Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Diane Di Prima

Allen Ginsberg wrote about Diane Di Prima:
“Diane Di Prima, revolutionary activist of the 1960s Beat literary renaissance, heroic in life and poetics: a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated and twentieth-century radical, her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in Imagist, political, and mystical modes. A great woman poet in second half of American century, she broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”

What could I possibly add?! All I can say is, read her poetry! There is some available at the Poetry Foundation online. Also I highly recommend reading the interview with Di Prima in Jacket, as well as the short post on the City Lights blog.

My response to Di Prima’s work today is directly linked to her poem “Backyard” which is included in the Anthology. A look back into childhood for her – for me…


~ - ~


where angels stooped over music boxes brightly painted

their silver fingers in the metal spiel

playing card fans wafting Japanese moonlight and

each shadow a taxidermy crocodile

where phantom knights grazed their horses on the corner beneath the broken streetlight

I heard the nightingale in the deepest furrows of the record playing the Bolero thirty times or more

my porcelain friends with one ear on the creaky loft floor

a spider’s leg tapping trapping in the silken net a Persian rug cast

where chieftain hands folded sternly around a ship in a bottle

hollow haggard ocean caught in sun-faded shell

I threw the dice among the soft black soil of the herb garden

watercolours dripping from the cloth line blurry red and blue

where a white rabbit in a hole in a hole in a hole sitting waiting

skipping marching songs whistled all the way to the funny fully tiled room

I kept my breath under water breathing

where there were books

where there were books

(I was never a backyard child)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

David Antin

David Antin is a special case. Even just flicking through the Anthology you will notice it right away. His poetry is different. It looks different, it reads different. Because actually it is poem-talk. Instead of writing poetry and then reading it to an audience, David’s poetry is an improvised talk performance in front of a live audience. A radially new way of doing things, it seems, but David sees himself actually as part of a long tradition dating back to Socrates – a creative endeavour much more concerned with expressing and exploring ideas than with the use of ornamental language.

Much of his poetry seems to be interested in the way phenomenological reality can be discovered and constructed in poetry and how reality and its representation change and modify each other. In connection to this Hoover notes on Antin: “In Antin’s reevaluation of modernism, Gertrude Stein and John Cage become ‘more significant poets and minds than either Pound or Williams’.” - I might not be a performance poet, but I am with him on that!

I would definitely recommend listening to some of his talks (although I admit some are a bit lengthy…). You can quite a few on PennSound and UbuWeb:

It was obvious that my own response to David Antin will have to be something different than just a few lines of ‘normal’ poetry. I chose a podcast instead.

~ - ~

A Private Occasion in a Public Place 2.0

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Michael Palmer

I don’t even know where to start. Michael Palmer’s work seems to have so many facets. As his Wikipedia entry fittingly points out: “Some reviewers call [his work] abstract. Some call it intimate. Some call it allusive. Some call it personal. Some call it political. And some call it inaccessible.”

Throughout his fifty year career he has published not only numerous celebrated works of poetry, poetics and prose works but he also worked extensively with contemporary dancers and collaborated with composers as well as visual artists.

Reading up on his work and life, I found myself confronted with such a variety of different accounts – some of them celebrating his dedication for the political within the poetic, others elaborating about his unique understanding of poetry as a “site of passages”, or focusing on his particular interest in the notion of narration as a means of concealment as well as openness. However, what emerges from all of these different accounts is a picture of a poet who is – even after all these years – still pushing the boundaries, still asking questions and exploring new territory. As Robert Hass wrote about Palmer in relation to his Wallace Stevens Award in 2006:

“Michael Palmer is the foremost experimental poet of his generation and perhaps of the last several generations […] His poetry is at once a dark and comic interrogation of the possibilities of representation in language, but its continuing surprise is its resourcefulness and its sheer beauty.”

My below piece is a little exercise in response to his “Notes for Echo Lake” series, a play with notions of the autobiographical and the fictional.


~ - ~

Notes for Albuquerque

[ Words that come in smoke and go.]

She not me with the windows down in hot desert breeze. While I waited outside the garage for an answer. Her cowboy hat an angular cut three inches above the faded denim knee.

We were never there. The hotel room stayed vacant neon flicker. Motor dead dream. A pillow moist with lust.

She laughed and drew another breath in the red light of our teenage years. So pretty but always always not central. I was the writer and so the story was she. She was the writer of a story and I wasn’t even in. Words deserted her often and sometimes murmured. We finished each other’s sentences.

Words that came in sat down across from us at the glass table. Dodgy types with the mirror shades.

She laughed and drew another breath always in the red light. Her footsteps exes and whys and sometimes just you. I was certain I was going to write that story if narration was something substantial to believe in. We tapped impatiently we waited both always hot.

Albuquerque is the most populous city in the US state of New Mexico. It is a high-altitude city. We drew to a halt just outside Sandia looking for shade. She was always pretty. But I don’t remember.

We were never even there. It was simply the magic of letters in certain orders. Words falling in through the cellar door scrambled. Don’t ever talk to me that way.

Words that came in sat down across from us at 4 in the morning with white rings around their nostrils and a heavy stare. It was always hot in the room. It was always red and lonely.

She laughed and drew another breath as we parked the car outside in the shade of the pine trees. She whistled at the boys naked torsos gleaming across the fevered concrete. We went in with the car keys jingling. Elevator music behind the glass.

The hotel room stayed hot stuffy air gathering. Her right leg pushed out from under the crumpled sheets. I sat by the window stirring coffee as the sun rose. Words that came in were always red.

I was the story. She wasn’t even breathing. There was no roadmap the engine dead.

Words that came in Albuquerque. We were lost. It was hot. She not me.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Andrei Codrescu

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the things everyone else overlooks. Andrei Codrescu has played this role for many years. Born in Sibiu, Transylvania, in Romania, he immigrated to the US at the age of 19. He got involved in John Sinclair’s Artists and Writers’ Workshop in Detroit before moving to New York in 1967. Here he became part of the literary scene on the Lower East Side, making the acquaintance of Allen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan and Anne Waldman. At this point he also published his first poems in English.

Paul Hoover describes his style as a peculiar mix of the “sardonic, […] Eastern European sensibility”, Dadaist surrealism and New York cool – a very fitting description for all of the five poems of Codrescu which are included in the anthology.

Codrescu is the founder of the literary magazine Exquisite Corpse and has been working as a commentator for the National Public Radio since the early 1980s. In addition to dozens of books of poetry he has also authored several non-fiction works and a documentary film entitled Road Scholar (1993), for which he won several documentary film awards.

My response to Andrei Codrescu below is based on his 1978 poem “Against Meaning”.


~ - ~


*Jowl :
Smiling pouting smiling pouting smiling putting smiling pouting swelling pouting spilling pouting spilling putting cutting smiling pouting smiling pouting smiling pouting putting swelling smiling outing cutting cutting cutting
[ somewhat dislocated at an odd angle ]

*Picnic shoulder :
Crouched bent huddled hunched cowered cowered cowered cowered
[ blue light on my face at 2:45 am watching still typing still reading still ]

*Spare rib :
Bitch whore slut cunt 2nd to bitch whore slut cunt 2nd since bitch whore slut cunt 2nd by bitch whore slut cunt 2nd just bitch whore slut cunt 2nd justification – right ?
[ quotes Genesis 2:22 to me ]

*Loin :
GET THINNER IN HOURS drink mainly water GET ban white bread and THINNER pasta do cardio 30 IN minutes a day HOURS have nightly GET you-on-top THINNER IN sex do HOURS 36 push-ups and GET lunges every other THINNER day IN HOURS sleep 30 minutes GET more THINNER a night IN HOURS make HOURS one food GET sacrifice GET don't let IN HOURS the camera IN HOURS add pounds IN eat IN GET salmon GET THINNER for lunch GET stand THINNER IN up GET straight GET IN do HOURS IN squats IN IN and GET IN sit-ups THINNER pop THINNER IN an antigas pill
[ I push my chin forward, hold my arms away from my body, and turn slightly sideways from the camera with one foot in front of the other ]

*Boston butt :
Move pop arch straighten place point face shake help get move pop arch straighten place point face shake help get move pop arch straighten place point face shake help get move point arch pop shake pop move arch place point face shake help get move pop shake arch place point face pop move arch shake move pop arch face help get move pop shake arch pop arch shake arch point arch face pop face pop shake pop place point face pop arch pop shake arch face get pop get face point get face shake mooch arch cake face point pop cake mace help hove arch gave shake pop march race pop place point gaze help shoot shake place arch smooch pop rake gave march pop cake arch point help get help point face place move march pop race smooch top ratch cake place pop place face ratch cootch get face pop top help raze smooch shake cake face
[ always trying to keep up with the beat out of breath swollen ]

*Round :
[ circular motion ]

*Shank :
gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap graps gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap gap
[ on the train staring down on the screen as if nothing happened ]

*Foot :
Barcelo Burberry Burch
Caovilla Casadei Charlotte Chloe Choo Christopher
de Havilland Dolce
Fendi Ferragamo Francesco
Geiger Gianvito Gina Givenchy Guiseppe
Kane Kirkwood Kors Kurt
Lanvin Laurent Loriblu
Marant McCartney McQueen Micheal
Rene Rossi Rupert Russo
Saint Salvatore Sanderson Schutz Simmons Sophia Stella Stuart
Tabitha Terry Tod’s Tony Tory
Valentino Versage
Wang Webster Weitzman Whistles
& Gabbana
[ a mile as in someone else’s ]

*Plate :
Still life
[ fruit flies ]

*Epilogue :
[ remembering Andrei Codrescu ]
Mostly to 
avoid myself 
while everyone watches
everyone watching updating hovering
God watches us faking it

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Dennis Cooper

Who is Dennis Cooper?

Occupation: Novelist, poet, critic, editor, blogger, and performance artist
Subjects: Sexual fantasy, existentialism, death, troubled teenagers, drug use, the inadequacy of language

Doesn’t it sound marvelous?
Paul Hoover included Dennis Cooper in this anthology as a prime example of the blank generation of the 1980s, quoting Edmund White who claimed:
“In one sense the refinement of the blank generation consists in not selling anything. No moral lesson, no message, no political outcry, no artistic slogan – nothing is insisted on and the voice is never raised. Indeed, this is a world governed by style alone […]”
The three poems Hoover selected really do this perfectly. But it’s been a long time since 1994 and Cooper has been busy. I recommend having a look around his website and also his blog. The eclectic mix really drew me in. I could already spend days just digitally leafing through the pages of the Little Caesar magazines…


For my own response I was struggling a little… The result is a different take on the traditional form of the Kyrielle, a medieval poetic form often associated with Christian themes of redemption and praise.

~ - ~

Gods, Drugs etc
(A kyrielle after Dennis Cooper)

On blackened aluminium foil
You breathe in as the liquid boils
You fly sweet on the angel’s wing
You could do fucking anything

Slow paraffin blood cream and shout
The silence when you breathe it out
All those dumb puppet on a string
You could do fucking anything

Ms Hardcore    you’ve done it all twice
You paid the cloaked black man    a pretty gritty sickening price
Darling you’ve grown awfully thin
You could do fucking anything

There are voices raw in the air
Carving deep in your sockets    taking their share
Red-eyed rabbits beneath your skin
You could do fucking anything

Yes, you can deal with whatever comes
On your knees now looking for crumbs
One big wicked heavenly grin
You could do fucking anything

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Robert Grenier

"I HATE SPEECH" - Ron Silliman once suggested that this little phrase by Robert Grenier “announced a breach - and a new moment in American writing”: the Language School.

Robert Grenier’s work takes many forms – from little file cards in a box (Sentences), to a “book-length broadside” of poems (Cambridge M’ass). In his early career he was famous for his minimalist one-line poems (read some thought about them on Ron Silliman’s blog here), whereas his recent works are exploring cognition itself and focus on “making explicit […] the “coming to recognition” process of reading” (Ron Silliman).

I sincerely invite everyone to take a look at the texts by and about Grenier online – it is truly ground-breaking amazing stuff.

I felt, my own response to Grenier really had to be something more than just a few words on a page, so instead I decided to overlay our living room window view with words. See the result below.

Links: (scroll down to “G”)

~ - ~

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Marjorie Welish

Marjorie Welish is not just a poet. Most of her work is actually focused on art in a broader sense – as a painter, art critic and historian. Visiting her website I was actually struggling to find any reference to her earlier poetic work at all – and yet the links to the poetry community are showing subtly, not least in the use of Welish’s paintings on the cover of a number of Poetics Journal reprints edited by Lyn Hejinian.
Paul Hoover included 5 of her poems in the anthology, highlighting their meditative character, rhetorical detachment and imagistic complexity. He noted:
“Welish’s poetry avoids conclusiveness and the grand gesture; instead it delights in ambiguity and theoretical difficulty, and finds lyricism there.”
I have to say, I find her poetic work very powerful and I sincerely love her ambiguity. You can find some of her poems online at the EPC.

For my response I tried to focus on the peculiar mixture of ambiguity and meditation. I drew on the philosophical writings of John Rawls – more specifically on the first few sentences of his ground-breaking Theory of Justice. I subjected the original text to a procedure of translation, using online translation tools to translate the text back and forth between English, Russian, Korean, Chinese and Arabic. I was curious to see how the text’s meaning would shift and open up for ambiguity in the process and how different version of the text would interact with the original words by Rawls. The outcome is a political piece (as so often with me), but also a piece concerned with ambiguity and the manifestation of abstract thought in words.


~ - ~ 

Within this book, called Justice

the role of justice    the role of the judiciary    the role of the just    judicial role that is truth such as dignity   social services system  that is  justice is the first virtue     of social institutions    as truth is system    the ministry of justice   the ministry of truth     such as dignity     social services system    truth such as dignity    is the system    justice is the first virtue     justice is    as is dignity     the first is the first virtue    is dignity    justice is the virtue    just is the first   is of social institutions     as truth is of systems of thought  

   if you are not real   such economic theories      such as truth    as justice is   but you need to modify     you need to reject       or grace and economy     grace and      economic theory      but grace and economy    must be rejected or modified     if it's not real     if it’s not real     economic theory      must be rejected   must be first modified    but grace and economy such as rejected     or  modified     if it's not real     a theory however elegant     a theory however     a theory however grace and economy     and modified    a theory however    an elegant theory     a theory however elegant and economical must be rejected    or revised if it is untrue     a theory however social services system    a theory however must be elegant   and justice must be the first virtue    must be grace and economy    must be dignity   a theory however elegant must be  if you are not real      you need to reject   dignity however elegant 

     in addition      the legal and institutional mechanisms are effective     and are accurate      likewise laws and institutions    to be honest     regardless      laws and institutions    regardless of how efficient     regardless of how precise arrangements should   to be honest   regardless of the honest      regardless of  revised or abolished mechanisms   similarly    as dignity    should be reformed or abolished if fair    similarly   to be honest must be reformed or abolished    must be abolished   must be precise    to be honest    regardless of how     similarly    must be regardless    the effective and precise mechanisms  should be reformed    should be abolished to be honest    if fair    likewise    no matter    if they are unjust    regardless of how efficient and precise    to be honest    well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust    similarly unjust   must be laws and institutions    similarly unjust   to be honest must be grace and economy       must be revised   regardless of the honest        should be abolished if they are unjust

   each is full     each person possesses     each one built in social justice   even if sanctity of public welfare    even if as a whole cannot override   each is full   each person    inviolable       each person possess   even if sanity    each possess an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override    each is full    inviolable    everyone has a built in community justice even if sanctity of social welfare as a whole cannot override    even if the sanctity    even the public welfare     founded on justice    each is full   each is a person cannot ignore the dignity of public    the dignity of public welfare even if built on social justice    cannot override as a whole   each person possesses    each person is full     each built in social justice    the dignity    the grace and economy    each is full   in the first virtue    in the system    the welfare of    the inviolability of each in every    grace  

     and justice  for this reason   justice    for the loss of freedom    denies for this reason    justice    right by a greater good   grace and economy     for this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some   the freedom    is made right by the greater good shared by others    for this reason   for this justice   in dignity     the freedom of losing some major benefits is corrected one being shared    the justice by others for this reason denies freedom to lose several important advantages is the right shared   is the several important advantages to lose freedom    justice denies for this reason shared by others on the right   

     it does not allow     grace and economy   the first virtue    and dignity     the sacrifices    it does not allow that     few are outweighed by the large sum of many      it does not allow offset sacrifices     you will not be able to compensate    you sacrifice a lot to enjoy advantages of the minority imposed will not be able to compensate    it does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed     it does not allow to be outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many    it does not allow that the sacrifices    you will not be able to compensate    it will not allow     to enjoy advantages     the offset of sacrifice imposed on minorities an advantage enjoyed by many large amount 

   thus in a just society     therefore in a just society of liberties     in the equal    in the citizens freedoms    therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship    in the society of citizens’ freedoms    from a position comparable to civil liberties     in a just society   equal citizenship are taken as settled     on an equal footing is resolved    on an equal   footing will be solved   thus from a position comparable to civil liberties   will be resolved in a fair society

    judicial protection    the right secured by justice are not subject     the rights of non-compromising political or social interests of stones   the rights secured by justice are not subject    they are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest    to the right calculus or social interests of stones     judicial protection of the rights of the uncompromising political and social interest of stones    understanding the political and social relations     the settlement of a stone    the throw of a stone of the right of judicial protection   by justice are not subject to bargaining or the calculus of stones  

   let us only tolerate theory   the only thing that permits us    allow us an error allowed the only thing theory    there is no better one   there is no better one    let us allow only theories    the only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of a better one     the only thing    theory is no better    allow us an error    the only thing theory    there is no better one

    it’s even more    in order to prevent irregularities    only when it is required again    analogously   an injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice    similarly   the silence    similarly only when it is necessary   in order to avoid further injustice     the silence on injustices only when it is necessary in order to avoid further    analogously   it’s even more in order to prevent irregularities   on when it is required again   negative silence    even greater injustice   similarly silence injustices    when it is necessary only in order to avoid      similarly  

  human activities    truth and justice    is the first virtue   is relentless    is the first virtue   in truth     human activity is   in truth and justice   is the first virtue   is brutal     human  truth and justice is the first virtue   is human relentlessly    human activity   being first    being first relentless   human activity   is brutal   in truth and justice   is human activity    being first virtues of human activity     being human    being in truth and brutally    truth and justice    is the first virtue   is relentless   being first virtues of human activities truth and justice are uncompromising   that is true

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Diane Wakoski

Diane Wakoski is often associated with the Deep Image movement yet her creative career goes far beyond the boundaries of this particular school of poetry. As Paul Hoover points out, the label is connected mostly to her early years as a poet in which she created stunning surrealist pieces like “Blue Monday” (which was the inspiration for my own response). But her style has changed somewhat since then, moving from dreamlike abstraction to a more narrative style. Her very personal and direct pieces might remind of the Beats or Confessionals and often looks at the unpleasant and painful parts of people’s lives. The Poetry Foundation quotes Peter Schjeldahl saying about Wakoski’s poems in the New York Times Book Review:
"[They] are professionally supple and clear . . . but their pervasive unpleasantness makes her popularity rather surprising. One can only conclude that a number of people are angry enough at life to enjoy the sentimental and desolating resentment with which she writes about it." 
I am definitely one of those people who share her rage. – Although not in this poem, for once I actually wrote a happy one.


~ - ~

In Mint Condition

Ocean green ocean of soft
cushion moss morning leaf
a dream’s citrusy taste still tingling
lingering tender rest breast fingertip
traces on apple sheets
He holds me
in mint condition
aquamarine at the bottom of my spine
through every fibre I shimmer emerald
taking luscious sips of flavoursome chartreuse
breathing pine
with callow sun light caught in the eastern window
my leaves turn
my roots stretch eager and deep
I am sheltered delicate flesh in avocado sheathing
He my forester
his rake untangling my twisted blades
caressing my shoulders
pulling patiently my miserable weeds
in my meadows he opens the sky
on a morning of malachite
my jade in the palm shivering
in mint condition
only in his light

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Russell Edson

The Poetry Foundation calls Russell Edson the “godfather of the prose poem in America”.  His aim– as he himself explains in his essay “Portrait of the Writer as a Fat Man” is a 
“poetry freed from the definition of poetry, and a prose free of the necessity of fiction: a personal form disciplined not by other literature but by unhappiness, this a way to be happy.”
The result are surreal, fable-like texts, almost brief plays full of strangeness and playfulness. Donald Hall said of Edson’s poetry, “It’s fanciful, it’s even funny—but his humour carries discomfort with it, like all serious humour.”

You can read a few of this poems of the Poetry Foundation website:

In Hoover’s anthology you can find Edson’s “Conjugal”, “Ape”, “A Performance at Hog Theatre”, “The Toy Maker” and “The Optical Prodigal”.

~ - ~

Conjugation / Beugung
After Russell Edson

A man is bending a verb. He is bending it around himself and around others. He is bending it around no one in particular, around his Jack Russell as he jumps to catch the ball.
He is dressing the world in rearranged syllables. He is busy with the Rubik’s cube.
The man is wrapping everything in paper. He is folding it carefully around himself and everyone he sees. He is placing things softly in the creases. He goes to buy string and stamps.