Sunday, November 30, 2008

reading Silliman's the Alphabet 

Where to begin? It's been a long time since I've read a book of poetry THIS BIG and kept reading it, and kept reading it faster with picked-up excitement. I think it's important to say now that most book reviews make me sleepy, and no one ever writes the kind of book reviews I want to read. So this one will be much like the ones I want to read: personal, details about HOW and WHAT is going on with the reviewer (in this case me) while reading. READING IS as much a part of the life of the poems to the reader as it was to the poet writing them.

LANGUAGE Poetry remains an impressive form of ignorance to the fearful masses of poetry lovers. And I guess it's important for me to think that I didn't actually come into CONTACT with this group of poets until after the big wars had already happened, meaning that maybe I met these poets after they had settled down a bit? I'm just going by things I've heard, whether the things I've heard were even true or not I don't know, and frankly don't care too much to know. I do know what I've read so far in THE GRAND PIANO seems lacking any evidence of war of any kind, except maybe mentions of bigger conflicts in the world being confronted. Could it be THE GRAND PIANO is leaving out internal squabbles with various communities? I don't know. Eileen Myles wrote once that "they won" because THEY get the tag in the NYT and elsewhere when someone wants to explode with anger over innovation. I like deviants. Are these a bunch of deviants? Yeah, I think they're deviants in many ways. I titled my first book Deviant Propulsion because I believe it's the deviants who move us forward, often whether we are ready to move or not. I was reading their work long before meeting them, and was impressed that Charles Bernstein in particular wasn't a monster when I met him, and was in fact a generous soul. Monster is kind of what was being channeled into the mythology of this group. Silliman too was not a monster, in fact he's a guy who reminds me of the working class men of my family in many ways, only in good ways. Some of the men in my family don't make good comparisons for anyone but Hitler, so, I'm leaving THEM out of the comparison when I say this.

What I DO know is that the poetry of this group of poets is what remains important to me. Ron Silliman's poems are without a doubt some of my favorite poems. His giant ALPHABET collection makes me think about the challenges I hear sometimes, often in fact, from poets today saying we don't need BIG projects, trying to equate the BIG projects with ego problems. Well, if the poems are good who cares? And maybe too I think the dismissive nature of such comments are born of jealousy, or other such unbecoming clothes for a poet to wear.

Recently here in Philadelphia some of us were lucky to hear Ron Silliman read with Magdalena Zurawski and Pam Brown. THAT was a reading we'll remember! At that reading Silliman said that he thinks it's best for readers new to his work to start with the book WHAT (included in The Alphabet collection). In ways it makes sense when you read it, the nature of the line giving us shot after shot that moves image to thought to image to thought, always surprising, always. But I didn't want to listen to him. And didn't. I wanted to read The Alphabet from beginning to end, wanted to get a FEEL for the poet over the years of his life as he pulled it all together for us. I'd much rather read this book than THE GRAND PIANO any day.

Right from A it seemed odd that the first poems were shorter than much of the later letters. Did he edit out portions for the collection? I don't know, but they seemed complete so it doesn't matter. B is the poem "Blue" which is "for Gil Ott" and we find out in the notes in the back of the book that it was written after "a long walk through the Lower East Side with Gil Ott." It's just a two page poem, and the only one I reread while up in NY recently to cat sit for Eileen Myles, wanting to take a walk then reread it. It was important to me that I didn't attempt any kind of goofy sentimental reaction to the walk, like, WHAT were they seeing, as I'm sure 1981 and 2008 Lower East Sides might as well be different locations at this point. But these were the streets, and, "At dusk very little is neutral" is very different. "I am writing in shadows. Don't you worry about accessibility too?" Shadows is pretty close to the feel of the poem, in the best sense, meaning how the remains of the walk are what the synapse fires back to the pen gleaning experience from experience, making the reading an entirely new experience, whether or not you walk the same streets.

In the long period of reading the book I injured my left knee, which is only now starting to feel better. Damage is included in other words in my reading as a filter. There were endless lines and phrases and moments that I would want to write down now, but it would only be a list of things that caught me. But what's more important is to say I was caught, often. To be so lucky to be caught so often in our own. "Open wide, these rose petals will soon fall."

VOG is where the amazing long poem "Woundwood" appears. When finally getting there I thought, WAIT A MINUTE WHAT THE HELL? Did Ron change this? What was different was that the pages, the actual paper is bigger, making more obvious the fact that this poem is a long, continuous column. It was clear it was a continuous column when reading the chapbook Kyle Schlesinger put out a few years ago, but seeing it in The Alphabet reminded me of how Tim Dlugos's legendary "G-9" poem is a continuous column, only now as a whole online for the first time (ditto for Tom Meyer's marvelous "THIS IS THE HOUSE"). Seeing "Woundwood" projected onto a wall would be as marvelous, complete, and completely unbroken. It finally made sense HOW "Woundwood" began with the image of the Waterman felt-tip pen and circles around at the end, meaning, when I first heard that "Woundwood" was an excerpt from VOG it seemed strange that it was so complete as a poem. VOG is a series of poems, a book, and it's a good dangling surprise now solved. I'm STILL convinced Silliman is talking about the Delacroix exhibit in "Woundwood" at one point.

The cover of The Alphabet is something I like to look at, think about. It's by Geof Huth, and from a work titled "The Construction of The Alphabet." When first studying the occult I was most interested in my Danish and Irish roots, in particular Norse mythology. One can't really study such things without hearing about sigils, or bind runes, or a combination of runes/letters to complete a spell, set it into action. Huth's cover art is a mysterious form of sigil work. Mysterious mostly because the fonts look like the findings from an archeological dig of some new species of critter. Pertho is the Mother Rune, a gaping mouth where all the others poured forth. Huth's art is like the primal mega-blast shooting and shouting out over the dust of everything said and about to be said, it's sublime at its best.

The last of the book was something I was particularly interested in reaching, not to FINISH, as in GEEZE I'M GLAD THAT'S OVER (I generally don't finish things that make me feel this way), but because I was lucky to hear him read from this at the Philadelphia Free Library last year. Last year? I think so, maybe longer? Anyway, THERE were those lines I had retained, intact. For some reason I really WANTED to read this last book in the noise of my city I LOVE so much, and went to Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market CRAMMED with anxious bustle and joy. I was stoned on the thousands of spices coming from the giant spice stand in the market and the dark chocolate I had eaten. I had eaten dark chocolate when going to hear him read at the library, something I like to eat for any reading, you should try it. But, it's important (at least I think so) to eat dark chocolate when reading poems you had heard read aloud if you had also been eating dark chocolate when hearing them. It accesses those mesas in the brain where you put them, and yes indeed it works. Also, dark chocolate makes me enjoy Reading Terminal Market instead of being annoyed that no one is giving love to the jazz pianist banging the keys for tips. And I wasn't ignoring him while reading, in fact I was riding WITH HIM while reading. "Read a book of poems until you get a sense of its author, / then put it down -- when you pick it up again, read until your sense of its / author changes." OK, and, "Life is strategic but reality is tactical", and "Objects in text are sharper than they appear", and, does Jim Behrle know he's in here, that, "I'm a figment of Jim Behrle's imagination"?

Poetry is what I love, and this has been a long period of reading and loving poetry, but I'm not going to grip some kind of investigation outside what I've done already above. My review is for the love of poetry, nothing more, and for me there is little more, little higher than poetry.

And I highly recommend this book for everyone. And I guess if you have hated the idea of LANGUAGE poetry take Silliman's advice and read WHAT first. Sit down in the bookstore and read WHAT, if you want, I'm sure you'll want the book in your life, I'm positive about this in fact.


Saturday, November 29, 2008


CHRIS MCDONOUGH was the victim of a mugging recently in Philadelphia, and is recovering from the gunshot wound from the incident. See City Paper article for more of the details. WE JUST SAW HIM perform at National Mechanics a few nights before, performing with Max of THE ABSINTHE DRINKERS.

Needles Jones and A.D. Amarosi have changed this coming Monday Night Club to a benefit GET WELL event for Chris! COME OUT AND JOIN US! Here's the details:

has been changed to

with TV PARTY films from
MVD Video Maxx
Absinthe's New Pony band
+ Randi Warhol and Needles Jones doing Dueling Andys,
Ish Klein
Molly Russakoff,
Stephen Bluhm and more
including some yuleish Burlesque

Monday Dec 1, 2008
9pm - 1 am
National Mechanics
22 S. 3rd st.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


Reviews are coming in for this new anthology written by over 20 of us on the HELL of working retail jobs, and the reviews are GREAT for the most part: The New Yorker LOVES it, as do newspapers in Boston and elsewhere.

BUT, I'm ESPECIALLY PROUD that The Wall Street Journal HATES IT! And of course they WOULD! The newspaper that wants everyone to OBEY the new 10 Commandments of the Corporate Work Environment. They say that the anthology "arrives for work with a chip on its shoulder." YEAH, THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT DEAR WSJ! HEHEHE! I have a short excerpt from my piece from the anthology HERE, as well as links to the Soft Skull book page.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Sunday at Germ Books 

from the good people at New Philadelphia Poets:

"The New Philadelphia Poets are excited to feature

Frank Sherlock
Sunday November 23 @ 7pm
Germ Books
2005 Frankford Ave. Philly

Free, Free, Free & open mic to follow as usual. Some beer."

- posted by Frank Sherlock

Monday, November 17, 2008

THIS THURSDAY! McCreary, Dowling, Kunin 

at Robin's Bookstore
108 S. 13th St.

at 7pm, ALL details HERE!
(posted by CAConrad)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Pauline Cavillot recently produced a radio documentary in association with the French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, and Polytechnic University in New York. The subject is a sliver of the role the arts have played during the ongoing recovery of New Orleans.

The highlights for me are the interviews with Dave Brinks (talking about Katrina with his daughter), Bill Lavender (on the grassroots nature of the NOLA poetry community) and Brett Evans' description of being stranded after the storm as "the anti-Mardi Gras."

Interviews include Michael Ford, Dave Brinks, Bill Lavender, Brett Evans (in which I make a brief appearance), Holly Wherry and Barbara Motley.

The documentary is currently housed on a blog called New Orleans Resilience. Check it out here.

- Frank Sherlock

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

END NOTEBOOK by Geoffrey Olsen 

Sometimes you LOVE the poems, but not the way the book looks, or how it feels in your hands.

In this case I LOVE the poems, and LOVE the book itself.

It's a notebook of poems, simply GORGEOUS looking, set in Baskerville, one of my all-time favorite fonts!

But, most important, THE POEMS! Listen to this, seriously, read it out loud:

Already dead.
As a human being in a mortal
history, gloves off,
in the morning, in the
debris. Have you seen this
branch in the wind? This subway
running? This new era?
Times that could be dead or object's
significance of what's around to us.
Not morose but everything scheduled,
emotions scheduled. In the poem.

Did you read it out loud? Did you not LOVE it? Of course you did because you LOVE good poetry! Buy this book and read EVERY SINGLE PAGE OUT LOUD!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

4 upcoming Philly poetry events 

1) TONIGHT, 7pm, Ish Klein and others at the Rotunda! 40th and Walnut. I can't find other details for this event online.

2) Thursday, 11/13, 730pm, FULL MOON Frank O'Hara reading!

3) Friday, 11/14, 730pm, Moles Not Molar
located inside The Crane Arts Building at 1400 N. American St.
(two blocks north of Girard Ave. between 2nd & 3rd streets)

4) Sunday, 11/16, 2pm, Brian Brodeur, CAConrad, & Jeffrey Ethan Lee

posted by CAConrad

Monday, November 10, 2008

I FEEL TRACTOR phoning it in! 

from Edmund Berrigan:

Last May I participated in a New England-based radio show called Phoning It In. The idea is that musical acts call in to the show using speaker phone and play a 30-40 minute set. About 350 different groups/individuals have done this, and the results are now available for listening or free download.

The files are also in the process of being picked up by radio station WFMU's website, in a nice turn of events.

Here's the link to my show.

I played ten songs in a friend's apartment to an enthusiastic audience of three people and 1 cat (or was it a dog?). The results sound well, like me playing through a phone. I think it came out great.

If you go to that page, and click the word 'archive' on the top, you can see the entire list.

Well known performers include Daniel johnston, Billy Childish, Lou Barlow, Devendra Banhart, and others.

Amusingly named performers include: Dream Bitches, Polka dot dot dot, Flowers from the man that shot your cousin, and megamoog.

If you have the time and resources and like free obscure music, this is the place to go, and there are sure to be some gems in there. Or you can at least momentarily amuse yourself with the names and band descriptions.
(posted by CAConrad)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Poets for Health Care at St. Mark's 

Monday November 10 @ 8pm
St. Mark's Poetry Project
131 E. 10th Street NYC

There is a growing movement across the U.S. to support a single-payer, national health care system that would provide health care for all. Currently, over 47 million Americans are without health insurance and another 50 million are under-insured. More than 18,000 people die every year because they have no medical insurance. Since we know that so many poets have difficulty finding affordable, quality health care, The Poetry Project is pleased to host this benefit for two of the leading health-care activist groups based in New York City: Healthcare-NOW, and the Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition. Featured poets, performers, and speakers include: David Amram, Andy Clausen, David Henderson, Suheir Hammad, Frank Sherlock, Eliot Katz, Rachel Levitsky, Akilah Oliver, Katie Robbins, Ajamu Sankofa, Stacy Szymaszek, Rodrigo Toscano, Anne Waldman,Citizen Reno, Steven Taylor and others.

- Frank Sherlock

Friday, November 07, 2008

ON is OUT! 


WHAT is ON ???? a note from the publishers:

What's going ON? What's 21st Century poetry all about? ON is a poetics journal devoted to contemporaries' writing, a location for essay and exchanges featuring over twenty essays written by and about contemporary poets. The contributors make legible unique aesthetic practices in relation to larger tendencies, histories and concepts.

ON #1 features: Taylor Brady on Yedda Morrison, Brandon Brown on Dana Ward, Jason Christie on Michael deBeyer, CA Conrad and Brenda Iijima in conversation, Michael Cross on Thom Donovan, Alan Gilbert on DJ/Rupture, Rob Halpern on Taylor Brady, Jen Hofer and Sawako Nakayasu in conversation, Andrew Levy on Arakawa and Gins, Edric Mesmer on Lauren Shufran and Mark Dickinson, Thom Donovan on Brenda Iijima, Tenney Nathanson on Beverly Dahlen, Richard Owens on Dale Smith, Tim Peterson on kari edwards, Eli Drabman on Michael Cross, Andrew Rippeon on C.J. Martin, Kyle Schlesinger on Emily McVarish, Jonathan Skinner on Julie Patton, Dale Smith on Hoa Nguyen, Suzanne Stein and Alli Warren in conversation, and Katie Yates on Belle Gironda.

ON is currently available for purchase at Small Press Distribution, at our website, and at the homepages of both Cuneiform and Atticus/Finch. How do we address our own writing and that of our contemporaries? Find out what's going on, and spread the word to your peers, colleagues, and students.

Michael Cross, Thom Donovan, and Kyle Schlesinger
ON eds.

posted by CAConrad

Sunday, November 02, 2008


for details click HERE!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Caples & McCreary Reading 11/7 



Friday, November 7th
7:00 p.m.

Brickbat Books
709 South Fourth Street
(Between Bainbridge & Monroe Streets, a block and a half from South Street)
Philadelphia, PA

Garrett Caples is a poet based in Oakland, CA. He is the author of Complications (Meritage 2007) and The Garrett Caples Reader (Black Square 1999). His poetry cd, Surrealism's Bad Rap, was released by NarrowHouse in 2006. He is the editor of City Lights Pocket Poets #59, Tau by Philip Lamantia and Journey to the End by John Hoffman. His fiction has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and the anthology Fetish (4 Walls 1998). He also contributed to the State of the Union (Wave 2008) poetry anthology. He is a contributing writer to the SF Bay Guardian specializing in hip-hop. An editor at City Lights Books, Caples is the curator of the upcoming American poetry series, City Lights Spotlight.

Chris McCreary is the author of two books of poems, Dismembers and The Effacements. Poems from a new manuscript, Undone, can be found online at Scantily Clad Press, Fanzine, Eratio, and Turntable & Bluelight. Along with Jenn McCreary, he co-edits ixnay press, a small poetry press based in Philadelphia.

FULL MOON Frank O'Hara reading! 


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