Friday, November 27, 2009

Mortified before kari's BHARAT JIVA 

I've been secretly depressed lately, mostly about the queer community and how it has SAVAGED any sense of what we were once capable of doing together. ARE STILL capable of doing, but refusing to do. It's impossible to not think of kari edwards when thinking about the rash of transwomen being murdered in Philadelphia, so many in fact that just last week there were panel discussion groups and even a mass memorial service for the slain. No other group of people, ESPECIALLY African American transwomen have such a high rate of murder and suicide. And we LITERALLY SQUANDER tens of thousands of dollars on stupid fucking Pride Parades and Pride Block Parties and other Pride SHIT when we cannot OR I SHOULD SAY WILL NOT use some of that money to keep a Trans Health Office open in Philadelphia.

And Frank Sherlock was just telling me that Bea Arthur, the famous actress who died recently had left an enormous amount of money to the Queer Teen Homeless Shelter in NYC. Frank said that they were on the verge of shutting down when this money came through, which is amazing considering how many fucking millionaire faggots there are in NYC with their stupid condo party circuit. I just really HATE how we no longer wish to come together like we did in the past to NOT ONLY fight for Queer rights but align our struggle with the anti war movement, the labor movement. No, none of that anymore, it's ALL ABOUT gay marriage, and THE FUCKING GAYS IN THE MILITARY! I just, I just, I just cannot believe it some mornings that THIS is the revolution I was so excited about at one time.

The other thing I CANNOT come to terms with is how the American queer community REFUSES to acknowledge the genocide of gay men in Iraq PRESENTLY going on as being a DIRECT RESULT of our heinous national crime of invasion and occupation. Even the people from the Holocaust Museum who came to Philadelphia recently said to me, and this is an actual quote, "We're very proud of the fact that we are bipartisan, and do not take sides in political debates." Yeah, seriously, I was told that. As though the Holocaust was bipartisan. But I guess if you can't even get the Holocaust Museum on your side about genocide of gay men in Iraq, and how it IS OUR FAULT as citizens of the USA, well, who else can you expect to get behind you to DO SOMETHING!?

Then I reread BHARAT JIVA by kari edwards, and I FINALLY GOT what Thom Donovan said to me at the book event in NYC when he said he was happy to see in her last book that she found some peace with her anger. I just wasn't ready to hear that at all NOT AT ALL! I liked my kari angry! And I admit the first time I read BHARAT JIVA as a PDF she sent me not long before she died didn't feel the way it does to me now. Then I was reading it on the heels of her extraordinary book OBEDIENCE and on the heels of seeing her read in person and speaking with her QUITE ANGRILY about the murder of transpeople going on at the time.

As much as I don't want to admit it, Thom is right. I think I even said to him at the event in New York that I didn't agree with him, yeah I'm pretty sure I said something about BHARAT JIVA being angry "the right way" or some such thing I like to say, and lose track of what I even mean when I say it. But I still feel kari has good anger in this book, but I also NOW understand what Thom Donovan means. This is one of the most important books for me right now. I find myself rereading passages like songs I NEED to listen to over and over for the messages to be integrated into my life. For instance:

I can not begin to know

producing difference by deferring

second third person narrative

promising surrender to the dead

acknowledging, I am an unknown participant

something maybe, something blind

consuming scarcity

producing hunger

constructing gender

breathing markers

making someone a thing

scapegoat instance

another perfect occasion

construct of a common sense sentence

out of many different bank accounts

apparently to produce

a final outcome

illumination legible

newspaper flyspeck

on the edge of an abstract noun

sliding affirmation

speaking of poverty

in an industrial world

where the lakes, rivers and oceans

are no longer lakes, rivers and oceans

but mud covered hunger living in bodies

What is humiliation without shame? I went there. Was MORTIFIED through epiphany, a sister system of inexplicable waking, torn by self-inflicted stress against my own nature immediately upon blinking back from being inside the reading of kari's work. And of course I'm wishing I had spent time talking with kari about this book THE RIGHT WAY meaning the clearest way. There's a part of me that once was feeling we humans are no more than part of a weird play of planetary mischief, and that it didn't matter really what we did because we are mere molecules which are consumed and retrieved in the great scheme of the devoured Earth cycle. But that's more nihilistic a view than I realized at the time. Everything matters, and not in that neurotic guilty way we're taught by our various monotheistic dictates, but as a way to be conscious of our harm and of our love.

There's no way I am going to write about BHARAT JIVA except to say that it does, and how it does stammer change in me as a poet who wants to actualize the human being in me. I DON'T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE is something I shouted in a dream recently. And it was a night after performing a reading of the (Soma)tic Exercise and poem that I did for kari at the invitation of Belladonna and Litmus for NO GENDER. How many times do we have to say the magic words before we stop living through danger? I have no clue. And I'm not sure kari knew either, but her pointing toward the possibilities of GETTING IT in BHARAT JIVA is mystic, and I want to reclaim the word MYSTIC for a second, for kari, with a CLARITY in all its severe colors:

if the body dissolves

to a spotless sphere

if all I can do is

a series of incidents

lost in mathematics

withdrawn to obtain a body

that remains a desolate vagrant

if longing for a name,

shelters an ocean

a hundred and forty suns

set a blaze

dissolvable and indivisible

if out of the unreal comes

divisional smooth traveling

bound motionless totality

far below the senses

far below the knees

waging mimic dazzle

flash statements made

if nothing and nothing


did I not say to you

did I not say

they will implant ugly qualities

did I not say

saying something

eager to die into the deathless

did I not say

have you heard

the silent steps

innermost names weeping

did I not say

in the pangs of separation

world-filling light

running through our veins


I must leave

the earth in a mind without fear

did I not say

raised an acrobat

on the clumsy ground

in the dirt

on an organ

while the puppets

danced above

did I not say

like a wedge

in a block

yea, a thing

did I not say

life can get tired of living

living another insisting babylon

did I not say

despite the body

there is a universe

despite the universe

born waves of existence

did I not say

saying I must go

did I not say

death does not annihilate particles

it only breaks up conjunctions

did I not say

gone ready to depart

distortion grammar

here talking of changing

only to history

Yes, MYSTIC! This book of poems will exceed the excesses of the roses, as Roethke would agree through his North American Sequence. Suffer for it, as Roethke did suffer for it. Roethke as transwoman TRANSDADA poet with an arm in the continent of India to measure the world against itself. And I remember kari saying to a table of us (that table of us including myself, Frank Sherlock, Mary Kalyna, and Brenda Iijima) a month before she died, that she "went to India only to find that people are the same all over the world." It really is OUR story soon enough, everyone we meet, making exegesis of a poem irrelevant.

It's impossible to talk about this book without mentioning too the beauty of it. As a thing. We need to give respect to this book being made into a beautiful thing. Reading a PDF of this book is not the same. Reading a few excerpts in this bit of writing I'm doing on your computer screen is not the same. The good and extraordinary care of the publishers at Belladonna and Litmus Presses must be underscored a dozen times! The size of the pages, the choice of fonts, this work has been most lovingly cared for for kari's legacy, and for our absorption of kari's legacy as a Seer and poet. Mystic.

Then there's the cover. I found myself, and I'm sure you will find yourself, staring deeply into the cover from time to time while reading. Fran Blau, kari's partner created it. A beautiful painting of a shadow of a Buddha on a shop window selling horror movies in India. Well, and other things. Garlands, poster calendars of gods and goddesses, maybe Lakshmi at one point? It is one of the most striking paintings, making one of the most incredible bookcovers I've ever seen. And if this bit of writing for the love I have for this book has not convinced you to buy it, then call me at 215.563.3075 and I'll read you a little more. Until you buy it. If we must consume in this capitalist SHITHOLE world, let it be for something as beautiful as kari's book.

Thank you kari for changing some molecules of ink and paper into a sharper lens, we owe you BIG TIME in the next life!

With love and respect,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


THE AMAZING Maria Raha is inviting us all to the PRO-YOKO cocktail hour!

If you don't like Yoko Ono you better stay away from us!

Maria is suggesting we all listen to the YES I'M A WITCH album from last song to the first before coming.

(also Abby Hoffman's birthday!)

1601 Bar
@ 10th & Tasker
6pm to 8pm


Saturday, November 14, 2009

from the fine folks at WCWPCCS! 

When I win the lottery (WHEN, NOT IF!) I'm buying EVEYRONE I LOVE a copy of this book! So, if you don't get one from me, I don't love you. Well, maybe I do, but am too shy to give you one, right?

I could LITERALLY quote every single poem in this book to show you how brilliant it is! But here's an example:


What's in that volcano over there?
Oh, probably lava, probably fire that's black.

What did your father tell you?
There's no difference in the lava.
Again, small rustle of dresses in a dark closet.

Where does the rustle come from?
A loose child.

So, you SEE? You SEE? This book is a book you will read all the way through, then later read all the way through, you'll love it!



Thursday, November 12, 2009

in the latest issue! 

The new issue of THE BROOKLYN RAIL contains this marvelous poem "Unlike the Trees" by PhillySound poet Frank Sherlock! "This is not exactly there / that is not exactly here..." (posted by CAConrad)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Golynko was marvelous last night at the Alexei Parshchikov round table at Penn, I second Frank's enthusiasm, and can't wait to hear him Sunday! THIS Friday I'm doing my American Gluttony sketch from The 7 Deadly Sins Cabaret click HERE for those details, AND ON MONDAY I'm introducing Sarah Dowling, Michelle Taransky and Julia Bloch for a big book party, click HERE for details. (posted by CAConrad)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dmitry Golynko & the NPP this Sunday 

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Dimtry Golynko, an excellent poet from Petersburg, Russia who is in town as a UPenn writer-in-residence. His bilingual reading with poet/translator Eugene Ostashevsky from As It Turned Out (Ugly Duckling Presse) was terrific. Unfortunately, its scheduling conflicted with another event at the Kelly Writers House, & many friends who would have enjoyed it missed out.

The last time I saw him was a night of wine, food, good conversation & a great reading at Chapter House. He set out for a series of West Coast appearances shortly after. He's back in town for the Parshchikov event today, and Dmitry will be reading with the New Philadelphia Poets this Sunday. Be at Germ Books. Don't miss him before he leaves town next week.

- Frank Sherlock

Please join the New Philadelphia Poets

for a reading on
Sunday, November 15th
7:00 pm

Germ Books + Gallery in Fishtown
2005 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(3 blocks from the Berks stop on the Market-Frankford El)

Marion Bell, Greg Bem, Sarah Heady, Patrick Lucy, Debrah Morkun, Carlos Soto Roman, J. Townsend

And special guest (all the way from Russia!)
Dmitry Golynko

Dmitry Golynko (b. 1969, St. Petersburg) has a degree in Russian Languages and Literature from Herzen University. He is an editor with Moscow Art Magazine, and regularly contributes critical work to the journal as well as to NLO, Novaya Ruskaya Kniga, and Séance. He is the creator of the literary site Literaturnaya Promoza. “As it turned out” is the title poem of his third book, which was translated by Eugene Ostashevsky, Rebecca Bella and Simona Schneider, and released by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2008. He has been nominated for the Andrey Bely Prize.

Monday, November 09, 2009

KALACHAKRA in Philadelphia 

GO SEE Tibetan Lama Losang Samten working on the sand mandala at the Gershman Y, in the lobby. The Gershman Y is at Pine and Broad Streets, Philadelphia. There's only a little more time to witness this amazing, rare event, don't miss it!

The other day I went with my good friend Mary to see a documentary at the queer community center about gays in the Holocaust. It was one of the most horrifying things I ever sat through. And we were wiped out, physically wiped out from watching it. Then Mary remembered that Losang Samten, the Tibetan Lama was down the street making a Wheel of Great Time sand painting.

There're few times I can point to where I've experienced something so horrible, visceral as that documentary, then a few minutes later find myself whiplashed 180 degrees!

Mary at one point got a call and had to go deal with that. And I sat on the bench, completely alone with this amazing man Losang Samten while he calmly, quietly took different colors of sand into his brass horn to make the beautiful mandala. For about half an hour I sat in the beautiful world he was making, and I felt calm and a little clearer about all of the paranoia and angst that the documentary had churned in me.

At one point he looked up and welcomed me, and I thanked him. I told him that I had just been upset before sitting down, and that I was calmer now, and he said "GOOD, it is working then."

I'm so suspicious of religion, coming from a family where religion is a crippling weapon. But if I were to ever HAVE to choose one, it would have to be Buddhism. And I think I say that only because I strongly believe in the activist element to it, actively setting about the business of bringing some calm and clarity to a world enraptured by the sight of its own innards and wounds.

I'm looking forward to going to sit on the bench while watching Losang Samten create his beautiful mandala again this week. It's hard to believe that after his month long work on it, he and others will carry it to the river and toss it into the current.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

it's endless 

Listen, I disagree as one person wrote in Silliman's comment box that the conversation never moves beyond the riptide. As a matter of fact that's exactly what Dale Smith and I were doing as two people with different opinions and different lives and experiences on these matters for the conversation around Dorn's late work.

But since the conversation has been published I have received emails, etc., accusing me of ridiculous things, like one "poet" writing me to simply say, "Stop hatin' straights!" And emails and others telling me what I have failed to realize.

NO, I do not hate straights, that's just ridiculous! NO, I do not fail to realize how straight people are as affected by disease. Frankly it feels sort of homophobic that I'm not allowed to talk about being queer in a time of AIDS which -- at that time -- was pretty much a queer disease in America. So much so that Ronald Reagan wouldn't even say the name of the disease.

I refuse to allow revisionist history to take place under my nose,

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

ANNOYING Dorn follow up! 

I have never been accused of heterophobia until today! I've received personal emails, and have watched as folks in the comments box on Silliman's blog try to explain away what is clear and in front of them. Well Mr. Clayton Eshleman sent me something to combat that bullshit! It's below! And if someone can ACTUALLY interpret THIS as some sort of whimsical, brave elephant in the room Dorn moment, well then I have nothing further to say! Many thanks to Mr. Eshleman for sending this along,

dear CA Conrad: thanks for your talk with Dale Smith on Ed Dorn and other matters. A brief footnote that should interest you (and perhaps, if you feel it is appropriate, can be posted), is relative to the Dorn/AIDS discussion):

In Dorn's (and his wife Jennifer Dorn's) magazine Rolling Stock, #5, there appeared, written in collaboration with Tom Clark, an item called "The 1983 AIDS AWARDS FOR POETRY--In recognition of the current EPIDEMIC OF IDIOCY on the poetry scene." The page featured a large illustration of a test-tube of reddish liquid, presumably infected blood, which was the "prize."

The recipients of this "award" were Dennis Cooper ("for writing the most AIDS-like line of the year: "Mark's anus is wrinkled, pink, and simplistically rendered, but cute"); Clayton Eshleman (for "attacking a dead--and thus harmless--poet, Elizabeth Bishop" in a review in the LA Times Book Review); Robert Creeley (for writing extravagant blurbs for books by Stephen Rodefer and Joanne Kyger); Steve Abbott ("for accusing everybody who doesn't like him or his poetry of 'rabid homophobia'"); Allen Ginsberg (for claiming he wrote some lyrics for the rock group The Clash, when supposedly he hadn't); and finally, "WRITE-IN CANDIDATE" ("Fill in the name of your favorite POETRY IDIOT here.").

I have taken the above information from Eliot Weinberger's note on "A Case of AIDS Hysteria" that appeared in Sulfur #9, in 1984. The clear implication of the "awards" is that all of the poets who had offended Dorn and Clark (with infractions of good taste!) should not only die, but should die after a long and particularly gruesome disease.

You can read the rest of Eliot's piece in Sulfur (I will send you a copy if you like).

This is another example of the sickening and pointless level on which Dorn and Clark were operating in the 1980s. My wife Caryl and I were living in Los Angeles at the time, and quite close to Koki Iwamoto (the owner of the famous Chatterton's bookstore on Vermont St) and a number of his gay friends. We watched most of these people die of AIDS, including our dear Koki. That poets themselves would indulge in the kind of right-wing AIDS hysteria and homophobia that Dorn and Clark did still strikes me as unbearably sad.

Best regards, Clayton Eshleman

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