Friday, December 31, 2004

Joshua Schuster: An insurrection at the level of Page B10. 

Joshua Schuster had a poem published yesterday in The Philadelphia Inquirer, entitled "Long lines" -- for last-minute pictures (A poem for newspapers). There are many probing lines in the smart and first-rate poem including: "Use news to overcome news."



Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Susan Sontag, one of America’s most influential intellectuals, internationally renowned for the passionate engagement and breadth of her critical intelligence and her ardent activism in the cause of human rights, died today of leukemia. She was 71. The author of 17 books translated into 32 languages, she vaulted to public attention and critical acclaim with the 1964 publication of "Notes on Camp," written for Partisan Review and included in "Against Interpretation," her first collection of essays, published two years later.

Read The LA Times OBIT


Monday, December 27, 2004



WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2004, 8:30-10:30
(yes, that does mean two minutes per poet. what a bargain!)

HIGHWIRE GALLERY 1315 Cherry St., 4th floor free and open to the public

Readers include: Will Alexander Kazim Ali Rae Armantrout Herman Beavers Charles Bernstein David Buuck Louis Cabri C.A. Conrad Brent Cunningham Michael Davidson Tom Devaney Linh Dinh Greg Djanikian Rachel DuPlessis Patrick Durgin Norman Finkelstein Kristin Gallagher C.S. Giscombe Loren Goodman Hassen Bill Howe Jessica Lowenthal Pattie McCarthy Chris McCreary Jenn McCreary Mark McMorris Mike Magee Camille Martin Steve McCaffery Laura Moriarty Eileen Myles Jena Osman Bob Perelman Ethel Rackin Kathy Lou Schultz Frank Sherlock Ron Silliman Juliana Spahr Chris Stroffolino Kevin Varrone Mark Wallace Barrett Watten

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The PACE Action Debut 


PACE (Poet Activist Community Extension) Reminds Last-Minute Shoppers of the Realities of War

Philadelphia, PA December 26, 2004

A loose-knit organization of experimental poets gave guerilla readings in Philadelphia’s shopping districts on Christmas Eve morning. CA Conrad, Linh Dinh, Mytili Jagannathan & Frank Sherlock recited their work while handing out holiday cards & anti-war poems outside the Gallery, Liberty Place & Rittenhouse Square. The holiday PACE action was designed to urge shoppers to take the Iraq war discussion home to their Christmas dinner tables. Sherlock, who also curates a Philadelphia reading series, explains. "The Najaf occupation doesn’t take a holiday, & there’s no Christmas vacation for Americans serving in Mosul. We need to keep those suffering overseas in our thoughts."

Each of the poets have been politically active with local organizations. Conrad has worked with the Global Women’s Strike, while Jagannathan spent years working with the Asian Arts Initiative. Sherlock has produced benefit poetry readings for the Philadelphia Independent Media Center & R2K Legal. Linh Dinh returned to Philadelphia earlier this year from Italy where he was living as a guest of the Paris-based International Parliament of Writers. He was greatly concerned with the tone of political discourse upon his return. "I knew some people might confuse us for Jesus freaks and other types of raving maniacs, but the reading was at least a symbolic protest against the bizarre business-as-usual solipsism pervading a country that's killing and torturing on a daily basis."

PACE (Italian for “peace”) is planning further poetry actions in the coming year to take their work & their message beyond the libraries, galleries & bookstores. The Christmas Eve street readings launched the organization’s Poems to Philadelphia Project for 2005.

For photos of the event, or samples of the holiday cards, fliers & broadsides, contact:

Frank Sherlock

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Fanny Howe's "On the Ground" in Philadelphia Inquirer 


I have a review of Fanny Howe's most recent book from Graywolf Press in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Note the line breaks and spacing of the Howe's poems is not formated correctly on the Inquirer online:


--Tom Devaney

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

smoke gets in yr eyes 

I want to follow up on Chris' post supporting LaTazza by asking: YO, WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE??!! : Great staff (shout out to Frank, Tammy and Leslie, who along with the whole LaTazza ambience, made a cameo appearance in Jena's "swerve" reading), eclectic menu, eclectic jukebox, cool ambience (RELAXED), Don Riggs (say no more!), men's bathroom accomodates two, always unexpected events following readings (still amazed at the Friendster/MySpace goth/preppy party climax of Spring '04-- WHOAA!!). Wait, I hear a voice from the peanut gallery?...So there's smoke. Yeah. It bothers me too. But.. it's a BAR!! And this ain't New York...yet! I have endured the smoke and will continue to endure it for the many great readings Frank curates. (And really the smoke doesn't get unbearable until later, and if there are a lot of people). So, if someone is *invited* to do a reading and goes away unhappy --knowing already what to expect from a bar venue--, then my only conclusion can be that they *came* unhappy, or with attitude, and didn't expect to be satisfied from the beginning. One complaint in particular that I have heard is that there is an elitism that occurs at the readings. I think this is a misreading of what we understand to be camaraderie. In any group, there is a certain amount of jibing and in-joking, which might be misconstrued as elitist. However, I have never seen anyone who was invited not be welcomed into discussion (unless they engendered some hostility themselves from the start).

Now, Chris' post segues nicely into the issue of the Philly scene itself, which I've been thinking about lately and wanted to discuss: I think it's been HUMMING lately. The last several LaTazza readings have been great and great fun to be at. And now Jenn McCreary has started up the series at Benna's Cafe (cheers to Jenn), and I am happy to say the inaugural reading this past Sunday afternoon was cozy and congenial. It's a nice intimate space, a good contrast to LaTazza, and both Ethel Rackin and Kevin Varrone gave very good readings, and much of the community was out to support them and Jenn. This community has come a long way, and it's wonderful to see this level of support and camaraderie flowering in all of its internecine ways. When Greg and I started the Highwire series in the summer of '98, our intention was to *stir up* a scene and then to *stir* it, which I think we did on both counts. But I don't think either of us could have imagined that Frank would have soldiered on for 5 years and counting, and that the scene would continue to grow and be nourished, and that people from other places would come here and rave about how close-knit and friendly our community is. That sounds like something to be proud of, something in which we all have participated. After all, this whole endeavor in my view is as much about fostering and nurturing a community as it is about the poetry. Many of us have come together out of a common love for poetry, and have ended up with much more than that-- by strengthening existing friendships and forging new ones. We have moved beyond our initial formative passions to find other things to appreciate about each other, and we have continued to inspire and encourage each other's passions along the way. We have created an ongoing model of a community based on love, moral and artistic integrity, and camaraderie. And that, folks, in this day and age, is truly an accomplishment.

In light of these invaluable attributes of our community, the complaints that natter on matter not one drop.

Kyle Conner

The Validity of the 2004 Election  

Representative John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan (Congressional District 14), the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, has demanded a Congressional Investigation into the serious irregularities in Election 2004. Rep. Conyers has asked the FBI to become involved. He feels that he needs at least ONE MILLION EMAILS IN SUPPORT OF THIS INVESTIGATION to have it become a reality. Email him at: www.house.gov/judiciary_democrats/contact.html

In addition, www.ContestTheVote.org says the the

following: According to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, one senator and one House Representative are required to contest an election prior to inauguration. We have the representatives*. We still need a senator. Let Senator Barbara Boxer know that we want her to be that senator by signing our petition. The signed petitions will be delivered to her in person by a coalition of representatives from a variety of concerned organizations and individuals.

*When Congress reconvenes in January, at least 14 members of the House of Representatives will challenge the validity of the 2004 election. They will request an immediate "investigation of the efficacy of the voting machines and new technologies used in 2004 election, how election officials responded to the difficulties they encountered, and what we can do in the future to improve our elections systems and administration."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

... and when they came for me, there was nobody left to speak up for me. 

Nearly half in U.S. say Muslim civil liberties should be restricted
Associated Press

Dec. 18, 2004 ITHACA, N.Y. -- Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll.
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim Americans.
"It's sad news. It's disturbing news. But it's not unpredictable," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society. "The nation is at war, even if it's not a traditional war. We just have to remain vigilant and continue to interface."

The survey found 44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted in any way.
The survey showed that 27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.

Cornell student researchers questioned 715 people in the nationwide telephone poll conducted this fall. The margin of error was 3.6 percentage points. James Shanahan, an associate professor of communications who helped organize the survey, said the results indicate "the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties" in a time of war.

While researchers said they were not surprised by the overall level of support for curtailing civil liberties, they were startled by the correlation with religion and exposure to television news.
"We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding," Shanahan said.

According to the survey, 37 percent believe a terrorist attack in the United States is still likely within the next 12 months. In a similar poll conducted by Cornell in November 2002, that number stood at 90 percent.

- Posted by Chris McC

Monday, December 13, 2004

Open Letter to Philly Poets and Beyond 

Hello Pobiz Folk,

Thankfully, as childcare becomes more manageable, I’ve been venturing out to readings a bit more often these days. In doing so – and in reading email lists and the like – I’ve noticed a semi-new and disturbing trend, both here in Philly and beyond: trashing Philly’s LaTazza as a reading venue.

The complaints seem to go like this: it’s smoky. it’s loud. it’s dark. the floor is too hard and it hurts my feet when I walk on it. the paper towels are rough and abrade my hands when I dry them in the restroom.

OK, I made some of those up. But you know what? Some of those things are true. You know what else is true? Every reading series I’ve ever been to has been in a space that was less than perfect – this one has a room that’s always too hot, the chairs at that one hurt my back, whatever. In my mind, it’s part of the price one pays for leaving one’s home in order to actually, you know, experience the world. (And I say this, by the way, as someone who in their current incarnation is a non-smoking, non-drinking, organic-soymilk-worshipping health freak; I'm not defending LaTazza simply because I like the opportunity to chainsmoke Pall Malls while watching readings.)

Here are my humble suggestions. Consider these a possible New Year’s Resolution:

1) If you’ve ever read at a series – or are scheduled to read there in the future, or continue to badger the host for a reading – don’t complain about the venue. Especially don’t complain about the venue while you’re actually there. You don’t have to have an Emily Post guide on hand to know better than this – it’s simply poor form.

2) Consider the fact that the LaTazza series moved to the bar because people complained that the Highwire Gallery was too sterile – too bright, uncomfortable, not really suited for post-reading socializing, which always took place in a bar, anyway. Also consider that the staff at LaTazza has been nothing but kind to the series and its patrons. While you’re at it, consider that this series is an ideal counterbalance to what goes on at Temple and Writers House and beyond – we need all of these things to offer a truly vibrant reading scene here, and without the LaTazza series, many younger writers would never make it to Philly to read.

3) Recognize that these complaints stink of a sad kind of cultural elitism that suggests there is only one kind of space in which poetry should be read aloud. This means that poetry should be relegated, I reckon, to the relatively controlled (and therefore inevitably somewhat sterilized) halls of academia. And, you know, that kind of binary thinkin' ain't too avant-garde, now is it?

4) Take a moment to actually thank Frank Sherlock for hosting LaTazza. All reading hosts deserve heaps of praise, but keep in mind that LaTazza isn’t part of Frank’s job – he already has two of those – so it’s not part of his salaried gig, or a hoop to be jumped through for tenure, or anything like that. My fear, honestly, is that if everyone keeps bitching he’ll finally throw up his hands and walk away. While you’re at it, thank Greg Fuchs, Kyle Conner, and Maggie Z. (though based on previous posts here, she might not want to be reminded of her Philly days, anyway) for co-hosting at various points in the past, too.

There are lots of things in this world to complain about. Whining about a reading series location, though, is just a waste of time and energy. When a cartoon August Strindberg wallows in misery, it's charming; when real-life poets spend this much time complaining about trivial issues instead of working to actually create a positive space, it makes me want to go back to hibernation and avoid the whole pobiz circuit. Sheesh.

Chris McC

Friday, December 10, 2004

Magdalena replies... 

Oh, Dear,

I just googled you because I miss you and I found your great letter to John Waters and then I found your entry about me saying Philadelphia was lonely. Maybe I should have qualified it as it was lonely FOR ME. Or it was a strangely lonely time in my life because of all the work I was doing on myself and the feelings that were coming up for me from the past that I then associated with Philadelphia but they were my FEELINGS Conrad. Don't be mad at me for having feelings. They were not meant as a slight to you or anyone. Although I guess I am a hypocrite if I don't let you be mad at me for saying that. Those are your feelings. I guess I just want to make it clear that I love you and that I miss you and I feel your loss every day, even if I do say I was lonely in Philadelphia. And I'll never forget that day we drove into SF and it was magical coming down Mission Street in the van and the newest part of the new world was bathed in sunshine and how generous of you to deliver me to a new place even though it meant that it would put distance between us. I am grateful for you bringing me here. I've lived many places in this world, and this is the only place that hasn't made me cry.

I will see you soon (in Philadelphia).


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jackson Mac Low (1922-2004)  

From: Charles Bernstein

Jackson Mac Low
a signal force in 20th century poetry
died this morning


Let me choose the kinds of light
to light the passing of my friend


[the] black light of absence
... revelatory light that is no light
the unending light of the realization
that no light will ever light your bodily presence again
Now your poems' light is all
The unending light of your presence
in the living light of your voice

(from 32nd Light Poem for Paul Blackburn)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

New Poetry Series -- Kevin Varrone & Ethel Rackin 

Please join us at the inaugural poetry reading for a new Philadelphia series…




this Sunday, December 12th


Benna’s Café
8th & Wharton

Brief – & controlled – open mic to follow…

Hope to see you all there!

--Jenn McCreary.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

An Open Letter To John Waters 

Dear John,
I have been dreading this letter for years. With each disappointing film (everything since Hairspray), I would rationalize putting the letter off with hopes for the next film. And I have seen each of them, and walked out on Cecil B. Demented, only to be talked into renting it on video a year later by my boyfriend Norberto, and I agreed, but only if he made us a batch of strong margaritas (Norberto makes killer margaritas!). And yes, I saw it to the end this time, and yes it's because of the margaritas, and we both moaned every ten minutes, and Norberto apologized at the end, and to this day porn is the only video I let him choose without a fight.

Anyway John, your latest film, The Dirtiest Secret, or Dirty Little Shame, or whatever the fuck you call it, was so stupid it doesn't warrant even remembering the title. What an awful fourteen hours that hour and a half felt like! I can't BELIEVE I sat all the way through it, but I can believe it's high time I wrote you this letter.

Listen, I'm fully aware of just how invaluable your earlier work was to my life. I was fifteen when I saw my first John Waters film. My friend Connie and I were walking by
the TLA Theater (or was it The Roxy?) in Philadelphia, on our way to trade pot for pills, and people were lining up to see Desperate Living. To be honest it was the crowd that attracted us, freaky, nasty, punky kids, and a couple of tall, vicious looking drag queens. The film wasn't new, the theater was having some kind of Favorite B Movie week, but I was from the country, and Connie from the suburbs, and neither of us even knew what a B Movie meant. Was B for Brilliant or Best? Judging by the crowd waiting to get in, we wagered it was Beastly, and we were joining the line. And we loved it, the deranged, impoverished slobs of Mortville, the weird lines, and equally weird plot.

Later that night we were getting high with friends and friends of friends who were fans of your work. These two guys I don't remember ever seeing again after that night were talking about growing up poor and knowing people like the ones in your films. And this incredible thing happened to me, I admitted to Connie and my friend Stan for the first time who I really was, where I had come from. They were both from a nice, clean suburban neighborhood, and both of their parents had been to college and drove Volvos and didn't get drunk and threaten to call the police on one another every night. Both Connie and Stan's parents were always making fun of the neighbors for not having enough class, and I was so embarrassed, especially considering that if their neighbors didn't have enough class, or anyone else in that neighborhood, there was no way they would approve of where I had come from. So I had lied, and said my mother was a graduate of Princeton, which was safe since neither Connie or Stan's parents had gone to Princeton.

But the true story was that my mother hadn't even finished high school, and was eighteen when I was four, and I have vivid memories of her washing my hair with hand soap from the dispensers in gas station restrooms, after sleeping in the back of the car because we had no place to live. And I remember one gas station attendant offering her $50 if he could be alone with me in the back room for 30 minutes. And I remember my mother throwing cans of Pepsi at him and screaming that she was going to kill him, and he gave her the $50 and bread and peanut butter to shut her up and get rid of us. And I remember eating my sandwich in the car while she drove away and I asked her, "Momma, why did you throw the Pepsi at him?" And she said, "BECAUSE I COULDN'T FIND ANYTHING SHARP ENOUGH TO STAB HIM WITH!" These accounts that night after seeing your movie John, well, they infuriated Connie and Stan, who never wanted anything to do with me again, but not because I had been poor, but because I had lied about not being poor, at least I guess that's why. I mean, Connie accused me of lying about being a liar, and it was the beginning of the end of a friendship based on lies.

Your earlier films help set me free and I am grateful to you for that. Not that they made me proud of where I came from, but they made it okay, and that it wasn't my fault. And that was a tremendous relief, and with that came all the insights of human behavior around poverty. For instance, when you're poor, some people really do think it's okay to do whatever they feel like doing to you, even other poor people, because you're seen as worthless, a zero, someone no one will ever miss. John, your earlier films champion the filth and crime of the poor as they struggle to survive.

And those earlier films are genius! Your later work though, John, it's just awful. Awful plots, awful writing, stupid gimmicks, and too many fucking movie stars. I'm not going to lie to you -- especially since you set me straight about lying years ago -- I do think I understand where you have gone wrong since Hairspray, which was your last great film (and even that wasn't nearly as good as Female Trouble, or Pink Flamingoes). First of all, back then you were surrounded by so much wicked genius you couldn't fail. I mean, c'mon, Divine! Edie Massey! Mink Stole! Cookie Mueller and others! They were who you were, they were you, and made you. Your earlier work had grit because these people WERE GRIT! Most of the core group from those days are dead now of course, and so is your inspiration. Not only that but you're seduced by Hollywood because Hollywood is seduced by you, and you've whored your essence to actors who couldn't do grit if you knocked their teeth out and made them eat Divine's famous dog turd even if it was so fresh that it hadn't yet hit the ground.

My advice to you is to back way the hell up, STOP using famous Hollywood "talent." Get back to your roots, get back to your real people, or are you too posh for that these days? Well GODDAMMIT DO IT ANYWAY! You've become a DISGRACE! And what I mean is that you've lost touch with disgrace! STOP writing these scripts of yours! Oh god, John, PLEASE stop writing right now! You need to find another group of genius, speed freak, dirty whores to inspire and drive your lines into wakefulness! The spiritual smut has left you John. I am truly sorry to have to tell you, but it's a fact.

Please, please, take my advice, because I will never again pay to see another one of your films. Not unless you find out what you've lost, and title the film It's Okay To Come Back Now Because I've Got My Dirty Little Mojo Back And This Is The Real Shit Again.

Much love, but tough love,

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Magdalena Zurawski & Ange Mlinko of "minor america" 

The new blog Minor American is conducted by the blog duo Magdalena Zurawski and Ange Mlinko. More than once Mlinko's snide, elitist remarks have raised my brow.

But it was Magdalena's comment against Philadelphia being "the loneliest of cities" which pissed me off to no end!

I love Magdalena, she's a good friend, but I'm still pissed off! Loneliest of cities? What ridiculous bullshit is this!?

In honor of this amazing city, FILLED with it's endlessly interesting people and streets, and buildings, and museums, and bakeries, and pizza parlors, and river boats, and sex shops, and liberty bells (most especially the thousands of miniature ones in all the gift shops), and Benjamin Franklin's home and post office, and all my friends I love so much, and all the apartments I've lived in, and the apartments of boyfriends and the apartment of one boyfriend's mother's where we made the most delicious love when she was at church, and all the hot sexy catholic priests, and for the Amish with their pretzels, and for all the brilliant Frank Furness architecture, and for the bookshops and poets (even the ones I hate more than anyone I've ever met), and for the Polish and Gay and Italian and Irish and Jewish and African American community centers and museums, and for the noise of the children in the school yard who wake me up each morning as if I lived by the ocean and the tide rolled in, and for the taxi cabs and and pigeon shit and every other fucking wonderful blessed beautiful thing and person I left out! For all this and more, I am never lonely in this city!

And in honor of Philadelphia, I want to now reprint a page from my book The Leo Journals:

We walked to my apartment. My dead neighbor's mail keeps piling up. I wish he had sent the post office a change of address before killing himself. The mail he's not reading is starting to creep me out. Maybe I'll fill out a change of address card for him, send it to Alaska. He mentioned once he wanted to go there. Poor, sad little Owen. He was 22 years old. Imagine killing yourself in this city! It's unthinkable! This isn't New York or Boston, this is Philadelphia for crying out loud! Philadelphia is the city where you give someone flowers everyday for the rest of your lives! Only for Philadelphia will I risk sounding completely ridiculous! Leo understands, he knows this is the city! Owen, how can you do that thing in our Philadelphia? Get up, brush your teeth and shave through your frown! Hey, we miss you.

Dear Magdalena,
when you were in this city, many of us loved you and took you into our lives. You are my friend and I still love you, and I hope you are happier. But to be honest, Philadelphia doesn't need minor americans, we need great ones.
Take care of yourself,

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Cross Burnings in University City 

Check out Slought Foundation's event this Friday by blind African-American sculptor David Stephens.

- Frank Sherlock

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