Sunday, July 31, 2005

Chris McCreary, I know I know 

Getting back to Chris’ statement: I went to a highschool that gave the same preference to football players. I hated the highschool, the PTA, but the players were friends. One of them did “slide through” and went to a good college on football scholarship. (I remember him, still in highschool, reading Xmas cards from the coaches at Harvard while I, with a better GPA, seriously good SAT scores and indifferent guidance counselors, wanted to rip his smirking face off.) And had his ego wrapped up into a sandwich baggie where it is still (he never became the Joe Montana highschool told him he would be, nor the Knute Rockne he thought he’d age into; he drinks a lot now ). And though I at times have laughed about this fact with the highschool nobodies he defined himself against, I also feel like highschool cheated him. You need a Mr Miyagi; the Karate Kid was right about this. So was Hoop Dreams.

Also, I don’t know. Kasparov makes more money than Allen Iverson even. In Russia, Iceland, and parts of Brooklyn, he's God. Is he an asshole? I don’t know. He’s better educated than A.I. Maybe that’s the difference?

Will Esposito

rethinking video games, etc.. 

After talking in person last night with Will and Frank, much of what I have said lately on the blog about video games doesn't hold up like I had thought it did. Frank in particular made arguments that gave me clearer ideas that of course video games are nothing at all like remote viewing, etc., flash perception control, etc., and that I haven't had enough experience with these games to really make such optimistic conclusions. Also, Nicole McEwan was there, and gave me a dose of what it's like having a 10 year old son who is wanting to play Game Boy whenever he can. I don't have children, and frankly my life is such that I spend almost no time around children, so I really don't have any idea what these games really could be doing to their time, their focus, etc..

Let me say that Hillary Clinton's involvement with this argument made me squirm from the start, since I firmly believe she is hiding in sheep's clothing. Anyone with the conservative (and fascist) voting record she has and also feels entitled to present herself as a concerned liberal, well, it makes me more than squirm frankly, it makes me angry. Her support of the Patriot Act alone would be enough to send me there. And I believe she will use the data she puts together on the dangers of video games to help hold her mask in place when she steps forward in 2008 to prove just how caring and liberal she is. I'm not saying she's going to run on a video game platform, I'm just saying I think it's part of her many tricks in her bag. Just like voting against CAFTA is suspect when she was clearly behind her husband's support of NAFTA, and their mutual support and aid of Walmart, among other destructive forces which greased their own political ambitions.


Dream State or Drone State? 


If I can't speak about the rest of the world because of "my personal experience" with computer games ( although you are, given the opening to your last post), I'd love to know what games you're playing that are giving you the equivalent sense experience of an actual physical activity. Portraying these games as Gysin's Dream Machine or something similar is wishful thinking on your part. They're prescribed dreams with defined outcomes.

And yes, it does contribute to obesity & depression. So what if everyone you see who plays computer games isn't fat. Every child who eats at McDonald's isn't fat either. Does peddling Happy Meals to children contribute to obesity? I think you'd say yes. As I said, lack of physical activity is a factor. All the dream-states you can muster in childhood won't burn calories or build muscle in a way that training for a real sport or engaging in regular physical activity will.

I think I used the word moderation. I didn't criticize the indulgence, only the compulsions that come at the expense of face-to-face interaction with communities of children.

Dangerous? You used the word dangerous first. You said gaming wasn't any more dangerous than living in Iraq or bombing for democracy. I don't see the relevance to the argument, but never mind that. In terms of being "dangerous", television does present some of the same problems. Television watching is also easier for parents to enforce because of its lack of portability when compared to something like a GameBoy. It's also easier to dole out a start & an end time, given the length of a show or movie. I'm not advocating more TV & less computer gaames, but is that the only option? I don't think so.


Having A Ball 

This post may take things off topic a bit, but one thing that strikes me whenever I try to articulate my thoughts on sports is how bound up in my own experiences my thinking inevitably becomes. Having moved from a school where I was part of the sports establishment (soccer) to a high school with a very rigid football-based jockocracy, I spent a few years noting the ways in which the football players (and the cheerleaders, of course) were privileged – several of my teachers, for example, only knew the names of these students, not even considering the basketball players, say, worthy of any personal interaction. Throughout this time, I struggled to discuss any of this with my family, which is heavily immersed in sports, especially football – once when I got in a fight with a football player, my dad’s immediate response was, “What did you do to make him mad?” So I’ve never gotten back that common language of sports talk I had in childhood, which has made conversation with family and (male) strangers difficult at times - at this point, I have no real hostility toward the sport (or its fans), but I have no interest, either.

When I teach, I’ve learned that I can’t generalize about student athletes more than anyone else. But I do think that their experience with athletics in high school shapes how they approach athletics in college – if they learned discipline and the importance of balancing sports with a rigorous approach to academics, they’re a much different student to teach than someone who slid through high schools like mine because they were treated as extraordinary simply because they could play ball. At this point, I actually feel compassion toward those folks because I think the transition to college is really tough for them – I’ve had a couple of freshman athletes seem literally bewildered that work was expected of them!

And I wonder, too, if aggression isn’t so much linked to the sport itself as the culture built around it. I mean, if chess players were exalted, given money and sex and drugs to woo them, how would they behave? Would a public that worships chess players be better off in terms of its relationship to violence, for that matter? I’m tempted to think that it’s more the power – and lack of restraint placed upon them – that leads to bad behavior among some athletes, whereas I suspect chess players (or poets) rarely get to experience that sense of being part of a really powerful hierarchy. I’ve seen similar, though much less physically violent and much more passive aggressive, behavior among “famous” poets, haven’t you? Give some folks an inch, and they’ll use it swing their di… sorry, “phallus.” Imagine if those folks wielded power beyond small press publishing or the sort of fame where a couple of dozen people in a major city might actually recognize them on the street.

Another note completely: I’m loving the new Bob Mould album, “Body of Song.” Songwriting, production, pand musicianship are all top notch, and he’s further integrated what was becoming the two distinct sides of his career: the classic alt-guitar rock vs. queer club music. It’s a nice companion to “Modulate,” his previous one, and it’s got me thinking about the long-term careers of musicians, writers, etc. – I respect the man a great deal for trying out the electronica angle 20 years into the game, recreating his whole approach to songwriting in the process. How many people have the guts for that? It’s been interesting, too, to see the album take shape on his blog, evolving from an acoustic album to the very layered collection it became. (And how odd, too, that this once ultra-private, kinda slovenly depressed-seeming substance abuser now lives such a public life as a sober, fitness obsessed openly gay man. A pleasure to see, I gotta say, even if it's hard to believe at times it's the same guy. Luckily we get that second act if we want it!) If you were ever a fan of his previous incarnations, check this album out…

Chris McC

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Super Mario 

I don’t care for football as much as I care for defending those who participate in it, who participate in anything, really. And so in this sense I have no beef with the person who wants to become a grandmaster chess player, or who wants to be seriously good at poker, or who wants to become the all-time high scorer in Asteroids, no more than I have a beef with s/he who wants to write poems. I just don’t like those students who would rather play games than do the reading assigned. But ask me how I would deal with a student who has been working at chess rather than Joyce, and you have a really interesting question. I would tell her/him, if they were becoming good at chess, showed promise, to leave school and pursue that. School will be here still even if you fail. But I’d find difficulty saying the same to someone becoming good at Super Mario Bros, because even though I can’t defend this, I’d say this situation contained a difference in kind. Maybe it doesn’t. But I wouldn’t want to jip anyone out of an education, which does not mean they have to be in college to get that, just that some people lack the motivation to educate themselves themselves. Not all, just some. And really it just comes down to reading, to learning how to read well, to learn how to choose what and what not to read. Maybe it’s because chess players have to read, have to learn how to make choices, to become good, that I’d advise these two cases differently. Maybe I'd just judge the person as a thinker: does s/he seem to be able to educate his/herself? The person who excels at chess really doesn’t think differently than the person who excels at most anything else, that is if they excel. You learn the elegance of the thing, how to be elegant in it, like how a poet learns to be elegant in words. And if Super Mario Bros did the same thing, then I’d approve it.

But football, you know, I have found to be the only way I can make conversation with people whom I love but have never understood. My father doesn’t read. He doesn’t understand what I do or how I do. But he understands Trotter, Owens, McNabb, Pinkston, etc. We have at least that.

Will Esposito

video virtual and the awakening extra senses 

As a kid I played video games but of course a very different kind. The one and only time I tried Play Station was at my Dad's, and it was fun. Weird to be playing with him, and he actually had to talk me into it, but it was fun. And I was thrilled with the angle of the world it presented, but after playing I wasn't that interested in owning one. Which is fine. It's the sort of thing I would feel the need to time, so I didn't spend too much of my time doing.

To say the "sense experience of such an activity is all but absent" might be your own personal experience Frank, but I'm not sure you can vouch for the rest of the world here. The mind activates the body in the dream state, why not a waking dream state? Why not in a state of concentration on a virtual landscape?

No, I believe the opposite here, I believe that these games could be the intuitive senses awakening for an entire new generation, and maybe in ways much of the world has lost.

And to be honest I have indeed encountered fat kids playing Game Boy, but they're certainly not the majority of kids I see playing. Plenty of kids who look like they probably play basketball or football on a regular basis seem to also have Game Boys. To make the argument that it's just a bunch of fat asses out there playing video is not true.

Dangerous? Any more dangerous than watching television? At least with Game Boy or XBox there is a motivating factor or involvement on some level. If anything the argument could be made that these video games are a step in the right direction AWAY from television. It might be difficult to find an experience more passive than television. In fact my argument is that video games are anything but passive.

As far as football, I used to have all kinds of judgments against football, but that was mostly about being abused by high school jocks. I don't have too many feelings anymore about it, and don't care about it. And maybe you're correct about all the things you say about the sport Will. To be honest I would like to hear more about what you have to say on football, it's interesting, what you say.

Lately I have been very interested in listening to poets talk about sports. When a poet starts to talk about baseball (which is what most poets I've heard talk about sports talk about) the sport becomes an amazing kaleidoscope I had never considered on my own. Baseball never did much for me, but I'm glad it does for other poets, that way I get to hear a whole new view on the matter, which is what I hope will be the case hearing you discuss football Will.


And More 

I agree. And the example of the ferris wheel gives a deeper insight into gaming; no one feels need to ride the ferris wheel continually, whereas I can sit until the eyes burn before a video game, suggesting, as has been noted, that this (gaming) is compulsive.

More on football: I think it has a bad rep among academics for three reasons. 1) It has been written that most NFL coaches are conservatives, as well, I imagine, older (college, pro) participants. But are we measuring the necessary moral lessons of the game or the lessons of the geographies where it is taken most seriously? Hockey is no less a game of contact, though I doubt that the coaches of the Scandinavian leagues would stump for Bush. 2) The advertisements that run during televised games speak for the imbecility of its viewers. But again, so what? On one hand lots of intelligent people watch football. On the other hand, lots of imbeciles watch figure-skating. Should we impugn sports altogether, and be rid of one of the few cultural terms that is worldwide? What next, dancing? Lots of imbeciles and imbecile conservatives dance. 3) It needs contact to be played; that is, it’s a sport not unlike soccer, wrestling, hockey, boxing, baseball at times, basketball, roller-derby and so on. Can anyone prove that the moral lesson taken from these games is one that plays out in social agression? Has anyone studied this? Can it not go the other way? Is not the concern about football in academic circles one that confuses terms, contact and violence? One might as well argue that the sedentary nature of writing makes shut-ins of writers.

Will Esposito

This is not About Football... 

Computer games have potential for great damage when they're touted as an "equal field for experience". They're not. They're virtual. Nothing more, nothing less. Kids who can't play football- well, they don't play football. They do other things that football players don't, or can't. But they're not athletes because they're great at XBox. They're just good at video games, & that's not an equalized experience. The sense experience of such an activity, is all but absent- save for a few developments on the technological horizon that goes to great lengths to mimic these sensual relations. These games certainly have a form that is no more spontaneous than any peewee football game.

Moderation is essential in gaming, particularly for children. This argument concerns time, not content. The difference between computer games & the Coney Island ferris wheel is that three & a half minutes later, someone tells you to get the hell off the ride. Off you go to eat actual popcorn, walk along the actual coast & smell the actual sea. With few exceptions, more screen time = less physical activity. This plays a large part in an American childhood obesity & depression epidemics that we'll pay for as a culture later. So selling the snake oil of virtual equalization to children IS dangerous.

- Frank Sherlock

Friday, July 29, 2005

video games football games and fuzzy senators 

This is a bit all over the place but I've been fascinated by the arguments you both make here.

Granted, I haven't read Johnson's book, only the article Divya linked for us, but at the same time my feeling is that these arguments are always only hitting a few key reasons for aggression, sometimes ignoring (for their incredible Goliath size they cannot be seen) everyday actions and idioms handed down from the likes of Cotton Matters, to Billy Graham, things which have implanted entire generations with sight of one form or another.

In a way this reminds me of the great concern and conversation in universities when Coney Island first opened. Papers and articles full of warnings that the roller coasters and bright lights will present a false sense of reality. Reading some of this in a book once made me gag with the elitist smugness. OH, protect thee from Ferris Wheels small, weak ones.

By the way, what about kids who don't or can't play football? And how about video games as equal field for experience, for breathing in --so to speak-- a spiritual human potential?

Part of me feels video games are a freedom for a bigger world within, and not exactly in the sense that the structures build the margins for them, but whether or not they are intended to set standards or equations for understanding and feeling, I'm talking about a freedom which cannot be set to form. The football field has the form, has the limits. Not the video, not the mind, not the life that plugs into the space with the endless inner bodies of a person.

Is it dangerous to live in this? Is it dangerous to live in Iraq? Is it dangerous to foster any brazen notion that Democracy is something bombed into a place and its people? Is it possible we're so desperate for understanding where the real shit is in this world that we will allow every single possible distraction along the way to getting there?

On the other hand--
Hillary Clinton should rather put aside 90 million dollars for a future study on how the Patriot Act (SHE VOTED FOR!!!!) is going to shape the young minds she's so concerned about. My lack of respect for Hillary Clinton isn't JUST in what she does, but that she does it as though she doesn't do it. She actually supports a fascist regime while playing the character of grace, of one who really, really cares. By example (besides the Patriot Act) she awards Sam Walton's Walmart and days later stands before unemployed workers with a brow so full of concern I wonder how long she practiced with a mirror.

She is a fantastic farce, as is every other senator who voted for the Patriot Act. None of them will ever have my vote, and I'll speak out with others to spread the word not to support them, ever again. And will only support those who wish to overthrow it.

In the end my question is what builds community, what is reaching out to mend this tattered fucking flag everyone's so afraid of burning?

Where is the courage? And why isn't courage about giving instead of taking? Bullies are not courageous, and bullies are only as big as their support staff.


Too 2am to Have a Title 

I would never argue that nintendoing improves anything but interface skills, in the whatever sense interface has. Nor would I argue that nintendoing and any other activity are exclusive. I would argue that the student who nintendos more than s/he should, in the broadest sense of should--well, you know that student.

I would argue that Johnson's argument, if his intent is to locate football or fussbol or ice hockey or air hockey in a culture of violence, requires the burden of proof. And I would argue that no such proof can be found--it has to be complicated. I would argue that hurting a real someone (probably a rare thing in any sport anyway) is more painful, and therefore more valuable, for the aggressor than hurting a TV something. I would argue this on the experience of having had to wrestle a real someone once with but one leg--not the kind of TV ghoul that menaces your imagined you. Ask me sometime what that experience was like for a 16 yr old me.

And no, I wouldn't consider positing football an escape valve, in the same sense as Netherlandisch prostitution, dangerous. I'm not writing that it is the same; I'm writing that this is what kind of argument you invite when you argue as half-assed as I think Johnson might be arguing here.

Doesn't Johnson know that Senator Clinton wants to be the moderate President? Doesn't Johnson know that he wants to sell books? Don't you? Why else claim this or that is ruining our children in sound-bite quips? Because the real reasons take too long to write: the outstanding pressures capital gets to put on labor, the fetishism of moolah, the disintegration of public education, and so on and so on.

Which then if we agree (or not at all) that Johnson is Monday-morning-quarterbacking about where we have gone wrong, then why write it here without appending your position to his?


Owls! Splendid Fowl ! 

Hello Will,

Thanks for the welcome, mate.Its good to be debating with you somewhere other that the corridors of Anderson.

It is somewhat curious that you contrast athletes with “those who Nintendo”, as if the two might be mutually exclusive breeds, acquiring the values of “discipline, respect and self-respect” via markedly sundered paths. Your choice to compare active participation in high school American football to enjoying the benefits of legalized prostitution in the Netherlands—citing the lowered rates of rape, intrigues me. Certainly, acquiring the veritable qualities listed above is not a mere side-effect of being involved in (worthwhile, well-taught )Amer. ft ball--ofcourse, I agree--- but with what particular nuance of being part of the Netherlands’ managed red-light district’s clientele does “butting heads” on the field compare with?

The use of tolerance zones in the Netherlands allows for better drug control and increased accessibility to the workers for the social services. However, they constantly run the risk of alienating workers who leave these drug dry zones and go to other non-monitored areas, including other residential areas. There has also been evidence that the licensing requirement for brothels or houses that allow the workers to become their own managers (in lieu of male-owners/pimps—in theory creating a safer workplace) have led to the industry being controlled by organized crime groups. Controlled zones also are in-effect aiding the country to wean the workers out of business through other means. However, yes, the rape-crime rates have dropped in residential areas--- making it safer for the residents, not necessarily the workers themselves. Thus, my question remains—what exactly is the connection between sex-workers, and Amer. football training/field? To say that they function towards similar ends (tempering aggression) is perhaps dangerous, no?

I do, on the other hand agree with your criticism of Johnson’s article. The man’s argument seems a little addled. Johnson, makes the very larval connection between children acting out real-life aggression and them playing what are thought to be conventionally violent video games, by citing “The last 10 years have seen the release of many popular violent games, including "Quake" and "Grand Theft Auto"; that period has also seen the most dramatic drop in violent crime in recent memory.” He goes on to suggest that Sen. Clinton look into the role of violent video-games as “safety valves”, that allow for the tempering that you also mention (but through different medium, to be sure). Johnson also appears to be of the mindset that “kids” do not need real world environs to explore aggressions, social ‘rules of combat’ so to speak, or resort to “thrill-seeking” activities--- he asks quite innocently if it isn’t at all possible that they can exhaust themselves in a virtual, simulated and perfectly artificial realm. This seems to me the most problematic blemish in his argument.

Although several studies have indeed shown that problem solving skills, interface management and multi-tasking skills are better among “those who Nintendo”, what Johnson appears to have forgotten is that actively managing simulated characters’ lives (given even the severely complex constitution of video games) does not carry the same stakes that actual participation (active, not passive) in American football does. And this is not only a difference of degree but, clearly the nature of the stakes—bodily, psychological, sweat-and-blood stakes.

The gross employment of statistical comparisons further annoys the buttons off my shoes--- he uses improved SAT scores to bolster his case for the playing of video-games, despite the glaring evidence that American students have been performing relatively poorly in more specific exams concerning World History, Geography, Western Lit etc. Neither does he consider the variety of changes that have been made (since 1971) in the process of coaching students for the SATs and the undercurrent of myriad social factors that allow/disallow for the accessibility to improved SAT scores.

O, Mr Johnson--- quite embarrassing, all this dabbling with Excel charts.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Superb Owls 

Hello Divya and welcome to here. Now let me write that I don't understand Johnson's position.

If his intent is to write that there is no discoverable loci for a culture of violence, that one might research any activity, such as football or writing, and come to the conclusion Senator Clinton thinks she’ll find in Grand Theft Auto, then fine.

But if he believes that football is a loci, or the loci, and that it makes murderer material of its participants, then I disagree. One cannot forget that it was Burroughs who missed the apple, and Althusser who knows a French prison.

I have found the athletes in my English courses more diligent than those who nintendo. What makes an activity worthwhile is how it is taught. If the aim is to teach discipline, respect and self-respect, to exercise, then surely there must be a Pop Warner coach somewhere teaching something like that. Butting heads might even temper social aggression, perhaps in the same way that legalized prostitution seems to have lowered incidents of rape in the Netherlands. Oh, to have the grace of governmental permission to do what one feels need to do...

Besides, even Conrad seemed to enjoy watching the last Superbowl, or watching Frank and me watch it, although he admits it may have been the first football game he’s seen.


b i t 

This is a rather striking excerpt from Steven Johnson's article in the LA Times.



"Dear Sen. Clinton:

I'm writing to commend you for calling for a $90-million study on the effects of video games on children, and in particular the courageous stand you have taken in recent weeks against the notorious 'Grand Theft Auto' series.

I'd like to draw your attention to another game whose nonstop violence and hostility has captured the attention of millions of kids -- a game that instills aggressive thoughts in the minds of its players, some of whom have gone on to commit real-world acts of violence and sexual assault after playing.

I'm talking, of course, about high school football."

-- Steven Johnson, author of the book "Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter," calls BS on Sen. Hillary Clinton in an open letter

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

HEY there Divya! 

For those who aren't yet familiar with Divya's work, check out her poem in the debut issue of DUSIE, an issue I'm happy to also be in, along with other fellow PhillySound poets Frank Sherlock, Hassen, Greg Fuchs.

Happy to see you Divya,

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

to one and all: my thanks 

I wish to thank all of you for extending a warm invitation and for drawing out a chair for me in this blog space.

Indeed, I have come to befriend some of you over several poetry readings, good brews, smokes, sometimes at oddly lit venues—-and yes, you have made me feel welcome from the very start.

For sharing your books, readings, living rooms and wisdom, I thank you. I am happy to be here.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

issue one of COCONUT 

Shanna Comptom let me know about this new magazine COCONUT and I bet you'll also want to check it out, lots of great new poems!

Friday, July 22, 2005

THURSTON interviews DOWNS 

Frank Sherlock inspired poet Kevin Thurston to do this interview with Buck Downs. It's great, and you should check it out: CLICK HERE

Buck fans making new Buck fans,

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Nominee Roberts 

If anyone is interested in how nominee Roberts has litigated abortion and reproductive rights, see here:



July 20, 2005 

I sit here in my raccoon boxer shorts, fans running all around, facing out and in they blow -- can my third floor room, painted yellow with a pink door (a hint of grapefruit) and crystal, glass, handle-knob be found on the aerial maps this morning? Ever quiet and ready my undershirt is a wet blank check I continuously write to the late July air. I'm rich! Soaking rich!


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Poem Machines 

Most poets I know these days compose on their computers, though many still write everything w/ pen & paper. I'm a recent hybrid, highly influenced by Buck Downs "Hopper Process". I begin with written fragments, then type them & print. I live w/ the typed fragments until they begin to connect themselves in some way. Then I score the poem in long-hand, only to type it out for layout adjustments. During the past year, the writing has gone best between 6-9pm- shrugging off years as a midnight writer.

Some are surprised that I write in long-hand at all, because my work doesn't seem to be "written". I find this incredibly interesting, because the act of hand-pen-paper contact seems vital to my composition. This is another way of saying that I just can't sit down w/ a computer & write poems.

I'd like to know how other folks work their poems, or get worked by the work. Send your writing method, preparations, time of day, post-writing exercises or anything else you'd like to share to thephillysound@hotmail.com & I'll post it here as they come in.

- Frank Sherlock


Tom Raworth:

I usually write with a fine-tipped black ink pen or pencil on blank unlined white paper, occasionally in a notebook: though with and on anything to hand when necessary. At some point I put it into the computer to store and print-out: I'd prefer to do this on a typewriter. Writing directly on the computer to me implies a mostly sedentary life, or a person who thinks of writing as programmable in space and time -- or even someone with a remarkably disciplined and retentive memory. No electricity? No batteries? What then?

Brett Evans:

I recently (re)discovered the magic of the Sharpie and used it to good effect at the funeral procession for the Chief of Chiefs of the New Orleans Mardi Indian tribes,Tootie Montana's passing, with a method, when mentioned to B. Downs, that brought the usual "no shit, pilgrim, my diapers were avant-garde" response.At this fun- eral, all photography and videography were prohibited to prevent graven images from being recorded (they should have also prohibited the sad Woodstock spin hippie dances, only displayed by a few whitees, such as Andre Codrescu's son, Tristan [sic] (gasp)). Who let the Trogs out?!

I used a yellowing copy of Joyce's Potrait as a backpocket notepad to bold over with poems via the permanent marker -- a journalistic/ poetic recording of the scene. Viva the no-whitespace- needed! from "Tootie Mantana, R.I.P.":





You can dance
if you want to

Thank you Dennis*

for canceling class

& letting me be


here in the street

* Trop. Storm /Hurr/Whatever

9 july 2005

Shin Yu Pai:

With the visual poems, I make sketches with ink on recycled paper, working out the shape that I envision for the piece before tackling it on the computer which may include working with text boxes, shapes, lines, and various typefaces in MS Word. Recently, I've been playing around with poems in Photoshop Illustrator.

With non-visual poems, I may start with handwriting out notes and phrases and at the point where the ideas are synthesized and ready to draft, I take it to the computer where cut and paste is much faster and easier, and neater, along with the ability to track changes and undo. Even if a poem isn't ready to be written, I may take the notes I have for it and transfer it to a word Doc or desktop post-it note - I have so many piles of paper laying around my studio that the computer just becomes a better place to organize this information and to limit waste. But putting these notes into typewritten form also energizes the language for me with a seriousness of intent and a commitment to the undertaking that some how makes things take shape much more quickly.

If I'm working on a particular series, I try to keep all paper drafts in a bound notebook devoted to that project or manila folder of loose leaf paper.


For me it seems impossible to write without walking, so sitting down at a computer doesn't work for me.

Beyond that is something I feel strongly about, something those who don't understand claim to be superstitious. They're wrong.

Creating letters, making them, shaping them with the pen/pencil is not simply a learned trick we get into us as kids, it's more, it's getting some ancient feedback with the conversation in poetry. This isn't even a matter of having faith, or anything like that, it's not faith that's needed but the understanding of our common flux. Everything coming in one arm, going through the cells, and exiting the other arm....

Psychic ability has nothing (at all!) to do with faith, meaning we're destroying one another no matter how positive we are we can't be heard when tearing someone down. This is not some New Age idea either that we all need to be sweet and hug all the fucking time, no, but I am saying ignoring what we have is boring and pointless. You are psychic, I am psychic. Writing poems is a place where magnets are uncovered. Creating those letters, actually making them on paper mutes sound on one dimension (or phase of one dimension), but places the force in the creator of the sound, which is you or me when reading.

There's no doubt in my mind we're bringing one another something exceptional with a song. Making it out of nothing is a nice idea, but far from true, especially if you take a letter, just one letter of your alphabet, sit with it, and understand it has come a long long way from many many mouths for you to investigate further. We're never alone here, in fact I've never felt so surrounded as I do when I write poems.

My favorite letter is the letter M. It's the 13th letter of our alphabet, which is no mistake. Look at it: M. It has five points that are five sharp edges, bringing together a significant concentration. 4 as balance with a 5th point which is the psychic connectedness. 4 seasons, 4 cardinal directions, and one place where we all meet together in this. If you put a circle around M you have yourself a pentacle. The circle holds the force in place, to be used as a battery, in a sense.

But back to writing, it empowers because it gets us into everyone, by making those letters appear, letters that get others reaching within themselves to have the sounds manifest. The reader and the writer are together, equals.

Can the poem be created on a computer? I'm not saying they can't, I'm saying for me they come cleanest when I'm out walking, getting the world under my feet, picking up on all signals out there, or as many as I can handle, then whipping out the little notebook and scribbling those letters that never run out of combination.

Once I used to imagine that it was probably horrible to be alive before alphabets. But maybe not, maybe the connectedness was more apparent, maybe no one had to be called a stupid flake for understanding.

Buck Downs has The Hopper process (one similar to Ron Silliman's), that you mentioned Frank. Maybe I'm too lazy, or impatient, but I go from little notebook to page. Then page to computer, etc., out with it from there. Some people like to see handwritten poems. I'm not that interested. This may seem to contradict everything I've been saying, but keep in mind I'm saying the writing with the hand is process, is psychic connection making process. In the end I'd much rather have our alphabet nice and clean, a strong font is always good.

Brendan Lorber:

Pre writing exercises are critical for my creative process. When I don't have a lot of time, which is usually the case, I manage to do at least these three:

Joseph Massey:

Walking, getting outside, smelling the skunks, the dogshit, checking out the bugs, the people, overheard dialogue, traffic, and so on, all crucial to the composition of my word machines.

The poems always germinate in notebooks. Usually small, portable notebooks. I like cheap pens, black orblue ink. I write the same lines over and over again, sometimes the entire poem or just a stanza, over and over, until it begins to feel like I'm not writing it -- I didn't write this, it's outside of me, etc. And then I can work on revising it, because I'm out of that aura of the initial impulse; I can see the words clearly.

Lately I've been reworking poems on the computer, but it's nothing like applying pen to paper. You can't really dig in on a computer. And the light from the monitor drains my poem-making energy.

I write in the morning and late afternoon, and sometimes very late at night, outside, after sitting inside reading and getting buzzed on other people's poems.

Strong Belgian beer sometimes helps me stream-line the process of feeling like I've forgotten what I've written, thus making it easier to revise; but booze is cheap magic, reserved only for emergencies.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis:

I'm intrigued by the question, as my writing processes have modulated a great deal over the years, and I use many of the mechanisms you name to compose Drafts. In fact, I have used and use all of the things you mention, but in different orders at different times of my life. To write one of the poems (which vary between about 3 and 15 typescript pages) can take between two months and six to seven months, with a few that were oddly faster, while other annoyingly recalcitrant ones, take longer, like a year or more. (The dates, pretty accurate/honest, are on the poems, but it is always hard to calibrate when a poem really "begins.") First I do keep "little notebooks" and do some notational writing. I have at times been very self-conscious about these, doing writing exercises a la Bernadette Meyer, but not so much now. Now it's just words, phrases, amusing scraps, of language. They are talismanic, but it's not clear what they contribute to the poems! They are like a parallel life form.
Then some odd notational material is simply written; handwritten, written on the computer, saved in actual or virtual files, available. Ready for action. For
Drafts, I often officially "begin" a poem, after all this prewriting and somewhat random collection of material, by bringing certain material together in a file and then simply writing "into" the computer. I would not, at another stage, have thought this was possible, plausible or even "right" (in the sense of a "rectitude"), but now I can simply write into (not at) the computer. It is what I imagine improvising at the piano is like. By the same token, I mull a lot over the pattern of all the poems to date and invent titles for myself as a way into the particular poem—I make (handwritten) lists of titles, for example, and often have plotted about 8 or 9 titles in a row. These do change, alter, modulate, a process that is enormous fun
to engage. As I am working through donor Drafts, or other materials, sometimes I will make handwritten "notes" on prior poems that start becoming useable lines. So
handwriting plays a clear role. I am also quite indebted to the copy, cut, paste mechanism of the computer in part because of working on long poems. I used to have
physically to cut sections out, and move units around with scissors and a stapler, but now, with more familiarity both with my own varying "sound" and with the computer, I do a tremendous amount of throwing material around inside any given poem (and throwing material out of a poem too, and into other files) in order to find the center of gravity of a given poem. The feeling is simultaneously like sculpting and "collage" as if I were collaging chunks of marble or rock. (Eventually the chunks become more refined, or let us hope so.) I am interested in big shapes, arcs of feeling or movement in these poems, and like also the sense of change-ups, so I am constantly reading, assessing, and either cutting, adjusting the order of things, and/or inventing. When I have bits, notational materials, I now often invent the
syntax that joins material. I used to leave the materials more notational and singular, for a rather imagist frisson of juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is still operable in the work as a whole, but syntax is quite important to me. Sequencing and segmentivity are also incredibly important to me, on all scales, from the order of sections to the order of words, and linebreak is an intimate part of my writing:I work in lines, and do not "add them" afterwards. When I am at a certain stage in the writing, I will make a hard copy, and over weeks of poking at it, I will handwrite changes (word choice, changes of punctuation, cuts). My train ride from Swarthmore to Temple used to be the perfect length of time and the right private yet public space in which to hear the poem anew and revise it. But even though my commute is smaller now, I still do this at other times; it's a way of having the poem settle into the page and into itself. In any event, I like to see the poem printed on a page and work at it there, too, in handwriting. However: again astonishingly, some poems never had any prior notes or any hard copy, but were simply written and revised on the computer without a trace of prior material or their own archive of stages. An example of this is Précis, which I wrote over two summers in Italy, where I don't (perhaps stupidly) have a printer. What interests me about saying all this is how at least in my case, my writing practices and the various platforms and supports and material apparatuses have changed in their relationships over the years. Keeping up with the changes is important; sometimes if a person feels "blocked" it is simply worth changing paper! And second, what is notable is how different parts of the stages of completing a poem seem to be associated with specific writing processes—but these might be different in each individual case. That is, person A might write on the computer first, then work in handwriting, and person B the opposite. For me, the computer now allows a freedom, pulse, and even
ecstatic reach; for another person, it might feel like a nasty little machine that inhibits or is not the place where "real" writing can happen.

Gary Sullivan:

Very generally my process involves hunting and gathering, sorting, sifting, honing, and re-presenting.

HUNTING SPOTS: The imagination, the literal (non-literary) world, the online world, books and other media, memory.

GATHERING PLACES: I've filled up notebooks with odd language seen in Japan, have
written whole poems in my head, have jotted down things in notebooks or on stray
pieces of paper that I've overheard or have seen or have remembered, have pillaged books for phrases, data, and ideas and typed them into a computer, and do a lot of Google searching, which I cut and paste into Word for possible later use.

SORTING and SIFTING: I tend to work towards finding commonalities among disparate ideas, phrases, gestures, styles, etc. Also, I try to create a space where intimacy is most possible. Other than that, I edit and tweak for sound, rhythm, and resonances (I was a music composition major), and in some instances for sense and/or narrative thrust.

HONING: It's best if I've set things aside for several months, or even years, before giving it another, "cold," pass.

RE-PRESENTING: I may change things depending on the context into which they'll be presented. A post to the flarflist or my blog may not work for a magazine or book, and another round of honing, this time with an eye literally on what is going to work in the present context takes place.

Will Esposito:

I’m talking to someone reading returning and I think returning, from what? And I can’t start unless I have first lines. I write it all out on a computer without thinking. When I stop writing I look for a new word in a book to continue writing. The poem has been written in five minutes. I don’t look at it I go somewhere else. I’ll take away from it later. I don’t ever think about it meaning until I promise never to work on it again. I think the best poems I’ve written I’ve written all at once. I have a few good poems that have taken a year to write, but just a few. I have never needed pens or paper. I think it would be interesting to measure the change writing technology (quills, typewriters, ballpoints) has exercised on writing.

Lauren Ireland:

I doubt that I could call what I do a “method”. I wish I could; I envy writers who appear disciplined. If I don’t have something to write, I don’t write. I have no scheduled writing time, during which I would sit down at the computer and bang out some poems. My writing tends to be done on the fly, in a notebook or whatever paper is handy. In order to write, I need to be constantly moving and seeing and hearing new things; I rarely write about anything I think of as “inward” unless it is lent ballast by something “outside”. When I have written something in my notebook, and it plagues me all day, I go to the computer and copy from my paper scraps, and then immediately write the poem. I write it all, right then, and usually edit it directly afterward. It is almost as much of a relief as throwing up can be. I can’t really see a poem unless it is typed; my handwriting makes it look unofficial: a fake poem.

kari edwards:

I use G. Steins continuous presences with text, and what shows up or strikes me or some times is a miss-read or is triggered I write is down on a long pad of legal paper.. usually the text is connected in a thematic nature, so the process is some what dialogic. I work only with extra fine and very light pen. I revise and revise as I write everyday. than when that section of the piece is done, I transcribe it onto the computer and then revise as I transcribe. I then listen to the computer read it so I do not miss any words and then read it together with my partner. part of the last process is because of my dyslexia...

John Sakkis:

Laura Moriarity recently asked me a similar question. My response to her concomitantly related the actions/processes of reading (as prime), skateboarding, Dj’ing, city (San Francisco/ Athens),reading (as prime). I’m good for nothing but DVD
reruns of The X-Files after 5 PM so I tend to do my writing in the morning (on my iMAC and a cup of black coffee...how precious). My current project, MOUF, has
everything to do with conversation and Rap music (Bay Area), so lately I’ve tended to mash those two things together and attempt to proceed.

Adam Fieled:

I've been finding, over the past few years, that poems present themselves to me most freely between 10 am & noon. Am I the only one? Something about that time, maybe its' BBC World News on NPR at 9 w/ coffee & croissant, puts me "in the zone". I'm awake enough to write but still have some "dream-lag" going on. My conscious "ego-personality" isn't revved up yet (which tends to happen in the afternoon) & I'm not afraid to take risks. I couldn't even think of writing at 6 pm. How do you do it?

Chris Stroffolino:

For the most part my method is like yours; I think it's more "natural" and "organic" or at least somewhat less alienated. There are those rare moments where I sit in front of the computer to write a response to some email and that response turns into something more like a poem, but it's very rare and even when that happens I have to print the thing out and then go back to sitting cross-legged on the floor with a pen and revising it before i go back to the computer. it's funny because i just wrote a chatty little essay on music called "typed at the computer, but written in the sun" (which i put up on my Continuous Peasant blog) so I'm glad to see you bringing this up.

Diane Wald:

I have gone from completely handwritten short jaggedy poems (in my extreme youth) to (now) almost completely written-on-the-computer work. I say almost because I do jot things down on small pieces of paper as they occur to me or as I steal them from conversations or movies or radio programs etc. I carry a notebook but rarely use it, preferring small cut-in-half colored index cards or the like that I can stick in my pocket or wallet. Periodically I type these into a collection place on the computer and play with them. I am undisciplined about writing, except that when it has to happen it HAS to happen, at the expense of all else that might think it needs to be done (I have my priorities). I have tried many methods suggested to me by friends who try to help when I complain about not writing enough at some certain time, but methods like sitting down to write every day at a given hour give me the willies. What I like about writing on the computer is SPEED---it comes closest to keeping up with thought. Also I like controlling the look of things; with handwriting I don't get a good picture of the whole. Years ago when I started writing on the computer big BIG worlds opened up for my writing; I'm not sure why. The computer makes it easy to do a lot of things at once. Also in me it relieves a little of the fear of writing for some reason. Also I love cut-and-paste. And the possibility of typos that might reveal something. Of course I can easily imagine changing my mind about this again and going back to handwriting at some future point, either because of circumstances or on purpose. I had a dream once that I wrote something on the computer and came back later to find it different and wonderful.......but horribly when I woke up I didn't have the lines! In another dream there were buttons on the computer that could take you back to different times in your life. There was no button for the future.

Ron P. Swegman:

I find I compose my poetry (and prose for that matter)at any time and in one of two ways, which both rely not at all on invasive, cumbersome, digital technology. I save the Capitalist computer toys for one purpose only: printing hard copies.

My first method of composition takes place wholly in my mind while I run, hike, or bike. I find the steady rhythm of physical exercise will often open up an image, a word, or a phrase to its possible poetic connections with other images, words, or phrases. Musicality is key, as sound and rhythm are the basic tools for this technique, which can be pictured as anadditive spiral up to and including the final title. As the active time passes, words accrue, and suddenly a finished poem is ready for public performance; writing in the mind, for me, also seals the piece into memory.

My second method involves sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by several blank 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper. I use short gold golf pencils and begin to
write away when a good language scrap passes throughmy thought process. I say: "POETRY MACHINE activated!"out loud as I dip into the ether where my real surrounding's fade into the mind's eye space. If the initial inspirational pattern, shape, or tone color of language that has emerged takes hold, I find myself in
this compositional Limbo until the piece has finished dictating itself to me. Much time will have passed, and at the end I find this little document on paper to
document the cerebral experience. I must resemble a 19th-century print of an East Asian ascetic when I write in this manner:

Sitting on the floor,
He transcribes a clear lyric;
My, is he a monk?

rPs 07 19 2005

Kristen Gallagher:

Plato said "poets have ideas like an aviary has birds." And for Plato, that makes poets untrustworthy. That's fine, though I would say it is the words that aren't trustworthy. But, moreover Mr. Plato, IS birdly visitation or activity within a form NOT thinking? How many forms can an aviary take? Does it matter if a birdhouse be true or false? What happens to the birdhouse if a fleet of starlings shits all over it? Is it ruined, or just shitty? Should a citizen move away and rebuild to avoid a real, live shitstorm?

Not me, I have lots of modes of writing...I'd like to think I have come to live *with* poetry as a method of survival, a permutating series of strategies for engaging what I am confronted with in life happening. Bring poetry to fight back against the programmatic language of everything! Little Birds sounding the buzzsaws of the forest!

I like to write down great things I overhear. I collect funny sounding sentences. I like to remix and/or absurd-ify that which is treated as representative, like stock market figures or dictionary definitions. I like to recycle materials that I am forced to deal with at work, so that my brain does not become stagnant from administrative badgers. I take what is lodged at me, in me, and strum it into funny nothingness.

I see Tom Raworth has written to this posting with some hesitation about writing at the computer as "thinking of writing as programmable in space and time." For me, I write at the computer a great deal because I work (wage slave) at a desk where I am never to move (I need a new job, yes, but the market sucks, so here I sit, chained). So I try to stay creative and anti-disciplined through poetry.

For instance, after moving to New York I decided to engage in some poetic research of the stock market, since it seems our futures (social security) might depend on our abilities to invest and most poets I know have troubled relationships to money and capitalism. So I spent some time at my job using the bosses' resources to figure it. We have an excellent color printer, spiral binding hole puncher and boxes and boxes of those plastic spiral hook bindings and reems and reems of paper and about 800 kinds of publishing software! So I try to look like I am hard at work but really I am working to make poetry out of...uhhh...poop? (when life hands you poop...) Why not?? They steal me. I steal me back.

In other modes I write on post-it notes, as this also makes one look like one is diligently employed.

One angry day at work I re-wrote Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power" to make it into a critique of the disciplinary workplace. Here is a sample: "The 'good' employee is like a 'good' soldier: supervised or unsupervised, she acts only at the command of her employer; she acts instantly at the command of her employer; and she stands always ready to act.... Each command leaves the memory of a threat lodged in its recipient; those commands which find their targets are never forgotten.

"The man of authority rightly, though dimly, feels that all those to whom he has given commands still remember. At the limit, he is conscious of the danger he would be in if they united against him, and this fear, which is fully justified yet remains vague and unfocused, this endless subliminal awareness of danger, is the 'anxiety of command.' But in the course of a life it increases until, as in certain of the Roman emperors, power takes its toll in madness. 'Responsible for administering electric shock to his cohorts, in time the executive monkey became demonstrably agitated and, despite their injuries, he died first.'"

Anselm Berrigan:

I write everything in notebooks, then use the computer to figure out what I got. I just got some ribbons for an old typewriter, so I'll be using that too. But everything is hand to page first. That's it.

Christina Strong:

These kinds of proposals and questions (re: what’s your process in writing a poem for example) leave me with an anti-intellectual reaction (re: hey man, I just write and I don’t want to think about how I write) or conversely, these kinds of questions make me think a lot about HOW I create or compose, and not only that, but after I’ve thought about it, I want to keep it a secret. But it’s not a secret or special. I do not, for example, do something ritualistic like do a tarot reading, play some certain kind of music, or lay my pens out in a certain fashion.

But thinking about this question first reminded me of an interview with Billy Collins in FULCRUM magazine of all places...this in fact is part of the process of myself writing a poem but I will get to that later.... The interview starts off with NOT a question by the interviewer but by Collins himself who states:

Before you start asking questions, let me get right to the heart of the matter. I write with a pen, a Uniball deluxe...And I write sitting down. That would be it: I write sitting down with a Uniball deluxe, almost always at home in a chair by the window.

For starters, the arrogance of Collins’s statement at the very beginning is akin to holding your hand up in a “stop” type fashion and saying: “wait, I know what you all are thinking....” as if you or one were omniscient. Collins presumes that any interviewer, or anyone interested in him or his work, is going to ask how he writes, so the gracious Collins has taken the mystery out of writing, and for his mainstream audience who is so astounded with his writing ability, they are now able to understand: he writes with a Uniball deluxe in a very comfy spot by the window. The mystery of writing poems is solved. In fact, there is no mystery, anyone with a pen or pencil and notebook can write a poem.

I’m not going to debate the populist arguments of “anyone can write a poem” bc that’s another matter. I could argue that Collins’s interview and his poetry for that matter, dumbs down the notion of poetry but that’s another matter as well. But his opening statement is too flip to be taken seriously and a bit egotistical. Is there is a mystery - HOW does one write?

Mystery is perhaps the wrong word. there’s no mystery in jotting down notes on post-it’s or in notebooks, or directly composing on the computer…I believe it more points toward: HOW you got there.

And this might be individualized bt each and every person who responds…as each poet is in their own environment, the environment being a city: Philadelphia, New York, Boston, San Francisco, et al or a specific environment: one’s one room, a coffee shop, a bar, or on the job, or strolling in a park or what have you. So I am not answering your question by answering your question in larger terms. it’s not as if poets are struck by lightening when we’re cycling down the road or on our way to work and BOOM! A line of a poem just popped in my head and I must write it down now! Tho I guess that could happen. What I’m saying is that our poem process is not devised by “divine intervention from above” and if it were, I would recommend a psychiatrist. Unless one argued that they REALLY were channeling Hildegard de Bingen…

So HOW I write is not restricted to a pen and paper or a laptop, tho I may use both instruments. HOW I write is by listening to and sometimes participating in conversations re: poetry, or politics, or at its most blandest, talking about the weather, or listening to an inane conversation on the train. HOW I write is also relegated to the confines of my office, when I look at my 8 bookshelves and all those books on the shelves, or when I look at the news on line, or when I look at the stack of books I haven’t yet read, or…alternatively, leave the house and go ride my bike for a few hours…HOW I write is not just the physical apparatus I use, it is usually what preludes it.

Wallace Stevens composed his poems while walking to work, taking in the sights of Hartford CT, Charles Olson composed while walking around Gloucester MA, and while I’m not Stevens or Olson, I would say I compose by absorbing myself in my environment, whether I am in NYC, Philly or Boston…but to answer your question directly: I mostly write or compose on the computer. Computers weren’t around when Stevens or Olson were living. At the moment I’m blessed with a lot of leisure time, I lack a secretary to dictate my poems to, and I lack a wife to cook for me while I’m busy writing. The computer enables me to lay out my poems in a way that a notebook cannot. In a notebook I am restricted to the size of the page and re: writing and life, I don’t like to be restricted in any way. However, I’ve got a great collection of notebooks and post-it notes with random jottings. HOW I write: I collect and absorb. I have written this while staring at Stein’s How to Write and listening to The Shin’s Pressed in a Book and the Jam’s That’s Entertainment. One could make an argument about pen and page and the engagement of “writing” vs. the computer but I am not going to continue that thought at the moment. Tho I will say my penmanship is atrocious but unfortunately lately, all humans need to know these days is to press buttons. But at least I can multi-task at the same time...

I think your question, at first glance simplistic and basic, is in fact, not. Or rather, it is not as simple as a Uniball pen and a piece of paper and the lucky happenstance of a window view. What if outside your window you were looking at an alley filled with garbage? Can you then write and how?

Greg Fuchs:

So my writing process has taken various paths depending on my final outcome, the circumstances, deadlines etc. Currently I'm writing poetry and prose. The prose I write long hand. First I sit quietly holding my hands, back, hips, and eyes in a combination yoga/sazen meditation pose except that I'm sitting in a chair at my desk. After several minutes of deep concentration, listening to breath, focusing eyes on nothing I go to the notebook. Just write,trying to capture the bursts of thought, not editing, making notes, writing whatever comes to mind.

Later I transcribe what's on the paper to computer, revising, and changing as I type. Eventually I will print the pages, edit with pencil then go back to the computer, do this until I'm finished.

Currently when writing poetry I use a similar process. I have composed on the computer, that was a long time ago, before we even used computers that much daily, like in 1987-88, but the computer was new to me, I was just in college, and the language lab had a great computer room. I used to sit in there because it was quiet and compose poems, I liked the immediacy. For many years I composed on a typewriter, while listening to music or the radio, typing whatever came to mind, trying to catch a spiritual wind. Then I would revise in pencil on the typed page, carry that around for a long time, before I typed into a computer and printed.

Jenn McCreary:

I guess I practice a variation of Buck’s “Hopper” – mostly it goes like this: I carry a notebook of some sort around with me always, & write down things throughout the day – things overheard or read, bits of conversation, a line from a movie or tv show, etc. I’m also usually carrying around whatever I’m reading: novel, theory, poetry, comic, etc., which is subject to book-marking with scraps of paper &/or post-its stuck to the pages for notes (because despite Susan Stewart’s best efforts to break me of such hesitance, I still have a hard time writing in books). When I feel like I’ve accumulated quite a bit, or when I’m in the groove of working on a project, I type all these bits & scraps into computer, into a document that’s usually called something really clever, like “notes”. That gets printed out so I can carry it around, sit with it, read & scribble over it, cross things out, draw arrows, start to circle the things that look like they belong together, make more notes on that page (or pages). Then back to the computer, where the document gets altered, things get moved, start to look like poems… & then those chunks get lifted out of notes, get their own page or document. The chunks generally have holes in them, & I fill them in. & then mess with line breaks & what the poem looks like – for which I find the computer really vital.

Nick Moudry:

I usually start with sentences that I have collected in a notebook. I like to collect these sentences for a few weeks to make sure that I have enough material
and to make sure that the material is of several different states of mind. Then the real work begins. I generally go through these notebooks and write in list form (by hand again) the sentences that still sound interesting to me on a blank piece of white paper. On a separate piece of white paper, I begin to arrange these sentences into a poem. Only if I like what happens at this stage do I go near a computer.
Sometimes, though, I will use the computer to aid the arranging process, either through using a speech program to determine line lengths or different sorting techniques to suggest alternate sentence constructions.

Marcella Durand:

Writing on the computer makes me think about how printing and alchemy are connected.

Chemical and electrical processes take place and then there are your words, ready to be printed out, already in print form.

It's like I'm piloting a starship. I've always loved to press buttons.

Brenda Coultas says I'm the only person she's ever known to wear "L" off the keyboard.

I haven't identified yet what word I'm overusing that has "L" in it. Love? Like? Limbo? Maybe I use too many adverbs. Usefully, criminally, justifiably, juicily?

I'm so happy they invented laptops.

I have been known to write with a pen during blackouts, incited by neighbor poets Drew Gardner and Katy Degentesh in 2003 to hand-write collaborations by candlelight. I like the Pilot V5, .05 mm. And I like Rhodia's quadrille notebooks.

But the computer is my little room, my android companion, my ambidextrous expression, my printing press.

Jack Kimball:

Step One. Start with a simple index. Here's one I'm working on: off-track betting, beryllium foils, parallel parking, space weaponry and of course Ethics.

Step Two. I then turn to the Sunflower Newsletter and check out the Media Gallery, and I also look through celebrity biographies (chosen at random!), as well as scan (and rescan!) favorite treaties, ranging from the Pelloponnesian era to present.

Step Three (if I need it). I set up a fake hypothesis in my imagination and fill it with small word masses, and I put these in motion inside a kind of "cloud chamber."

Step Four (I'm really stuck if I get this far). I try some other thought experiments involving the void, which I fill with farouche words that give off magnetic properties, "canal rays" (like from Mars!), and semantic discharges, all of which I clump together into rarified syntax sets.

Step Five (ok, I hardly get to do this one). I start nodding off on invisible rays at some teeny tiny level of existence and I imagine the spontaneous disintegration of same until I find myself in a "half-life" where speech still matters.

Step Six (idealized, never done this). I model language as living matter revolving with impulsive energy coursing around particles of text. I might call this artificial transmutation of intelligence if poetry weren't a history of a people enslaved to procedure.

Erica Kaufman:

i always keep two notebooks. one is a lined steno pad that i fill with miscellaneous lines in my head or things overhead/found. the other is a more traditional lined notebook (preferably cloth bound) that i write or draft my poems in. i always write with a black pilot precise roller ball pen. in the past year or so i've begun to use the computer more and more. i begin in the notebook, then do a more complete draft on the computer, print it out, and then cut and paste back into the notebook so i can make my edits and play directly on the poem. i have no real set writing time or place. recently, early evening has been my most productive time. i usually begin any work time by reading a few poems by other writers first. lately i have been reading a lot of chris tysh, renee gladman, and robin blaser.

Phil Crippen:

I have the same habit as Anselm; I use comp books, and handwrite everything. When the writing finally gets to the computer, I keep various folders with various titles, like “Incubator,” “Good,” “Unfinished,” etc.

I have a new technique I have been playing around with that I call “Vocog,” and the best part about it, is that it is incredibly fun! I dictate with voice recognition software (hence the “Vocog” tag) into a Word document, and then format as I see fit. Using a heavy accent yields some great results. A sample can be found on my blog.

Kevin Killian:

Thanks for your interesting question. I hardly know how to begin. For months I've been stumped, unable to bring myself to write a poem. I wrote one on Valentine's Day, very much an occasional poem, to thank a friend who had sent me a DVD loaded with rare clips from European performances by Kylie Minogue. That moved me.

A few months later I had the chills I guess, from thinking about all the recent deaths of the poets Creeley, Mac Low, Thom Gunn, Rakosi, so many others, and in a row, or so it seemed, Philip Johnson died, Philip Lamantia died, and Philip Horvitz died. I had one other friend called Phil (Willkie) and I confess, i rang his number and when he answered I hung up, I just wanted to make sure he was alive, but how could you say that? So I hung up. Anyhow I wrote another poem.

It was a poetry of scarcity and lack. Nothing was working for me.

I decided to take a class to get me going, figuring, with assignments maybe I could make a go of it and finish the MS of my second book of poetry. In San Francisco there's a great artists-run nonprofit space called Cell Space, which has had programs for kids and teens for a long time, and now i guess they're starting them for grownups. I saw a class for "Lyric Poetry," which I had never thought much about, and it was dirt cheap, so I joined up, hoping for the psychic breakthrough I longed for. The class is taught by a young very smart guy called Ryan Newton. He's a poet and a printer and the friend of Cedar Sigo, Will Yackulic and Micah Ballard and just got his MFA from New College. I asked him if he minded me enrolling in his class, not wanting to (to be indelicate) step on his dick or anything. He was a bit flabbergasted but eventually agreed it would be okay. I thought of Jack Spicer holding his Magic Workshop and the first one to sign up was the Scots poet Helen Adam, who must have seemed incredibly old to all of the rest of them. But you know what, Frank, she learned something I think, from the workshop energy, and you can mark a note of difference in her poetry after she started working with Spicer and Duncan, Jack Gilbert, George Stanley, Broughton, Dunn, etc. And so i thought that maybe one is not too old to learn after all.

I like it! Have written six poems so far, and one of them is good! I'm taking 2 other classes as well. Just an overgrown schoolboy that's me.

The President of the United States & the CIA Leaks 

Frank Rich ups the ante slightly on the CIA leak scandal and its major players and the the spin in his piece in The New York Times today fingering the President himself as the major player.


Some Good News!! 

A photo from our recent wedding in Appleton, Wisconsin!!! --Tom

In The Flat Field 

Hey All,

I'd like to think that the Rove situation is a major moment of accountability for this administration - I mean, it should be - but I don't see it happening. Bush, I think, saw the last election as his only moment of "accountability," and since he won with a "mandate" (uh, no), he's free and clear to do as he pleases. And he's never going to give up his "architect," anyway. Even though Rove could easily move to a think tank, as Frank pointed out, I can't see Bush giving up Rove's symbolic place in the White House.

And of course the Democrats don't have the traction - or, apparently, the know-how - to actually capitalize on any of the opportunities they've been given. If the Downing Street Memo wasn't enough for them (or Abu Gharib, or the administration's lack of an exit strategy for Iraq, or the horrible economy, or whatever else you'd care to use as an example), how are they going to push the Rove issue in a meaningful way? They'd do well to make this into a security issue - I don't know why they don't hammer home the point that bombings in London, the Downing Street Memo, prison torture, and the like all prove that we're being made increasingly less safe under this "security" administration.

I had hopes that the parasitic, glazed-eyed press corp was actually pissed enough about having been lied to by the White House that they'd press the Rove matter. Alas, the coverage hasn't mirrored their anger, if they're still feeling it at all, and the issue's never really gotten more column space than Brangelina's adoption of a child from Ethiopia. Coverage would need to spike to the point where the issue really got in people's faces, I guess, instead of being just one more blip on that all-leveling CNN ticker.

Into the chasm gaping we,

Chris McC

What Would Rove Do? 

My question is simply this: What would Rove do if the tables were turned and there was a DEM in Office?

One layer of the Pro-Rove (he deserves a medal) spin is that people are blowing this thing up more than they should.

I submit that if the DEM's were in power the fire-storm on this would be relentless
-- and much more out-for-blood than we're seeing now.

I have to laugh when I think of all the hyperbolic Republican attacks that truly were a tempest in a tea-pot and not a breech of trust and accountability from our leaders, who are failing to lead here and simply out protect their own at all costs.

There have been lies and more lies are needed to cover those lies up. What is one to make of Rove's recent comment that he would have "no motive" to do what people say he did?

Rove saying he had no motive is a lie. I don't say that he is lying without realizing what a serious charge that is to make.

But why would Rove go on to say that Valerie P. was fair game to Hardball?

Rove's game is hardball; but he the first to cry foul when others do it, which is what Rove's Distractionist are doing now.

Those who attack Rove could learn a lot from him.

But let us have civil discorse.


LEAK-GATE: What's the Big Fuss? 

John Tierney's Nada-gate Op-ed piece in today's New York Times is out-of-control perfect in-control spin.

TIERNEY'S wistful and light (what's-the-big-fuss) tone of the Rove leak scandal is refreshing!

By the end of his piece I realize that "outing an undercover CIA agent" isn't as serious as people are making it out to be.

This isn't Leak-gate it's (I love it) Nada-gate.

We don't need to keep asking questions if it's Nada-gate -- nothing.

I am also glad Tierney doesn't get into the straight-ahead facts that federal law protects the identities of covert agents.

It's fitting that he doesn't spilt hairs about reporter Robert Novak's role in the so-called scandal. Do you believe some people are calling for Novak to get fired or resign over this? All over nothing.

Now we don't need to ask Novak who the "two senior administration officials" he quoted in his story were.

This is not an issue of accountability or a breech of public trust by the White House, I am glad Tierney doesn't get into that.

But I don't know, could Tierney's wistful tone be another kind of spin from those that would rather this all to go away?

It is certainly an effective way to handle it if you happen to think it is nothing.

If only it were.

Nada to Nada-gate!!

And to Rove distractionist like Tierney


Friday, July 15, 2005


I agree, Frank. Besides, to prosecute would require information the government can withhold indefinitely. It would need a direct admission of guilt from Rove. And I'll bet many who voted for Bush haven't even heard of Rove; those who have think this scandal is a partisan setup. Rove will survive because he's not an elected figure and has no ambition to elected office. He should win the Kissinger medal for freedom, democracy blah-blah.

Here's how captainsquartersblog.com, one of the most read conservative blogs, spins the story:

"That flies in the face of any notion that Rove set out to damage Wilson or Plame. Unless Rove wanted to set records for the laziest but most efficient character assassination in political history, waiting around for two different journalists to call him on unrelated matters and hoping that they mentioned Wilson doesn't sound like a very effective way to wreak revenge on a political opponent.

"However, the ability of the New York Times to publish this story tonight demonstrates the irony of their stance on the entire Rive [sic] story. In order to get this information, the Times has to have a source either on the grand jury or in the office of the Special Prosecutor. Either way, this leak violates the law; grand jury testimony in special investigations are supposed to remain secret. Given that the Gray Lady has led the charge against Rove and his supposedly illegal leak, doesn't this seem a wee bit ... hypocritical?"

Prosecute the NY Times instead


You Can't Fire Me, I Quit 


Point taken, that is if Rove is (dream on) fired. You & I both know that if the kitchen gets too hot, he'll resign. He WILL NOT be fired. He won't resign as an admission of guilt, but in the interest of not giving Democrats the chance to derail the president in a time of war.

I can hear Carly Simon singing "Nobody Does it Better" as Rove walks away from the podium to get to even more discreet destructions. I think the longer he dangles in uncertainty, the more damage the White House must endure. If he resigns tomorrow, it's over. And he'll be smearing for neocons all over again. Baby, he's the best.

Remember military felon John Poindexter? Remember the Office of Information Awareness? Most people don't. He resigned from one of the most aggregious appointments in the last 100 years. Where's the lingering scandal?

As far as Novak goes, of course outing a CIA operative is a crime. Like I said, he already cut a deal. He's presently being used by Rove as a diversion to soften the blows coming his way. Why is this difficult to believe?

I don't think a resignation will be seismic. It would be nice, though. I'm not saying I don't want it to happen, or that there shouldn't be maximum pressure applied. But let's be realistic. We both just want to see this administration accountable for their crimes. The Downing Street Minutes somehow escaped continued media scrutiny. That could have been a death blow, had the media (including the NY Times)had the courage to their job. The Rove Affair pales in comparison.

All I'm saying is that it will make little to no difference in terms of Rove's influence in the White House. His role has always been shadowy & covert. It may just be more so once he's removed from the photo-ops.

- FS

Bust Novak & Rove 


I disagree that it makes "little to no difference if Rove is fired."

This would be a seismic political blow to the White House.

True, it wouldn't stop them and won't stop the machine around them from churning and it won't stop Fox News and won't (I admit) stop Rove from doing what he does, in jail or out. But it will greatly discredit many people and actions, which need to be discredited and would be a major victory.

Today in the NYT Paul Krugman's article Karl Rove's American he says this:

"Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy."

About Robert Novak -- he is guilty of outing a CIA officer. That officer wasn't outed until he wrote of her identity.

He should have gone to law enforcement officials and reported a crime in progress not written an article that furthered the crime.

As we are told time and time again. This is a time of war.

Outing undercover American intelligence operatives during time of war?

It's a felony.

Bust Rove and Novak.


The Gang's All Here... 

War, circa 1975

The new Novak interest comes straight from the White House. Deflection, deflection, deflection. It's been reported for months that Novak "came to an agreement" with investigators. Novak's role should come to light. The difficulty is that he reportedly cut a deal.

The sad fact is that it makes little to no difference if Rove is fired, beyond scratching at Administration armor. He'll do private consultant work for a closely-linked Republican think tank with one degree of separation. He may be dismissed to save face, but he's not going anywhere. If he doesn't leave the White House in handcuffs, he may actually profit from the scandal.

On another note, it's fascinating that a government operative uses mafia language like "made his bones" when referring to national service. That's gangsta! And Ol'School.

"I know you're working for the CIA
They wouldn't have you in the maf-eye-ay"

- from "Why Can't We Be Friends"- War 1975

- FS

Fire Robert Novak over CIA Leak 

Today's New York Times continues to cover the Karl Rove and the CIA leak scandal.

I think the foucs on a Rove indictment is important, but Rove shouldn't be the only focus.

Isn't outing an undercover CIA agent against the law?

Yes, federal law protects the identities of covert agents.

Novak should lose his job over this scandal.

Pressure should be put on Robert Novak to come clean about what he knows.

One way the Republicans/Fox News are spinning this story is to suggest it's too complicated.

It's not.

Rove didn't mention the CIA agent's name directly, they say. However, can we really sell Rove this short? Rove knew exactly what he was doing.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, they quote outted CIA official Valerie Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who is being viscously attacked by the Republican Right. Wilson says this:

"I made my bones confronting Saddam Hussein and securing the release of over 2,000 Americans in hiding in Kuwait," Wilson said. "Karl Rove made his bones doing political dirty tricks."

The scandal was touched off when Wilson wrote that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons material to justify the invasion and ouster Saddam Hussein. In the build-up to war the White House and its supporters had a nearly zero-tolerance for those not hueing the WMD line -- not even someone who knew the facts first-hand, as Wilson did. So the effort to unmasked Plame, using Novak, was one to undermine Wilson's allegations, among other things.

But let's be realistic, Bush is never going to fire Rove. Rove may yet survive, but why should Novak?

Why not start asking for some accountability from Novak and his producers at CNN?

Novack quoted "two senior administration officials" in his story -- who are they? He knows.

Write to CNN to demand that Robert Novak should be fired for his role in the CIA leak scandal:


See LEAK-GATE for related articles and links from the past two-years on this story.

See the site NEWS HOUNDS and the posts after for more on the scandal.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

thanks SO MUCH for the sex fiends Harry! 

Tomorrow night at midnight bookstores all over the witchy world will be selling copies of the latest Harry Potter book. Number whatever, 5? 6? To be honest I've never read or wanted to read any of the books, but I'm so happy they exist. (At the bookstore where I work we have over 2,000 reserved copies for folks on the west side of Philadelphia's Broad Street).

Witchcraft is one of the most useful things a child can have in her/his life. Witchcraft is quite empowering, the idea of bending energy, bending the muscle of light, of air, water, yes fire, yes earth. Witchcraft gets a person of any age to think about the movement of real power, the power of seasons, the power of streams, the Power of an ANT moving 10 times its own.

One of the things about Harry Potter that has me SO excited is that I've been a little depressed about the fucking born again christian fascists making our decisions for us lately, moving in, in all directions. Harry Potter is not only a sign that they haven't won every Soul to their side, but Harry Potter is also a tool to convert the children of the world to loving the world. Loving the earth, and all it has to offer. NOT a heaven, but a world, this world, the Earth, who needs some attention, and SOON dammit!

Does this sound fancy? So what, I MEAN IT!

Because I guarantee you that many kids reading Harry Potter will grow up, go to pagan gatherings, learn about herbs, learn about Reiki and Yoga, learn about their many Brilliant possible psychic paths in their minds and bodies. Harry, thank you!

My born-again christian relatives fear and hate Harry Potter, and speak of him often. He's teaching the devil's tools to children!

Once, an annoying cousin said to me that her pastor said "Harry turns innocent children into witches, and makes them deviant sex fiends when they become adults!"

"Yes, that's probably true," I said, and meant it.

I'll always remember my FIRST pagan gathering. I had already been reading the Dakini tarot for a few years, and had just started macrobiotics, was learning Reiki, but wanted to expand, to get in some more experiences and ideas.

That first gathering really was like having my virginity taken, again, in more ways than one. The herb walks, discovering the power of the forest and field, stream and mud, really understanding HOW to heal with it, through it, IN it. I just simply had NO idea how much there is around us, always there, always ready and almost WILLING to give it's power.

There was also quite a bit of sex going on, all over, out in the open, thousands of witches from all over the world at the festival/gathering in Sherman, New York, a gathering called Starwood. And the first night, that was the most beautiful. At least two dozen drummers around a huge fire, and much dancing between the drums and the flames. "They're about to perform the Great Rite now Conrad," my friend Marsha told me. Really!? I had READ ABOUT THAT! And sure enough these two beautiful women, one with long curly red locks, the other with long straight jet black hair came into the circle, naked, dancing, dancing into a frenzy that landed them on the ground in wild passionate sex. I'm a queer guy, but that was lovely. This sounds TRULY queer, but I almost wept. How funny is that?

Then a man came in, and he was actually already having sex with a woman, anyway, the whole evening was this kind of ancient visit, one that you simply cannot forget, ever. We drank home-brewed honey mead, smoked a shared pipe of tobacco, sage and pot. It was so nice to watch the sun come up like that, with friends and strangers, getting for a moment into a place outside our own known time. Venus came over the treetops, and another celebration began and I tell you now, I canNOT believe that we were not tired, none of us, and we didn't need to catch up that sleep at any point in the week on that mountain.

Anyway, Harry, you're okay man. You're no devil Harry. You just want power to come back home Harry. Thanks for that. Thanks for the power, it's a good feeling, feeling it again.

To the revolution of Harry,
best witches,

p.s. hey Will glad to see you man!


Ha-ha, Hassen. The July issue of Harper's has excerpted from Eric Hoffer's meticulous journal; it's a nice read. Hoffer's most well known work researches the impetus behind mass movements--I haven't read it. Mathematicians wrote recently that an electromagnetic field equation predicts frivolities in fashion, politics. I think the most beautiful element concerning those sheep, friendly animals, is that the plunge of the first safeguarded the fall of the last.

This from Barnett Newman: Aesthetics is for me like what ornithology must be like for the birds.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

thank you all 

Well, first, I’d like to thank you all for inviting me to post on Philly Sound. Often I have felt want to throw a critical elbow, or nod and yea-say, defer to authority, ask a question, here. To do so now must mean you have found me serious, intelligent, friendly, which is how I have found you. So I thank you again. This is an honor.

The current altogether nonserious strand confirms Frank as death-angel, which yes-yes he has this quality about him. Frank, I can think of many I would want you to read to kill. I have been reading Jonathan Culler's On Deconstruction, which I recommend, and am surprised to recommend, that I find critical theory tedious and often oblivious to movements one makes as an artist. Culler contends that deconstruction shows us that serious work is reinscribed in the nonserious. In some sense, a composer like Cage can only be heard having heard Rogers and Hammerstein. What this might mean might look something like ground:frame, what Culler calls parergonality, and well, it's interesting. (Does anyone know something about this? It feels like something dream-lost to me all the time.)


"Spring" It On 

I was happy to read Roberta Fallon's article in today's Philadelphia Weekly on the ICA exhibit "Springtide" and the poetry written for the show.

Fallon writes:

"I've been wishing for art to take back its place in people's hearts after years of self-imposed exile in the chill lands of abstraction, conceptualism and minimalism. But there's already an art form that's participatory and speaks to people--and never went away."

That is, poetry.

She closes the article with these words:

"Perhaps poetry will lead people back to art. It certainly can help, as it does with this exhibit. The "Springtide" poets will read at the ICA tonight at 7 p.m."



Sunday, July 10, 2005


yes, sir


You Can't Have Your Poems Back 


I didn't kill anybody! It's just that I was re-reading Lorenzo Thomas' Chances Are Few in June, & I went back to the well for Sobin a week or so ago.

But as an Eagles fan, the feeling of jinxing our team cannot escape me. As the years go on, there are fewer places where I can watch the championship game. I don't want to watch it where I've watched them lose before. And of course, it doesn't matter. They still lose. Just like we'll all be dead soon. It's inevitable.

But just to be on the safe side, I'm going to take it easy on the elder cats. For the rest of the summer I'm sticking with strictly younger writers. I'll let you know who I read once the summer's over, so as not to make anyone nervous about crossing the street.

And no you can't have your poems back. That's what you get for publishing.

Don't fear the reaper,


Re: What Gives? 


Hey, you're right... it can all be traced back to you. Hm. You get no more poems from me. & give back the old ones, too, just to be safe.


Chris McC

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What Gives? 

Everyone I read is dying.

- FS

Friday, July 08, 2005

Gustaf Sobin (1935-2005) 

from The Earth As Air: An Ars Poetica

it happen!
that the

leap, and
the dark

issue, be-

our tongue


Yet another loss for the world of poetry.

-Chris McC

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