Sunday, 31 May 2015

Stephen Rodefer

Stephen Rodefer is recognised as one of the founders of the Language poetry movement. As a student of Charles Olsen, Rodefer shares Olsen’s thematic concerns for the urban sphere, yet it is his particular interest in the de/composition of language in poetry which places him firmly in the centre of the Language school. His most famous piece is probably Four Lectures (1982), which is also the work which appears (at least in parts) in the anthology.

The work starts with a powerful piece of poetics, demanding for a new kind of poetry which is able to respond to the multi-faced nature of the modern city. As Rodefer puts it:

“A poetry painted with every jarring color and juxtaposition, every simultaneous order and disorder, every deliberate working, every movement toward one thing deformed into another. Painted with every erosion and scraping away, every blurring, every showing through, every wiping out and every replacement, with every dismemberment of the figure and assault on creation, every menace and response, every transformation of the color and reforming of the parts, necessary to express the world. Even the words and way of language itself will suffer the consequent deformity and reformation.”
A great challenge indeed.

Links: (Four Lectures online) (review of his 2000 collection Left Under A Cloud by Andrea Brady) (a short piece about an essay with annotations for Rodefer’s Four Lectures)

My response to Rodefer also focusses on the urban environment, particularly looking at the history and architecture of the tenement houses which were built during the Industrial Revolution in cities like New York, Berlin, or Glasgow. These aspects are juxtaposed with the current debate about the housing crisis in London.

~ - ~


I – Def.

Any house, building,

or portion thereof, which is rented, leased, let,

or hired out to be occupied

or is occupied, as the home

or residence

of more than three families living independently

of one another and doing their

own cooking upon the premises,

or by more than two families upon a floor,

so living

and cooking

and having a common right

in the halls, stairways, yards, water-closets,

or privies,

or some of them,

II – Exp.

of all the bathrooms

rent caps and protests

and water closet

tenants in a position

outside the door,

to share rooms by sky-high

to the individual

to property,

rents and none.

renting in some 540

direct window twice as

facing the trapped

in 1,000 and 97 a month.

significantly those having hutch property

windows to  and on the increasingly

a high instance of fraught.

a year’s rent often left the architect

being to have

being to forced affordable

to rent a shared only public,

a stranger with bedrooms to be.

11 had arrangements for light rent rise as social housing closed itself.

housing converted to significantly

here that is in affordable

here that is in landlord.

these few occasions for renting room

buildings were only entered

on all fitted with a mechanical door.

affordable fours and all entry system

significantly, housing crisis

had stair head windows how to build.

thus allowing more

for generation

for thought

for rent control plans

the fresh air - the absence here.

finally explained

the high price

which having been of affordable

much lamented at by the city

officials of 1860.

IT'S WAR. 386 had arrangements

as desperate tenants

for ventilation

bidding direct to the street.

thinking of buying or close this. could

to rent take the format while still renting

a bathroom over big trouble in

a scullery with the two?

chinatown as sharing the same

rent window opening to either

rises force the front or rear significantly.

studio flat for examples also of provision


FRIDGE TO GET TO BED between the bathroom

rents rise allowing borrowed light affordable.

as tenant numbers outstrip the air was

provided significantly.

affordable supply directly from the outside.

meet the new layout as it was in 1893.

class with 8 bathrooms in the building

of landlords

all having windows

profiting from generation property.

rent rises another three. closes

evictions and on this occasion

homelessness :

with light water, why i'm joining

closets to the rear.

and the latter building for homes

having only internal london's

buy water closet with no to

let rents lighting or ventilation

double that of rest.

none of these of says

affordable flats were built with

significantly lender.

period sky-high is the importance:

why not rent of discrete toilet facilities -

get a home on the remained

cheap and live like a lord.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Philip Whalen

The Poetry Foundation describes Whalen as an “an ally and confidant of the major figures of the Beat Generation” such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac – but also as a significant poet in his own right. He was among the poets who famously read their work at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955 and was a strong influence in the San Francisco Renaissance as a whole.

The essayist Paul Christensen writes about Whalen in the Dictionary of Literary Biography:
"Whalen's singular style and personality contribute to his character in verse as a bawdy, honest, moody, complicated songster of the frenzied mid-century, an original troubadour and thinker who refused to take himself too seriously during the great revival of visionary lyric in American poetry." 

A view which is also confirmed by Paul Hoover, who notes in the anthology’s introduction to Whalen’s work: he “embraces the world with a Whitmanesque openness and gentleness. Yet the wit of Whalen’s writing reminds […] of eighteenth-century satirists Alexander Pope and John Dryden.”

Like many other artists of this period, Whalen’s life philosophy and work was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism and he became an ordained Zen monk in 1973. He lived in various Zen centres across New Mexico and California until his retirement in 1996. Whalen died in 2002 at the age of 78.

Links: (review of his Selected Poems volume)

My own response to Whalen’s work has its root in his poem “The Slop Barrel” which is included in the anthology. Whalen’s use of the image of a tiger made my consider and dive deeper into my own thoughts and feelings about tigers. The below piece is stylistically and thematically highly indebted to the amazing Juliana Spahr.

~ - ~

As Tigers Go

We always thought it would have been cool if we had been born in the year of the tiger. We always thought it would have been much more glamorous. It was just an idea. We never told anybody. We didn’t believe in that kind of thing anyway. It was just that we were a cat person. We liked to think of us that way. 1972: 37,350

We stared at the back of Kellogg’s carton every morning before school. We asked our mum if she could buy the sweet ones. The great ones. The ones with the smiling tiger cartoon. It seemed so much more fun. 1979: 31,600

We went to the zoo with school where they were pacing behind glass. We had cheese sandwiches in the wildcat house. Some of kids started knocking against the windows. We just watched. They were big. They were real. 1984: 26,900

We saw them on TV but someone always wanted the other channel. We just shrugged and watched MacGyver. We still wondered about them occasionally. 1989: 23,450

In school they taught us about the rain forest. We thought about the jungle. We remembered watching the Jungle Book when we were small and knowing all the words to all the songs and never liking the tiger. We thought about giant trees and orchids and lianas. We thought about their yellow fur among the undergrowth. 1993: 12,000

We laughed about the waiter stumbling over the head of the tiger rug in a New Year’s slapstick comedy sketch on TV every year. It was an old black and white broadcast and we never even thought about the skin as an animal. We laughed and listened to the church bells at midnight. We watched the fireworks sparkle over the rooftops although we had learned how damaging and expensive they were. 1997: 7,500

We read William Blake’s The Tyger. We learned it by heart because we liked it. We learned to recognise its heavy trochee meter in other poems and read loads more of Blake and Poe and Shakespeare and we liked them all. We walked in the dark and heavy steps of poetry through puberty. We liked the books more than the forest. We stayed indoors. 2001: 5,250

We went to uni straight after school while others went away to travel. We had political ideas and voted left. We considered recycling important but we liked to fly to other European cities for short holidays. 2005: 4,850

We never really thought about the rain forest. We declared we weren’t great with plants anyway. We wanted to get a cat. We wanted to write and make a difference. We thought about poetry a lot and moved to a different country where it rained more and there were stronger ties to India. 2006: 4,300

We saw a few illustrations in the museum and thought they looked not really like tigers. We remembered the small status of tigers which used to stand in the living room of an old school friend, who’s father travelled to China regularly. The remembered always thinking of them as very odd and not at all like the tigers we had seen on the telly. We thought about art and culture and how things were different where the tigers lived from where we lived. We were curious and wanted to know more but we never got around to it. We thought about people with tiger tattoos sometimes. 2010: 3,500

We thought about giving a tiger adoption to our newborn nephew but then decided for a dinosaur shirt instead. We started giving to Greenpeace and liked the WWF on Facebook. We felt guilty about printing out too many emails. But we stuck to the 4-ply loo roll. We sometimes stared at the “mixed source” paper certificate on the packaging wondering what it meant but we never got around to looking it up. Greenpeace sent an appeal in the post. We glanced over the brochure and it somehow ended up between the takeaway menus in the kitchen drawer. A tiger in the drawer with the direct debit form.  2014: 3,050


Bengal tiger, endangered, current population less than 2,500, declining trend. Indochinese tiger, endangered, current population 600-650, declining trend. Sumatran Tiger, critically endangered, current population 441-679, declining trend. Siberian Tiger, endangered, current population 331–393, declining trend. Malayan tiger, critically endangered, current population 250-340, declining trend. South China Tiger, critically endangered, no confirmed presence, possibly extinct. Javan Tiger, (1980s) extinct. Caspian Tiger, (1970s) extinct. Bali Tiger, (1940s) extinct.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Anne Waldman

As Lorenzo Thomas summarised in his essay for the Jacket special edition dedicated to Anne Waldman:
 "Her work ranges, with equal power and feeling, from the personal love lyric and deep moral contemplation to protest against the infernal industry and mindless destructiveness represented by nuclear weapons factories.”
It is probably safe to say that Anne Waldman is one of the most important poets of her generation. She started her career as a poet after attending the 1965 Berkeley Poetry conference, where she attended reading by Charles Olsen, Robert Duncan and Allen Ginsberg. It was particularly the latter who proved an important influence in her life. Yet it would be foolish to call Waldman simply a Beat poet. Hers is instead a very unique style, strongly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, and its form and presentation are much closer to oral poetics and performance-related poetry.

Waldman founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado together with Ginsberg in 1974. A year later, she was “poet in residence” with Bob Dylan’s famed concert tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue. From 1966 until 1978 she ran the St. Mark’s Poetry Project and has published a total of more than forty books of poetry.

My below piece is based upon her famous “Fast Speaking Woman” (1974) part of which can be heard on PennSound 

Links: (Mainly dedicated to Anne Waldman’s work)

 ~ - ~


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Hannah Weiner

Hannah Weiner is a unique character in experimental poetry. Her work, which is often associated with the Language poets, is a particular mixture of multiple layers of texts and sometimes brings to mind the chance-operational writings of Jackson Mac Low. As Joyelle McSweeney put it in his review of her poetry in the Boston Review, her work “continually tests and knocks against the visual boundaries of text as it attempts to create an audial-visionary experience no conventional prose could hold.”

Weiner’s poetry is strongly influenced by what she referred to as “clairvoyant experiences”: “I SEE words on my forehead IN THE AIR on other people on the typewriter on the page.” What might seem like a superstitious eccentricity when described in this way, was of course actually a symptom of schizophrenia. A fact which far from lessening her achievements as a poet, highlight her extraordinary career. As Charles Bernstein writes in his article for Jacket2 after her death in 1997:

“Hannah Weiner’s work is not a product of her illness but a heroic triumph in the face of it. Her personal courage in refusing to succumb to what often must have been unbearable fear induced by her illness, her persistence in writing in spite of her disabilities, is one of the legacies of her work. And if her schizophrenia gave her insight into language, into human consciousness, into the nature of how everyday life can be presented rather than represented in writing — well, we all have to start from where we are.”

Links: (Bernstein on Weiner)

My own response to Weiner’s work pays tribute to her idea of clairvoyance. It is of course not a literal interpretation, but I was reminded of the fact that in our world today many of us are indeed suffering disruptions of interfering language in their everyday lives as well. I was thinking of smartphones and smart watches constantly pushing messages to us all day. Even though this is of course nowhere as debilitating as the illness Weiner suffered from, I still noticed the parallels… My below piece is thus working with the language of these kind of smartphone notifications which were inserted into the main text by a chance procedure.

~ - ~

We go through the motions. We go through each at a time. Perfectly hoping. We go towards and a way at a safe distance. We THOMAS UPLOADED A NEW PICTURE profess. We seek what we seek what we seek in. Hallelujah, sequin. What little can there be left now that we made it this far. This perfectly. This perfectly reflected in multiple high resolution media outlets. This perfectly filtered. But going. We go through the motions. Tea milk sugar repeat. Tea milk sugar no A MESSAGE FROM SMILE sugar. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. At 7:04 a Smoothie. We go through the motion smoothly. A mix of banana coconut milk and passion. Passion fruit and mint. Perfectly hoping. At a safe ANNIE, CITY BREAKS FROM £32.99 THIS MAY distance toward the weekend. At 7:05 through the door. Through the perfect. We go through everything at once. Multi-medial window seats. We go through pretty glossy perfect paper. We profess. We seek in everything what we seek out. A vacant seat. We go through the rows to the front. We search for the keys on the door step. WHAT’S IN STORE THIS MAY We go through the motions. Every day before the MAXIMO PARK, BBC PROMS IN THE PARK 2015 news. Every day between 7:22 and 9:15 on the door step. Every we as we go perfectly hoping. We profess this too. Smooth in a world LOVISA’S DELICIOUS SHRIMP SALAD of mint and window seats. The glossy. The shoe shine. The coffee. The headphone lead. We go through substantial trouble. It’s a metaphor. It’s a Hallelujah. We go the safe distance. We answer always. We might wait a few hours but we always answer. We drop the keys at the door. SARAH UPDATED HER STATUS We scramble for the keys on the door step. We scramble for the missing key. We profess. We envision. We go through the motions perfectly. KEVIN SHARED A LINK Every automatic teller we seek QUALITY GUARANTEED LARGE PIZZA £9.99 in. We go towards and at a safe distance we scramble for the pulse of time. We scramble for the front seat. The multi-medial success of rest. We seek out what LAST WEEKEND | PENNY SALE AND FREE DELIVERY we seek in glossy paper. Headlines in head we profess coffee and sugar. The vacant seat by the door. This perfectly filtered. We take less sugar. We take the steam machine rather than the slow drop. We take the banana coconut passion fruit. We take CHANGES TO THE WAY YOU UPGRADE at a reasonable rate. This weekend. At 2:46. We toe the line. We stand. EMMA UPDATED HER STATUS We wait. Perfectly reflected in the fronts of glossy. We go through the motions. We filter smoothly. We filter this reflection smoothly. Perfectly in control of passion. At 6:25 at a distance. We seek the vacant window reflection. Coffee. RESET YOUR PASSWORD We profess a mix of milk. We go through the door perfectly. A window gloss filter multi-media. We go through the motions. We coffee. We with the headphone lead. The window vacant. We with the mint multi-medial smile. Perfectly, sequin. We seek out what we sugar. The front seat on the headline train. We hold @COLIN254 IS NOW FOLLOWING YOU on. We mind the gap. We go through the motions. We lead the headphone distance perfectly. BRIGHT, BOLD & BEAUTIFUL We toe the line. We are perfectly connected. The keys in the door every day at 8:60. The keys and the thumb and the steam machine. We profess. We are reasonable. We drop the keys. We pick the keys. The door step at a distance the coconut juice. HAIR CARE FROM NOUKRIN © We are the gloss. We are the shoe shine. We comment with less sugar. We hold the line. The front seat train to perfectly. We are waiting. 7:16. We are waiting. We are waiting. The headphones lead no where. 8:23 is coffee. Is perfectly 3 TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR DIET PLAN standing. The vacant smile reflection window seat. We go through the motions. We go through the glossy headline smoothie. We hold between stations the multi-medial hope. We wifi. Wefi. 8:24. We go through the motions. We seek out the shortest line. We passion VOICEMAIL HAS 1 NEW MESSAGE fruit. We go through the filter. The coffee. The coffee. The steam machine. We hold on to multi-story headlines. We wifi a perfect passion juice. We filter the window vacant flection. We take at a reasonable. We profess we never took. We gather paper. STEP 2 The window with the vacant sequin seat. We go through. We mind reasonably. We perfectly are. The keys always on the belt BEN, PHIL AND SUSAN LIKE YOUR PHOTO jingling. We go through the motion. We seek out We seek out. We filter smoothly. We thumb the multi-media distance. We profess at a reasonable rate. We are sequin. We are multi-window. At headphone lead distance we profess we are a gap. We gather. We drop the motion. At 9:17 we hold the time. We with the reason VIEW YOUR RECENT TRANSACTIONS NOW in media mirrors. We with the gaping passion smile. We on the train line. Every we shining. We with the mint and the teller gap. We with the window wifi. The coffee on a motionless shirt. We mind the gap. We mind the motion. We are waiting by the steam machine. We perfectly perfectly. The passion STYLIST PICKS: BEST OF VINTAGE FESTIVAL machine and the thumb. The thunder. We with the station window. On the train with the open door. We on sugar with the lead in the headlines. We thumb. We lead the sequin. We with no filter for a single day. We on the door step with keys in NEW ALIVE the gap. We motion. We reason. We done waiting. We with the scissors through the lead. The hammer in the window. We with the motion to halt the train. We motion. We standing not waiting. Every we shining. No reasonable time. We go through. We drop the motion. We perfectly with no filter for GET THE HOTTEST DEALS NOW a single day. We seek. We profess. We still hoping. At 9:30 maybe a few minutes. The passion. The passion. We with the WELCOME + 3 TIPS FOR SUCCESS! headphone maybe too late.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

John Ashbery

John Ashbery – what do I even have to say?
Pulitzer Prize winning poet, who’s ground-breaking work has been a major influence for almost any poet writing in the 20th century. His poems are famously difficult; they often allude a fixed meaning and – as the Poetry Foundation puts it – “challenge [their] readers to discard all presumptions about the aims, themes, and stylistic scaffolding of verse in favour of a literature that reflects upon the limits of language and the volatility of consciousness.”
Loads has been said and written about him, and there could be little left for me to say. Although I have to admit, I particularly like Stephen Koch’s characterisation of Ashbery in the New York Times Book Review who described Ashbery’s voice as
"a hushed, simultaneously incomprehensible and intelligent whisper with a weird pulsating rhythm that fluctuates like a wave between peaks of sharp clarity and watery droughts of obscurity and languor.”
I leave you to explore Ashbery and his work yourselves.

My poetic response this week only uses a few cues from Ashbery’s poem “The Skaters”. The quoted lines (in italics) served as a starting point for my own thoughts in these post-General-Election days in Scotland.

Links: (John Ashbery special)

~ - ~

melting point

starting halfway amid Skaters

on icy surface with bruised knees

I recollect myself


while the rain drops roll down

the metal body

of the mint green bicycle in our living room

my hair is still wet


on a Scottish melting spring day

mid May clouds

crowding the bay window

with the past poster tape stains

holding on

dirty grey transparency as the void

comes clear

the Sunday after the Thursday

after the Friday which will last another 5 years

me just a silly bystander

voiceless immigrant reader

strapped to the sofa seat

while John talks about snowflakes piling

Mild effects are the result.

I see them

microscopic crystal formations floating weightlessly

magnificent symbolic now

misty swirls biting our cheeks in the gale

they come in all kinds of colours

never just the pure white ones

the wind coming up from the south

pushing them against our faces

we try and catch them

mere water on touchdown every time

or after all - ?

in the shade beyond the border

a stubborn pileup

a slippery slope

We are a part of some system, thinks he.

pools on the carpet


a flat screen television conversation loud

location location aspiration

reform reform

I stare motionless

chain reaction

what was the meaning of - again






inreaction … ?

good for business is good for us all certainly

little room for doubt in times like these

in water weather

my wrinkly hands and sodden feet

in this liquid language frantically paddling

against each


life threatening




down to the letter

from s w 1 a

first in the country

x like avalanche

the tide which pulled it all away

I wring them all out now

every sheet with ink running

waters rising

Placed squarely in front of his dilemma.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca – for me, his poetry is a journey into a different world. His narratives about Chicano, Mestizo, and Indio people in the American Southwest seem a million miles away from my Scotland every day and yet I find them amazingly powerful and compelling.

Baca is of Chicano and Apache decent and his life story certainly reads very different from that of most other poets. His parents abandoned him, leaving him in the care of his grandparents and friends at a very early age. By ten he was send to an orphanage and soon after ran away to live on the street. At the age of twenty-one, Baca went to prison for drug possession, serving six years. It was here that he became interested in poetry and started writing his own verse. He was still in prison when his first poems were published in the magazine Mother Jones.

Today, Baca is a celebrated poet, who has received multiple awards including the American Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. In addition to numerous collections of poems he has published memoirs, essays, stories, and a screenplay, Bound by Honor (1993), which was made into a feature-length film.

It is easy to see that his background and personal experience of growing up in poverty are still up to this day shaping his work. As the Poetry Foundation puts it: “Baca’s work is concerned with social justice and revolves around the marginalized and disenfranchised, treating themes of addiction, community, and the American Southwest barrios.” In addition to addressing these topics in his writing, Baca has however also decided to contribute to his community in a more direct way. In 2004 Baca started the non-profit organization Cedar Tree Inc., which supports writing workshops in reservations, barrio community centres, housing projects, correctional facilities, and prisons. It has also produced two documentary films about the Chicano community in recent years.

Coming up with my own response to Baca was certainly a challenge. What can a white middle-class woman living in Britain say in response to his tales? See below…


~ - ~


What about

my Prussian coat

my silken frock

my golden shoes

all rationality

all longing

a good girl

with a heart

of Krupp

a liquid white-

hot core

What about

my fenland eyes

my muddy thighs

my tidal lungs

all boundlessness

all margin

a good girl

with pale hair

of flax

no quay to

twist my line on

What about

my Kenyan bed

my canyon shelves

my Scheherazade doors

all prudence

all patience now

a good girl

with her nose in

her books

a silly head

still dreaming

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was born in England in 1923 and moved to the US with her American husband in 1947. Even though her early poetry in England still went under the label of the “New Romantics” she soon abandoned this formal writing style for a more experimental practice after moving to the US. Under the influence of the Black Mountain poets – in particular Robert Creeley, who was a friend of her husband – she soon established herself as one of the most successful and celebrated poets in the US. Until her death in 1997, she had published more than twenty volumes of poetry and worked extensively as a university teacher.

Levertov followed William Carlos Williams in the idea of a more “organic” poetic form. As Hoover quotes her in the anthology: “For me, back of the idea of organic form is the concept that there is a form in all things (and in our experience) which the poet can discover and reveal.”

All a poet would therefore have to do is pay sufficient attention to the world around her in order to see its inherent form. The ultimate goal for Levertov was a kind of authenticity in poetry – a concept, I have to admit, I struggle with. Maybe it is indeed my “insufficient” attention to the world which keeps me from understanding the inherent form of things. Yet as a 21st century poet living in a world of infinite pluralism, this kind of religious belief in one particular kind of “true” poetic form somehow troubles me. This vast gap between her poetics and what I understand to be a more “contemporary” kind of poetics is also revealed by her tendencies toward (as Hoover puts it) “themes of visionary Christianity” and a general tendency toward “beauty and wholeness”. It certainly sets her apart from the Language poets.

My own response to Levertov below is therefore only very loosely related to her poem “Overland to the Islands” and (at least in terms of style) bears a closer resemblance to the prose poetry of writers such as Russell Edson.


~ - ~

The Lost Islander

On a walk with my dog

on a walk with loyalty

in the grassy fields

in the high chilling wind

down a steep hill

I stumbled

and I fell into the ocean

where the tide pulled me

and the waves carried me


down among the oysters

and the turtles

I grew purple seaweed

for ashen hair

my skin turned

a silver armour

I danced like the dawn

among the coral reef

in distant oceans

I travelled with

the cry of the sea gull

I am an excellent swimmer

so long I have forgotten

how to walk

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Jack Spicer

“My vocabulary did this to me” – supposedly the last words of Jack Spicer as he died in 1965 at the age of 40. They brilliantly illuminate his relentless passion for language and poetry.

It is hard to pin down Spicer’s work to a particular school or movement. While oral poetic practice played an important role in his work – not least in his belief in poetry as a form of magic or supernatural dictation – his poems however also show a tendency toward Deep Image, and his later work, with its particular emphasis on linguistics, seem to be close to the practice of the Language poets. One of his most outstanding ideas was his notion of “poetry as dictation”. In his understanding, the poet was able to act as a kind “radio” which could collect transmissions from the “invisible world" – a notion which set him apart from many other poets as it rejected the idea of poetry as an expression of a poet’s voice and will.

His influence on many poets of subsequent generations is certainly evident – not least for his involvement in the creation of the Six Gallery in San Francisco, the scene of the famous reading in October 1955 that featured the first public performance of Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl" and helped launch the Beat movement. Yet his legacy is controversial. As Christopher W. Alexander notes in his introduction to Jacket #7, Spicer is popularly cast in a variety of ways from post-identity theoretician to a pre-structural post-structuralist, from an ideological critic of his time to a superstitious basket case.  But the lyric beauty and formal inventiveness of his work has continued to draw people in, even after his death, making him – as the Poetry Foundation phrased it: “a towering figure in American poetry”.

Links: (Jack Spicer Special)

~ - ~

pick ed a part by grammar
the in fluence of one un on happy
of one less on hope
of one a d on shame
un reflect ed might go un notice d
might drown in every day
how do you do nice ities
yet to dig to the root
spade fast psycho logy
freud in morph eme s
soft cushion un seat ed
pick ed a part by grammar
occasion al
worth while

day d d cushion by al a a   /   a a al by cushion d d day
ed drown do do dig   /   dig do do drown ed
fluence fast every eme ed ed    /    ed ed eme every fast fluence
in in how hope happy grammar go freud    /    freud go grammar happy hope how in in
might logy less ities in      /      in ities less logy might
of occasion notice nice morph might          /           might morph nice notice occasion of
one on on on of of             /             of of on on on one
pick part one one      /      one one part pick
seat s root reflect pscho       /      psycho reflect root s seat
the the spade soft shame    /    shame soft spade the the
un un un un to to        /        to to un un un un
worth while     /    while worth
you yet   /   yet you

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Larry Eigner

Charles Bukowski once called Larry Eigner the "greatest living poet" – and definitely Bukowski was not alone with his admiration. His unique poetry has had a strong influence particularly on the Language poets and he is praised by fellow poets like Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman and Robert Grenier up to this very day.

Larry Eigner suffered from cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair since early childhood. It is this fact, which as Samuel Charters put it in the biographical notes to his collection The World and its Streets, Place, “has given a form and shape to his poetry” as he was forced to observe much of the world merely through the windows of his house. His disability also meant that the physical act of writing took tremendous effort from Eigner. The combination of these two facts might explain the meditative, elegant density of his poems which combine an appreciation for the small things with a particular attention to the use of the page space. His work is therefore often seen an outstanding realisation of Charles Olson’s idea of “Projective Verse”. As Robert Grenier writes in his introduction to the Collected Poems of Larry Eigner:

“Following out from experiments in the work of Cummings, Pound and Williams, […], Larry Eigner’s mature writing is perhaps the best (and most varied) fulfilment we have, to date, of tendencies and possibilities regarding the use of space in poetry gathered into and ‘projected’ out into the future of American poetry by Olson’s theory of composition by field.”
Larry Eigner died from pneumonia and other complications in 1996.


My own response below uses the looking-glass of the internet as a source. If the view outside the window was the primary source of inspiration for Eigner, I felt a 21st century response would reflect the fact that our view upon the world is now largely shaped by the information we gather through digital media. For many people living today the glance on the computer screen is now more habitual and a more important source of information than the view out of their window. I therefore decided to draw the following picture of my city mainly from the material found on news websites.

~ - ~

how it comes about sometimes:


next door to the Braehead shopping centre

   alterations to the existing

                     as the former Clydebuilt Scottish Maritime Museum

which shut down five years ago

[ as shortage in funding ]

                                    has been earmarked as the     potential

     where the food


and high

                -rises of Drumchapel

  just two miles from the sandstone villas

                                                                        [ school catchment concerns ]

   a former bridal shop      is in the neighbourhood children

                make their way from school

                house to Easterhouse

cheap [ nutritious ]           soup in the cafe at the Baptist Church

a syringe in the gutter

                                 [ modern life on the broo ]

  with a pain[ t ] ed expression outside

a dilapidated

            block of flats in an incongruous city

suit and dress shoes

  wasteland left



                                                   like a monument

                                                  “There is a matching block behind



              washing flapping on balconies

              the wind


 mattresses and

                       junk still

       the grass



in George Street


in the garden of her council house in Possilpark

              listened patiently the Victorian gravestones in the Necropolis that looms above Glasgow

by rich

merchants in the heyday

                                              [  the incident in Hutton Drive ]

riverside land has derelict for nearly 40 years   properties

                                                                         a mix of social



     equity and family

[ homes ?

                  Dalmarnock Power Station chimney


rise flats in Sighthill Balornock [Red Road Flats] Gallowgate Dalmarnock the Oatlands 55 & 75 Plean St

                   a skyline for decades