Tuesday, September 30, 2008

poet/artist KRISTEN GALLAGHER reports on the 2008 Republican National Convention 

Kristen Gallagher was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She received her B.A. from University of Pennsylvania in 1991. In 1995, she was a founding member of The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. It was at that time that she began to publish small books of poetry on her imprint Handwritten Press. In 1999, she moved to Buffalo, NY, where she attended the SUNY Buffalo Poetics Program. From 2000-2005, she was the editor of Rust Talks, a Buffalo-area poetry reading, discussion series and newsletter. She received her Ph.D. from the Poetics Program in 2005. She is still editor of Handwritten Press, and in 2005 became editor of WIG Journal of the Arts, a journal dedicated to publishing poems, prose, and visual art addressing issues of artistic creation, labor and work. Her on-going poetry project No Goal has been published in several chapbook installments. Her current literary research focuses on the effects of Darwin's theory of evolution on authors such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain. She is also a member of the art collective Cheap Art for Freedom (CAFF). She has been teaching at the City University of New York since 2006.

Kristen let's jump right in with what you witnessed at the outdoor stage with the band RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. You said you were with friends on a hill when all this occurred?

Yes. The "Ripple Effect" concert, put together by a hard-working student group from University of MN, was slated to present a set of bands and speakers from 3-7 PM on the Capitol Lawn in St. Paul. It was a lovely show. Dead Prez, Michael Franti's new project, Anti-Flag, and others all put on truly great performances. (I even got to meet Umi from Dead Prez and give him some art from our collective, which he was so gracious and kind in receiving.) At around 6:15, Anti-Flag had finished, and their lead singer said, "We've been hustling things along here, cuz there's going to be a surprise. Just wait—you guys are gonna love it." Then, it became apparent that the band Rage Against the Machine was backstage negotiating with Park Police to play an impromptu show. They are somewhat famous for doing this kind of thing, but to see it in action was truly remarkable.

As the negotiating was going on, Anti-Flag came back out on stage, and brought with them the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who had been allowed backstage for the show. The band and the vets started the whole crowd chanting "Let them play! Let them play!" So, here you have to picture: these exaggeratedly punked-out kids with their faces painted white, their eyes painted black, with bigger Mohawks than anyone in the 80s EVER had—standing next to a bunch of PTSD'd-out ramshackle veteran-come-anarchists—together leading thousands of people in a chant from on stage. Is this a possible future? The army on the side of the people, the punks, the protesters? Perhaps! This went on for 30 minutes.

At around 6:45, Rage (fan shorthand—I'm now a fan) came out to the lawn in front of the stage. They had a bullhorn. They asked everyone to kneel. Everyone kneeled. The lead singer said, "They won't let us play on the stage, so we're gonna try in front of the stage!" They asked the audience to stay low and quiet, so that everyone could see and hear cuz they had no microphones. So, the drummer played a trash can, while the lead singer and bassist shared the bullhorn. The bassist made those wicky-wicky-wop noises like people do when imitating the Shaft! soundtrack, while the lead singer doled out words of fury and revolution. The crowd was very young, and most of them seemed to know all the words. A delightful moment came when everyone "sang along" with the chorus "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me," but did it in a whisper, still respecting the agreement we made as an audience to not overpower this unusual moment. …a thousand kids whispering "fuck you I won't do what you tell me." THAT was beautiful! After three songs, the police threatened to arrest them, so the band said, "They're trying to stop us, let's march!" And they led—pied-piper style—the entire audience in a march to the Excel Center, where the convention was being held.

My collective is made up of a bunch of folks who have already been arrested in other events since the war started in 2003. So we had made an agreement to NOT get arrested, because that just takes you out of the situation, and puts you in another one which later requires about 30 trips back and forth to MN in order to attend all the required court dates. So, we were among a small cadre of (mostly older) people who didn't follow the march. Instead, because of the capitol building being on a long hill, we were able to watch the marchers go all the way down, down, down, until they crossed the bridge into the heavily secured area near the convention center, where they were rounded up, tear-gassed, and arrested. We went later to do jail solidarity for those arrested.

You were also at the 2004 RNC in NYC, and the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia. What differences have you noticed between this latest convention and the others?

Well, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. The main ground-level differences are two:

1) This time, the police were more violent and more preemptive. They also ignored rules about arresting the media—that had never happened before. (If you don't know what happened to Amy Goodman and two of her producers, then get thee to the Democracy Now website and FIND OUT—it is a dire and disturbing series of events.)

2) Apparently Tim Pawlenty, the Gov of MN., decided to "make money" off the protesters, by being sure there were many legal, sanctioned events, and that they were all fully stocked for hamburger sales, over-priced Ben and Jerry's ice cream stands, $5 glasses of lemonade, etc. It was very, very odd to feel like they had developed a marketing campaign toward anarchist protesters…but then again, everyone gets thirsty….

On a larger scale, it is also worth noting that Minneapolis/St. Paul is perhaps one of the easiest American cities to turn into a fortress. The whole situation with the water separating St. Paul from Minneapolis, and then more water further separating Minneapolis in two, made it TOO easy for the "homeland security" storm troopers to instantly lock down entire parts of the cities. One day we parked our van in one place and got stuck in another place and couldn't get back over any of the bridges for HOURS while they held a bunch of anarchists in there teargassing them. That would have been much less possible in Philly's wide, open, uninterrupted grid and alley layout.

You went this year to take part in the Unconvention with your art collective. Tell us what the Unconvention was like, and tell us also about the public art you brought with you.

I'll answer these questions in reverse order: collective first, then "The Unconvention."

The art collective I'm in is called Cheap Art for Freedom (CAFF). We hail from
California, Chicago, and Brooklyn. We have doctors, soup-kitchen and shelter workers, practicing artists, teachers and poets. We are some of us gay, some of us straight, ALL QUEER MISFIT FREAKS. As a collective of incredibly strong-minded people, we disagree a lot, so anything I say is subject to disagreement from my comrades. We've written manifestos, but we remain forever riddled with contradictions because life is complex and ever-changing.

The basic idea of CAFF is to

1) defy, ridicule, undermine, and make obsolete the sanctity of affluent-society art
2) create cultural spaces that will be managed by the people who use them
3) explode the myth of scarcity by making beautiful art out of trash and/or super-cheap surplus materials
4) never exchange money with the people who we exchange art with
5) redistribute creativity to the masses
6) function as a collective, never as a hierarchy or out of forced unity
7) collectively share all our personal resources according to the differences in our abilities and incomes, so that we can all take part in CAFF with equal expense/burden

Every year, we get together in a different city for one week and attempt two types of action:

1) to give away cheap art we have made (sometimes together, sometimes separately) or taught others to make (in street education workshops in screen printing, spray paint art, sewing, cardboard sculpture, etc.) over the previous year (and we try to do this either in poor neighborhoods, shelters, or in solidarity with other events like community protests or political street theatre events, etc.)

2) to make a large-scale cardboard-based interactive sculpture in some kind of park or public place. (For example, last year we made a large sculpture in Washington Square in honor of Iraqis who dies from the war—we get the names and photos of as many as we could and built a monument which invited passersby and people from the community to take part in writing the names. After about 12 hours of manning the site, we left it, only to return hours later to find the whole thing still going strong WITHOUT our presence. The people took it over—as we always wanted!)

This year, we decided (but there was severe disagreement amongst us) to take part in "The Unconvention," a loose chain of interdependent leftist and anarchist groups committed to producing a counter-convention at the RNC. Our Chicago comrade Mike Wolf got hold of an art gallery "Art is This" in Minneapolis for the month of August. The gallery always features political art, so our thing fit in well, PLUS it had a front yard, excellent passing foot traffic, and a cheap bar next door! Heaven!

Through Mike, we also connected with Red 76, a pirate radio station in Portland Oregon. With Red 76, we did a radio show and free food community BBQ (cooked by Mike and his partner Courtney) where we asked participants (anyone who wanted free food and conversation) to finish this sentence on-air: "Since the Iraq War I…." It was a lovely event, attended by people from all ages, races and walks of life. Again, BEAUTIFUL!

We also did some instruction in spray paint art with a bunch of kids in the gallery front yard. We also did free art lines at the Ripple Effect event. We also (without invitation) took part in the Walker Art Museum's front lawn exhibit of anti-convention art.

Without invitation? Yes. You see, there is a large hill in front of the Walker, and along that hill there is a large sidewalk. We planned all week for this. We figured out last winter that these things run almost entirely on RUMOR. The cops, the protesters, the media—all running around responding to, spreading, and trying to verify RUMORS. So we began immediately when we arrived to the Twin Cities to eavesdrop, ask for, and write down ALL RUMORS we heard, no matter how crazy, no matter how true. Then on the last day of the convention, we arrived at the Walker and set ourselves to collectively FILL the sidewalk with writing, to write ALL the rumors from the week large in bright, colorful chalk. No one from the museum hassled us, which was nice, and many citizens stopped to talk and/or express their outrage over police brutality, Sarah Palin, and other rePOOPlican topics. Then we planted some Cheap Art INSIDE the museum (a large Medusa Head made out of paper maché and gold spray paint). I wonder if it's still there….

At this latest RNC you also took part in a very interesting kind of protest outside the hotel where representatives from big oil companies were staying. Please tell us about this experience.

Through our California comrades, we hooked up with some folks who were doing a satirical "Billionaires for Bush"-style protest against Big Oil. About 40 people fake-dressed-up like rich oil barons. About 10 people wore cardboard bobble-heads, each with the face of an oil company CEO. There were boxes and boxes and boxes of very beautiful fake money with John McCain's face on the front and an oil well on the back. That money was for throwing around. It was tremendously fun.

We stood outside a hotel where there was a meeting of oil company CEO's. While we waited for them, people took turns giving fake-toasts congratulating the Republican Party on the renewal of its marriage vows to Big Oil. As the oil-men exited one-by-one, we threw gobs and gobs of fake money at them and confronted them (it was easy to recognize who was who, too, because we had those large bobble-heads to check for face-matching). Many of them stopped to talk, seemingly interested in trying to explain to us how they were really saving the world. One oil guy started a strange debate with one us, saying "If you believe in corn-based fuel, then you believe in child labor, because all the corn-based fuel comes from Columbia, where they abuse children and make them work to make this oil—so YOU support child labor!" Fortunately our side wasn't foolish enough to take the bait, We called him out on his false logic and the basic fallacy at the root of his theory. This protest wasn't about corn oil. What a jackass!

You had also mentioned that the businesses in Minneapolis-Saint Paul had prepared for an enormous influx of hungry, thirsty conventioneers with extra staff and later hours, but the city was virtually EMPTY at night. Tell us about this and what you suspect to be behind the republicans not venturing out into town at night.

Yes. Every waitress, every bartender, every cab driver we met COMPLAINED immediately and vigorously about how the "plan" was to use the Republicans to make money for the city, but in fact, all the businesses were hemorrhaging money due to lack of business. The twin cities changed the laws to allow bars to say open until 4am, but the Republicans mostly had corporate-sponsored private parties in hotel rooms, so the bars and restaurants were largely empty. There were also limousines everywhere, so the cab drivers were frustrated.

Republicans may have been afraid to be anywhere protesters could find them. There were rumors that someone had hired anarchists to kidnap convention delegates…so perhaps they were afraid of being kidnapped by vegan anarchists and being forced to eat pot luck supper all week! Still, that would be better than getting tear-gassed and sent to jail for the week, like so many protesters and journalists.

Thank you Kristen for sharing these details with us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell  

I've been hearing that this film IS A MUST SEE! Ben Malkin first turned me onto Russell's ECHO songs he created with Allen Ginsberg. Then a year later Thom Donovan burned me a copy of WORLD OF ECHO, which remains one of my favorite CDs! The film is playing in Philadelphia ONE NIGHT ONLY at the International House, October 29th, 7pm. I'm getting there early to get a front row seat!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

3 upcoming events you should make 

Friday, 10/03/08, 7 to 9pm Maria Raha's book party for her AMAZING NEW BOOK HELLIONS at TRITONE (1508 South St.)

Sunday, 10/12/08, 4pm Robin's Bookstore (108 S. 13th St.) STATE OF THE UNION anthology reading with CAConrad, Dan Featherston, Ish Klein, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Bill Marsh, Frank Sherlock and Nathaniel Siegel, OTHER DETAILS and links HERE.

Thursday, 10/16/08, 7:30pm URCHIN SERIES celebrates ALEXANDRA GRILIKHES at the corner of 10th & Pine, outside where she lived for many years. ALL DETAILS for this and other Urchin events HERE.

posted by CAConrad

Friday, September 26, 2008

OVER HERE on PoetryPolitic today 

Here's a little title-poem taste from the forthcoming book Over Here (Factory School) at PoetryPolitic today. Click on the excerpt to read the whole piece.

Hey Critiphoria! Hey Katalanche! Hey PennSound!

- Frank Sherlock

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Kids are All Right 

This Saturday, September 27th at 8pm
at Chapterhouse Cafe, 620 S. 9th St
(btwn South & Bainbridge)

Come check out these fine young poets:

Jaclyn Sadicario
Ryan Ruth
Quyen Nghiem
Bryce Bayer
Lauren Faralli
Drew Kalbach
Alina Ladyzhensky

-- R. Eckes

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


After writing here on PhillySound late last month about the INSULT to painter Thomas Eakins, BLICK Art Supply has said that they will create another plaque letting the world know that Eakins's studio was above their store.

MANY THANKS to those of you who wrote articles defending my plea, and to those of you who called BLICK and stopped into the store to make a fuss! ALL OF THIS HELPED! It also helped to THREATEN a picket line on the sidewalk, and I was even working on some chants for us that involved CORPORATE ARTS in the rhyme.

At first BLICK was uninterested in doing anything about the missing Eakins plaque, but they are now scrambling to make a new one to replace the one that disappeared during the building's reconstruction for their store.

Part of me was thinking about suggesting to their customer service hotline that they contact City Hall about having one of the historical landmark BLUE signs at the curb, which are all over Philadelphia. But maybe that would entail all kinds of declarations of historical landmark and preservation, which most folks don't seem to have the time for. It's GREAT NEWS though that BLICK finally realized JUST HOW MUCH we Philadelphians LOVE Thomas Eakins, and what lengths we will go through to protect his legacy!

MANY THANKS to BLICK for giving Philadelphia back its Eakins plaque!


p.s. this painting of THE BOXER is in the Eakins Room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it's AMAZING in person, so if you haven't yet seen it, GO SEE IT!

Monday, September 15, 2008

PoetryPolitic- The Beginning or the End in 50 Days 

A new 50-day blog called PoetryPolitic has been launched from Wave Books, posting from today until the November election. In this last stretch to either doom or a brief deep breath, this blog brings us politics/poetry news in all its intersections.

Wave says, "PoetryPolitic will be offering a spectrum of critical and imaginative thinking, through poems, audio and video recordings, essays, interviews and manifestos, by which we -- as citizens and as readers -- might be brought into a field of greater and more urgent awareness. The work on PoetryPolitic represents the ways in which poetry might respond to the complexity of the political moment, enacting and catalyzing the thinking and conversations necessary towards that response."

- Frank Sherlock

Friday, September 12, 2008

(Soma)tic Poetry Workshops 

for details on the DEATH POETRY Workshops please click HERE

for details on St. Mark's Poetry Project Workshops please click HERE


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wonder Woman on Sarah Palin 

Friends :

Not poetry related, but my favorite superhero (or at least the actress who played her on TV) recently shared her thoughts on Sarah Palin, which I found to be, frankly, awesome:

The REAL Wonder Woman on Sarah Palin: “America Should Be Very Afraid”

Victor Fiorillo, Philadelphia magazine

In an interview this morning about her three-week run at an Atlantic City casino, I offhandedly asked “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter how she felt about the media calling VP candidate Sarah Palin the “new Wonder Woman.” I wasn’t expecting her no-holds-barred response:

Don’t get me started. She’s the anti-Wonder Woman. She’s judgmental and dictatorial, telling people how they’ve got to live their lives. And a superior religious self-righteousness … that’s just not what Wonder Woman is about. Hillary Clinton is a lot more like Wonder Woman than Mrs. Palin. She did it all, didn’t she?

No one has the right to dictate, particularly in this country, to force your own personal views upon the populace — religious views. I think that is suppressive, oppressive, and anti-American. We are the loyal opposition. That’s the whole point of this country: freedom of speech, personal rights, personal freedom. Nor would Wonder Woman be the person to tell people how to live their lives. Worry about your own life! Worry about your own family! Don’t be telling me what I want to do with mine.

I like John McCain. But this woman — it’s anathema to me what she stands for. I think America should be very afraid. Very afraid. Separation of church and state is the one thing the creators of the Constitution did agree on — that it wasn’t to be a religious government. People should feel free to speak their minds about religion but not dictate it or put it into law.

What I don’t understand, honestly, is how anyone can even begin to say they know the mind of God. Who do they think they are? I think that’s ridiculous. I know what God is in my life. Now I am sure that she’s not all just that. But it’s enough to me. It’s enough for me to have a visceral reaction. And it makes me mad.

People need to speak up. Doesn’t mean that I’m godless. Doesn’t mean that I am a murderer. What I hate is this demonization of everybody but one position. You’re un-American because you’re against the war. It’s such bullshit. Fear. It’s really such a finite way of thinking about God to think that your measley little mind can know the mind of God. It’s a very little God that way. I think that God’s bigger. I don’t presume to know his mind. Or her mind.
Truth, Justice, & the American Way...
-jenn mcc

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Banksy in NOLA 

The legendary Banksy hit up New Orleans recently to mark Year 3. Here's a little bit of what he left behind.

My favorite piece is his commentary on the Gray Ghost vs. artists like NOLA Rising, a yet unresolved controversy in the midst of the ongoing public art culture war.

- Frank Sherlock

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MADE Rape Victims PAY for their own forensics? WHAT!? 

This transcript of Amy Goodman talking with Frederick Clarkson and Esther Kaplan about Sarah Palin makes me VERY NERVOUS! What if McCain and Palin win? I'm VERY NERVOUS!

The main focus of this conversation is Palin's theology, so, could her religion be why she thought it was OK to make rape victims pay for their own forensics?

By the way Alaska has the highest rate of rape/incest per capita, could THAT be the reason behind making victims PAY for their own forensics? Still, IT'S FUCKING SICK! It makes me SICK SICK SICK!

I've NEVER in my life even CONSIDERED that rape victims would be made to pay for their own rape kits and for the technicians who examine it.

My hair is about to catch fire from anger! It's like a really REALLY BAD DREAM we're not waking from.



Sunday, September 07, 2008

Champions (well, the fans at least) 

Fox Sports named Philadelphia the best fan base in the NFL. This is what they had to say: "Some might call this biased, but the most passionate fans in all of sports are without question Philadelphia Eagles fans. They're cold-blooded and probably give KC a run for their money as being the loudest. They are by far the most knowledgeable fans in the league, and invented the perfect "boo." What cemented Philadelphia fans' reputation as the most amoral, loathsome collection in sports is famously called The Booing of Santa Claus. You would boo and throw snow balls too if Santa came out drunk in a half-done costume. Eagles' fans must deal with sports owners whose actions have not produced a champion in 25 years. The Eagles haven't hoisted a championship flag in 48 years, but the waiting list for season tickets is so long that you could sell out three stadiums full of Eagles fans for games." For the rest of the list, click here.

- Frank Sherlock

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Chapter & Verse Reading Series 

It starts up again Saturday, September 13th at 8pm
at The Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery, 620 S. 9th St
with Lewis Warsh, Michael Hennessey, & Brian Carpenter
And then:
9/27 – Jaclyn Sadicario, Drew Kalbach, Ryan Ruth & others
10/11 – Thaddeus Rutkowski & Jeffrey McDaniel              
10/25 – Kim Gek Lin Short, Chris McCreary, & Alicia Askenase
- R Eckes

Thursday, September 04, 2008


While Nosferatu accepts the presidential nomination from the Republican Party tonight, here's the blow-by-blow in the streets of Minneapolis as the police continue their week of literally clubbing dissent into submission.

Please heed this call to action on behalf of journalists who were arrested while reporting on the RNC.

- Frank Sherlock

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The new issue of THE FOX CHASE REVIEW is now available online! Thanks to everyone involved with putting that together! I've already gotten a couple of e-mails from folks telling me the picture of me is scary, which made me giggle for no good reason. And as one friend wrote, "How the hell did you manage to wind up in a magazine with the goddess of slander and censorship!?" I won't share the second sentence my friend wrote about this poet, let's just say it's mean, and that I agree with the sentence wholeheartedly!

Frank Sherlock's poem is without a doubt one of my favorites in the issue! You'll see! And the thing that got left out about my two poems is that THOSE poems are from my collaboration with Frank, THE CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems. But that's fine, now you know.

The photograph of FOX CHASE in the snow is beautiful. I have to admit I've never been there, ever. For more than twenty years FOX CHASE has been a name on the side of a Septa train, R8 I believe. WHOSE CHASING THOSE FOXES is all I remember thinking the first time I saw it, LEAVE THEM ALONE! Maybe (like most places around Philadelphia) there aren't any foxes left. Further out where I grew up, in rural Pennsylvania, where "sylvania" still hits Penn's original sites, there are foxes. And the last time I visited my boyhood home I saw a "pest control" van drive down the dirt road leading to my old house, pictures of squirrels, deer, and foxes painted on the side of the van. Humans should be painted on the side of the van if you ask me, or if you ask a fox, or deer, or squirrel. But no, no one ever bothers to ask us!


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