Thursday, July 29, 2004

How the Democrats May Just Blow It Afterall 

The gears have shifted, and the party is locked in cruise control. In the attempt to not appear as "Bush-bashers" or "negative", the Democrats have embraced unity rhetoric as a way of winning new voters. It's no longer time to divide, but bring together. They've chosen to run on their ideas. Again. And it's this kind of strategy that just may give us four more wars.

Many laughed at the idea of a Democrat president a year ago.  John Kerry has Howard Dean to thank for even having the chance to defeat Bush. His dynamic attacks on GeorgeII made it okay for Dems to finally go on the offensive, instead of Daschling out like lambs. The DNC is making a grave mistake by believing their own hype. It's delusionary to believe that most voters are actually voting FOR John Kerry. As Michael Moore said on the O'Reilly Factor, "People would vote for their right sock to get Bush out of office."

During the convention, Dean's been gentle (read: a snooze), Mfume said Bush gets too much blame, and Democrat cheerleader Ben Affleck is publicly calling George Bush a kind man. This is the new party line. But there's no room for dignified losers this time. If Kerry wants  to stay in the game, the party needs to turn up the Bush-bashing heat in the next few months. Kerry can only win by a vote of No Confidence for Bush. Too much is at stake to invest in the lukewarm senator's ego. It's not about him. It's about us.

Frank Sherlock



Wednesday, July 28, 2004

DNC in Boston 

Al Sharpton just kicked ass in his speech. i hope we can access it online!


Carrboro Poetry Festival 

i've been meaning to write a little something about the Carrboro Poetry Festival last month in North Carolina. sorry it's taken so long. was put together by the lovely, talented Patrick Herron, Carrboro's first Poet Laureate.

poet Randall Williams (who read some great political stuff with homemade dummy G.W. in attendance) & his partner Lissette let us stay at their superfab place in the woods. log cabin, built circa 1840s, replete with stiff humidity & a variety of luscious slithering creatures, intoxicating air & visuals, smirking felines that pleasure-kill squirrels and shrews, a dozen tottering chicks ordered fresh off the internet, an aromatic garden featuring thai basil, chiggers feasting on human flesh with great appetite as Lisette's plagued torso testified. . .and so on. . .

but about the event.

there's a link for the audio so you can judge the poetry for yourselves.

i was told that i missed a few really good readings.
those i did catch & particularly recommend :
Patrick Herron (featuring "The Blood Spattered Banner" & "Weasels Eagles Maldives Corpuscles" - each performed with appropriate disoriented &/or frenetic angst)
Mac Ivey
John Balaban
Linh Dinh
Lee Ann Brown
K. Silem Mohammad

everyone seemed to truly enjoy themselves. grinning monkeys. i especially dug meeting and talking with sharp Kasey Mohammad. also happy to catch up a little with Patrick, who was positively pleasant & eloquent, despite how (pre?) occupied he was. by the way, i imagine he & his wife have a newborn by now...

hmm. seems i can't gather my thoughts together enough to share any special moments or details about the thing right now. dag.

here's a snip from something Patrick wrote awhile back:
Festival an overwhelming success
*AUDIO & COMMENTARIES AVAILABLE* http://carrboropoetryfestival.org
For those of you who missed out, audio of the event is now available in mp3 format at the festival website.

The festival was a success in ways I never imagined. Two of the seven sessions were standing room only--especially amazing considering the festival was a poetry event unaffiliated with any writers organization, reading series, or university. I had no idea what to expect, but I never expected so many people would stick around for ten hours of poetry.

The excitement of the participants was palpable. I have never seen so many poets excited about poetry like they were that weekend. Maybe it was the weather, the turnout, the after-hours discussions across the street on a porch at a well-known watering hole. Who knows. But the gang just sort of, well, coalesced.

a good time!


Monday, July 26, 2004

Tuesday night at the Medicine Show  

Tomorrow Tuesday July 27th I will be reading from new poetry written over the past several months at The Medicine Show in New York at 7:30 PM. The reading is hosted by Suzi Winson and Fish Drum Press.

Medicine Show
549 West 52nd St.
(bet. 10th & 11th), 3rd fl.

--Tom Devaney

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

dream last night of a poet Sage 

My aunt Ruth's farm in Iowa. I'm looking out the top window of the hay loft in the barn and can't believe how long it has been since I've seen that much beautiful, open sky and endless, quiet land.

A voice behind me calls "Craig!" It's a strange, high-pitched, old man voice. And it scares me, like I'm a kid again, hiding from my crazy uncle.

Looking around, I see him sitting behind some bales of hay, and I walk toward him to realize he is the poet James Broughton.

I start to say something like, "Why are you here?" or "But Jim Cory says you died." He interrupts, smiling, pointing to my left hand and saying, "Part of you misses Iowa, it's that part of you, that part of you there."

"My left hand?"

"Your left hand, it misses Iowa."

I am looking at my left hand, touching it, poking it, while Broughton giggles.

Then he lurches forward, grabs my hand, kisses it, then he jumps out the window, flying away. Without hesitation I jump out the window after him and start to fall, and I'm thinking, "Oh shit, this is really going to hurt!" But it doesn't hurt, and it's the only dream I can remember having where I fall, and wake up before I hit the ground.

My left hand is broken. I can see James Broughton in the air, in the distance, becoming a dot moving through the sky.

Last thing I recall is standing there, holding my left hand in front of my face, moving the broken bones around, watching them move under the skin. But it didn't hurt.

When I woke, I pulled James Broughton's book Little Sermons of the Big Joy off the shelf, a book I had the extreme pleasure helping edit. The day it came back from the printer I remember saying to Jim Cory and Janet Mason that I was proud of us helping spread the word of this big voice few have paused to hear. The book felt like a sermon of the worldly on its way to conquer...something, and I'm not so sure what.

Let me share one of my favorite pages from this remarkable little book:

Quit your addiction
to sneer and complaint
Try a little flaunt
Call for comrades
who bolster your vim
and offer you risk
Corral the crones
Goose the nice nellies
Hunt the bear that hugs
and the raven that quoths
Stay up all night
to devise a new dawn

Not sure if there are any copies of this little chapbook left. But if anyone reading this is interested in buying a copy, let me know, and I'll contact Jim Cory to find out. My e-mail is CAConrad13@AOL.com

Sunday, July 18, 2004

PhillySound FEATURE in the mini-MAG 

is our feature in the mini-MAG

in order of appearance:

Greg Fuchs
Frank Sherlock
Tom Devaney
Molly Russakoff
Ethel Rackin
Ish Klein

thanks to editor August Highland for the request,
more later,

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

interview with poet MARIA FAMA on the SDS, the Catholic Left, and the Camden 28 

It was the mid to late 1980's when I first met Maria Fama. Actually, we didn't meet, the first time I saw her. It was at a poetry reading in Jimmy Tayoun's old Middle East in Philly's Olde City area. My first chapbook THE HANDSOME DEAD (really awful book to be honest) had just been published, and I was reading from it that night. A good part of the book was about my boyfriend Jason, who had just killed himself a few years before. Anyway, Maria walked out in the middle of my reading, not something you forget about someone.

But then I heard her read at Moonstone series a month later, and she read a poem about her girlfriend Anita, who had very recently killed herself. I'll always remember sinking in my seat, a bit of dread and a bit of an ill wind passing through me. It's one thing to read, to get behind the gumption needed to get in front of folks, but it's another to sit in the audience and hear this stuff. Also, it was very clear of course why Maria had walked out on my reading.

We became friends, and have remained friends all these years since. Every once in awhile Maria would bring up her days in the SDS, and her girlfriend Anita's politcal past (I mistakenly thought, as you'll see in my questions, that Anita was also part of the SDS). Recently, I asked Maria if she wouldn't mind answering a few e-mail questions about those years for this blog. The results are below.

Maria Fama is the author of several books of poetry, including IDENTIFICATION, and CURRENTS. She has been part of many documentaries and panels about the rich culture of Italian American writers. Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and she is a member of IAWA (Italian American Writers Association). She lives, writes and works in Philadelphia.

Maria, you've mentioned that you were the first person in your family to go to a university. And while there, you joined the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), which you say was interested in including working class students. You've also said that it was class issues which kept you on the sidelines, as more of an observer. Please share with us your views on some of these class issues in the SDS?

When I was in high school in the mid-sixties I had followed what the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, was saying and what it represented. I understood that SDS sought to empower all people to share in the social decisions that directly affected their lives. The Vietnam War was raging, the young men of my age, who did not go to university, were shipped off to fight and die in a stupid, quagmire of a war. When I got to Temple University, I joined SDS because I believed what our student leaders, all male, had to say about improving the conditions of the cities, about how the United Auto Workers gave SDS a grant to awaken political sensibility in working class neighborhoods, and how students could end the War. SDS talked about outreach, but the war galvanized it to organize anti-war protests, draft card burnings, and disruption of ROTC classes on campus. There was always talk of manning the barricades and I was in a couple of minor skirmishes with police.

I participated but did not feel comfortable with my fellow members all of whom seemed to me to think my working class Italian immigrant family background quaint and exotic. They were middle class, suburban youth, privileged, with money. I was working a part-time job as well as studying hard to maintain my scholarship. I went to meetings and observed and eventually drifted away from the group. From my perspective, I saw that the boys were always in control, while the girls got the coffee, the food, and followed orders. After all, everybody reasoned, the boys were the ones whose lives were at stake. Also, the slogans such as "Make Love Not War" and "Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No" (No to the Vietnam War as in "Hell No We Won't Go!) were used by the boys to pressure the girls to sleep with them.

As for me, I felt uncomfortable being physically intimate with men. I thought maybe I should try, but I just could not and this was putting a strain on my interactions with my fellow SDS'ers. I felt marginalized not having a radical boyfriend. Yet, I had not reached the point where I could say outright that I was a lesbian. Moreover, the militant rhetoric was starting to bother me as I was reading more about pacifist ways and Eastern philosophy. I also was very much aware of the Gay Liberation Movement, the Feminist Movement, and the Ecological Movement which were then gaining strength. I gravitated toward the Ecological and Feminist Movements on Campus. I worked at the newly feminist student organized Temple Day Care Center. I marched and occupied with other workers to the President's Office when the University threated to close down the Day Care Center. I also was part of the first Earth Day.

Though I tried to be an activist, I longed to be a poet and a scholar, so I stayed on the Dean's List and had as my goal to study abroad in my senior year. I got a scholarship to study in Italy for my last year at university and I took it. It changed my life because it allowed me to develop myself as a writer, to see the USA and its policies from the outside, to come to terms definitively with my sexuality, and to see other cultures as I traveled through Europe and the Mediterranean.

You and your girlfriend Anita were both in the SDS, am I right about this information? What was it like for lesbians in the SDS in the late 60s?

Anita was not in the SDS. She won a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, while I was on scholarship at Temple University. Anita only went to Penn for two months. She really felt the class differences there in the Ivy League. She said all the students were snobs and she hated it. Although she was brilliant, she felt herself to be a hippie, too, so she dropped out and went to work at Bell Telephone. Through friends she got involved with young people who were part of the Catholic Left, led by the Berrigans, who were actively working to end the Vietnam War. Two years later, Anita came to Temple to take courses, but she never completed her degree as she became more radical.

Anita was part of the "Camden 28." Tell us about this. What were they doing, and what about the trial, and the reactions from your families and neighborhood while Anita was in the news during this?

Anita Ricci was a part of the Camden 28, young, activist, anti-war persons of the "Catholic Left", including Father Doyle, now pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Camden and still an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. The Camden 28 broke into the Camden County Courthouse, shredding draft records and pouring blood on the files. They were betrayed by a young man of their inner circle who had tipped the FBI to everything. Therefore, they were arrested on the spot. Their arrest made all the papers. I was in Sicily when it happened in August, 1971. My friends sent me newspaper clippings of it all where photos of Anita and our classmate, Cookie Ridolfi, were shown. The papers used their high school yearbook pictures with the drape and the pearls.

Some people in the neighborhood said they were "bums" I learned; but many said they were "good kids" who did "the wrong thing for the right reason." This was what my family and the families of our friends and also of Anita's and Cookie's families said. By this time, many people were starting to be against the war as more and more soldiers were coming home in bodybags or crippled or sick and the war was seen on TV in all its gory details. People were starting to wonder why in the world we were in Vietnam and for what.

The trial of the Camden 28 was held in 1973 and again I was out of the country, although I read of it. There is also a documentary being made of it soon to be released. It was an unconventional trial in the sense that poetry was read and songs were played and sung. The fervor, the strength of their convictions, and the truth of the anti-war feelings prevailed and the Camden 28 were acquitted.

Later, Anita told me that her mother wanted her to comb her hair better since she was on TV on the News. Anita's mother brought her a suede jacket to wear to court rather than her jeans jacket so she'd look "nice." Anita said she refused the jacket, telling her Mom, "Ma, I'm supposed to be a revolutionary!" Also, Mrs. Ricci used to say how she made a big pot of sauce with meatballs making meatball sandwiches for Anita and her friends on the day they went to Camden and busted up the draft board and got arrested.

When Anita went underground, where did she go? And for how long? The FBI was going through your garbage and mail during this period, and after. How long did this go on, and what was the extent of the prodding?

I always thought Anita went underground after the trial. I do not know where she went nor exactly for how long. I reconnected with her in the late 70's when she told me she had "amnesty." She told me she had lived in Mexico and Latin America. She also had lots of brochures from Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and other iron curtain countries. Nevertheless, she would not discuss this with me nor would she answer any of my questions on this topic. She would say it was not good for me to know. In 1980 she visited China just as the country was opening up. She said she was going with a group from Penn. I asked the minimum of questions of her because I understood that she wanted to protect me. She often told me she felt I might be in danger because of her because she "wasn't a good friend" for me to have. I always would tell her I loved her and I didn't care since I held a job, had a regular schedule, going to work each day. Anita would then tell me that I was naive and that the government knew "everything" and went through the trash, etc. My mail was sometimes opened and put in plastic bags with labels, reading "inspected by U.S. Government." I learned in the mid-eighties that my letters to friends in Europe were also opened. My mail continued to be opened on occasion for a few years after Anita's death in 1986.

Your friend Cookie is the one who you say was the bravest among your friends. Tell us about her, and her involvement with the various political activism going on?

As for Kathleen "Cookie" Ridolfi, she has always been very brave, hard working, and determined to be a part of society. She also was one of the Camden 28. She went on to Law School, got her JD, passed the Bar, and worked for many years as a Philadelphia Public Defender. She was a prosecutor for a few years before moving to California where she had her own law practice and began to teach Law. She was out before the rest of us, continued to be involved with political activism, and created a stable homelife with her partner, raising three children. She is now a Law Professor and Director of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Eyes Wide Open 

The AFSC's Eyes Wide Open installation is currently on exhibit at Independence Mall(between 5th & 6th on Market St.)The mall is filled with over 800 pairs of combat boots with the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Inside the Visitor's Center, there is a multimedia exhibition of the words, images, and sounds of the Iraq war. Tomorrow at 3:30,I'll be participating in the reading of American military & Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion. The names will be read during the entirety of the exhibit to honor the dead recognize the true costs of the war.

Friday, July 2- 10am - 9pm
Saturday, July 3- 10am - 9pm
Sunday, July 4- 10am - 4pm

- Frank Sherlock

Thursday, July 01, 2004

THE INTERREVIEW #1: Buck Downs's new book GOLDEN TATERS 

THE INTERREVIEW is an occasional PhillySound webzine which reviews new books of poetry by interviewing the poet about the book.

with Buck Downs on his new book GOLDEN TATERS

questions/review by CAConrad

biographical information and contact information from Buck Downs:

I was born in Ellisville, MS & raised in south Florida. Family business was bridge & box culvert construction, with some horse-racing on the side. Mom & Dad moved back to Mississippi a little over a decade ago. For siblings I have two older sisters; one is a nurse and an educator in Tallahassee, the other passed away in Feb. 1988. I have lived in the D.C. area since late Aug. 1988.

Edge Books published marijuana softdrink. in what, 2000? sure. About twice a year I get asked to contribute stuff to zines; but distribution through the U.S. mail of poetry on postcards & stuff has been my deal since like 1993. Anybody who wants to get on the list and/or get a copy of Golden Taters should drop me a line: Box 53318, WDC 20009.

Getting your mail is always something to crack the day apart with Buck. I open my POBox and stand in the busy, grumpy post office reading your postcard poems, lost in my thinking about how you're thinking about the world. But then this GOLDEN TATERS shows up! What a happy surprise, a whole Buck book!

The first thing anyone would notice is that each line on each page is a different font. I've been obsessing to see if any repeat, but the important thing to point out is how each chosen font embodies the line of poetry.

One of my favorites is your font choice for "I can still smell your ass in my hair." It looks like handwritten, cursive script, which personalizes the line, makes it (I'm serious here) sweet. It's that font that suddenly turns the line into a note left on a pillow beside the sleeping lover, or on the refrigerator with a smiley-face magnet. Also liked your choice for "MAGIC 8-BALL MAGIC," which looks like the very same font on the MAGIC 8-BALL.

Of all your font choices however, the most impressive for me was the one you chose for "wasabi swastika dumptruck." Impressive because you found something that works for "wasabi" (Japanese), and equally works for "swastika" (associated most with the Nazis of course, but also Buddhists). It worked --I feel-- because of that sharp, stiletto "w" in both. And "dumptruck" worked just fine because of the absence of "w". Which of these words were you most focused on for this particular font hunt? Were there other lines you found tough matching a font to? That, and, is there anything else you'd like to share about the fonts?

type & stuff has been entertaining to me since I started to learn a little about it late in gradschool, an education that got filled out by time spent at Pyramid Atlantic in the 90s, taking some workshops, doing a couple projects, and hanging out with some pretty sharp folks in the fields of type, printing and paper.

A lot of the way I work these days has to do with balancing the load of difficulty as much as possible across time and space so that no single task ever gets out of hand. Despite all the little ins & outs of mad process, I can't honestly say that any of it is ever 'tough'.

When I loaded up the machine I use at home, one of the first tasks I did was to create type sample sheets, for Word and for Publisher, in 10 & 12 pts. So with a reference doc in front of me that says, 'this is Rockwell Condensed, this is Felix Titling' etc., it's a pretty straightforward thing to pick typefaces on the fly. So the task itself took 30 mins., but the groundwork that made it a 30-minute task started in 1998, when I bought that particular machine.

I'd like to think that when my working process works, it works like that.

The title GOLDEN TATERS has been on my mind. Hints some possible spiritual mechanism, or maybe I'm confusing this with the golden yam soup I've eaten with the White Trash Coven of New Brunswick? Does this title have anything to do with your "homage to Jonathan Williams"? If not, please tell us why the book is an homage to Willams?

GOLDEN TATERS came to mind as a funny name, one that would have some humility & some braggodocio cohabiting the space of the name. Then I caught it in my mind as an echo of Jonathan Williams's LONG TATERS. LONG TATERS is one of a number of works that Williams has privately published and distributed to a list of subscribers, mostly long-standing friends & colleagues.

Of course J.W. is himself a great big figure in whom humility and braggodocio pretty freely play like spouses, I think, so why not?

I spent like three months just thinking, "GOLDEN TATERS, GOLDEN TATERS", & then a little more thinking, "GOLDEN TATERS homage to J.W." while doing the mostly daily process of generating and metabolizing text that normally results in a poem or two each month.

& then rereading some books by J.W., & thinking about Bartram's Tree, Blues & Roots, Long Taters, and others, I got to thinking about J.W. as epigrammist, eavesdropper, and typophile, among other roles that vary in predominance from book to book.

so 'GOLDEN TATERS homage to J.W.' would like very much to synthesize this handful of discrete roles into a singularity in itself, much as they have been synthesized in the writing life of its model.

When we heard your talk at the Zinc Bar in New York (and again recently when corresponding with Joseph Massey) you spoke about "the hopper" being the place where you pull your material. Tell us something about "the hopper" and your process with it.

'the hopper' refers to the evolving, on-the-fly poetry management system I have been working from since 2001. I am a devoted notebook-poet; formerly one of those creepy turds who would sit in the back of the poetry reading & riff on his own bullshit like a little showoff.

Copying and combining text from 5 or 6 notebooks at a time was o.k. in re: manageability, but as it grew to 12 or 15 notebooks & more, manageability pretty much dwindled to zero.

So I got the bright idea of just typing up all the notebooks verbatim, and holding off the editorial process until there was a typedraft of some length. As of now, there's about 1,200 pages of hopper in like six Word files, & it continues to get added to, edited, cut'n'pasted & so forth.

The very first of the hoppers has had a lot of material mined out of it: a failed book called *Extratutionalized*, a pretty cool one called *pontiac fever*, etc. etc. In among what was left in that hopper were lots and lots of single lines; overheard ones & misheard ones & made-up ones, & as if I can tell the difference anymore where they came from.

A sequence of those single lines seemed like a low-impact way of bringing home the idea of that synthesis, and also performed another metabolization through these huge honking files that are at the heart of my method/problem.

Okay, I really have to ask this ---what can you tell us about this section of GOLDEN TATERS? :

brother clavicle dice

philadelphia demon world

take it home a notch

throw yourself in pathology

floppy memory

dragon with a devil's-tooth crown

Of course, one of the lines that I'm most interested in hearing about is "philadelphia demon world" which flows through the other lines to the "dragon" line which suddenly becomes a song. There's so many times I want to know what's going on IN YOU with a particular line, but prefer to know what's going on in me in reading it (as any reader should be concerned). But this is one instance where I thought I'd ask you about your own feelings, thoughts.

the name philadelphia has been trying to make a place for itself in my poems for a decade now, either whole or in parts, but it has never made it to a typedraft without getting busted & sent back to the notes.

Philadelphia has a huge crypto-profile in my eighth-grade civics-class mentality, but I had no concept of philadelphia until I got introduced to it through the poetry community that lives there.

& the idea that a real live creative gang of people always contradicts the hand-me-down'ed conventional-wisdom sense of the story is a deep truth.

"philadelphia demon world" could be a franchise operation, right -- "ft. worth demon world", "minneapolis demon world", the real-life cheesecake factory of spirituality and thought that passes for intelligent life on TV and everywhere the light of TV shines. Or it could be a play on "Philadelphia Freedom".

When I'm lucky there's not a particular thing going on at all, but a number of not-quite-things jockeying for their mutation into existence.

You end the book with ---

Baton Rouge
Jones County
Washington D.C.

These were the places where the material was written, correct? How different are the Muses of each place speaking to you? And also, all three locations are obviously Southern, and there's much talk these days about The New Southern writers. What's your response to all this --but maybe a better question is, what to you seems the way to understanding the vibe of writing south of the Mason-Dixon? And probably most important, let us know how your poems fit into this.

The little ending listette of the places where you got it on in your book has a blue-ribbon literary pedigree: Notely's *At Night the States* and Joyce's *Ulysses* are sufficent examples to make that case, huh.

It felt appropriate to make fun of it a little here. Those are the three places where I've "gotten my education" a.k.a., where I've lived since leaving college. There is that point to make: education starts when you quit school.

Talking about Southern Writing makes me crazy like those dudes who collect photographic evidence of Bigfoot. Does it exist? Did it ever?

But then I do lose my nut whenever I have to talk about "poetry" in terms other than "what I'm doing". So yeah, I have no clew what the fuck is up with the New Southern Writing. But it's not like anybody else does either, so I feel like I'm in the right place where that's concerned.

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