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Showing posts from April, 2004

lambertville, NJ

took 11 hours to drive from Greensboro, NC to Lambertville, NJ. Long day yesterday. Drank a few pints to sleep.

It's 6:24AM and we are about to hit the road. Catching a train into NY (YEAH). Our friend/host has to work today so we are just going to tackle the city on our own. I guess we'll figure it out. Wanna visit the Strand so maybe it's village day today.

Off i go. I can't believe I am about to see NY city.

Tony's open eye cafe reading series

Tony Tost started a reading series at the open eye cafe where he works. Great crowd last night. Tony and Brian really spread the word. A really really refreshing change to the university reading venue. A lot more energy, more informal. Yes. Ah. Feels soooooo gooooooooood

Things are happening. WOW. Things are really heating up in these parts in terms of non-mainstream poetics.

check out some pics from the reading last night. Some are blury cause I just got this digital camera and often forget to hold the button halfway to allow it to adjust to the light etc.

check 'em out:

Open Eye Cafe Reading Series

Driving to NY city tomorrow. Hope to hit the bowery poetry club on saturday and visit the Strand, McSorleys and some art in Chelsea.


Now I gotta get back to grading essays on Irish nationalism.

Haze cleared my head, kindof

Rainy day and a Monday. However, while giving a test on Irish drama I read some Haze by Mark Wallace.

I feel much better knowing the issues a little more clearly without simple solutions or binaries and it implicates and situates.

The idea of the pure has been driving me up the wall. It is refreshing to see some honesty about avant garde marketing. Perhaps a different kind than some other kinds but marketing nonetheless.

"Poetry Marketing" and "Avant Garde Deoderant" touch and explore the heated issue of branding as mentioned on Silliman's blog a while back.

"Communal Perversities" is so biting funny. I bit my lip to keep the silence as my students wrote about Irish identity (and hopefully remembered the limitations of the English/Irish binary).

Knowledge and private property. Knowledge as action/activity.

Progress and the word "derivative": when I was in the indie cd store about a year ago I asked if Interpol was derivative of Joy Divisi…

Desert City Reading Series

Ken Rumble rocks. He's really working it here in NC. What an amazing reading last night. All three poets distinct in delivery.

Mark Wallace was very generous, warm, gorgeous in his reading. from "Reasons to Write":

"If I / keep writing poetry, it's only because, in a world of reasons, poetry has long / since stopped being possible. If I keep writing poetry, it's only because I can't / be writing poetry at all."

He ran out of Haze so I purchased his reading copy.

Lorraine Graham's "Some Epistles" begins with:

"Your head is a balloon / decapitation does not begin / in thought-the feature of / radiant anger is that / it cannot fill up this balloon."

Rod Smith's bite took my head off. Well-delivered with unsettling humor.

Drinks and talk of Bernstein and why people attack him as a person more than his theories/practice.

Rod Smith talked a lot about his excitement with the work of K. Silem Mohammad. A great surprise comin…

Hockaday school in Dallas, TX

Woke up at 4am today. Choices choices choices.

Got a letter requesting a phone interview for a position teaching English at an all-girls school in Dallas, TX called Hockaday.

I know nothing about Texas except the stereotypes.
I know nothing about girls prep schools.

The website mentions the faculty are writers, composers, visual artists etc.

Not sure. Maybe a phone interview wouldn't hurt.

We Never Leave Reality

So the 5 AM writing time continues.

I've often heard advice to wake up with not fully formed critical apparatus or coffee stimulant and write without censoring.

Doesn't this assume the critical/creative split?

For me, the early morning writing requires a bit of coffee.

It's more about not worrying about day to day concerns at 5 AM.

I decided to read some of Bernstein's A Poetics before beginning a poem and it opened me up much more than the more typical "poetic" text.

All sorts of thoughts bum rushing me.

Concerning captivity narratives:

"Once captured, by what seemed from outside/ as everything to be feared, all that is / destructive, one may never be able to return / or may not wish to."

Over and over I've heard my former friends (many years ago) explain why I should not leave the Mormon church. There's nothing out there they said. The world is scary without Mormonism.

Is escape different from freedom?

My drive toward poetry is for free…

Mark Wallace, Rod Smith, K. Lorraine Graham

I am very excited about the reading this Saturday in Carborro, NC. Listening to Mark Wallace via Real Audio right now. Excited to hear him live.

Just got

Complications from Standing in A Circle by Mark Wallace
Music or Honesty by Rod Smith

Wanna read them before the reading. But I got comp essays to grade. AGH!!!!

On another note: I can't stop re-reading Deer Head Nation. Read some before sleep and wake up at 5am wanting to write. This is a new strategy. 5 am writing. Thanks to K. Silem Mohammad for waking me up!!!!

Spooky. I never really thought about that word until Deer Head Nation. Then Shanna Compton's Down Spooky.


Just listen to the way the word sounds.

The new schedule requires a brief nap before teaching begins. So off I go. My futon. Good dreams ahead! I'll keep Mark Wallace rolling on the real audio as I drift into the in-between state.

two kids on my shoulders

Wish I could have made it to Raleigh on Saturday to hear Aaron and hit the used bookstores. Sounded like a great time.

I am wondering about the idea of artists getting better. To my ears R.E.M's first and second (Murmur and Reckoning) are their best albums.

Seems like this may be true of some poets.

How can we know we are NOT deceiving ourselves with thoughts of improving? Does life get better? Is better always a deception?

For every progress there's a slow slip back. The world a better place for our efforts?

Well, maybe we need the idea of progress. Deception. Hope. Maybe it's all matter.

I smell bubble gum. Orange flavored. Bubbalicious.

A few months after I landed in America I started eating Now and Laters and trying to breakdance. We ate Hamburger helper every night. But it was all for the promise of a better life.

For my parents that promise quickly turned into mere survival.

But when I think of my life it does seem to improve. I like where my head is now versus even…

The Game

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

My nearest book was an anthology of Irish drama (since I am grading).
The sentence:

"Now thrust the swords into the flame, and pray."

reactionary tactics

You know sometimes I get swept up in reactionary rhetoric.
Sometimes I don't do my research and assume way too much.

This is the case with my entry on Foetry on Monday.

First, the heresay of unfair judging. As many bloggers have pointed out we have to be careful not to let resentment and rumor get the best of us.

So, I need to apologize for misrepresenting Verse press. Verse press has a number of poets without MFA's and only three of their poets went to Iowa. I assumed way too much. I jumped on the bandwagon of anti-Iowa bashing without first doing my research.

My impression of Fence books may also be incorrect.

Thanks to Brian Henry for setting the record straight.

New Head

Had a great time hanging out with Tony Tost and his girlfriend Leigh. We ate on a balcony overlooking the big city of Greensboro and speculated about whether or not the passing clouds would break into storm. The talk of clouds seemed appropriate before Tony's reading at the Green Bean.

Tony started by reading some new poems. I am excited to see them on paper. The use of footnotes in his new poems were fascinating. The footnote for head sticks out for some reason.

A few of the highlights for me were: the beard poem (pg.17 in Invisible Bride) and the absolutely take-the-roof-off "unawares." I want to re-read that poem at least fifty times.

Tony and I did a little book swap. He borrowed the Geographics and My Life and I borrowed Frank Stanford's The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I love You. I want to jump into Frank Stanford. The thickness/denseness intrigues me rather than repels me. But I haven't started reading yet. Maybe I need to be locked away for a few days…

Creature Comforts

Received an interesting email from a guy named Aaron Lundstrom about creature comforts and beautiful narcotics.

I've been mulling.

I am not sure an outright dismisal of popular culture is effective.

I think self-righteousness can be just as scary as television.

I think television can be a creature comfort and narcotic and perhaps prevent political action. But a little narcotics and a little creature comfort go a long way. In my mind, it's, as always, a matter of how much.

I think my frustration with a lot of mainstream (if it's still the mainstream) poetry is it's level of comfort. I rarely read poetry for solace or comfort but for questions.

I watch a few hours of television every week (Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusaism, and Angel).

However, I do worry about reality television and sitcoms. Laughtracks scare me. And as for reality. . .

I turned on the television on Sunday to an ad for a television movie about how America responded to 9/11. I think it was called Homeland …

wanna shake it up next fall

Just ordered the books I am gonna use for my classes in the fall.

For my two sections of English 101:

1) Confronting Capitalism edited by Eddie Yuen, George Katsiaficas, Daniel Burton-Rose (Soft Skull Press)
2) Snark, Inc,: A Corporate Fable by Brian Cage (Soft Skull Press)

Think we'll also watch Fight Club, American Beauty, and Being John Malkovich

For my two sections of introduction to Lit:

1) Cool for You by Eileen Myles (Soft Skull Press)
2) The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry edited by Donald Allen (Grove Press)
3) Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (Harper)
4) The Breaking Manager by Sander Hicks (Soft Skull Press)
5) Final Girl by Daphne Gottlieb (Soft Skull Press)

I want to shake things up in the fall. Tired of teaching stale anthologies.


All this talk of ethics and contests. I see how a judge could pick someone they knew (given MFA programs and reading circuits and the like) but with money involved I feel more frustrated. The entrance fees supporting the first book of a friend of the judge or press.

I like that Foetry is out there. We need some good watchdogs.

So how can we really know if a contest is unfair?

talks about all the people she knows and has published at Soft Skull, but there's no entrance fee right?

I realize money is not the only issue, but for some reason I feel less uncomfortable if places like Graywolf and Wesleyan publish poets via recommendation, friendship etc.

Building you own boat seems like a good way to go (and there are many great boats out there). Why should we have to play the Jorie Graham, Charles Wright, Mark Strand games? Why should we be interested in the Paris Review first book prize? Or the Colorado prize? Or again, in publishing in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Atlantic M…

boring anthologies from Norton etc.

I am going to attempt a theme based English 101 class next fall on counter culture. Include movies that deal with the idea of counter culture and revolution such as Fight Club, The Matrix (part two).

Longman has an anthology of counter culture essays (mostly from the sixties). Just ordered Daphne Gottlieb's Final Girl and thinking of using it for the 101 class as well.

Still trying to decide what books to use for intro to lit. Don't want to use one of those boring intro to lit. anthologies (Norton etc.) I am thinking:

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (for the short story)
The Postmoderns ed. Donald Allen (for the poetry section)
On the Road (for the novel section)

not sure what to do for the drama section yet.

Mostly Freshman, so it's tricky to work out challenge versus shut down.

Small small press

Just finished Albert Mobilio's The Geographics. Rocked my socks. One of the best books I've read.

Not sure what it is. I can't put my finger on it yet.

I wouldn't rule out music based on the label. However, I am cautious when I see the ever present Warner Brothers label on indie music, but I love Built to Spill and The Shins. So I should I continue to purchase albums by them even if it means supporting Warner Brothers?

Big presses do publish some amazing work. Kenneth Koch, John Yau, Alice Notley for example. So maybe I am just off the mark and really pumped up by The Geographics and want to project my amazement onto all small small presses. However, in my mind, Built to Spill lost a lot of edge as they moved into a big label. Some of the songs were overproduced etc.

Does the same thing tend to happen in the poetry world?

The raw gets over-cooked.

I really don't see the point (other than tenure and professionalism) of publishing in various "well-respected&q…

More Substance Please Sir !

The Kills are rocking me this morning. I've been contemplating the idea of information overload (esp. image overload) and poetry either resisting or accelerating the overload.

I've heard on many occassions that poetry helps a person slow down. But I am not sure I want to slow down if slow down means:

1) pastoral freeze frame of nullifying nature ("nature" is anything but slow)
2) the aesthetic gaze/glaze
3) dense but good for you (i.e. Heaney porridge)

However, if slow down means:

1) Wow, what a interesting construction (image, syntax etc.)
2) I've read this twice for speed; now it's time to read once for close and slow.

Then I can dig it.

Overwise, gimme speed. Energy.

On another note:

Substance is throwing me for a loop. As in:

"This novel Blood and Guts in High School has no substance. It's got nude drawings and strange dream maps. Just a shock gimmick."

"Kurt Vonnegut has pictures."

"But Vonnegut has substance."

How can…


Turned 30 yesterday. Got a Nikon coolpix camera. Spent all morning playing with it instead of preparing a lesson plan on Kierkegaard.

Got some music. The new Modest Mouse, Dr. Eugene Chadbourne, and The Kills.

Went to a show at Gate City Noise and heard a band called Robotnicka. Most of the members were from France and they wore strange costumes. The keyboardist was a bear with fake fur and a bear head and carpet down his back, the lead singer was a soft bunny (nothing resembling the Playboy bunny), the drummer wore boxers and taped his chest. They sang banjo electronic french folk disco songs. They also sang songs about the commodore 64 and the game Ninja 2. Sometimes we sang along even though it was in French and I didn't know what the words meant. It was an experience. A great happening.

hero worship

Interesting contrast this weekend. My friend's parent's came down this weekend and they love Billy Collins. They are both doctors and extremely nice.

So first, I went to the beat conference and watched Pull My Daisy and heard David Amram and Michael McClure. I was a little skeptical about the popular appeal of the beats in terms of fashion etc. I went up to a white haired gentleman before the reading and timidly asked for a signature. I folded my hands and spoke in a gentle voice. Humility before a giant etc. He said he could spare a few minutes to sign my book. So I pulled out September Blackberries and he looked at me funny and said, "I think you want Michael McClure to sign that." How embarrassing. All that humility for the wrong man.

Michael McClure and David Amram were fab. He reads really well. Sometimes I felt a little uneasy about the almost cliched spirituality, but all in all I felt alive and all. David Amram was especially amazing. Good crowd.

Then Sunday …

teaching doesn't equal lost art

Just decided to teach as a full time lecturer for another year. I enjoy teaching. There are plenty of great poets who do not/did not compromise their poetry for "professional" reasons. I am writing more than I ever have while teaching full time. So it works.

Really looking forward to the beat conference on Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Just picked up John Ashberry's Rivers and Mountains and Gary Snyder's Turtle Island for $1.

Also snagged Jeff Clark's The Little Door Slides Back. Never heard of Jeff Clark. I like surprises.

Onto The Geographics tomorrow.

Post-Avant by Daniel Zimmerman was really interesting. Unlike anything else I've read. A lot of complex formalism. Rhyme schemes. Very elaborate. I especially liked "Bard Fodder"

Avant Guarde formalism as one strand of post-avant?