Friday, August 29, 2003

Wheels of Soul 

Last night was the premiere of the WHEELS OF SOUL documentary(WYBE public TV).
The Wheels are an outlaw motorcycle group based in West Philadelphia. They’re a
multi-racial, primarily African-American club whose headquarters can be seen
from the EL at 61st & Market St. You can’t miss it. DEATH TO THE KLAN is
painted on the front door of their headquarters.

In a culture where so many outlaw bikers have been portrayed(not altogether
inaccurately)as drug dealers & thugs, the Wheels are unique. The West Philly
block where the group convenes couldn’t be happier to have their neighbors,
who’ve been there since 1967. There is no drug dealing on the Wheels block. The
elderly & women are escorted by the bikers, if they wish. Local business folks
have the WoS to call if there are any problems in their stores. They’ve been
involved in a number of charities & worked with residents to develop community

One of the biker club’s chief spokesmen was Wine-O, aka JR. Some of us knew him
as Jerome Robinson. He was Wheels of Soul president, visual artist & poet. He
had many gallery exhibits in Olde City. He often read his work at the long-
defunct Bacchanal on 13th & South St., where you could have found Lamont
Steptoe, CA Conrad or Linh Dinh in the same room on a given night. He’s
featured prominently in the documentary describing the lifestyle of his
brothers & sisters. It was good to see him.

Jerome was the first poet I ever had a conversation with in Philadelphia. He
was a generous & patient guy, giving his time to talk about poetry with me in
all my ignorance. JR destroyed my preconception of the poet as a brooding,
alienated figure. What I took away from our first meeting was a reinforcement
that pretension helps no one; I should be engaged in(not apart and/or above)
the world, because I am part of a community whether I like it or not. Most of
all, he showed by example that I could just be me. I didn’t have to try to be a
poet. I was/am one.

Robinson was murdered earlier this year. We weren’t best friends, but I did get
to thank him a few months before his death, 12 years after we’d met. He was
flattered & surprised- either humble or unaware he’d taught me anything. I can
still see him smiling in the Tiberrino Courtyard. He’s beyond the stars & in
the soil now. Wheels of Soul keep turning.

Check for the rebroadcast of WHEELS OF SOUL

Frank Sherlock

questions for Chris McCreary, but really questions for everyone 

Chris, i had wanted to respond to your earlier post a couple of days ago, but was distracted with tracking down my Bukowski dream.

first, i like that you had read certain things, like IN THE AMERICAN TREE before you got into Bukowski. i say that because it was the other way around for me, and i guess it's just one of those things where you know how you've approached poems, and then you hear a different route, or in this case, the opposite route in some sense, and want to know more about that because discovery, or, the passage to discovery, is a real human fascination.

one question i have, that may sound kind of silly (but i don't care), is if you can pinpoint a particular poem or life change, or something, that got you out of Bukowski-like writing/reading, and moving you on. i ask it this way because it's clear from your post of the 26th that there was some point where you tired of the "sloppiness" of Bukowski you were suddenly recognizing. curious about such pivotal points for poets.

also wanted to ask you to elaborate more on your ideas of fiction. i'm someone who hasn't liked fiction. but now find myself enjoying fiction written by poet friends. alright, i'll go ahead and say that, if it weren't for poet friends writing fiction, i might still be stuck in my same superstition about poets writing fiction. how do you feel about fiction and poetry in the life of a writer in the sense that one genre might dominate the other inside you?

it's such bullshit i'm starting to realize, since i see poets like Eileen Myles writing heart-stopping prose. Magdalena Zurawski, and hasssen, poets i respect, writing this, this, prose, that i, that i, okay, that i like. i've needed my ass kicked over this for awhile. but it still doesn't mean i want to write a novel anytime soon, or ever.

but at the same time i want to know how you feel/think about these issues, to which you may simply answer that they're my personal issues.

for this question i've been trying to remember WHEN i first developed my superstitious theories. but when isn't really important. at some point i had convinced myself that poets access one part of the brain while fiction writers took to another. and that poets who began writing fiction might not be able to find their way home to poetry (notice the phrasing, poetry being Home). this especially took root in me after reading some scientific data which claimed how the memory worked, and how explaining a memory to someone created a new memory in the explaining, and how each time you told the memory you were not referring to the original memory, but to the newest most recent memory of having told the memory. thus the explanation for how people whitewash memories. this of course has nothing to do with poets writing fiction, but i somehow made it so, like some very good, but deranged lawyer, convincing the jury in my head that this newest study on memory proves my point that poets should STAY AWAY from fiction.

i remember telling Eileen Myles this, who of course laughed, and said, "well, the way i really see it is that i'm maturing. i'll still always write poems, but now i can finally write novels because i have more patience for novels." and i'll be honest in saying how judgmental i was of that at first, walking away thinking that maybe she was rationalizing this to me. but then i couldn't deny that i fell in love with COOL FOR YOU, her first, and amazing novel.

okay, so the questions have become lost in all this. i guess reactions to all this are what i want. poets talking about things that make other poets uncomfortable might be the best possible thing.


dream of rollerskating with poets like you 

before i went to sleep last night my mother called, upset about her cousin's son celebrating his 19th birthday in Iraq yesterday. we have half a dozen family in various armed services over there. she told me that she had started crying at the mailbox thinking about him over there, and a neighbor driving by pulled over, and got out to talk with her. at one point my mother admitted to the neighbor that he told his mother how scared he was over there, and the neighbor said, "well, that's the decision the young man made for himself Carla, it's as good a time as any for him to face his decisions and become a man." it was a good thing the neighbor said that to my mother, because it gave her the perfect opportunity to vent her anger, "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FEW DECISIONS HE HAS HAD IN HIS LIFE! THERE'S NO WORK OUT THERE! AND BESIDES, WHY SHOULDN'T HE BE AFRAID IN A WORLD WHERE WE'RE WILLING TO SACRIFICE YOUNG MEN FOR OIL OR WHATEVER IT IS WE'RE DOING OVER THERE!" it was a great conversation with my mother. i told her i was happy for her to have that opportunity to let it all out on someone who deserved it, some middle class prick, ignorant of WHY many of the young men and women enter the armed services. true, he had other choices. true, no one held a gun to his head to sign his life away. my mother wasn't saying that. the young man has dreams of getting his time in, and using his money for college, and that is his decision. but he's still allowed to be scared for crying out loud!

anyway, my mother also talked about other cousins of her's in Iowa who are trying to raise money to buy the rollerskating rink in Clinton, where she grew up. she found out from my sister's big mouth that i'm about to drive to California with Maggie Zurawski, and wanted me to drive through Clinton, stay with my insane born again christian family, take photos of the rink for her. i told her that was impossible. which it's not, but i'll make it so if need be. anyway, i told her, they have cameras in Iowa, have them take you your pictures and mail them, why do i have to drive out there and do it?

but i had a dream after all this phone conversation that i had made some bad --very bad-- decisions somehow, and was working at this damn rollerskating rink. and i wasn't too happy. but i decided to have a poetry reading series there. and it was almost the Philly Sound revisited, only, it was Iowa. but there were these poets reading, poets from out there, that LOOKED sort of like Frank Sherlock, hassen, Chris McCreary, and even one really skinny guy who looked like Molly Russakoff. geeze, i hope this doesn't piss you off Molly, this is not to say that YOU looked him, a guy, but to say that HE looked like you, a woman. he's was kind of sexy, if that helps. but they weren't the actual poets i know here. and there was that kimball organ music playing that i remember as a kid from the rinks. at one point in the dream my aunt came up to us when we were in the back room where all the vending machines are lined up, and she was angry because this Molly-looking guy had read a poem against the war in Iraq. only now, he really is Molly, because when he's speaking he sounds exactly like her, and he did a great job calming my aunt down with a lot of diplomatic understanding of her feelings, and sharing some snack food from the machine.



Carol Mirakove’s TEMPORARY TATTOOS is folded in an image of hope scrawled on
concrete- daisies drawn on the sidewalks of New York City shortly after
September 11. I’ve known Carol’s work to be political, w/ a directness & humor
that comes through her Debordian Clowns Against Capitalism filter (e.g. her
recent FUCK THE POLIS poems). Her latest chapbook is a 23-page poem, segmented
by sections/hours. It reads as a refugee poem. The time chronicles(in which
every hour counts), the anxiety of departure & ultimate separation mark each
phase of passage. The setting isn’t South Asia or Western Africa, it’s
Brooklyn. More specifically, the poem’s terrain isn’t necessarily
geographically focused at all. It moves within the scape of the

Relationship is a place on the verge of being left behind. Anxiety, guilt &
survival are at odds w/ the possibility of severing the bond(age).

from 4(pm):

do you actually have a specific plan to keep things low key? or
are we gonna wing it. we’ve been doing a great job so far.
statute of limitations. or you could just tie me up immediately
upon arrival.

and i thought i don’t deserve a star for leaving, but i’ll accept
one when i stay.

Mirakove moves between tangible, emotional & back again adeptly. The suspicions
of sabotage & frustration with "him" are complicated by a struggle for
situational control. The underground in the first & middle hours of the book
suggest a search for cover, but also a vague possibility of tunneling out. The
connection is still intact, though making it intentionally difficult prevents
an impulsive turnaround.


keeper of copper writing to cut phone lines. these repairs are
never quick.

washing for sunrise, resembled a little kid playing dress up.
slammed into a wall. he’ll survive, more or less. whatever’s
good for you. he’s rarely specific.

The practice of washing is employed as both meditation & a preparation. The
laundromat is a place fostering reflection, as well as vulnerability. Process
is not the culprit as much as the dirty details are. There is a painful/playful
doorway between seeing large-in-the-small & self-abuse. Everything is in the
escape. Everything is in the place left behind. The tension between micro &
masoch never quite resolves.


epic of empathy                                    

"snapping out of it" does not = good health. maybe it’s the
extremity & variety of the repressions here that are tossing me
about. crash course. front seat is glorious(microcosm), but i
should know better(masochism).

TEMPORARY TATTOOS is a document of sorrow & possibility. The Mirakove sentence
is taut, dense & often beautiful in the least precious, most impacting way.
Survival in the real feeds Carol’s refugee, keeping her moving through the
doubt pangs & hunger for return. The chapbook comes to an end/beginning, not
THE END. No daisies grow in the sidewalk cracks, but their images keep us
looking- watching where we walk.

Frank Sherlock

To order TEMPORARY TATTOOS, contact Jen Coleman or Allison Cobb.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

dis buk 

chris that one is delicious! isn't this queer -- one i wrote a few yrs back, similar but in overt self-ridicule. don't recall ever reading 'displaced' ::


oh scary monster
sucking his paw
saliva’s fermented
long eyes down
christ too much hair
quiet wish to hang
than be among *them*

** ** **

but i really like buk's.
this is a perfect example of the self-conscious crap i mentioned earlier. i admire his Real Thing, as you said -- & i think i agree if u mean a certain sincerity re otherwise embarrassing sentiment -- w/o being self-conscious.



when this Bukowski posting began, i started looking through old notebooks for a dream i had some years ago about him. i almost gave up looking, but found it this morning. here it is:

October 10, 1996

dreamt i came home to find pencils i bought last week hanging from the ceiling in a mobile turning slowly on a breeze, i remember realizing i couldn't feel the breeze, but the pencils turned above me and there were a couple of white feathers in the mobile, and the wire was held together with hair pins, so i knew there was someone else in the apartment. i pulled a pencil from the mobile but had to replace it with chewing gum and other little things, to keep the mobile balanced and turning. i sat down to write in my notebook and noticed a stack of books on the floor, near where i was sitting. none of the books were facing me, so i had to flip them around, and EVERY BOOK was a Charles Bukowski book. but i only owned one Bukowski book i was sure of it. there were at least a dozen Bukowski books there, all Black Sparrow editions, of course. does anyone else publish him? i'm pretty sure that's his main press at least. anyway, i picked through the pile and came to one titled NEW POEMS, and it was warm. it was actually warmer than warm, more like hot, but not too hot that i couldn't handle it and i felt the floor beneath it, but the floor was not hot. it was just the book that was giving off the heat. when i opened the first page it was a scramble of words. i closed the page, reopened it, and the words were in a different order. i closed the book to make sure i wasn't crazy, but of course i wasn't crazy, i was only dreaming, why am i always worried that i'm crazy when i'm dreaming? need to think about that. but it was a book by Bukowski simply called NEW POEMS that would scramble the words all over the pages in a different order each time it was closed and reopened. have to remember to ask Katherine what she thinks about all this, she's good at dream interpretation.


One more Re:Buk 

Hassen, was that you who last posted, I reckon? I love seeing Buk as a liberating force in the world - right on!

After posting last, I felt badly about giving his poems such short shrift. Yeah, I do think they're often sloppy in ways that make it tough for me to read them now, & some of the later poems esp coast too much on persona, but I've been thinking about some of his poems that really punched me in the gut when I was 19 or 20. Here's probably my favorite Bukowski poem ever. The copy of it I have is from Boulevard's Spring 1991 issue - not sure if it made it into one of his later books of poems.


burnt in hell
a piece of me fits nowhere
as other people find things
to do
with time
places to go
with going
things to say
with saying

I am
burnt in hell
somplace north of Del Mar
flowers grow upsidedown here.

I am not
other people.
other people are
other people.

they are all one thing
they are
nervous and mad
and I am
burnt in hell
my face a thousand years old

I am not
other people.

I'd die on their picnic grounds
wrapped in their flags
slugged by their songs
dogs to their soldiers
gored by their humor
shot by their eyes

I am not
other people
I am
burnt in hell

the hell of being

You can't go wrong w/ that. I always preferred his poems of angry meditation over the narrative pieces. Some of the later narratives esp just struck me as short short stories w/ half-assed line breaks thrown in. But poems like this one - & big chunks of work from "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" or "Love Is A Dog From Hell" - still seem like The Real Thing. Whatever that means.

Chris McC

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

inebriation & intercourse 

yeah, Frank, it's more about Buk's Bird.

abt twelve yrs ago his poetry annoyed the hell out of me. your summary of buk's poem formula reminded me of something i jotted back then after reading a poem (can't recall the name) about screwing in a cemetery :
>> You? Whine, smoke, drink, fuck, whine, fuck, whine whine, blah blah blah. Anyway, I'm sure you're an obnoxious fuck. (poet's just a notch in a tombstone) <<

guess i was jealous that he got away with it & chicks didn't/couldn't do so without getting blasted (not in the inebriated sense) or simply ignored. esp. at that time. i mean, couldn't get away with writing about things like gutters & fucking & drinking -- or with being lazy (craft-wise) & indulgent With Poetry & In General. i thot he was boring, simple minded, sophomoric. i thot his success had more to do with conventional men & their fantasies. i was living in L.A., & a hard life. harder, i imagined, than his, with more Responsibility (whatever that means and for what it's worth). my writing sucked. but not more than his (i once thot). and, as you said, he was the toast - & i didn't get the romance. now i do. & jealousy's transformed into my own small fantasy (not exclusively male, it turns out). exactly about shedding responsibility - & living, seemingly, without being a self-conscious dope while at the same time writing Whatever & in so doing thumbing nose at a certain Establishment Air. something in the line of anyone's cowboy/bandit/pirate/gangsta fantasy i suppose.

but beyond that, for a night, it would simply be great fun to read his poetry, be crass/lewd or just pathetic, drink, fuck, drool, whatever. i didn't explain my answer in the live 9for9, just named him. turned out i didn't need to as deborah's answer was pretty much to the same effect of what i was thinking. it's an especially liberating idea for women (& others, surely), i guess, who might often feel burdened/trapped/pigeonholed/proper. plus, i imagine bukowski's character is relatively close to home & therefore easier for a lazy gal like me to drag.


old school vs. pre-school 

Chris talking about poetry workshops reminds me that we: me, Chris, Jenn, and Frank were all in a very small undergrad workshop with Toby Olson back in 1993 -- ten years ago. That makes me happy, and ten years older.

Tom D.

Under the influence 

I can't imagine wanting to be Bukowski, but I did go through a sustained phase - maybe 10 years ago (Frank, you probably remember this) - when I couldn't stop him from leaking into my own writing. The poems were just too seductive in their apparent ease. Prior to that, I'd been reading some of the Beats (esp Corso and McClure), & I'd been introduced to Creeley & the New American Poetry & In The American Tree anthologies. Yet Buk's narrative poems had a destructive appeal, & I couldn't stop myself from writing "punchline" poems for quite a while. (One of them showed up in dotdotdot, an age-old Philly mag that I think Conrad mentioned here awhile back. My poem was about getting drunk [of course] while watching the fish in the bar's fishtank. I believe the accompanying graphic had a Pac Man-like fish devouring my poem.)

His poems don't really do it for me these days - I've become too obsessed w/ poems being precise & concise, & he strikes me as often being too sloppy & in need of editing - but the novels still interest me once in a while. Strange as it seems, once in a blue moon, I pick up "Post Office" or "Ham On Rye," & it's like visiting an old friend. "Oh, there goes old Henry again! He should really put on some pants before he dukes it out w/ his neighbor!"

Fiction's on my mind more these days in general. After maybe five post-grad school years of not writing any, I've got some pieces coming together. I feel like Temple's grad program helped me as a poet quite a bit but damaged me as a fiction writer almost beyond repair. I look at the fiction I wrote going in, & it seems pretty fresh & inventive, if in need of work. By the end of two workshops, I was writing proficient short stories that lack just about any originality. My professors weren't so much to blame as some classmates, who'd had a class w/ David Bradley the semester before. He'd coached them on the art of writing short stories, which was apparently more of a science - if you strayed from his rigid formula at all, your story got shredded in class. So boring work was dutifully churned out - luckily that cycle didn't present itself in the poetry workshops, too. It's taken me ages to try to figure out exactly what the heck I want to do w/ fiction since then... I still don't know, exactly, but at least there's progress. I feel confident that what I've got now would've been shredded in one of those workshops, which tells me I'm probably on the right track.

Wow, it feels good to cast the blame for my own writerly mis-steps at the feet of others, even if one of them is dead. I'll have to try this more often.

Chris McC


The first question of the live 9for9 project a few weeks back went something
like-"If you were doing a drag poetry reading, which poet would you like to be
for a night?" I'm intrigued by the answer given by Deborah Richards & hassen.
Both answered Charles Bukowski, with little hesitation. I never got to discuss
their drag-poet selection after the event, but remain curious. I never spent
more than 30 seconds wanting to be Bukowski. I'd largely written him off years
ago as a boozy antecdotalist with a misogynistic strain. So why would two
younger women poets want to be Charles Bukowski, if even for a night?

My search for an answer begins by facing my own Buk baggage. Bar slugs all over
the city who don't read much poetry, but call themselves poets- love Charles
Bukowski. He is the excuse for barfly white guys to be ignorant assholes,
& "cool" while referencing their hero ad nauseum. I need to cut off the writer
from my negative associations with his worshippers. I'm always working on this.
I'm a Bob Dylan fan, but I never saw him live because I just can"t be in a room
full of Bob Dylan fans.

Admittedly, there"s something to be said for Buk's work ethic. Anyone who can
drink so much & be so prolific, I find remarkable. I am NOT one of those
people. Few are. Guy Debord was once accused of drinking more than most
writers. He replied, "I write more than most drinkers." The same is certainly
true of Bukowski.

I went back to some CB I had around the house this week. I've always thought
his fiction to be much better than the poems. My memory of the Bukowski poem
was sort of a "bitch, bitch, haha punchline" formula. But the case was re-opened
(thanks to hassen & Deborah)& I went back to the files.

There is a quick but thorough bio I picked up- CHARLES BUKOWSKI: LOCKED IN THE
ARMS OF A CRAZY LIFE by Howard Sounes(Grove). The bio gives me a more realistic
grasp of the poet/novelist- who was frightened to death of the public &
fighting an uphill battle with bitterness(on the advice of a legless John
Fante). He imagined he'd never find acceptance, so he shunned it with gusto.

ROW- edited by Daniel Weizmann(Thunder's Mouth). This is more of a homage to
the myth of CB, with selections by Wanda Coleman, Sean Penn, Karen Finley &
Raymond Carver among others. I find this to be a little tedious, & I'm soon
bored with all the "Crazy Hank" tales.

Some of Bukowski's poems, particularly the work in LAST NIGHT OF THE EARTH
POEMS take me by surprise. They are more humane & carry a less schticky residue
then I'd remembered them. AN ANSWER is a poem he wrote late in his game,
leaning more to the human than the humane:

will not
and you

There is the macabre "I'm alive & you're not" quality that I find irresistible.
I may even recite this in my later years, if I get the chance. Is the "you"
physically dead, or just dead inside? The quick line & mostly monosyllabic
stanza insures that there are no flowers at this funeral- just a tight, coiled
concision that might make Cid Corman grin.

As much as I find more in Bukowski's work than I had given him credit for, I
still see most of his poetry as technically lazy & formulaic. But then, he
never pretended to make his work fancy. This is his Truth, & he's sticking to
it. There is a "me against the world" quality to his work that seems heroic,
although the stands he makes are at times pointless or even wrong. He portrays
women negatively, but he doesn't exactly exalt the men in his work either- they
are liars, losers, weak & sometimes impotent.

Who would want to be this guy? He gave the world the middle finger. He got rich
doing it. He was the toast of Hollywood. He was huge in Europe. He lived long &
never kissed ass. Alright, Deborah. Okay, hassen. I think I get it- why not
Charles Bukowski, just for one night? Come back before the morning, before the
hangover hits.

Frank Sherlock

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Apollinaire! Apollinaire! 

A few years ago, Veronica Corpuz was reading at La Tazza. A table of Euro-trash
came in for dinner during her performance. They talked a little too loud,
spilled some drinks & made a mess of themselves & their area. As Veronica
finished, I was on the brink of fury- prepared to tell them to respect or exit.
Corpuz’s set was applauded, & the table of four all raised their glasses &
shouted, “Apollinaire! Apollinaire!” Wow. What a compliment.

This morning(which is Guillaume’s birthday), I came across an Everyman’s Poetry
collection- Robert Chandler’s translations of shady GA in Robin’s Bookstore.
This is quite a stretch for the folks at Everyman, since I’ve only seen poets
like the English Romantics or those dead for even longer. I certainly didn’t
expect a volume of avant-garde poetry from a quasi-porn peddler, participant in
the theatrical absurd & a suspect in the theft of the Mona Lisa.

Of course, it’s a slim volume & the poems are cramped together on the pages(an
Everyman trademark). But it’s great to know that someone thinks the genius of
Apollinaire is fit for everyman.

from ALWAYS:

And so many universes are forgotten
Who then are the great forgetters
Who will know how to make us forget this or that part of the
Where is the Christopher Columbus to whom we will owe the
    forgetting of a continent

           To lose
But to lose truly
To make way for the lucky find
To lose
Life and find Victory

Apollinaire’s poems for everyman! I can hear the SEPTA drivers reciting them on
the subway loudspeakers. The crazy lady that puts her lipstick all over her
face mumbles them. The trashmen, the police & the drug dealers all raise their
glasses with the Euro-trash today. I join them, shouting “Apollinaire!

Frank Sherlock


there was the guy who looked up
choreophilia and found out he had it

and if tourette's was a joke
I'd have it but it's not

there is no such thing as karma
if you mean he had it coming

why do young poets smoke?
so there are no old poets

this poem was waiting for me today in my POBox from Buck Downs. he can make 8 lines shake us down for a loose coin of doubt of wonder like few can, no matter how hard they try.


Monday, August 25, 2003

Hobohemian Rhapsody 

In every dive bar in Center City, there lurks "The Writer." He's there when the
bar opens. He smokes alot. He reads alot of Hemingway. He knows alot about the
Beats & finds Kerouac's last years romantic. The Writer's penning the erstwhile
GAM- the long-since-gone concept of the Great American Novel, or the collection
of poems that would change all of literature if only someone would realize his
genius. But this hasn't happened, because the "elites" have no time for his 50
year-old ideas, which are "ahead of their time." He's tortured by the callous
world's lack of acceptance. He drinks to numb the pain of his sensitive soul.
Every college dropout knows that it's alot more glamorous to be an alcoholic
writer, instead of a plain-old alcoholic.

I can walk into Bar X(fill in the blank) on any given evening. The Writer is
soused from a full shift of drinking. I cringe as someone in his proximity lets
it slip that I'm a poet. The Writer asks me if I'm published- that always makes
a difference to this guy. He(trust me, it's always a "he")pitches his greatness
& out comes his notebook. He wants my honest take, because he respects my
opinion- though we don't know each other & he's never heard of me. I warn him
that I'm going to be honest, but I'm never that cruel. I search long & hard for
words of constructive advice. He never speaks to me again & tells his booze
buddies I'm a hack.

If you are this guy or know someone like him, there's a great lifestyle
magazine available. I picked up the latest issue of MODERN DRUNKARD Magazine.
There are informative articles like:

The Faded Glory of the Martini Lunch-
Why it went away, and why we must bring it back

Juicing on the Job-
The working drunk's guide to getting cockeyed on the clock

But my favorite article, geared to the guy reading Camus at the bar:

Is the wino lifestyle for you?

This article lays out the the requirements & rewards of living as a hobohemian.
Desire is not enough. You must have 4 of the 5 qualities.

5)Disdain for the institutionalized belief in the Work=Reward=Security=Comfort

Although Cincinatti Slim(the article's author)realizes that it sounds like more
work than it first seemed, we are put at ease by his long list of hobohemian
leisure activities, like- nappin',bus-stop lurkin',stinkin' up the library,
shopping cart races, urinatin' in front of folks, actin' crazy & gettin'

The magazine is a great gift for anyone flirting with hobohemianism. Some
people buy flowers for themselves. For The Writer, nothing tells you love
yourself like a good load & a copy of MODERN DRUNKARD. Put down your TROPIC OF
CANCER & embrace your future!


Magdalena's teen poem 

Maggie Zurawski was going through her collection of books in the back of her van outside Molly's bookshop while i was in the front seat reading some of them. she came across a poem she wrote when she was a teenager that was folded inside a book. when i asked if i could put it on the Blog she said i could so long as i promised to mention that it was her only heterosexual experience, and that nothing happened.

Bus Ride
by Magdalena Zurawski (1989)

The breeze escorts my bangs
in a dance across my lips
As my head tilts back
in a half-slept dream
and his body rests
in my lap.

she had one of those cool teen signatures, the kind those of us who lived inside a lot of rock and roll would wind up having. her's was a sturdy, pointy M with a Zoro Z slashed ontop of the M.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

PhillySound Photos 

Hello, All --

I've a bunch of photos taken at PhillySound, which you can view (& order prints of, if you so desire), here:



Jenn McCreary

miniaturized Spicer 

Jack Spicer fans, there's a photograph of him (photos of Spicer are few) in Jonathan Williams's latest book of photographs A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude. you can click here to view the photo.

to me this photograph of Spicer is a magical BLINK! he becomes a tiny poet standing on his pile of enormous pencils. i couldn't believe the photo when i first laid eyes on it.

i asked Jonathan Williams about Spicer, and about that day. turns out that that was the only time the two had ever met. Jonthan said that Spicer was exactly as he had imagined him to be, full of dreamy intelligence and cocky as hell.

many, if not all, the photographs from A Palpable Elysium are on the site where the Spicer pic is. in fact, you won't even BELIEVE the faces whose poems you know. it's a marvelous collection, and really is touching heaven, as the title suggests. by the way, the title is taken from one of Pound's cantos.



thanks for that post Jenn.
i had no idea you worked with Sonia Sanchez, and would like to hear more about working with her sometime.

the earliest form i recall using was the exquisite corpse, in junior high school. that was really fun. but once i realized that the teacher couldn't know who wrote which line, i used "fuck" every way my deviant teen mind could dream up. goofball poetics.

i worked with other forms when i was younger, but the sestina was one i never seemed able to fit my images\thoughts inside. so i appreciate how you say it's a good way of getting the words out of you, then finding some lines in there for better use elsewhere.

i just found out recently that the sestina was first reported being used in the 12th century. for some reason i imagined it's invention being later than that.

but i like the idea of using these different forms to spike the voltage.

one of the latest 9for9 questions uses an excerpt from Ann Lauterbach's essay "After the Fall." at one point she writes, "The forms of freedom are not without restraint, as in 'free verse,' which is not the same as formless."

i like to use these sort of homemade external forms, scaffolding, like the 7MARCHES poems where i'm writing through the month of March. granted, it's a sparse idea of form, but for some reason it's just enough to gather the harvest. i find myself soaking up EVERYTHING around me in February, knowing that i'll be writing everyday the next month.

then there's the external form Frank Sherlock and i are working with that we're calling THE CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems. we meet at the Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture and alternate leading a walk thru the city. before we go our separate ways and write the walk into poems, the one who leads the walk must come up with a fragment gathered along the walk, which will appear in both of our poems.

maybe this isn't related, but i dated a guy once who LOVED to watch Martha Stewart. one time, i fell asleep while he was watching her cut felt for, well, for something i don't recall right now. but i had a dream that Martha Sterwart was showing us how to cut the fat out of a poem. in fact, i actually remember her saying, "poets are so busy these days that we need to find quick and easy ways to trim those unneeded words from the poems we love to write." she was cutting the paper with scissors and putting the excess scraps into tuperware, in case we needed them later maybe? when i woke up and told Nate the dream i said that if Burroughs was still alive i'd write to him and tell him that dream, and he in turn might mail me an empty shotgun shell for my birthday. yeah, actually, this dream doesn't relate to the question of form. oh well, it was a fun dream though.


Friday, August 22, 2003

meet me at the sestina 

First off, sincere thanks to all of the PhillySound hosts, & especially to Tom & Frank for all of their hard work in organizing an incredibly successful event -- you should all be quite proud. I am quite proud, by proxy, say I.

& thanks also to CA for taking the initiative in getting the blog up & running.

I have to take a minute, though, to defend the sestina, or, moreover, poetic forms in general, for reasons more personal than academic.

back in 1991, I had a poetry workshop with Sonia Sanchez in which we had poems due every week -- every other week would be free writing, but the alternate weeks would be some sort of form: tanka, blues, villanelle, sestina, etc. At the time, I remember her saying that we probably wouldn't like it -- especially the villanelle -- but that it would be good for us. Like vegetables. & it was -- I mean, I wrote a really terrible villanelle (are there any good ones?), but from it, managed to pull one or two good lines. & she recommended, when we're feeling kind of stale, that we try starting out in a form -- even if the end result doesn't look like a sonnet, or even if the form is one of our own invention.

& since, when I get stuck with my own writing, I try writing something in somesuch form -- & somehow, the imposed structure of that form helps free up other thought processes, & allows me to get going & get stuff out (& perhaps purge some of the bad stuff). & while my work now isn't of the sonnet or sestina variety, there's definitely somesort of form & structure at work if you get down to the bones.

that's my two cents for tonight. must go feed the boys. again.


Jenn McCreary


OPEN 24 HOURS Press has been publishing sharp writing for two decades. Its
founder, Chris Toll began O-24 as a literary magazine. He passed the torch to
DC poet Buck Downs, who published some of the best under-the-radar poets in
America through the mid-nineties. I was turned onto it via NOLA poet Brett
Evans, mere months before the mag's lengthy convalescence. The press has
recently morphed into a chapbook series, edited & designed by John Coletti &
Greg Fuchs. Until recently, connecting Open 24 Hours with Greg & John meant one
thing- the Kellogg Diner in Williamsburg after some very late nights. Their
advice: "Don't get fancy with your order. Stick to the very, VERY basic!"

Corina Copp is a poet I've been hearing alot about in New York this year. She
helped put readings together at the Anthroposophical Society, & is a Program
Assistant at the Poetry Project. Regettably, Matt McGoldrick & I had to catch
the last bus back to Philly after a long day of cat & mousing the NYPD on F15-
thus missing (by all reports)a show-stopping reading by Copp.

I've been reading her O-24 chapbook, SOMETIMES INSPIRED BY MARGUERITE. This
collection of (mostly)prose poems have surreal traces of the Bretonic turn of
image, & an Ackeresque trans-narrative thread. Who is Marguerite? Good
question. Marguerite appears as mannequin, as woman, as place, as subject,
object & autobiographical figure.


Marguerite rations we in wait, avoiding selfishness, all pre-
pregnant. Self shouldn't be a pre-pregnant state in wait for self-love
in its immanent self-craft mars self, and might project, in collaboration
a fast connect in a hill of mirrors our several kinds of self which every day
do the heart good in its pumping. At some point a heart might pump synthetic
self into my bath water. Marguerite hanged by her ankle hands out favorable

returns: earth-tethered trajectories, teleological not technological bathmats.

The different locations of Marguerite are investigative surveys on the
geography of selves. Marguerite can be mapped from poem to poem from her
different states of being, as in the first lines of ASTERISK:

Your body houses a tourney: a man or a mouse as representative, lobbying
for rights and so forth, which one I ask, is best suited for the fight I ask

I continue to question the place of Marguerite from poem to poem,as she shifts
with an restless constancy. I settle on Marguerite as a locale. Then a "her."
Then a mindset. Then a "me." Ultimately, I can't settle on a Marguerite, but
instead agree to cautiously embrace "her" with each manifestion.

This is(I believe)Copp's first collection of poems. I look forward to her next.
For inquiries about picking up Corina's chapbook, contact greg@gregfuchs.com

Frank Sherlock


to my dearest friends

the frontier guards
say that i can't
keep crossing
back & forth

but i say Joker's Wild

but i say, Brave men
are going anyway

--Robert Head, from his book I HOLD THIS EARTH TO HEAVEN BE

there were many highlights at the PHILLY SOUND weekend, but one of them for me was Buck Downs who drove up from DC to read some Robert Head to us. without a doubt, it was the first time many of the people sitting in the Kelly Writers House that evening were hearing Robert Head who never leaves his home in West Virginia. Buck told a few of us after the reading that he had tried to get Robert Head to DC to read, but it just didn't happen. here's another from the same book:

i listen to men lay their lives down
Wordsworth & Coleridge estranjd forever.
Darlene says that Coleridge was crazy,
he had to be taken care of.

i remember the time driving home from work
i went around the curve and there was a squirrel
in the middl of the road trying to raise up
another squirrel that had been runover.

i ust to dream that i would die
& Darlene wouldn't be able to read
the handwriting on my last poem.

Wordsworth's sonnets weren't shaped
like the Italian with a statement
and the poet's response but like a tear.

--Robert Head

(by the way, those are no typos, but word for word how he wrote his poem)

Buck Downs of course was the poet who turned me onto Robert Head, and i've been grateful to him ever since that awakening. when Buck was reading Robert Head's poems at the microphone it hit me that i had never heard a word of those poems spoken aloud. it made me want to go home and read them all aloud, they sounded so right in the air, coming at you like that. i don't care if it's corny to say that Robert Head's poems are good food. they are! the best kind of food. i agree with this man Desmond O'Brien who writes a page on Robert Head at the end of the book, saying, "Pure and simple, comprised of the great grains and sprinkled with the gain of this own well-earned salt of the sacred, these poems are communion." amen. did i just say amen? against the crushing force of all religion, poetry can hold.


Thursday, August 21, 2003


this is an e-mail from poet Joseph Massey to share with everyone:
Good talking to you too, CA.

I read your letter to Silliman, he posted it on his
blog, and I relate to much of what you say about
L=A=N=G school. For years, from the age of 15 to 21, I
had a deeply felt knee-jerk (more like knee-aneurysm)
response to the L=A=N=G poets. Coming from a Delaware
dead-end town, and being a teenager (an emotional one,
and still am, I mean emotional, not a teenager) I felt
the L=A=N=G poetry to be robotic, burps as a result of
indigestable capitalism and the military/entertainment
complex. What I wanted then, what I needed, were
songs, straight up and from the gut. Creeley was a
huge hero back then --

and now I can connect Creeley, for instance, to the
L=A=N=G school -- see his influence -- and it helps
make clear that it was a natural progression, not a
coup to destroy the poetry I love.

I was the first person to call Ron Silliman "Darth
Vader" -- I said that back in 2000, the night I met
you, actually, -- and I meant it then, but I don't
mean it now.

There's a lot of joy in his lines and lines that come
straight out of what I loved when I was a teen, the
New American poetry; he's not out to slaughter my
heros. He's one of their children, to put it pretty



a friend is trying to convince me to write a sestina for submission in the McSweeney's sestina issue. i told her no, i mean, really, c'mon, NO.

i was telling Tom Devaney about it, how the mere IDEA of trying to create and compromise and create compromise to compromise to create was too much.

he said, "sounds like a side chapel, 'after church meet me at the sestina!'"
Tom is right in more ways than one, as he usually is.

he then pulled out a Carl Rakosi book and read "O SESTINA!" to me, which is a great poke in the ribs to the form!



just finished watching PANDAEMONIUM with Magdalena Zurawski and Mytili Jagannathan. the director is Julien Temple, who gave us the amazing documentary THE FILTH AND THE FURY.

it's rare that a film can spend every last nerve. i was exhausted by the end of it, wanting to warn Coleridge every fifteen minutes to stay away from Wordsworth and his cold, Disney-witch wife. it's a remarkable film, beautiful camera shots, especially at the stones on the hill where Coleridge could hear the underground waterfalls, his original inspiration for KUBLAH KAHN.

i must admit, William Wordsworth has never been called out so publicly (in our times) as the bitch of the power structure. i wanted to reach into the film and change history in a rather violent way. his excessive envy of Coleridge's talents made me think about Bonnie Friedman's book WRITING PAST DARK: ENVY, FEAR, DISTRACTION AND OTHER DILEMMAS IN THE WRITER'S LIFE. the title pretty much sums up the read, but trust me, you have NO IDEA just how or who she grabs ahold of. for instance, she mentions Shakespeare's insane jealousy of a fellow writer, someone whose name escapes me.

one person i REALLY want to contact and ask their opinion about the film is Barbara Cole, who Magdalena says wrote a paper on the controversy surrounding William Wordsworth having supposedly plagiarized his sister Dorothy's diaries.

Temple is quoted as saying of the late 18th century, "Most people see this time through a Jane Austin filter... PANDAEMONIUM hopefully reveals the cutting edge of that time and... a far more modern world with far more in common with our own."

i've met my share of budding Wordsworth-acting poets out there, and want them to see this film.

p.s. the sexiest man in the film is the nerd who is conducting experiments with electricity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


There is a slow burn in Memphis. It's not the heat. It's not the humidity. It's
the songs of the living, the dead- joys & deep sorrows that can be
heard on the Beale, Union Ave. & the banks of the Mississippi.

H & I checked into the Peabody Hotel, home of the internationally famous duck
march- from the elevator, down the red carpet & into the lobby fountain.
Hundreds of onlookers come to see the ducks waddle to a John Philip Sousa
number. The bizarre tradition's roots date back to the 1930's, when the hotel
owner came back from a drunken hunting expedition with his real-live decoys.
Just for kicks, he marched them around the hotel & into the fountain. The rest
is, history.

Our first mission was a visit to Sun Records. We headed up Union Ave. for what
seemed like 25 blocks, but was actually only 8. Heather said she knew just how
the Japanese pilgrims in Jarmusch's Mystery Train felt walking through Memphis,
& I agreed. We were also visibly out of place in Memphis. H was strolling in
her dragon heels & I was in a Cubabera & shades. The sidewalks were desolate- no
pedestrians. Once in a while, a pack of cars would fly by. Then, a heavy

H walked into a lot to take a photo as I waited on the sidewalk. A car
screeched into the next lot. A woman in her 50's came walking toward me. A
young man jumped from the car & cocked back his fist at her. She yelled &
pointed at me. "He's watching. Help!"

He turned around. We looked at each other. He got back in the car & sped way. I
hadn't moved during the entire episode. She continued walking to me, then
stopped. "That man is a crazy man!" I nodded. She continued downtown & we
walked on.

Sam Phillips(the founder of Sun Studios) died just a few weeks ago. There was
an immense procession through the streets for his wake. A wreath remains on the
door. The tour was great, but the most impressive moment was being in the same
four walls where some of America's greatest music was born. Johnny Cash walked
the line in this room. Howlin'Wolf laid it all down here. Jerry Lee Lewis
became "Killer" here. Ike Turner rocketed here. Wow. All these songs are still
in there, trapped in the holes of the acoustic tile that still covers the
ceiling & the walls. The Prisonaires were led into this studio in chains. Their
record became so popular, the governor gave them a pardon. That's the kind of
corruption that makes me feel like I'm back home in Philadelphia.

Graceland was, in every sense- awesome. The overwhelming presence of Elvis
Presley's spirit is not to be underestimated. The ecstatic & solemn expression
of the King's devotees have never been matched in my Catholic upbringing. We
were two of many- from Brazil, England, Germany, China, France, Wisconsin.
After experiencing the energy myself, I wouldn't dispute Conrad's vision of
Presleyism as religion in the 21st century. I saw the grave. I touched the
flowers. Somehow I wouldn't realize that he was dead.

Elvis Presley is an embodiment of the America I love & struggle with. He is
revered & despised. He is called thief & savior. He loved his cars & he loved
his guns. He was much more generous than he was given credit for. He read much
more than he was given credit for. A hick from Tupelo changed everything in
some way, with a wild sweetness.

Beale Street is a South Street with permission to drink outside. Think Mardi
Gras Philly or Bourbon Street anytime. Touristy, & appealing to the worst kind
of tourists- barely hanging onto their repression beneath the white ballcaps.
We did see a few happening rockabilly shows at Handy's Blues Hall & Blues City

Another pilgrimage led us to the Lorraine Motel- the site of the Martin Luther
King Jr. assasination. In April of '68, a flowered wreathe was placed on the
balcony railing of Room 306, where he was murdered. A flowered wreathe
commemorates the spot today. The motel's facade remains intact, just as it did
on April 4, thirty five years ago. The inside has been gutted & transformed
into the National Civil Rights Museum.

The history of African Americans in America is chronicled from 1619 until the
death of MLK(& the aftermath), with the great concentration on the birth &
evolution of the postwar Civil Rights movement. There are a
number of interactive exhibits, including a replica of the bridge connecting
Selma & Montgomery.

It's fascinating to see who gets highlighted(or not) in historical
museums. Bayard Rustin was almost absent from the presentations. It seems
strange, since I've always imagined him a key figure in the Civil Rights
movement.(FYI- he is the subject of a recent documentary, entitled
BROTHER/OUTSIDER. Brother because of his social justice work. Outsider because
of his sexuality.)The exhibit's inclusion of gay/lesbian liberties as part of
the larger human rights movement seemed tacit & cursory at best. This seems to
be a crack in a church-based movement that continues to wrestle with its own
values and/or prejudices.

I've always been struck by the prescience of King's "Mountaintop" speech on
April 3- the night before he was killed. He knew that death was near(as did
Malcolm X, & Presley for that matter.)As the speech ends, MLK reveals that he
has seen the Promised Land...& that he may not get there with us. I look into
the bedroom of 306, then out to the balcony. I hear the final line. "Mine eyes
have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!" His turn away from the
microphone & away from the pulpit, saying once more- maybe to the world: "Mine
eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

The museum also owns the former boarding house across the street that James
Earl Ray shot from. Like MLK's hotel room, The bathroom the sniper used is also
preserved and/or replicated. Most of the second floor is devoted to questions
surrounding Dr. King's murder.

Outside the Lorraine Motel, a lone protester sits with her signs. Jackie Waters
has been picketing the Civil Rights Museum for almost 16 years- back when it
was just a proposal. She doesn't want to see tourism in her neighborhood. She
wants to see change, in the spirit of the man slain on the balcony. Ms. Waters
looks to Room 306 every day of her life. She will never get over the murder of
Martin Luther King Jr.

I was born a year later to the day when King gave his final speech in Memphis.
The bruise of America still shows. I've touched it & the skin is tender. The
impact of the dead might loom larger in Memphis than any other place in the
nation. The spirits of the dead sing in this city, & I've taken the songs home.
Walk a Mile in my Shoes. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. Love Me. Free at Last.



several years ago i was visiting friends in London, had the day to myself, and went to Foyle's, said to be the largest bookstore in the world. turns out what they really mean is that they have the largest number of books, while a Barnes & Noble in New York City has the largest bookstore by square feet. the books in the Barnes & Noble are pretty standard, and they really shouldn't brag when a place like Foyle's exists. hell, Gotham Bookmart is still far more interesting than that Goliath B&N.

but in Foyle's i decided that i was going to look at every single book in the poetry section, one of the largest poetry sections i've ever seen in a store. to be honest, for whatever reason, most of the poetry in ANY bookstore in London was a disappointment. i mean, HOW can a country have poets like Tom Raworth and Simon Cutts, and have such a dismal selection on the shelves?

but i came across the book MASKER by Paul Brown, and it was quite a find! "hmm, this has been here awhile," the clerk said, ringing me up. it was only $4.95, but had been on the shelf since 1982. amazingly, there were only 250 copies printed, and i found the last retail copy. there're so many poets in the world who write things we would love to read, and the Internet has come to save our lives with that, but there are still all these thousands of poets who wrote long before the net, poets like Paul Brown, who could change our sight and hearing, if only we could HAVE the opportunity.

think of all the poets before paper and pens were mass-produced. now i'm beginning to sound like a child who is terrified of his therapist dying.

but if any of you out there are familiar with Paul Brown (guess he was in London in the early 80s) i'd appreciate contact with him. my hope is that he continued writing his poems and is somewhere writing them right now. that is to say, that i hope he isn't one of those poets (i keep meeting them lately) who decide that it's time to "grow up" and put aside the pen and paper: living death.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Dear Tom,
thanks for telling me about the film MY MAN GODFREY that Ashbery turned you onto.

i was used to seeing William Powell with his spoiled rich wife as The Thin Man detective, solving murder cases out of boredom, for fun.  when this film opened with Powell as Godfrey, unshaven, filthy, living at the city dump by the river and confronting the bad manners of some impossibly out-of-touch rich folks, it was a nice twist.   of course, it turns out that he's another rich guy who was really searching for his soul at the dump, questioning his family and their riches.

still, it's one of those films from the 30s that doesn't shy away from issues of class, and how the rich have no real idea how much they profit off the poverty of other human lives.  even the language in the film, the upper class characters referring to the men at the dump as "forgotten men."   who has forgotten them?  certainly not one another, it seemed, since they knew one another, had their community.  forgotten by the rich, that is, or so the film wants us to see it this way, forgotten by those who have created an oppressive, unlivable world.

it's been said that these were tactics Hollywood used to make the poor feel better about their troubles.  okay, but what's the next sentence in that?  WHY was Hollywood doing this?  it seems clear to me that the writers, actors and other studio workers were far more radical back then, films like ON THE WATERFRONT, even much earlier, silent films like MARTYR TO HIS CAUSE.  these men and women making statements against the powers of industry and the powers of government.

of course not everyone in Hollywood back then was interested in the plight of the poor.  Ronald Reagan was in films in those days, for instance.  but by comparison, Hollywood is much more conservative today.  there are so few messages about what life is REALLY like for most Americans.

my grandparents really SAW themselves in film back then, proud of the communities of unions they were part of.  but my father, especially since NAFTA, has had six different jobs in six different factories, and he and his brothers and sisters all feel like idiots and losers when you talk to them.   they feel as though they need to WORK harder, that they're doing something wrong.  they wouldn't admit that this is how they feel if asked, but it really is how they feel if you listen to them, they're always beating themselves up about their disappearing factory jobs.   i can't think of a single recent Hollywood film that takes on this issue of working class Americans losing everything:  jobs, houses, spouses, sanity.  losing it all to the greed of a handful of rich people looking to poorer nations who don't have unions, don't have child protection, don't have a successful body of environmentalists to upset profit margins, etc.

i was talking about MY MAN GODFREY with an old friend, and she pointed out TITANIC and OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU as recent films where the protagonists are poor, fighting injustices stemming in one way or another from the actions of the rich.  okay, however, neither film is set in the current America.   TITANIC of course is about a ship that sunk nearly a century ago with all of its grand luxuries.  the story of the young hero dancing his way from steerage class into the arms of a young socialite is easy, in early 20th century clothes and nostalgic jargon with nostalgic swing music to boot.   and OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU is set in the depression.  there are NO films of struggle out of Hollywood about our post-NAFTA America.  nor are there any Hollywood films about our Mexican neighbors going to work everyday in the shiny new American factories with no OSHA or EPA standards.

Spike Lee has made more than a small effort to show the poor and working poor in a dignified light.  a couple of other films come to mind, SILKWOOD, and NORMA RAE.  but neither of these films are post-NAFTA.

i'm not saying it's impossible to come up with examples, i'm just saying that there's no real, constant empathy in Hollywood these days.  most of the films which deal straight-up with class issues are out of Europe, South America, and Asia.

maybe Hollywood never recovered from McCarthy's Hollywood Blacklist?  unions are weak, everyone seems to be hustling for work, afraid to offend, not to mention Schwarzenegger's Republican sprint down the runway.

back to the film though.  William Powell's confronting education turned the worst possible profile of wealthy people around. we get to watch them slowly break down to the point where they HAVE TO focus on what they are doing to others in their selfishness.   Powell's character Godfrey was admirable and courageous, unlike anything defined as admirable and courageous in recent Hollywood.

JUST the other day i went on a date to the movie S.W.A.T., which i knew i wasn't going to like, but went along with the choice to really take a look at what is going on in the stark conscience of today's Hollywood screenwriters.  every possible trick is used to make the hero seem admirable and courageous, but it just didn't work for me.   there's no inner-life being examined here, no real challenge except to regain the status quo.  it's grotesque.  and it made me sad, very sad.

for crying out loud, EVEN Scarlet O'Hara was eventually made to feel ugly and ashamed for having slaves in GONE WITH THE WIND!  there's no redeeming social progress in today's Hollywood films, no room for the poor to feel like anything but stupid losers, no attempt to raise awareness, build self-esteem, unless the goal of the poor is to join law enforcement and battle other poor folks in their world of crime which never seems to have a purpose expect JUST the thrill to be a criminal.   there were many film characters in old Hollywood where criminals were shown to be men and women trying to survive in times of extreme polarized wealth and poverty.

more later,

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Is this thing on? Testing, testing...

Conrad, Thanks for putting this forum together. The Philly Sound weekend felt enormous to me, & I'm glad to have a place in which we can both debrief & move on to other work at hand. I just sent off my brief synopsis of the weekend to Marcella so it can hopefully be included in the Poetry Project Newsletter - it's a short piece, but I tried to get the right flavor. One thing I didn't have space to say there - seeing old friends alongside my younger students who read, it really struck me that we're no longer, you know, kids - & haven't been kids for a while, either. On a physical level, I mean, I see my own bald head every day, but I caught myself thinking - when did my friends start to go grey? when did people start to get wrinkles? It struck me as a physical manifestation of the collective history that was in the room - after all, some of these friendships go back more than a decade.

One other thing: Conrad, I second the enthusiasm for Craig Watson's work. That series you reference is collected in True News. I got a review copy of it a few months back & was blown out of the water. Turns out, too, the first-ever Singing Horse book was Craig's (so there's history there, too, obviously). I ended up tracked him down & interviewing him over email - a really sharp, accessible guy who's gone his own way, both in terms of his poetry & the jobs he's held.

Chris McC

is it your birthday today?
more important, are you 26 today?
the search for His splintered soul.

what are Frank and Heather seeing right now outside Graceland?

i woke this morning deciding that when my book comes out
that i'll go to Memphis on August 16th and give a
reading at the picnic table by the Lisa Marie jet,
since anything you say near the jet
goes where the jet has gone.

come along, pilgrim,

Friday, August 15, 2003

woke this morning with a song in my head, no words to it, just music, of fluttering. what i need are musicians with various sized wings to play it. maybe it's not musicians i need, but then who?

last night Barbara Cole, Jenn McCreary, Tom Devaney and his friend Yan came over for dinner. Chris McCreary was home with their new twin boys (the little men, as Jenn calls them), exhausted from battling a computer worm. the worm sounds awful, hope it's better Chris. if i were to invent software to pluck worms out of systems, i'd call my software package Hungry Robin.

i LOVE to invite people over for dinner when i'm in someone else's house. but it sort of feels like my 2nd home anyway, having been Eleanor Wilner's dog/house sitter for ten years now.

Barbara is about to leave for Buffalo, so i'm glad we had good dinner conversation, the bunch of us. The Philly Sound weekend came up, of course, and we were all equally excited about the turnout and the way it turned out. Tom told us how GREAT it is that Jennifer Snead was part of the Writers House for this event, because she loved the idea and enjoyed being part of it, and creating it. don't know Jennifer that well yet, but i like what i know so far, supersmart cannon fire for the poems!

Frank Sherlock couldn't make it because he was in the air with his girlfriend Heather, bound for Memphis. the 16th is the anniversary of Elvis' death, so they're going to Graceland to take part in the Holy event. August 16th is the Good Friday of the New God, and He doesn't need to rise again, He's always in us, and keeps us rising to our love making and deviant mischief. i asked Frank if he was PREPARED for his pilgrimage. he said he felt it's best to arrive unprepared. that's nice, i like that. Frank will make an EXCELLENT priest in the growing temples of the Presley Heart.

right now i'm reading some poems by Craig Watson, "Figure J" and "Figure M" published in this journal called No. Magdalena Zurawski gave me a copy, she's moving out to San Francisco soon, and said she doesn't need to collect more things at the moment. fine with me, because it's really amazing! the Keith Waldrop series in particular, what he calls SONGS FROM THE DECLINE OF THE WEST, those are beautiful, though uneven, then i realized that he had written them over a period of decades, so, they would be uneven. i have to admit though, so far my favorites are the Craig Watson poems.

Like that old song about one fish

in the mouth of another, we are not accountable for received distances. We

will know that our journey has ended when we see slag pits glowing in the

distance and jet wash scrubs the film noir from our eyes.

--Craig Watson, from "Figure M"

just started reading it, so, maybe i'll get back to you with more. one thing more though about NO, and that is, it's one of those magazines that landed in the hands of an insane designer. what in the hell! i admit, it's interesting looking, but difficult. it seems so early 90's in a way, when all kinds of magazines went the way of extreme and difficult design. there was a magazine called Dot Dot Dot that was simply impossible to figure out, the poet's name several pages away (seriously, i'm not making this shit up) with dashes you follow and follow and follow (and you better not lose the dashes or you're starting all over again) to a teeny tiny arrow with an even teenier font spelling the name of the poet. i really disliked that magazine's layout. more than one issue of it was thrown as violently as possible against a wall in the name of poets who deserve to AT LEAST have their names associated with their poems. but NO is in no way as bad as Dot Dot Dot, so, don't think i'm saying that i'm on the verge of throwing it against the wall. in fact, even though i've just begun reading it, the contents are so sublime, i can't even believe it's a brand new magazine. so VERY many magazines disappoint me these days, that when i'm reading something like NO, i'm in disbelief. more of NO contents: John Taggart, Barbara Guest, Rae Armantrout, C.D. Wright, Cole Swensen, Frank Stanford, Ann Lauterbach, and much more.

at the Philly Sound weekend, Kaia Sand and Jules Boykoff gave me the latest issue of their magazines TANGENT. it's issue number 13, what a great number that is! very interesting things inside: some P. Inman poems, an article called "War and the Environment" by Kristen A. Sheeran, and a pretty fantastic interview "Father Paul Surlis Speaks!" with Jules Boykoff and Michael Schmidt. the centerfold is a quote from Arundhati Roy:

"What the Free Market undermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it. Multinational corporations on the prowl for 'sweetheart deals' that yield enormous profits push through those deals and administer those projects in developing countries without the active connivance of State machinery--the police, the courts, sometimes even the army. Today Corporate Globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents, and services that are being globalized--not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or god forbid, justice. It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise."
--Arundhati Roy

wanted to pay closer attention to eyes today, thinking about Arundhati and other mavericks of true Soul. ran into a poet i knew ten years ago and we talked, because we knew each other, once. we're so accustomed to stopping, exchanging, only with those we've had experience with. we're always checking to see what has changed in others, to measure it against what has changed in us, or not changed. but some days when i'm out on the streets of Philadelphia i'm TRYING to imagine (or is it 'realize' instead of 'imagine'?) that i KNOW everyone, in some way. it might be exhausting to have to interact with everyone on the street. but maybe, just maybe it would instead be an injection of energy to connect with so many instead of a consumption of energy. Elivs would know whether this is true or not. tomorrow makes another year of Elvis on high.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

One of the secrets of the Philly Sound (TPS), which may be less of a secret now, are all the hosts and their geniune commitment to each other and to new poetry. A look a some of pieces of this larger whole reveals: Chris and Jenn McCreary's Ixnay; Frank Sherlock, Maggie Zurawski, & Greg Fuchs running the La Tazza series; CA Conrad with his 9x9 & ohter collective projects; Molly Russakoff's book store Molly's and reading series; myself producing LIVE and being at Writers House; and Mytili Jagannathan at the Asian Arts Iniative.

One of the things I'd like to do every now and again on TPS Blog is to simply list some of the poets and writers who I talk to on any given day at the Writers House since even the list itself might reveal something about something that is circulating through our city. Thurs. 8/14: Elizabeth Scanlon calling from Bread Loaf; Jena Osman at home in center city; the young French scholar and tanslator Yan Brailowsky calling from nyc and coming to visit for the night, CAConrad calling from Eleanor Wilner's where he is house sitting.

-Tom Devaney

Welcome to The Philly Sound: New Writing
August 8th and 9th showcased The Philly Sound at Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia.
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