Sunday, 28 June 2015

James Schuyler

Paul Hoover regarded James Schuyler as “one of the most accomplished and insightful of the New York School poets”. A judgement which is adequately reflected in his 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry award for his 1980 collection The Morning of the Poem.

Schuyler’s New York life, closely connected to other poets like Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery and a variety of visual artists such as Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Fairfield Porter gives the impression of a true urban, bohemian soul – he even lived in the Chelsea Hotel for a period of time. But as Hoover puts it: “Paradoxically [he is] one of the finest nature poets in contemporary American poetry.” His attention to the little, overlooked details and his “accurate ear for the cadences of speech and the rhythms of consciousness” (David Lehman) give his poetry something that transcends the urban surroundings they might originate from.

I highly recommend having a look around the resources on EPC and PennSound. It’s great stuff!

My own response takes inspiration from Schuyler’s “Letter To A Friend: Who Is Nancy Daum?” – but then I guess it goes a bit of a different route after the first line or two…


~ - ~

Letter to a digital jay (Who is JW?)
Remembering James Schuyler

All things real
no one just virtual
the violent pounding in my guts
wringing the sense of inside me
pulling me partially somewhere small
drowning the words
the tarnished safeness of inter
face flatness cracked shocked 
deep into security reset
halting setting curling off-focus stills
the doubt of every single syllable
floundering midsentence in pools
of black ink backspacing pages
the blushing shame utterly utterly
beating stuck in shrinking lungs
the hesitation
the helpless anger
the w.t.f. me of all people with
no harm to anyone
just words just words just
the misunderstood grope of ex
perimentation in the dark inside
as these solemn honour guards
with blazing torches my only
in the age of AA batteries
and usb leads 
just this a web
log of process
of mid air reckless that’s all
I am sure you understand

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bill Berkson

Bill Berkson is a true New York City child. He was born in Manhattan’s Upper Eastside in 1939 and attended Columbia University and the New School for Social Research, where he studied with Kenneth Koch in 1959. It was also Koch who introduced Berkson to many of the New York School poets like Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan and Anne Waldman, with many of which he collaborated in the following years.
Berkson left New York in the 1970s and moved to California where he began editing and publishing a series of poetry books and magazines under the Big Sky imprint. He also started to focus more on his work as an art critic. He was teaching art history and art writing at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1984 to 2008 and still holds the position of professor emeritus today. Berkson has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, Artspace, the Poets Foundation, the Fund for Poetry, and the Briarcombe Foundation.


My response to his work focusses on his poem “Melting Milk”.



I was taught to think of it as an aggregate. Collection of items that are gathered together to form a total quantity. Melted trees to wet concrete. The shiny glister of the drop on the flat surface: broken sunshine. It is June and I have gathered my quantities in shaky cupped hands. I was taught to think of it as the world. He poured me a Whiskey Sour on clear crystal ice cubes. That was yesterday; I am passing today. Running down the page like quicksilver. I am room temperature. Call me tepid. I cool a little more with each surface augmentation. I cool a little more with each plunge. I was taught to think of it as I sat on the steamy side of the window. I am liquid. Now approaching Airdire. Drumgelloch. Running down a diagonal path across our lives: downhill. Always subject to gravity. Slipping down the drain pipe with the withered leaves of last spring. I was taught to think of it as a light solution. Watered down toxic goo. I trickle. Syrupy contemplations. I was taught to think of it as little as possible.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Amiri Baraka

Image by Sharon Harris

The many faces of Amiri Baraka – there is no way I could ever do them justice in a short introduction like this. His work spans such a vast terrain - from his early Beat years in the 1950s and early 60s in Greenwich Village, where he co-edited the literary magazines Yugen and The Floating Bear, to his Harlem-based years after the death of Malcom X in 1965 which saw his involvement in Black Nationalism; and finally his turn to a more multicultural, Marxist approach in the 1970s.

Baraka’s impact on the American literary scene has undoubtedly been very great. As Arnold Rampersad wrote in the American Book Review:
“More than any other black poet […] he taught younger black poets of the generation past how to respond poetically to their lived experience, rather than to depend as artists on embalmed reputations and outmoded rhetorical strategies derived from a culture often substantially different from their own.”
In addition to his numerous works of poetry, Baraka worked extensively as a playwright. He also published essays, short stories, and novels and wrote about African-American music. He died last year at the age of 79.


My below response is loosely based on his Political Poem.

~ - ~

Love Political

It runs with reason and piles of heavy volumes

full force over the back of your hand

till the sinews quake

and you wonder how anyone was ever able

to hold on like this

in the dusk of intimacy

intimidation and third hand dreams

on tape in beat cardboard boxes

long before anyone resolved such history

into code and hung it to a cloud like childhood

summer showers

sweet and short and wet wet wet

It runs with reason

{ as reason like a rusty nail in the flower pattern

holding my great-grandparents’ wedding picture

in a faraway house

(blurry black and blurry faded)   }

and the kind of grand

words we always hoped would adorn our

withered skin one day

pale like parchment paper bleeding significance

and stubborn in each sans-serif line

like possibility and justice

and worst of all what they call liberty

It runs with reason as it runs with passion

the spot on my neck where they both entwine

your kiss the conception of a good life in books

and coarse ground coffee

the twelve pound subscription to the LRB

your head on my hip

your thoughts and ideas’ deep rest in my soft tissue

when Eva said there are many kinds of knowledge

(she bit the apple)

and intellect is just one of many more

I wanted to tell her yes you are right

but this is political

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Keith Waldrop

As Ron Silliman points out in his blog post in response to Keith Waldrop’s 2009 National Book Award: “Keith Waldrop is a wonderful writer […] and a beautiful human being, one of the true good guys of poetry, who has spent a lifetime building resources for the poem in every way conceivable.”

Waldrop’s writing technique is mainly collage. He uses other texts to create his poems, which are at once philosophical and personal, and is able to link romantic tendencies with formal experimentation. As A.L. Nielsen has said of Waldrop’s poetry: “Keith Waldrop has concerned himself with the topology of the world of writing more consistently and valuably than any poet I can think of since the late Paul Celan.“

In addition to his numerous books of poetry, Waldrop has also published two longer prose books – most recently his autobiography Light While There Is Light (1993), and translated the works of Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Edmond Jabès. He has been named Chevalier des arts et des lettres by the French government for his lifetime contribution to the French literature in 2000. With his wife Rosmarie Waldrop he edits the Burning Deck Press and has taught at Brown University since 1968.


~ - ~

Annual Review Process


This section includes some broad questions

client centred and driven

by building positive

as personal & commercial

as up to date to expert deal


This section is more

use your skills

use your adding not simply

as communication agencies


This section is about reflecting

your excellent inter-personality

as we’re planning to being

as with no ego thinks & acts


This section is about agreeing

and recognises

your personal purpose

adheres to system

Sign here

This section is important

keep momentum

going following

any further you need

Monday, 8 June 2015

Life and art

Life and art are getting in the way of this little blog project this week.
Due to a short trip to the Highlands and the start of an exhibition which will feature one of my sound pieces, I will not be able to stick to the usual rhythm of this project. There will be no poetic posts this week.
The usual pattern will be resumed early next week.

Meanwhile I extend a cordial invitation to anyone living in Scotland to come to Edinburgh to see the Time to Change Art Project exhibition at Tent Gallery from 13th to 21st June, where my sound piece Straining My Voice will be on display.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Eileen Myles

The New York Times once called Eileen Myles “a cult figure to a generation of post-punk female writer-performers”. What I can say, she is an amazing poet and I am a huge fan.

Myles joined the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s in New York City in the 1970s after leaving behind her native Boston. A few years later she was working as the assistant of James Schuyler – an influence which is still tangible in her work, as Hoover puts it:

 “Myler’s offhandedly personal and lyrical poetry has an affinity with the work of James Schuyler; this is most evident in her diaristic style of composition, narrative ease, and use of short, enjambed lines.”

Myles’ first major collection, Not Me, was published in 1991. Since then there have been many more, including more procedural work like her 2001 volume Skies, which set the constraint of including only poems which include the sky in some way.

Her versatile work of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction is really compelling and inspirational for any poet. The striking directness of her words and the way she works with the notion of autobiography really draws me in. I highly recommend having a look at her website which is full of poetry and also has a few videos of performances which are wonderful.

Links: (very short bio, but also a few poems)

My below response is a (for me rather unusual) attempt at something more personal and lyric. Have a read.

~ - ~

Memento mori

Somehow we ended up

in the cemetery,

like one would

I suppose,


on a hot spring day

on a walk

through the woods. At

the end of the trail

where I hesitated

like Dante in a summer dress, you

followed me through

the gap in the cast

iron fence and trampled

shrubbery into

forgotten parts

of stone memory grounds. We

followed the lines

over May grass looking

down on distant

names on rain-washed

rock wondering. Daisy-

lined final resting place.

Memento mori, you said

and I reached for

your hand while we

were walking. I wanted

you more then, than

in the forest’s calm leafy

shade or on the bridge over

the brook’s gurgling waters. I

wanted you then, and when I

knew you were no longer

walking my way.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Victor Hernandez Cruz

Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City with his family in 1954 at the age of six. Even though he didn’t start learning English until about two years later, he soon began writing poetry and publish his first collection of poems when he was only 17 years old. Since then he has published more than a dozen books of poetry and was awarded fellowships from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

His work frequently mixes English and Spanish and often reflects about the experiences of Caribbean and Puerto Rican immigrants in the US, in a particularly inclusive, almost Whitmanesque manner. As Jose Amaya wrote in the San Francisco Review of Books in 1991, “Cruz experiments with the vast linguistic and cultural possibilities of ‘indo-afro-hispano’ poetry and comes up with a strong vision of American unity.” – A unity which shines through particularly in poems like “Latin Music in New York” and “Red Beans”.

As a co-founder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York, the Before Columbus Foundation and a former editor of Umbra Magazine, it is safe to say that Cruz is one of the most important figures and driving forces of a Hispanic literary movement in the US.

This is also reflected in the comments of the judges for the International Griffin Poetry Price, which he was awarded in 2002:

“Victor Hernández Cruz has long been the defining poet of that complex bridge between the Latino and mainland cultures of the U.S. [His collection] Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965-2000 proves the extraordinary range of this great, enduring poet, whose articulately persuasive humor and intelligence bear persistent witness to a meld of peoples.” 


My response below is a reflection of my own situation in comparison with a writer from a minority background like Cruz. It considers the notion of privilege and its effect for me as a poet.

~ - ~














a jagged line runs through my life

runs through my thoughts

runs through my words

as speaker both and listener

i strip bare in front of those who doubt

the need for words that charge

and words that change

and words that

will not let you rest at night

that spark the fight -

my privilege most of all:

my voice.