September 29, 2010

I know the suns about to come up
I close my eyes anyway
my mouth is dry and the sheets are cold
and will be still come break of day

Sheila Pree Bright, Untitled 22, 2010

I Don't Believe In the Peaceful Way
-- by Nicanor Parra

I don't believe in the violent way
I'd like to believe
in something- but I don't
to believe means to believe in God
all I can do is
shrug my shoulders
forgive me for being blunt
I don't even believe in the Milky Way.

After Love
-- by Jack Gilbert

He is watching the music with his eyes closed.
Hearing the piano like a man moving
through the woods thinking by feeling.
The orchestra up in the trees, the heart below,
step by step. The music hurrying sometimes,
but always returning to quiet, like the man
remembering and hoping. It is a thing in us,
mostly unnoticed. There is somehow a pleasure
in the loss. In the yearning. The pain
going this way and that. Never again.
Never bodied again. Again the never.
Slowly. No undergrowth. Almost leaving.
A humming beauty in the silence.
The having been. Having had. And the man
knowing all of him will come to the

I Know a Man
-- by Robert Creeley

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, -- John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

September 28, 2010

in the morning light
you held the ashtray tight

Stacie Albano, Shaded, 2009

* From a Paris Review interview of Michel Houellebecq:

INTERVIEWER: So what made you write your first novel, Whatever, about a computer
programmer and his sexually frustrated friend?

HOUELLEBECQ: I hadn’t seen any novel make the statement that entering the workforce was like entering the grave. That from then on, nothing happens and you have to pretend to be interested in your work. And, furthermore, that some people have a sex life and others don’t just because some are more attractive than others. I wanted to acknowledge that if people don’t have a sex life, it’s not for some moral reason, it’s just because they’re ugly. Once you’ve said it,
it sounds obvious, but I wanted to say it.
INTERVIEWER: And what about poetry?

HOUELLEBECQ: I think poetry is the only domain where a writer you like can truly be said to influence you, because you read and reread a poem so many times that it simply drills itself into your head. A lot of people have read Baudelaire. I had the more unusual experience of reading virtually all of Corneille. No one reads Corneille, but I came across a little pile of classics, and for some reason, I loved it. I loved the alexandrine, the traditional twelve-syllable verse. When I was at university, I wrote quite a bit of classical verse in tetrameters, which appealed to the other poets. They said, Hey, that’s not bad. Why not write in classical verse? It can be done.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think of yourself as a poet as well as a novelist?

HOUELLEBECQ: Not really. It’s sad to say, but when you write novels that have a certain impact, you start to sense that editors are publishing your poems out of charity. And it becomes embarrassing.

INTERVIEWER: But you do put poems in all your novels.

HOUELLEBECQ: But it doesn’t work. I’ve always tried to put poems in my novels, but I’ve never really succeeded.

INTERVIEWER: You have said, “The struggle between poetry and prose is a constant in my life. If you obey the poetic impulse, you risk becoming unreadable. If you disobey, you’re ready for a career as an honest ‘storyteller.’”

HOUELLEBECQ: You might get the impression that I have a mild contempt for storytelling, which is only somewhat true. For example, I really like Agatha Christie. She obeys the rules of the genre at first, but then occasionally she manages to do very personal things. In my case, I think I start from the opposite point. At first, I don’t obey, I don’t plot, but then from time to time, I say to myself, Come on, there’s got to be a story. I control myself. But I will never give up a beautiful fragment merely because it doesn’t fit in the story.
INTERVIEWER: Do you have other requirements for writing?

HOUELLEBECQ: Flaubert said you had to have a permanent erection. I haven’t found that to be the case. I need to take a walk now and then. Otherwise, in terms of dietary requirements, coffee works, it’s true. It takes you through all the different stages of consciousness. You start out semicomatose. You write. You drink more coffee and your lucidity increases, and it’s in that in-between period, which can last for hours, that something interesting happens.

* In DC? Don't forget: The Foreign Press performs at Velvet Lounge (915 U St. NW, WDC) this Friday October 1. With Janel and Anthony and Mariage Blanc. $8. We will go on around 11:45.

* Have'nt seen Cocksucker's Blues, Robert Frank's doc on the Stones? Now you can.

* "A poem is an empty suitcase that you can never quit emptying." -- Kay Ryan

September 27, 2010

school's out
what did you expect?

Dominick Mastrangelo, SM & Bob N, September 21, 2010

* From Harper's October 2010:

-- Percentage of municipal workers in Maywood, California, who were laid off in July: 100

-- Number of the worlds ten largest banks that were Chinese-owned in 2000 and 2010, respectively: 0, 4

-- Date on which a Dutch porn star pledged to "give a BJ" to her Twitter followers if the Netherlands won the World Cup: 6/28/10

-- Number of people who signed up to follow her between then and the World Cup final: 105,269

-- Chance that an American adult is either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole: 1 in 31

* "I ain't that particular. Between Scotch and nothing, I'll take Scotch." -- William Faulkner

September 20, 2010

The questions are the answers
To questions in themselves

Maurício Nogueira Lima, Rhythmic Object 2 (second version), 1953

Instructions for Angels
-- by Kenneth Patchen

Take the useful events
For your tall.
Red mouth.
Blue weather.
To hell with power and hate and war

The mouth of a pretty girl...
The weather in the highest soul...
Put the tips of your fingers
On a baby man;
Teach him to be beautiful.
To hell with power and hate and war

Tell God that we like
The rain, and snow, and flowers,
And trees, and all things gentle and clean
That have growth on the earth.
White winds.
Golden fields.
To hell with power and hate and war.

The Old Man
-- by George Oppen

The old man
In the mirror
But the young man
In the photograph
Is stranger

-- back next monday, off to NYC for pavement...

September 16, 2010

we are with you in your anger

Erin Bennett, Leaf 1, 2005

* “If a saloon and bookstore can’t make it on the Upper West Side, what better evidence do you need than that of the decline of artistic and free thought?

* In DC? The Caribbean plays the U Street Music Hall (1115a U St. NW) Friday September 17. With More Humans and Insect Factory. Early show, doors 7pm. $9.

* "I never submitted a manuscript with a covering letter or through an agent. I believed in the doctrine of immaculate rejection." -- E. B. White

September 15, 2010

Head Underwater
Keeps Getting Hotter
Give 'Em Your Medicine Fame Injection
Tell Them To Jump Higher
Tell 'Em To Run Farther
Make 'Em Measure Up
Decades Longer Than You

Blaise Drummond, Yasnaya Polyana (No. 1), 2007

Getting It Right
-- by Jack Gilbert

Lying in front of the house all
afternoon, trying to write a poem.
Falling asleep.

Waking up under the stars.

Only Years
-- by Kenneth Rexroth

I come back to the cottage in
Santa Monica Canyon where
Andrée and I were poor and
Happy together. Sometimes we
Were hungry and stole vegetables
From the neighbors' gardens.
Sometimes we went out and gathered
Cigarette butts by flashlight.
But we went swimming every day,
All year round. We had a dog
Called Proclus, a vast yellow
Mongrel, and a white cat named
Cyprian. We had our first
Joint art show, and they began
To publish my poems in Paris.
We worked under the low umbrella
Of the acacia in the dooryard.
Now I get out of the car
And stand before the house in the dusk.
The acacia blossoms powder the walk
With little pills of gold wool.
The odor is drowsy and thick
In the early evening.
The tree has grown twice as high
As the roof. Inside, an old man
And woman sit in the lamplight.
I go back and drive away
To Malibu Beach and sit
With a grey-haired childhood friend and
Watch the full moon rise over the
Long rollers wrinkling the dark bay.

The Piano Speaks
-- by Sandra Beasley

After Erik Satie

For an hour I forgot my fat self,
my neurotic innards, my addiction to alignment.

For an hour I forgot my fear of rain.

For an hour I was a salamander
shimmying through the kelp in search of shore,
and under his fingers the notes slid loose
from my belly in a long jellyrope of eggs
that took root in the mud. And what

would hatch, I did not know—
a lie. A waltz. An apostle of glass.

For an hour I stood on two legs
and ran. For an hour I panted and galloped.

For an hour I was a maple tree,
and under the summer of his fingers
the notes seeded and winged away

in the clutch of small, elegant helicopters.

September 13, 2010

what a beautiful thing that can flash on a screen and be gone

Ann Forbush, Autumn Returns

* From a 2006 article on Jack Gilbert:

“I don’t want to be at peace,” Jack Gilbert pronounced shortly after his 80th birthday. Yet he has spent much of his life on remote Greek islands, on a houseboat in Kashmir, on a western Massachusetts farm, and in the remote outskirts of Sausalito, California, either alone or in the company of one other. He has never owned a home and has driven a car only twice. A sensible person might even say he’s sought a peace separate from the arena of the “career poets”—and maybe even separate from that of the career adult. But the unique kernel of Gilbert’s poetry is its fearless exploration of the adult heart. It takes a moment to have a fling or write one good line, but sustaining authentic emotional participation, as Gilbert has in his life as a poet, is terrifying and hard, and is practically a lost art.

Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh in 1925 and grew up in the East Liberty district. His father worked in the circus for a time and died after falling out the window of a Prohibition-era men’s club when Jack was 10. After failing out of Peabody High School, Gilbert sold Fuller brushes door-to-door, worked in steel mills, and accompanied his uncle to fumigate houses, a job he began when he was 10 years old. “The cyanide could knock you out with just one breath, and in a matter of minutes you’d be dead,” he said in 1991. “It was an eerie way to grow up.”

He was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh because of a clerical error, where he began writing poetry (having previously written only prose) and earned a B.A. in 1947. After several years in Paris, Aix-en-Provence, and Italy—a chapter notable for his relationship with Gianna Gelmetti, the first of the three women who appear in his best love poems—Gilbert made his way to San Francisco, where the Beat and Haight-Ashbury countercultures were beginning to thrive.
Back to San Francisco. Gilbert lived in the Bay Area for 11 years, from 1956 to 1967, during which time he attended San Francisco State, worked with Ansel Adams, took Jack Spicer’s magic workshop, and enjoyed a years-long friendly argument about poetry with Allen Ginsberg. As the story goes, Gilbert didn’t like much of Ginsberg's work until one day when Ginsberg walked through a roadless and undeveloped area of Sausalito to Gilbert's cabin. He read aloud from two pages of poetry he’d just written.

Gilbert liked it. It was the beginning of Ginsberg’s iconic poem “Howl,” read publicly for the first time in 1956 to wild acclaim, and published in 1958. Four years later Gilbert’s first book, Views of Jeopardy, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize and was nominated for a Pulitzer. Gilbert enjoyed a year and a half of stateside fame, then won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964 and left for Greece with the poet Linda Gregg. Six years would pass before he returned.

* "I think the poetic genius is synthetic. A poet creates syntheses while the novelist analyzes." -- Octavio Paz

September 9, 2010

people so busy
it makes me feel dizzy

Thomas Mailaender, 2008

* The highest paid athlete of all time may have been a Roman chariot driver:

The modern sporting spectacles we manage to stage—and on occasion be appalled by—pale by comparison to the common entertainments of Rome. The Circus Maximus, the beating heart at the center of the empire, accommodated a quarter million people for weekly chariot races. These outdrew stage plays (to the deep chagrin of the playwrights), the disemboweling of slaves and exotic carnivores in the gladiatorial combats of the Coliseum, and even the naval battles emperors staged within the city limits—real war ships with casts of thousands—on acres of man-made lakes they had dug out and drained the Tiber to fill.

For the races, spectators arrived the evening before to stake out good seats. They ate and drank to excess, and fights were common under the influence of furor circensis, the Romans’ name for the mass hysteria the spectacles induced. Ovid recommended the reserve seating as a good place to pick up aristocratic women, and he advised letting your hand linger as you fluff her seat cushion.

Drivers were drawn from the lower orders of society.They affiliated with teams supported by large businesses that invested heavily in training and upkeep of the horses and equipment. The colors of the team jerseys provided them with names, and fans would often hurl violent enthusiasms, as well as lead curse amulets punctured with nails, at the Reds, Blues, Whites, and Greens.

The equipment consisted of a leather helmet, shin guards, chest protector, a jersey, whip, and a curved knife—handy for cutting opponents who got too close or to cut themselves loose from entangling reins in case of a fall. They adopted a Greek style of long curly hair protruding from under their helmets and festooned their horses’ manes with ribbons and jewels. Races started when the emperor dropped his napkin and a hapless referee would try to keep order from horseback. After seven savage laps, those who managed not to be upended or killed and finish in the top three took home prizes.

The best drivers were made legends by poets who sung their exploits and graffiti artists who scrawled crude renderings of their faces on walls around the Mediterranean. They could also be made extraordinarily wealthy.

The very best paid of these—in fact, the best paid athlete of all time—was a Lusitanian Spaniard named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who had short stints with the Whites and Greens, before settling in for a long career with the Reds. Twenty-four years of winnings brought Diocles—likely an illiterate man whose signature move was the strong final dash—the staggering sum of 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money. The figure is recorded in a monumental inscription erected in Rome by his fellow charioteers and admirers in 146, which hails him fulsomely on his retirement at the age of “42 years, 7 months, and 23 days” as “champion of all charioteers.”

His total take home amounted to five times the earnings of the highest paid provincial governors over a similar period—enough to provide grain for the entire city of Rome for one year, or to pay all the ordinary soldiers of the Roman Army at the height of its imperial reach for a fifth of a year. By today’s standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion.

* In Baltimore Saturday September 11? Don't Miss: The Caribbean @ Wind-Up Space, w/Office of Future Plans (J. Robbins of Jawbox's new band), Bells (Zach Barocas of Jawbox's new band), and Infinite Honey.

* I dislike intensely the notion that a perfect form, like a sort of god, hovers over all of us. - John Fowles

September 8, 2010

Four years down and twenty one to blow
ten thousand more breakfasts to go
fourteen million seconds of living this way
and I guess it's time I started to pray them bars away

Lee Balterman, Crossed Fingers, 1962

The Jobholder
-- by David Ignatow

I stand in the rain waiting for my bus
and in the bus I wait for my stop.
I get let off and go to work
where I wait for the day to end
and then go home, waiting for the bus,
of course, and my stop.

And at home I read and wait
for my hour to go to bed
and I wait for the day I can retire
and wait for my turn to die.

The Teacher
--by Eamon Joseph McCarthy

I drive to school and think of
the bullshit advisor reports
that are self-serving to the teachers
who are liars and who
don't teach.

And I get to school.
And need to listen to the one directive,
the only one, from the
Academic Dean:
Make sure to give a test for summer reading.

And then I drive home.
And find another excuse,
to read what I want,
write in my journal,
and drink.

The secret of my endurance
-- by Charles Bukowski

I still get letters in the mail, mostly from cracked-up
men in tiny rooms with factory jobs or no jobs who are
living with whores or no woman at all, no hope, just
booze and madness.
Most of their letters are on lined paper
written with an unsharpened pencil
or in ink
in tiny handwriting that slants to the

and the paper is often torn
usually halfway up the middle
and they say they like my stuff,
I've written from where it's at, and
they recognize that. truly, I've given them a second
chance, some recognition of where they're at.

it's true, I was there, worse off than most
of them.
but I wonder if they realize where their letters
well, they are dropped into a box
behind a six-foot hedge with a long driveway leading
to a two car garage, rose garden, fruit trees,
animals, a beautiful woman, mortgage about half
paid after a year, a new car,
fireplace and a green rug two-inches thick
with a young boy to write my stuff now,
I keep him in a ten-foot cage with a
typewriter, feed him whiskey and raw whores,
belt him pretty good three or four times
a week.
I'm 59 years old now and the critics say
my stuff is getting better than ever.

-- Listen to Bukowski read this poem.

September 7, 2010

when they turn on the chair
somethings added to the air

Jim Franklin, Under Aires, 1972

* Excerpt from Andrei Aggasi's biography: In this passage Agassi writes about the final tournament of his life and the preparation for a match that may be last of his career. And about the loneliness of tennis:

"Now I can take a nap. At thirty-six, the only way I can play a late match, which could go past midnight, is if I get a nap beforehand. Also, now that I know roughly who I am, I want to close my eyes and hide from it. When I open my eyes, one hour has passed. I say aloud, It's time. No more hiding. I step into the shower again, but this shower is different from the morning shower. The afternoon shower is always longer - twenty-two minutes, give or take - and it's not for waking up or getting clean. The afternoon shower is for encouraging myself, coaching myself.

"Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athletes talk to themselves like tennis players. Pitchers, golfers, goalkeepers, they mutter
to themselves, of course, but tennis players talk to themselves - and answer. In the heat of a match, tennis players look like lunatics in a public square, ranting and swearing and conducting Lincoln-Douglas debates with their alter egos. Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely. Only boxers can understand the loneliness of tennis players - and yet boxers have their corner men and managers. Even a boxer's opponent provides a kind of companionship, someone he can grapple with and grunt at.

"In tennis you stand face-to-face with the enemy, trade blows with him, but never touch him or talk to him, or anyone else. The rules forbid a tennis player from even talking to his coach while on the court. People sometimes mention the track-and-field runner as a comparably lonely figure, but I have to laugh. At least the runner can feel and smell his opponents. They're inches away. In tennis you're on an island. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement, which inevitably leads to self-talk, and for me the self-talk starts here in the afternoon shower. This is when I begin to say things to myself, crazy things, over and over, until I believe them. For instance, that a quasi-cripple [me] can compete at the U.S. Open. That a thirty six-year-old man can beat an opponent just entering his prime. I've won 869 matches in my career, fifth on the all-time list, and many were won during the
afternoon shower.

"With the water roaring in my ears - a sound not unlike twenty thousand fans - I recall particular wins. Not wins the fans would remember, but wins that still wake me at night, Squillari in Paris. Blake in New York. Pete in Australia. Then I recall a few losses. I shake my head at the disappointments. I tell myself that tonight will be an exam for which I've been studying twenty-nine years. Whatever happens tonight, I've already been through it at least once before. If it's a physical test, if it's mental, it's nothing new.

"Please let this be over.

"I don't want it to be over.

"I start to cry. I lean against the wall of the shower and let go."


* worth a look.

* "To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make." -- Truman Capote

September 3, 2010

and now I'm feeling dangerous
riding on city buses for a hobby is sad

Maxfield Parrish, New Moon

-- by Carl Dennis

Don't be ashamed that your parents
Didn't happen to meet at an art exhibit
Or at a protest against a foreign policy
Based on fear of negotiation,
But in an aisle of a discount drugstore,
Near the antihistamine section,
Seeking relief from the common cold.
You ought to be proud that even there,
Amid coughs and sneezes,
They were able to peer beneath
The veil of pointless happenstance.
Here is someone, each thought,
Able to laugh at the indignities
That flesh is heir to. Here
Is a person one might care about.
Not love at first sight, but the will
To be ready to endorse the feeling
Should it arise. Had they waited
For settings more promising,
You wouldn't be here,
Wishing things were different.
Why not delight at how young they were
When they made the most of their chances,
How young still, a little later,
When they bought a double plot
At the cemetery. Look at you,
Twice as old now as they were
When they made arrangements,
And still you're thinking of moving on,
Of finding a town with a climate
Friendlier to your many talents.
Don't be ashamed of the homely thought
That whatever you might do elsewhere,
In the time remaining, you might do here
If you can resolve, at last, to pay attention.

-- by Frank Stanford

Death is a good word.
It often returns
When it is very
Dark outside and hot,
Like a fisherman
Over the limit,
Without pain, sex,
Or melancholy.
Young as I am, I
Hold light for this boat.
When the rest of you
Were being children
I became a monk
To my own listing
Nights and days floated
Over the whorehouse
Like webs on the lake,
A monastery
Full of noise and girls.
The moon throws the knives.
The poets echo goodbye,
Towing silence too.
Near my house was an
Island, where a horse
Lathered up alone.
Oh, Abednego
He was called, dusky,
Cruel as a poem
To a black gypsy.
Sadness and whiskey
Cost more than friends.
I visit prisons,
Orphanages, joints,
Hoping I'll see them
Again. Willows, ice,
Minnows, no money.
You'll have to say it
Soon, you know. To your
Wife, your child, yourself.

September 1, 2010

all the bush league batters
are left to die on the diamond

Mary Ellen Mark, Central Park NYC, 1967

The Poet's Occasional Alternative
-- by Grace Paley

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper
the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems
because of unreportable
sadness I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership I do not
want to wait a week a year a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

The Disappointments of Photography
-- by Sarah Hannah

I was five years old, in a red and white patchwork.
Poised and grimacing with Olympian effort,
I flung a Slinky at the camera. Unblinking,
My father released the shutter,
One-hundredth of a second
Of light on a toy spring --
A pile of white line arching from my hand.
The silver rings had gone,
Long fallen. I hunt them now, on all fours,
Through every upright line on the lawn.
The past is a space between grasses, a channel in the loam.
Once I was luminous, I was clicked and shaking,
My skin a dry plate of open pores,
My dress brighter than Ektachrome.

Home at 3am After DJing the Late Shift
-- by Christine Potter

All the lights are on. The kitchen's empty
as someone who's lost her train of thought
but is still speaking. I've been speaking for hours
on the radio, spinning music, which
is somewhat like work in a kitchen: hang
the station identification on the top of each hour
like a clean pot that fits neatly
in the rack overhead. On the drive home,

every traffic light was green and I was so tired
I almost forgot what that meant, how lucky it was,
all those wordless permissions to pass. I almost forgot
I was no longer speaking, but rolling through
what was left of the night. If someone were awake,
I thought, he might hear me, the smooth rush
of my tires one long exhalation.

Much of what we hear we don't mean to.
Like tonight, before I came in, dozens of bats
whirled through the cedars near our door.
A few, round-bellied, dove past lit windows,
but I heard many wings and an impossible density
of chirping as they followed their echoes
to the open, black sky. And looked up at the late stars,
unable to count all the songs.