Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Invisible Hand Points Again and Again the Earth Groans, Isn't That So Smith? 

watching the BBC news tonight there was a segment on Iraq's car/traffic growth.

before our invasion, when Hussein was in power, it's said a modest model Toyota went for $5,000. but now, due to the absence of tariffs or duty tax, the same car today is just $2,000.

this is good of course for folks with limited incomes whose lives would be made better by having a car for work and pleasure. i grew up in a rural countryside where the nearest public transportation was an hour away, so i empathize with such needs in similar situations in a world whose demands for survival are beyond horse and carriage.

i recall an argument i had with a friend when i first moved to the city, someone somehow associated with MOVE, or maybe she was just an active MOVE supporter. but anyway, she grew up in the city, and was telling me that i didn't need a car when i said i had needed a car where i grew up.

"of course i needed a car!"

"no you didn't. you and your family just THINK you needed a car. but you could have found a way to survive without one."

"it would be very difficult with the way the world operates."

"there you go, blaming 'the world' when really you should be blaming yourself. you want to see yourself as a victim to the world's dictates so that you don't have to take responsibility for your actions."

"it's possible to live in rural America without a car, but being independently wealthy might be that possibility, outside an intentional community like the Amish. although even they seem to rely on motor vehicles more and more these days."

"it's always about class with you."

"hey, it fits. i mean without a car out there you can't easily work. if you don't work you can't pay your mortgage --and more importantly maybe-- you can't pay your property taxes. you don't pay those then you're very soon going to wind up living near a bus station anyway."

"okay, but people DO use cars far more than they need to."

"yeah, hell yeah! i LOVED to drive, get in my car and drive far out of the woods and away from the fields and farms."

what is interesting in Iraq is all the necessities the world of cars creates, and it is clear that those necessities are needed when they're not there.

there has never been this many cars in Iraq before. so the obvious lack of traffic signals, signs, detours. and the lack of gas stations. not a lack of gas, but of gas stations. there are enormous lines of cars at the limited number of stations. gas (by the way) is 64 liters for one dollar over there!

it's so strange to see supply and demand so fiercely out of balance, especially in a situation where a country like Iraq is invaded by a country like ours, the most capitalist of capitalists.

of course the solutions seem obvious to us from our vantage: build more gas stations, better roads (with that many cars, some of those dirt roads on the news will be torn up in no time), which will ultimately reframe their lives much as the car did ours: fast food, more tourism, shopping malls as a response to competing with city/town shopping prices and experiences, which mean larger and longer suburbs, more and more land and resources going into expanding life where the car can now better reach, which means even less natural habitat and more zoos and other such attractions where wild animals have become a novel idea, hmmm, other species really exist? wow.

not to mention the INCREDIBLE waste of and consumption of resources to drive and maintain roads and cars, which ultimately pollute and destroy the land, the water, and the air, not to mention the pollution and/or mutation of the internal landscape: brain, heart and beyond.

but all this said, i understand the want, the need, as well as the need to want.

yet America is a tricky fucking place to be examining this from. even with the complete honesty of our own luxury and desires, there's still really little room to judge. especially when we REALIZE that fragile ecosystems like the Florida Everglades are being deforested at a rate of 450 acres a day! no lie, look it up if you don't believe.

2 thirds of the entire land mass of Los Angeles is devoted to the automobile in one way or another. that's remarkable! and it's said that at rush hour in LA, the pace can crawl to the exact speed as the horse drawn carriages that once settled the city many years ago. and trade winds have blown so much car exhaust and industrial smog into Mexico from these large California cities that in some cases the drinking water from those clouds of smog dropping their rain in Mexico has created the highest levels of lead in the world. (info care of Greenpeace, much of which was pulled from U.S. government studies)

and of course these Florida and California (home of Disney & Disney) examples are a mere taste, as we all already know.

i'd like to say it will be interesting to see where all this capitalism takes them over there in Iraq, but is it interesting? is that really what i mean? interesting? i'll certainly tune into the news to see what i can see.

i've watched my tax dollars with the tax dollars of my fellow tax paying Americans bomb the shit out of them. Now what?

will the "progression" be televised?

that same fast lane "progression" which exterminated MILLIONS of Native Americans, MILLIONS of buffalo and Passenger Pigeons and many other species. capitalism --so far-- doesn't seem capable of allowing ANY alterations to its pattern. imagine our world exactly as it is, and Real space having been saved for the Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota tribes to still actually live as they had at one time. can you see it? help me if you can see it, because i sure as hell can't.

but all the differences of landscapes aside (after all, Iraq has had incredible libraries and metropolitan settings longer than white America has existed), will the "progressions" of postwar Iraq be televised? we're NOT seeing the MANY American corporations and factories that set up shop in postwar Bosnia. but it has been mentioned they're there, Clinton himself had said so.

will we be too busy bombing and invading another country to maintain focus on Iraq and its many changes to come in this new corporate-colonial American territory?


Saturday, March 20, 2004

from Andrew Levy on Gil Ott 

this arrived today from Andrew Levy.


On February 21, 2004 I received an email message - "Delivery Status
Notification (Failure)."  The subject line of the email had been "Are you
there?"  I did not know that Gil was gone.  Our correspondence had fallen
silent over the past year due to personal hardships on my end, and now that
I know, Gil's deteriorating health during that same period.  Upon receiving
the failed email, and thinking that Gil's address had changed, I contacted
Ammiel Alcalay who informed me, very sadly, of Gil's passing.  I told Ammiel
that I didn't know why but of late I had a strange feeling regarding Gil.
We'd exchanged correspondence following the publication of Gil's ~Pact~, and
he had written the nicest letter I'd received on my book ~Ashoka~.  He sent
"The Fire," and I had followed-up by requesting more of his fiction/short
stories for publication in ~Crayon~.  I was then consumed by an 8-month long
job hunt and had figured that Gil too was simply too busy to keep up.  And I
guess that was true.  He had mentioned but certainly not complained much
regarding his health.  I last saw Gil at the Kelly Writer's House at a
benefit May 2001 for the Fernando Pessoa issue of ~Crayon~.

Gil's ~Paper Air~ magazine, upon my arrival in NYC at the beginning of the
80's, was the first poetry journal that I remember having made an impact on
an impressionable and skeptical mind.  I found ~Paper Air~, I believe it was
the Mac Low issue, at the Gotham Book Mart.  It was with that discovery that
I began to feel it was possible to be at home in this hyper, overwhelmingly
interesting and strange new world.

In my last letter to Gil, February 2003, I wrote the following regarding his
astonishing book of stories, ~Pact~:

"One of the reasons I haven't written you earlier about Pact is that I didn'
t want to finish reading the book. I think it's one of the freshest, most
intelligent, emotionally rich and honest works, poetry or fiction that I've
read in years. I wanted the experience of reading the book to last as long
as possible - it really has sustained a place in my life that's kept my hope
and imagination alive. I appreciate that you've sent me the review of the
book, but I haven't read it yet as I didn't want the review to color what I
wanted to tell you. One of the few authors I can think of that has amazed me
in some way similar to the way Pact has is the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. I
like the way you manage to take me through parallel universes, life and
death, in a way that feels real, like I could walk there. And some of the
stories - I'm remembering the trailer party scene where something violent
has occurred but the protagonist is so fucked up he can't realize what he's
been involved with - reminded me of a world I was once too close to back in
rural Indiana. I remember some weird trailer party situations - I've got one
or two stories I should tell you sometime. I also was mighty impressed how
you could pack such a diversity of tales between the covers of Pact and
rather than read like a mere collection of stories the book succeeds in
creating a coherence that's unshakeable. You've written a hell of a great
book and I've been so happy reading it. You have a great sense of humor,
often revealed through the unpredictable turns your fictions make - turns
that feel earned and motivated, immediately distinguishing Pact from most of
the experimental fiction I've seen."

Gil was a great editor, and poet.  I don't know how many people appreciated
that he had also become a GREAT fiction writer, an equal in many ways among
the heavy company of Bernhard, Blanchot, Kafka, Lispector, O'Connor, and
Rulfo. I do not know if Gil read the last letter I sent him - I hope he did,
that he may have read my compliments and enjoyed them.  The fictions in
~Pact~ allow one to put together one's own story, or stories.  A word that
Gil had expressed some admiration for in ~Ashoka~ I think accurate to what
his storytelling accomplished - it presented a world "compenetrate" with
love and nightmarish pain and trauma.  I have not known another writer who
embraced more profoundly, in his fiction/poetry and in his person, this
polarity of human existence.

What I remember from my last visit to the Kelly Writer's House, following
upon Chris Daniel's conjuring via his translation and performance of Pessoa'
s heteronym poetry, was someone so elated by the Word, so deeply in love
with poetry that for a brief time he was no longer weighed down by his body.
Gil sprung forward and threw his arms about Chris almost lifting him off his
feet.  Gil's unbridled and unreserved enthusiasm for the miraculous gift
poetry can deliver lifted everyone in the audience that night out of their
chairs. Gil was a very lovely man.  It is very upsetting and sad news.

I send my love to Julia, and Gil's daughter, Willa.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Alrighty Then 

And they all doubted the Buffalo List dynamic could keep breathing in Blogworld...

Frank Sherlock

sheesh shmeesh 

no apologies from me, no matter how many "i merely posted" whatevers come from you. forget it.

you just "merely" used aggressive language about community in your original post, WHICH as i've continued to point out began with "our" meaning us.

if "our little incestuous artmills" isn't a HARSH and AGGRESSIVE indictment to either submit to or not, then what is?

you try to block me with language that really explains your own behavior.

i'm not blocked however, just sending it right back at you.

if you'd like to agree to disagree at this point, fine. but if you continue to act like i'm some brute for not appreciating your original tone, hey, whatever, let's keep going. it's offensive that you'd rather paint a big red B on my forehead for Bully instead of dealing with your own actions, but i can handle it.

by the way, how the hell am i hijacking things? i'm responding to something you wrote. now, if i had completely invented the words, said that you had said something that you actually hadn't said, yeah, that would make sense. this accusation of hijacking is more of your Sun Tzu deflection.

and as far as you saying that you're wasting time arguing about community measured against my total commitment to doing so further makes the point. community for me is vital enough to allow you to make me look like a bully by merely saying that i am, so go ahead. community is something worthy of defending, defining, redefining; that and more.

art, poetry and the definitions surrounding them are something i don't ever intend to take lightly. and furthermore you of all people are well aware of just how important i feel building community is for this world. so to act like i don't seem able to just shrug it all off is ridiculous. you have got to know by now i won't.

it's pretty clear at this point that we're not going to agree. and frankly, so be it. i'd rather piss a yard of barbed wire than agree with what you propose.


sheesh II 

Conrad, i merely posted about Laib & his work as someone who works in isolation & how that kind of work can sometimes transcend. i did not mean to say, by any means, that those who work in their art community can not or do not accomplish the same thing. if you want to take what i said as an attack on this/your/our/any community, go ahead. that wasn't my intention or position. while i feel there are faults with community at times, there are also faults with isolation and anything else one might talk about. in any case - to each his/her own. but your spin on what i said is the reason for the angry words in my last post. i don't appreciate you hijacking what i consider a reasonably worthwhile topic & turning it into whatever vehicle you desire. you're aggressively insisting i confront, if not submit to, your own offense when it was not my intention, as i've repeatedly stated. if you wanted to actually clarify my position or further engage me on the subject, you could have done so by simply asking -- & considering.

as for myself, i'm not so interested in using what little time i have in talking (much less pointlessly arguing) about community or in confronting your own issues as i am about Laib and/or working in isolation, as i had written in that first freaking post on the topic. but you go right ahead...

on the run again,

OUTSIDE the line of fire is maybe just one OUTSIDE 

after rereading your last post hassen, "our" was left out when quoting yourself. "our little incestuous artmills." there was never any need to speculate --as you did-- about what "might" have upset me. it was in fact the "our" all along. i always said so.

OUTSIDE to me is some place i've been, so i'm not speaking as if i'm speculating. and its vulnerability for me was actually the position of strength. but was it?

in the OUTSIDE everything i created was beyond challenge, for one thing. nothing wrong with wanting to be alone, to create in silence. it's just a fact that it's beyond opinion.

but once that creation is put OUT there, in words, or film, first of all, it's no longer outside. second, it no longer belongs exclusively to the artist.

the artist has in effect given up the right to exclusive claim over what the THING is saying.

write in a book that no one sees until after you're dead and then of course you're an OUTSIDER because you died before we could say anything.

it was at first kind of creepy to me what happened to the work of Henry Darger, for instance. he quietly and secretly made his many many paintings and wrote that enormous novel and never showed anyone but is now being paraded around as the hottest new thing. at first it seemed to me that we were shitting on him by publishing his work and touring it around the world in OUTSIDER art shows. but then i started to think that if he had NOT wanted us to see any of it that he would have burned it, so, i guess it's just fine really.

and i admit that i am a HUGE Darger fan.

not only that, but the fact that he's creating it at all means that he is WANTING to convey. he could have just as easily sat around and THOUGHT up these things. but CREATING what he THOUGHT must mean something about wanting others to SEE his thoughts, i'm sure of it.

of course OUTSIDER ART has never been defined as art being created by quiet, secret people. Finster for instance is defined as OUTSIDER and he's done Talking Heads CD covers.

in some ways it's like hearing the travels of someone who has been somewhere where we haven't been. Darger and Dickinson are a kind of Shangri-La for us. it's nice to examine them, their quiet, their need for quiet. and we measure our own lives against that, as we measure everything and everyone against everything and everyone else. it's what we do, hopefully not to the point where it's making us sick.

but one of the common things i've noticed among OUTSIDER types that i've known, is that they want to not be challenged. to the point that all kinds of weapons are employed, even to the point of accusing someone who challenges what they say as being a bully. it's so easy to accuse someone of censorship, all you have to do is say that their reaction to what you've said is censorship. and if that person doesn't stand their ground, if they feel wounded by being called a bully (which of course they're not being in the first place), then they'll stop challenging. and then in the end, the OUTSIDER gets to create all kinds of drive by shooting definitions for everyone without being challenged.

hassen, i believe this has happened in this argument. i reacted to your creation, your words. words which you VERY MUCH made public. you didn't accuse me of censorship right away, but when you DID, it could have been the final word. it could have been the moment where i backed off, ashamed. but i didn't. here i am. and i'm not ashamed. because i'm not a bully, a censor. and i am saying to you that while i am trying to be direct and clear, you are hoisting all kinds of things up in front of me like "censor." well i'm not buying it.

let's be honest. if i had taken the bait, i would have shut up, and then WHO would have been the one to be censored in the end?

forget it. i'm not quieting down. IF you'd like to continue the exploration of this topic, just be aware that i'm not going to cease my voice here. just forget it. no amount of accusation will do it.

it was your Sun Tzu bit that really opened my eyes. Sun Tzu is almost always thrown at someone to do the very thing that that someone is being accused of. it's the art of war by way of deflection.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

A moment of silence for Gertrude Stein  

Today in the intro creative writing class I teach, we read the smart and tight prose poems of Anne Carson, which she calls "Short Talks" from her book Plainwater.

Here is the shortest piece we read:


How curious. I had no idea! Today has ended.

The discussion of the poem was good: we discussed issues related to Time: how it feels; its duration; how in one moment you may be in time, which is out of time, and then enter back into Time as we know it. The great questions (if you have all day--the time) leading to more questions, such as what is "time as we know it?" The observation that to be in time, which is out of time is to be in a wonderful place, at least in connection to the mood of the poem here. All in all, a productive discussion on everything from the title being nearly as long as the poem itself (an apt observation), to whether the poem suggests old age and being absent minded (most likely not what Carson is getting at here).

At any rate, about the time I thought we were wrapping up and moving onto another poem (this poem was not even on my own list to discuss of the group of Carson's poems) a student paused for a brief moment and said, "I like the poem, but I'm confused about the title. Who is Gertrude Stein?" For everything we had said we did not discuss Stein directly. Somewhere I thought Stein (at least in part, even an image of her) had been informing our talk. In a moment, I realized that no one in the class could identify anything about GS. So we discussed Stein, and that was good. (I didn't lay a trip on the class, like so many of my own teachers, who often didn't really teach, and then were indignant about what we didn't know, our blind spots etc.) People are in school to learn, so we teach, we learn. For me, it was just one of those quick (no student-teacher eye contact moments), "I had no idea!" moments on all of our parts.

--Tom Devaney

just to directly address the idea of censorship... 

...as brought up in your last post, hassen.

i'm glad you said that it feels like censorship to have to worry all the time about someone else's feelings about these topics. but was that my intent? no way, i just wanted it made clear that there were things you were defining which included more than yourself, and i didn't happen to agree with the definition.

and as before, this may simply be something we agree to disagree on.

but let's decide to continue the conversation anyway, because it is important to both of us, and others, despite the differences in how things may get defined. so what if it pissed me off, then pissed you off that it pissed me off?

are you interested in a little investigation here with the topic? i mean, in a way of form? i was thinking, something along the lines of us each writing about what it was like discovering poetry, and that moment when we walked into the larger community with it (i say larger community, because i do agree with Joseph Massey that our pens and paper and books are our community as well, i think especially when there is little else at hand, and i'm also agreeing with hassen much earlier saying that connection can be more than community).

anyway, i'd like to see us bring those experiences to the table, because it's our direct and personal connection to the original post.

any takers?
i'll post one, maybe later today.


to continue the redefinition of community means to keep the argument in creating definition alive 

first of all, hassen, there's no need for either of us to apologize. we're talking about things entirely too important here, things which really ultimately define what it is we're doing. for me, i just don't want to water my definitions down with watered down feeling. and besides, the more i hear from you the more i see where i'm not being very community oriented, although that then turns back to the definition of community, which you've never really said you were against, you were just annoyed at, i assume, segments of the idea of community which would fall under your subdefinition as little art mills. but it was the "our" in the "our little art mills" which caught me, since i'm part of the "our" and was therefore either going to have to settle with your definition of what we're doing here or put my own out there.

your original post on this a week ago at first may not seem like an examination of community until the direct art mill statement later, but for me at least, it was just that. but what i see as something very similar between our own stories is our being people coming from isolation in writing poetry and walking into this large body of people and all those varying and complicated branches branching further into poetry with each body we meet. and i feel we'd also agree that it was that very isolation which gave us the time to absorb and hone some very important skills in writing poetry. and frankly, these stories are actually --it seems from my experience and connecting with other poets-- pretty much how many poets come to writing poetry.

and it's very interesting to look at "how" poets make that introduction for themselves into that larger community of poets. those who choose to go to universities to study writing poetry begin that introduction into community for themselves in a very different way from how i've experienced it for instance. it's simply a fact. and space to talk about that is always so limited, it seems, because of all the feelings which surround the topic. usually when it's brought up around someone who has a degree in creative writing, frankly, they tend to become slightly awkward or maybe even defensive. i experienced this in particular at The Philly Sound Festival immediately following the 9for9 panel. one of the 9 questions for the panel was about creative writing degree programs, and i was looking for an emotional reaction from the panelists, and had anticipated reaction from the audience as well. one poet (no names are necessary, it's not about that) walked up to me and accused me of stacking the panel with panelists who only brought criticism against the degree programs. another later told me that it was wrong of me to ask that question in the setting of the Penn campus. but why? because it was bad manners, or something, to have anything but positive things to say about the institutions of higher learning in the confines of higher learning's own walls? i thought university was about (especially at a graduate level) bringing the world (and universe(-ity)) into question in one way or another? anyway, and i'm not even judging what was said from several audience members who were clearly irritated with me, i'm simply pointing out how touchy the topic is, and how we need (or maybe just i need) to make some space somewhere, somehow so that it can be talked about. maybe some poets simply don't care about the topic and would wish i just shut up about it. not that i'm going to of course, but just acknowledging them, sort of a wave, hi.

and by the way, it might have seemed like i stacked the panel, but one of the panelists who has a degree in creative writing was Prageeta Sharma, who is vocal about her opinions, and who not only defended the programs, but pointed out what now seems the obvious yet wasn't being discussed whatsoever, and that was that many people go into the programs to afford themselves the time. time to write. and that was a great answer, one in fact which, when it was finally spoken, dispelled, at least for me, any of the negative things which might have come up. so if anything, Prageeta put a heavy weight on the scale with her argument, and tipped any amount of seemingly unfair advantage back to something more balanced in the way of defining what these programs are for, or are doing. which really, in the end, is part of the very argument for defining what the community is.

it's impossible to avoid anymore, this particular conversation, since there are literally thousands of poets with degrees in creative writing. we're going to encounter one another constantly, and do. and i admit my earlier fascist tendencies about the whole fucking thing. seriously. i mean, we're talking, really fucked up insecurities about it. which of course stemmed from all my working class issues, and my weird drunk family. and once i was able to sift through all this and put all the feelings where they belonged, i was able to have a much more inclusive and rational idea of what this idea of community is about. i've had too many friends (is what it comes down to) who have now gone to universities to get these degrees for me to continue not evaluating my feelings closely. i owe it to them as well as myself.

for me, all this conversation about and post writing about community and all other emotional subjects is furthering my idea that words themselves hold the emotional content and that that is what we're working toward, creating space for the emotional content of words to come alive, and to not be so afraid of the explosions we know are of course possible.

so lets keep exploding, or imploding, if you're in an isolated mood.
don't worry, i understand.

p.s. oh, and i'm not agreeing that it was the Outsider Art part which sparked my original post as part of this ongoing conversation/argument as you suggest. it really was the "our little artmill" bit. but since you've brought it up, i'll say that in my above post i point out that i believe we are all (or at least most of us are) coming from isolation, or from being Outside. and the thrust of this examination of definition for me lies here in that idea of Outside, meaning that poets either STAY outside, which is Emily Dickinson, in other words, those we never really wind up hearing about until after their deaths (Henry Darger as writer and artist as well, but ultimately, few others). or varying degrees of entering community, which is no longer Outside, but bringing in fact an Outsider feeling into a larger companionship. or we can choose, i guess, to enter the community and continue to believe we are in fact Outside the community we speak from and address. this may sound harsh, but i really do believe that if you're in the functioning community of art, making art, producing art, that you are most certainly not any longer actually classifiably Outside but Inside, at least to some extent. we either admit it, or, well, we lie to ourselves about it. there's nothing wrong with being in a community having come from isolation, especially if that community tends to include similar bodies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


here's what Elizabeth Scanlon sent me in response to my original post on Laib. sorry it's taken me a few days...

************ ************** ************
On 3/11/04, "elizabeth scanlon" wrote:

hey hassen,

thank you for reminding me of that, and of him...I saw that piece at the
Hirshhorn, too, and was so moved. It reminds me of the most important line
of the Tao te Ching: that which can be spoken is not the Tao. (but then of
course goes on for the rest of a book because we are human and prone to
make sounds.) The intention, the attention, the specificity -- not the idea
of pollen and what it might stand for, but the manual embodied minute
personal collection of it, is monumental. It is a stunning example to me of
having a practice. A way. There now, enough.



my original post was mostly about Laib & his marginal work. maybe if i'd titled it 'In Defense of Outsiders' it wouldn't have provoked you so, Conrad. maybe that would have immediately presented to you my own sense of victimization before you had the chance to claim it for yourself to negotiate your own agenda.

but seriously - i had no intension of offending you, Conrad, & apologize if i did.

incestuous little artmills – i won't apologize for that for this is what i often see (not always, of course!). however, i also carefully pointed out that some work well in a community – which is to say that some seem to thrive there & produce some amazing stuff. that is not a blanket statement, is it? is it condescending? i wouldn't think so. you contend that to praise one is to criticize another? that sounds so Sun Tzu.

frankly, this situation could kind of be an example of dangers of 'community' as it takes a hard turn from my original intent of conversation & support of an individual – in this case, Laib & what he's about. am i (we) not allowed room to talk about that without making sure i'm not offending anyone? your post insisting my attack sure seems a form of censorship & anti-communal. i'd have more accommodation talking with birds outside Laib's windows. community as most might perceive it often has a way of, by popular demand/disinterest if not by those who speak the loudest/fastest, commandeering focus away from original intentions/ideas. for whatever reason. it can quickly deter & defeat those who might otherwise come up with some worthwhile contributions if they had the space or ability to follow their own thoughts in that environment. maybe you can easily sidestep such situations but others might not have your determination or focus or skill or interest or whatever you might call that which makes you different from them in this respect.

kisses, & i mean that,

*i have to say I REALLY LOVE your "big mill, crank crank crank, here's a freshly cranked box of art poop, YAY!" so much that i want to see it on everything, everywhere. making no bones about it. i'm ROTFL

**hey, Joe – nice to see you!

we commune just fine 

hello Joseph,
hmmm. well, where do i start? first of all, yes, there are bad experiences with poetry and other communities. hey, there are poets who ripped a copy of my book up on stage, and then wrote vicious rants about me in the Philadelphia City Paper. (no fucking exaggeration at all here)

that and more. much much bullshit. endless bullshit actually.

but i reFUSE to simply double-lock my door and build an igloo with my books. there are TEN amazing and generous poets for every asshole! i'm convinced of this!

if you can walk around a pile of dogshit on the sidewalk then my friend you can avoid an asshole poet just the same.

hmmm, i'm not at all certain when i realized that community was SO IMPORTANT, but i'm grateful i finally did. i value my friends more than i can say. hassen for instance is one of those friends i value highly because she and i can REALLY argue and hear one another, and still have the same love. anyone who has that is RICH!

the other thing is, so what if it's not that many folks reading the blogs. so what if only a handful of folks read our poems. so what Joseph. i mean, hey, is my appreciation for you work not enough? do we all really NEED to WANT to be rock stars or something? to not write on the blog or to care about writing on the blog because of the volume of readership seems odd to me. considering that we write poems in the first place which is probably the most ill-read form of publishing.

i love the blogs. and i love the community of blogs. it's a great thing, i feel, to check in with and see how poetry is being read and how it's being thought of. we're living in this fantastic time of e-mail and internet, and frankly i just want to KISS whoever thought it all up!

i'm in the middle of a rather heated e-mail argument with someone right now (won't mention who without their permission) who sent me an announcement for a novel writing workshop. anyway, my stand with this person has been, and continues to be, that i dislike novels. and this person (boy does this annoy me) said that (makes my blood boil) poets would be better off writing novels since no one reads poetry. well, this e-mail exchange is raising my blood pressure. i don't know why i'm even bothering really, but i'm careful to word everything so that it NEVER sounds like an apology for poetry!!!!!!! none needed!

in my next post i'd like to focus more on isolation, which i've experienced, and yes, it was in my opinion what made me a poet. but i have many ideas about that now which are very different, mainly because my isolation was against my will. but also, because i don't really believe it's vital, not at all as a matter of fact. more later.


<<<(((( e-mail response from Joseph Massey ))))>>> 


you don't think the poetry community is incestuous? if
incestuous implies cliques, frantic leap-frogging,
back-stabbing, ass eating, constant bitching, the
ranks, the ranking, the paranoia, the strange lack of
love for poetry itself and intense love of
personalities -- then I say it's incestuous.

the blogs: incest. no one reads our blogs with any
interest other than other poets. Mr. Blank down the
block don't know no nothin bout Sparrow, or CA Conrad,
or Hassen, or Joseph Massey, etc.

alright, I'm being crazy. but:

it's always smelled like incest to me. there are
pockets of good things happening, of course -- I'm
talking about the poetry world at large, and that
sadly translates into careers. who's hot, who's not...
who's tossing whose salad.

there are warm spots. I've benefited from community.
being welcomed in Philly really changed my life, but
being treated like shit by certain people because I
didn't fit the criteria -- or whatever -- revealed a
nasty, INCESTUOUS side to what you call community.

What I call community are my books, the weather, my
notebooks, and a few distant friends like yourself --
I've made my own community, in my own little hermit

so, all hyperbole aside, I think a middle road should
be taken in your flap with Hassen.

it aint all good, aint all bad.

marching along

Joseph Massey

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

defending "defending community" 

"Over & again I hear how impossible it is to artistically develop
isolated from society. Well, alternative worlds and futures are not
often made from our little incestuous artmills." (hassen...3/10 post)

hassen, the above is not an attack on community? "our" "little" "incestuous" "artmills" this is not condescending?

"you wrote 'in defense of community' as if i attacked it, but nowhere in
that post did i say that community does damage..." (hassen...3/15)

yes it was an attack. and i agree, you didn't say that community does damage, you propose it's entirely too impotent to do damage, after all, it's such a "little" "incestuous" "artmill" instead of a big one maybe? big mill, crank crank crank, here's a freshly cranked box of art poop, YAY!

but yes, of course writing can be done in isolation. one day i hope to write a poem while scuba diving in the Deleware with waterproof paper and i'm actually not being a smartass, at the moment. if we want to talk about what is possible, what we're capable of, that's fine, let's do it. but can we do it without telling me that i'm imagining things and that i'm being "defensive" like i'm some paranoid weirdo? if your condescending lines were a new form of condescension, one which isn't used in attack, but this brand new version of condescension used to praise its subject, for instance, well then please accept my apology. if in fact we want to talk about defining "little" "incestuous" "artmill" as something NOT attacking community, but that in fact it was meant to examine how important community is, well then, by all means enlighten me. okay okay okay, now i am in fact being a smartass.

or, if the little incestuous artmill was specific to something which had been left unsaid, then please say what it is/was. instead of the wide-open generalization.

i vow to never burn down a hermit's hut,
and i mean it,

conversation poem by CAConrad & Sparrow 


Conrad: My dream job is to bake a cherry pie every monday and be paid $300 for it. Maybe i'll make flyers.

Sparrow: For me, the dream job is to work in a taco stand in Guatemala that only has 3 customers a day. Buenos burritos.

and please, anyone reading this who knows someone with a passion (possibly an excruciating passion) for cherry pie, and can afford my very special cherry pie, for GOD'S SAKE give them my e-mail address, CAConrad13@AOL.com ...not a difficult e-mail address to remember, but written down, it doesn't take up too much space, i assure you, as i've convinced more than one person in my life, having them scratch it on a nibble of paper or card, and then, there it is, ready to be used at crucial moments of insane generosity for pie.

thank you,

Rene Char and the Snow  

This morning I have been reading Rene Char's "LEAVES OF HYPNOS," translated by Cid Corman, and thinking of a sentence from Char: "Here we are approaching the second when death is most violent and life best defined"; and a conversation I had with urban historian and poet Fran Ryan about Corman and the big subjects/topics (whatever you want to call them): getting by, writing, living with purpose.

Fran said he hadn't written to Cid in sometime and had been thinking about him since his death and wished he had written to Cid one last time to let him know how important he was to Fran at a certain time in his life when he felt utterly unconnected to his immediate world (working class tough Philadelphia, "the neighborhood" as he puts it with as much meaning as one could pack into a phrase) and found Cid and poetry -- and that got him through a most difficult period -- and connected him to another place of possibility: ideas and people.

I told Fran to write Cid the letter anyway.

Here are two sections from Char's poem:


The poet, conserver of the infinite faces of the living.


They used to give names to the different portions of duration: this was a day, that a month, this empty church a year. Here we are approaching the second when death is most violent and life best defined.

This morning I think of Fran and Cid and Char's "conserver of the infinite faces of the living" in the corn flake-sized snow flakes falling in at least eight confused directions perhaps trying to escape this late March day; and I think how to know Fran's serious face and still body exactly last evening is to conserve (for a moment) one of those infinite faces.

Here another face emerges, the gray face and hard body of late Gil Ott in the hospital and me and CAConrad moving all of his get well cards, kid drawings, and hand-made paper books (about 100 in all, not enough thumb tacks for them all) from one hospital room, floor, building to another; and Conrad asking the doctor if he knew that Gil was an esteemed poet? The doctor saying, stuttering for a moment: no, but taking a greater interest (at least for the moment) saying he'd look him up online, and I collecting/stealing thumb tacks from other empty stick pin boards, in the halls and rooms, and a few that were not.


Monday, March 15, 2004

hey Conrad 

i'm not by any means putting down community but rather defending development in isolation, which, of course, i feel strongly about. & you probably agree on some point of that, given your History (smack me if i’m too presumptuous here). solitary journey is what all creation tends toward, however seemingly removed or cloaked in Other, don't you think? in my post, i simply wanted to, besides point out Laib's fantastic work, say that there are some who develop well outside of a community of the same ilk &/or that being an 'outsider' (/insider?) may enhance one's ability to create something of significance. you disagree?

you wrote 'in defense of community' as if i attacked it, but nowhere in that post did i say that community does damage (that's for another post). i sincerely hope i didn't sound ungrateful or dismissive about it. in my original post on this topic, which i erased, i had said that my own isolation became a bit toxic at some point & i felt gravity toward community, which has been a great comfort to me, as you know. but times it's necessary for me to isolate or insulate. i imagine it's the same for many though i could easily be wrong.

guess i also want to point out 'connection' is not confined to 'community.' emotional intimacy and affection are at least as important than a community of those who are like minded. & that isolation from community is not complete isolation from humanity. for me, close friendships engage, inspire & reassure. community for me is more a chosen family - for mutual support, friendship & acceptance, which is quite wonderful, but i'm pretty sure if i didn't have it, my work wouldn't suffer. & i'm not comfortable with my own creative development there. some people do it quite successfully & i wouldn’t encourage them to change, but it's not for everyone.

i don't personally advocate the 'option' of cell death (though they are really genetically wired for it, according to my friend who studies that very subject in the lab), either, but i have to admit, however, there is something substantial to be gained in that process for some, however dangerous or absurd. sometimes it's helpful for some to strike out/in & take a long swim in that goofy abyss & maybe bring back a queer mouthful to spit at other humans. (TIC)

besides, is there only an either/or dilemma between community & isolation? there's a time for each, surely.

there are other items in your post that i would respond to if i had more time but i don't at the moment, unfortunately. which is also my excuse for the piecemeal. i hope others feel free to jump in to the conversation if they have any opinion one way or another on the topic.

love, & i mean that,

Sunday, March 14, 2004

community not for the weak 

yesterday's rant on community/cellular necessity aside....

Hassen when i hear you talk about the artmill, and the damage it can create, i'd say that that is far more a problem for places where the authority figures are present, not peers. for instance (this'll piss some off, if they don't read clearly) MFA creative writing programs have, for some poets, not worked to nurture but to mutate writing. it's simply a fact i've seen over and over with friends. in some cases the opposite happens. and this makes me think of Prageeta Sharma's comments about such programs, where --as she claims-- it is simply Time that some writers look for. and that changes everything, of course.

but with a community of peers, without the dogma at the head of the class (which may or may not infiltrate the student--always depends on the strength of the student) there is the obvious change in dynamic, as well as the obvious support structure.

do peers influence one another? this again depends on the student (since we're all students in this, in or out of the university), on the strength of the student, the courage to stand behind what they write/believe/feel/think.

the Philly Sound, for instance. us. we're very very different writers, all of us. we're also broad minded, and thus our ability to come together as a group without expecting any form of conforming to any particular school of writing. in the classroom however (and this i know to be true, horror stories galore) some professors INSIST a student conform to a certain system or school of thought, of writing. one friend of mine was broken down to tears, literally, and over the two years, slowly, painfully (for me at least) started to write these poems i no longer recognized as her own. true, not everyone has had this experience. and i've met my share of folks who claim to want the time, as Prageeta pointed out. so really, many factors come in play, whether it be the bully of the instructor, or the sad weakness of the student.

Magdalena told me that Michael Palmer is an amazing poetry workshop instructor, in that he never tells you HOW you SHOULD be writing. in fact, she says that he never ever uses the word "should" which makes me happy. she said that he focuses on the strengths of a poem in the workshop, what's working. because of course, to say what's NOT working would lead down the lane of dogma, of "should" and of school of thought, setting margins for poetry itself. Palmer sounds to me like a poet with strong beliefs in the life of the poem. not needing to bank the river, so to speak, says to me that he'd be fine stepping back and allowing a flood of words, which may or may not be pleasing to him, rather than controlling the flow. of course, the same could be said about his saying what's the strength of a poem, that that is leading the poet to the poem. since i'm not there, it's hard to implicate him about what he IS saying, but since there is so much he's NOT saying, no one needs to be there for the NOT to create an understanding. in the end, i've always felt that, whether or not his pointing out strengths instead of what he'd consider weakness in a poem, leads me to believe that this is a man who really wants poems to be cared for, loved.

he sounds like a man who has poetry at the center of the world, not just his world. and that, to me, is what the best part of community can do.

if community is doing anything less than this, let's promise to question it. look at Breton, for instance. what a fucking bastard he was. i like to call him the bully who hated fascists. his terrorist grip over who was in or out, or what was in or out was so severe that i question his own lines of poetry. but then, that's just me not seeing the possible multitudes. which would lead me back to an earlier post i had about Hitler, when his secretary confessed much of what is never talked about the man, that being his very human fears and other emotions.

there is also something to be said for writing a poem and rubbing it against a friend, someone you commune with, see what they'd have to say they feel/think about it. there are aesthetics we trust, that we come to trust. and those people, those aesthetics we choose are in fact extensions of ourselves in a sense. what's so horrible here? we're connected and there's no denial strong enough to dismiss our connections as beings. WHY write poems in the first place!? if not to SHOW that connection!? we say, look, look at this poem, hear it, do you hear it? because it's who we are. it's what's going on. we're all in this together, and this poem has a glimmer of the puzzle that maybe you hadn't noticed before.

and the poems we write, emblems or not of our own lives, are us in the sense of what and how we see and hear and taste and fuck the atmosphere around us.

okay, so some folks don't like being around other folks, and they create their work in silence, in the dark, in towns where no one knows their names, or on an island, but they are still creating and that's what counts. because they DO want to connect, or else they'd just blow their fucking brains out and be done with it!

so sure, i'm not saying we have to all get together and hug one another (for fuck sake!), but for some of us, many of us, community is this place to enter when a poem has been written to let it live. and it's where we share our ideas of poems. and where we read and share what we're reading, and we extend ourselves further and further each time into bigger and better ideas of what poetry is capable of doing!

community is a beautiful, thrilling, expansive, LIVING thing!

and i'll just go ahead and say that i really do feel that those who will defend a position that the connection is unnecessary are really just bullshitting us. because hey, what is the reason for publishing in the first place? especially publishing material that says community is unnecessary or an artmill, or whatever. isn't the very ACT of publishing reaching out to a community of readers? Melville said it best when trashing the nonconformist Transcendentalists with his story Bartleby, when saying suicide really is the only alternative. and it's not a very nice one. if it were true that such artists and writers didn't want community, then we'd never ever hear from them. like Henry Darger, for instance.

but then that leads me into an entirely different discussion. because i really do feel that Darger, if he had been treated with dignity and respected as a human being as a young man, then when he ran away to Chicago and became a janitor, he might have actually had some better sense of others. but his whole focus was on distrust. his entire world of art, the subject, was about invasion and distrust. but then again, maybe he wouldn't have made the art he did. maybe maybe mabye, and maybe, because we don't know, because things went down as they did. but he created it anyway, and wrote the longest novel in the world. just for himself?

Emily Dickinson. okay, she wrote in seclusion. okay. she didn't burn the fucking pages before she died though. and she MUST have showed them to someone at some point, or the publication she claimed to have been so upset over would have never happened in the first place, right? bullshit needs a splash of red paint. and i'm not even saying HER bullshit, i'm talking about her many scholars and fans with their darkest notions of her.

in the name of clover, death and bees,

Saturday, March 13, 2004

defending community <<(((or)))>> root canal without nice drugs 

when i was shielding a loaf of bread from an angry mob of low-carb dieters, and i shouted, "YOU ONLY DESTROY TO PREVENT DESIRE!" no, let me start over: there you were, and you were beautiful, each line and sound, we were lifting forward at your poems something lifting some automatic lifting, what was her name we asked one another? Hassen? did you say Hassen? months later, was the community surrounding a new friend? did the new friend enter the community? both? there's not much argument now because i've seen the handsome nerd scientist talk about cell structure as life with needs. watch your hand on microscope for days to find what he explains as suicide.

community keeps alive and the scientist sees it over and over cells communicating cells feeding communal pulses and then the one who doesn't commune the one the other cells stop giving the latest cell-slang doesn't just die it kills itself. you can see it because they've seen it and they showed me in a documentary they were in, even though they don't know me they gave me the larger horror's nosedive to the smallest daily catastrophes.

in bed, after the documentary of imploding introvert cells, is it just me or did i feel a cell on my knee off itself? what the fuck! this flashlight is too weak, can't go to the doctor at this hour, and of course it's me, it's my cell, it's dead, and it's me because it's all i am, THEM, and i don't know THEM, even though they're me, but i am THEM and i have no choice unless of course i kill myself which of course kills THEM.

but when we die it's really just thoughts. don't you think? thoughts? just thoughts i think are all that die. every moment of thought is built from a previous thought, there are no thoughts that don't have previous thoughts, your first thought, the very first thought was an extension of your mother's bank of thoughts this tidal wave of a life of thought as you're pushed into the hands of another life waiting there, gloved and masked another life of billions of cells and thoughts and suddenly one day you understand the city blocks of granite and brick shooting off the corners into the air are solid waves of thought that have been breaking the shores of existence for millions of years, possibly longer, maybe always, and, it's, these thoughts that die then after they've been shared, die in the mind, maybe not shared, maybe entire alphabets have been secretly thought in heads that will not share and the heads die, all the cells reforming to earth, the thoughts however, the alphabets however, end. is that a waste? we don't know about it, so what difference does it make?

on the deserted island in the deep deep south pacific is how the story went. and we've all heard it and wondered, maybe wanted. the act of removal. alone is alone with the body, the community of billions of cells, and maybe if there's not enough food you'll have to cook a limb or two. and there you are after you've cooked dinner, sitting there under your one palm tree, eating your foot, and your thoughts are your thoughts your hundred-thousand weaving knotting thoughts that are your own because they're your particular pattern of thoughts, but meanwhile, in the blinking cities out of reach, thoughts are racing with new patterns as they share with one another a thought, an image, a thing which means something to someone and something else to someone else because the thoughts that have made each life are different patterns and it's all memory where these thoughts are kept and constantly referred to, memory memory memory memory, do you remember, yes you remember, and it's like this you remember what you remember, this as all your own. but it's a continuous dinner buffet we walk to together. but back on the island the single life with the boat wreck by the rocks sees that it's like a disease, thoughts, memory, creating new thoughts and memories, even alone with no one to talk to, brand new thoughts and when you try to dig them out with a knife you brought on the boat for no reason that you can remember you are going to stop all thoughts and you're right of course, you will, you can. and one day someone will find your skeleton under the tree, a knife in your head and your foot in your mouth, but since you forgot paper and pens there are no thoughts to share except the knife and the foot. backing up a bit, eating a bag of pears you forgot you had on the boat, both feet intact, the billions of stars overhead tonight has the eyes sifting light from infinite darkness all the shifting structures of the firmament everything as far away from that island as possible can be felt. through every sense absorbed for the sake of belief that whatever thoughts push us into settling on who we want to become, these frequencies of the senses hold us. community is not the only choice but then again neither is life.



Very sad over Spain.

One year ago this week, Julio gave me a little tour of Goya's works at the Prado, which is just up the street from the Atocha train station. Three paintings in particular disturbed me: El Perro Semihundido o El Perro en la Arena, Los Fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo, & Saturno Devorando a su Hijo. All of which have returned to me with haunting significance today. I wish I could paste those works here instead of these words.



Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Getting Laib (sorry) 

Last fall I went to the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C. with Alicia Askenase after Barry Alpert thoughtfully posted to BufPo that Peter Greenaway's new project was to be presented that week. I made haste. I don't want to talk so much about P.G. because well there's too much to be said about his work & my point isn't such now. The day after the presentation we walked around the museum. When I came upon Hazelnut Pollen (1992) I was pretty bewildered. & I had a slight Christ-in-the-temple urge - inverted. An art museum is no place for this. It should be in a remote shelter or left pure in the mind. I wanted to tear down the walls & good folks & all that other so-called art & send the whole lot tumbling into the pits of hell. My mouth was dry, didn't say anything. This piece, if you don't know, is by Wolfgang Laib.

Won't say more on the installation because I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO.

Don't know how many times I've heard talk of how critical community is to development. Or how necessary it is to study the history of one's art. Or to be familiar with What’s Going On for the sake of knowing. Over & again I hear how impossible it is to artistically develop isolated from society. Well, alternative worlds and futures are not often made from our little incestuous artmills. Thankfully, there are creatures out there like Wolfgang, who may not know how to master a chisel (maybe he can, I don't know), or what BobbiSue wrote in 1982, but who, nevertheless, can sublimely send us.

"I'm living very isolated outside of a small village - it is,
maybe, like on an island - isolated from people, from
society, but also from art and artists. For me it is very
important to be independent and to be forced to do my
own things. I try to protect myself from the normal
thinking of society, for instance of German society. The
monks in the Middle Ages living in monasteries or as
hermits in remote places, or in other parts of the world
hermits and ascetics living in forests or caves in the
mountains, they did this even much more extremely, but
with the same intention. The trees and forests, the rocks
and hills which surround me, they are so timeless, so
independent and still so new every day." -- W.L.


Friday, March 05, 2004

"No Ideas but in That Which" 

Wednesday night's Ecopoetics panel presentation at the Writers House indirectly offered a parting gift to those in attendance. It was in the form of a question- Just what exactly is (or isn't) ecopoetics? Flurries of post-event discussion about an ecology of poetry went into the wee hours at a less formal gathering over drinks at Doobie's.

Marcella Durand & Tina Darragh read from a collaborative essay they've been developing, with partial source texts that include news & science magazines, Angus Fletcher's New Theory for American Poetry, Making of the Pre by Francis Ponge, & Michael Zimmerman's Contesting Earth's Future. Zimmerman is an interesting connection between Darragh & Durand. Tina came to his work as an examination of his struggle with Heidegger's past, hoping to find new perspectives in addressing the difficult relationship between postmodernism & bioethics. Marcella studied ecology under Zimmerman, & he pointed Durand in the direction of poetry. The essay's ecological exploration is a system of confrontations, lulls, stop-starts & disruptions that turn the subject/object literary relation to environment on its ear. Marcella read from The Anatomy of Oil, a project inspired by a cross-country road trip. Durand addresses the ecologies of oil & economies that shift or destroy them. Tina read from Opposable Dumbs, an investigation of racism & sexism in the animal rights movement. Darragh draws particular attention to the parity of missing language, That is, the animal language humans can't decipher, & vice versa. Dismissal of such parity leads to what Darragh calls "the bracketing of equality."

Jonathan Skinner envisions his ecopoetics as a writing, reading & editing exercise (he edits Ecopoetics- a bi-annual literary journal). He read from his Political Cactus Poems, some of which are pre-theorized, coming from a love of cactii as much as a poetics of ecology. Skinner played his walking environment tape recordings & read text in between the noise as an intention of interactvity. There is a question of what the integrationist possibilities could be if he had read during the sound, as opposed to "during the breaks." Skinner writes what he calls Tope Sonnets, a watering hole for people to come together , take in the poems that seek to "politicize the landscape, & landscape the politics." As an editor, he looks for three things- field format, hand (or script) of the writer, & a visual component. Each of these are what makes his journal so interesting. Skinner envisioned his publication to be a return to the journal, more than just a random collection of poems from friends & colleagues. He edits with the ecological concept of "edge effect" in mind, a method of study of diverse communities not as within a single system, but many systems effected by each other. Skinner's ecopoetics is a kind of border study, & his journal serves as a site for artists on the edges of their communities.

CA Conrad asked the panel about Nicole Broussard's place as an ecological poet. Skinner cited her work's importance as an ecology of the body, while Durand sees Broussard being "a poet of place" (Montreal). Bob Perelman asked for a framework around "ecopoetics"as a term, questioning whether Frank O'Hara & Charles Olson are eco-poets. The panel agreed with that they were, yet retreated from fencing in the term. Quite possibly, bordering & framework could be obsolete, or at least contradictory in ecolgical poetry before long. Ecopoetics seems to be more interested in studying the border than creating one. I look forward to future issues of the journal, and further attention to the edges beyond traditional landscape- a poetics of information ecology & mental environmentalist poetics.

Frank Sherlock

* post title comes from Darragh & Durand's collaboration

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

An Open Response 

There is an "Open Letter from Venezuela" that has landed on Guillermo Juan Parra's blog, & has circulated through the poetry community today. It's signed by Venezuelan writers, artists & academics, appealing to their colleagues around the world to support their movement to remove President Hugo Chavez from office. Lest we believe that the thoughtful & creative arts practitioners of the world are unanimous in their support of the latest attempt to return Venezuela to "business as usual", allow me to offer this partial response.

Last Sunday, I participated in a Global Women's Strike benefit performance at the Bowery Poetry Club. I was one of the many artists from Philadelphia, NYC, Paris, Kiev & Caracas that support the vision of Hugo Chavez. My colleagues & friends that were part of last week's show are sharp & rigorous thinkers that see much of the anti-Chavez movement for what it is.

The economic direction Venezuela has taken since Chavez took office in 1998 has been one of opposition to the neo-liberal policies that have been disastrous to all but an elite minority in South America. In its opposition to so-called "globalization" policies, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (during the Chavez term) has constitutionally protected indigenous citizens to retain their intellectual property rights. His attempts at reviving OPEC (& subsequently doubling the asking price for Venezuelan oil) hasn't gone over well with international monetary organizations, which require a "restructuring" of oil export in such a way that would return the selling power to the kleptocrats of Venezuela's past. The dismantling of the state-run oil companies would mean surrendering Venezuela's oil-rich resources to foreign investment & the minority that benefits from such investment. Chavez is resisting a hostile takeover.

Chavez has a law & order problem. However, it's not the problem attributed to the dictators that anti-chavistas compare him to. The crime rate is very high. How high is it in Castro's Cuba? How high was it in Hussein's Iraq? In fact, the Chavez critics argue that he’s soft on crime. How soft? He freed thousands of prisoners during his first year of office. Over 80% of Venezuela's prisoners in 1998 were being held without trial. Chavez sent attorneys, judges & human rights workers directly into the prisons to expedite due process in a reasonable & timely manner. As a result, thousands were freed due to time served or lack of evidence. The Opposition claims this action put criminals back on the streets. They're right. It also returned many innocent citizens to their homes in the working world to feed their families.

The Opposition calls him a dictator. Among his "authoritarian" moves, he seeks to regulate the private media. Free speech advocates everywhere should have concern for such accusations. Now, let's address Chavez’s regulation proposal. He wants private media to give "equal time" for political candidates. Sound familiar? These are the guidelines the United States takes very seriously in its own media. But why is this regulation necessary?

Even the U.S. media's most conservative mass-media news station claims to be "fair & balanced." The private media in Caracas makes no such claims. Routinely, the president is called "crazy" & "insane" during news broadcasts. He is called a "sex pervert for Castro" during the evening news when he visits Havana. Private television in Venezuela is owned by a handful of media moguls who have no interest in being fair & balanced. They are the same television stations that celebrated their short-lived victory by admitting participation in the coup to depose Chavez in 2002.

And then there’s the coup. The Opposition gained power briefly in 2002. They immediately dissolved courts, legislatures & other bodies of government that provided even a possibility of checks & balances. The anti-chavista regime brutally suppressed Chavez supporters who marched in Caracas to show their outrage at the staging of the coup. The private media was forbidden to broadcast reports of chavista gatherings in the street. And this all happened over just one weekend, while an American jet arrived off the coast to whisk Chavez away to the Dominican Republic. This too, sounds familiar. In this case it didn’t happen. Ultimately, the coup was overturned by the people of Venezuela, & Hugo Chavez returned to the presidency.

The issue of the day is whether the signatures collected for a referendum to call for early presidential elections will be considered valid. The Opposition calls Chavez an authoritarian for casting a suspicious eye toward signature authenticity. What should be mentioned is that some of the key players in the recall referendum movement were also members of the coup plot. They have remained in Venezuela, & have exercised the freedom to organize against the policies of the president. If they were willing to collaborate in a coup, would they also consider signature fraud? It’s a good question. But we need to ask another basic, but important question. Who is being anti-democratic?

Chavez was elected by 56% of the Venezuelan vote. He called for a referendum for a new constitution, & the popular vote approved it. A multi-party assembly drafted a new constitution, & the people of Venezuela voted overwhelmingly in support of it. The military generals who plotted the coup against Chavez were expelled from the military, but were free to remain in Venezuela. The private media that conspired against him remains privately owned & vehemently opposed to his policies. We see the face of what the Opposition calls "a cult of personality." Now we must also examine those who have organized the latest campaign against him.

This is not to suggest that the Chavez opponents that signed the Open Letter do not have legitimate grievances against the shortcomings of his presidency. As artists, academics & intellectuals, we have the duty to defend the right to dissent. I am asking those who have received & read the Open Letter to question the motives of the Opposition’s core. I'm also hoping you will examine the existence of modern democratic systems (real & imagined) & ask, "Just what does democracy look like?"

Frank Sherlock

Monday, March 01, 2004

Kaia Sand & Samuel Delany @ La Tazza this Saturday 

March 6
1857- Dred Scott decision given, paving the way to US Civil War
1928- Gabriel Garcia Marquez born, Aracataca, Mexico
1954- Irish independence martyr Bobby Sands born, Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland

March 6, 2004

La Tazza presents
Kaia Sand & Samuel Delany
108 Chestnut St.
7pm cocktail hour
reading at 8 sharp

Kaia Sand was born in Alaska, & arrived in DC by way of Portland, Oregon- where she wrote for the now-defunct street newspaper Burnside Cadillac. She founded The Tangent, a zine of politics & the arts with Jules Boykoff & their brothers, Neal Sand & Max Boykoff. She's also edited the feminist journal So To Speak & teaches at St. Mary's College. She co-curates the In Your Ear poetry series at the District ofColumbia Arts Center. Her collection, interval is now available from Edge Books.

Samuel R. Delany is a critic and novelist, with essays and interviews so far collected in seven volumes, the most recent three of which are Silent Interviews (1994), Longer Views (1996) and Shorter Views (1999). He has written a highly praised autobiography The Motion of Light in Water (1988), the best-selling Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1998), and, among his fiction, The Mad Man (1995), Atlantis: Three Tales (1993), and Dhalgren (1975). Some of his early science fiction – Babel-17 and Empire Star (both 1966), Nova (1968), and Driftglass (collected stories, 1970)–has come back into print. In 1999 a substantial book of his letters, 1984: Selected Letters appeared. In summer 2002, The Mad Man has also been republished. He teaches at Temple University.

Reading Report:

John Coletti hosted a tribute reading to celebrate the work of Joseph Ceravolo, a poet whose work remains influential & exciting to new generations. John shared from a small-run Ceravolo chapbook Flowers Out of Gas. CA Conrad read from The Green Lake is Awake, & shared Ron Silliman's thoughts about his first contact with Ceravolo's poems. Africa Wayne gave a reverent recitation, & repeated a number of poems again & again to remain in the light of the poem. Simon Pettit recounted a reading he gave with Ceravolo in a Jersey engineering school, & interspersed Ceravolo poems with generous biographical info.

Post-reading, we headed over to St. Jack's, where Anne gave her prescription for an Eagles Super Bowl. Next stop was Dirty Frank's, where Simon gave a talk on the history of Lower East Side poetry. After-hours decompression commenced at the Pen & Pencil Club.


March 1 & 8- 6:30-8:30 pm

There will be a panel discussion/teach-in regarding the effects of the Patriot Act. Panelists will include: Lynne Stewart attorney from New York who is still facing charges stemming from an indictment by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft; Mara Verheyden-Hillard of the Partnership for Civic Justice from Washington, DC, who has been an outspoken national opponent of the Patriot Act; and Philadelphia activists: Berta Joubert-Ceci of the International Action Center Shafik El-Amin from the Minority Experience Network. The event is open to the public. Classes will be in Anderson Hall at Berks Street & 12th St. on Temple University campus.

March 4- 4pm

Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) gathering at City Hall. DIY street education, open mic hijinks & whatever you make it.

March 6- 3-5pm

Robin's Bookstore, 108 S. 13th St.
Refusing to Kill: An Afternoon of Refusing the Military.

Coordinated by Payday & GWS. Sponsors: AFSC Nat’l Youth & Militarism Program, Brandywine Peace Community, Every Mother is a Working Mother, Phila Lesbian & Gay Task Force, Wages Due Lesbians.

With: Stephen Funk, a gay Marine of Filipino & Native American descent just out of jail for refusing to go to Iraq; Rev. Dorothy Mackey, Exec Director of STAAAMP (Survivors Taking Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel), former US Air Force Captain and Commander, multiple rape & military abuse survivor; a video of Israeli refusenik Asaf-Shal Trauling, reps from the Refuser Solidarity Network; Linda Dann from Military Families Speak Out.

See you Saturday.

Frank Sherlock

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