Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Puppets! No! No! 

What dark, disturbing secret lurks in former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney's past? He is allegedly suffering from childhood scars that have yet to heal. Years later, he continues to "act out" (therapists say) against his greatest fear- puppets.

During the Republican Convention 2000 in Philadelphia, Timoney's police force stormed a house of puppets in West Philadelphia, in what was popularly reported as a "pre-emptive" raid on the Ministry of Puppetganda. More than 80 puppetistas were arrested & more than 100 puppets were seized. Charges were dropped after the convention, & the city settled a class action lawsuit out of court. While some civil libertarians perceived the raid as an assault on free speech, anonymous sources claim it was a surfacing of the commissioner's deep-seeded Puppetphobia.

Years later, the puppet spectre continues to haunt Timoney at his new post as Miami Chief of Police. Fear of puppetry on his beat during the upcoming FTAA Conference has fueled his introduction of Item J-03-772 to the Miami City Commission. This would ban "puppets and other props; street theater masks; signs on sticks; cameras (still and video; used to record the actions of police); padded clothing (for protection against police truncheons and dogs); bullhorns; gas masks of any kind, including bandanas (used for protection against tear-gas and other dangerous chemical agents), and much more" until a few days after the conference. Public pressure is mounting against such restrictive measures, but it's not likely that Timoney's zeal to abolish puppetry will yield. Friends of Timoney's wife have quoted her as saying, "John wrestles with his demons daily. Sometimes he wakes up at night screaming in a sweat, "Puppets! No! No!"

What are the roots of the top cop's condition? Some sources blame an ugly incident on the set of the Howdy Doody Show, where the wooden cowboy laughed mockingly at young Timoney after a Clarabelle seltzer stunt, leaving the child soaked. A friend close to the commissioner in his bachelor days claims that the movie Magick left sour memories for the once-young policeman. He took a date to the film who claimed to get up for popcorn, & never came back. The ACLU & other concerned citizens are pleaing with the tortured Chief of Police to seek professional help.

In the meantime, the Miami Commission has postponed their vote. You can share your feelings about J-03-772 by contacting:

Mayor Manuel A. Diaz: (305) 250-5300
District 1 Commissioner Angel Gonzalez: (305)250-5430
District 2 Commissioner Johnny L. Winton: (305)250-5333
District 3 Commissioner Joe M. Sanchez: (305)250-5380
District 4 Commissioner Tomas P. Regalado: (305)250-5420
District 5 Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr.: (305)250-5390
City Manager Joe Arriola: (305)250-5400
City Attorney Alejandro Vilarello: (305) 416-1800

Frank Sherlock

Monday, September 29, 2003

Breakfast with Brett Evans 

I received a poem in the mail today from New Orleans. It was scrawled on the back of a bowl of cornflakes- cut from a cereal box. Its author is the NOLA postcard poem king- Brett Evans.

0Z Plays a Cut Off There's a Riot Goin'On

That radio freshning yr worn out record thing
Finally the weather's slightly afield of Satan's Southern cheeks
Alan enacts Guantanamo role-play from the back of a scooter
I bone up on Clash footage & (never read) Ginsberg bio & plot,
with fall, my next move

You can find Brett's work included in Another South, a new anthology edited by Bill Lavender & Hank Lazer.

Frank Sherlock

dream of DUCHAMP's "Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas" 

recently i dreamt i was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the Duchamp Room, looking through the peep holes at his installation project.

i just tried to find a photograph of the installation online, but couldn't locate a link. so let me try to explain...it's in the Duchamp Room, just like the dream. there's a type of burlap floor covering in a small dark room connecting to the larger Duchamp Room. the far wall is a pair of very large, old wooden doors, like to a barn. there's a pair of holes for your eyes. when you look through the holes, you are looking on a scene which is outside, as though you're looking from the inside of a barn. the scene is a dead, raped (?) woman, in the grass. her naked body is in full view (except for the top of her head, so you cannot see her face), her legs spread open and hairless vagina closest to where you are standing.

in the dream i walked up to the doors, looked through the holes and it looked just like it always looks in the museum. the one difference i remember was that the sky was different, the clouds seem to slowly move, and i stared at them to make sure they were moving, and they were in fact moving. i was sure i hadn't ever noticed this before. then i decided i HAD to see who this woman was, i HAD to see her face. i decided to use my left eye in the right peep hole to get a better angle. and it worked! i could see her face, and it was the face of my mother! at first i was upset, but then calmed myself by convincing myself that my mother must have been the model. but then i realized that that was impossible since my mother was born in 1952, and Duchamp had begun the project in 1930 (in reality, he began the project in 1946 and completed it in 1966). that's about all i remember, standing there, trying to make sense of why and how my mother had been involved with making this installation.

yesterday i went to the museum with Hassen. she and i spent time in the Cy Twombly room to torture our souls a little, then we went over to the Duchamp Room. i told Hassen about the dream, and decided to use my left eye in the right hole, to see if i could see the face of the woman in the installation. no. you can't see her face. and of course the clouds don't move.

[ Duchamp, Marcel
View through the door of the installation:
Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas
Mixed media assemblage: an old wooden door, bricks, velvet, wood,
leather stretched on a metal frame, twigs, aluminum, iron, glass,
plexiglass, linoleum, cotton, electric lights, gas lamp, motor, etc.
242.5 x 177.8 x 124.5 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art © 1999 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
/ ADAGP, Paris ]


Saturday, September 27, 2003


my old friend Annamay told me recently of her extreme hatred for Blogs, and the Internet in general.

i told her she has joined the ranks of thousands of others who many years ago opposed the telephone, radio, television, automobile, etc.

Annamay argued with her professors in college how technology only leads to better weapons and better stratagies in warfare. she made a study of these arguments, leading back to catapults and chariots.

she's not wrong of course that technology is often used in the most heinous ways to destroy life. and who can deny that she's also correct about the Internet being an excellent tool for control over vast numbers of our lives? we can only speculate about how much control over us is possible.

not too long ago i went to an exhibit called Torture Through the Ages at one of the casinos in Atlantic City. Amnesty International was there with wall charts and giant photographs of weapons many people would think some sick form of science fiction. but these things are very real, and in use everyday. one such device i recall was an electric hand-held flaying machine which burns and tears the top layer of skin off those being interrogated. a life-sized photo on the wall showed a U.N. soldier holding up the bloody remains of a woman we can only trust was a woman from details on the photo's caption.

according to Amnesty International, the United States is the largest manufacturer of these insanse inventions, most of which cannot be sold or used within U.S. borders, so far. no surprise to see that Britain and Germany are close behind in production.

of course the Internet aids the invention, manufacturing and sale of these weapons. but the Internet is also the best way to stay in touch with Amnesty International, Greenpeace, PETA, ACLU, the AGR and any number of other progressive organizations and movements.

when it comes to complaints from poets about the Internet's impact on poetry, i listen, but can never seem to agree with the gripes. "paper is better" "it's weakened the format of the magazine" "why can't poets write REAL letters?" "Google poems aren't REAL poems" yadda yadda yadda. so much whining going on, geeze!

something i like to quote (was it Blake? i can't find the source anymore) is, "Anything imagined is part of the truth." maybe it wasn't Blake's. maybe i made it up, but i STILL believe it anyway!

what i feel is important to point out is that the majority of these poets who complain about the Internet grew up in cities, or at least well-populated areas with decent libraries, poetry readings, etc.

the dirt roads and lean poetry shelves where i grew up were JUST BARELY pre-Internet. it can be very isolating and alienating for young poets out there. but it excites me to think of the Internet in poor country town libraries, young minds discovering Loy, Oppen, Coolidge, Notley on their own.

it feels like Super Growth time for poetry. it's almost supernatural, like poets will have the tools of The White Goddess at hand, in hand, the dividing segments of the hand the bard talks through. we may all soon see poets grasping the rungs into world leadership. poets with fantastic powers of persuasion turning battleships into cargo ships for grain. maybe i'm naive but at least i'm not sour with the cynicism like others. as it's said in the olden song my grandmother's mother used to sing, "the cynic and the killer waltz together."

and furthermore a return to the sacredness of trees can fianlly be realized. the Internet can TURN THE TIDE on waste! waste your thoughts on e-mail screens, write your grocery list on a palm pilot from now on! i don't care for ONE MORE argument for the need and use of tree farms. a return to our vibrant center is at hand, it really is. the Internet may well be the connection foretold in every gibbering biblical / spiritual tongue ever wagged. should we get on our knees before it? sure, why the hell not!? sounds like fun! ibbitty bibbitty bobbitty BOO!



Friday, OCTOBER 10th
7 - 9 pm

The Philly Sound features a vibrant and burgeoning intersection of writers who have been working off the mainstream literary grid, many of them gathering weekly at local spaces such as La Tazza, Molly's Bookstore, and the Kelly Writers House for the past several years.
Making appearances at the 215 Festival are CAConrad, Greg Fuchs, Hassen, Fran Ryan, Jenn McCreary, Frank Sherlock, Jennifer Snead.

Venue:  La Tazza- (108 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia)
Cost: FREE

VISIT the 215 website

Friday, September 26, 2003

Bhanu & Bob, Olde City & You  

October 4

1884- First issue of anarchist paper, The Alarm
1967- Radical American songwriter Woody Guthrie dies, New York City

Saturday October 4, 2003 at 7:00
Jena Osman presents:
Bhanu Kapil Rider and Bob Perelman
La Tazza, 108 Chestnut St.

Bhanu Kapil Rider's publications are a book of poetry, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey St. Press), and a chapbook of prose, Autobiography of a Cyborg (Leroy Press), forthcoming as a full-length book from Leon Works. She has recently completed a novel, The Wolfgirls of Midnapure. She lives in Colorado, where she teaches writing workshops at Naropa University and maintains a massage therapy practice.

Bob Perelman is the author of ten books of poems, most recently Ten to One: Selected Poems (Wesleyan). His other books of poems include Virtual Reality, Captive Audience (The Figures, 1988), Face Value (Roof Books, 1987), The First World (The Figures, 1986), and a.k.a (The Figures, 1984). He has written two critical studies, The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History (Princeton University Press, 1996) and The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein and Zukofsky (University of California Press, 1994). He teaches in the English Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reading Report:

The new season kicked off with Baltimore’s Chris Toll reading passages from his flying saucer bible. He unleashed the mike & continued with his measured intensity, like hate reads a newspaper. He held the room hostage. Poetry was a raygun in the hand of a Bigfoot. Kim Soli made interpretive balloon animals while Chris read his poems.

Deborah Richards delivered a collaborative performance with Kamili Feelings & Alicia Askenase, set in the B&W film era. Her middle piece was a kind creation myth- of the Republic of Congo. They performed the title piece of Deborah’s new book, Last One Out from back to front. It was a kind of rewind that exposed the process of the piece set in process.

Nicole & I joined Fran Ryan at Sarah Katz’s 30th birthday party in Fishtown, where N chatted w/ old filmmaker friends & I argued w/ a guy defending his father’s gripe against the Mural Arts Program. We retired to Dirty Frank’s & met Hassen & CA in the doorway, straight from the airport.


SEPTEMBER 25-28: Join coordinated actions vs. War and Occupation Everywhere on the 3rd Anniversary of 2nd Palestinian Intifada.

New York: DATE: Sunday, September 28
EVENT: Gather at Columbus Circle at 1pm and for a mass march down Broadway, toward Times Square. CONTACT: nyc@internationalanswer.org or 212-633-6646

New Jersey: DATE: Friday, September 26
EVENT: Paterson New Jersey Independents- Gather at 5pm on the Corner of Main and Pacific, Rally in support of freedom for Palestine and INS detainees.
CONTACT: patersonrally@internationalanswer.org or 201-487-3748

Readings Elsewhere:

Wednesday October 8- 8pm
Carol Mirakove & Greg Fuchs will read at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church
131 E. 10th Street
@ 2nd Avenue

See you next Saturday.

Frank Sherlock

Saturday, September 20, 2003

A Duck and Lemon discuss the recent hurricane 

A hurricane report 9-18-03: TD

Duck: I usually love the rain.

Lemon: Yeah, me too; when it comes to rain, I don’t complain.

Duck: When I came home tonight a big black, white, and blue FOR SALE sign was ripped right off the building laying flat on the sidewalk in front of my place.

Lemon: Well, it’s this storm. It sure blows real hard, don’t it?

Duck: Yes. Yes it does, but why do you say it like that?

Lemon: Like, what?

Duck: Like people?

Lemon: I don’t have a problem with that. I like how they say certain things, even though I don’t think and so haven't thought about how much they might, which is my way and more really than I can say.

Duck: Is that where you learned to talk like that?

Lemon: Well sure, yes, you know.

Duck: Yes, you're like the Lemon who heard too much; but what did you hear?

Lemon: Even the sign blown off your wall reminds me of all the completely insane kids who built forts all day on my tree and just destroy the fuck out of what they’ve made as soon as they made it. Scraps of wood and crap and everything everywhere below the tree.

Duck: I know those kids.

Lemon: After that they'd pelt each other and everything else with lemons: the lemon aid storms of my youth.

Duck: They tried to hit us with you too, but we flew.

Lemon: There’s flying when you want to fly, and flying when you’ve got to haul it and go. Even lemons, lemons flying in every direction all over the place, know that.

Duck: Some luck, pluck, and knowing when to take flight and duck!

Lemon: It makes me squelch to think about it.

Duck: For me it does and doesn't. In a way it's amazing to think about.

Lemon: Yes, fair enough, to think about.

Duck: Even beyond thinking too. All the lemons hitting everything in every which way, like dexter gordon hitting all those low, low dexter gordon low notes--burr, burr, bury, mischief burrrr, a kind of turn on.

Lemon: What? (The lemon's whole body facing the duck, as if to look, first confused, then warmly.) Gosh, I could take that another way, but here I think I know what you're saying. (Long pause). It’s nice to find you. Well, I’ll tell you, but that’s all I'll tell. It's true, it's easier that people don’t listen.

Duck: (Nodding and leaving a trace of webbed muddied foot prints on the floor.)

Lemon: I figured that out one day, actually in one day.

Duck: You should be more like people then. I mean, when comes to listening. Take when you can and get.

Lemon: (rolling over on its side and rolling back closer to the duck) I don’t care if they do. I mean, what would I say?

Duck: With ducks it’s different, we’re just catching up with what we already know.

Lemon: Yes, I’ve said that many times. It's what I’ve always said.

--Tom Devaney

Friday, September 19, 2003

poppycrock (or, blog is the new black) 

I've been itching to get ixnay press rolling again - we're not really even on an official hiatus, but it feels that way since I have no publishing project moving forward w/ steam - & the ideal vehicle, I thought, would be poppycock, our occasional newsletter. For one thing, I like the quick-hit, no-frills nature of the format (we've done one edition thus far) because it's easy to lay out & distribute - I was planning on running some hard copies but mostly directing folks to a pdf. on our website. I actually got an issue started back in the spring and collected both essays & creative work from Brenda Iijima & Garrett Caples. So far, so good, I thought.

But that's when I hit the snags. I've had a couple of other reviewers back out after asking for multiple extensions, & I've had a tough time getting other folks to agree to write pieces - interviews, reviews, whatever. I'm not interested in throwing open a general call to the Buffalo list, say - I was always keen on using this as a house newsletter of sorts, a venue for work & writers close to the ixnay community in one way or another. But I have queried quite a few new folks at this point & have not gotten the smallest nibble.

So I guess in part this is an oblique call for work that folks think might be a fit (if you've got an idea for the newsletter, shoot us an email at ixnaypress@verizon.net). I've certainly not queried widely enough for me to bitch too much. But I do think I can begin to express some bewilderment. I honestly can't believe how tough it is to get people to write a piece for us! I mean, obviously some folks just don't want to write reviews, etc., which makes good sense. But beyond that, maybe the circulation is too low & it's not worth the time? Maybe blogging provides a more immediate thrill? (One of my goals was to have the newsletter be quick to get out, & blogging certainly beats a newsletter, electronic or otherwise, to the punch.) Given the hospital bills that're going to take a while to work thru, I was excited to put together a lo-fi (aka inexpensive) newsletter before tackling ixnay reader, part deux. But maybe not?

I dunno. Is blogging the new newsletter? After all, a recent edition of the Poetry Project newsletter consisted, in large part, of work already published on blogs. Or is that like saying e-books will replace paper some day? I certainly hope not in both cases - blogs have an awesome potential, & I especially like the communal nature of this one, but I'd hate to see them scoot aside small print ventures. (By the way, I realize I'm making a big leap by looking for larger trends based only on my own limited experience here.) Thoughts? Potential newsletter contributions? Boxes of Size 2 Pampers that you need to get rid of? Anyone? Anyone?

Chris McC

Whose 9/11 is it Anyway? 

Last week Brett Evans checked in with his report on Amiri Baraka’s reading in New Orleans. There’s no way Baraka could get away with appearing anywhere on September 10 without reading Somebody Blew Up America. I’m not terribly interested in re-opening the debate about Baraka’s intentions. Two years after the disaster of 9/11, one poem (& maybe only one) on the subject grabs me- a kind of unwitting answer poem sent back up north from New Orleans.

Andrei Codrescu’s 9/11 with Allen Ginsberg in Mind is as personal as it is political. Ginsberg is in his mind & in his ear, with an obvious rhetorical nod to Fall of America. He treats 9/11 as its own entity, not simply a date, event or excuse. He speaks to it as if it is its own character- not asking “who knew” beforehand, but reporting back on the aftermath. This history is much more interesting, maybe because it’s still wide-open & subject to change.

Of course he calls out the old/new right & the Cold Warriors for the New American Century. Of course he calls out Fox News exploitation and the Administration power grab, which are ingredients of most poems addressing the subject. But then:

9/11, I felt bad for you when the Lefties crowded you from the
other side with their guilt-filled jaws of I told you so,
and their eternal excuses for the wretched exotics of the
world whose suffering they experience in their marble-
topped kitchens between arguments about what wine to
serve with the wild rice! And I wept for you again when
soured professors who missed the collapse of commie
fascism in 1989 descended on you like rabid wolverines led
by Noam Chomsky whose teethmarks are all over the
zero ground of American academia!

Wow. I’m a Lefty. Am I one of these people? There haven’t been many wild rice & wine dinners lately at 260. But I’m asking myself, have I been a rabid wolverine? Have I used this event to air my general disgust with this system-at-large? I want to say no. But I can also say that I know some folks that fetishize exotic fundamentalisms, including despotic monstrous acts, if it is a (real or imagined) strike against Empire. While the great majority of anti-war protesters I met were more-or-less everyday Americans outraged by GW, I’ve also marched against the war in Iraq with Milosevic supporters & East Bloc apologists. Do these “hate America” types exploit September 11 to advance their own political agenda?

Of course they do. The bad news is, so have I. Sometime in the past year, it became a push & pull- did Iraq have anything to do with the bombing, or didn’t they? My conclusion was that they didn’t. George II used the WTC attack as an excuse for Imperial expansion. With unavoidable regret, I felt compelled to use it as an exposition of the regime’s motives. Back & forth. Back & forth.

Post-September 11, I’ve charted this Administration’s every dirty trick. But what I’ve forgotten for too long is the gravity of the sorrow two years ago. I’d forgotten the enormous empathy of the most of the world. I’d forgotten that in the two week window between the bombing & Bush’s speech before Congress, America was a sad, but intensely beautiful place. Andrei Codrescu does maybe the most important job a poet can- to go beyond the political, & re-introduce the humane. He closes with:

9/11, I can barely remember you & I’m sorry

Frank Sherlock

the inimitable Wendy Kramer 

(one of the things i want to do is to share as many of her amazing collage poems as possible that are online. whenever you see words highlighted here, please click to view, although a few of the links will be for other things.)

Wendy Kramer had dinner with us where we're house sitting, near Valencia Street. at one point Maggie mentioned my forthcoming book titles, and when i explained that my FRANK book was coming out on the Jargon label, i was prepared to explain Jargon and Jonathan Williams, since so many writers my age and younger seem to be ignorant of the man and his press. Wendy not only knew about him, but had written about him, had visited him, and was as enthusiastic about him and his invaluable love and work for poetry as i was.

that was a rare treat, that shared joy.

after dinner we went to Golden Gate Park to watch the sunset on the ocean. i wish that the sun could set on the New Jersey shore, just once, just to see what it would be like. how difficult is it to get that to happen?

the tension of my anticipation was growing as we drove to her apartment, where we were going to view her poem collages. it's the first time for me, Maggie having seen Wendy perform with her work more than once in NY. i couldn't wait, having heard so much about this woman's work, which had been built to legendary proportions at this point!

from the start i was in awe, her mind having created these beautiful one of a kind object poems. tee shirts, two of them, for two people to wear at a performance, and read off one another. collage of words and images snipped from magazines, books, boxes, wrappers, what else? her love for the work made it all the more exciting, as she pointed to a spray of words swirling in a collection of images. the goal of an art critic would be to point out others in the past, to validate the person they're writing about. i want to pretend Wendy has created this all her own. mainly because, first, who fucking cares who else is doing it, because, second, no matter who else is doing it, THIS IS how she is doing it. and it's all her own, one way or another. i was caught in the spell of these images and words, and wanted to keep looking and looking and looking.

she showed us a plastic pitcher for water or beer, the kind you'd see in bars and restaurants. it was covered in black and white images and words, and i forget exactly what the significance was for them all being black and white, she told us, shit, i hate when i forget important details. anyway, i really liked this a lot, some of the words and images needing to be read through the plastic handle or body of the pitcher, really smart and fun.

she then showed us some of her work which was framed. thick frames, thick in width to house the layered textures of the collages. i want to remember some of the lines and images, but i'm putting links so you can see yourself. we also saw color copies, including one on the back of Boog City.

Magdalena's cat allergies made us leave about an hour after arriving, but it was a very busy hour. we looked at her library shelves, which were so exciting to look at. she had a collection of Jargon titles like few i've seen outside of visiting Jonathan Williams. she had the incredible Alfred Starr Hamilton, who i wish more poets would read. Simon Cutts's Seepages, and Jargon's Collected Niedecker, a very handsome volume. Wendy also had some of Jonathan's photograph collections, like the one with his photograph of David Hockney, and that AMAZING Mina Loy photograph which is so strange and beautiful that it rivals Man Ray's.

it was a great poetry/art visit, i'm happy and lucky to have finally met the amazing Wendy Kramer.


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

the poems of Greta Byrum 

Maggie Zurawski would bring up Greta, for as long as i've known her, and with a great love and respect. while in Iowa i finally got to meet the poet, and stay with her, in her home, and i got to see exactly why Maggie is so excited about the person. then Greta gave us some of her poems to read, some that i guess she's written while at school in Iowa, but i shouldn't assume that. but it makes sense to assume that.

the first thing i liked is how different they all were in form. each had a completely separate complete form of its own, or "their" own. i had a dream the other night where a voice kept telling me NOT to refer to poems as things but as people. when i asked which pronoun to use the voice said, "are you being a smartass now?" but i was sincere, in the dream, i think.

it was difficult picking a couple to post. i wanted to post all of them. the one "Convulsive or not at all" is a conversation in the way that i've been fascinated with conversation in poems for awhile. which leads me further and further into my theory that plays are almost as close to writing poems as writing poems. go ahead and argue this point if you want, i'm interested in hearing as many ideas about that as possible.

i believe the title "Convulsive or not at all" is from Breton's NADJA, but i'm not 100% certain of that.

one of the things i think is important to point out is that Greta uses a different font for each poem. something else i liked right away. someone at her party, or somehwere, had told her that that bothered them. i instantly jumped in and said how important i felt that was for the emotional content of the poem. i like that touch of visual stimulation in the reading. Jonathan Williams has dozens of books of his poems where each poem is a different font, sometimes half a dozen fonts in one poem. he didn't seem to want to talk about it when i brought it up. but anyway, i wish i could somehow make that choice of fonts happen here on the blog, but these blogs have a limited --very limited-- selection of fonts.

i'll shut up now and post the poems...CAConrad


What is Art what is Context
What to do in a world
seen through & by & with language
Is Donald Rumsfeld a Poet
Is a Poet a Statesman by
Default & by language Crowned.
both of us anxious as
Butterflies slam into the windshield
Slap their wings into us & lie dotted
on the road there along there is no
way to avoid killing & still drive forward so
finally Please let's not
Let's make this world
between us, these
patterns Without
their tiny deaths
winged colors, our most Ancient,
Mayan Galactic Bugs. A pair
rises, X of four wings,
from the grill of my car,
yesterday, in the drive
way, like the hawk from that


Convulsive or not at all

I said, through a haze of liquor-shaded memory, chiarascuro -- or crepuscular -- I see you...naked?

He said, no, that wasn't me, that was someone else.

I said,... oh yes, you in a Hawaiian print shirt, and a woman with something on her head.

He said,... with her hair teased up, and a birdcage on her head?

I said,... Yes! And deep, deep paranoia, and lots of static, and fear that nothing could be communicated. A telephone... you shouting into the telephone... And so I got it, if what was to be said was that nothing could be communicated, you coummunicated that perfectly well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Speaking of Deborah Richards... 

Connections between fashion and the social are less than adequately explored. What links are highlighted are almost always done so in the negative- a condemnation of fashion elites vs. the MTV generation(s). Either “they” are pushing young girls off the cliff of eating disorders or sexualizing pre-pubescent girls. Both of these things are true, of course. But there is a wider view of fashion- not as an elitist leisure industry, but a statement that sometimes signifies, or at least identifies with action.

Fashion comes to the fore in Deborah Richards’ Last One Out. In the preface to the title piece, Richards writes, “This “dramatic poem” uses two of the Tarzan films as a base for the rituals of race and sexuality in the claustrophobic space of the theater set.” The setup brings to mind the Amiri Baraka poem- Jungle Jim Flunks His Screen Test, but they’re linked in theme only. To clarify an earlier statement regarding the Richards piece, it is written for a theater stage- designed as to appear as a movie set.

LAST ONE OUT is a character lineup.

Saidi: Black woman. Dressed neither to impress nor to seduce.

Riano: Black man. Dressed how a black man can. You decide.

Jane: White woman in a white hip slip.

Mr. Parker: Jane’s father, brown enough to be black, in khaki (with-a-long-a).

Harry: Mr. Parker’s business partner, white and safari-clad.

Martin: White man, Harry’s old school pal likes the gals.
Dressed smart in safari shorts and jacket.

The whites’ costumes are described in more particular detail than the black characters’ outfits are. The white men don safari gear, and Jane wears a slip named in style and color. Meanwhile, Saidi & Riano’s attire are left up to our preconceptions and/or imaginations. Both descriptions are wide-open to interpretation. Implicitly, we play a part in dressing these characters, & exercising a degree of control over them. What does it mean to dress to impress? To seduce? How can a black man dress? Just as it’s written- “You decide.” Mr. Parker’s character embodies the problematic contradictions of racial definition. He’s “brown enough to be black”, but still “white” enough to be described in khaki. He is passable enough to be in a position of power, and he dresses the part.

H Stands for Hat is an explanation of the hats of the jungle- which ones the characters wear are defined by both gender and race. The hats symbolize status within the order of characters. “He” is used in bold- highlighting male dominance, while “she” is not. The explanations are given from the left margin in, while there is a second narrow column coming down the right side of the page. These are filmmaking directions- pausing, playing in slow motion, rewinding & repeating “as required”, reinforcing the order in the theater audience as well as the players.

In H Stands for Home, Jane gives a monologue about feeling at home, but not quite as much as she might like. The stage direction enforces fashion’s role for women, which is one of display. She is directed to “undress”, “discard”, “lean”, “show”, “dress”, “undress”, “discard”, “lean”, “show”, “//:” Jane says:

I am so complete
Completely white and brave
And so and so and so
I feel so

Later Saidi speaks for Jane “woman to woman”. The explanation is a reiteration of the pattern of dress, disrobe, be dangled by a rope & wait to be rescued by the hero. Saidi gives two different scenarios where “she” is saved by the dashing protagonist. Once the scene is over, the pattern repeats with the actors unable to come out of their roles.

At Their Backs the Dark Continent is the most entangled and maybe the most interesting scene. The character Slick returns to his native New York. He enters the stage making “the sign of the goat”, and “mirrors the garb/ that grabs but he rapped up/ positive soul in a bow”. Slick is still black, but doesn’t feel like an outsider outside the jungle. In New York City, he sees the African immigrants as aliens- and himself a (kind of) native. But his struggle is in many ways the same, hinting at a colonial bondage not unlike the jungle order imposed by the European “explorers”:

just watch your back walk the shadows
that’s where we at
just cruisin’ déjà vu
dress how we’re told
eat what we’re sold
we are they we are them
we are outside the boundaries

In NYC, Slick & the Africans are still dressing how they’re told. He gives immigrants a word of advice- to “undo the cover version/ expose degradation beneath”. There is something ugly beneath the surface in the New World, hidden just like things are hidden in “turbans” and “long veils” back home.

Jane tries to see “him” as a human being in Savaged Desires Killing Time. Mr. Parker will have none of it- since he claims to esteem the hat as a mark of civilization. Meanwhile, a checklist of African movie deaths are marked off in the right columns. When Jane’s father denies “him” humanity because he doesn’t wear a hat, she offers hers. It won’t change his mind, because it never was about the hat. He replies, “You can’t. He’s a savage.”

It’s Slick’s return in the epilogue that takes the piece in a radical direction. Slick’s name is William Smith. There is a new hero in this film played by- yes, Will Smith, modern-day action hero. He has a suggestion:

let’s trump the king play the white man
out of this picture and make it real
to reel black suit with a zoot
cut up keep the raybans cos they
paying the deal what an inventory
whatever you want just take it
there’s power in what you can take

Richards lists the Men in Black soundtrack as a source, cluing us in to her idea of how Slick might turn out. The new hero doesn’t wear safari gear or a loin cloth, but a black suit & shades. The new protagonist refashions our ideas about how he dresses as well as what he looks like. Slick’s departure from the Will Smith character is an important one. He is not just wearing a black suit, but one with “a zoot cut up”. Agent K is a heroic character, but he is a government agent, after all. Slick adds a twist- he dons a suit cut from the cloth of African American & Latino identity circa WWII, as the “Tarzan era” began to wane. In minority neighborhoods, the zoot-suit was worn like a uniform. It “was a refusal: a subcultural gesture that refused to coincide with the manners of subservience.”* Slick takes what he wants & makes it his own look, encouraging others to do the same. His final lines are “you don’t need to/please me”.

Last One Out is as concerned with wardrobe as it is with plot. Possibly, the wardrobe is the plot. Characters are (sometimes literally) dressed & undressed. Sometimes it’s us who dress them. Ideas of identity are undressed & changed. Fashion appears as oppressor, and reappears as liberator. Stage directions suggest that we “Don’t try this at home.” Deborah Richards is suggesting that we do.

*Stuart Cosgrove, “The Zoot-Suit and StyleWarfare”
History Workshop Journal, 18, Autumn 1984, p.78

Frank Sherlock

The new La Tazza season opens this Saturday(9/20) with... 

Deborah Richards & Chris Toll
La Tazza 108
108 Chestnut St.
September 20

Deborah Richards has lived in Philadelphia since 1998 and completed her Masters in Creative Writing at Temple University in May 2000. Her work has been published in CHAIN, XCP- CROSS-CULTURAL POETICS, NOCTURNES, HOW2 and CALLALOO. She is the author of three chapbooks: HIDE ME FROM THE DAY (collaboration with photographer Ariana Krantzite), CUT AND SHOOT (collaboration with writer Cathleen Miller) and PARABLE. She also has a hot new book out on subpress- LAST ONE OUT.

Chris Toll is a poet who lives in Baltimore. He studied with Andrei Codrescu - during Happy Hour - the array of liquor bottles displayed in gleaming rows behind the bar, and they tried to guess how many were there. Open 24 Hours will publish his new chapbook LOVE EVERYONE. If you caught The Philly Sound Weekend, you'll remember him as part of the one-two combo of the Fuchsian fire down below (the Mason-Dixon Line) during the OPEN 24 hour.

See you there!
Frank Sherlock

Monday, September 15, 2003

Philip Guston RETROSPECTIVE at the SFMOMA 

Maggie and i have almost no money right now, so when Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy offered us free passes into the SFMOMA after dinner the other night we answered an enthusiastic and grateful YES!

what better gift than to spend time soaking in art

and when i heard that there was a Philip Guston retrospective at the museum i had a hard time falling asleep, wondering if "Source" would be in the show

i've only ever seen a painting here or there of his work, or in books (the book with Clark Coolidge for one) and was looking forward to immersing myself decade-by-decade in his life of painting

"Dawn" 1970
about 8 ft. wide, 4 ft. high
car driving east toward the rising orange orb. tires of the gray car melting into the mirage of a summer road. this is the period where all his people are in white hoods, KKK members, or ghosties. there's a huge cigarette that could actually be a fat joint, they are after all slightly confused, pointing in different directions, and then the bloody feet sticking out the back. (it's said bloody feet, which appear frequently in his paintings, refer to his brother who suffered a car accident) what's playing on the radio in that car? well, it's 1970, maybe it's Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," or "Green-Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf? hmmm, or maybe "War" by Edwin Starr. yeah, have to say i think it's "War" that's playing on that strange gray radio we can't see, but you know there's a radio in there, under the dashboard.

"Source" 1976
this has made me very very happy! i was kind of ridiculous with joy sitting in the museum grinning like a freak at this painting! this is the Philip Guston painting used on the cover of the poetry anthology THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CENTURY. the anthology that, quite seriously, changed my life. i remember the first time i laid my hands on it, during a very hard time both emotionally and spiritually for me. my slightly demented drug dealer boyfriend Angel bought it for me to cheer me up after he saw me reading it in Robins Bookstore.

i stared at that cover for extended periods of time, seeing that head rising out of the water. it was so hopeful, but much more than that, it was a person who had been underwater, absorbing the deepest tools of the subconscious and shifting the tools into the waking life, making them ACTUALIZED to recreate our lives BECAUSE (and this is when i first started to form this idea for myself & really wanted to live it) any juncture in a life TAKEN for the improvement of the spirit will expand awareness every time contact is made with other life forms.

i'm so happy to see the ACTUAL painting! i remember having a breakthrough while looking at it and telling George Delaney and Pegalina. (this seems several lifetimes ago, and it was years ago) the 3 of us were rather drunk and/or high, and Pegalina insisted the figure was sinking, rather than rising out of the depths. i couldn't believe anyone would think a painting called "Source" would sink. it's natural evolution, rising from a sleep, moving up up up.

George tried to get either of us to suck his dick, saying his sperm would enlighten us, blah blah blah. he had such a talent for saying such bullshit without laughing. but i remember laughing at him, looking at him to see if it would fester a smile, but damn if he wasn't the coolest at keeping it hidden. Pegalina took him up on it however, no big surprise to me. she acted like i was a prude to the science of sensible spiritual progression through ingestion of George's Holy swimmers.

back to the painting though, i can't remember the colors being quite so exotic, and i wish i had a copy with me today to compare. in fact i had thought Guston had chosen duller colors to show how much more work there was for us to do, but all along it was just a matter of color transfer to print not fully taking.

"The Night" 1977
i've never seen this painting before. it's a new favorite. wish i could steal it. it's something to really LIVE with! black canvas, water, 2 heads swimming, facing away from us on the left side of the canvas. the head to the far left is male, balding, the other right next to him is orange curly hair, alive and reflecting all light and energy at us. they are under water except for their heads, looking away. looking into the darkness, together. there's red deeply invested at the very bottom of the canvas. the deeper into the canvas, and the slower you allow your eyes to travel, the more you adjust to the powers of the red, that hidden subconscious realm Guston uncovers for us. what a brilliant fucking painting this is! the curls and waves, small, and moving out, away from the figures, more of this shared examination of the hidden tools being made available for us.

"Wheel" 1979
the dominant feature is a large orange wheel churning a pile of red muck. blood? yeah, i'd say blood. this is the year before he died. the full moon is in the east, rising, night is coming on. the long, the endless night. it's a powerful and disturbing piece.

Maggie and i walked back through the gallery to look at "Source" together before leaving. Jeff Goldblum was walking through the gallery with his girlfriend(?), or some young woman, chewing bubble gum with her mouth open. (Maggie says she needs to eat a sandwich) anyway, she can chew whatever she wants, i'm jealous she gets to chew on him! he's the sexiest nerd in movie-making history, next to Woody Allen. my goodness! there was NO concentrating on anymore paintings with the timber of his sexy voice asking sexy questions which were only sexy because he was asking them and i don't even remember what his sexy questions were. fuck the writers colonies! someone write me a letter of recommendation to let Jeff Goldblum know it's A-OKAY to fuck me!

did i say that?

i keep thinking i'm going to be thrown off the blog by my fellow bloggers because i have no sense in how to behave.


Baraka on the Bayou; a report from Brett Evans 

Amiri Baraka reading : September 10, 2003, Xavier University, New Orleans

Michael Dominici was the one with the secret bacon to share : he had heard from some fellow WWOZ deejay that Baraka was reading. Good thing that, as it was listed nowhere in the paper and even the oft-knowledgeable poetry heads I phoned had nothing to say about it. Probably this was due to it being an in-house for-Xavier sort of project: 700 or so students in the audience, many, no doubt (judging by the cell phone convo during speech in the row behind) made to go by their teachers.

My main question upon entering the school ballroom was, I wonder if he's going to read his 911 poem? Chris Stroffolino in a previous New Orleans visit had described the poem ("Somebody blew up America") and the shit pit it landed the newly inducted NJ poet laureate in.

I didn't know that Baraka had lost his 31-year old daughter to some in-the-wrong-house-at-the-wrong-time bullshit gun rage only a month or so ago. I also didn't realize that Mr. Baraka was billed more as a speaker than a poet.

He began by speaking about his daughter. He said some things - said he would rant a bit to keep himself from weeping. He warned the girls in the audience to stay away from male bullets. He said his daughter was gay, which added to the strikes of being African-American and being a woman. Mostly he celebrated his daughter's life and her achievements as a basketball player and coach.

He went on, speaking about the ugly hand of American imperialism in the world today and how the coming fascism prophesied back in the 60s was finally coming to full b(l)oom. Something like: A large craft called Asscraft looms over, spitting out Bush-shit. He went on to talk about what has come to pass in recent years: the shameful use of 911 fear for evil purposes wide and deep. He talked about how the African-Americans in the upper Bush echelon are not Toms but just self-interested, not unlike the blacks who sold blacks into slavery. "What kind of skeezer is a Condoleeza?" he asked, and later, in a line of a poem, "The devil wears his ass in front so the Colon may wear a uniform." It felt like breathing to hear someone rail against our shitty leaders in front of so large a crowd.

Seamlessly he announced he would read a poem, "Somebody blew up America," after giving an intro of his poet laureateship and the hot H-2-O he got in over the poem.

The man's vocal power and range was in full effect as he sonorously questioned the invisible orchestrators of [an endless list of American genocidal engagements and artifacts], ending with a Who who WHO WHO Who rise and fall - out-of-daylights Tiresian owl up in the night tree. A prophet, but also cartoonlike, as delicious countermeasure to all the harsh truth-outings of the accusatory poem's history lines.

From this great symphony, Mr. Baraka moved backward and forward oer his oeuvre, ending with a couple of the more recent jazz-interjected poems from Funklore.

One poem in particular cracked me up but good and has kept giving and giving this week, seamlessly segueing with the shirt Tatyana brought back from the NY anarchist shop [ a black tee with white etched Bush head, all earnest, over the word, "PRAEY," the AE run together in that Old Eng style]: The poem was called "The Mind of the President." Baraka explained how it was written for Reagan but certainly could be applied to our current fearless leader. This is how I remember it:

Peeee peeeeee
Pooo poooooooo

K I L L !

In the after-session he fielded questions about politics and music. He explained that African Americans need a national congress to hash out collective concerns rather than just another political party. He spoke of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Someone asked him about rap music today - whether any of it would be as enduring as those guys - and he said that basically in any art form you have the Backward, the Indifferent, and the Progressive element. To find the progressive wing is the key - to take you places now, that will hence be the most enduring.


A harvest moon hung full outside as we left the building. Hearing this great man speak and read had the effect I like my poetry [art/music] to have: It made me want to do something. It made me feel less cheap and used. Of course the question is always, Well, now what? What exactly should I do? And, yeah, just having the flame going enough to give a fuck to ask the question is half the battle.

dear Chris, Frank, anyone else interested, hassen... 

sorry i've just gotten around to reading all the posts.

all the time driving across the country with no computer, etc.

but thanks for continuing the thread, poet/novelist, etc.

Frank, you ask at one point about poets writing plays. now, this is my own little theory, but i really believe, feel, that it's the closest form of writing a poet can do that resembles poetry. taking into consideration the oral management of the line and the creation of character, story, or even a non-story play, but by way of a speaking voice. of course, this is not true for all poets, i'm sure we'd agree.

it's true for me though. and i love plays, all kinds of them. Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean has always been a favorite. Kevin Killian just told me he thinks it's a bad play, but that it's good because it's bad. i guess i like it in that weird gay way gay men like torch songs. i mean, it is afterall a play whose Broadway cast included Cher, Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Sudie Bond, and Kathy Bates. Karen Black without a doubt the best of the long lost transexuals.

speaking of transexuals, Maggie and i heard a female to male transexual novelist give a reading tonight. really fantastic, making me so happy that i was there for it. he/she was wearing suspenders with all his/her scars showing. a rather unique exploration of gender, of anger, of surprise for tastes in sex changing with the sex change in the writing.

how did i get here?

i was supposed to be talking about novelists. plays. all that.

anyway, i can't wait to see what kind of fiction you'll write Chris. i admire your poetry and i'm sure you'll be yet another in a series of poets i know who will blow our minds with the genre.

Renee Gladman was reading from her novel the other night, and i loved it. oh geeze i keep saying "i loved it" as though i feel the need to prove that i'm okay with novelists.

i'm glad i'm maturing. is that what it is that's happening to me? hmmm. i really don't know if that's what's happening. could be. i hope i don't grow up too much too fast. or all the way. just enough to be tolerant and explorative about the WHOLE of writing. i don't want this blog to be therapy, that's weird, and not what i want but you understand what i'm saying.

Tom Devaney has helped me see all kinds of writing for poets as, okay. yeah. THANK GOD i'm no longer stuck in my idiotic idea of poets not writing prose, that superstition. even though i hiccup it back once in awhile, which makes Maggie crazy. i'm surprised she hasn't punched me yet. i know i deserve it, and will try not to complain too much if she does.

oh, hey, Kevin Killian just told me tonight that Chris Stroffolino has moved to San Francisco. i knew he was in California, but he just recently moved to the Mission in San Fran, so, i'm going to try to see him this week. should be interesting, as any visit with Stroffolino is interesting.

Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy showed us their deck of tarot cards Jack Spicer helped design. in fact, we just came from their apartment. wow. it's quite a deck of cards. lots and lots of penises for wands, etc., very nice, and strange.

they have quite a collection of art. amazing stuff. an original Joe Brainard, a Susan Cole, all kinds of collages and paintings. and of course the Spicer tarot deck which there were only 100 copies printed.

only 100 copies! that's crazy. i mean, c'mon! why can't we ALL have some penis divination on the coffee table?

oh, and the poet Wendy Kramer has moved here as well. she's interesting. and i asked her tonight if she misses New York. without thinking she shook her head and said NO, said she never thinks about that city at all.

i can see in Maggie's eyes that this is her home. and i'm kind of having too much of a good time here, to be honest. i wandered into a Science Fiction bookstore today and there was a book reading and there were about forty of the sexiest nerds i've ever seen in my life, and i have a date with a man i met there. it's almost too much to withstand to be honest, all this nerd activity. the nerd meter has swung WAY off its known course in my book.

but i miss Philadelphia. i'm thinking about the Franklinia trees in bloom at the John Bartram garden right now. and wish i could see them. yeah.

i want to get back into talking about plays/novels by poets, but can't. maybe i've said all i can say about it right now.

Dodie Bellamy just gave me a copy of her prose called CUNT UPS and it's so much fun to read! very strange, salacious stuff! see, here i go again talking about how great prose is, as though i'm an alcoholic who is trying to prove to his boss that coffee is just GREAT, really, it's great. but it is. not coffee, you know what i mean.

i have to 2nd Frank's feelings for Joseph Torra. although i haven't read the entire book GASOLINE, it's a beautiful read.

hope you all are well,

Sunday, September 14, 2003

skies - clouds = SF, CA (Spicerville) 

i worked in Giovanni's Room Bookstore too many years to fully appreciate the Castro

it's one big Giovanni's Room out here and i'm happy people are having their lives in it and having love in it but i'm starting to understand why these queer teens say being bisexual is more radical and deviant

where's the straight end of town? where are those wild and freaky heterosexuals at? lend me your ear and you can have mine awhile

Maggie and i are staying in this great apartment on Valencia a house-sitting gig for friends of Mary Burger's

the garden is lush with herbs and cactus and some fern trees and fern shrubs with vines covering the fence to hide the tennis court on the other side but nothing can hide the Pah-Pah-Pah of the rackets hitting the balls and the occasional ball winging in over the fence whacking the grill spilling my barley tea rolling to a bright green fuzzy stop

i drew some crazy eyes on it and fangs and tossed it back to hear "hey, c'mere, look at the ball. who did that?"

our first night here we went to a reading by Renee Gladman and Hung Q. Tu for Small Press Traffic

it was the 2nd time i'd heard Renee read the first being in Philadelphia a night where i just couldn't seem to concentrate but on this night i was a captive of her strange story of mutating maps

Hung Q. Tu is someone i've never heard read before and couldn't hear at first (my Neil Young ear was too weak (Neil Young BLEW out my right ear at a concert years ago and i was really there to hear Sonic Youth NOT his sorry old ear bleeding ass!)) but then it turns out he just wasn't using the mic properly and someone helped him out

it seemed at first it was his voice that made me relax into the message but then i realized it was really what he was saying and i was trusting his every word and absorbing the lines and seeing his tools

his politics were always present and sometimes funny "Where's Waldo in American domestic policy" maybe that's not exactly correct but it's how i remember the line

it was quite a night for me in that i kept meeting poet after poet whose work i've been reading for years or in the case of Kevin Killian a poet i've known by phone and e-mail

kari edwards was there a poet whose sexy challenging poems i've enjoyed on the Buffalo List and elsewhere for awhile as was John Norton and Leslie Scalapino

i found out later that Laura Moriarity was there and i wish i had met her

i remember when i first laid my hands on her book RONDEAUX in a used bookshop outside Lancaster PA i nearly read the whole thing sitting in a little wicker chair by a fan that was blowing smells of hay and cow shit over me which didn't keep me from reading but kind of stuck in my brain with a vengeance of sweet flavor

maybe i'm fourteen but these people are my rock stars not that i was an ass with autograph book in hand but i wanted to say hi

Leslie Scalapino's husband is sexy wow here i am saying this on the Blog what the fuck is wrong with me? but he IS sexy! what a lucky woman! i had to get away from her because i kept looking at him instead of her when i was talking about my feelings for IT'S GO IN one of my favorite books of poems on visual art (actually in this case it was a conversation or collaboration her poems and Petah Coyne's sculpture) next to Cole Swenson's book TRY (who i also recently met when i was in Iowa)

speaking of that reading in Iowa WHAT IS WRONG with those people!? Lee Ann Brown and Monica Young gave an AMAZING reading and the audience acted like they were at a funeral

maybe it's just the way things are in Iowa when it comes to poetry readings what do i know i mean the most i know is which roads my relatives take to the liquor store

but back to San Francisco Maggie and i made dinner for Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy last night

they're every bit as exciting and fun as Eileen Myles promised!

the stories of making the Spicer biography were an amazing thing to hear about

i read Dodie's cards (this has become my tarot reading tour having read at least 8 or 9 in Iowa)

i feel like i'm babbling here so i guess i am

guess i'll shut up now but just wanted to share all the great poetry moments of the trip (so far)

more later


Saturday, September 13, 2003

who would the Donner party eat today? (my hand is raised for something else like trying to feel Johnny leave his post, don't mind me) 

Squaw Valley California near the Donner Pass listening to RUSTY CAGE Johnny Cash sounding like he finally pushed through his pain "I'm gonna BREAK! I'm gonna break my rusty cage and RUN!" break for the direction June ran and run Johnny run!

we'll miss you but understand gettin' where love's gone

we had lunch at the Donner Lake Kitchen because of the creepy irony of it and Maggie snapped a picture of me growling at the door like a Donner cannibal even though i'm big enough to equal two of their hungriest brothers

been asking people everywhere we drive how they feel about Bush and Iraq

we sat at the Donner Kitchen lunch counter where we met Al Peltier who is a distant cousin of Leonard Peltier and who is FILLED with a rageful taste for justice and nothing short of it

he told us how all the rich folks are chopping out his beautiful valley to raise gated mansion communities

he's a contractor who installs wallpaper and he told us how these rich folks wanted to hire him because he came highly recommended but were embarrassed by his dirty beat-up old van and asked him to paint it and when he refused they created a separate entrance driveway into the community for him and when he refused to use it they insisted and then he refused to ever come back

"I'm gonna BREAK! I'm gonna break my rusty cage and RUN!"

Al says (this is so crazy) these same people are actually petitioning the local Safeway Supermarket to create a separate aisle just for members of this gated community who are exhausted with the long lines

the waitress who overheard this nodded to confirm

separate aisles separate schools separation anxiety we're all having separation anxiety afraid of what? afraid of cooties? afraid of losing the loot? yeah well i guess they're right that i want their loot but i want you to have it too no lie

turns out Al is a Vietnam vet and he insists that if you take the total number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam and factor in the total number of days we were in Vietnam that it's roughly the same number of American soldiers being killed so far in Iraq and Al says his heart breaks and can't hear the news

last night in Reno we took advantage of the free cocktails in the casinos and watched the gleaming teeth of the feeding at the machines and Black Jack tables this amidst circus performers and giant talking ceramic leprechauns and the ZZ Top coverband boy oh boy our cocktails made the decadence surreal enough to feel okay after having just driven through the salt basins and ATTEMPTING to have conversations with mormons about Bush and the great forthcoming (what?) wrath from (who?) someone called God

"I'm gonna BREAK! I'm gonna break my rusty cage and RUN!"

at one point a naked 400 pound woman (naked but for her black patent leather boots) was bouncing up and down outside and clicking her fingers by her cheeks and puffing her lips and making a "WOOooo!WOOooo!" sound until her skinny toothless boyfriend with the skull and crossed bones baseball cap shoved her in the van (which was covered with such writings as "WE REMEMBER 911" and "GOD BLESS AMERICA AND GOD BLESS JUNE AND JOHNNY!") his pack of LUCKY STRIKES falling out of his shirt pocket

it's nights like this i imagine America's final days as a freshly planed forest surface with 2 gloved hands reaching over the sides scratching charcoal into one last hand of tic tac toe

and RUN!


Friday, September 12, 2003

i'm on drugs, la la 

since my apparently successful surgery i've actually had time to read. needed rain seeping through dense painkillers or just pain ("just pain," she says). i imagine Conrad & Maggie, though already likely at their destination, that sustained surreal hum across the continent. the mirage of salt beds, the dilating drive toward the western sun. i hear N. Merchant's surreptitiously condemning yet haunting/comforting *Motherland* as well as my, what, six or more turns at those mantric highways, once done singly and sunk in profound color and silence (but for the Hum). that geography, death of my father's hero (Cash), politics of this week or the past two years, form almost a melancholic slide show of catastrophic data & stunning imagery of this country/side in my noggin.

that aside – i’ve been reading for the first time *The Black Book* by Durrell, one of my most squirmingly authors. it was his first, written at age 24, poetic & sentimental (though, imo, not to a fault). and Conrad, my dear friend, and thank you for your thoughtful post on fiction (writers/poets), this guy was and remained a poet before and during his novel writing years, though i've not yet got my eyes on that. i'm finding, as usual with my Durrell readings, his passages resonate on many levels simultaneously & i as well find a queer personal synchronicity. in any event, want to share a bit of him here if that's okay. mindful of razing & regrowth process afoot/back.

“You will find written on me all those symptoms of strain that you can see on the faces of old actors. There is no variation from the magnetic north of artifice. Touch me, there is absolutely no charge. Observe, I am utterly metamorphic, I fall away in long rotten flakes.”

this passage after his lament of being forced to write about the putrid Self & that chaotic process. page prior (p1 90):

“Lies, all lies. My disease is the disease of the dwarf. To make myself plausible I am forced into a sort of self-magnification of action, of thought. I am forced to make myself transcend reality.”


“There is no room for the classy irony with which I have treated the theme hitherto, which is almost my only literary wear. The moon is shining on these pages. Your genuine ironist is never grilled solely on the iron of pride, as I am grilled. The green fountain which starts from this pen is poisoned at source. False irony; a mask baked down tight over the real interplay of facial muscles. God, to find words which would bite down, right down to the pure lustral source from which perfect action flows.”

i suppose i could make a long & likely boring essay of this, which i probably am w/ my own convoluted novel (tho not concerning L.D.), though i think this a tangent more to do with closing chapters or pruning, conscious decisions To Be Done With and To Forge. as my friend Magdalena heads Pacific, or i cut out my endearingly psychopathic homunculus. and those others with their own more or less substantial transmutations.

or does this also include tangent re: disclaimer or further discussion of impetus to write "the self" in a time when Confessional and Sentimental etc. is oft considered passé or just downright obnoxious when sans artifice in the masking/trickery sense? oh christ, we all write our personal myths anyway, in whatever form or capacity, and my blathering...
but the diazepam has semi-engaged; i am suddenly concerned more with the corporeal horizon than with making Words or Sense, as i gaze at the pale sky out my window. i'm dreaming of sealing a typewriter key in a helium balloon but the wind never seems to blow westward from my place.



from "Highwayman":

I'll fly a starship across the universe divide
And when I reach the other side
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I'll be back again, and again, and again, and again, and again

Johnny Cash 1932-2003

Frank Sherlock

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

something in the soybean rows (after conrad) 

something in the soybean rows

promised myself
           i'd never step

or load
           belongings --
                      beautiful tensions:

a couple of lustful titans
                      and a fast food-filled country

in the heat and heart
           of Mercury Retrograde...
                      a crude drawing of the state,

the natural thing to do
            stay with friends,
                      two crows diving

at the edge of the yard.
            The keys
                      locked up.


Monday, September 08, 2003

broken Iowa promise is okay afterall...it seems 

"The lost fragments are perhaps stacked in the closets, the archives, but then the codes, the keys are locked up also."
--Jacques Roubaud, from SOME THING BLACK

had promised myself that i'd never step foot in this state again, anywhere near my insane born again christian drunk ass relatives.

have been on the road with Magdalena Zurawski. helping her drive her van load of belongings, and herself, to San Francisco. there's been this beautiful tension between Elvis and Bruce Springsteen on the CD player for several states now. nothing better than a couple of lustful titans duking it out through their obsessed fans in the heat and heart of a fast food-filled country during Mercury Retrograde. tension keeps it all honest, in my honest interpretation of tension.

i could bore you with little poems found on the many bathroom walls between here and Philadelphia. sorry i won't bore you. except, the one that was especially odd was "6 QUEERS OVER TEXAS" and 6 little stick figures with rather large stick penises all hung by their necks floating over a crude drawing of the state. and i'm of course glad --for a moment-- that we took the Northern route. but there're plenty of queers in Texas i've met, none of them walking around with the rope necklace, not for lack of fashion.

last night three men with broken fingers and leather pants circled the gas pumps looking for a way to get the pumps to work, and one of them gave up, brushed his slicked hair with a bandaged hand, throwing lines of Rimbaud's A SEASON IN HELL out to us, as though that's the natural thing to do when you've simply had it with the gasoline. i asked him how much of it he had stored in his memory, and he yelled, "MAN WE JUST WANT SOME FUCKING GAS! OKAY!?" okay, nevermind i thought, walking into Crazy D's with Maggie.

we're staying with poet Greta Byrum outside Iowa City. Lee Ann Brown is also staying here, with her 9 month old daughter Miranda Reality Torn Brown. we're going to hear Lee Ann read with Monica Youn tonight at Prairie Lights.

woke this morning in this giant old farmhouse to two crows diving at something in the soybean rows at the edge of the yard. cawwing and diving and pecking. the violence of the country, but especially THIS part of the country, comes back.

only have about ten minutes to click this out, borrowing a computer.
more later,

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The love of handwriting: Tom D. on Patti Smith 

Thursday night was a pleasant and warm evening. After teaching my first creative writing class of the term I walked over to the ICA with rock critic and arts writer Anthony DeCurtis. He told me that Patti Smith was the first major interview that he did and talked about seeing Smith's band play a great show in a very samll lodge hall in Indiana at that time.

I mentioned the first time I met Patti Smith at Allen Ginsberg's apartment and I said to her, "We have something in common." She looked at me and I said, "We both play the clarinet." She smiled and we talked for a few minutes. Anthony said that her clarinet playing is very important to her.

When we arrived at the ICA Frank was there and we all went in.

While it's usually difficult to look at the art at a big opening, I was able to spend some time looking at Patti's work before the room was filled with a crowd of about 100 people on the artist/curator tour.

About the work itself: the piece I most responded to is a drawing called "Happy Birthday Robert." Patti and Robert Mapplethorp were longtime friends. The drawing has a simple wooden frame and is a little larger than the size of a sheet of paper 8.5X11.

As with much of the work here it is filled with handwriting and script. You can hardly read the script, though that is not the point -- much of the handwriting is drawn (seemingly traced) in lightest of pencil.

The soft and intricate graphic impact of the piece is what is most striking. It's layered with colored pencil handwriting in the background. The washed colored pencil handwriting has echos of some of Blake's illuminated manuscripts. Here part of Patti's project: her privacy, beauty, and other visual elements all come together in a way that some of the pieces doing similar things may not do as well.

Frank talks (below) about the 9/11 series (and the handwriting in them), which are silk screens and one large Ab Ex painting -- the silk screens have a faint echo of Wharol, but are more understated and muted than his. The ICA show was organized and first opened at the Wharol Museum and I wonder if working closely with the curator there informed this series?

On the north wall are Patti's most recent work and work that was not in the show at the Wharol museum: her photos.

At first viewing I didn't respond to them, though I came to understand their signficance for Patti and her larger project as an artist, visual or otherwise.

The photos feel different from the other work in show, though like the other work they feel very personal. Like "Happy Birthday Robert," they show a warmer side of Smith's visual art. There might be a comparison to Mapplethorp here, but they are surface comparisons -- his photos are precise and clean in a way that Smith's are not, which is a credit to both artists.

It is Smith's details of the Declaration of Independence, which I most did not like when I fist looked at them and most want to talk about now (even though they still don't blow me away).

When I heard Patti speak about them I started to see something about them that I did not at first see, understand or connect to the other work in the show.

Patti is from the Philadelphia and said that she has vivid memories of going to the Franklin Inst. and receiving copies of the Declaration of Independence as a kid.

She said that she loved the calligraphy of the document and she copied the script over and over -- all of which has contriubted to her love of handwriting. So it is the love of handwriting: its texture and character that really is the insight for much of the drawings, which Smith uses so much and so beautifully. (Not to metion the powerful content of the Declaration, and consistent statements of independence which is a hallmark of all that Smith does.)

The one great and prefect mistake Smith made while talking about the Declaration (in the artist Q&A) is that she said it was drafted by Thomas Paine and Jefferson.

What's great about this is that Paine did not draft the document.

Still, it's exactly right too. Though not historiclly accurate, Smith's association with Paine and the document and herself are all right-on as far as the intergrated whole of her firey, dead-on, beautiful hell-storm art.

p.s. there is a display case showing Patti's books -- one is of the wonderful and tiny 4x2 Hanuman Books, which I used to own and lost at a rally to save the gardens in nyc with Greg Fuchs in the spring of 1999. That was the most beautiful rally I have ever been involved with. Dozens of nyc neighborhood gardens were saved that day.

--Tom Devaney

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Strange Messenger 

Speaking of genre-crossing, STRANGE MESSENGER: THE WORK OF PATTI SMITH opened
Thursday night at the ICA. Tom & I caught the preview walk-through with curator
John Smith (from the Warhol Museum) & Patti Smith (no relation). The poet/musician/visual artist sees her drawings as "a result of merging calligraphy with geometric planes, poetry & mathematics."

Some of my favorite Smith works I'd seen years ago upstairs at Gotham Book
ISLAND- all dated around 1968, what would have to be called Smith's "De Kooning
Period." The shades & undulations lend more than a nod to WDK's unmistakable

The South Tower silk-screens work in a deceptively powerful manner. The cultural inundation of the Tower image- one of jagged ruin, has been used for the past two years as a symbol of an American end/beginning. The wall is lined with (from a distance, at least) the same desensitizing image of wreckage- in all its overexposure. A closer look reveals tiny texts woven into, or lining the fallen structure. Stories are told in great attentive detail as part of the visual presentation, calling traditions of Islamic calligraphy. In one South Tower, the structure itself tells its story- pronouncing itself an American sphinx, a former architectural wonder referring to itself in the past tense. In another South Tower is the story of a hijacker's fiance, an unwitting medical student in the USA. Her life too, comes down with the tower. She loses her love, her future & security in her country. It's these kinds of particulars that cut through the suspicion of yet more WTC wreckage as gallery art.

What follows for an artist after working with a contemporary world disaster? Since going grander in scale seems out of the question, Smith chooses to work in small photographs, a natural thematic progression after her South Tower project. The pictures explore the quietly personal as well as the broad political. The latter photos are especially compelling. Smith's close-ups of the Declaration of Independence are texturally rich & poignant. Her childhood fascination with the Declaration was the beginning of her calligraphic interest, which later
inspired her to study Sufi, Arabic & Chinese calligraphies. Beyond its artistic value, Smith calls for the content to be applied directly. There is an invitation to read the document closely, & enact it accordingly. Another serial photograph project explores the phenomenon of John Walker Lindh. Smith brings together the now-famous interrogation photo of Lindh
with a close-up shot of the Koran. Lindh appears to be bound to the Koran, as one in distress would be tied to the railroad tracks.

The genres blur at points of the exhibit- her poetry books are presented with some of
the photographs, text utilized as image, & image used as text. Those who know her music/poetry can't help but read these disciplines into her visual work- and rightly so. Smith has crossed genres by not splitting them into solitary compartments. Instead, she takes down the dividers- allowing her Blakean, De Koonish NY punk rock sensibilities to converse, argue & share the same space.

Frank Sherlock

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Powderkeg Report 

Thanks, CA. It’s an honor to be asked to write a poem for good friends/hot

The next day, there was a wedding parade in Long Island City- dubbed the
POWDERKEG. The event was organized by sculptor Marc Robinson. He somehow put
together a permitted march with a brass band & a police escort! There was a
Philly contingent, as well as a sizeable New Orleans mardi gras-by-way-of-
Queens-in-August posse. Brett Evans wins Most Disturbing Mask award for his
red, glowing full-face cutout of Phil Collin’s FACE VALUE album cover- made
functional by cutting eye-holes & attaching a string.

The band led us down Vernon Boulevard behind a banner that read ALLISON & GREG-
JUST MARRIED. The newlyweds were king & queen of the parade, seated in the bed
of a golden El Camino. The groom waved his umbrella in mummeric fashion, as the
bride blew kisses to well-wishers cooking out in the parks. Residents joined
in, marching for a number of blocks. Neighborhood kids danced wildly around the
horns as the tuba bellowed the Spiderman Theme.

Powderkeg wound down amidst the sculptures-in-progress at Socrates Park. There
were groups of friends sitting in the grass as the breeze blew by us. Cans of
Old E 800 were raised in their individual brown bags. Cheers to Allison! Cheers
to Greg!


Hopping the West Bank Wall of Genre 

Chris, let me add my favorite contemporary fiction writers with a “poet’s
attention to language”. Joe Torra’s MY GROUND trilogy is among the best series
of novels I’ve read. Also, Samuel Delany’s prose (nonfiction/fiction) is
crafted with dynamism & precision. The fore mentioned attention is not “poet
exclusive”, since Joe is a poet & Chip is not. I share your astonishment
regarding Beckett’s prose, particularly the shorter fiction. STORIES & TEXTS
FOR NOTHING is a book I’ll likely never stop returning to.

As you know, I’ve never had issues with the genre of fiction, or poets crossing
genres. I do have issue with “the poet” who sees his/herself as a kind of
junior executive, on the way up the literary ladder to become “the novelist.”
Some misguided individuals see poetry as a stepping stone to “bigger & better”
literary pursuits. I don’t sweat these folks too much, since they’re almost
always god-awful poets. Good riddance, I guess.

Since we’re opening up the discussion, does anyone have similar
suspicions/aversions to the poet/playwright? These genres seem (though maybe
deceptively?) to possibly be easier, in terms of transition. The “furniture
moving” of fiction seems to prove difficult for many a younger poet,
particularly. Patience is likely an issue. Drama seems to satisfy the poet’s
tendency toward “moments” in a way that fiction often requires experience to be
further integrated into the larger schema.

Incidentally, I’m reading a wonderful dramatic piece from Deborah Richards’
LAST ONE OUT, written for a soundstage/film set.

Frank Sherlock

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Response to Conrad's Q's about Bukowski, fiction, etc. 

Conrad, other folks,

Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to yr questions about my comments on Bukowski, fiction, & the rest. Life, you know, intrudes. Looking back at this entry prior to posting it, I feel like an egomaniac having written at such length about me, me, me, but since you proposed the questions to me via blog, I figured my response should go the same route. Hopefully that was the right call.

Anyway. I don’t know that there was one single moment where I started to find Bukowski less engaging, but the progression was pretty far along by my mid-20s, so trying to recall the reasoning behind it is already a wee bit tricky. I think there are a couple of reasons for the relative lack of interest, tho. For one thing, I probably just overdid it w/ his work, reading everything I could get my hands on, which is an almost certain recipe for burnout – esp w/ a figure like him, who’s seen every seemingly every scrap of paper he’s ever scribbled notes on come into print at some point. Reason two: he appealed to me most when I was an angrier person more prone to all manner of self destruction – it’s easy to use his work as a distorted mirror if you’re in that mental space. But seeing as how the last X number of years of my life have been a continual effort to get healthy in every sense of the word, his work rarely seems useful to me now on a personal level – the way I read him, there’s a vibe there, if I can get a little hippie-sounding, that I don’t want to be around very often, just like I have no interest in being around really riled up or boozed up people anymore (explaining, of course, why I disappear from LaTazza these days just as the party gets cooking by most standards). It just does nothing for me.

In terms of the “sloppiness” that I referred to... I got bored w/ most first-person narrative poems somewhere along the way, & Buk tends to fall into this camp. To keep me engaged, something really fresh has to be happening w/in the form of the poem itself – I think of Brett Evans’s work as an example there. His poems may be telling tales about working in an office or dancing at a party, but the presentation is always sharp & engaging, & there’s attention to torquing the language that’s pinning the narrative together for me – it’s like Brett creates this great screen that I’m trying to peer into, & even if I can’t quite make out the details, I’m intrigued by the shadows at play. Plus, I think working as an editor & simply making myself read more closely has made me really nitpicky about issues like line break, word choice, etc., & there are times where I don’t see Buk’s logic in those areas, & that tends to trip me up.

Overall, there’s much for me to admire in his work, but on a certain level, I feel like after the first reading of one of his poems, you’ve got it, you know? & I’m generally looking more for an aesthetic / intellectual challenge than a quick fix these days. I’ve read fewer poets in the last year than I’ve probably ever read before, but I’m making an effort to read more closely & really study the person’s work as a whole – in terms of more established writers, we’ve already talked Craig Watson a bit… but just to give you some context, it’s also been Rae Armantrout, Norma Cole, Michael Palmer. In each of those cases, I need to keep going back & circling around the work to feel like I’m making headway. I feel like there’s a continual process of intellectual payoff for me there, whereas Buk for me tends to be primarily a quick emotional burst.

Keep in mind: this is all my personal reading experience. I absolutely hate poetics statements that’re written prescriptively – “You must do this as a reader or writer b/c I do this!” Not my goal here at all. To each his / her own reading pleasures, guilty or no.

Fiction: You’re not the only poet I know who has some apprehensions about the genre, but I’ve personally never had those reservations. I mean, I guess I don’t care for most fiction, but I don’t care for most poetry, either. But here's my pitch for what I like. In addition to reading fiction by poets, I do tend to favor authors who I think bring a poet’s attention to language, whatever that may mean. These days I’m especially fond of writers like David Markson, Laird Hunt, Ann Quin, W.G. Sebald… I think Gil’s fiction pieces in “Pact” are extraordinary as well. Beckett’s short fiction is astounding to me. Poe & Kafka, to pick two other names from the ether, point in some interesting directions as well, right? There are so many options beyond the 1950s-era “New Yorker” story, you know? All that said, I’ve always taken great pleasure in a solid straight-ahead narrative, & my last two reads have been just that. Read Richard Yates’s “Revolutionary Road” recently, which is a sharp-eyed critique of mid-20th Century suburbia & the discontent that was already brewing there. Nothing avant-garde about the book. Completely astounding to me how he set up & knocked down the characters like a true pro – a tightly constructed, really satisfying book. Also just finished Walter Mosley’s “Devil in a Blue Dress,” which I’m teaching this semester in Intro to Lit. Great characters, plenty of action, a real bang-up pleasure.

I’m curious to hear the thoughts of other folks here, esp in terms of prose / fiction / whatever. Is there an aversion to the entire genre? If so, where does that feeling come from?

Chris McC

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

party for the marriage of Greg Fuchs and Allison 

"I call it 'Can't A Brother Get A Dove!?'"
--Matt McGoldrick, 2:30 a.m. at the party,
after jumping up and down and flapping

one of those hot august nights where people work hard to not smell like people. but everyone seemed to forget about the heat soon enough, maybe even enjoy it, together. we were handed fans--big red hearts with 23 smaller white hearts on the surface. i broke three of them between gin and tonics.

Shiva & Shakti were Greg & Allison dancing--Edmund Berrigan singing YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, filling us with a new sense of old timey southern sweetness. they use dynamite to squelch oil well fires. but Shiva burns from Shakti's waters, so how then?

setting sun reflected off Empire State Building, making image of a profile, of, Elvis for me. wonder who it was for anyone else in New York bothering to look up that evening?

Anselm Berrigan, John Coletti and Frank Sherlock all read FANTASTIC poems specially written for the newlyweds, quite a trio. wish i had copies of those poems, beautiful things.

the dance floor was the muscle in the large apartment. it was nice lingering in the calmer loins, just outside the ecstatic, hammering feet, sipping good gin and talking to the many poets milling about.

Charles took 2 photographs of the dancers from a chair. i watched how the flashbulb froze them from my angle, but it's the camera's angle that captured them for everyone to see. my vantage will fade each time remembered, getting the poses different, the colors and expressions different, each time, until lost. it makes me think about how much work there is still to do for poetry.

something i'll always remember with a smile is the small crowd waiting outside the closed door to John Coletti's bedroom for Greg and Allison to get finished with a little private moment so everyone can get their coats and go home.

it's one of the few traditions i enjoy, celebrating love and union.


Monday, September 01, 2003

[no title] 

That last was from me. I'm in the habit of signing off with my initials but the "J" and the "S" stand for Jennifer Snead. Just so you know.

more Wheels of Soul 

Frank, I didn't know JR was no longer with us.

I met him almost (?) ten years ago at the Wheels of Soul headquarters on 61st. I went to a party there, must have been spring of 1993, I was an undergrad then and spending as much time off of Penn's campus as I could in as many different places as I could. The place was still pretty intimidating to a white girl with a vast overestimation of her own toughness (me). It put the Watusi Lounge to shame.
I lost the people I came with to the very back of the room and a bottle of Richards Wild Irish Rose. But I found JR, or rather he found me, and I don't remember what we talked about specifically but it had something to do with writing. And I remember the night felt safer after that.
I haven't thought about that night in a long time. Thanks, Frank, for the link and the memory.


ps. Don't completely diss the sestina. Side chapels can be comforting places (smaller, better lit, manageable) when the rest of the cathedral gets overwhelming. They were where smaller groups in the community could stake a claim on religious space and gain a spot to call their own.

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