Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Ray DiPalma

Ray DiPalma was born in 1943 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University and the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. It was his involvement in the collaborative volume Legend (1980) together with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Steve McCaffery, and Ron Silliman which firmly established him as one of the poets on the forefront of the Language movement. His “gnomic and aphoristic” poems (Jackson Mac Low) show particular interest in the complex relationship between thought and language and despite their density offer a Dadaist view of the world “that casts a cold eye on the margins, the spaces between, where we live.” (Marjorie Perloff).

As Ron Silliman has written about DiPalma's poems:
"[They] are not nearly so much objects as they are environments, lush worlds, sensual & crowded. You enter them & can wander endlessly – tho in fact his scale is mostly . . . quite contained. It’s a world we should all visit often."
Apart from his career as a poet, DiPalma also works as a successful visual artist. He currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and his work has been seen at the Art Institute of Chicago; the University of California, San Diego; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; New York Public Library and the Museum of Modern Art.


My poem below is in part a response to DiPalma’s lines in “Rumor’s rooster”: “when and where there/ is no such thing / the thought walked”; and in part a reflection about a conversation about Greek idealism and realism I recently had.

~ - ~

Thoughts [ accumulated; real ]

clearly such philosophical considerations are
easiest expressed in verse take
Plato’s realism e.g. you and me
and a unicorn on a boat floating aimlessly
on an ocean of ideas (and nobody cared
to think of a bloody rudder) with sea levels
rising steadily you should have known the dangers
but you just kept on thinking of infinite numbers
which got us in this horrible mess in the first place
and makes me wonder if Plato predicted the
internet the rising tides of cat pics and porn no
server volume will ever be enough for “they
never gave us a proper home” says the unicorn
resentful of the old Greeks and Socrates’ scorn
in particular  “Now I live comfortably on”

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Bob Perelman

Bob Perelman is the kind of poet I like best. I find his thoughtful, political, often satirical poems about the politics of language and the power of consumer society truly inspiring.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1947, he attended the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop before moving to the University of California at Berkeley for his PhD. It was during his time in San Francisco in the 1970s that he got involved in the language poetry scene and developed his own, decidedly political poetics. In reference to Perelman’s vision of his poetry, Hoover explains:
“Perelman holds that, just as Virgil’s The Aeneid justifies empire, much contemporary poetry exists for ‘a sort of Monday-morning Emperor,’ the bourgeois reader, who can feel ‘in the exquisitely disposed syllables, the pain of repression that come with the territory of world domination.’ Perelman calls instead for ‘defamiliarization’ of poetry by removing it from the comforting aegis of the oral: ‘Unlike the oral poet, who is reinforcing what the community already knows, the didactic writer will always have something new, and, possibly unacceptable to get across.’” 

As the Poetry Foundation puts it: “Perelman’s poems disrupt sense and syntax as they search to connect body and language amid layers of commercialization, violence, and literary memory.”

Perelman is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections as well as two critical studies of poetry: The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (1994) and The Marginalization of Poetry (1996). He has been Professor of English as the University of Pennsylvania since 1990.

Links:  - Jacket Magazine: Perelman feature

My poem below is a response to Perelman’s use of the quip “A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy” in one of his political essays.

~ - ~

My language has an army and a navy too.

My language folds me neatly
My language swells sweetly
My language wants
My language draws the contours of something bigger than me
My language limps
My language is fat with age and inactivity
My language enjoys a certain status
My language knows how things ought to be
My language has an exquisite host of flying drones in the blue sky above the desert
My language is the majority shareholder
My language spells freedom
My language offers redemption
My language is posted
My language is not my language
My language answers all of the questions
My language forms my mouth
My language curves my spine
My language sticks to my dentures
My language causes indigestion in a small number of cases
My language sweats
My language waterbores
My language is phallic
My language is faulty
My language has an attractive centrefold
My language is virtually everywhere
My language suits all of your home and garden needs
My language comes in a variety of contemporary colour schemes
My language is a democratically elected form of representation
My language suggests nothing
My language caught your attention
My language is an excellent example of the kind of thing we would like to avoid in the future
My language can cure world hunger
My language needs your support with £7 a month you can make a difference
My language is slow roasted and coarse ground
My language attends a spinning class twice a week
My language wishes
My language always skips at 2:46 on this track
My language is sensible
My language can explain everything
My language fills pages
My language is the ultimate experience
My language lives life to the fullest
My language needs an upgrade
My language is at 5%
My language autocorrects
My language is young, dynamic, and innovative
My language is a paradise for those poor souls born in less fortunate parts of the world
My language just wants a bit more gratitude
My language believes in liberalism
My language adheres to a certain set of invariable principles
My language holds these truths to be self-evident
My language consumes
My language has an army and a navy too.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly is often considered the founder of the Deep Image movement. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935 and attended the City College of the City University of New York and Columbia University before starting to work as editor for the literary magazines Trobar and Chelsea Review. Although his work has mostly been associated with the tradition of Pound, Olson and Williams, he himself feels his influences are much broader, including
“Coleridge. Baudelaire. Pound. Apollinaire. Virgil. Aeschylus. Dante. Chaucer. Shakespeare. Dryden. Lorca. Rilke. Hölderlin. Stevens. Stein. Duncan. Olson. Williams. Blackburn.” 
The Poetry Foundation says of Kelly’s work:
“[His] free-verse poetry, both spare in language and wide-ranging in its attention, is often engaged with the intimacy of audience: the connection forged between individuals looking outward together.”
In addition to his more than fifty volumes of poetry, Kelly has also written several volumes of short fiction, essays, and manifestos. He has received an Award for Distinction from the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Kelly still serves as Asher B. Edelman Professor of Literature and Co-Director of the Program in Written Arts at Bard College, where he has taught since 1961.


My below poem took its starting point from a line in Kelly’s “A Woman with Flaxen Hair in Norfolk Heard”.

~ - ~


planning to move into the country
it isn’t the city anywhere else
leaving behind
( alphabetical order )
a) ngelic vitamin water
b) read of superior quality priced like insensitivity
c) hronic repeat
d) ry guilt easily resolved in three measures
e) lephant rooms: various locations available now for viewing
f) oxtons, foxes, faeces (E5 domesticated)
g) rowth always vertical always going non-monetary for you of course
h) ome
i) onic order
j) azz nights of wuthering rain mirrored in wet cobble stone
k) indness in limits in limited air fluctuation below
l) ove by the riverbank flashlights
m) inted tears
n) ational import
o) ysters sealed in plastic sleeves hermetic
p) rinces/princess
q) ueens
r) idicule lifestyle
s) leepless airport flight corridor flights
t) ailored women
u) topian gossip
v) erse ventricular
w) hitmanian bridges at odd intervals non-musical still busking
x) ray populous press
y) ardstick hipster anguish
z) ephyr summer tunes on your smartphone on that night when we climbed to the roof

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Tony Towle

“Tony Towle is one of the best of the second generation New York School poets. Winner of an early Frank O’Hara Award. His work is very distinctive within the NY School range: urbane, hilariously ornate, selfconscious, lyrical, discursive, a sensibility that is both Romantic &, at times, neo-Augustan, Pop & high-brow, thoughtful & playful, rhapsodic & dry. A really terrific poet. That is to say, one of our favourites: preposterous & beautiful.”

With this verdict about Towle’s poetry, Ken Bolton is definitely not alone. Throughout the years, Towle has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council of the Arts, the Poets Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, along with the aforementioned Frank O’Hara Award in 1970.

He is indeed a true New York poet. He was born in Manhattan in 1939 and has lived in the city most of his life. He started to write in the early 1960 and soon was established as a member of the “second generation” of New York poets after attending writing workshops with Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara. As Hoover points out in the anthology, Towle was – like many other New York poets – influenced by the French surrealists, yet:

“Towel’s poems reflect this interest more in their dreamlike rhetoric rather than in their discrete images. In this respect, as well as in its heightened diction and elegance of style, his work resembles that of John Ashberry.”

Towle has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry. He also wrote reviews for Art in America and Arts.

Links: (Ken Bolton’s Review of The History of the Invitation - New and Selected Poems 1963–2000)

My poem below takes its inspiration from the colour mix of Towle’s “Random (Re-arrangeable) Study for Views”. I chose to work through the colour names of the nail polishes in my drawer and build a poem from it.

~ - ~

Re-arrangeable in Moonlight

I honestly try Mint Bonbon
sharp and sweet and so adventurously Artful
taste like look Pretty Bang Bang
selfless Queen Victoria Street exits
I have these Satellite Dreams sometimes they upsetting
darkly Berry Potter & Plumbledore saint
Eve’s Mint Candy or apple on a stick
it’s those Night Out fascinations
when I draw Azure Amore
hush the Ocean my little night owl
the dark’s silent horizon Metal Flip wings disappear
she don’t Hip Queens Wear Blue Jeans
she don’t the Amaretto pearls
we just wait along Double Decker Red each time longing
I honestly try Free To Be
with the smoke rising from her Orango Bloom
billowing Beach Babe
time passes Passion For Fashion still
as it rolls down Cromwell Road heavy
raining Acid Drop motions slowly
like the Baker Street vendor the man who disappeared
into Midnight Sapphire changing colour
Soho Peacock feathers all over
the street corner in Deep Red dye
blue flash lid Total Action
she wouldn’t she wouldn’t Wicked
singalong Galaxy starlet
small along the winding of The Thames at 4am
a rip two inches long Lagoon Lace rivers we weren’t careful
tonight So Cool
outside Mayfair Mews urbanist landshape
two girls tuesday Midnight Rocker 
roll down lightly so It’s Hot to walk away

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Charles Bernstein

As co-editor of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E journal and one of the key poets and theorists of the Language movement, Charles Bernstein is definitely one of the most important figures in experimental poetry. Born in New York City in 1950, he attended Harvard University, where he studied Philosophy and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein (What could be a better way of launching a career as an experimental poet?!). In the mid-1970s he became active in the experimental poetry scenes in New York and San Francisco and started to work not just as a poet but also as a publisher, editor and theorist. In 1978 Bernstein and fellow poet Bruce Andrew founded the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which would go on to lend its name to the entire movement of poetry.
As he Poetry Foundation says of Bernstein’s work
"[It] explores the wide-ranging uses of language within diverse social contexts. His poetry combines the language of politics, popular culture, advertising, literary jargon, corporate-speak, and myriad others to show the ways in which language and culture are mutually constructive and interdependent." 
A project which is probably most pointedly summarised by Sarah M. Schultz in her Jacket Magazine article about Bernstein, in which she states:
“what Bernstein has done throughout his nearly 30 year career, is to critique fashions of writing that attempt to conceal their status as fashion. […] Language is, in and of itself, highly artificial for Bernstein - not natural, as the post-Romantic confessional school claims it is.”
It is this kind of reflection on the language we use and the way this language conveys meaning, which can probably be called Bernstein’s primary focus as a poet and theorist. A topic which is driving the work of many poets of the Language movement and certainly not an easy one. But as Hoover puts it in the anthology: “Despite the difficulties presented by Bernstein’s poetry, it frequently displays an antic sense of humour.”

Bernstein has received numerous awards and honours, including a Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.
With Al Filreis, he is the co-founder and co-editor of PENNsound.

Links: - Sarah M. Schultz on Bernstein in Jacket - Index of Bernstein’s contributions to Jacket2

My below poem takes its starting point from a line in Bernstein’s “The Klupzy Girl” and weaves together modern internet language with a 1967 Reader’s Digest article about Programmed Instruction books.

~ - ~

maybe anger would be better than complaining

it’s a new kind of teaching book
w w w it’s virtually painless
it enables almost anyone to learn almost anything
spell it right or autocorrect anyway
it’s virtually void
the platform where everyone gets together
haters gotta hate you know
of course you know you little piece of …nazi
and soon you are surrounded
by worlds which you never dreamed of:
the accounting country
the electronics empire
the computer land
the world of modern art
cat videos
uncle roger’s food blog
it is the stuff put into so called teaching machines
google it
follow stumble fumble tumbl
crack or hack it
a programmed text is quite different
from an ordinary text book
it’s a visual world out there
virtually headless
you should post more pictures
make it obvious
make it topless
the main thing is the question
how to use apple pay
letting you make your own discoveries
10 things you didn’t know about anything
you teach yourself
how to make pancakes
ur a fat cow eat less hamburgers
youre so sick go bore someone else w/ your opinion
a man (or beast) tends to repeat
an act which has been immediately followed
by a pleasant result.
send me a naked pic
work play watch  yolo
how to use a slide rule
the new math
statistical methods, genetics, nutrition,
work-out videos in hot pants
a national survey shows that as leisure grows,
people want to learn more about how to play.
just a bit of fun nothing real
virtually painless
this may someday be used to teach people
to observe more, to think more powerfully,
to be more creative, to be more understanding
of other people. meanwhile, it is an exciting
and handy way to extend
the education you got in school.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

August Kleinzahler

Allen Ginsberg once commented on August Kleinzahler:
"August Kleinzahler's verse line is always precise, concrete, intelligent and rare - that quality of 'chiseled' verse memorable in Basil Bunting's and Ezra Pound's work. A loner, a genius."
In addition to Bunting who taught at the University of Victoria in British Columbia while Kleinzahler was studying there, it was primarily the work of William Carlos Williams and the Anglo-American poet Thom Gunn which proofed a major influence for Kleinzahler in early years.

In strong opposition to the Language poetry movement, Kleinzahler’s understanding of poetry is marked by a particular attention to the poetic craft of vocabulary, syntax and line. As Hoover quotes Kleinzahler in the anthology:

“for a poet, the handling of time becomes a very intimate, hands-on business. Each word is a shape carved in time… Vowels have their varying durations and pitches: eek! what a weird moon.”
Even though his poetry of “dive bars, greasy soup, alcohol and old girlfriends,” (as John Glionna of the LA Times put it) has given Kleinzahler the reputation of a bad-boy literary outsider prone to picking fights with the establishment, his fame has built steadily over the past few decades. He won the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2004 and his volume of new and selected poems, Sleeping it Off in Rapid City (2008), was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award.  His prose is also regularly published in the London Review of Books and Slate.


My poem below takes its inspiration not from any particular poem of Kleinzahler, but maybe more from his very focused, critical view on the world around him in general.

~ - ~

Digital na[t]ive

I took a picture today.
Undying, eternal record
of my dinner:
chickpea and kale
balsamic sourdough drizzle
roasted pine nuts
with flakes of Parmesan cheese.
My 21st century still life
horn of plenty
370 calories, 600 pixels wide.
I know how to do this.
I keep count of my click rate
my followers and my likes.
And one day, one day I’ll be famous.
Like the grumpy cat
Or the Starbucks Drake Hands guy.
I rock this game.
Can’t you seen?
I am ahead of the tribe.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Hilda Morley

Hilda Morley is often referred to as a “painter’s poet”. Born in 1916 in New York City, she spent several years of her childhood and early adulthood in Israel and England, before returning to the US during the war. It was upon her return to New York that she met her second husband, the painter Eugene Morley and was introduced to many painters and poets of the New York scene.

While her work is generally filed under the “Black Mountain” label due to her brief teaching period at Black Mountain College in 1952, it has also been significantly influenced by Abstract Expressionism. As Harper's contributor and poet Hayden Carruth wrote of Morley’s work:

"How simple the language is, not a rhetorical gesture, not an unnecessary adjective, yet heightened by interweaving lines, cadences, and tones, by urgency of feeling and fineness of perception. We have these expressive works, indispensable to what we call American literature.”

Morley gained wider recognition as a poet only fairly late in her life. Her first major collection What Are Winds & What Are Water was only published in 1983. It is a book-length threnody for avant-garde composer Stefan Wolpe, Morley’s third husband, who died of Parkinson’s disease in 1972. Her other collections include A Blessing Outside Us (1976), To Hold in my Hand (1983), Cloudless at First (1988) and Between the Rocks (1992), in addition to the posthumously published The Turning (1998). Morley died in London on 23 March 1998.

Links: (Robert Creeley: For Hilda Morley) (obituary)

My poem below is a response to Morley’s “For Elaine de Kooning”. It took its starting point with the Tate Gallery’s #workoftheweek post of “Seafood” (2001) by Howard Hodgkin on Instagram.

~ - ~

@ Howard Hodgkin

lived in a square
lived in a box
as natural
wide as the sea
the see #workoftheweek
as deep texture
and pigment motions
the taste of memory
the crispy salt along
the beach
my feet and surf always
wet tangled hair
the breeze and you
the journey on wet sand
and light expanding
in a box
in a square
the see in

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Ed Dorn

"I think I'm rightly associated with the Black Mountain 'school,' not because of the way I write, but because I was there." Ed Dorn was part of the diverse group of artists and writers who were lucky enough to study at the legendary Black Mountain College during its fairly brief existence between 1933 and 1957. He attended the college between 1955/6, studying with Charles Olsen and Robert Creeley. It is often claimed that Olsen’s ideas of Projective Verse had a great influence on Dorn, but as Marjorie Perloff put it in 1974: “Dorn is really quite unlike Olson; he is, for that matter, quite unlike any poet writing today.” Of his most acclaimed poem, Slinger (1968), she writes: it is
“one of the most ambitious and interesting long poems of our time, a truly original cowboy-and-indian saga, rendered in the most ingenious mix of scientific jargon, Structuralist terminology, junkie slang, Elizabethan sonneteering, Western dialect, and tough talk."
As the Poetry Foundation points out:
“Dorn's writing is almost always socially and politically oriented. From his earlier studies of Shoshoni Indians and the transients near Puget Sound to his reflections on the state of America in Slinger, Dorn's concern for his neighbors is evident in his work.”
This aspect, in addition to his ingenious usage of irony and satire, really makes him one of the most delightful reads in the anthology. I highly recommend taking a look at the poems which are available online at the Poetry Foundation and listening to the readings at PennSound.


My below poem is a piece developed out of some thoughts when I read Dorn's poem "Geranium".

~ - ~

Geranium, Don’t

As a Flower I can never quite remember
silly silly silly me
I used to be a Rosebud surely
made happy
made merry marry and successful tears
or not through woods Buttercups and bitter wisdom.
My money raised though
I used to be a Poppy in a field
when you picked me and you picked me
it wilted quickly read and red and blue.
We Daisy perfect for your business
your voice and connectivity
I the mobile manageable capitulum.
Narcissus, you said, were well known
in ancient point giving head, no teeth.
You used to call me Daffodil sweetly.
But then I never was.
I never was a Thistle:
inspiration sweeping sea
views 36 hectares of tropical
nine hole in the sad sand dream.
Surely surely sometimes Dandelion,
both edible in their entirety.
I was the centre of the no no,
a Tulip in the Pamir Hindu Kush,
Tien Shan along the rocky road.
“ In modern horticulture they tend to use the term
‘ Pansy ’ for those large-flowered multi-coloured hybrids
that are grown for bedding purposes each year. “
“ Sign up to the newsletter and get in the know, Daliah. ”
“ You can have hyacinths flowering for Christmas
if you plant specially ‘prepared’ bulbs. “
I wanted to be that Honeysuckle.
My hardiness mostly fully
 some tender species but always easy always for you.
Magical ingredients for deliciously simple quickly.
We grew moist summers - I, an Aster -
especially cool nightly temperature.
Or maybe I was Hortensia:
a Roman woman who successfully
repealed a tax imposed by the Second Triumvirate in 42 BC.
A sweetly scented highly poisonous woodland flower,
Lily of the Valley, I used to be a song so sweet.
So sweet, you cried and died and I grew in you,
laying down my roots more firmly
in the decomposing weeds.
But I never never wanted to be the Geranium.
Never that one one.
The Geranium.
Please, please don’t make me be.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Anselm Hollo

Anselm Hollo was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland. He worked as a poet, translator, editor and journalist in Sweden, Germany, and Austria before coming to the US in 1966.

He took up teaching positions at SUNY Buffalo and the Writers' Workshop in Iowa City where he first met Ted Berrigan with whom he remained very close friends. The Beat movement and New York School was certainly a major influence on Hollo’s writing: even before coming to the US he had translated Ginsberg into Finnish. Another important influence was however William Carlos Williams – another poet he had translated previously. As Paul Hoover notes in the anthology: “Hollo’s work privileges the details of everyday life. He is adept at capturing isolated moments of perception.” A tendency he shares with both Williams, as well as his fellow poets such as Philip Whalen and Berrigan. “Often whimsical and gently satirical in tone, Hollo’s poems are open-ended, valuing an ongoing human attentiveness rather than rejecting closure on the basis of theory.” (Hoover)

Hollo taught creative writing at a wide range of different institutions across the US, including the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, where he held the rank of Full Professor since 1985. Hollo’s many honours and awards included a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, grants from the Fund for Poetry, the Government of Finland’s Distinguished Foreign Translator’s Award, and the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. Hollo lived with his wife, the artist Jane Dalrymple-Hollo, in Boulder until his death in 2013.


My below poem is a response to Hollo’s poem entitled “The Dream of Instant Total Representation”. Taking a look at the idea of possible political change and new beginnings, it works with found text I gathered from Twitter under #Greece.

~ - ~

The Dream of Instant Total Revolution

Isn’t there an extra second added today

3 hours before the payment deadline

the rundown confederate crash help

makes history

might crowd funding be the answer?

you can find the Paypal link below

the total debt split across all citizens

is nearly thirty thousand per head

storm clouds literally over the capital

capital or capital

early July heatwave

change – change part 28

the talks continue

litter bins and boarded windows in every town

bailout for bailout for bailout for out

what is happening here is what they have done to

many poorer nations through structural

adjustment on behalf of corporate capital

capital or capital

the talks continue

not often - but in these days I regret

that I did not learn to speak the ancient language

by the time the country closes its banks

few hedge funds had much direct hold

we stand by the people of Greece

default in 2 hours

we stand by the people of Greece

as Fitch downgrades

further into junk status

from ccc to cc plus

we stand

crowds gathering

we stand