November 30, 2011

Perhaps I am a small soul but I burn brightly
I am the light of this world
Just as long as I'm in this world
A small soul perhaps but I burn brightly
And I gutter on all your things like a wave

Iain Baxter&, Television Works, 1999

-- by Robert Lowell

Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter's vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.

But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

Humming This Song Trying to Remember the Way Another One Goes
-- by Frank Stanford

For a moment the hour is two mad doves
For the rest of your life
Your blood is a sketch
I have drawn from memory
Like a missing deck of cards
Under the bed's ditch
A gardenia turning brown when you touch it
Or a stone
Sinking in the low pond's mud
It all seems
To swarm obediently
As a fugue
I am going to dream
I hear the sleep of figs and bulls
Pollinating the next second
Like a scar with no wound
There is a lightning before death
Without thunder and melody
A taproot disheveled as a shadow
And the boats remain
Waiting to be launched
A dead reckoning of birds
Flying at ninety degrees
Like lost gloves
The bodies forbear
The bodies
Burning the pillows of the sick
That have written the last lines of songs
Sores down on their knees
Begging to be marooned
The horsefly's legs the lady's cameo
A close brush with the ancients
The other one
Went like this
Night and her moon
Like a widow with child
The wood of a wild cherry will kill you
And the barefoot gypsy slicing her melon
Will kiss the ground you walk on
The rest of your life

November 28, 2011

I never have a naughty thought
because of all the stuff I bought

Bridget Tichenor, Autorretrato (Self Portrait), undated

* More still, from David Malitz's March 2008 interview of David Berman:

Malitz: That’s a conversation I’ve been having with friends recently. Music is pure escapism now. We don’t want to think of anything bad. Like we were saying before, a lot of the music doesn’t communicate anything but it’s still very uplifting and pretty.

Berman: It’s almost like if all the bands were the Cocteau Twins. And the Cocteau Twins, I used to think it was neat because I’d say, “This is cool because someone can sing without words here. But you still get a feeling.” And a lot of times you hear people say, “Well I don’t care about lyrics anyway!” And I understand what they’re saying. That you’ve liked songs in the past that have stupid lyrics and it didn’t matter to you. But it doesn’t follow from that that it’s OK for all of your music to have stupid lyrics. You want your music to communicate to you but you also want it to communicate to you in such a way that it can communicate to people after you. And what’s really clear to me is that a lot of choral, harmonic bands -- there just won’t be any reason for anyone to listen to them in the future. There will be new bands that do that same thing. There will always be bands making pretty sounds. There will always be bands making pretty instrumental music. And the pretty instrumental music of yesterday -- nothing’s so short-lived as a career like Tortoise. There will be people who always listen to Tortoise because they’re amazing musicians. But there won’t be as many as there would if Tortoise gave us one thing to hang onto. One idea, one thing to say to yourself when you just need one thing to think. One thing that’s great about rock music is sloganeering. It can be beautiful propaganda. Sometimes I say to my friends who are having trouble writing a song, “You’ve got to give them one thing. You’ve got to give them an image, an idea, something.” And I think that there just aren’t that many songwriters … why go out on a limb and say anything when not saying anything is really rewarded? You’re only gonna scotch it. I feel like that the reaction to the music now will probably take the form of … well, I’m not going to say that.

Malitz: OK, let’s talk about the new album then. What’s it going to sound like? The previous albums -- I know you’ve said that you think “Bright Flight” isn’t as unique as the rest, but it’s a grower though -- but what’s the sound on this one? The last one -- and I don’t know if you’ll like the comparison -- but it reminded me of mid-’70s Dylan.

Berman: Well let me compare it to the last one. I think the big change here is … I don’t know how to say it any other way than it’s just better than any of the other records. I’ve heard people say that a lot and they were wrong. Namely R.E.M. every single time they put out an album. But I really think this is the best one on every level. And it certainly is on a lyrical level and it’s certainly the most cohesive. And I think it’s an inspiring record. I think it’s ultimately a positive record. I think what you’ll find is the first side is rather dark and the second side is rather light. There’s a progression. The band is really great.
Malitz: I remember reading a review in Option magazine that said something like, it almost sounds like they’re trying to be lo-fi and out of tune. And that’s what made me buy the record. But not too many of those songs made the cut for the tour … how do you look back on that record? I guess it’s the most indie rock record in the discography.

Berman: I was surprised that we were able to make a record. I guess I was really pleased just that it existed. When I made “The Natural Bridge” after that, I thought I made a terrible mistake. I pretty much thought that once people heard it, the jig was up. That people weren’t going to want to listen to a Silver Jews album that didn’t have Malkmus on it. And it’s funny, you know, it’s not the biggest selling Silver Jews record or anything, but when it came out, people in England were really, really into it. Not at home. And so I kept going. Basically, I couldn’t listen to the record after it was over for a while and when I did listen to it I basically wanted to jump out of a window. I just didn’t think I could let people hear those kind of things. The amount of pain I was in during the recording process. It’s not even about the songs themselves. It was such a -- it messed with my head so much. The whole 8 or 9 days I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. And I wasn’t taking anything. I was in a real state. And I was falling apart. In the middle of the sesions I actually had to go a hospital and tell them to put me to sleep. They gave me a prescription for Ativan. And I went to a hotel and I slept for two days and let everyone keep working. And I came back. And it was OK. There’s always a point in the making of the record where I want to quit. There’s always that point. And now the only difference is that I need to keep going because it’s … for me, I feel I’m positive that if people think I’m still writing well right now then I can just keep going forever. Because I have so many ideas on the level of what I have now, in store, that I feel good about … I would never, ever have to worry about writer’s block.

* The United States, Mapped According to Dominance in Pizza, Guns or Strip Clubs.

* "My father said, 'When in doubt, castle.'" -- Kurt Vonnegut

November 22, 2011

Perhaps all pleasure is only relief

Stephen Miles, William Burroughs after dinner joint

A Thanksgiving Prayer
-- by William Burroughs

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shit out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind the
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right let's see
your arms!

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

November 21, 2011

the beer won't buy itself

Dan McCarthy, Moonlight, 2009

* In today's excerpt - in the 1800s, new printing technologies led to an explosion of new books. The total value of books sold increased from $3.5 million to $12.5 million between 1830 and 1860, and the number of magazines grew from under 100 to over 600 between 1825 and 1850. Prominent among the new books were ornate gift books and "mammoth weeklies" - the largest reaching nearly eleven feet tall. With the current explosion of blogs and other writings on the internet, some people lament the unchecked libel, plagiarism, and lack of fact-checking - and hold printed newspapers, magazines and books as examples of responsible behavior. Yet similar charges were being made against printed publications in the 1800s.

-- From The Fabrication of American Literature, by Lara Langer Cohen

"A rapid succession of technological and economic innovations in the early nineteenth century transformed the early republican period's largely artisanal print shops into a major commercial industry. Improvements to the flat-bed press in the 1810s and 1820s, the introduction of horsepower in the 1820s and steam power a few years later, and the invention of the cylinder press in the 1830s greatly sped up production rates, as did the development of the stereotyping and electrotyping processes in the 1810s and 1840s, respectively. Former hand processes like paper and board manufacturing, typesetting, and binding were swiftly mechanized. By 1830 a single machine could make paper on rolls (rather than sheet by sheet, as hand production required) and cut it to size.

"The introduction in the 1820s of cased bind­ings, covers assembled separately and then sewn to the printed pages, was especially transformative. In the past, publishers had generally issued books in paper wrappers or pasteboard covers, which readers then had bound as they chose or could afford. Cased bindings allowed publishers to issue books in uniform editions with fixed prices. For sure sellers, publishers would produce books in multiple bindings, each tailored to different tastes and budgets; thus in 1856 a reader looking for Irving's Sketch-Book could buy an edition bound in cloth for $1.25, with illustrations and gilt decora­tion for $2.25, or in elegant morocco covers for $3.50.

"Improved paper-making and binding techniques made possible two of the most spectacular feats of antebellum print technology: the ornate gift books, or literary annu­als, which flourished around mid-century, and the 'mammoth weeklies' of the 1840s. Published at the end of the year to be exchanged as holiday presents, gift books compiled sentimental poetry, short fiction, and essays, but the real appeal lay in their alluring exteriors: heavily embossed leather or watered silk bindings bedecked with elaborate ornaments, color illustra­tions, marbled endpapers, copious amounts of gilding, and even mother-of-pearl. The mammoth weeklies also capitalized on visual impact. Gigantic newspapers containing fiction (usually British reprints), some news, and usually incongruous illustrations, the mammoths competed to offer the largest editions; when the Universal Yankee Nation (motto: 'The Largest Paper in All Creation') emerged as the victor, it reached nearly eleven feet tall. ...

"The unmoored claims of the printed book elicited constant questions from its very beginnings: Was it a 'true copy' or did it misrepresent the manuscript, intentionally or unintentionally? Did the author named really write it? Was it the kind of text its title purported it to be? Could its contents be trusted? Moreover, the print culture of the early nineteenth-century United States possessed a peculiar volatility all its own: it was a 'culture of reprinting,' in Meredith McGill's words, in which 'cir­culation outstripped authorial and editorial control.' ... In the whirl of reprinting, no text was fixed. Magazine editors regularly republished each other's articles, British and American 'bookaneers' competed to issue first editions on each shore or undersell existing editions, and writers often found their words altered, cut, rearranged, or attributed to others, or had unfamiliar words attributed to them. Printed texts cited, commented upon, and reappropriated each other to an extent that compares with the most viral internet meme. ...

"Gift books more starkly illustrate the dubious achievements of ante­bellum literary publishing, for next to their sumptuousness, their most characteristic feature was their spuriousness. Publishers routinely repack­aged pages from old gift books in new bindings, took pages from unsold periodicals and rebound them as gift books, or erased the gilt date from the bindings of the old annuals and restamped them with the current year, much as a counterfeiter would erase the dollar amount from a bill and replace it with a higher number." [via]

* Live footage of Husker Du, from Philadelphia, 1983.

* "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -- Ernest Hemingway

November 18, 2011

remember all the people that were heroes to ya
and remember all the people you deceived

William Eggleston

* From The Basketball Article, written in April 1975 by Bernadette Meyer and Anne Waldman:

We sit down to watch a few Knicks games. If one sat down with Dave DeBusschere, one might have a margharita. Margharitas, tequila sunrises, somebody tells us Wendall Ladner likes to fuck. Frazier's "Sometimes I get an offer I can't refuse," occurs to us. Jim Wergeles, the Knicks publicity manager, tells us Bill Bradley won't give interviews this year. Frazier's publicity is awful. Bill Walton announces they're trying to discredit him, he doesn't fit in. The FBI is looking for the people who shared his house. They question Walton about Patty Hearst. The Knicks steal Eddie Donovan from the Buffalo Braves. 20,000 people come to watch an NBA Game. In the cheaper seats in the Garden, nobody cares is you stand up for the national anthem. It's not like baseball. We always say we're pregnant if anybody hassles us. If they play the national anthem before every game because the sport is a national sport, they how can the champions be world champions?
Somebody says to us "there are too many basketball players" then somebody says "there are too many poets." We imagine a great conference of poets with trainers, doctors and coaches, keeping them in fine physical and mental shape. We wonder what their work would be like. Attendance 20,239. The poets perform in gym suits, showing their long lean legs and muscular shoulders. The older poets comment on the game or go into business. One poet is the center, there are two forwards and two guards but anyone can score. The center, generally, must simply try to get the words away from the opposing team of poets and the guards bring them down-court to be used. The referees could be cursed at during and after the game. Some poets are booed for using the language awkwardly, others cheered for coming up with a new style of play. Most of the coaches are former players who continue to read and write books. A foul is called on any poet who deranges the language. A poet in a state of ecstasy makes a 3-point play. Fouled in the act of writing by personal insults, the poet would go to the line.

November 17, 2011

I'm on your side
And we're always right
It's perfect
And worth it

Jim Pickerell, Downtown Washington, DC During Bus Strike, May 1974

* From Harper's December 2011:

-- Rank of non-denominational Christianity among the fastest-growning religions in America during the past two decades: 2

-- Rank of "none": 1

-- Date on which Walnut Ridge, Arkansas unveiled a sculpture commemorating the Beatles' 1964 visit there: 9/18/2001

-- Hours the Beatles spent in the town: 1

-- Portion of adults under thirty who think Hollywood is a threat to their values: 1/3

-- Minimum number of times Newt Gingrich has seen The Hangover: 7

* "To do a dull thing with style -- now that's what I call art." -- Charles Bukowski

November 16, 2011

Isn't life a blast
It's like living in the past

Sebastian Liste, This side of the mountain, 2010

-- by Dennis Mahagin

your electrophoresis
could make headlines


a beat:

Arab spring to ventricular

winter occupying
Wall Street.

Suddenly it's Sunday; morning light leaks
a dirty systole in fisted

sheets, short subway

grope after dropping

a winning lottery
ticket in the jostle

and slam, wringing ropes
from a busted turnstile

rhyme, skip
a stench of wood smoke,
monkey got

flat line
from coffee grind:
a light sweet surfeit
of sleep made
to throttle.

Then some shining star
from the New York Times
opines on Face

the Nation; ekes out

some real choice ones, your guess
he says as

as a land mine,
Casio, defibrillator,

predator drone; compares
Wall Street

to a leap

of brook trout
ablation, No Fly
Zone, deep
jagged peaks, the fearsome
mysterious cardio gram.

A pattern

on his necktie stops
and starts

your heart.

After Ritsos
-- by Malena Morling

You know that moment in the summer dusk
when the sunbathers have all gone home to mix drinks
and you are alone on the beach

when the waves begin to nibble
on the abandoned sand castles—
And further out, over the erupted face

of the water stained almost pink
there are a few clouds that hold
entire rooms inside of them—rooms where no one lives—

in the hair
of the light that soon will go
grey and then black. It is the moment

when even the man who mops the floor
in the execution room of the prison
stops to look up into the silence

that grows like smoke or the dusk itself.
And your mind becomes almost visible
and you know there is nothing

that is not mysterious. And that no moment
is less important than this moment.
And that imprisonment is not possible.

November 14, 2011

It's the way I'm living right or wrong

Willem de Kooning, Pink Angels, 1945

* 1972 interview of Richard Yates. excerpt:

Interviewer: What novelist has told that kind of story best, in your opinion?

Yates: In my opinion? Flaubert. Madame Bovary is probably the greatest novel I’ve ever read—certainly not for that reason alone, but at least partly for that reason. Nobody and everybody is to blame in that book, as Emma perceives when she writes her suicide note to Charles, and as even Charles is able to understand when he tells Rodolphe that he holds nothing against him. There are no villains in that book, any more than there are in what I guess is my second all-time favorite novel, The Great Gatsby.

But I hope I haven’t managed to suggest, with all this talk of tragedy and calamity and downfall, that books with unhappy endings are the only kind I admire. Easy affirmations are silly and cheap, of course; but when a tough, honest writer can look squarely at all the horrors of the world, face all the facts, and still come up with a hard-won, joyous celebration of life at the end, in spite of everything, that can be wonderful. That’s what Dickens did so often and so well, to name only one of the all-time greats. And Joyce, I suppose, with all that “yes” stuff at the end of Ulysses. More recently, I think Joyce Carey managed to do that in most of his books, especially in The Horse’s Mouth. And so have a great many other first-rate writers.
Interviewer: Do you feel your work has been neglected, or that it has had a reasonable and just response to date?

Yates: Oh, sometimes, in my more arrogant or petulant moments, I still think Revolutionary Road ought to be famous. I was sore as hell when it first went out of print, and when Norman Podhoretz made a very small reference to it in his book several years ago as an “unfairly neglected novel,” I wanted every reader in America to stand up and cheer. But of course deep down I know that kind of thinking is nonsense. After all, it did quite well for a first novel, much better than average: it got generally good reviews, got nominated for the National Book Award, later sold a great many copies in paperback and was widely translated and published abroad. It’s too bad that my second book, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, is out of print, but not at all surprising: most books of short stories disappear quickly, and at least mine had a few decent reviews and a paperback sale before it disappeared. What happened after those two books was my own fault, nobody else’s. If I’d followed them up with another good novel a few years later, and then another a few years after that, and so on, I might very well have begun to build the kind of reputation some successful writers enjoy. Instead, I tinkered and brooded and fussed for more than seven years over the book that finally became A Special Providence, and it was a failure in my own judgment, as well as that of almost everyone else, and was generally ignored. Now I feel I’m almost back where I started, with the added disadvantage of being middle-aged and tired. When this new book is done, it’ll be almost like publishing a first novel all over again. But no, to get back to the question, I can’t honestly claim my stuff has been neglected; it’s probably received just about the degree of attention it deserves. I simply haven’t published enough to expect more—not yet, anyway.
Interviewer: Who do you consider some other good, neglected writers?

Yates: Read the four splendid books by Gina Berriault, if you can find them, and if you want to discover an absolutely first-class talent who has somehow been left almost entirely out of the mainstream. She hasn’t quit writing yet, either, and I hope she never will.

And read almost anything by R.V. Cassill, a brilliant and enormously productive man who’s been turning out novels and stories for twenty-five years or more, all the while building and sustaining a large influence on other writers as a teacher and critic. Oh, he’s always been well known in what I guess you’d call literary circles, but he had to wait a long, long time before his most recent novel, Doctor Cobb’s Game, did bring him some widespread readership at last.

And George Garrett. I haven’t read very much of his work, but that’s at least partly because there’s so very much of it—and he, too, has remained largely unknown except among other writers. I guess his latest book, like Cassill’s, did make something of a public splash at last, but that, too, was long overdue.

And Seymour Epstein—ever heard of him? I have read all of his work to date—five novels and a book of stories, all expertly crafted and immensely readable—yet he, too, seems to have been largely ignored so far.

But hell, this list could go on and on. This country’s loaded with good, badly neglected writers. Fred Chappel. Calvin Kentfield. Herbert Wilner. Helen Hudson. Edward Hoagland. George Cuomo. Arthur J. Roth—those are only a few.

My God, if I’d produced as much good work as most of those people, with as little reward, I’d really feel qualified to rant and rail against the literary establishment.

* Weird Muppets piece from The Tonight Show, 1974.

* "I have beliefs, of course, like everyone—but I don't always believe in them.”-- Joyce Carol Oates

November 11, 2011

I get a buzz from being cold and wet
The pleasure seems to balance out the pain

Ernst Fuchs, 1955. This photograph of a painted figure wearing a felt headdress was one of the artist’s early attempts at approximating a peyote experience.

Between Aging and Old
-- by Jack Gilbert

I wake up like a stray dog
belonging to no one.
Cold, cold, and the rain.
Friendships outgrown or ruined.
And love, dear God, the women
I have loved now only names
Remembered: dead, lost, or old.
Mildness more and more the danger.
Living among rocks and weeds to guard against wisdom.
Alone with the heart howling
and refusing to let it feed on
mere affection. Lying in the dark,
singing about the intractable
kinds of happiness.

-- by Anne Sexton

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.

Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren't good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

November 9, 2011

feel sick and dirty more dead than alive

andrew moore, ice breaker

--by Beth Woodcome

This morning the three dogs shat
on the floor and that’s what I woke to.

Before I even woke my body took itself
in, took it in like an immediate mother would.

Not every mother, but let’s get back to you.
One dog is now sleeping at my feet.

I know how that feels, that shame.
This is my sixty-seventh postcard.

Each time, when I say
I wish you were here

I mean to say I don’t know if you’re real
or intend to hurt me by having a body I can’t get to.

A Poem for James Frey
--by Beth Woodcome

"And you altered things about yourself," Winfrey said.

When I was born, it was known that I would have to lie in order to live.
Even swaddled, we're all little myths waiting to unfold.

My father ate my mother, my sister married my brother,
the gods weren't merciful. Behind that, in the curtains,
I concocted myself out of the scraps.

This is my memory; this is what it had to be in order to survive.
I think we alter according to necessity, and the truth is
what you're willing to die with.

"Did you cling to that image because that's how you wanted
to see yourself?" she asked.

Ouch. I see myself as you see me because I'm young.
There are at least ten wars right behind your back,
but all you can do is look at me.

If I perjured myself, it's not that I truly knew I had. I swear it.
The definitions are confusing. All I know is that I held myself up
against the light, and a real image came through.

16-bit Intel 8088 chip
-- by Charles Bukowski

with an Apple Macintosh
you can't run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can't read each other's
for they format (write
on) discs in different
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can't use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
unless certain
bits and bytes are
but the wind still blows over
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his

November 8, 2011

When you were young
You were the king of carrot flowers

Dion Johnson, Accelerator, 2011

* More from David Malitz's March 2008 interview of David Berman:

Malitz: Do you think that today’s -- you were saying “for the kids” -- last night you said you thought rock-and-roll appealed to teens back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and again today. And one of the common themes I’ve talked about with people over the past couple years, the whole idea of indie rock -- which you were talking about with Mudhoney and SST bands, people making music for the sake of making music -- but now there does seem to be a more commercial aspect to it now. Is that...

Berman: What you see is a lot of pretty people, a lot of good looking people making music today. And I think you could start there and say, “What is that all about?” Because, for instance, in hardcore and post-hardcore music, when you would go to live shows you would never, ever think you were going to see a good looking woman at one of these shows. People were outsiders. If you had the looks and the social standing, you were not going to cut yourself off from society to be a punk rocker. And I think what I feel, when I look at the bands I say, “But these people could all be in the sororities and fraternities and getting MBAs.” It’s a viable career path to make noisy rock-and-roll. So I think the candidates that we get to choose from have already filtered on the level of forming a band. I think people are saying, “Well, we gotta get four good looking guys. We gotta look sharp.” All those British bands, they don’t have any fat bald bass players and we can’t afford to have them either. So I’m not sure the voices we’re hearing are the voices we would hear if there was nothing to be gained by being in one of these bands except artistic exploration. And, so, I suspect sometimes that … I suspect that the peopel who have something to say have a harder route, a harder road to hoe than ever before because of the need for appearance to be impeccable and fashionable. On one of those new songs I have this Emerson quote … well he says in his essay on manners -- about manners, about fashion -- that it’s akin to virtue gone to seed. That that kind of overripeness is what I see when I see … there’s something corrupt. I will say that. There is something corrupt about rock-and-roll depending on good looks. I even have, in my band, one of the guys that always plays with us says, “You’re gonna get someone younger! I know you want someone younger!” This is a theme I keep coming back to.

Malitz: Another thing, you talk about people with something to say. With a lot of newer bands -- to me, music is as much about communication. It doesn’t have to be just lyrics, but it has to be communicating a feeling, and a lot of the bands today aren’t really communicating. It might be very pretty, like you say, but it doesn’t necessarily communicate anything. Whereas with your songs, they really express -- lyrically a lot of where that communication comes from. It goes from very funny to heartbreakingly sad and that’s how life is, really. You talked last night about how you have notebooks full of poems and I guess lyrics, too. What is that process like.

Berman: To me, when it’s done, I want there to be something for the listener to interpret. When I write I want there to be more than one level of meaning, I want just a few words to be able to carry a lot of different thoughts and ideas. So when I’m composing, when I’m writing, basically it’s a process of first of all getting a foundation -- what is this song about? And then writing towards that. So I might start out with a title and basically it’s almost a process of coming up with solutions -- the problem is how to finish this song. Once I start it with a title or an overarching idea, how do I fill in the rest? That is a process of coming up with candidates for the lyrics but way more than I need. Way more solutions than I need. So I can pare away back at them and get the answer I need. Searching for a single solution never works for me. I always have to come up with more than I need and pare back. It’s the best way for me to get the most quality. So I will overwrite as much as I can and go and try and discover the song. I’m rejecting, rejecting, rejecting ideas. Cassie is around the house when I’m doing this stuff and I’m often giving her many, many choices -- is this better, is this better, is this better? The amount of writing that gets -- through the rewrites there’s good writing that gets set aside because it’s not good for the song. Good writing that is bad for the song. And a lot of that gets discarded. Sometimes, you know, whole verses and stanzas get discarded. And I hope that maybe as a unit that verse can be helpful for me in a different song or that it can become the seed of a new song. When I’m rewriting and I realize I have to roll back everything, which means I’ve written a whole song but it’s not working. I know it’s a good song, but I want it to be a great song so I have to do something very, very hard, which is give up the good song. Get rid of it and start over again with my foundational materials, like a riff and a title, and rewrite. It’s hard to do that because you’ve gotten there, you’ve gotten something that’s better than nothing and maybe even better than anything you’ve ever written but you know you need to roll it back and start over.

November 4, 2011

Shadows breathing on themselves
Only remember the photographs
All of the years and all of the years and that’s all that’s left

Gary Panter, Boarding Pass, 2008

* From a March 2008 interview of David Berman by David Malitz:

"I'm really hard on myself. I welcome people challenging what I’ve done on a level of what I’ve done. But I do get embarrassed about adulation that I see when it comes my way, if it comes my way. It’s embarrassing because I recognize it as part of this complete affirmation of the idea of a cool rock band. Of which there can be nothing wrong with them. There can be no question. You can’t mention the second terrible album. No one wants to mention that it’s terrible. No one wants to talk about that. No one wants to talk about, well, maybe they only had one album in them. And the kind of patronization that goes on with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Mick Jagger on one end, and then the other end as far as adulation for a buzz band — it’s sickening. I just see the baby boomer’s technique is being used by the bloggers.

And I wish the voices of harshness — the fanzines I read like Conflict and Forced Exposure … if you were to actually apply any of the artistic principles that people used to apply and judge standards of music by … there’s a lot of foolishness going on. There’s very little wisdom going on. There’s certainly very little wisdom being communicated. But nobody wants to rain on the parade. And nobody wants to find out they’re not invited to the party. In a way, I think, that we’re going through a period right now where it’s sort of like people have no faith in any institutions other than what’s popular."

November 2, 2011

why is there something instead of nothing

Vanessa Beecroft, VB67.007.RK, 2010-11

The Human Heart
-- by Campbell McGrath.

We construct it from tin and ambergris and clay,
ochre, graph paper, a funnel
of ghosts, whirlpool
in a downspout full of midsummer rain.

It is, for all its freedom and obstinence,
an artifact of human agency
in its maverick intricacy
its chaos reflected in earthly circumstance,

its appetites mirrored by a hungry world
like the lights of the casino
in the coyote’s eye. Old
as the odor of almonds in the hills around Solano,

filigreed and chancelled with the flavor of blood oranges,
fashioned from moonlight,
yarn, nacre, cordite,
shaped and assembled valve by valve, flange by flange,

and finished with the carnal fire of interstellar dust.
We build the human heart
and lock it in its chest
and hope that what we have made can save us.

The Sentence
-- by Robert Creeley

There is that in love
which, by the syntax of,
men find women and join
their bodies to their minds

--which wants so to acquire
a continuity, a place,
a demonstration that it must
be one's own sentence.

The Lift
-- by David Lehman

The wonderful thing
about being with
you in this hotel
lift in London full
of people is that none
of them knows what you
and I are about to do
in bed or possibly
on the floor in fact not
even you realize yet
how much you're going
to enjoy this act for
which we have no name
not clinical or hideous, just
a double digit number, perfect
as a skater's figure eight