Sunday, November 30, 2003

Philly Sound Feature, issue #1: CAROL MIRAKOVE 

November 30th, 2003

Welcome to the first issue of Philly Sound Feature, an occasional blog zine which features the work of a single poet on the Philly Sound Blog. Each of the members of our Blog will alternate editing issues and choosing poets to feature. Our first issue is dedicated to the very fine work of poet Carol Mirakove. Enjoy.
editor of issue #1


Carol Mirakove is the author of Occupied (Kelsey Street Press, 2004), and two chapbooks, temporary tattoos (BabySelf Press, 2002) and WALL (ixnay, 1999). She is a founding member of the subpress collective. Carol has lived and participated in poetry communities in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New York. She currently lives in Brooklyn.


blue monday
by Carol Mirakove

truth comes out like a stain. praise woman in her disappearing, in this long wrecked juncture, this profane ear-heart.

the boy died because

filthy shelf-life keeps us from the files.

& everything that chooses you

(( i want the word 'agile' [here] ))

would cool off, the dull knife twists


a screened-in porch. cocktail collapse against a sheer wall & rearing. loses. sleep: the fake sober. schoolgirl. smoking. portland. memory.

rain is shining so we can flee. & karma. & by some force. it's quiet. & there are stairs & you're on the stars & i am crying. happy like a sake bouquet. i do this early in the valentine.


transatlantic no man lands. organ trials kick the dark, & stardead court. i would have explained -

an atmosphere on dignity charming their poisons. the patent illogic on top. flesh & skin absurdly left out. in rain to shine the system.



This is a question I had put aside for a future issue of 9for9, but I'm really curious what your answer will be Carol, and I can always use it again later. So here it is: If you could go back in time to hear one poet give a poetry reading, who would it be? And tell us what you imagine the reading to be like. Where are you for instance, and what is the rest of the audience like?

Carol Mirakove:
Mina Loy. Her writing and her life have been so important to me, for the range of forms and voices that she works in, for her struggles as a woman, for her invented vocabularies, for her remarkable conflicts.. she remains mysterious to me, and while I don't feel the need to dispel all of those mysteries, I would like to gain more insight into what existence looked and felt like, for Mina Loy. I mean -- she abandoned her 4 children. There was obviously a lot going on there. Just to hear her read "Parturition," "Human Cylinders," "Three Moments in Paris".. How did "all the virgin eyes in the world are made of glass" sound when Mina read it? I have no idea what the rest of the audience is like because I am enrapt in her, but I know that Pattie McCarthy and Kaia Sand are there. You know, I feel like it's plausible that Mina never gave a reading.

I've noticed in conversation with you that you're interested in hearing about a poet's process, especially for large projects taken on. Tell us something about your own process for your poems.

Happily! My process tends to go, (1) identify a project, (2) develop the theoretical framework in outline form, (3) collect source texts, and (4) write the poems. Stage (1) always happens organically; I never intend to "find" a project, they just happen.

FUCK THE POLIS (which I've read but not published) grew out of a report on Democracy Now!, which described the Compton, CA sheriff's department being subject to a hostile takeover. It was an appalling story. My research revealed that information on the events were very hard to find, while information on the LAPD Rampart scandal was ubiquitous. I felt angry that the Compton was getting no coverage, and I had a detailed outline of points that I would cover: the situation, the players, the violations, the lack of media on the situation, and how the Rampart scandal informed the Compton takeover.

temporary tattoos came about because Elizabeth Treadwell Jackson had asked me to write a poem for the Paradise issue of her magazine Outlet, and I had attempted several drafts of a submission throughout the summer of 2001, but I didn't like any of them. The deadline grew near, and we were in a post-September 11 context, and everything seemed impossibly complex, and people were saying they couldn't write because of omnipresent anguish and confusion. I wanted to write a good poem for Outlet, because Elizabeth is a good friend and we were, in the Paradise issue, writing the final chapter of a fantastic magazine. So I focused on writing a poem to Elizabeth herself, and you know, she's the queen of the prose poem, so I thought, hey I'll try that. And I found a calm, an intimacy, that I don't experience in lineated poems. And I thought, maybe paradise is a tenor. And I thought that tenor was worth investigating. From there, I collected correspondence, details of daily experience, including overheard dialog, and I pored through it.

The impetus of Occupied was a cumulative disgust with U.S.-led invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and gross malpractice throughout the mainstream media. Occupied is, for me, about declaring the names of people who are getting away with murder. But then, I wanted Occupied to succeed in ways that FUCK THE POLIS had failed; I wanted there to be a pleasure of the text. I mitigated that by writing a section of prose poems within the architecture, so that I was not only banging my fist about injustice, but also investigating the emotional states of living in such a context.

Regarding stage (4), I don't think I can articulate the details of how I select and juxtapose words in composition. There's nothing scientific about the process, except that I am very conscious of plagiarism and I usually avoid taking more than two consecutive words from a text. The idea is to import accounts of events by importing word choices employed by other authors, while truly recontextualizing those words in a new living body, so that the words and events might exist differently and further.

Keston Sutherland wrote something he simply titled "For Carol Mirakove," published in the issue of Quid, which featured works by and essays about you, Laura Elrick, and Heather Fuller. At one point he asks, "Is there a place that we own, where to be self-possessed still means more than to be calm and undisturbed?" What is your answer to this question?

Well, I'll apologize upfront for any references of Keston's that I might miss; Keston is well read in areas that I'm not, and as such, the word "own" might have definitions that I'm not conscious of.

That said, I understand "we" to mean the dispossessed. I'm not sure who is included here; I am not capitalist ruler, and I don't like capitalism, but I support it in my living. It's hard (seemingly impossible?) to avoid complicity with capitalism no matter where you live -- because their control is that broad and great -- but it's especially difficult to avoid complicity when you live in the united states. We are complicit to different degrees, and I'm not sure where you draw the line; are well-intentioned directors at corporations classified as "we" but CEOs are "they"? Are all corporate workers "they" but non-profit workers who shop at wal-mart "we"? Are organic vegans "we" while consumers of factory-farmed meat are "they"? So that's annoying, but we're talking about ownership of space and existence here, so I think it seems necessary to determine the group here, so that we can understand the rights that "we" have access to and are blocked from.

Next about the term "own," I'm not sure I can get in the space of what I take "ownership" to mean, but if we can use it to mean autonomy, then I would say this:

I think one can own spaces and experiences within a closed system. As poets, we might say that language is learned (inherited), as are language arts (the established canon), and that we are writing out of those products. We are of course also writing against those realities, and creating other realties, but our creations don't have mainstream cultural power, and as such, they don't have capital power. Does that mean we don't own the places in which our favored realities are constructed? I think we do. I think we are autonomous in these places. Maybe the scope of that autonomy is very narrow in the present time, but the idea is to instantiate numerous anti-establishment realities, to organize, and to realize a more empowered autonomy; to imagine something like a social democracy! If we concede ownership of a single, discreet space, I think the lofty goals are all the more unattainable.

I'm not sure that's an appropriate response to Keston's question, but it's how I'm feeling at the moment, here in rural Maryland. If I may ramble a bit more, I am reminded by these thoughts of a great quote from John Sayles that Charles Weigl sent to me from a collection of interviews (Charles explains that Sayles is referring to the radical groups he associated with in the early 70s & who fictionally appear in his novel Union Dues):

"A bunch of groups ended badly like that. More and more they narrowed their focus as to who was an acceptable person. At first you say, "Well, we're for the people, the proletariat." But then you start running into the American proletariat and they don't want anything to do with you. Then you start having self-criticism sessions and start to sharpen and sharpen your definitions until you have this tiny nugget and you can't see anybody else's point of view. It's beyond an elite--it becomes a pathology. You're so pure that you can't really act in the world anymore, except destructively."

Tell us about the talk you gave in San Francisco on "Information Anxiety."

The title I gave it was "Anxieties of Information: Intimacy and Appropriation." I'm in the process of turning this talk into a paper. I know Elizabeth [Treadwell Jackson, who curates the series of "New Experiments" talks at Small Press Traffic, of which mine was a part] hopes to collect all of the talks and get them in print.

I have been thinking a lot in recent years about documentation in poetry, and how we might serve as witnesses to gross injustice, to suffering and exploitation. This I feel is a tricky thing to do from a position of privilege. As such, I experience myriad anxieties, including accuracy, and volume. Accuracy in the sense of, it's critical to define your voice in representing injustice as I see it, from where I see it. I don't want to appropriate the experience of a slave, or to try and speak for someone else, yet I also want to express my outrage and despair in the face of these conditions. The anxiety of volume has to do with the amount of information was have access to, and that which is thrust upon us. It's daunting to try and understand any of these situations. Right now, for example, I am trying to understand the numerous situations in Latin America, the diverse histories in our neighboring countries, and the U.S.-Latin American trade policies that inform neoliberal situations. There is so much to read and pursue, through the Internet, through the NY Public Library, through interpersonal correspondence.. I have so much access, and never enough time of course, and so the anxiety is a pull to engage such a project while being terrified at misrepresenting, or doing an inadequate job in opening and continuing international dialogues. I looked at how other poets have addressed this problem, most notably Carolyn Forche and Ammiel Alcalay. I laid out their ideas regarding witness, and looked at their methods, the form and content of their poems. I also looked at Amiri Baraka, as he documents racist policies and attitudes in the U.S., and at Rod Smith, who writes and lives through specific elements of the government-heavy DC landscape.

The anxiety of intimacy is related to the quote you cite from Keston. Anxiety of intimacy addresses the problem of realizing a genuine, shared existence in a hypercommericialized economy. Personally, I feel product-laden, and it's sometimes hard to know the extent to which our communication is informed by -- suffocated by -- all of these products we live through. For this problem, I looked to Sianne Ngai, Harryette Mullen, and many others who engage the language games of capitalism, "news," and marketing in their poetry.

On a formal level, I am interested in sampling. How do we approach and incorporate source texts in composition? Here I studied Jackson Mac Low, Joan Retallack, and musicians such as Australian turntablists The Avalanches and U.S. audio activists Ultra-red. DJ Shadow has this great moment in the film Scratch in which he talks about "the dig," and how he feels like an archeologist, searching for raw materials for his music. Selection process fascinates me, and is at the core problem of how to establish grounds for an argument. Rob Fitterman tells me that he gave a talk on sampling in San Francisco a few years ago, and I believe the general consensus was that it's unclear as to whether or not there's a tradition in this in poetry. Obviously, I'm with Rob; I think the history is there, and it's ripe for further investigation.


A few poets were asked how they feel about Carol's poetry.
This is the collection of their replies,
many thanks to those who responded.


Carol Mirakove recently read at the St. Mark's Poetry Project in New York from her manuscript Occupied to be published this year by Kelsey St. Press. In his introduction, Poetry Project director Anselm Berrigan said one thing he likes about her work is that Carol just "says it." It's true. Carol is intensely interested in the poetry of witness. In this new manuscript she even provides the names of people who do things like run the corporations that build the missiles being dropped in Iraq. But she not only provides the witness, she also constantly asks, as she said in another manuscript called FUCK THE POLIS, "the why questions." This relentless investigation remakes perception from the synapses out. She asks us to reconsider how we see the world through the veil of our subjectivity. She asks us to reconsider how we think the word "world." In the process she upturns meaning-making, reshaping language from the root up. Every word seems a little explosion of intellectual intention, something good in the world.

Carol is one of the most careful thinkers I know. She pursues with seemingly boundless intellectual energy the issues that exhaust many others, including me. While some of us lull ourselves into a state of anxious apathy, Carol continues to probe--and protest. What impels her seems to be a need to write out, write against, that which destroys the human in all its forms, be it war or the more subtle coercion of the dominant culture colonizing meaning. What empowers Carol as a writer, and seems the source of hope in her work, is community. More than once in her work she "calls out" to those who have shared information or an insight. Even those she names, the enemy, are made human by this gesture, individual in accountability.

Then there's the pure aesthetic joy of Carol's work. Anyone who has ever seen her read knows she's kind of a rock star. She reads very quickly, sometimes sending out words like precision darts, on the sassiest lines dropping her voice all low and husky. Her work is filled with rebellious energy, a kind of joie d'vivre that's at once a bit jaded and a bit wide-eyed. The press I co-edit, BabySelf, published her temporary tattoos in 2002, a 24-hour recording of the city of an intimate relationship. It has lines like this: "we are giving each other temporary tattoos. excellent. you smell like ketchup."

That community is important to Carol personally is evident in how much she contributes to poetry and political efforts. In her own, unobtrusive, unself-aggrandizing way, she makes things happen, opens doors, initiates connections. Recently she started something called a "relay"--a periodic bulletin on the news behind the news. She asks others to pass her relay on, and also to develop their own, to spark a chain of information sharing outside the death grip of the media. This is one of the smartest activist gestures I've encountered recently.

As a poet and person, Carol is unfailingly compassionate. Despite a job that literally grinds her down, she finds the time to do the work of poetry and support those around her. I've known her for nearly 10 years, and in recent years I see her making quite conscious choices to build her life into an ethical, healthful, positive force. I take her as an example--not only of how to be a poet, but also of how to be a person.



on the jump
from WALL to

performance is a little
too much like business
and poetry has to get
around the way it goes.
so she ain't cooking in
your modern kitchen any
more, hombre. bailing on
permanance the poet
discovers her stamina
some more. herself becomes
an applique that has
learned how to stick.



One aspect of Carol's work that I respect very much is its total range. The sophisticated almost modernist precision of a work like Wall; the intimacy of temporary tattoos, daily, comical, and searching; and now this latest fiercely political work in FUCK THE POLIS and Occupied, neither of which have actually seen, but both of which I was lucky enough to hear read.

I hear these works arising from and as propaganda (unabashedly). Perhaps it is possible to think of every text acting on propagandistic planes in the current production of even-the-most-intimate-of us zoon politikons. Carol forefronts this aspect of text as information (both factual and affectual, but never neutral) with all that implies.



Do we ever really think about how we comprehend poetry? Does it cross
each poet's mind, when reading another's work, that some poetry teaches
us to read? Sometimes I think we are too absorbed in linking a poet's
work to a continuum of poets and pouncing on the intertextuality that
allows us to say something resonant, something over which others can
mull. We are funny like that. So we often overlook that some bodies of
work create their own hermeneutic, that they are clearing space for a
language that must be reckoned with on its own terms. Reckoning with it
yields a reward, which is consciousness, and an openness to more
consciousness. This is one of the ways poets are agents of a principled
society, or revolution, without being wholly propagandistic. Carol
understands this well. She is among the most ardent of poets whose work
is imputed to a reader's skill and makes the reader aware that, OK,
there is an understanding here between poet and reader, but it is for
naught if it doesn't inform how people live in the world. Carol's
poetry is incessant and riveting, and it compels a reading that gets me
on up out of my chair to walk this language around. It is walking
language, a language of action and not insolence. The thing that always
gets me about Carol's poetry is that it does it work not only through a
well-chiseled rage and persistence but also through tenderness. There
is a love for the possibility that lies within language, a belief that
rescrambling the channels can alter the extent to which we accept the
administered langauge of the state and the media, sometimes even poetry,
that suckers us into going with the flow, punching in, punching out.



One of the things I like about Mirakove's writing is the way she is
able to deal with the very real difficulties of poetry. Her writing,
unadorned, seems to come from a very humble place, lacking the
traditional dignities of the poet. She is a prophetess, like
Cassandra, but unlike Cassandra she reveals the secrets of her
"witchcraft," that is, she keeps an ear to the ground and picks up on
the zeitgeist as it is still assembling itself. Looking at her poems
I sometimes think of my favorite scene from Walt Disney, the birds
and little animals making a dress for Cinderella, ribbons whisking
through the air, a magical transformation, for so are her poems
pieced together from scraps of ordinary things and they become lovely
and scary when they're all together on that dress form we call a
poem. Dodie and I published Mirakove's poem "Dreams Never Die" in a
recent issue of Mirage #4/Period[ical] and we were consternated when
time passed and despite the Mirakovian witch sign, Arnold
Schwarzenegger indeed became our Governor here in California, indeed
just as she had foretold. "two simple cells. expired from political
reality, hype rage: that state can feed. running man, the mr.
freeze, please daze the predator & pre-date the sick day // almost



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 that 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 internal/personal.

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.




In a recent book of lectures called Abnormal, whilst discussing the juridical concept of "profound conviction," Michel Foucault states "These everyday discourses that kill and provoke laughter are at the heart of our judicial system." The inescapale everyday, the quote news unquote, focuses or rather invades, and yes, occupies, the recent poetry of Carol Mirakove. The manuscript entitled Occupied is broken into three sections "Afghanistan," "Iraq," and "New Order." The impossibility of not being occupied by such events and the struggle with the ever-dwindling agency of the citizen of these states are not the sole concerns of poets these days, whatever CNN might want us to think. Yet Mirakove makes, somehow, of this our collective deeply tainted unconscious, an art that is singiular-- a space which only she could have created. This space is one of tension, a tension in process, subject to it, turned by them, and untrusted forward-- faces, your neighbor, we are stolen-- what breaks through is a single voice, sometimes shattered. poetry.

"living in public is a full time job"

Mirakove writes from within our ongoing reduction, from amidst the cyber-steam -- is hers a revolutionary praxis?




from Tool

from her book WALL (ixnay press)

from crossXconnect

another from crossXconnect

from The East Village

from DC Poetry Anthology

from Pom Pom

Carol interviewed by Gary Sullivan

from Lime Tree "I am drunk just now with discovering Carol Mirakove."

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Message to Miami 

It won't go away. Leo Gerard, International President of United Steelworkers of America is calling for Congressional investigations into the police-state tactics used at the FTAA Summit. Mass arrests targeting legal observers & independent media, brutality, torture & at least two rapes have been reported.

Silence will reinforce the Miami Police precedent for next summer's Republican Convention in New York City. Let Miami's mayor know that Timoney tactics won't be tolerated in Philly, Miami, NY or anywhere else.

Send a free fax to Miami's Mayor Manuel Diaz.

Frank Sherlock

On Lyn Hejinian's Slowly 

"Reviews should be short." --Painter and art critic Fairfield Porter.

I wrote a "microreview" of Lyn Hejinian's recent book Slowly, which was published in the October/November issue of The Boston Review. Now that we're moving into December I want to post the review here as well.

--Tom Devaney

Lyn Hejinian
Tuumba Press, $10.00

Lyn Hejinian impressive recent book-length poem Slowly, from her own Tuumba Press, is not out to explain or even interpret the world, but rather to reveal, explore and enjoy its abundantly intricate parts. Like her well-regarded My Life, The Cold of Poetry, or 2001’s A Border Comedy, Slowly continues Hejinian’s use of the book as capacious and ever-revealing instrument of perception. She writes, "Between the shores down comes a sound/track/ We get music which is time moving loudly".

From "sound track to sight track" Slowly threads together "the presentation of things that are abruptly otherwise" and the patient art of "intervals" (between words, space and mind) "that never join".

The book is written in lines that allow sentences to breath in their own intelligent, composite, and expansive modes, Hejinian writes, "All day subjectivity is an endurance awaiting/objects for a minute digressing/ And it hopes for objects eager and unbaffled in spaces somewhere near eye level to greet it with/comprehension during its waking hours". In section after section scenarios are generated to reveal the unique exactly. She writes, "If there is nothing but uniqueness, we have to/accept chaos quickly, it’s the underlying logic of/ uniqueness".

Taking photographs (or shots) and looking up words, only to find more words, as well as the act of just physically looking up -- all contribute to Hejinian’s ongoing inquiry into the possibilities of framing, defining, and proposing. "One can’t look up and see mathematics, one/can’t look up and find autonomy/Find circumnavigation, find farms". There is an assurance in Hejinian’s radical skepticism and in her masterful use of sentences, which seem to know they are sentences: "Abandon is not something to abandon". And again she writes, and considers, "I go slowly in acknowledgment and know I’ll/ have to go there again".

Throughout the poem, Hejinian explores the troupe of speed in its various configurations: "Night comes whose terminus is the future we/cannot leave before the end though the end never/comes, it’s all that slow". Later she writes, "I don’t know if this can be called slowly or/ quickly". Slowly is a deep, probing, and beautiful book and one that is patient to connect to the material and arbitrary world -- "Dreaming to think accidentally?/ Slowly to no outcome".


Tuesday, November 25, 2003


David Korten's site, mentioned after his recent interview on his book WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE THE WORLD.

much to explore here,

p.s. something else along the same lines
The Selected Writings of John Judge

Monday, November 24, 2003

Rally for FTAA activists 

There will be an urgent rally in support of FTAA activists imprisoned last week in Miami. The show of solidarity will take place on Tuesday November 25 (noon) at City Hall. Police Commissioner John Timony once again has used law enforcement as a tool to destroy dissent. There have been reports from Miami of seemingly random "snatches", a practice in which activists are grabbed off the street & taken away in unmarked cars. There have been numerous reports of rape & torture when activists refused to give their names & nationalities. The use of rubber bullets, tear gas & pepper spray (even on handcuffed prisoners) has been witnessed & verified. Show your outrage. Show your support. Demand that Mayor Street & City Council speak for free speech. Demand condemnation of police state tactics. Demand the release of FTAA political prisoners.

Frank Sherlock

Sunday, November 23, 2003

PRIMAVERA: The Last Poem Cycle, by Almitra David (1941-2003) 

Morning List
by Almitra David

A gentle rain falls.
The yard is early-morning lush.
I want nothing to change -- I want each
blade of grass to stay and the hostas near
the porch to keep opening purple flowers.
I want not to want this.
I want to accept, like the elephant whose
last set of molars has ground down,
when it is time to die. I want to
be the gracious guest who senses
when to thank the host and depart.
But I linger in doorways.
I stay seated at table when the meal is over.
I stand on the platform and wave
long after the window with my loved one's face
has sped by.


yesterday was the memorial service for Almitra David here
in Philadelphia, held at the main Quaker Meeting Hall with
a reception at the Quaker Friends Select School, where
Almitra was a teacher for many years.

copies of her last poems were handed to us as we entered
the sanctuary. ten remarkable poems contemplating her
final days, her love of life and her deep sadness of having
to leave this world behind, as she says in the poem
"Primavera Revisited" :

"sometimes sadness overwhelms me,
I want to touch my bones and
heal them, I want to awaken and
jump out of bed."

the publisher of Perugia Press who published Almitra's
book IMPULSE TO FLY was there with boxes of books
to hand out; quite a generous soul, this publisher.

generosity was in abundance however, hundreds of
poets, friends and family to mourn and celebrate in
classic Quaker style, taking turns standing and sharing
stories, poems, songs.

at one point (this sounds too fantastic to believe, but
i'm glad there were friends with me to also witness this)
a man with his acoustic guitar sang "Ain't No Sunshine."
by the time he reached the second refrain a beam of
sunlight suddenly shot from a window near the rafters and
landed (out of the many many people present) on the salt
and pepper haired head of Rocky, Almitra's partner of
many years, who was sobbing through the song. it was
an experience i will never forget, that beam of light a
passing cloud finally let loose. the beam remained, and
over the next couple of hours, slowly moved over many
other heads in the giant room.

(Rocky is a brilliant visual artist by the way. one of her
paintings is on the cover of Almitra's book BETWEEN
THE SEA AND HOME, which won the 1992 Eighth
Mountain Poetry Prize.)

of all the poems in Almitra's last poem cycle, this one
entered me deepest:


Had I been born in Oaxaca,
sucked on sugar skulls as a child,

I might have thought of death
as a burst of sweetness on the tongue,

eaten pan de muerto,
imagined myself following

a golden path of zempazuchil
home for my yearly visit.

I might have been easy with death,
known its taste, its scent, the feel of it;

I might have seen it laugh and dance,
it would be touchable -- sensual even.

I might not be here
sitting on my porch this June

struggling to think of myself
as a blade of grass, a rose petal.


right up to the end of her life which she loved so
tenaciously, she was creating gifts for us all with
her poems.

thank you Almitra,
p.s. i had wanted to visit you, but Lamont Steptoe
told us you had died two weeks before you died.
and to my great annoyance he didn't even fucking
show up at the memorial service. i admit, i wanted
him to show up so i could give him a piece of my
mind, my incredible anger at this! it's a strange
form of regret. your friend Assyma told us of her
regret waiting too long to return your phone call.
she called the day after you died. she says she
plays your message on her answering machine over
and over. sounds like torture, hope she deletes it.
hope i see Lamont Steptoe soon so i can yell at him
and get it out of my system.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Tea with Conrad & Missner 


How long?

Two hours.

Twenty seconds tops
to steep.

Can the body distinguish between types of sugars:
refined white, ungranuatlated, honey, bread?

It seems not.

There are no sugars here,
only Gong-Fu.

And Almitra David’s springtime,
that is, Primavera, she wrote:

"I want not to want this.
…to accept, like the elephant whose
last set of molars has ground down
when it is time to die."

A poem from her Quaker
memorial service earlier today.

I did not know her.

Late November is no time to point out the small, but tall
patch of grass growing in the light of the rooftop drain.
But you do, and you should, and it is.

Not bothered, and even prick up the ears, to hear:
"I need to get up on the ceiling to do it right."

Then the letter to Stanley
about Spicer’s "half fish half flesh"
letter to Lorca and
"the immediate object,"
which is open to speculation,
though "the fish being Jack," is not.

Salty Scroodle (or Screwdle)

Cottage cheese
Egg noodles

Cook in pan for awhile.

Sprinkle with dried beef.

--Tom Devaney

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Alan Loney poems... 

are you familiar with Loney's poems?

click here to read some amazing poems!

does anyone out there have connections
to get this man published in America?
he's SO GOOD! i'd buy a copy for everyone
i've ever met for Christmas!


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Spots in Sarajevo 

I just want to add a voice/texture to Conrad's argument regarding Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary.

"At the beginning of the war, a photograph appeared in the daily Olobodjenje. There was a building in flames, billowing forth thick, black smoke. Right when the photograph was taken, the smoke formed a clearly recognizable image of Radovan Karadzic. The very man who put the city to flames now appeared through the smoke like a devil overseeing his own destructive acts. There was no escaping it, everyone who saw the image had precisely the same image in mind. It seems like people can only describe evil through symbolic language. Even when the smoke over the flaming city appeared in the form of the very person who had set it on fire, that is, as a real person, it could still only be described as the devil's work. A defense mechanism: if this is the work of the devil, then it's not part of this world and evil remains distant."

- Semezdin Mehmedinovic, from Sarajevo Blues

Frank Sherlock

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

i 2nd Frank's Great Loney Report! 

Alan Loney was LIKE (oy, here comes a simile, which i hate to do) a door opening to some other planet but you listen, and recognize Earth. how else can i say it?

glad you caught a few lines Frank.
it was unlike any other poetry reading i've ever been to.
wish you all were there, everyone of you.

when Charles Bernstein sends the URL to the public use of the poems,
one of us will be sure to alert you.

also, the event was recorded. when it's up i'll post it here.
it's something you will listen to more than once, i promise.


Alan Loney Live 

I wasn't excited about the idea of jackassing across town at lunchtime for a 1:30 reading, but I was excited to hear Alan Loney at the Kelly Writers House. I'm less familiar with his poems then I am with his essays in the New Zealand zine A Brief Description of the Whole World (from issues 1 & 7). I've actually heard more about his work than the poetry itself. What I'd heard resonated with a sense of what I take from/to writing, so the excitement was as much divining curiosity as it was expectation.

Charles Bernstein remarked in his introduction that the isolation of Loney's New Zealandness transmits via his poems. Nowhere was it more evident in the work he read from than in his collection Nowhere to Go. There is profound struggle, a sense of stop & go & start over that was as dramatic as it is thoughtful.

Loney's collaborative book project w/ Australian visual artist Bruno Letti was the most compelling work he delivered this afternoon. Letti placed two photos (one above the other) on the right pages. A 1.5mm gap seperated the top picture from the bottom one. Loney's poems appeared on the left pages. They don't match up page for page, picture for picture. Instead the poems address the process itself more than the photo content. At some point during its development, Loney says, "The book became about the gap."

How old it is
How new it is
in the immemorial time
where the white line
cuts across everything

(I'm line-breaking by ear, so bear w/ my aural interpretation.)

Gracias to Alan Loney, who's on his first American tour. These 1:30 readings are nothing to be cranky about. I feel more energized this afternoon (back in the office) than I do when I sneak a siesta.

Frank Sherlock

the LANGUAGE for the forgotten 

you may or may not know about my new project built around the idea of poets who are out of print, and forgotten. i'm simply calling it WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POET?

the first issue is focused on the poet Frank Samperi. and anyone reading this who has something to share about the man and/or his work, can contact me at CAConrad13@aol.com

i'd say 75% of everyone who has gotten back to me so far about the project knows nothing about Frank Samperi, but have been, for the largest part, supportive of the project, and even request copies of the magazine when it finally arrives.

but this morning i received the following e-mail:

"I don't know this particular poet's work. I do think it might be a good idea to consider not describing the poet as forgotten or obscure, because it seems as if assigning them a role that's abject, whereas their lives may have been full and happy but concentrating on something else perhaps?...Just a thought...best, ...."

no, i'm not sharing the name of the poet who wrote it, that wouldn't be fair. i have mixed feelings about the message here.

on one hand i see what they are saying, but what the hell? i mean, in the very first sentence they admit that they don't even know Samperi. and by the way, Samperi was VERY devoted to his poems. VERY! you'd be searching hard to find a dozen poets as devoted as he was.

the fact is, he IS forgotten. not by everyone, but some of the e-mail responses i've been getting for this project say, "oh yeah, i liked his poems a lot, but i don't have his books anymore. wish i could help you." which is fine of course, i'm just making a point.

have i really been insensitive by trying to encourage people to read a poet whose work i've admired, but is out of print? that's just ridiculous as far as i'm concerned. in fact i feel like i'm wasting blog air discussing it.

even one of Samperi's biggest fans, Gil Ott, uses the word obscure when talking about the man and his work.

okay, now i'm getting annoyed. having worked in a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, feminist bookstore for five years, i'm pretty used to people pointing to my third eye and demanding i pose language this way and that. frankly, i feel a little weary with people, especially poets, being afraid of the language we speak and write. when someone calls me a faggot, i tend to shrug and agree at this point, you know what i'm saying? i AM a faggot! big deal! yeah, so you're right, do you want a kiss for being right Mr. Man?

how the hell can we EVER change this world of all its dim and selfishly fantastic horrors if we can't get past HOW we describe it? it's powerful to shrug at someone when they call you a faggot and say, "yeah, i am one." i know, i've done it, and it puts them in a position that usually seems foreign to them. which means they're thinking now, because something's different, who they are is now being challenged by themselves in a way, because their anger isn't getting a reaction, and they've placed an ordered idea of the world around this vocabulary of anger.

it may seem unfair of me to compare being called a faggot to being asked not to call an obscure poet obscure, but really, i'm talking about identification here and fear and fearlessness about that, and the words that make that heard.


Monday, November 17, 2003

Hitler's secretary is luminous for now, for later 

recently i've had trouble being able to finish my feelings/thoughts for the film BLIND SPOT: Hitler's Secretary. the few friends who have cut me off in mid-sentence are Jewish, and of course i stopped, not wanting to be insensitive to their feelings. still, i just wish they had let me continue, so they could hear what i've felt and discovered from this woman's story, and how different the world could be if we begin to see "monsters" like Hitler as people gone wrong, instead of demons for which there can be no discussion around.

the first time i ever thought about this idea of seeing Hitler as more than just a demon, is from reading Gloria Steinem's book REVOLUTION FROM WITHIN. Steinem's book on self esteem reaches back to interviews with Hitler's sisters, and the abuse he had experienced as a boy at the hand of their father. that was not just an argument for cause, it was also an argument that we need to look at these "monsters" and i mean REALLY look at them, as hard as it might be to do so, to help prevent more terror. and also, in a way, to look closely at ourselves. Hitler was elected to power after all.

but Steinem's study aside, this documentary with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, has nothing to do with cause, it has to do with result, with Hitler after he had taken power and launched a war. but at the same time, coming out of her decades of silence, Traudl is helping us to piece together our own missing sections to the puzzle, pieces, frankly, i wasn't even willing to consider were missing. i'm not that interested in thinking of Hitler as being nice at times, to certain people. it's much easier to only refer to his feverish speeches to the attention of thousands before him and millions more listening on the radio.

one of the amazing things Traudl does in the beginning, is talk about only having seen Hitler in newsreels and newspapers, a very black and white portrait. then, for her interview for the job as secretary, he walks in the room, and it's really as though we're with her at that point, also having only ever experienced Hitler in black and white footage, suddenly walking into a room in full living color.

this is a woman who was with him during some of the most critical days of his falling empire, letting us in on such things as how Hitler would never permit casualty reports from the front to be discussed in his presence. and how whenever he traveled by train in Germany, he demanded that the shades be pulled so he wouldn't have to see the devastation.

recently Frank Sherlock told me of a report that the media is forbidden to take photographs or film footage of American soldier's coffins being shipped back for burial. it makes sense that if you want a nation to support (or in Hitler's case for himself to be able to continue to support) a war with such fragile foundations, it's important to hide the worst of the results. what can be more damaging to a campaign of war than coffins draped with flags, dead young men inside, coming home?

Hitler pulled the shade down. our government pulls it down for us. denial keeps a drunken steady gaze and places everyone in harms way.

we're not so many years from Walter Cronkite walking the jungle floor of Vietnam with a microphone, presenting live-footage to televisions in the states, looking into the camera and telling us that America is in a war it canNOT win. it's reported that president Johnson said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America." it's not so many years since Vietnam, but it might as well be a hundred years when you look at the vast difference of the coverage the media is giving this new war. in many ways it's better than the coverage of Granada, which was a virtual media blackout. then there was Desert Storm, where American reporters were arrested for going off on their own with local guides in search of the real story.

the footage we see on the news (American) these nights at least has footage of life in the streets of Iraq, but not nearly the coverage that the Germans and the Brits are showing their own audiences. just last night there was footage of LIVID parents of dead British soldiers who are preparing to meet Bush on his visit to London coming up. what an inspiring bout of anger being televised. some parents are REFUSING to meet Bush at all, and the ones who will be meeting him have said that they want to see this killer of their children face-to-face. what would happen if one of these mothers SPITS on Bush?!!! what could he possibly do to her? her son or daughter has just been sent home in a coffin. man oh man am i hoping someone spits on him!

the internet and public television works around the quiet blackout, if you're interested in looking into it, though i'm sure you already know this. the anger of the British parents, and the tens of thousands who are getting ready to take to the streets of London to protest Bush's arrival should lift our spirits. anger is such a motivating FORCE if we allow it!

somehow i've lost my way with talking about Hitler's secretary. okay, back to it. hmm, i'm especially interested in her talking about what he was like in person, his kindness. it's almost painful to hear really, but that's why it's so painfully important to give an ear to it. because it is real, he was this other person we don't hear about. he wasn't JUST the man at the microphone thrashing his arms in the air shouting his anti-Semitic speeches to the world. it's important i point out that Traudl Junge NEVER condones Hitler or his decisions, she simply wants to tell the truth. and it's the truth which can change us, and if we let it, can change how we view many many aspects of this world from how we've seen it in the past.

just recently, a good friend of mine in London was present for a series of public experiments. a paid actor would stand on a box in different parks throughout the day with a microphone, making some sensible arguments at first, then, he would soon launch into a tirade of racist remarks to the crowd. my friend Jo says that it was amazing to watch the crowd stand there, listening, saying and doing nothing in response. once in a while there'd be one person, maybe two, but Jo says that for the most part the man would go on making his racist comments uninterrupted, even after escalating in both volume and content.

there's so much work we need to do. i love when Hassen turns to me and shakes her head and says this. it always feels like a combination of slight weariness, mixed with a tremendous sense of determination, and belief in the human neighbors we have, that we can get the love out. BLIND SPOT, i'm convinced, is essential viewing. i'm glad that this woman has finally come forward with her story. the story is now mixed with her long years of contemplation, and her wisdom, which gives hope that we can change the brutal direction of the future.


Friday, November 14, 2003

What is it Good for? 

During last month's Poetry & Empire weekend at the Kelly Writers House, Tracie Morris challenged us to expand our understanding of poetry's importance, taking us out of our Americanism for a bit. She drove home the point that wondering whether poetry makes a difference isn't reason for a summit in most of the world. Its impact is (for the most part) widely appreciated & likewise feared. Its marginalization seems to be a Western, particularly American phenomenon. Or is it really so different?

I'm reminded of this as I read Tariq Ali's new book, Bush in Babylon. He recounts his conversations with Saadi Youssef. The Iraqi poet left his homeland in 1979, shortly before Saddam Hussein "officially" took power in 1979. Saddam had been calling the shots (quite literally) from the shadows for some time. Once the force became the face, Youssef fled because he "didn't want to write bad poems." Dissident poetry in the new regime would not be tolerated, so he left before the certainty of torture, death or silence became reality.

For years during his reign, Hussein sent emissaries to meet with Youssef, Muhammed Mahdi al Jawahiri & Mudhaffar al Nawab. Each of the Iraqi poets was in exile in different countries over the years- Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, France & England. Hussein’s agents pleaded with the poets to give a joint reading in Baghdad. Saddam didn't mind that they were communists, since the cultural cache he would receive from their return would be fruitful- citing their place in "our national heritage." He promised their safety "by the blood on my neck." It was hardly convincing, & none of the poets returned.

Fast-forward to 2003. Before the invasion, Youssef was placed on the colonial Iraqi Congress undesirable list. The imperial regime prevented (& continues to prevent) his return to his birthplace of Basra. The Baathists forced him to flee. The conquerors deposing the Baathists don't want him to return. What gives? Doesn’t "the enemy of the enemy" adage hold true in this case? Not necessarily. Because the latter enemy wasn't always the enemy.

Hussein killed communists through the seventies & eighties, until they were gone- one way or another. The CIA gave a wink & a nod (& weapons). So it makes sense that the invaders & their watchmen would discourage a return of an agitator. The sides haven't shifted as much as they seem. The new Governing Council (referred to by Youssef as "jackals") won't welcome a visionary poet back to the streets of an unstable city anytime soon.

Of course, times have changed since Saddam’s early years. The conversations on the Arab street often stem from the internet. The following excerpt is from a poem dedicated to Youssef's lifelong comrade Mudhaffar al Nawab, exiled in Damascus. It was circulated throughout Iraq in a matter of minutes, & it's quite popular. From “Jackals’ Wedding”:

I’ll go in your place
(Damascus is too far away from that secret hotel…)
I'll spit in the jackals' faces
I'll spit on their lists
I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq –
we are the ancestral trees of this land,
proud beneath our modest roof of bamboo

Upon receiving word of his newly tweaked undesirability, Youssef wrote a letter to the invader- General Tommy Franks*:

You will enter Baghdad, Sir, General; can I relay to you what Omar (the second Caliph after Mohammed) advised his general who was heading for Iraq?

Don't cut down a single tree, he said.

Trees & Iraqis were cut down- an inevitability of the invasion. Franks, Chalabi & Viceroy Bremer don't want to make tree/citizen connections, & they don't want their subjects to either. They're happier with the poets elsewhere, not muddying the liberator costume & keeping their enemies simple- blood thirsty Baathist relics & apocalyptic Islamists. This is arguably true to a great extent. But keeping the poets outside the border attempts to silence the voice of Iraqis who want a chance to explore their own ideas of liberation. Submission is/has been all around them. Rejection of the framework could prove disastrous for the conquerors, as well as the imams. The Koran 26:225-

Poets are followed by erring men. Behold how aimlessly they rove in every valley, preaching what they never practice.

Occupation forces, the Governing Council & fundamentalist zealots attempt to keep them out. Saddam tried to co-opt them. None of the above are worried about the "practice" of the poets. It’s the practice of their audience that they're worried about. Iraqis are reading Youssef amidst national chaos & discussing his poems in the street. The fear is their ideas could change, altering in turn, the options presented to them. Most Iraqis won’t be debating whether poetry makes a difference anytime soon.

Frank Sherlock

*Greg Fuchs lampooned the soon-to-be invader, dressing as a War Pig in the F15 New York City march against the war. He wore an army uniform & pig snout, introducing himself to passersby as "General Porky Franks."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

sad e-mail from Eleanor Wilner 

Dear Craig, I'd be grateful if you would get this sad news out on your poetry network, and perhaps ask that Giovanni's Room email list be sent the news as well: Almitra David, poet and friend, died last night, Nov. 9, after a long struggle with cancer. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 11a.m. at Friends Meeting House, 15th& Arch, and a reception afterwards at Friends Select, where she taught Spanish for many years. Of her award-winning book, IMPULSE TO FLY (perugia press, 1998), Calyx magazine said: "There are complex and many-layered poems, nothing in them to suggest that it is possible to separate joy from pain, or transformation from tragedy."
Thanks, Craig. Her partner, the artist Rocky Toner, asked me to pass this word along to the poetry community. Blessings, Eleanor

Monday, November 10, 2003

Ta-Ta Terror! 

The War on Terror in Tikrit may be a "long, hard slog", as Donald Rumsfeld puts it. But be assured that there are stinging victories for America happening weekly in our own country. The FBI has scored another crushing blow against domestic terror by employing the Patriot Act to take down evil-doer Michael Galardi. This Las Vegas strip club owner would be wreaking even more poisonous municipal bribery if the special powers allowed by the terror-tailored law hadn’t given the Federal government the extra powers they needed to stop this menace.

Attorney General John Ashcroft assured the public at a press conference yesterday afternoon that the Act employed in the case is within legal parameters. "Of course this is legal. COINTELPRO? What's that? This is the Patriot Act. It's different. It really is!" A leading FBI agent assigned to the case (who asked not to be identified) dismissed questions about invoking the anti-terror law in such an investigation. “Of course he’s a terrorist. He hates our morals.”While the ACLU and other civil libertarian organizations argue the constitutionality of the charges, Galardi languishes in Guantanamo limbo. His female employees are being detained & interrogated for intelligence gathering. At the end of the probe, the subjects of investigation will likely be deported to Tijuana.

Frank Sherlock

Sunday, November 09, 2003

e-mail from Greg Fuchs on the FRANK SHERLOCK & TRACY K. SMITH reading @ St. Mark's Poetry Project 

Wednesday Night Poetry
I arrived at the Grass Roots Tavern at 7:15 PM after a swim. I order a
seltzer, sit down, and read Gas Station by Joe Torra, one of my favorite

A few minutes later Charles Wolski arrives. We wonder where John Coletti is.
The Roots is his office, we thought he'd be here by now. A few more minutes
later Jon Allen walks in. He says Coletti is still at work. Unexpectedly Ed
Berrigan steps into the bar. He asks, "Are you having a meeting?" He laughs
and sits down.

Finally, Coletti arrives. Everyone gets a drink. I see Chris Martin across
the bar. Wolski asks if Frank Sherlock is coming to the bar. I say he's
probably making-out or doing push-ups to get prepared for tonight's reading.

Wolksi asks who Tracy Smith is? Coletti says he thinks she is a spoken-word
poet. I say I think she is involved with Cave Canem. I say that my few
experiences with Cave Canem poets has made me think it's a very middle class
scene. Coletti argues with me. I don't make a coherent argument so we give
up and agree to go to the reading instead of speculating on things about
which we know nothing.

Anselm calls me leaving on my cell phone a message, "Hey, leave the bar and
get over here, the reading is about to start!"

Smith reads first. Her work is about living in a new city, her family and
upbringing, her life as a writer, he husband a painter. Smith's new book won
a Cave Canem award. Her style is pretty straight, a little sentimental. She
definitely has chops yet surprisingly is a little nervous. Maybe it's the
solemn, serious, classroom-like setting of the Parish Hall.

Sherlock reads second. His work is about Philadelphia, media, a world in
turmoil, sex, and violence among many topics. His style is outside,
alliterative, disjunctive, and up-close. Sherlock's delivery is rockem'
sockem' tough. For some reason he used a chair as podium, he made light of
that being an awkward decision, but he held to it.

Afterwards many of us returned to the Grass Roots. Tracy and her crew
unfortunately did not. John Fisk told John Coletti and I to never shoot up
whiskey. Later he told us Evacuation Day was the biggest United States's
holiday. It celebrated the evacuation of the Brits from colonial America
after the revolutionary war. Fisk said people would disrobe and have orgies
at Bowling Green in lower Manhattan to celebrate the day.

Anselm Berrigan came into the bar holding a Subway sandwich. Coletti teased
him. Berrigan just shrugged his shoulders and walked to the end of the bar
to watch the football game on the television.

thanks for this great e-mail Greg,

on the verge of the lunar eclipse and our harmonic convergence 

Saturday, 11/8

4:00 PM: Four Generations of Writers at Penn: A Homecoming
Reading and Celebration

Join the Kelly Writers House community as we celebrate four
generations of writers at Penn, featuring readings by Emeritus
Professor Paul Fussell, Professor and alumnus Gregory Djanikian
(C'71), alumnus Suzanne Maynard Miller (C'89), and recent
graduate Allie D'Augustine (C'02). Stop by after the game to
spend some time at the Writers House and share in the diversity
and richness that has been and continues to be part of the
culture of writing at Penn. A reception will follow.


where do i begin? first of all, i'm hoping others who were there will add to what i have to say. Suzanne Miller's play was a lot of fun. her character Michael is the owner of a failing bookstore, and the leader of a dysfunctional book club. i hope she takes my advice about contacting Booksense.com when it finally hits the stage. they like to support ANYTHING supporting independently owned bookstores. and i hope enough noise is made about the play when it's finally ready for the stage so i know it's going on. i want to see the whole thing.

there seem to be thousands of poems i look at in a year's time in various magazines which leave me dissatisfied. the first time Allie D'Augustine let me read one of her poems i said to myself, "THIS is the American poetry i want to rest my ear on!"

Allie is how old? 23? anyway, she's young, and it makes me so happy when i read young poets writing the poems that excite! at times i want a mantra "keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing DON'T STOP!" so many, i can't believe how many, stop. i'm selfish, completely selfish, because i want to see more and more and i want to follow the path taken in the poems as a life moves out in its wider embrace of experience.

Allie is GREAT to have a disagreement with, one of those souls with her own ideas, who listens, fights it back, or sees how things might correlate with her own thoughts. her passion to keep herself free to have her ideas and feelings is part of the best of her which helps shape the poems, and makes them very much her poems!

she said i could publish whatever i wanted on the blog, but since they're all unpublished, i don't want to be greedy, and will just print one of my favorites from her reading yesterday.


To Have and Have Not
by Allie D'Augustine

To have a sea of seamless unspoiled children:
the range of voices,
the concrete cavern,
will be indelibly etched
to blur in a confusion of childhood memory turned to something so tangible.
The way we turn over and over again is not good.
The patriarch arrives, screams at us later from the kitchen.
Light -- the sun glances lifts your spirits.
The correct words, carefully orchestrated, high-kick their way just outside.

To have a black bird and a white bird and a most spacious ship:
"It can seem to blur..." she trails off.
Remotely approximate buildings become full-size.
Dancing 'til dawn ever breaks. Conjure up a likely man,
the first person to step, scouting to see the intersection of Fifth Avenue.


wish i could tell you something about the other two readers. not too much wine in me, but just enough that i was captivated by the scene out the window. there's a frat house next door to the Writer's House, and a very agitated young man was standing at the side entrance on his cell phone, waving his arms and yelling "YOU'RE INCREDIBLE! JUST INCREDIBLE! CAN YOU HEAR YOURSELF!? DO YOU EVEN HEAR WHAT YOU'RE SAYING RIGHT NOW!?" what was she saying? why do i assume the other person on the other line was a she? he drained his Pabst Blue Ribbon and threw the can down the steps. more arm waving and shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders and it made me think about the amazing amount of nonverbal communication we have, and how a cell phone conversation lacks most of the vitals for a relationship. e-mail even moreso, of course. e-mail, wow, i've gotten my ass into some pretty funky trouble on e-mail for lack of expressing myself with the proper language.

i wonder if this guy would have been having the same sort of body language via e-mail? draining his beer can and throwing it next to his bed? his conversation was really touching at times, when he'd slow down and say "Please listen to me, please, just listen to me." am i a freak for watching this? it's not my fault he chose to have this cell phone argument several feet from a very crowded room of people listening to poetry. you'd be watching him too, don't give me that, i know you would. wow, i'm defensive all of a sudden.

by the way, his argument seemed to end okay. no hang ups. some slow nods and the body language almost slow dancing from side to side and him smiling. his empty beer can in the leaves, waiting for the lunar eclipse. i wish i could have emptied myself for the eclipse. organs, blood, shit, stored in coolers locked shut from the mice. but only the dead are empty enough to let this harmonic convergence flow easily through the ribs and press against the jaw.

after the reading i met up with Matt, Nicole, Bill and Christine. we drove out to Fairmount Park to watch the eclipse with plenty of wine and beer. it was a lovely night, what else can i say?


Saturday, November 08, 2003

THE DEVIL, PROBABLY . . . with a very special introduction 

"They should rent cushions to raise
money to buy better seats."
--Nicole McEwan

another good idea by Nicole. it's difficult to sit through a feature-length film at the International House, but you WANT to go at the same time, so many amazing things to see!

THE DEVIL, PROBABLY was introduced by The Voidoid lead lizard himself Richard Hell. fifteen years ago i passed on an opportunity to see him play at CBGB's, and when "voice over" Laurel sent me an e-mail that he'd be there tonight to talk, i didn't want to miss him again.

incredibly sexy, Hell was much more tender in disposition than i had imagined, and i found myself hanging with his every word, "Yeah, this film -- ah -- was made in 1977. And. Was banned. Because. The censors felt it encouraged suicide. Bresson created a character who -- geeze -- hmph -- his character was exactly how i was feeling. My eardrums are blown out, too many bad amps ah -- i guess. But, when i saw this film for the first time -- hmm -- i was on the verge of vomiting through the whole --"

of the many useful and interesting things Hell said about THE DEVIL, PROBABLY was that director Robert Bresson never cared for special effects. Hell said, "You won't see any fighting, because there would have to be real blood." Bresson also never used soundtracks, and any music you hear is part of the film itself. There was an organ tuner, some hippies playing bongos, and a vinyl record album playing on a portable record player at one point.

it was the lack of soundtrack blanketing the film's violence which affected me most. something important i feel i learned tonight--thinking on the moonlit walk home--was how wrong i've always been about soundtrack. before tonight i always felt soundtrack was to aid violence in making a more dramatic impact which would intensify the horror of it. it's clear to me now after seeing--experiencing--this film where violence stands alone, unaided by a musical score, that soundtrack's goal is to actually make violence pleasurable. Hollywood violence suddenly looks to me like it's unknotting its terri cloth robe and gently shaking its thing as close to our lips as we want. i'll admit, i've leaned forward at times and swallowed everything in front of me.

but after tonight i can't imagine being able to take that pleasure again so easily. i prefer Bresson's violence, because there's too much fucking pain in this world to continue taking it lightly.

sitting there, watching, i was reminded, quite vividly, of violence i've experienced in my own life, rather than sucking some dairy-sweet flavor around it.

p.s. the extreme discomfort of the seats intensified the violence, for sure.

Thursday, November 06, 2003


this is an idea i had about a year ago for a magazine celebrating obscure poets i'd like more folks to know about, but it kind of went nowhere with the first issue. the first poet was supposed to be a feature of Merle Hoyleman. she's really amazing, and maybe i'll share some of her poems on the Philly Sound blog, but it's impossible to use her for the WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POET? magazine, mainly because everyone who knew her is already dead, and there's not even anyone out there who has read her poems, it seems. James Laughlin knew the most about her. Jonathan Williams knew her, but doesn't have too much to share, except that she would call him in the middle of baseball games and talk about the "Scum," her paranoid collective she seemed to focus on a lot. New Directions gave me permission to reprint her Christopher Letters Poems and maybe that's what i'll do, here on the blog, soon. they're really brilliant, lost treasures.

to get moving with a poet i KNOW will have some hits is Frank Samperi. this is the 30th anniversary of the publication of his book QUADRIFARIAM, the 2nd part of his large trilogy of books. i just found a copy (hardcover) of this book at the Strand in NYC. couldn't BELIEVE it when i saw it! it was the remaining part of his trilogy that i hadn't yet read. how can anyone give his work to a used bookstore?

Cid Corman turned Fran Ryan onto Samperi. Fran Ryan turned me onto Samperi, then Gil Ott added to the excitement of the Samperi discoveries, if anyone can excite us to Samperi it's Gil Ott. he has a reverence for the work, sees it as "pure witness."

in 9for9, i asked the question: There's a face of a poet on the kite you are flying over the city. Who is this poet? When you reel them back from the wind what will you ask?

Gil Ott's answer was: The poet's face on my kite is Frank Samperi, reclusive when he was alive, but now deceased at least a decade. I would ask him to elaborate on the word "procession," which he used to distinguish from "process." I imagine this man's mind as pure witness, tuned to the essential deity of events, and so endangered.

to be honest with you, my respect for Gil Ott is just about the most respect i've ever had for a poet i've known. he's one of the most generous, in every sense. he hears EVERYTHING carefully in what he reads and hears. he really listens to younger poets, something some of his peers should take a cue from. he always understands and never underestimates the multitude of poets who are always around, making poetry's engine continue, and continue. so to have a man like Gil Ott praise Samperi some years ago, well, how could i not look as deeply into the poems as possible? now i'd like to do my part in spreading the word on Samperi.

i'm going to start requesting information from poets like Cid Corman for details about the man and the poet Samperi. also looking for ANYONE out there who is a fan of Samperi's poems to come forward to give me a paragraph, or whatever length, on how Samperi's poems have affected how they feel about poetry, how he might have changed their ideas about writing poems. or, even just some sincere fan mail for the man's poems.

my guess is that with this new focus for the first issue, we'll actually be able to HAVE a first issue. what a shame about Merle Hoyleman not working out. there's a whole manuscript of her poems, unpublished. and i'd LOVE to get my hands on that book one day, win the lottery, and let the world take a look. i'd like to take a look. only poems of her's i've read are the New Directions pieces.

but anyone out there with a feeling or two, or information on Frank Samperi you want to impart, send me some email...CAConrad13@aol.com


Sunday, November 02, 2003


& re The Ixnay Reader (it's all good) let me just say how much i like this poem in there from Ethel Rackin (i would maybe even hop)::::::::::::::::::::::

your dog isn't the first to greet you

in the summertime
when there's a box of milk and 3 cucumbers

it's no time to be shy!
    a hip socket requires love love and the promise
of love

and a dog who barks uncontrollably
    may be coaxed
            to drop it
after pawing the front door of grief
with his outdoor ball

(meanwhile should I forget the whispering of ancestors
    they may be good for my health
            in the way opening passages for chi to flow

is good

which is not a slogan but a truism
in the sense that I am still in a lunchroom setting
wondering where my mother's been)

oh how can I tend the forest of You
and still admit that the shakes are something
and the blues are something too




few days ago my son & i watched a television program about hippos. one amazing scene was taken at night (infrared?) near the river where lay the corpse of a water buffalo. earlier in the day one hippo oddly feasted on it a bit, undaunted by threats of lions. that evening in moonlight when hyenas came to partake the hippos all lumbered out of the river intimidating the hyenas with gaping jaws but to no avail. they retreated to the water after a great fuss. alligators were next, a gang of them encroached & the hyenas eventually went off. next came the lions roaring & batting. alligators retreated. this scene captured such a sublime sense of comedy & mystery & morbidity = Wonder

earlier in the show my son and i were considering the monarchal legitimacy of lions. after watching the procession to/from the water buffalo corpse he said he guessed maybe lions were kings in a weird kinda way. maybe he used the term f*ed-up, laughing. when they've a yen, lions can do pretty much what they like and do, much like -- well, we all know these humans. tuesday we again approach the election booths & have our feeble go at the flesh of the rotting water buffalo. persistence is a virtue/goal i keep thinking. but that's, i suppose, another/'s post.

in Jenn & Chris McCreary's The Ixnay Reader (Vol One 2003) is Frank Sherlock's Night Margins, which he read at The Poetry Project. there's a snip (pardon the spacing problems etc) fitting of the season & my own recent images/events/thoughts/haunts - here he is:

Staked out snapshots of chance arrangements claim to capture
          History each corner covered no way out the frame's work

          Night moves without a witness after the vacuum pop of the bulb
The animals & us can dialogue over the echo of all that's blown


          A handgun a vegetable & an empty glass are placed on a table
Relics models tools monument the darkness within the walls

Crumpled up Polaroid of the moon soaked in water the emulsion's peeled
          Away it hangs on the clothesline w/a tangled mobile of stars


Space being stated & denied on coincidence of edge a gourd mutated into grenade
          Ashes dead memory w/moments this is propaganda of course this is real

          Lightbulb stems blackened around the edges change the shape
Of thought a naked scratched head becomes scarred w/cloud formations


          Brooch by the waterhole w/a lyre design could belie this atmosphere
A burnished voice summons reflection there is verse in the drink w/ the parasites

Interrupt then repeat the song about the snake biting its tail a kid still in
          Costume is bored telling the future from memory w/ mud & rusted spades


one really must read all of it, though.

i'll take this kind of november weather any day, ma'am, thanks!


Saturday, November 01, 2003

.............hey there............. 

there's a unique new blog in blogtown

check out transdada.blogspot.com


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