September 28, 2011

you stuttered like a kaleidoscope
'cause you knew too many words

Jane Smaldone, St. Lucy's Mountain Dream, 2006

- Three poems from Kim Addonizio's 1997 novel in verse Jimmy & Rita


For a while Rita works
at a massage parlor on Eddy Street
All she has to do is jerk them off, no
fucking or kissing.
She washes her hands seven,
eight times a day. Dreams
of scrubbing off skin,
red strips of it falling
into a sinkfull of suds.
She buries what's left
of her hands in the white
froth, piled like new snow
she would scoop out
as a child to make
a man.

Moving In

Jimmy brings over a few boxes
Albums, clothes, KO magazines,
six-once boxing gloves, his high school diploma.
Framed newspaper photo of the Chacon-Limon fight.
Seven Marine Band harmonicas,
red coleus he found in a dumpster.
Rita makes room in the closet
watches him hang shirts
next to her dresses.
That afternoon they make love
on the living room rug,
finishing a bottle
of Jim Beam.
Jimmy wakes up at dusk,
stares at the couch legs, confused
for a few seconds.
Lights a Camel, watches
rings rising to the ceiling.
He hates this time of day,
feels death coming on like a punch
he won't duck in time.
Each circle of smoke
solid at first
then pulling itself apart.

Rita's Dream

We're in a bar together
It's dark but there's a mirrored ball
in the middle of the ceiling.
Somebody moved the pool table,
it's like a dance floor. Jimmy's
wearing a suit jacket,
the one from our wedding.
Some women from the shelter
are looking for their babies.
One's in the dumpster and everyone goes
outside to look. Then I'm in
the bathroom, a man's in there and tries
to hand me a rat, it's big and dark,
slippery, I won't take it, I run out
to find Jimmy again. We dance
and I smell his cologne and feel safe.
Some kind of fight is happening,
someone says fuck you loud
and then Get away, get away.
But we just keep dancing.
My dad takes our picture and the flash
makes me close my eyes,
and when I open them
Jimmy is looking at me and I know
he loves me, I know
he isn't ever going to stop.

September 27, 2011

Do you believe in magic?

Stephen Shore, Causeway Inn,Tampa, Florida, November 18, 1977

* Horacio Castellanos Moya on Bolano Inc. excerpt:

Maybe I was not the only one surprised when, on opening the North American edition of The Savage Detectives, I found a photograph of the author that I didn’t recognize. It is a post-adolescent Bolaño, with his long hair and mustache, the look of a hippie or of the young non-conformist in the time of the infrarealists—the poetry movement he helped found in Mexico in 1974—and not the Bolaño who wrote the books that we know. I was delighted at the photo, and since I’m naïve, I told myself that surely it had been a stroke of luck for the editors to get a photo of the time to which the greater part of the novel alludes. (Now that the infrarealists have started their own website, you can find several of these photos posted there, among which I recognize my pals Pepe Peguero, Pita, “Mac,” and even the Peruvian journalist José Rosas, now settled in Paris, whose connection to the group I wasn’t aware of.) It didn’t occur to me to think then, since the book had just come off the press and was beginning to cause a stir in New York, that this nostalgic evocation of the rebel counterculture of the sixties and seventies was part of a finely-tuned strategy.

It was no casual fact, then, that the majority of articles profiling the author laid the emphasis on the episodes of his tumultuous youth: his decision to drop out of high school and become a poet; his terrestrial odyssey from Mexico to Chile, where he was jailed during the coup d’état; the formation of the failed infrarealist movement with the poet Mario Santiago; his itinerant existence in Europe; his eventual jobs as camp watchman and dishwasher; a presumed drug addiction; and his premature death. “These iconoclastic episodes coupled with Bolaño’s death at fifty,” writes Pollack, “are too tempting to narrate as anything but a tragedy of mythical proportions: here seems to be someone who actually saw his youthful ideals through to their ultimate consequences.” “Meet the Kurt Cobain of Latin American literature,” wrote Daniel Crimmins in Paste magazine.
No North American journalist highlighted the fact, Sarah Pollack warns, that The Savage Detectives and the greater part of Bolaño’s prose work “were written as a sober family man” during the last ten years of his life—and an excellent father, I’d add, whose major preoccupation was his children, and that if he took a lover at the end of his life, he did it in the most conservative Latin American style, without threatening the preservation of his family. Pollack notes that “Bolaño appears to the reader, even before one crosses the novel’s threshold, as a cross between the Beats and Arthur Rimbaud (another reference for his alter ego Arturo Belano), his life already the stuff of legend.” Yet the majority of critics have passed over the fact that Bolaño didn’t die as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, but from a case of poorly cared-for pancreatitis that had destroyed his liver; or that his case was more similar to those of Balzac or Proust, who also died at fifty after a tremendous work effort, than it was to those of North American pop idols.

I can tell you, though, that Bolaño would have found it amusing to know they would call him the James Dean, the Jim Morrison, or the Jack Kerouac of Latin American literature. Wasn’t the first novella that he wrote a quatre mains with García Porta called Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic? Maybe he wouldn’t have found so amusing the hidden reasons that they called him that, but that’s flour for another sack. What is certain is that Bolaño was always a non-conformist; he was never a subversive or a revolutionary wrapped up in political movements, nor was he even a writer maudit. He was a non-conformist, just as the Royal Spanish Academy defines it: “One who polemicizes, opposes, or protests[...] anything established.”

* Family tree: The Gun Club.

* "While facts never become obsolete or stale, commentaries always do." -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

September 26, 2011

I don't wanna
I don't think so

Sarah Small, Punk and Anika, ?

* Funk legend Sly Stone is now living in a van. excerpt:

In his heyday, he lived at 783 Bel Air Road, a four-bedroom, 5,432-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion that once belonged to John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.

The Tudor-style house was tricked out in his signature funky black, white and red color scheme. Shag carpet. Tiffany lamps in every room. A round water bed in the master bedroom. There were parties where Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Miles Davis would drop by, where Etta James would break into “At Last” by the bar.
Just four years ago, he resided in a Napa Valley house so large it could only be described as a “compound,” with a vineyard out back and multiple cars in the driveway.

But those days are gone.

Today, Sly Stone -- one of the greatest figures in soul-music history -- is homeless, his fortune stolen by a lethal combination of excess, substance abuse and financial mismanagement. He lays his head inside a white camper van ironically stamped with the words “Pleasure Way” on the side. The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where “Boyz n the Hood” was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house. The couple’s son serves as his assistant and driver.

Inside the van, the former mastermind of Sly & the Family Stone, now 68, continues to record music with the help of a laptop computer.

“I like my small camper,” he says, his voice raspy with age and years of hard living. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”

* The 200 most requested songs.

* “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ― James Baldwin

September 22, 2011

Captivate the senses like a ginger ale rain

Jasper Johns, Target, 1958

Right Beside the Morning Coffee
-- Richard Brautigan

If I write this down, I
will have it in the morning.
The question is: Do I want
to start the day off with

Blue Yodel of the Wayfaring Stranger
-- Frank Stanford

after Pier Paolo Pasolini

I lean my head up against the juke box in the mountains
And think about the three Indian sisters tending bar
The nighthawks come down to sleep
On the knives in my shoulders
As if I was Saint Francis barefooted and all
They come down to cut their own
Throats in the snow
Which falls like the dandruff
Of Jean Cocteau
And I go on thinking of my white horse
Waiting in the roses
I can tell by the look
In its eyes my baby is dead
All my liquor is gone so is my land
I got kicked out of school for sleeping
And I spent what I had
Going to the picture show
Where I was arrested for putfing my fist through a mirror
When this song is finished
I'm leaving this place but first I'm going
Down to the Army Surplus Store
And lay away all I got
On nine guitars

Two Poems for Frank O'Hara
-- Campbell McGrath


Tonight the clouds resemble French surrealists
soft and electric and hot to the touch
hustling north from the New York Public Library
as if to grab the lease of the vacant apartment on E. 49th Street
Frank O’Hara rented for $31 a month in 1952.

Poor clouds. They have no sense of time

and no one has told them about the market system
and, being French, the plane trees in Bryant Park
have filled their beautiful heads
with a lightning storm of longing for Paris.


The School of O’Hara was like the School of Hard Knocks
only less so a school of tickles a school of muffled taps
a school of mittened hands at the piano assaying Rachmaninoff.
All in all Frank was a pretty good teacher he mostly taught
geometry mostly because of his fondness for Pi.
What could be more beautiful than Pi he often said to us
his faithful students who loved him dearly and not least
for a cognac stain in the shape of Delaware Bay on his collar
clearly visible in the light through the windows he threw open
those mornings to the cool clatter of city buses
and the pomp of geraniums potted in rusty cans along the sill
o! what could be more ruthless and beautiful and true
than a science built upon an indeterminable constant?

September 19, 2011

we had crazy fucking times
till the Visa card expired

Martin Ramirez, Horse and Rider with Large Bugle, 1962

* From Harper's October 2011:

-- Percentage of the current U.S. debt that was accumulated during Republican presidential terms: 71

-- Percentage of profits American corporations paid in taxes in 1961: 40.6; Today: 10.5

-- Percentage of the world's population that could fit in Texas by living with the population density of New York City: 100

-- Number of states in which less than 20 percent of adults are obese: 0

-- Percentage of U.S. college greades that are A's: 43

* Before They Were Stars, a compilation of songs recorded before the performers were stars, features Billy Joel fronting a heavy metal band.

* "Poetry is one activity in life where consummate liars are not only admired but completely trusted." -- Charles Simic

September 15, 2011

put up your dukes
let's get down to it

Unknown, Jagger and Bowie backstage, early 1980s?

* Wonderful documentary on Bill Cunningham. You might not think you know of him but you do.

* Fantastic, classic videos from New Zealand's Flying Nun label here

* “The most important instrument of thought is the eye.” -- Benoit Mandelbrot

September 14, 2011

Here's your money back
Here's your punk rock band

Tomma Abts, Mehm, 2005

-- by Nicanor Parra

No praying allowed, no sneezing.
No spitting, eulogizing, kneeling.
Worshipping, howling, expectorating.

No sleeping permitted in this precinct
No inoculating, talking, excommunicating
Harmonizing, escaping, catching.

Running is absolutely forbidden.

No smoking. No fucking.

-- by Nicanor Parra

Let's not fool ourselves
The automobile is a wheelchair
A lion is made of lambs
Poets have no biographies
Death is a collective habit
Children are born to be happy
Reality has a tendency to fade away
Fucking is a diabolical act
God is a good friend to the poor

I Take Back Everything I’ve Said
-- by Nicanor Parra

Before I go
I’m supposed to get a last wish:
Generous reader
burn this book
It’s not at all what I wanted to say
Though it was written in blood
It’s not what I wanted to say.
No lot could be sadder than mine
I was defeated by my own shadow:
My words took vengeance on me.
Forgive me, reader, good reader
If I cannot leave you
With a warm embrace, I leave you
With a forced and sad smile.
Maybe that’s all I am
But listen to my last word:
I take back everything I’ve said.
With the greatest bitterness in the world
I take back everything I’ve said.

---- all three poems translated by Miller Williams

September 12, 2011

sound is the love between me and you

Cecily Brown, Maid's Day Off, 2005

* Gail O'Hara interviews Wild Flag. excerpt:

O'Hara: Mary is really coming out of her shell as a live performer. And we thought you had a lot of energy in Sleater-Kinney, but now you’ve kind of raised the bar.

Brownstein: I don’t take anything for granted anymore. After not playing music for a couple years, you realize what a sacred space live performance is. There’s so many things that are allowed in that moment that are disallowed in other aspects of life. Extreme emotions and a level of chaos and danger that you would never even want to go to in your regular life, and I don’t go to that place in my everyday life. When I’m performing, I’m trying to explore all of the parameters and boundaries while I’m onstage and then I can return to my teetotaling, dog-walking life. I get so frustrated when I see people onstage who aren’t enjoying it or aren’t taking advantage of it, so I really just take advantage of that moment. It’s very spontaneous and it can be magical. I’m pushing it further than I did in Sleater-Kinney, and certainly I’ve seen Mary start to really enjoy herself onstage and express herself in a way that I hadn’t seen. Part of that is just feeling so confident with the other players in the band and knowing that they’ll back you up. There’s less pressure. In a three-piece, each element has to be firing at once. When you add more people, you can play with the dynamic more. I can put my guitar down and do something. I can not play for a second or Mary can not play or she can just play chords instead of having a solo. There’s just a lot of freedom that both of us feel.

Timony: Wild Flag is really fun because it’s much more of a live band than anything I’ve ever played in. My biggest weakness as a musician is that I’m not good at playing live. I’d never gotten it until I played with Wild Flag, and now it’s a whole new world. I’m like, Oh, live shows can be really fun. It’s just a different dynamic. Focusing on playing guitar is so awesome. It’s so nice to not have to hold down all the vocals and guitar and try to play keyboards. It’s fun to just play guitar and sing some of the songs.
O'Hara: The sequencing starts out like Carrie, Mary, Carrie, Mary... How do you make it cohesive with two frontmen?

Timony: The songs that came from stuff Carrie and I had brought in definitely have that feeling. The songs we all wrote together feel more cohesive. We’re more on that page now. We had to experiment a lot and try different ways of writing songs.

Brownstein: A big difference between the band at the beginning and the band now is just that everybody is writing. It’s not just Mary and me bringing in songs. Janet thinks like a producer -- an arranger -- so our songs are pretty much produced before we go into the studio because of her. She really thinks about things and edits. We’re all part of the process. Mary and I don’t sing a lot together or even over the same song -- so that kind of leaves us a place to go. On the next record, I would want potentially us to be singing on the same song. But on the other hand, we’re both enjoying not singing. When Mary sings, I don’t have to sing. I can play guitar. That leaves a distinction between the songs. Our styles aren’t that disparate. She’s cooler and more mysterious and her songs have this different kind of attitude. It’s the music that brings them together.

Cole: Wild Flag is different from any other project I’ve been in. Some of the songs really did come out of a jam or a riff that someone had and we’ll just sit there and work it until we have something that sounds good. We’ll build from there and it’s all in the room. We’re all very active. I haven’t had that before, where I’m writing the part as the song takes shape. And listening to what everyone else is doing and having ideas for other parts.

* "Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you will always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them." -- H.L. Mencken

September 8, 2011

uppers or downers
either way blood flows

Timothy Cummings, House of Cards, 2008

* Dean Wareham interviews Stephen Malkmus. excerpt:

Warham; It seems like part of being a producer is just spreading good cheer and good energy. I don’t suppose Beck had ideas for your lyrics? I think he’s a great lyricist, too.

Malkmus: He likes it real loose. He had the mics set up so I could keep anything I said on the tapes. The free, off-the-top-of-my-head stuff -- he was really going for that. Some of the words wouldn’t be maybe the best in my mind, but they flowed with the track and the spirit of it. I think he was going on his own experience. You know how it is, where you do the track and then take a week off, and say, "OK, I’ll do the lyrics now." They start to sound forced or it's not flowing. Maybe it’s a good point you’re making or it’s clever, but it sounds like it’s sticking out.

Wareham: I don’t think you know until you stand there and sing it. You can write it on the page, but the moment you stand there and sing it -- sometimes you just go, "I can’t sing that! This is ridiculous!"

Malkmus: (laughs) I know! I’m totally open to people. I’m not precious about the words. I want people to like it. I don’t really need to get that clever line in there ... usually.

Wareham: There are so many great lines on there. I love the first line of the album, "I caught you streaking in your Birkenstocks." That’s something I love about Pavement, too -- the number of lines over the years that have stuck in my head from your songs. It kind of reminded me of "Caught my dad cryin'" (from "Rattled by the Rush").

Malkmus: I think I get enough good ones in there. I run into parts where I don’t have anything good to sing, and I just sing borderline clichés or things I hope no one is really listening to. When that happens, I just think, well, it’s like classic rock. Or, that it puts the other things in a better light, the lines that stick out.

Wareham: The lyrics don’t have to be brilliant all the way through; it’s nice if there’s a moment in a song where a couple of lines really stand out.

Malkmus: I agree with that. If it gets too tightly locked down, you start to wonder about the writer -- they’re almost bragging or something. I guess rappers, they do it, but I can’t.

* Listen: Obetrol at Bella Cafe.

* "All that matters is that the thing be the thing of the thing." -- Charles Olson