Monday, February 28, 2005

Mark Rothko as Double Verb 

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday with Alicia, Hassen, and Christina Strong. The three of them were in the gallery next door while I was sitting with the Rothko Orange, Red & Yellow. It's not my favorite Rothko, but it's what I've got in this town, right? And I don't hate it either, frankly, and am beginning -- more and more -- to be thankful it's the only one, so I can see it without the distraction of Rothko paintings I'd like better, easier. Left with the one I have never liked so much makes me see it in ways I would never be bothered otherwise.

But I was looking at it, how the three inner panels (or spheres of influence?) aren't so much graded in their mere size, but can be seen as equal. Equal spaces of time, depending on the speed you choose to fill your eyes with each sphere of influence.

But I was looking when the big fairy walked in. I like big fairies, and hope to be one when I grow up (not really, but maybe, but not really, but maybe). Anyway, he had this era about his aura, a sort of 1980 era aura, with his hat made of thick braids of yarn, and his diamond cut hiss. He was with a blond woman and they both looked like they were born and raised in Hollywood, or some other unreal place that sounds enchantingly annoying. But he started talking about Rothko to her, and then with her, both saying how much they dislike Rothko, and that all he is is rectangles in squares in rectangles, blah blah blah.

Really? And I had to talk of course, and it's one of those moments where you are confronted with having to define and defend at the same time, something you love very much, but no one has really challenged you quite so heavily. So it gives you the opportunity to dig it out of yourself, and it really pushes you ahead of yourself, and leaves you further along.

First I started talking about the room in the Tate Gallery in London, the room with all the Rothko paintings. I've been to London four times, and three of those times spent a long time sitting in that room. The fourth time the room was closed, and it kind of made me sick for a few days, and my friends wanted to know what was wrong, and I remember not being able to admit that I was depressed because the room was closed. And how I had thought about that room over and over, and on the plane ride across the ocean, and on the train through London, and the walk up the steps, only to have to rely on my memory.

My memory was put to work explaining the room, and it was the perfect direction for me to start, because it got me to describe the painting Red On Maroon, my favorite Rothko. It's the first painting I have ever seen where I can honestly say I finally understood the sincere smallness of being human in the massive scale of everything. Describing this painting yesterday is when I was finally able to SAY that Rothko was painting gateways. He was, and they are, years after his death, they are gateways, with long and marvelous passages on the other side, and it took being confrontational about the work to get it out.

The man and woman went off, and I started to write about the gateways, and now, more than ever, I want to see his paintings again. More of them. Have Rothko guided meditations, or just Rothko meditations, getting a dedicated group of us to SEE what the FUCK is on the other side of these gateways!

At the Tate, the room where his paintings are in is a shut room. You go in, and it's quiet. And you're there, and the long bench, and other people you wish would fuck off maybe, especially if they're talking, but it's a meditative experience in there regardless. The year I was the most solid in macrobiotics was the year I felt I actually got HIGH sitting in there, but it was probably too many umeboshi plums in my brown rice that morning.

Anyway, it was a nice breakthrough yesterday, and anyone reading this who wants to discuss Rothko, write me at CAConrad13@AOL.com


Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Yesterday at the Writers House for Lyn Hejinian's Q&A, Kathy Lou Schultz was asking about the wordings of, the categorization of where poetry is headed. In fact, I believe the one term she used by example in her question was, "post-Language."

What I appreciated most in Hejinian's response was her emphasis on how many "tendrils" are sent out by younger writers today, and as she said, tendrils which are not just dipping into the lineage of poetry but many other "things."

This makes me think about a poet friend of mine (won't mention his name, since I'm positive he wouldn't want me to) who recently said that much of the poetry being written today is a hybrid of Language School and New York School. It's something to explore of course, in the idea that these are two forces which have quite a bit of exposure and influence, etc. But I prefer Hejinian's approach, that it's much wider, that there's so much more going on and going into the poems written today.

The care of the identification of who we are and/or what we're doing is going on all the time of course, and it does help us see how the view is or isn't a clearing for everyone at work. For instance, this reminds me of the BANJO
conversation between Carol Mirakove and Kaia Sand, when Carol asked about the "Women in the Avant-Garde" panel Kaia had put together. Kaia said, "I chose the term 'avant garde' over 'experimental' because 'avant-garde' implies the social side of the work. There are a lot of ways to pitch in with an avant-garde movement--this is an inclusive frame. So many artists have shown us that if you want to extend what's possible, you need to build the ground to walk on--and that's collective action."

Kaia is always an inspiration because she sees the value of "an inclusive frame" as something vital to real progress derived from real determination for the self actualized: whole as body of many. It's all these ideas that make me have less anger for the competitive nature in so many poets, and more sadness for them. Those who have nothing at the end of the barrel of the gun they aim then their own gains are sad creatures. And I say creatures, because everyone I've met who fits this has gotten a kind of creepy, reptilian, jumpy, weird guilty-because-I-fucked-you-over manner about them that they just can't seem to ever shake.

Oh, by the way, two myths Hejinian dispelled:

1.) The blog that's floating around out there where My Life is being posted one sentence at a time has nothing to do with her. She says she has no idea who this is, and wants everyone to know that it is in fact not her. That was a surprise.

2.) When I asked her about the conversation that was going on after her reading/talk at Villanova University around the table of snacks about younger poets and politics, about how she sounded dismayed, she made it clear that she was talking about something specific to her region that had been going on. She also added to this that she wanted everyone to know that that Poetry Project Newsletter which had caused such a stir where it looked as if she was criticizing young poets for not having a political center was something that was taken out of context completely. In fact she went on to say that she feels younger poets writing today have shown themselves as having great courage and vitality.

more later,
p.s. after the Lyn Hejinian event I went to a nearby thrift store and found (for only $1) a 1958 EVERGREEN REVIEW, which has Frank O'Hara's "In Memory of My Feelings" as well as a conversation between O'Hara and painter Franz Kline. John Rechy also appears, writing on El Paso and Juarez. Poems by Creeley, McClure, Snyder and others. It's great, and I'm glad I found it, but at the same time it's really impossible to not notice that in a magazine which is 188 pages long, there's not a single woman.

Monday, February 21, 2005

more on Orlovitz 

Shit Tom! I can't believe I did this, but I forgot that Lou McKee was one of the other contributors to that symposium panel. In fact he was there to read from, and speak about, both Ice Never F, and Milk Bottle H, two experimental novels Orlovitz wrote.

There's so much that happened at that event, but I remember ALL of it, as though it had happened not more than a week ago. McKee actually gave one of the better readings, and I believe I forgot he was there because it always puzzled me a bit that he was into Orlovitz at all, considering how conservative I always considered his taste in poetry. In fact, it's the only time in the many years I attended poetry readings that I ever recall McKee and Gil Ott in the same room at the same time.

One more interesting moment from that event. I covered Miriam Kessler's sexual arousal from her poem "Snowblind" for Orlovitz, but what I didn't talk about at all was when Herschel Baron got up to speak and Miriam BOOED him off stage and out of the building!

Herschel knew Orlovitz back in the forties, so of course I had invited him. He was supposed to read from some of Orlovitz's poems, but when he got up there he instead said, "I always HATED Gil Orlovitz's poems! They were confusing experimental shit! And NOT ONLY THAT! But I HATE him too!" He then went on to explain how Orlovitz had seduced his fiance away from him back in the forties with a poem which had something to do with how many angels you can fit on the head of a penis. Something like that. Anyway, Herschel started to then read his OWN poems, and that's when Miriam stood up and booed and hissed and told him to shut up and get lost. Which he did. In fact, he never made it through the first poem. She wasn't going to have ANY of Herschel's poems at this event, no way, not Miriam, not the woman who had JUST stood up in front of us and touched her vagina through her pants and proclaimed wanting to be Orlovitz's whore.

Anyway, I'm sorry I forgot that Lou McKee was there. He was the only one in the room besides Gil Ott who had read those novels. And both McKee and Ott seemed to like those novels very much, and both men suggested that everyone in the room read them. Of course they are out of print, as is everything else Orlovitz wrote, but the Philadelphia Free Library has copies for loan.

More later,

On Gil Orlovitz 

Thanks Conrad for your post and mention of Gil Orlovitz -- I know of Orlovitz from my high school English teacher, poet Lou McKee, former editor of the Painted Bride, who turned me onto to poetry, and also first told me about Orlovitz. I have never read any of Gil's work. I only know of Lou's admiration for novels like "Milk Bottle H" to name one I can remember. Lou would be a good person to talk about Orlovitz too.

Maybe Lou McKee was one of the few other people in the room at The Gil Orlovitz Symposium?

--Tom Devaney

A poem by Leevi Lehto 

Finnish poet, programmer, and translator Leevi Lehto will be speaking at Writers House on Wed. 23rd at 3 PM.

Here is one of Lehto's sonnets:

News From Otava

Mother is a poet, Father just for fun
a pseudonym to a well-known writer.
Loosing peace of work is a place to grow
as a woman lingers in this room's twilight.

Defoe makes believe to reader:
the fissure in his mind no other is than Paris!
Luckily, the well-known fixed-points -- the Paris,
neighbourhoods of Kamppi, Punavuori, where

that woman tosses in this twilight--
will all be connected, to form a pattern, where
somone also grows to reach his proper size,

realizing being androgyny.
One misty morning then the prisoner
escapes, and the story unfolds like a nut.

--Translated by Tommi Nuopponen


Sunday, February 20, 2005

reflections on reading Gil Ott's interview... 

Recently Kristen Gallagher gave me a copy of the form of our uncertainty: a tribute to Gil Ott. First, I think it's a great book, and I highly recommend everyone checking it out. And when you do, or if you already have, maybe we could discuss it.

But one thing right now that I want to focus on is the interview with Gil, conducted by Kristen Gallagher, Kerry Sherin, and Heather Starr. It's the beginning in particular that I want to focus on, where he's asked about feeling on the outside in Philadelphia. He said that people dismissed his work, and went on from there to talk about the lack of an avant-garde in Philadelphia. My first reaction was to feel annoyed, especially since I had invited Gil to read at the series I hosted in the 90s.

I had NO IDEA until reading this interview that Gil every felt this way. He was always supportive and trying to nurture community, but I guess what I learned in the interview is that, while he was busy being supportive of others, he was not being supported by others. Gil was always around though, even the Etheridge Knight years, and he didn't seem to approve of me hanging out and getting stoned with Etheridge and Carol Ann every chance I could.

But to be perfectly honest though, he was pretty right-on about the scene as it was back then. For starters with my proof to myself, when I was about twenty I stumbled upon the poetry of Gil Orlovitz. Orlovitz is pretty much an unknown at this time, but for a while he was kicking out some amazing books of experimental poetry and prose, as well as editing The Avant-Garde Reader, which included work by Cocteau, William Burroughs, and others.

Gil Ott was the ONLY poet in Philadelphia who not only seemed to know about Orlovitz, but liked his work as well. Everyone else I was showing my new poetry discovery to was frowning, saying he was a Language poet. Of course he wasn't, and wasn't even alive when the Language scene was forming. But anyway, it was exciting to talk to Gil Ott about Orlovitz. And when I held The Gil Orlovitz Symposium a few years later at The North Starr Bar, Gil was one of seven people in the room.

Only seven people in the room, and Gil was the only audience member not participating. Everyone else there was someone who had either known Orlovitz, or liked his work. Besides myself, there were only two other people from Philadelphia participating. One of the people to talk on Orlovitz was Miriam Kessler, from Harrisburg. She had dated Orlovitz back in the 1940s, and read for us her poem "Snowblind." I remember it very well because when I asked her what the Hebrew word was that she kept repeating, she yelled "WHORE!" It was about wanting to be Gil Orlovitz's whore, which was lovely really, hearing this woman in her seventies talk about sex and devotion. She touched herself as she read "Snowblind," which seemed to disturb a couple of people in the room, but I thought it was one of the most beautiful poems I had ever seen read aloud. I wish I had had the sense to record the event, and I mean with video, so we could sit down and SEE Miriam step outside of every acceptable boundary in our culture to read this poem which every word she clearly meant.

But anyway, my point is, only seven people were there, and only one just to watch. And the fact that it was Gil Ott makes me think about all those people who were at all the readings in Philadelphia back in that time. No one wanted to be bothered with the Orlovitz event because he was too weird, or something.

So this and other memories stand as a way to be thankful for the group of poets I know in Philly now! I have never loved (and I don't care how fucking corny I sound) anything like I love poetry, and it's wonderful to be alive, in this city, right now! Maybe it would be a good time for me to consider doing another Gil Orlovitz talk, or reading? Hmmm.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Exhibit Opening - Out of the Shadows: Murals and Personal Work of Inmate-Artists from SCI Graterford 

Thursday, February 17
5:00 PM
Thomas Eakins House, 1729 Mt. Vernon Street, Philadelphia

Join the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program on Thursday, February 17th for the opening of "Out of the Shadows: Personal Work of Inmate-Artists at SCI Graterford," the latest exhibit of work from MAP's ongoing prisons program. Special guest Dave DiGuglielmo, Superintendent at SCI Graterford, will speak about the importance of art programs in the Pennsylvania Prison System. Following the opening at 7:00PM, Brad McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry of ConjunctionArts, Inc., an initiative for the advancement of public art which engages divergent communities on civic issues, will present a gallery talk about creating compelling public art around issues of race and social justice. This husband-and-wife team work nationally and travel globally to engage with subject matter and images of pressing, and at times controversial, civic concerns for their large-scale projects. Whether you have an interest in prison art, public art or social justice, this exhibit has something to offer you. The exhibit will be up from February 17 through March 31, 2005.


The artwork for this exhibit is pretty intense, & Brad & Jackie from ConjunctionArts do really powerful work. The exhibit is free, & I hope to see some of you there. Um, in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention that "Special guest Dave DiGuglielmo, Superintendent at SCI Graterford," is my dad.

--jenn mcc.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

conversation with Ron Silliman on WOUNDWOOD 

First of all Mr. Silliman, WOUNDWOOD is a handsome book, as everything I've seen from Cuneiform Press tends to be. There's a lot of love and style going on. The publisher Kyle Schlesinger may well be America's Simon Cutts. Cutts's Coracle Press also publishes contemporary experimental writing with the older, hands-on, letterpress. In fact, Cutts is so dedicated to the art of traditional bookmaking that the cover of his own selected poems, The Smell of Printing (Granary), has a vintage photograph of a woman hand-sewing book spines. Mr. Cutts is now based in Ireland, but used to have a marvelous bookshop in London called workfortheeyetodo, where his handmade book creations could be browsed and purchased. Books of poems by Robert Lax, Ian Hamilton Finlay and the like, beautiful books I wish I had had the money to afford on that one very memorable trip I had made.

Besides the appeal of WOUNDWOOD's old-time book making, the poem itself has a bit of the ancient round to it, beginning, ending, and with a bit of refrain in between of reference to your Waterman pen. You've had this pen for how long now? What's the history of this pen been like? It's nice to see the pen, which is clearly significant to you and your writing, becoming part of a poem. Did you write about the pen with the pen?

I bought the pen sometime around 1980 or '81 at a stationery shop down the block from Zabars on Broadway on the Upper West Side. I'd given a talk at St. Marks the night before and had been anxious about it for various reasons (I'd never given a talk in NY before being a primary one, seeing Kathy Acker for the first time in a few years being another). But it had gone really well and so I was in a mood to reward myself & spent a fair amount of money on the pen. I wanted a felt tip and the Waterman wasn't designed to be one, but the woman at the store showed me just which refill to use to fit into the pen, so I bought it and maybe a half dozen refills.

I used it for everything that first year or so -- until a bit of the black paint along the side began to chip away -- and then realized that its most important use to me was in writing my poems in notebooks. So from that point onward, I've restricted it to that. I keep it literally on a window ledge next to the notebook I'm currently working in.

How do you feel about writing poems out with the hand, over keyboarding right away? I'm curious because this makes me think of Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess, where he insists the poet needs to connect with the force of creating the actual letters and words by hand to stay focused with the Muses. In this I hear an echo of Spicer's firm belief in poetry as dictation. I'm not trying to put supernatural words in your mouth, I'm just curious about your relationship to this Waterman pen and your act of creating your poems long hand. I mean, do you do it because it feels right, or because it holds the power steady for you, or both, or what?

I use notebooks for most (not all) of my work, but it's sort of the default position. I often spend a lot of time figuring out which notebook to use before I start a work and if it's one that won't accept the ink of a felt tip (which can bleed a lot on certain grains and finishes), then I have to sort through which pen. But there are some works that were written entirely on a typewriter (Engines in The Alphabet, for example), and others that were partly written on a machine (in Force, for example, the lineated stanzas were composed in a notebook, the prose sections on a typewriter). And I use the notebook in different ways. Often I gather a lot of material into a notebook before I begin -- these days it's into a Palm Pilot, and I used a Sharp organizer with a great little thumb keyboard for several years, but I carry Rhodia Bloc notebooks in my pocket as well. Right now anything that goes into the Palm Pilot is being saved for a work that I haven't started yet (tentatively called Whatness, tho that title is really just a placeholder at the moment). The other poem that I'm really working on at the moment, Revelator, is being done directly into the notebook, and that is its particular requirement. I have a third sequence that I've done a couple things with, entirely on the PC (the poem I read in the Rosenbach Alphabet work last summer is part of this group), but it's still just getting off the ground and I don't know as much about this group as I wish I did.

"The poet as spider, / notebook my web" comes up in reading WOUNDWOOD. When you read at the Philadelphia Free Library you were asked about your process during Q&A. You explained how fragments and moments are written into small, pocket-sized notebooks, which later get channeled into larger notebooks. Buck Downs has a similar process, and he refers to the larger notebook as The Hopper. When and how did this process of writing poems take shape for you?

Ketjak and Tjanting were written directly into notebooks, but while I was working on 2197 (at the same time I was starting Tjanting), back in the late 1970s, I began to keep parallel notebooks, one for the text and the other for my notations on structure. I had to use both to write anything down -- that was a pain. Then when I began to carry electronic organizers and pocket PCs, my use of these as gathering places seemed to skyrocket. Mayakovsky in How are Verses Made says that the 20th century definition of a poem is that it is what gets written in a notebook. That's a bit fanciful, but I've always loved that stance.

Besides making for us a window into your technical process of creating your poems, WONDWOOD also gives a bit of an emotional glimpse as well. At one point you write,

So few of that old gang
left against whom
to rebel, we must cherish them
as there will be no others,
no tiny growling man
staring up from his wheelchair,
no trimmed bard
in his rumpled suit
with his fastidious
hypodermic, tying up
now for his insulin
so famous and lonely
and uncertain.

How significant a role did rebellion play in creating the poet Ron Silliman? After writing this question down, it seems the argument could be made that rebellion is as emotional as it is technical, in how it may help shape process. But what do you think?

I think that growing up without my father around innoculated me in part from getting too close to older male figures -- that's just an accident of my parents' love life. But reading the work of Pound, of Olson, of Williams (especially in Spring & All, still the best single volume of poetics I've ever read), it was quite clear that all understood a major part of their project was to be able to respond to the world of their time directly, which meant without going through the mediation of their elders. So in a sense I've always felt that I was a "more true" Olsonian, or Poundian, by not writing in imitation of their work than I would have been had I gone about it the other way. I remember, back in 1994 or thereabouts, making a comment at Naropa that anyone who wrote "like me" 50 years hence was not doing what I had been doing. The person at the back of the room who applauded that most loudly was Allen Ginsberg.

At one point I'm convinced you are walking us through Delacroix's paintings, in particular "Ovid in Exile," and "Woman Eaten By a Tiger," and it's a crucial place to be in the poem, a test of memory, your "best pen" making another cameo. But what book is it when you write, "Yet I bought this book / that I already own / and no doubt could buy it again."?

When I bought a couple of book cases last year (or, rather, my wife, disgusted with piles of books everywhere, bought them while I was on the road), I got the unread ones into some kind of alphabetical order for the first time in nearly a decade and found over 40 books that fit that definition, even a few books I'd bought 3 times. I gave most of them to Kelly Writers House for its library.

You write, "Each page, once turned, / can't be reversed, / unread again." These lines for me were the most direct entrance into your title WOUNDWOOD. Although wood can heal from trauma, a scar is formed, always now a part of the whole. Like, once read, what's read is burned into memory, and becomes part of who we are, how we see and smell and react as a whole person, ever gathering these experiences of new pages through which to filter the world. Is this how WOUNDWOOD works for you? Or how?

Yes. Language, like fire, is a unidirectional experience. You cannot unhear what you've heard, unread what you've read. That's why we hate spoilers in our novel & movie reviews. I have a wild cherry tree in my back yard that is maybe 80 feet high -- it doesn't produce edible fruit, but is covered with these wild burls all over its trunk. My neighbors who are woodworkers all tell me that if I ever cut it down, they want it to make tables with it, but I love it where it is.

I'm living these days in something of a faux forest, the sort of suburban effect one gets on the Main Line, with roughly 20 oak trees, some poplars, a crab apple, a dogwood and that cherry tree all on our lot. Lots of raking in autumn as you might imagine, but our home and yard are 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding area come summer. So it's an important detail -- and after a few years you become very conscious of all these living beings with their own histories, lives, problems. The dogwood has to fight for sun from its spot at the base of one of oaks -- it's really too close. We put a bird feeder up on the dogwood, because we could do so at a distance where the squirrels could not jump to it -- we kept moving it out further & further (I think the neighbors thought I was training the squirrels to fly) until it got beyond their reach. But now the tree has grown and all these spatial relationships have shifted, the squirrels have won.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Irish and Jewish: Tom Devaney talks with Sparrow  

For the past few years I have interviewed the poet and writer Sparrow everytime he's passed through Philadelphia. We're currently editing these interviews for publication.

Here is an excerpt (mostly unedited) from May 12, 2002. At this point, I am suggesting words for Sparrow to bounce off of: a person, place, concept, idea--and he is responding to each:

TD: How about Robinson Crusoe?
S: Robin Williams. They’re the same. Robinson Crusoe is the eighteenth century Robin Williams.

TD: OK, here’s a big one: work.
S: Play. Because my work is to play. I always have a job where I’m playing, like I’m a substitute teacher so I represent the absence of authority. When I enter the room, it means there’s no teacher, there’s only me. I’m like a Shakespearean fool, I’m the person that exists to be harassed, to be funny, they can put on their headphones and listen to Jay Z, I’m like a walking vacation (Laughs) That’s my job. For that I get sixty dollars a day, which is not much.

TD: So, vacation.
S: Sober. Then I think when I go on vacation, I’m extremely sober. That’s the way I am. I have this countervalent personality. When I go on vacation, I spend the whole time meditating, reading, if I’m in the Bahamas. Then, when I’m at work, I’m completely drunk (laughter), metaphorically.

TD: Next one is Peter Jennings.
S: Jews for Social inadequacy. I guess when I think of the media I think of the Jews. Even though I’m a Jew I believe that the media is controlled by the Jews. Even though it isn’t. I like the idea that the Jews control the media. I think it’s an important American invention. It may be only in America that the Jews are considered to control the media. In Europe they thought they killed children and turned them into matzo, they were moneylenders, they were Christ murderers, but in America there’s this interesting pairing of Jews and movies that we couldn’t have movies without the Jews. It’s really important. It’s almost as important as jazz. Jazz is really the most important thing. The Jews have never been able to contribute to America what jazz has.

TD: Why? The new recent Jewish anthology of American Literature has SJ Perelman, Groucho Marx.
S: Plus every novelist after 1960 is a Jew.

TD: (With a board smile).
S: Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud I’m thinking of, Norman Mailer.

TD: Max Apple. At one point I was reading all Jewish authors for a while, like the last ten books I read when I was reading novels, so I wanted to read an Irish-Catholic, so someone said--read Mary Gordon.
S: Yes, I read her.

TD: So I read Mary Gordon. And then it turns out her father is Jewish, and he converted to marry his wife. So that was the first book I read, which was fine.
S: That is the biggest embarrassment to the Irish in American literary history. When I found that out I wept.

TD: An Irish-Catholic girl from Queens.
S: And she’s like the most modern Irish-catholic writer in the modern American world.
She’s Irish to the max!

TD: Yeah, her book “The Other Side” is great. All of her books are good.
S: Yeah she’s an interesting writer. Although now that you know that she’s Jewish, she seems a little bit like a Jew looking at the Irish from within.

TD: Well, yeah, it probably makes her more interesting actually, but she was raised Catholic. (Doorbell) I have a couple more questions.

--Tom Devaney

Sunday, February 06, 2005

re: PACE thoughts...2 

Frank, I'll be honest that I grumbled when I first began reading your post responding to my idea of combining flyers with political organizations, but the more I got into reading, and pushing my mind open, you got through.

In the end, I have to agree. You made it clear how vital it is to keep the engine in the vehicle it drives. It's possible that it gets a spiritual seed germinating that would be, should I say(?), corrupted otherwise.

It was the thought of joining forces with the Sharptonites to save the chickens from the deep fat fryer that got me pumping. But of course there's much that can be done for the chickens which would not involve PACE, and keep PACE clear of having something other than its own evolution at stake.

It's easy to get the jumbles in politics.

But all this really just wants me to get more PACE going. Let's get more PACE going. I'm ready ready ready, fellow poets.

Just when I thought I had reached a point in my life where I really KNEW my level of enthusiasm for poetry, PACE comes along to show me there's much, much more.


Two GREAT Philadelphia Jazz Experiences 

If you or anyone you know likes Jazz, and you're in town, check this out! NOT to be missed under any circumstances if you're serious about your music!

EVERY Fri., Sat., Mon. nights
at Bob & Barbara's Lounge
on South St. between 15th & 16th

Nate Wiley and his band have the mojo going if you like old, old Jazz. No one, BUT NO ONE in this town can play Smoke Gets In Your Eyes like Nate Wiley & the Crowd Pleasers. They give that song the most delicious funky slide out of your body experience you'll ever get hearing it. They have a Hammond organ, sax, and bass.

And about smoke getting in your eyes, it's no joke. If you don't like cigarette smoke then you'll just have to wear a gas mask. Last night I was there with Matt McGoldrick, Frank Sherlock, Nicole McEwan and Ron Swegman, and the air was a thick fog of smoke, and there were so many people in that little bar that it made no difference how much snow was outside, you were sweating.

My old boyfriend Angel took me there when I was under age, and I'm convinced the Jazz trio I heard back then was Nate Wiley's (they were in their 60's at the time?). The bar was only half the size it is now, and that's amazing, considering how small it still is, but at least you don't have to crawl on your hands and knees to get out (but I'm convinced Angel was hiding from someone that night he said we should do that, although it was pretty packed, and he was a very impatient kind of guy). Last night I was remembering all the drag queens I used to know who hung out there and got myself a little sad, as most of them are dead now, to AIDS, suicide, and in one case murdered. But Bob & Barbara's does still have drag night, and the Dumpsta Playas.

But COME hear Nate Wiley & the Crowd Pleasers! Relax with your friends, buy yourself the Bob & Barbara's Special: can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim. These Philadelphia Jazzmen are the music of many wonderful memories hanging out, and when you hear them for yourself you'll have it too.

Now for the second GREAT Philadelphia Jazz experience (trust me, there are MANY more than two, but these two are my favorites!)

Esau Coleman Jr.

from 10a.m. to noon

Esau Coleman Jr. plays piano at the Reading Terminal Market

This year Esau is 80 years old!
He's played with Duke Ellington and other giants. He's been hammering those keys all his life, and recently he told me when I had lunch near his piano for yet another dreamy listen, he said, "Man, I've got a brother two years older than me and he can barely move a finger without being in pain. But me, my music's kept me free and young! Look at these fingers!" And at that he flicked his long, beautiful fingers in the air in front of my face, and then let them fly over the piano.

Esau's piano always has three photographs propped on it:

1) from 1924, he's not even a year old, naked, laughing in a basin of sudsy water.

2) in his marine uniform, age 19

3) from 1950, he's seated at a long, gorgeous white grand piano, while playing for the Jimmy Chapell band

If you love jazz
then get your ass to the Reading Terminal Market!
This man is the music he's digested!

For the LOVE of Esau Coleman Jr., and Nate Wiley & the Crowd Pleasers!

p.s. my favorite new Philadelphia graffiti:
on southeast corner of 2nd & Market (on PW box):


Saturday, February 05, 2005

re: PACE thoughts 

The subversive power of the PACE reading is the citizen-to-citizen communication via poetry. People are intrigued by a different way of reaching out, a chance to publicly engage with minimal mediation. These actions possess the possibility to encourage those who witness poetry in the street to trust their own voices, as well as empowering their own tendencies toward expression beyond mainstream media.

Alliances with organizations (in print) threaten to undermine these very possibilities. The dynamic shifts, as the poets are perceived as agents of the advertised activist organizations. Trust in the voice(s) & alternate expressions diminish as the PACE poet is seen as a representative for a particular organized cause. PACE work can embolden individuals that are encountered by chance to consider divergent voices (including their own) in a culture that fatigues through deadening method & misinformation overload. Official political association (real or perceived) can be a barrier to that most revolutionary form of media- the honest exchange of ideas from one citizen to another.

Official associations undercut poetopian ideals that fuel the Debordian sensibilities. The magic of PACE can independently continue to conjure the spells of radical witches like the Situationist International, who proclaimed, "We are interested only in setting autonomous people loose on the world."

- Frank Sherlock

Friday, February 04, 2005

William Corbett in Philadelphia 

On April 10, 1989 James Schuyler wrote a letter to a young poet named Peter Gizzi. Schuyler was writing back to Gizzi who he had solicited poems from for his magazine O’Blek. In his previous letter to Schuyler Gizzi must have asked Schuyler “What have you been reading?” Schuyler’s reply included Frank O’Hara, John Weiners, Philip Whalen and this item: “I’ve been enjoying Wm Corbett’s books. He sent me a collected which is full of wonderful things: Que pense-tu, beau Sphinx?" Which is a line from the movie Les Enfants du Paradis.

What were those books Schuyler was enjoying so much? They were Corbett’s City Nature and Runaway.

The letter is included in the new collection .Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-1991 (Turtle Point Press), edited by Corbett.

Earlier yesterday Corbett gave an inspired talk on the painter Albert York and what he called York's "small and strong paintings" at Penn's School of Design.

After the talk Corbett read from perfectly smart, everyday-as-they-are-artful letters by James Schuyler (which he worked on and edited for the past 13 years) and newer poems of his own including a series of inspired and charged poems involving Franz Kline at Writers House.

Asked about his work as an editor (Pressed Wafer), his art writing, his editing projects, teaching at MIT, poetry and other work Corbett replied: "My work is all of these things."

--Tom Devaney

Thursday, February 03, 2005

PACE thoughts 

Talking with Mary Kalyna from the Global Women's Strike about activist flyers was very enlightening the other day. She read my post on the broadside I handed out in DC to protest the inauguration, and was amazed at the amount of e-mail feedback I received. She complained that, after all the effort put into activist flyers, they sometimes receive little feedback.

As we talked I pointed out how there were literally hundreds of different flyers from different groups down in DC, and that it's hard to keep them all straight, and to not be overwhelmed with the pile of information they are each wanting you to notice. But my flyer was a poem, and people enjoyed that, and wanted to respond, and share their own poems, share ideas about how poems can make a difference.

So how do you feel about starting to have your broadside for PACE readings with a poem and contact info on one side, and on the other side a copy of a flyer from a political organization you want to support and give time to? I mean, it can be whatever organization you want to support on the other side of your poem.

For instance, I'm VERY excited about the news that Al Sharpton is taking on the cause to boycott KFC because of the cruelty to the chickens. It's such incredible news that someone in his position is taking this stand that I want to jump on that wagon and make some noise! Already thinking about a flyer I can download about the cruelty of animals with one of my animal/PETA poems on the other side.

Of course I already know that the idea with a situation like this KFC boycott isn't to try to appeal to folks about animal cruelty alone, but to also point out the incredible cost to their health for consuming meat that has been shot full of antibiotics and hormones, and who KNOWS what else.

Hats off to Mr. Sharpton (once again),

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

On my seat 

I came back from lucnh today and there was a white and blue hardcover book on my seat:"Breath: Poems and Letters" by Antonia Pozzi and translated by Larry Venuti. There is also a photo-copied article: "Tanslating Jacopone da Todi: Aracaic Poetries and Modern Audiences," by Larry Venuti as well.

Thank you Mr. Venuti -- I look forward to reading both!


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