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