weighty
history of you and i and those before.
a rose a rose a rose. just we in uncharted territory.
the newness of every syllable between us free
from the grammar that we had learned.
it was easy to say it
and yet the truth is still unaltered
I say it now: Ich liebe Dich.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Charles Olson

It is safe to say that Charles Olson is one of the most important American poets of the 1950s and 1960s. His work at Black Mountain College as well as his ground-breaking manifesto “Projective Verse” had a profound influence on a whole generation of poets which followed. As Paul Hoover puts it in the anthology:

“If Allen Ginsberg was the popular and spiritual leader of the post-war experimental poetry, Charles Olson was its leading thinking and strategist.”

Born in 1910 in Worcester, Massachusetts, he studied at Wesleyan University and received his first Guggenheim fellowship for his studies of Herman Melville, Call Me Ishmael at the age of twenty-nine. His first poetry collection Y & X was published in 1947, the same year he began lecturing at Black Mountain College – first as visiting lecturer and later as rector. After the school closed in 1956, Olson moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where his experimental opus, The Maximus Poems is set. In addition to the several volumes of The Maximus Poems, Olson also wrote a large number of shorter poems which were posthumously collected in the volumes Archaeologist of Morning (1970) and Selected Poems by Charles Olson (1993). He died in New York in 1970.


My below poem combines language from Olson’s “In Cold Hell, in Thicket” with the theme of online harassment of women. The italicised interjections are taken from two blogs documenting the harassment experienced by women in the video gaming community: 30 Days of Sexism and Fat, Ugly or Slutty.

~ - ~

In cold heaven, in thicket

In cold heaven, in thicket
in wicked thicket of virtual words, how
detached (as digital, metonymic) how
strong (as at least one upper and one lower case, one number) how
save (as if - )
can a woman stay confronted


all things are made bitter
as bitter words
are made to taste like centuries of back-
ward motion oppression hegemony
those shining achievements
(Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, Malala Yousafzai) lined up
to be knocked down again
in a single

yo bitch! do you swallow?


what has she to say?
in this heaven
is it not easy
all gayety
all fun all limitless
play by which code declares itself
space, arched
around a single limp to pleasure him
who lies in stasis (i.e. wait - At leisurely distance to physical calamity)
at ease as any monarch or

how shall she who is not happy, who as been so made metonymically

fat cunt

who is no longer privileged to be at ease, who in this thicket dares
to express an opinion (sillyly), how
shall she turn this unbidden place, how
trace and arch again
its inherent goodness?
(as she is still believing)


she can, but how far, how
sufficiently far can she raise the thickets (wickeds) of
this web?

how can she change, her question is
these black on white knivings, these

Hi beauty! Web cam chat horny?

when here she is frozen not daring
to press enter from fear
she’ll trespass on his disfiguring boner, here
where there is altogether too much of this -

Wanna go to pound land? Get fucked up. Overdose!


The question she raises herself up against
(against the same each act is accessed, fixed under every
eye) is:
are you a girl?
if so, can I see your tits?

is the object, this
the objectionable, this
the objectification
impossible to ignore

so shall you blame those
who give it up, those who say
it isn’t worth the struggle?


But this heaven
this hell
is not be got out of, is
the surface of your life
your daily motions
and who
can turn this total thing away?
can live without it


It is simple
(as simple twos and ones go)
that she shall shape, she
will code, she
is always
moving on, pushing out

into the space that is the web that
is (potentially could be) heaven

for all
arched and starry
by way of taking

Sunday 20 March 2016

Bruce Andrews

As founding editor (with Charles Bernstein) of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the journal of poetics that gave language poetry its name, Bruce Andrews is one of the key originators of the movement as well as one of its most fearless experimenters.  As The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Literature in English notes about Andrews: he is "a poet whose texts are some of the most radical of the Language school; his poetry tries to cast doubt on each and every 'natural' construction of language."

Born in Chicago, Andrews studied international relations and political science first at John Hopkins and later at Harvard. His background in political science – Andrews has taught political science at Fordham University since 1975 with a focus on global capitalism, US imperialism, and the politics of communication - also clearly reflects in his poetic work. As one of the most fervent proponents of poetry as cultural critique, his work seeks to accomplish social change through the systematic disruption of language. As critic Brian Kim Stefans notes in a 2001 review of Paradise & Method: Poetics & Praxis in the Boston Review:

“Using the very language at hand—the words and rhythms of the poem itself—Andrews hopes to reveal, in as harsh a light as possible […] the complex social vectors underlying even our most mundane activities and assumptions.”

Andrews is the author of more than thirty collections of poetry and performance scores. He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Harvestworks, and Engine 27.

I would highly recommend checking his EPC page which contains a fantastic selection of Andrews’ poetic and theoretical work as well as a bunch of helpful texts on him.


My below poem took its inspiration from Andrews’ usage of the ready-made language of our – often consumerist-tinted - everyday lives. Reflecting – as Juliana Spahr does in her brilliant piece on Andrews’ work – on the particular configuration of Andrews’ “I” and its non-pluralist, negative, almost intentionally disgusting tendencies; I decided to create a vaguely confessional text out of the stereotypical website copy for a kitchen retailer – an experiment.

~ - ~

Home Sanctuary

the doors and drawers on my kitchen help me get coordinated
I admire their symmetric steely look
I don’t compromise about functionality
what goes on behind those closed kitchen doors
dark interiors to blend with my finishes
legs, open or closed
gives free reign to imagination -
how flexible the system truly is