Sunday, 10 April 2016

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg – one of the founding fathers of the Beat Movement and probably the most acclaimed American poet of his generation - in Ginsberg’s case, an introduction really seems superfluous.

His poetry, showcasing a radically different way of writing, was probably one of the first major influences of my own early writing attempts. Even today, his poems have retained their immense force. If you haven’t read it in a while – dig out that old battered copy of “Howl”. It is worth it - every time.


My below poem is a response to “Howl”.

~ - ~

Write The Internet

include them all
it’s a long list that you are writing
don’t let your white male middle-class background get in the way
start at the top, make your way down slowly:
aborigines abortionists absentees absolutists
abstinence teachers abusers academics
accountants accusers aces achievers
acid attackers acrobats activists
acupuncturists addicts administrators
your voice will finally speak for them all
like the longest comment thread in digital history
ultimate show case of Godwin’s law
are you lining them up for pure provocation?
are you fishing for fame with the click bait of case?
are you sucking them dry or ultimately blowing?
are you the white space background for all of our dreams?
the road has turned into a data highway
it runs past San Francisco now all around the world
I envy you still - just for trying
go, write the internet
I just don’t believe in it anymore

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll is unlike most of the other poets in Hoover’s anthology. The “unlikely poetry prodigy“ (The Guardian) who combined a punk rock career with poetry came to early fame through his autobiographical book The Basketball Diaries (1978). The story of a New York City high school basketball star whose heroin addiction leads him to homosexual hustling, also inspired the 1995 film of the same title, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Born to a working-class family of Irish descent in New York City in 1949, Carroll began writing poetry at the age of sixteen. This first collection of poems Organic Train was published in 1967. He went on the publish five more books before his early death in 2009.

In addition to his career as a poet he also worked as a musician and songwriter. His band’s 1981 album Catholic Boy is considered a significant punk record and the group’s hit single “People Who Died” was used in the sound track of numerous films throughout the 1980 up until today.

Occupying the position as “rock-and-roll poet” (Hoover) Carroll did not accumulate the usual honours received by many of the other poets in the anthology, yet he was one of few contemporary poets to cross over into the mainstream appearing repeatedly on MTV, collaborating with stars like Patti Smith and Keith Richards. He died of a heart attack at his Manhattan home on September 11, 2009.

Links: (Guardian obituary)

My below poem has its starting point in Carroll’s “Paregoric Babies”. It combines a survey of the expressionist use of colour in the poem with text fragments from a scientific paper on the “Spectral Analysis of the Colour of some Pigments”.

~ - ~

Spectral analysis

BLUE – night begins with
the perceiving colour exhibited
by an opaque object
in space the spectrophotometric
measurements leading to precise
positions of characteristic points
of colours in chromaticity
diagrams as shown SILVER –
heavy like desire shone
BROWN – rooted / hollow BLACK –
in hiding shivering preparation
of this sample performed
by the calcination of
the white lead at
high temperature for a
long time to obtain
both its darkness explained
by the low reflectance
in the middle of
the spectrum how far
from a xy-point one has
to go to sense
a change RED – pulsating
human colour a trichromatic
phenomenon from the diffuse
reflectance spectrum one can
see that it returns
over 90% in the
visible domain so the
colour is almost perfectly
WHITE – the breath of

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Jackson Mac Low

Jackson Mac Low was more than a poet. He was composer, a writer of performance pieces, essays, plays, and radio works, a painter and a multimedia performance artist. As one of the key influences of the Language writing movement and a founding member of the avant-garde group Fluxus, Mac Low’s practice plays an important role for experimental artists and poets alike.

Born in 1922 in Chicago, Mac Low briefly attended the University of Chicago before moving to New York to study Greek at Brooklyn College. As the Poetry Foundation suggests: “His early work as an etymologist and reference book contributor laid the foundation for his fascination with the possibilities found in units of sound and sense.” Influenced not only by the work of Gertrude Stein and Gerard Manley Hopkins, but also by John Cage’s musical compositions, Zen Buddhism, the I Ching and the Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, Mac Low built his work on a variety of non-intentional methods which created texts from pre-existing works. The aim was to avoid “the intrusion of the author as ego and to foreground language as such.” (Hoover).

Author of about 30 books and published in over 90 collections, Mac Low taught at many schools, including the Mannes School of Music (1966) and New York University (1966-73). His honours include fellowships and grants from the Creative Artists Public Service Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, PEN, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He received the the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1999.

Jackson Mac Low lived in New York City with his wife, Anne Tardos, until his death in 2004.


Inspired by Mac Low’s use of a secondary text as material, I chose to work with the text of J.L. Austin’s ground-breaking collection of lectures “How To Do Things With Words”. In an attempt to explore the relationship between the book’s language philosophical content, it’s ephemeral i.e. spoken original form and the editorial process which manifested the final book, I decided to combine the book’s index with a list of editorial additions and reconstructions of the original lecture texts.

~ - ~

How To Do Things With Words

in a way, at least draws attention specifically to what we want in certain cases.

“uttering words” not so simple a notion anyway
Boolean algebra
even procedures for bringing oneself under procedures such as “I am playing” may still poss to reject all.

editorial expansion
composite version from various incomplete

Demos, R.
restrictions on “thoughts” here?

maybe could classify here “moral” obligation X “strict” obligation:
but what about threatening not called either!
to say, presupposes
Explicit performatives
saying implies
what you say entails


fragmentary at this point
now we use “how it is to be understood” and “making clear”

  (and even, conceivably, “state that”):
but not true or false, not description or report.
need criteria for evolution of language
? misleading:

Kant, I.
it is the device cp. precision

Locutionary act
and inexplicits do both.

ends here
said = asserted stated.
(1) all this isn’t clear ! distinctions etc.
(2) and in all senses relevant (A) and (B) x (C)) won’t all utterances be performative?
or “imply”, is it the same?
Moore, G. E.
secondary sources

illustrations to (1) and (2)

Phatic (pheme)
secondary sources
Phonetic (phone)
Pitcher, G.
contracts often void because objects they’re about don’t exist –
breakdown of reference.
(N.B. said of course never / not state)
Primary utterance
(also “said” has its ambiguities.
Rhetic (rheme)

right to

cf. declare war, declare closed, declare state of war exists.

promise that I shall probably.

or suiting action to words.

Warnock, G.J.
separate short manuscript
Whitman, W.
confirmed by hearer’s notes

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1920. She attended the University of California in Los Angeles and Berkeley before moving to New York City in the 1950s, where she soon became part of the city’s vibrant art scene. Like many other New York School poets, she combined her poetic work with art criticism, serving as associate editor of ARTnews from 1951 to 1954.

While her work of the 1950s and 60s can be described as a tension-filled balance between “a lyric, or purely musical, impulse […] and a graphic or painterly impulse.” (Tyrus Miller in Contemporary Poets), her later work moved its attention more to language itself. As Paul Hoover puts it in the anthology: “Guest is not a poet of social statement; neither is she confessional: her work focuses instead on the possibilities of language.”

In addition to her poetic work, Guest also published a highly regarded biography of the Imagist poet H.D., Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World (1986) as well as an experimental novel, Seeking Air (1978).

Guest’s honours include the Robert Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Society of America, the Longwood Award, a San Francisco State award for poetry, the Lawrence Lipton Award for Literature, the Columbia Book Award, and a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

She died in 2006.


My below poem is inspired by Guest’s magnificent “Red Lilies”.

~ - ~


the finger smudges on the tablet don’t really say anything
what’s behind the now black screen
my words, the Lacanian Other, the snaps from our last holiday
(where did we even go?)

deeper imprints are found elsewhere

the thinned out patch of carpet under your desk
where you spend your blue light mornings

the groves of my spine
scratches, the broken skin

the dark lines of dirty water running down our living room wall
(someone needs to fix the roof)

the little pink post-it note left in your copy
of Simulacra and Simulation
lying on the floor in my room, saying

“phantasms and the imaginary as waste of a hyperreal life”

my thoughts scattered like petals of a withering lily
I keep the browser open in the back

fingers flickering

only theory is flawless
each practice run leaves its trace

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Miguel Algarin

Born in Puerto Rico, Miguel Algarin moved to New York City with his family in the early 1950’s. He studied at the University of Wisconsin and Penn State University before completing his doctorate in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University where he served as a professor of Shakespeare for more than 30 years.

Algarin was one of the driving forces of the Nuyorican Movement of the 1980s in New York and co-founded the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in the Lower East Side in 1980. The café turned into one of the key cultural institutions of the movement, offering a broad mix of poetry and prose readings, theatrical and musical performances, and visual arts exhibitions.

In addition to publishing more than ten collections of original poetry, Algarin also translated the work of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. He has co-edited a number of anthologies including Action: The Nuyorican Poets Café Theater Festival (1997), Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (1994), and Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings (1975).

Algarin has received three American Book Awards and became the first Latino to win the Before Columbus Lifetime Achievement American Book Award in 2009.


Inspired by Algarin’s bilingual poems, I took the opportunity to examine the role of bilingualism in my own relationship.

~ - ~

the newness of every syllable between us

we said it early on. effortlessly
in the first frenzy of passion and delight.
speech-bubble easy. you first, me shortly after.
propelled not just by the essence of its meaning
but by its fresh, unfamiliar sound.
said without hesitation because it was lighter.
singular. unburdened of the weighty
history of you and i and those before.
a rose a rose a rose. just we in uncharted territory.
the newness of every syllable between us free
from the grammar that we had learned.
it was easy to say it
and yet the truth is still unaltered
I say it now: Ich liebe Dich.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Charles Olson

It is safe to say that Charles Olson is one of the most important American poets of the 1950s and 1960s. His work at Black Mountain College as well as his ground-breaking manifesto “Projective Verse” had a profound influence on a whole generation of poets which followed. As Paul Hoover puts it in the anthology:

“If Allen Ginsberg was the popular and spiritual leader of the post-war experimental poetry, Charles Olson was its leading thinking and strategist.”

Born in 1910 in Worcester, Massachusetts, he studied at Wesleyan University and received his first Guggenheim fellowship for his studies of Herman Melville, Call Me Ishmael at the age of twenty-nine. His first poetry collection Y & X was published in 1947, the same year he began lecturing at Black Mountain College – first as visiting lecturer and later as rector. After the school closed in 1956, Olson moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where his experimental opus, The Maximus Poems is set. In addition to the several volumes of The Maximus Poems, Olson also wrote a large number of shorter poems which were posthumously collected in the volumes Archaeologist of Morning (1970) and Selected Poems by Charles Olson (1993). He died in New York in 1970.


My below poem combines language from Olson’s “In Cold Hell, in Thicket” with the theme of online harassment of women. The italicised interjections are taken from two blogs documenting the harassment experienced by women in the video gaming community: 30 Days of Sexism and Fat, Ugly or Slutty.

~ - ~

In cold heaven, in thicket

In cold heaven, in thicket
in wicked thicket of virtual words, how
detached (as digital, metonymic) how
strong (as at least one upper and one lower case, one number) how
save (as if - )
can a woman stay confronted


all things are made bitter
as bitter words
are made to taste like centuries of back-
ward motion oppression hegemony
those shining achievements
(Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, Malala Yousafzai) lined up
to be knocked down again
in a single

yo bitch! do you swallow?


what has she to say?
in this heaven
is it not easy
all gayety
all fun all limitless
play by which code declares itself
space, arched
around a single limp to pleasure him
who lies in stasis (i.e. wait - At leisurely distance to physical calamity)
at ease as any monarch or

how shall she who is not happy, who as been so made metonymically

fat cunt

who is no longer privileged to be at ease, who in this thicket dares
to express an opinion (sillyly), how
shall she turn this unbidden place, how
trace and arch again
its inherent goodness?
(as she is still believing)


she can, but how far, how
sufficiently far can she raise the thickets (wickeds) of
this web?

how can she change, her question is
these black on white knivings, these

Hi beauty! Web cam chat horny?

when here she is frozen not daring
to press enter from fear
she’ll trespass on his disfiguring boner, here
where there is altogether too much of this -

Wanna go to pound land? Get fucked up. Overdose!


The question she raises herself up against
(against the same each act is accessed, fixed under every
eye) is:
are you a girl?
if so, can I see your tits?

is the object, this
the objectionable, this
the objectification
impossible to ignore

so shall you blame those
who give it up, those who say
it isn’t worth the struggle?


But this heaven
this hell
is not be got out of, is
the surface of your life
your daily motions
and who
can turn this total thing away?
can live without it


It is simple
(as simple twos and ones go)
that she shall shape, she
will code, she
is always
moving on, pushing out

into the space that is the web that
is (potentially could be) heaven

for all
arched and starry
by way of taking

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Bruce Andrews

As founding editor (with Charles Bernstein) of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the journal of poetics that gave language poetry its name, Bruce Andrews is one of the key originators of the movement as well as one of its most fearless experimenters.  As The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Literature in English notes about Andrews: he is "a poet whose texts are some of the most radical of the Language school; his poetry tries to cast doubt on each and every 'natural' construction of language."

Born in Chicago, Andrews studied international relations and political science first at John Hopkins and later at Harvard. His background in political science – Andrews has taught political science at Fordham University since 1975 with a focus on global capitalism, US imperialism, and the politics of communication - also clearly reflects in his poetic work. As one of the most fervent proponents of poetry as cultural critique, his work seeks to accomplish social change through the systematic disruption of language. As critic Brian Kim Stefans notes in a 2001 review of Paradise & Method: Poetics & Praxis in the Boston Review:

“Using the very language at hand—the words and rhythms of the poem itself—Andrews hopes to reveal, in as harsh a light as possible […] the complex social vectors underlying even our most mundane activities and assumptions.”

Andrews is the author of more than thirty collections of poetry and performance scores. He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Harvestworks, and Engine 27.

I would highly recommend checking his EPC page which contains a fantastic selection of Andrews’ poetic and theoretical work as well as a bunch of helpful texts on him.


My below poem took its inspiration from Andrews’ usage of the ready-made language of our – often consumerist-tinted - everyday lives. Reflecting – as Juliana Spahr does in her brilliant piece on Andrews’ work – on the particular configuration of Andrews’ “I” and its non-pluralist, negative, almost intentionally disgusting tendencies; I decided to create a vaguely confessional text out of the stereotypical website copy for a kitchen retailer – an experiment.

~ - ~

Home Sanctuary

the doors and drawers on my kitchen help me get coordinated
I admire their symmetric steely look
I don’t compromise about functionality
what goes on behind those closed kitchen doors
dark interiors to blend with my finishes
legs, open or closed
gives free reign to imagination -
how flexible the system truly is

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

David Trinidad

David Trinidad was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He attended California State University in Northridge, where he studied poetry with Ann Stanford. He is associated with a group of poets including Amy Gerstler and Dennis Cooper, who gave readings at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California in the early 1980s, but he moved to New aYork City in 1988. As editor of Sherwood Press, he published books by Cooper, Flanagan, Gerstler, Tim Dlugos, Alice Notley, and many others. Trinidad’s first book of poems, Pavane, was published in 1981. Since then he as published more than a dozen collections. Reminiscent of the work of Frank O’Hara, Trinidad often uses everyday life and pop culture as the basis for his poetry.

As a Eric McHenry from the New York Times Book Review observed:

“[Trinidad’s] most impressive gift is an ability to dignify the dross of American life, to honor both the shrink-wrapped sentiment of the cultural artifacts he writes about and his own much more complicated emotional response to them.”


My below poem was inspired by Trinidad’s use of the Malaysian form pantoum, which repeats the second and fourth line of one stanza as the first and third lines in the following one. While Trinidad uses the career and life of Nancy Sinatra as a theme for his poem, I chose the Wikihow for buying and preparing pomegranates.

~ - ~


pick the right fruit.
choose the heaviest pomegranates.
examine the shape.
choose the one with a deep coloured rind.

choose the heaviest pomegranates.
the rind should also be glossy.
choose the one with a deep coloured rind.
unripe pomegranates are round, like apples.

the rind should also be glossy.
their shape changes slightly as the fruit ripens.
unripe pomegranates are round, like apples.
a ripe pomegranate will have more of a square shape.

their shape changes slightly as the fruit ripens.
the sides will be flattened.
a ripe pomegranate will have more of a square shape.
test the fruit for any soft areas.

the sides will be flattened.
make sure your pomegranates aren’t bruised.
test the fruit for any soft areas.
hold each pomegranate and gently squeeze it.

make sure your pomegranates aren’t bruised.
they should be hard, with no mushy spots.
hold each pomegranate and gently squeeze it.
select pomegranates with smooth, unbroken surfaces.

they should be hard, with no mushy spots.
the rind should be soft enough to scratch.
select pomegranates with smooth, unbroken surfaces.
dress appropriately.

the rind should be soft enough to scratch.
you may want to grab an apron or change into an old shirt.
dress appropriately.
cut your pomegranate into quarters.

you may want to grab an apron or change into an old shirt.
fill a bowl with water.
cut your pomegranate into quarters.
a medium size mixing bowl should be deep enough.

fill a bowl with water.
place your quartered pomegranate in the water-filled bowl.
a medium size mixing bowl should be deep enough.
the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

place your quartered pomegranate in the water-filled bowl.
separate the seeds from the flesh.
the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
hold the pomegranate quarter with one hand.

separate the seeds from the flesh.
run your thumb around the clumps of seeds.
hold the pomegranate quarter with one hand.
enjoy eating the plump seeds.

run your thumb around the clumps of seeds.
examine the shape.
enjoy eating the plump seeds.
pick a the right fruit.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended the creative writing programme at Columbia College, Chicago. Together with her husband, the poet Jerome Sala, she was at the forefront of Chicago’s lively performance poetry scene in the 1970s. Her dense, often extremely witty poetry has been widely anthologised, and she has received nominations for the Los Angeles Book Prize as well as the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize.

Links: (interview, 2011)

My below poem took its inspiration from Equi’s minimalist style and her use of the serial organisation common in surrealist poetry.

~ - ~


of all the things
a person

might do at any
given moment

fork coffee stirring
printing finger window dust

the morally right action
the use of language

with the best overall

quivering beneath
waiting for the sun

it seems easy to understand and
to be based on common sense

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey was born in 1947 in Miami, Florida. He grew up in California and attended Princeton and Stanford University.

Since 1978 he has published 9 collections of poetry along with his ongoing prose work From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, of which four volumes have been published so far.

Mackey’s poetry draws not only on the poetic tradition of William Carlos Williams and the passionate, decidedly Black writings of Amiri Baraka, but also on the sounds and feel of the music of jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Don Cherry. About his understanding of the connection between music and poetry, he writes:

“Poetic language is language owning up to being an orphan, to its tenuous relationship with the things it ostensibly refers to. This is why in Kaluli myth the origin of music is also the origin of poetic language.”

In addition to his work as a poet, Mackey also works as the editor of the literary magazine Hambone and was the coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (Coffee House Press, 1993).
His many awards and honours include the National Book Award for Splay Anthemin in 2006, an Artist’s Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bollingen Prize.

He lives in Durham, North Carolina, and teaches at Duke University.


My below poem took its inspiration from Mackey’s “Ghede Poem”. Where Mackey referred to a Haitian voudoun god, I decided to draw on pop culture instead.

~ - ~

Superman Poem

They call me Superman.
My cape folds neatly into the shirt sleeves of an office clerk.
I am Clark.
5.50 for 3 shirts at the dry cleaners.
Inky hands from the loyalty card stamp.
I take the elevator squeezed between my flat white and a rocket salad.
I say “up, up and away.”

They call me Superman and ask:
“When did you first realised that you could fly?”
I am waiting for the catastrophic.
No bird. No plane.
My fund manager missed-called and left no message.
I say “up, up and away.”

They call me Superman.
At night, I hover underneath your window.
Drooping, X-ray eyed and sad.
They ask: “How do you know how to control your power?“
That day I went out to buy the matching lampshade.
The sting of fire burning in my penis.
I say “up, up and away.”

They call me Superman.
I wrestle with severe displacement.
Can I help you with the thread from within?
My tights and red panties drying in the shower.
Monday’s coming.
I say “up, up and away.”

Sunday, 6 March 2016

John Cage

It seems silly to write an introduction for John Cage.

Arguably one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, Cage was what can be called a “polyartist", creating work in many fields: as a composer, writer, and visual artist. His ground-breaking compositional work, which pioneered a new conception of music based on the use of chance and other nonintentional methods also laid the foundation for this poetic work.

From the 1960s onward, Cage created a number of mesostics, a form of acrostics, which made use of pre-existing texts from writers such as Henry David Thoreau, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Through chance methods such as casting the I Ching, Cage created texts from found materials which not only challenged the status of the author but also posed questions about the structure of syntax itself.

As Cage put it:
“Syntax, like government, can only be obeyed. It is therefore of no use except when you have something particular to command such as: Go buy me a bunch of carrots.”


My below poem combines Cage’s ideas about the role of “everyday noises” with his favourite poetic form: the mesostic. Drawing on the material of “everyday noises” created by my Facebook feed, I created a text centred around the notion of the Filter Bubble.

~ - ~

today is mother’s day

                 let your Friends know if you’re celebrating
                       peopLe you may know
           black sabbaTh, 1970
                           seE all friend recommendations
             she was boRn on the top bunk in the barracks of camp c at auschwitz-birkenau in december 1944

                                                                           as the Boat listed and took on water, and with most of the women and children stuck below deck
                                                                                   mUm’s the word
                          ecstatic to say that i passed my initial Body balance training
while women everywhere
                     continue to be judged on their looks, and Blamed when they fail to make enough or the right kind of effort
                                       by 2050 we could have more pLastic than fish in our oceans
                                                              feels like you neEd to know this exists

                                   beautiFul portraiture of the very first brain surgery patients
                          i support thIs
                                           pLease sign & share
           even after the graduaTe made him a superstar
    has anyone in clarkston nEar eastwoodmains road seen sheerie
                                      go cRaft now

                                                   a man took a razor Blade and very carefully cut open his nose
                                 happy mother's day to all the fUr baby mums
pointless as it may be, i wish this
                          woman, whom i have never met, a Better future life, if only as the mother of the daughter she never had
                                                                                  Backed by experts, based on decades of clinical research
                                                          the name's hiddLeston
                                                                           grimEs as mrs. marilyn manson

sign >> by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastic than Fish                                                                                    cat (admIn)
                                                    portraits of inmates from a ‘Lunatic asylum,’ 1869
                                                         nobody takes their mum To the cinema on mother’s day
some people go through
                               their whole life without meeting that influEntial person who will change the way they think about love and life
                                      rise and shine - baking bread from scaRtch is nowhere near as daunting

                          when i look at the right side of my face i can see the damage, But randy says nice things to me that make me feel just as attractive as before the incident
       a successful day in the library is one where people complain, like they woUld with any other local authority service
                                                                                   first person language and aBleism
                                                             the proposed statue of sylvia has always Been rejected
                                                          perhaps, then, we should be asking a slightLy different question
                                                             7 activities that make your orgasm strongEr

                       my Friends think i’ve gone to a role-playing sex party
                          grImes - art angels, the new album, out now
the star
         wars george Lucas doesn’t want you to see
perhaps the most sTriking aspect of these interviews is the sheer variety of testimonies we encountered
who can sympathizE
       conor mcgregoR had rarely been tested in his fight career until he came up against nate diaz

for labour supporters unconvinced by jeremy corByn, the search for an authentic voice leads to the door of the outspoken member for
birmingham yardley
to cap it all, he declared
            that “the last time we didn’t live within oUr means we were right in the front rank of nations facing economic crisis”
                                                             it is a safe Bet there will never be another nathan tinkler
                                                                      the bBc is under unprecedented political pressure, its morale is low
                          in defeat conor mcgregor can stilL win
                               whatever content you need, gEt it with istock credits

i had no idea i’d ever want time by myselF
                                   you might as well lIve a godly life, because if he exists, well, great, you are going to go to heaven
hillary clinton versus
                              donald j. trump has alL the makings of a rambunctious, vicious clash of styles
        it's kicking off with gilles peterson This week
                                      flipping good beEe
                watch as the iconic southwesteRn landscapes come to life

   1 top + 1 sports Bra + 1 leggings from only £26
          i cried so mUch that my family thought i was concealing some terrible news
can you really
      tell anything aBout people by their favourite colour
our loft contained
          more teddy Bears than you would have thought humankind could design
i don’t know who Likes this
    my ma at the agE i'm at now, always an inspiration

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Tom Mandel

“I was educated in Chicago's jazz and blues clubs, by early encounters with poets and jazz musicians, and at the University of Chicago where I studied with Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, Harold Rosenberg and David Grene on the Committee on Social Thought.”

Tom Mandel’s biography is not a straightforward one. It leads from Chicago, New York, and San Francisco to Paris and back to “a small town bordering the Atlantic”. It involves teaching positions at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois as well as a brief period as the Director of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University. But it also involves editorial work at the Macmillan Company, work as a consultant to UNESCO, the life of an English teacher in Paris, and freelance consultancy work in the technology industry. But woven through all of this is poetry.

Often associated with the Language movement, Mandel has published more than a dozen collections of poetry. His work has been included in countless newspapers, literary journals, and anthologies including In The American Tree and Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Hoover’s anthology includes three poems from his 1991 collection Realism.


My below poem was inspired by a line in Tom Mandel’s “Say Ja”: “Ein Dichter dessen Worte … waren” – which send me looking through some old German poetry volumes. There, I came across Friedrich Hebbel’s “Der Letzte Baum” (The Last Tree). The poem’s lines – crudely translated by an internet tool – offered the basis for my own poem.

~ - ~


just as the sun sets
gives one last tree
under one last free

this is the like
in the morning flames of distant heavens
choking steaming screaming leaveless hum

it is a tree
and nothing else –

which in return remains
nothing added
just chemically readjusted to -

but one
thinks at night
of the last
wonderful light –
just as the sun sets
which is to say
with no heed to time or
times or earthly
the day after today

so will all be perfectly intended
similar-ly silly-ly

the one last
on lasting
ours – 
how very very silly-ly

this is the like
in the morning flames

now leaves us
one last twig:

you hold us firmly
but yet
abandoned still
with the final bill for all times

Ein Dichter dessen Worte … waren:
Es ist ein Baum
und weiter

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Ed Sanders

Portrait by Man Ray via Wiki Commons.

Ed Sanders is often considered the bridge between the Beat and the Hippie generation. Born in Blue Springs, Missouri in 1939 and educated at the University of Missouri and New York University, he became known not only as a poet, but also as the lead singer of the sixties rock band the Fugs, the owner of the legendary Peace Eye Bookstore in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the founder of Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts (1962-5).

Sanders poetry is investigative and research-driven, assuming strong ties between poetry and the description of history. As part of this understanding of poetry, he has composed several biographies in verse, including Chekhov (1995) and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg (2000). In 1998 Sanders began his work on America, A History in Verse, a long poem projected to include nine volumes and thousands of pages.

Sanders is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry. His honours include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Woodstock, New York.


My below poem responds to Sander’s “The Cutting Prow” which is included in the anthology. While his poem is dedicated to the late work of Henri Matisse, mine remembers Arnold Schoenberg.

~ - ~

For Arnold Schoenberg

on Friday, 13 July 1951
the twelve-tone man
died of fear of the additional one
15 minutes before midnight
his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end
he felt the air from another planet
a breakthrough to a new world of sound
his compositions - like the art of not falling
a new principle of unification
all possibility
there is still plenty of good music
to be written -

rests always sound well.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Susan Howe

“Is she a poet of history? ("Often I hear Romans murmuring / I think of them lying dead in their graves.")
Is she a Yankee eccentric?
An Irish free spirit?
A Language Poet? ("For we are language Lost / in language"). That is, are the poems non-referential? or simply oblique?
Is she a vocabulary poet? (Robert Duncan once warned a friend that that's what I am).
A feminist militant?
An alien immigrant? ("Across the Atlantic, I / inherit myself / semblance / of Irish susans / dispersed / and narrowed to home").”
(Paul Metcalf)

Susan Howe’s innovative, sometimes challenging poetry combines many different themes and references, and often crosses different genres and disciplines. Previously working as an actor and visual artist before beginning her career as a poet, she combines in her work radical approaches to the use of the page space while at the same time toying with the sonic quality of language. Her poetry often draws on history and archive documents, weaving together quotation and original texts, and examining notions of authorship and voice in a way that has often lead her to be associated with the Language movement.

Howe’s many honours include two American Book Awards from the Before Columbus Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry, and a distinguished fellowship at the Stanford Institute of the Humanities. She was a long-time professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo and held the Samuel P. Capen Chair of Poetry and the Humanities.

Links: (interview)

My response to Susan Howe’s poetry this week takes the form of a wall collage.

Click image to enlarge.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Ted Berrigan

Ted Berrigan – do I have to write much of an introduction?

One of the key figures of the second generation of New York School poets; charismatic leader of the bohemian literary scene of the Lower East Side in the 1970s; a master of intricate, subtle modulations in emotion and cadence; unique and passionate poet who’s poetry projected a “sensibility that is confiding, sad, graceful, affectionate, and indistinguishable from the sensibility he projected in person” (Poetry Foundation).

In his short career – brought to an early end by his death in 1983 – he published more than 20 books of poetry. If he had had his will, his grave stone at the military cemetery Calverton National on Long Island would read: “Nice To See You.” But cemetery regulations wouldn’t allow it. Instead a volume of essays, poems and reminiscences by his many friends and fellow poets now bears this name (Nice to See You: Homage to Ted Berrigan, edited by Anne Waldman, Coffee House Press, 1991).


My silly, little poem below merely borrowed from Berrigan in the use of a sonnet-like form. Better to steer free from any temptation to sound like him…

~ - ~


Shut down your local motor garage
It sends the wrong signals
You don’t want to encourage
Drivers by fixing their cars

Let the wrecks of abandoned vehicles
Block the entrance of every road and highway
Let the fools break their toes
Kicking their malfunctioning cars

I don’t just say it out of spite
Proudly waving my bus pass
Or seeking revenge of each time they sped
Through a puddle on the side of the road

It’s just that the evidence now so is overwhelming:
At this rate we are heading for a 5-degree-rise.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso’s life story is far from ordinary. Born in New York City in 1930 and abandoned by his mother soon after birth, he spent most of his childhood in orphanages and foster homes. He frequently ran into trouble and spent periods of time in a boy's home, the New York City jail The Tombs and the children’s ward at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. At seventeen, he was convicted of theft and sentenced to Clinton State Prison for three years. It was during that time in prison that he started reading literature and began writing his first poetry. After his release in 1950, he met Allen Ginsberg, through whom he also became acquainted many other New York writers and artists. He soon became a key member of the Beat movement and frequently travelled with Kerouac and Ginsberg, spending time in San Francisco and Paris.

Although Corso enjoyed his greatest level of popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, his work spans over many decades, with his last collection published in 1989.

Corso traveled extensively, and taught briefly at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and for several summers at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He died on January 17, 2001, at the age of seventy.

Links: (Guardian Obituary)

My below poem took its inspiration from Corso’s famous poem of the same title. It is almost entirely made up of found texts from online advice columns for married couples and the official government marriage guidelines.

~ - ~


there are usually 2 steps to getting married
one is a combination or mixture of elements
two is also a muscle of the heart
they fulfill each other’s needs
no later than 29 days after
as time goes on it's normal to want more

they know that love is not a passing
being overly jealous intensely angry or chronically sad
to deepen intimacy
don’t be one of 3.7 million couples
largely depending upon on the degree to which
they are uncommitted to conditional love

you can accurately forecast your future emotions
give your local register office a call
they never get tired of starting over
they master the skills
they share the ultimate vision
but such zen-like forbearance is much more rare

be the woman he can count on
missing out on £212 of marriage tax allowance
it's important that you work to keep yourself
legally or formally recognized
when you want to be the woman
and stop trying as hard

but once couples move past the velcro stage of their relationship
active healthy and looking good
are not attractive qualities
a man wants
are you financially dependent?
are you dressing up and trying to seduce your man?

keep curiosity alive
show him that life will be boring
there are a few quantities you definitely want
you may find it useful to download the following documents
to find a way to extinguish passion
with just a little planning before you say your vows

the union of a man and a woman
and state taxation
a wonderful journey of spiritual growth
in some jurisdictions
they trust the good intentions
to build a future together as partners in love

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Leslie Scalapino

“Leslie Scalapino’s voice and vision were unprecedented, a product of her unique and rigorous intelligence and compassion. She belonged to no school; her engagement with continual conceptual rebellion would have prohibited that.” (Lyn H Hejinian)

Leslie Scalapino was born on July 25, 1944, in Santa Barbara, California. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Reed College and an M.A. in English from UC Berkeley. Throughout her career she published thirty volumes of poetry, plays, fiction, and essays, with an additional three books published posthumously.

Her work, in its Steinian grammaticalism and a quirky typography which might remind of Emily Dickinson, is highly concerned with process and “continual conceptual rebellion” (Scalapino). She explained: “I am trying to use the writing to be an examination of the mind in the process of whatever it’s creating.”

In addition to her work as a poet, Scalapino was the editor and founder of O Books, a publisher of experimental poetry. She taught at the Naropa Institute, Bard College, Mills College, and UC San Diego. Scalapino died in Berkeley, California in 2010.

Links: (obituary written by Lyn Hejinian)

My below poem took its inspiration in part from Scalapino’s use of real life events as a basis for her work, but it also drew on broader considerations about writing poetry in general.

~ - ~


red lost
on Valentine’s Day
a symptom of a process
rather than a sign on the page
folded words aligned to expectation
I am not - I am having to doing
like previously (ED, GS, LS etc)
revealing the chipped paint
on fingering – dashes -
the white space
settled all

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge was born in Beijing in 1947, the daughter of a Chinese mother and an American father who was the son of Dutch immigrants. Her family moved to the United States when she was a year old and she grew up in Massachusetts, earning a BA from Reed College in 1969. She moved to New York City in the early 1970s and received an MFA from Columbia University in 1973.

Berssenbrugge became deeply engaged and influenced by the movements of abstract visual arts, the New York School, and the Language poets, developing a poetic practice which seems to draw on all of these different aspects simultaneously. As the Academy of American Poets says of Berssenbrugge’s work:

“Characteristic of her style is a lush mix of abstract language, collaged images, cultural and political investigation, and unexpected shifts between the meditative and the particular.”

Berssenbrugge has published more than a dozen collections of poetry. She has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two American Book Awards, and honours from the Western States Art Foundation and the Asian American Writers Workshop.

She lives in New York City and northern New Mexico, where she has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.


My below poems was inspired by the last line from Berssenbrugge’s “Alakanak Break-Up” which is included in the anthology.

~ - ~

the initial colour of the tundra

it is the initial colour of the tundra
low alpha diversity
beyond the tree-line
where i am patchy
with very poor resiliency
against the rising reach

my black expanse
unshifting in months
of total darkness
where dead vegetation
and peat accumulates
frigid air

it is the initial colour of the tundra
frozen in your russian red
book i know i
should never have come here
bare and dirty ankle
-deep in boggy ground

my high latitudes
cowing among the moss and grasses
gently holding lichen against the dampened skin
i am vagile vertebrate
gyrfalcon, bewick's swan
the lesser white-fronted bird

it is the initial colour of the tundra
low beta diversity
as the permafrost thaws
just enough to let it
tend to the acidic over-saturated
groves which still remain inside my lungs

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Paul Hoover

Born in Harrisonburg, Virginia in 1946 Paul Hoover is not only the editor of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry (which this blog is dedicated to), but also the author of over a dozen collections of poetry, a book of literary essays, and a novel.  He co-translated volumes of poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin (from German) and Nguyen Trai (from Vietnamese) and is editor, with Maxine Chernoff, of the literary magazine New American Writing.

Apart from this work as a poet and editor, he has also worked as a scriptwriter and served as curator of a poetry series at the DeYoung Museum of Art in San Francisco from 2007 to 2011.

His many honours include the PEN/USA Translation Award, the Jerome J. Shestack Prize, the Frederick Bock Award from Poetry, the Carl Sandberg Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

A former professor at Columbia College Chicago, he founded the Columbia Poetry Review. He currently teaches at San Francisco State University and lives in Mill Valley, California.

Links: (Hoover’s blog)

The below poem is inspired by a line from Hoover’s “Heart’s Ease”, which serves as its title and thematic starting point.

~ - ~

A thinking is prepared for the reader who breaks

It’s a messy scene like a bomb site with pieces of scattered human consciousness all over the floor where preconception collided with novelty of thought. You wonder if that’s what they liked to call de-constructivist and if Derrida in a trench coat like Columbo in the 70s would come around soon to inspect the scene. 
Question to the mourning widow: “What were you thinking?” “He was reading,” she cried. “But what were you thinking?” “This and that, you know how thoughts fly.”
It’s a messy scene like a bomb site with pieces of scattered human consciousness all over the floor where a particular type of stubborn presumption collided with the unexpected.
“They all thought he would make it through the night.”
In the interrogation cell: “What kind of text was it?” “He was reading,” she cried. “Inspector, everything was as usual. His life insurance wasn’t even that much.”
You wonder if that’s what they liked to call de-constructivist.
Question (aside): “Who prepared it for him – whodunit? howcatchem?”
A messy scene like a bomb site with pieces of shattered human consciousness all over the floor.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Diane Ward

Diane Ward was born in 1956 in Washington, D.C. Her work is often associated with the Language movement and deals frequently with the relationship between men and women, as well as the charged emotions that lie beneath seemingly casual things. Ward considers Gertrude Stein and conceptual art as one of her main influences: “I realized that poetry could be like drawing, it could be thinking itself, a conceptual activity, and not just an end product.”

Ward has published more than a dozen collections of poetry. Her honours include a California Arts Council Artists Fellowship in Literature and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for poetry which she won at the age of 18. She lives in Santa Monica, California.


My below poem took its inspiration from Ward’s “Immediate Content Recognition” – using the title as a starting point for a poem about human relationships in the age of interactive technology.

~ - ~

automatic content recognition

i am over there | by now used
to this out-of-body experience
contained | neatly tied down to the circuit board
i am locked behind touch-screen interface | muted | yellow | back-lid
i am identified | managed | monetized | screened
real time interactivity with the content is now enabled
i am enhanced without the need for any manual cue
the viewer can use its companion device
i am accessed | fully automated | shared
with friends family and online communities
i am ridden | dragged into branded virtual space
to offer more immersive event-based experiences with deeper
engagement and higher stickiness
i am popped up | framed | autocompleted
providing instantaneous identity to spearhead consumption
i am hand-held | fitted | fully responsive | enabled
with no need for mutual consent
i am limited only by your imagination
to another level | here
insert the plug

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Alice Notley

It is hard to put Alice Notley into a box. Throughout the four decades of her extraordinary career her style has continued to shift and turn. Active in the New York poetry scene in the 1960s and 70s and indeed married to Ted Berrigan for more than 10 years, she is often associated with the Second Generation of New York School poets. But her work can also be found to reveal darker, almost mystical tendencies at one point while displaying a light, disjunctive style bordering on language poetry at other times. Her later work has a particular focus on book-length projects and often features narrative and character-centred forms.

Notley is the author of over 25 books of poetry. Her many awards include the San Francisco Poetry Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. Notley currently lives in Paris.


My below poem took its initial inspiration from Notley’s “Beginning with a stain”.

~ - ~

beginning with a borrowing

with a borrowing
a wording
a spacing
a lining
a sentencing

words are
for uses
on the plains:
mother’s yellow handbag
sister’s silver bracelets abandoned in the drawer of the old room
brother’s battered travel case (blue)
father’s dark and heavy coat

words are
for uses
on the rules:
i steht fuer ich
went steht fuer vergangenheit
away steht fuer fernweh
forever fuer romantik

words are
for uses
on her own:
with a borrowing
a wording
a spacing
a lining
a sentencing

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

William Corbett

William Corbett grew up in in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and attended Lafayette College before moving to Boston’s South End with his wife the psychologist Beverly Mitchell. Until their move to Brooklyn in 2012, their house was known as a kind of literary salon for artists, poets, and writers in Boston and Corbett played an important part in the literary scene of the city.

As the Poetry Foundation notes, “Corbett’s poetry is influenced by the history and geography of New England, his personal friendships with poets and artists, visual art, and daily experience.” Corbett sees himself as “a poet of landscape, weather and consciousness.”

In relation to this Hoover quotes Corbett:

“I seek to make poems that are clear as a cloudless fall morning – the reader ought to be able to see freshly what’s right in front of him and into the distance for miles. My endeavour is to make the everyday memorable, to discover and declare the value in what’s considered ordinary. The language I like best is plain and ringing, clean and accurate as a well-driven nail.”

Corbett has published more than 10 collections of poetry in addition to several collections of essays and prose. Over the years, he has also edited a number of literary journals and magazines including Fire Exit, The Boston Eagle, Ploughshares, Agni, and Grand Street. In 1999, Corbett founded Pressed Wafer Press, a small press devoted to poetry, essays, and art writing. He has taught writing for over twenty years at MIT, and also held teaching jobs at Harvard and Emerson.

Links: (video of a Harvard University panel discussion of Corbett’s significance for the Boston literary scene)

My below poem is a response to William Corbett’s poem of the same title – and then it isn’t.

I found myself struggling to respond to his work as it seems to have an almost “realist”, narrative tendency and frequently deals with nature (in a broader sense). It isn’t something I usually do myself. I therefore started off with a rough narrative text about my own experience of “nature” in everyday life. I then decided to rework the text to achieve a less realist, denser piece.

~ - ~

Cold Lunch
From the office I walk down the three blocks to Ramshorn Graveyard in the January drizzle of my lunch time break. The wind dies down a little when I step into the sheltered green space behind the old church. On three sides the graveyard is enclosed by the high walls of former office buildings. They are luxury lifestyle apartments now. I walk underneath the branches of the trees, planted close to the dirty gravel path which runs around the little cemetery. The air is cool and clear. The hectic streets of Central Glasgow seem far away when I am here. I balance on the curb stones of the path where the ground got soft and muddy with the heavy winter rain. But the grass is long and soft in this ancient space. Patient timeless nature. I watch it wave and ripple as the wind passes over the flat ground. The gravestones here are many centuries old, reminders of the city’s glorious merchant history. Their flat surfaces have now sunken deep into the green. Sometimes split, often overgrown with moss they lie there helplessly. Overtaken now by living things. It is hard to read the names engraved into the stone. Moss embellishes each letter as dust and water gathers in the groves of the words.

Cold Lunch – minus 1 degree
About walking. About dying.
About stepping. About enclosing.
About being. About walking.
About planting. About running.
About being. About seeming.
About being. About balancing.
About getting. About being.
About watching. About waving.
About rippling. About passing.
About being. About having.
About sinking. About splitting.
About overgrowing. About lying.
About overtaking. About being.
About engraving. About embellishing.
About gathering (in the groves of words).

Cold Lunch – minus 2 degrees
down to in of.
down when into behind.
on by of.
underneath of to around.
of when here.
on of where and with.
but and in.
and as over.
here of.
now into.
often with there.
now by.
to into.
as and in of.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Wanda Coleman

Known as Los Angeles’ “unofficial poet laureate”, Wanda Coleman grew up in the Watts neighbourhood of the city in relative poverty. Her father ran a sign shop during the day, working at night as a janitor at RCA Victor Records while her mother worked as a seamstress.

Her poetry often deals with the “burdens of poverty and race” as she herself – as a black woman in the South West - often found herself as “a minority within a minority within a minority – racially, sexually, regionally” (Hoover).

In his 1999 review, Alistair Paterson, Editor of Poetry New Zealand said of Coleman’s work:

“Coleman’s poetry, politically aware, darkly humorous, sensual and iconoclastic, presents a remarkable talent developed throughout a difficult life. [...] It’s the kind of poetry other writers can use as a yardstick for measuring their work—it sets a standard and demonstrates what a beautiful, adaptable, usable language colloquial English is.”

Coleman published more than a dozen collections of poetry. She received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Price for her collection Bathwater Wine (Black Sparrow Press, 1998) In addition to her poetry Coleman also worked as a magazine editor, journalist, as well as an Emmy-winning scriptwriter. She lived in Los Angeles until her death in 2013.

Links: (obituary in The National)

My poem below was inspired by the style of Coleman’s “the ISM” and her general willingness to address social topics such as poverty and racism.

~ - ~


I moved into the cupboard under the stairs for pure romance
I kept neatly to my side of the bed
I crawled up the walls with the mice when it was bed time
smoothed my back flirtatiously against the mouldy foam

I boiled my sweet scented bath water in the kitchen kettle
I let the fan heater melt my broken toes
I stuck thin foil across each of the period windows
kept the bucket carefully underneath the hole

I got this amazing deal in a sought-after area
I was so lucky to pay the price
my postcode reflects my inner-most conscience
I need to be here. I need to be here. I need to buy

But you know, in London
You are never really home
There is always something going
When are you ever really home?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

John Yau

John Yau was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, one year after his parents emigrated from China. He studied at Bard College and received his B.A. in 1972 and his M.F.A. in Poetry from Brooklyn College in 1977.

The Poetry Foundation says of Yau’s work which is often situated on the borderline between poetry and prose:

“He is known for his attentiveness to visual culture and linguistic surface in his work. In poems that frequently pun, trope, and play with the English language, Yau offers complicated, sometimes competing versions of the legacy of his dual heritages—as Chinese, American, poet, and artist.”

In addition to his work as a poet he also is also a renowned art critic. His reviews have appeared in Artforum, Art in America, Art News, Bookforum, and the Los Angeles Times.

Yau has received many honors and awards for his work including a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, the Jerome Shestack Award, and the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by France.

He currently teaches art criticism at Mason Gross School of the Arts and Rutgers University. He lives in New York City.

Links: (video interview)

My poem below is a response to Yau’s “Chinese Villanelle”. I chose to write a villanelle myself.

~ - ~

A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2

poetry is just a silly thing I do sometimes
it’s not that I particularly care
it doesn’t change the world or shift the fucking paradigm

the others spent their nights with darts or prime
time show food for the telly stare
poetry is just a silly thing I do sometimes

art is nothing but weird pointless pantomime
for people with John Lewis tableware
it doesn’t change the world or shift the fucking paradigm

those leftist plebs longing for the social climb
everyone knows politics is never fair
poetry is just a silly thing I do sometimes

what’s the point of fancy words in verse and rhyme
your wit won’t get you or anyone anywhere
it doesn’t change the world or shift the fucking paradigm

in a deep dark pit of raging fury is where I’m
on those days it’s damn hard to bear
poetry is just a silly thing I do sometimes
it doesn’t change the world or shift the fucking paradigm

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Barrett Watten

Barrett Watten was born in Berkeley, California and attended MIT and the University of California in Berkeley in the late 1960s. Here he met fellow poets Robert Grenier and Ron Silliman and he subsequently decided to attend the Iowa Writers' Workshop where he received an MFA in English (Program of Creative Writing) in 1972.

He edited This, one of the central publications of the Language school of poetry from 1971-82, and co-edited Poetics Journal with Lyn Hejinian. Apart from his numerous poetic publications he also works extensively as a critic, editor, and publisher. He is a Professor of English at Wayne State University, Detroit.

From my own point of view, Watten is one of those people whose theoretical work simply is mesmerizing. Doing my little bit of research for this post I found myself wanting to read every little article and blog post he has ever written… I highly recommend having a look through his blog, Jacket2 contributions, and his readings on PennSound.

Links: (Watten’s blog) (several posts by Watten on Jacket2)

My below poem took its inspiration from Watten’s “Statistics” which is included in the anthology. I found myself seriously struggling to create an adequate response to his work, so this one is merely a first attempt. It uses language about the concept of “statistical significance” as well as quotes from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

~ - ~

significant / white
“we prefix so significant and infidel a word” when the null hypothesis specifies the undesired. the abandoned. the past. the value of a parameter measured in abstraction is all. “a most significant event befell the most insignificant”. the data are yet beyond the curve. a bell to be called statistically at a given confidence. γ = 1 – α. “no doubt to enhance its value by a notion so strangely significant of its scarcity.” (which here might well be knowledge or maybe clarity) the computed confidence for that parameter fails to contain. the whiteness on the edge below. (the corner of my eye - faded marginalia). the value specified by the null hypothesis (as to say the status quo). we pose the question. we ask for details. “a significant illustration of the fact, again and again repeated” we gather evidence beyond the borders of the known. it remains as a matter of good scientific practice: “they have significantly complimented me upon my facetiousness”. a level is chosen. “a remarkable and most significant one” (here: mere interpretation?). set to 0.05 (5%). in any experiment or observation involving a sample, a book, a paper, a sheet - there is always the possibility slipping into whiteness. “this one is very happy and significant”. an observed effect would have occurred due to error alone. (question unanswered) “pity if there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders” if the p-value p < 0.05. the first inference “it seems a significant provision of nature” - an investigator may conclude the observed actually reflects upon the surface of the purest. “whiteness has been even made significant of gladness”. yet “second: it is a little significant”. investigators may then report that the result points between lines i.e. “his life, as they significantly call it, untouched”. thereby confirming the null hypothesis. abandoned by clarity: “every revelation partook more of significant darkness than of explanatory light” is white.