December 28, 2012

I'm floating in a most peculiar way

Regina Teri Memolo, COOL “DISCO” DAN, SE DC, 2008.

* "For a while, Criticism travels side by side with the Work, then Criticism vanishes and it's the Readers who keep pace. The journey may be long or short. Then the Readers die one by one and the Work continues alone, although a new Criticism and new Readers gradually fall into step with it along its path. Then Criticism dies again and the Readers die again and the Work passes over a trail of bones on its journey toward solitude. To come near the work, to sail in her wake, is a sign of certain death, but new Criticism and new Readers approach her tirelessly and relentlessly and are devoured by time and speed. Finally the Work journeys irremediably alone in the Great Vastness. And one day the Work dies, as all things must die and come to an end: the Sun and the Earth and the Solar System and the Galaxy and the farthest reaches reaches of man's memory. Every thing that begins as comedy ends as tragedy. -- Roberto Bolano The Savage Detectives

December 24, 2012

once in the morning and once at night

Saul Leiter, snow, 1960

Christmas Morning Without Presents: The Depression, Granite City, Illinois
-- Ellery Akers

It is 1929. The moon falls on the floor,
the pantry is empty, beans hardening like rocks in the
No, you did not expect this.
The same cracked wall with its stains,
odor of your mother's cleaning fluid,
curtains with their clean hems,
blowing in and out.
You touch the bones and lumps of the chair,
the broken wireless with its dial, you pick up a spoon,
and it's cold. A clock ticks. The chipped plates
fill up with the moon.
You look back at the window,
tubes and vats of the factories
quiet for once.
The garbage truck rolls up the alley,
the bristles of the streetcleaner's brush rasp on the
Your hand closes on the doorknob, quietly.
You begin to carry the stone of your childhood:
The moon. The empty room. It will be yours.

* Jingle Bells, by Will Oldham and the Anonomoanon

Sad Advice
-- Robert Creeley

If it isn't fun, don't do it.
You'll have to do enough that isn't.

Such is life, like they say,
no one gets away without paying

and since you don't get to keep it
anyhow, who needs it.

December 20, 2012

The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Alejandra Carles-Tolra, The Throne, 2012

Sandy Hook
-- Dennis Mahagin

Of late he sleeps a lot,
the last narcotic, pure and
simple aperture, paid for
not bought.
Slumber is a jungle
gym, where sundered
mothers rise up, impossibly
kind zombies turning
bullets into Tootsie Rolls
of the mind, sugary steam
a greensward
in early morning; discarded
lemon squirt guns, go melt
in the sun ...
twelve, sometimes
thirteen hours
at a shot, now
the job on hold, his own
mother in a nursing home.
Purple mist and twitching
limbs, that stick man
shooter, the dealer, knowing
no echo, of him... "Thing is
see I can't stop thinking
about those kids,"
he mutters at the pale
unshaven reflection
in glass: eye gunk,
lids strung at half mast.
It's a little past noon
and shudders
-- be awake

December 18, 2012

the kind of memories that turn your bones to glass

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2004

* Two recent articles relating to David Berman:

-- David Berman and Epistemological Closure in the Propaganda State, by Jeremy Schmall

-- River of Berman, by Thomas Beller

Beller's article discusses Berman inviting King Wenclas to a "relevance off." The invitation was originally published in this post on The Dust Congress, with additional correspondence between the two published a couple of days later.

Further Beller writes:

"Then something strange happened that speaks to the weird life of ideas in the culture. Once he began writing the book, even if he had not written it and had to eat the cold cheeseburger of failure every day, it was a project, an entity. And somehow HBO had gotten hold of it. They wanted to turn it into an HBO drama. A scriptwriter had been assigned to write a pilot. The project gathered steam. HBO would take David Berman’s book about his father and turn it into an hourlong dramatic series.

"And then David had an epiphany. HBO’s secret sauce, common across almost all their shows, is the anti-hero. It struck him that his attempt to unmask the diabolical nature of his father, to strike a blow against his father, would result in his father being turned into the Tony Soprano of D.C. lobbyists. It would glorify his father. He pulled the plug. HBO wanted to shoot the pilot. He said no.

"I don’t know the details but from limited experience I feel safe in saying he walked away from a boatload of money. Many boatloads. His friends thought he was crazy. Harmony Korine castigated him. An hourlong HBO dramatic series is close to the pinnacle of cultural prestige. What was he thinking?"

* "There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that." - Raymond Chandler

December 17, 2012

do the fakers drop out

Joy Feasley, You Made Me Very Happy, 2008

* From Harper's January 2013:

-- Percentage of public U.S. colleges and universities whose tuition has increased by more than half in the past five years: 15

-- Percentage of U.S. girl who are Girl Scouts: 8

-- Of female senators who are: 70

-- Cost of a pair of "all-American" blue jeans designed by Glenn Beck: $129.99

-- Minutes the average U.S. worker must work to pay for 12 ounces of beer: 3.3

-- The average Indian worker: 36

* Magnet interviews Chuck Prophet. excerpt:

Q: How many of the characters in the songs are real? I recognized a lot of the places, or have found out about them after hearing the songs, but how much are the people in there actual people of San Francisco?

CP: We kind of leaned a little more toward the mythological side of things, but, I mean, Willie Mays is very real. There’s also a whole host of characters on the record, from the Mitchell Brothers to Redman to Jim Jones—a lot of people who probably wouldn’t be caught dead with Willie Mays, or Willie Mays probably wouldn’t be caught dead with them. We knew he was going to be on the record somehow, and he’s a very real person, and he’s sort of the hero of the record. He’s a kinda quiet guy, and he’s a man of substance and stood up to racism. There’s probably a lot of thick books written about him, but all we knew about him is that he always swung for the fence.

Q: The reason I ask is I read an interview from January, where you’d said, “I’ll always take the myth over the truth.” When you’re writing creatively, that’s always kind of what you’re doing, shaping the truth or the memory, but do you see mythmaking as part of your goal in writing these songs?

CP: No. Well, if you’re lucky, sure. I’m trying to think of the guy from the Silver Jews (David Berman). He has an expression that somebody told me. He calls it “Google Pure.” If you can Google something and not find it, and it doesn’t come up anywhere, he calls it “Google Pure.” A lot about this record is sort of “Wikipedia Pure.” We didn’t really know. We were definitely in a woodshed when we wrote the songs, in the sense that we didn’t have any Internet. Even a song like “Castro Halloween,” that we snuck out about the parade that happens really only a couple blocks from my apartment every year, I thought two people were killed, but it turns out that really two people were shot and nine people were injured. The first line of the song is “When the shots rang out/And two men died,” so somebody corrected me, like, “Actually, Chuck, you know, nobody died.” Spoilsports.

* Lego versions of classic photographs.

* "The misfortune of ethics: because it knows everything better, it learns nothing." -- Elias Canetti

December 12, 2012

Its a cold, hard, world out there
these are cold hard times

Kini Collins, City Bird, 2007

Living the Good Life
-- Frank Stanford

There is only one locale for the heart
And that's somewhere between the dick and the brain.
I don't believe love is for chickenshits.
It's low, dark, and cold-blooded, like a cottonmouth.
Children are often involved. They stink
When they sprout in the garden of light,
And they stink mulching their way back down.
Cold-hearted women, work, madness, and death
Are the things separating the nuts from the shells.
Everything else is strictly a pile of shit-
Except for childhood, which we moon over
Because it smells to high heaven. So, go it
Alone. Solitude is a constellation:
People can't connect light anymore,
The only code they can break is darkness.
You can get a file in the heart
But you can't jimmy love -a woman once said
It'd take a shotgun to open my heart.
All the time I was on my knees in the bathroom
Crying like a fool. No one knows
How to love anybody's trouble, nothing will
Deaden the chiggers of pain sucking
Blood in your sleep -oh beautiful tree frogs,
Sonic in the nasty oil of evening, I love you,
Sounds by yourselves a star's life away.
But it doesn't mean a goddamn thing.
Death isn't cold, dark, and quiet.
It is a love letter written on an X-ray.
Better still, it's a manta ray
Squealing in your wife's drawers.
Is this where your will is kept?
What sleek doing is she dreaming of tonight?
How much money do you have in the bank?
Are your early years filed away
In another bureau under another name?
Ask me no questions, I'll still tell you lies,
My father would sing like a bull frog.
I thought my father was a flat-out wonder,
A faraway and constant stranger in my midst.
He wasn't even my father, the cuckold.
So do Lord help the bucket mouth son
Doing a job on doom and eating banana flips.
I for one leave the transcendence of language
To the auctioneers on the widows' steps,
And to the truck drivers with ears
Looking for the smoke on the road.
As for the snow that drifts ever
So silently into the eyes of children,
It is all full of shit from the north
And radiation from the west.

Soaking Wet
-- Frank Stanford

A hawk lived in the chinkapin

At night he flew
Up in the cockeyed light of our truck
And curled around the moon
When we saw it
Like virginia creeper

I would lie in the white dust of the road
And rip out nails
From the waterlogged boards

The sounds we make of an evening
Like bulls having nightmares
Chinese geese eating minnows

When the heat of the day
Is dark and quiet
And on its haunches
I let out my nurse's thread

What titties she has
Soft as sacks of sand on the levee

A bird puts a hole in the radiator
With his beak
When we hit him at night

One morning a snake sucks the eggs
And one evening I climb the tree
Set fire to the nest

December 10, 2012

it seems like we failed

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Camino Real), 2011

* In DC? The Caribbean and Plums perform with Talk It! this Thursday at The Dunes (14th and Meridian Place, NW). Check it out.

* Louis Lapham calls the war on drugs a war against human nature. excerpt:

So too in the 1960s, the prudent becoming of an American involved perilous transmigrations, psychic, spiritual, and political. By no means certain who I was at the age of 24, I was prepared to make adjustments, but my one experiment with psychedelics in 1959 was a rub that promptly gave me pause.

Employed at the time as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner, I was assigned to go with the poet Allen Ginsberg to the Stanford Research Institute there to take a trip on LSD. Social scientists opening the doors of perception at the behest of Aldous Huxley wished to compare the flight patterns of a Bohemian artist and a bourgeois philistine, and they had asked the paper’s literary editor to furnish one of each. We were placed in adjacent soundproofed rooms, both of us under the observation of men in white coats equipped with clipboards, the idea being that we would relay messages from the higher consciousness to the air-traffic controllers on the ground.

Liftoff was a blue pill taken on an empty stomach at 9 a.m., the trajectory a bell curve plotted over a distance of seven hours. By way of traveling companions we had been encouraged to bring music, in those days on vinyl LPs, of whatever kind moved us while on earth to register emotions approaching the sublime.

Together with Johann Sebastian Bach and the Modern Jazz Quartet, I attained what I’d been informed would be cruising altitude at noon. I neglected to bring a willing suspension of disbelief, and because I stubbornly resisted the sales pitch for the drug — if you, O Wizard, can work wonders, prove to me the where and when and how and why — I encountered heavy turbulence. Images inchoate and nonsensical, my arms and legs seemingly elongated and embalmed in grease, the sense of utter isolation while being gnawed by rats.

To the men in white I had nothing to report, not one word on either the going up and out or the coming back and down. I never learned what Ginsberg had to say. Whatever it was, I wasn’t interested, and I left the building before he had returned from what by then I knew to be a dead-end sleep.

Alcohol serves at the pleasure of the players on both sides of the game, its virtues those indicated by Seneca and Martin Luther, its vices those that the novelist Marguerite Duras likens, as did Hamlet, to the sleep of death: “Drinking isn’t necessarily the same as wanting to die. But you can’t drink without thinking you’re killing yourself.” Alcohol’s job is to replace creation with an illusion that is barren. “The words a man speaks in the night of drunkenness fade like the darkness itself at the coming of day.”

The observation is in the same despairing minor key as Billie Holiday’s riff on heroin: “If you think dope is for kicks and thrills you’re out of your mind. There are more kicks to be had in a good case of paralytic polio and living in an iron lung. If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.” She goes on to say that in Britain the authorities at least have the decency to treat addiction as a public-health problem, but in America, “if you go to the doctor, he’s liable to slam the door in your face and call the cops.”

Humankind’s thirst for intoxicants is unquenchable, but to criminalize it, as Lincoln reminded the Illinois temperance society, reinforces the clinging to the addiction; to think otherwise would be “to expect a reversal of human nature, which is God’s decree and never can be reversed.” The injuries inflicted by alcohol don’t follow “from the use of a bad thing, but from the abuse of a very good thing.” The victims are “to be pitied and compassionated,” their failings treated “as a misfortune, and not as a crime or even as a disgrace.”

* “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt

December 7, 2012

we're gonna find the meaning of feeling good

Ed Van der Elsken, Switzerland, 1967

-- Jack Gilbert

When I hear men boast about how passionate
they are, I think of the two cleaning ladies
at a second-story window watching a man
coming back from a party where there was
lots of free beer. He runs in and out
of the building looking for a toilet. "My Lord,"
the tall woman says, "that fellow down there
surely does love architecture."

First Times
-- Jack Gilbert

I had not seen her for twenty years when she called
to welcome me back to America, wanting to see me.
Warning that she was past forty now and the mother
of a seven year-old. The lost time flooded me.
Paris and me without money or a place to take her.
I borrowed a room and lit candles and had wine.
It went badly. My knees kept sliding away under me
on the starched sheets. I managed the humiliation
by turning my back and refusing to talk. She was
as young as I was and felt, I suspect, relief.

Selecting a Reader
-- Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

December 4, 2012

no kinds of love
are better than others

Saburo Murakami, Tôkyû kaiga (Work Painted by Throwing a Ball), 1954

* From the essay "How to Proceed in the Arts," written in 1952 by Larry Rivers and Frank O'Hara, but not published until Barney Russet did so in the Evergreen Review in 1961:

A Detailed Study of the Creative Act

1. Empty yourself of everything.

2. Think of far away things.

3. It is 12:00. Pick up the adult and throw it out of bed. Work should be done at your leisure, you know, only when there is nothing else to do. If anyone is in bed, with you, they should be told to leave. You cannot work with someone there.

4. If you are the type of person that thinks in words -- Paint!!

5. Think of a big color -- who cares if people call you Rothko. Release your childhood. Release it.

6. Do you hear them say painting is action? We say painting is the timid appraisal of yourself by lions.
10. Don't just paint. Be an all around successful man like Baudelaire.

11. Remember to despise your teachers, or for that matter anyone who tells you anything straight from the shoulder. This is very important.

For instance, by now you should have decided we are a complete waste of time. Easterners, Communists, and Jews. This will help you with your life, and we say "life before art." All other positions have drowned in the boring swamp of dedication. No one paints because they choose to.
15. In attempting a black painting, know that truth is beauty, but shit is shit.

16. In attempting a figure painting, consider that no amount of distortion will make a painting seem more relaxed. Others must be convinced before we even recognize ourselves. At the beginning, idenitity is a dream. At the end, it is a nightmare.
19. When involved with abstractions, refrain, as much as possible, from personal symbolism, unless your point is gossip....everyone knows size counts.

* "The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me." -- Doc Ellis, recalling the no-hitter he pitched while on LSD