Sunday, 30 August 2015

David Shapiro

Image by Seán Grisdale.

David Shapiro was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947 and attended Columbia University and Clare College in Cambridge, UK. A childhood prodigy on the violin, he also took up poetry at an early age and published his first poems in Poetry magazine at the age of 16. Two years later his first collection January (1965) was published.

Shapiro has been associated with the New York School and his work shows the particular influence of John Ashbery, about whom he has also written a book of criticism. However, Shapiro himself considered the “Jewish liturgical tradition […] and his literary heroes, Meyer Schapiro and Walter Benjamin” (Hoover) as even more important influences on his writing.

In the Rocky Mountain Review, Carl Whithaus wrote of Shapiro’s work:

“To call David Shapiro a poet of the surreal, of collage, of the erotic, of endless transition, of formless form, of fin-de- siècle regret is to touch upon the variety of poetic techniques he has explored … he has refused to write poetry which organizes the real into a clean and neat poetic.”

Shapiro has authored over twenty books of literary and art criticism and poetry. He has taught at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Princeton University, and the Cooper Union School of Architecture. He is a tenured professor of art history at William Paterson University.


My below poem took its inspiration from the line “Two more bodies were discovered in the Spanish forest fire” from Shapiro’s 1983 poem “Commentary Text Commentary Text Commentary Text”.

~ - ~


(4 August)
It’s raining in Scotland and I want to go away somewhere sunny but it’s not easy
to scrape [19 more bodies were discovered in salt water]
together the money so in the end I just buy cheap flights to see my
(6 August) family back in
southern Germany where it is really hot at least compared
to the miserable [25 more
bodies were discovered in salt water]
temperatures of Glasgow I enjoy walking in my sandals (15 August) for
4 days and come
home [51 more bodies were discovered in the hold]
on a late Saturday flight with
a bit of a sunburn as if I had been by (18 August)
the seaside
but I didn’t receive a single postcard from any
of my old
[6 more bodies were discovered in salt water] London
friends which probably means they
are using Instagram as a substitute or don’t have my new (24 August)
address and [5 more bodies
were discovered in salt water] I like (27 August)
the sun-filtered images
of Greece and Spain while the
[71 more bodies were discovered in the back]
weeks pass on and it’s the first week
(28 August) of school again
and summer is almost over
[52 more bodies were discovered in the sand]

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1926. He attended Harvard University from 1944, but abandoned his studies only a year later to serve in the American Field Service in Burma and India. Upon his return to the US in 1946, he started publishing his poetry and began corresponding with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. It was also through correspondence that he became friends with Charles Olson who invited Creeley to teach at Black Mountain College from 1954.

As Michael Hrebeniak put it in his obituary to Creeley for the Guardian:

“[Creeley’s] pared-down poems activate the nervous, interior measures of a restless underground man, with halting line-breaks determined by breath and bop jump-cuts. The speaker's stance is amoral and passive, more so when women are the subject (in life, the reverse was true). Phrases are terse and elliptical, devoid of argument, conceptualisation or characterisation; each work is a minutely detailed pressure point set into motion.”
In a review, Forrest Gander wrote of Creeley’s work:
“Robert Creeley has forged a signature style in American poetry, an idiosyncratic, highly elliptical, syntactical compression by which the character of his mind’s concentrated and stumbling proposals might be expressed ... Reading his poems, we experience the gnash of arriving through feeling at thought and word.”

Creeley published more than sixty books of poetry. His honours include the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He also served as New York state poet laureate from 1989 to 1991 and as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and Humanities at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Creeley died in 2005 at the age of 78.

Links:,,1452159,00.html – The Guardian Obituary

Trying to write a response to Creeley I found myself struggling with his inward-facing, philosophical lyricism which feels miles away from my own social and political understanding of poetry. My response therefore took Creeley’s “Locate I love you” from his poem “The Language” and redirected its poetic inquiry into a completely different direction.

~ - ~


locate the political

your thighs
your ears, your armpits

at your finger-
tips leaking from
the pen

from the flat screen
in the corner

of your mouth
when you smile and
I smile back at


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Kathleen Fraser

Kathleen Fraser grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado, and California and received a degree in English Literature from Occidental College (California) in 1959. She was a Full Professor of Writing at San Francisco State University and the director of its Poetry Centre for several years before deciding to dedicate herself to writing full-time. From 1983 to 1991 she also published and edited the journal HOW(ever), which was devoted to innovative and experimental writing by women.

Fraser has published more than 15 books, including several mixed-genre collections. Her honours and awards include the New School’s Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize and the American Academy’s Discovery Award, as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Fraser splits her time between San Francisco and Rome.


My below poem is inspired by the last line of Fraser’s “re:searches”: “this / language we come up against” and develops the idea of the cosmetics industry’s linguistic influence on women in a kind of Dada play.

~ - ~

The Story of Vera & Rose in 3 Acts
Or: This Language We Come Up Against (after Kathleen Fraser)

Act I
Active Nature, two women; the Bottle.

feel the damage essence ends shine scalp deep
required condition hence: feel deep
scars & skin & scalp

WOMEN [in chorus]:
for to adorn us
and our formulated hair looking
feel with skin revitalised of e
enriched oil replenishing for moisture surely?

smooth skin – of course, and daily!

moisture, you apply with youthful healthy for enriched often
[exit NATURE]
your formulated look formation blend feels smooth

Act II
Vera with hair into appearance only. 

help to look healthy and smooth
indulgent and …

and shine?

feel restored and enriched revitalised for moisturisers
my hair to hair and hair hair skin

dry creamy smoothness
strokably yours certainly.

VERA [excitedly]:
the oily silky richly natural strokability?

create the natural healthy clean, Vera

glory tightness!
glory strokability!

Damaged Rose

tightness daily and smoothness
you’re your smoothness

frizzy nails  and hair and feels too long

Is it nature?
add strength to your frizzy body
add feel soft shiny & smooth moisturisation too

hair advanced your feel
what fresh nature often moisturise

the blissful down?
smooth sensation!

look if…

glory daily!
hair and formation
hair youthful
hair glory
smoothness anti-evaporation strokability

frizzy replenished too

feel with damaged gorgeously
help down hair
or split massage with essence

WOMEN [in chorus]:
smooth if any
or not
to feel.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Bernadette Mayer

A true New York Poet, Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn and spend most of her life in New York City. She received her BA from the New School of Social Research and published her first collection of poems, Moving in 1964.

Although she is associated to the New York School due to her use of daily occasions and her attraction to traditional form, especially the sonnet, her work also shows a particular interest in experimental forms and writing procedures. Her 1994 collection of prose-poems The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters e.g. is a “series of letters never sent, written to unidentified friends, acquaintances, political figures, and poets over a nine-month period and ending with the birth of a baby” (Mayer). Her critically acclaimed Memory (1975) combines photography and narration in a writing process made up of texts and 36 images for each day of July 1971.

Mayer has published over 20 collections of poetry. She has taught at the New School for Social Research and The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City and now lives and works in East Nassau, New York.


~ - ~


Are we free? Are we autonomous?
Are these the same questions? you ask
on the back of an old dog-eared shopping list
next to sausage apples milk and grapes

the last line you left off with a dash
as for the answer in a prose conversation
like Will you come home soon, dear?
– I don’t know. I have to see.

it stuck between the cushions of the sofa.
I fished it out when I sat there the other day
trying to write something like a sonnet
while you were reading in the other room.

I want to kiss you for questions more than answers
when our lips part you will say: What was that for?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Maureen Owen

Maureen Owen was born in Graceville, Minnesota and grew up on a farm and the California racetrack circuit, where her parents worked as horse trainers. She attended Seattle University and San Francisco State University before moving to Japan in 1965 to study Zen Buddhism.

Upon her return to the US, she moved to New York City. Owen is usually associated with the New York School and spent several years as Program Coordinator at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in NYC as well as working as editor for the literary magazine Telephone.

Owen has published a total of 10 collections of poetry so far. She now lives in Denver and teaches at Naropa University.


My poem below takes its inspiration from Owen’s poem of the same title.

~ - ~

African Sunday

Ni moto.              With the sun at an awkward
       angle          as we sit on the terrace in the afternoon. You
pour a cup of English breakfast and I pour the milk slowly.
Salted                    on white Prussian porcelain
                   and heavy mvule wood.     Kenya is
   thirty     years    ago:                  Na sikuwa hata hai.
I grew up here in white porcelain    faded colours
   from images  of  zebras in the   hall. Why do
you live away now always?
                        Are you coming home soon now?
“  Hakuna, mama.
   Moyo wangu haiwezi
                                       kutulia hapa.      “

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

John Wieners

John Wieners was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1934 and received his degree from Boston College in 1954. He studied at Black Mountain College with Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Robert Duncan from 1955 to 1956 and later followed Olson, his mentor, to SUNY Buffalo. As a Beat poet and a member of the San Francisco Renaissance his poetry is however more personal and less committed to poetic theory than Olson’s.

His poetry, which often combines accounts of sexual and drug-related experimentation with jazz-influenced improvisation, reflects his highly political view of lyricism. Wieners was an antiwar and gay rights activist and was deeply involved with publishing and education cooperatives.

He published his first book of poetry, The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), at the age of 24. Numerous collections followed, including Ace of Pentacles (1964); Nerves (1970); Behind the State Capitol, or Cincinnati Pike (1975). Wieners died in Boston in 2002.


My below poem is inspired by Wieners "A Poem for the Insane".

~ - ~

A Poem For The Reasonable

over whom these rules purport
to have authority as vulnerable
to universal credit and post-

structualist ideas. standing
on corners with the milk
bottle wrapped around their

broadsheet moral duties. hesitant
beyond the breakfast cereal cardboard
box copy of a good life in low

calorie. an idea with its roots in
the work of elderly men dried up
in the windowsill pots of

gardenia.  equally situated
at the end of the jointly accepted
middle ground between consent

and truth. how then can some
moral or political rule be rightly
imposed on all of us? you ask me

just in case the foreseeable
consequences and side-effects
of its general observance for

each individual could be jointly
accepted to be fair. this might
indeed seem to be rather

puzzling. i agree.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Clark Coolidge

Clark Coolidge is associated both with the language movement as well as the New York School. In addition to his career as a poet, he also works as a jazz musician – a fact which is easily recognised in his music use of sonic and syntactical patterns in his work which (as the Poetry Foundation puts it) “engage, and generate meaning”.

In a 1968 poetics statement, Coolidge noted, “Words have a universe of qualities other than those of descriptive relation: Hardness, Density, Sound-Shape, Vector-Force, & Degrees of Transparency/Opacity.”
But apart from these musical elements, it is also abstract painting which provides a strong reference point for Coolidge. As Hoover sums it up in the anthology:

“His arrangements of seemingly unrelated words […] can create a puzzle of disjunction for the uninitiated reader. Yet, once the reader suspends any demand for narration or linear organisation, the words are free to come into relation, like the abstract yet liquid shapes in a Tanguy painting.”
In relation to this Hoover draws attention to a quote by the painter Philip Guston which Coolidge liked to refer to in reference to his understanding of arrangement and movement:
“It cannot be a settled, fixed image. It must of necessity be an image which is unsettled, which has not only not made up its mind where to be but must feel as if it’s been in many places all over this canvas, and indeed there’s no place for it to settle – except momentarily.”


My own response took Guston’s idea of the constant movement of the (poetic) image quite literally. Taking Coolidge’s “Brill” as a starting point, I set out to rearrange the words of the poem as if they had moved on from their “momentary” positions in the original poem. I created a sound piece from the resulting work.

~ - ~

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Joseph Ceravolo

Joseph Ceravolo was born in New York City in 1934 and spend most of his life in New Jersey where he worked as a civil engineer. He attended the New School of Social Research in New York, studying with Kenneth Koch and soon became part of the Second Generation of the New York School. In contrast to most of his fellow New York poets, his poetry is however less conversational, with a “darker sense of wonder” (Hoover) than the witty quips of O’Hara or Koch. His poems’ distorted syntax, elisions, and juxtapositions create a text rich with meanings, yet highly lyrical.

As Peter Schjedldahl writes:
“Ceravolo is a lyric poet of such oddness and purity that reading him all but makes me dizzy, like exercise at a very high altitude. I rarely know what he is talking about, but I can rarely gainsay a word he uses […] there is a dominance of usages I want to call ‘off’ or ‘bent’ like vamped notes in jazz.”
Ceravolo died of cancer in 1988. His work was hard to come by for many years as his collections were out of print. But the 2013 publication of his Collected Poems fortunately means his poems are much more easily available now.


My below poem was inspired by Ceravolo’s “Geological Hymn”.

~ - ~

ideological hymn

i doesn’t belong to me

slipped away to start a

its own in southern france

leaving me here without market

one will buy this poem

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett already showed great enthusiasm for avant-garde poetry in this high school years. At the age of 17, together with fellow students Dick Gallup, Joe Brainard, and the University of Tulsa student-poet Ted Berrigan, he founded the literary journal The White Dove Review which published the likes of  Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, LeRoi Jones, e.e. cummings, and Malcolm Cowley. Padgett went on to Columbia University, where he studied with Kenneth Koch.

Padgett is considered a vital part of the Second Generation of New York School poets but his influences go beyond the boundaries of Manhattan’s Lower Eastside and prominently include the French Surrealists and Dada. As Hoover notes in the anthology:

“Padgett has displayed a playful attitude that is consistent with Dada. […] Like Duchamp, [he] is a conceptual artist who likes to challenge the status of the art object.”

The poet James Tate wrote about Padgett’s work:
“Ron Padgett’s poems sing with absolutely true pitch. And they are human friendly. Their search for truths, both small and large, can be cause for laughter, or at least a thoughtful sigh.”
Padgett is the author of over 20 collections of poetry. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2013 and continues to live and work in New York City.


My below poem takes a lot of inspiration from Padgett’s way of challenging the way we define poetry (and art in general) in his work. My material here was a list of encryption types for online cookies.

~ - ~


{ Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the net my secrets to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray I prey I pray…}