Friday, July 31, 2009

FUCK THE MOON it's 40 years of Asylum Poems! 

"Summer is a communion, don't forget it, / Be a poet to handle it." So writes John Wieners in his book Asylum Poems (Angel Hair, 1969). These acute, absorbing poems lend space for the reader's own vexing: present, past, presumed future, of or of not one's own time schedule for the wrath of Decent People. Ah, the Decent People. As Quentin Crisp once said, "Decency must be an even more exhausting state to maintain than its opposite. Those who succeed seem to need a stupefying amount of sleep."

In the summer of 1969 while the hippies were at Woodstock, and Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon, poet John Wieners was a patient at Taunton State Psychiatric Hospital, where he wrote the poems known today as Asylum Poems. While these poems do appear in The Selected Wieners, WHEN and HOW do we get THE COMPLETE John Wieners in print? This book Asylum Poems, was published later in the same year by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh's Angel Hair Books. Does anyone know if Waldman and Warsh named the press after the hair of angels, or for the substance called Angel Hair, which is said to be the residue left behind by UFOs? Oh, and oddly enough, also found at sightings of the Virgin Mary! I attended a Crop Circle conference at the Edgar Cayce Institute a few years ago where an incredibly handsome nerd held a glass jar over his head and announced, "I HAVE THE REMNANTS OF ANGEL HAIR IN THIS JAR!" The crowd murmured. This is before I knew about UFO angel hair and I sat thinking, "Did this HOT nerd kill and scalp an angel!? MY GOD I'M IN LOVE!" But then someone told me what he really meant. But I was still in love. Angel Hair Books, what did they mean? Frank Sherlock said, "Maybe the pasta?"

I had to order the book through Interlibrary Loan, and my fingers were crossed that it would actually arrive, since there were ONLY 200 COPIES PRINTED. Wow, only 200 copies. There's a marvelous George Schneeman drawing on the cover of a hand holding a flower WHICH APPEARS TO BE A DAISY on the verge of opening, petals still upright. And I wonder if Mr. Schneeman drew this right before publishing? Because it could be an early mum, which would make it a little later in the year, but it looks like a late summer daisy. There's very delicate pink onion-skin end-paper that made me hold my breath when I saw it, not wanting to damage 1 OF ONLY 200 COPIES IN PRINT! The Angel Hair address is in the back: Box 257 / Peter Stuyvesant Station / New York City 10009. Makes me want to hold this copy next to the old POBox (I'm sure it's now being used by a tax collector or US Marshall) and photograph it, with a sign saying, THIS MAILBOX THROUGH WHICH THIS AMAZING BOOK DID SQUEEZE!

This particular copy came from UMASS / BOSTON LIBRARIES, and I'm grateful the world of libraries is still functioning as the world of libraries should, and that I could get my hands on this rare treasure. It arrived JUST as I had hoped, JUST around the time he was writing the poems, 40 years ago this summer. In celebration of its 40th anniversary I've retyped 4 poems from the book below. While reading the book today from cover-to-cover, I kept STOPPING to imagine what Wieners was feeling and doing when writing them. The poem, below, "MORGANA LA FAY" in particular made me wonder these things, as Morgana la Fay, also known as Morgan le Fay, was the great healer of Arthurian Legend, and she is said to have carried King Arthur to Avalon after his battle at Camlann. She was as her name says, fairy folk shape-shifted into the form of an enchanting woman. In the poem Wieners writes, "The first time going to the museum / alone, on to the library / walking Newbury Street after / the rain, and dining out," a bit of the healer alone, out there, a season of waywardness when healing is clearly IN NEED, especially at Taunton State Psychiatric Hospital.

How lucky for Wieners to have been a poet with good friends to prevent him from disappearing down the long corridors of the institution for good, as it did make people disappear in his day, as it still often does in our own time. (makes me think of Janet Frame on the verge of receiving a lobotomy THEN RECIEVES A LITERARY AWARD, wow, a lobotomy rescued by an award! what a stupid world where patients who didn't get an award got the lobotomy instead) How lucky for us Wieners wrote, and was published by the good publishers at Angel Hair, and that the UMASS librarians don't mind sticking it in an envelope and mailing it off to Philadelphia, OR YOUR CITY next if you choose to go through Interlibrary Loan as I did. But when reading Asylum Poems it made me happy that Wieners had the community, and the love he had to aid him in his time of illness. It's in the poem "SUISSE," where he writes to us "Summer is a communion, don't forget it, / Be a poet to handle it." Yeah, "Be a poet to handle it." I'm grateful Mr. Wieners could handle that summer of 69, but then again he was a poet, so of course HE COULD!

My thanks to Jack Krick for inviting me to help put together a long overdue John Wieners EPC page, spurring me into getting all his books and digging into them.

(see the 4 poems below from the book)


I sit in the evening, not on it
this time the back porch of building, designed in 1933,
the year when conceived, enjoying clear twilight breeze.
Finished a bottle of coke, and my last cigarette, before retiring,
a blind man stumbles out, tapping his cane loudly.



Your lips in a cloud
the spirit that visited
before I died
still assigned to the dead

the cyanide garments
that spirit vented
with tears in payment
from provincial rent

Without personal burden
only refuge denied
such taking allowed
as federal government



the sensation
of 10 assorted dancers
in a crowded dining room

moving as one person
in unison
to a popular tune

daring late afternoon
hip and thighs beat
with sparkling feet

over the stucco floor
before an open door
how fortunate, how poor

we were without the sign,
symbol of recurrence
or occurrence

by buff walls
it was not a waltz

only a standard rock
song, much as students
speak in rejoinder

to a classroom; the same decibels
happening in a bookstore I rose
using the newspaper I had as a fan;

the leaves of clover
fluttering these three
unities I have known

as a tone to a bell's
gong, none of them
lasting longer

than 10-12 seconds
pressing history, light
in memory reckoned.



The return of
again is it
love we look, not
nearly so, only

the absolute inde-
prudence of youth, in
expectation, despite
Charles Dickens.

The first time going to the museum
alone, on to the library
walking Newbury Street after
the rain, and dining out,

visiting New York City on the late evening
train. These things she thought
as the rain pelted the
trees on Long Island during the day,

and thought of F. Scott
Fitzgerald, how he lived still
and his Long Island, always the place
to return, trembling alone

his and Zelda's Babylon
at Christmas, now living in a motel, this evocation
contained in the embrace of phantom love, and
to slip a peg, Lester Young on Times Square

Monday, July 27, 2009

This Friday! THE WILD Launch Party 

THE WILD Launch Party
Friday July 31, 2009

Reading @ 8pm, party to follow.
888 Lincoln Pl., Brooklyn NY
(btwn Brooklyn & NY Avenues)

Issue No. 1 of The Wild is hot off the presses, and to celebrate they're having a reading and party. I'll be reading with Brandon Holmquest & Bela Shayevich. There will also be an extra-special multi-media presentation by Nadia Berenstein. This will be followed by music, mirth making, dances & so on.

Copies of the magazine will be available for your purchasing pleasure at the highly reasonable price of $8. There will also be beer, and it will be cheap!

So please join us. Animal costumes optional.

- Frank Sherlock

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Friday @ 7pm: Reading at the Wooden Shoe 

From the NPP website:

On Friday, July 24th, 7:00-9:00 pm, the New Philadelphia Poets will hold a reading to benefit Philadelphia’s 32-year-old, all-volunteer, collectively-run Wooden Shoe Books (508 S. 5th St. Philadelphia, PA 19147). The evening will include readings by Sarah Heady, Patrick Lucy, Debrah Morkun, Jamie Townsend, Angel Hogan, Marion Bell, Greg Bem and Carlos Soto Román.

The featured readers will be followed by an open mic session. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own poems, stories, voices, instruments…anything they’d like to share! There will be a $5 suggested donation at the door, as well as drinks and appetizers for a small price. All proceeds will go directly to the Wooden Shoe’s “Moving Fund” campaign.

- posted by R. Eckes

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Giovanni's Room
345 South 12th St. (corner of 12th & Pine Sts.)
Philadelphia, PA 19107

GIOVANNI'S ROOM BOOKSTORE in Philadelphia is the world's largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Feminist bookstore. The catalog of titles it holds for us is staggering, and no where in any brick and mortar store, independent or corporate, can we find all these titles together to browse whenever we want, to purchase whenever we want. I worked at the store for nearly 7 years, and its importance for LGBT and feminist readers around the world was something I felt, and took seriously when it was felt.

While independent bookstores have been disappearing, none have been disappearing as quickly as queer/feminist bookstores. Corporate bookstores WILL NOT carry ALL these titles for you to discover. I remember a woman coming into the store who was 78 years old, and had been married, had children, and was now wanting to come out of the closet. The Coming Out section of books is unlike any other in the world, and I also showed her the video NITRATE KISSES. I forget what she purchased, but I remember feeling, truly feeling the importance of Giovanni's Room Bookstore at helping create a place for this woman who was older than my grandmothers.

The store has survived MANY tough times, including bricks being thrown through the windows. The bricks from these hate crimes now line the owner's garden. Edwin Hermance, Skip, and all their amazing staff and volunteers are facing an enormous crisis. Major reconstruction is about to take place on the store's one wall, and it will cost A LOT of money. Edwin and Skip and all the staff want you to PLEASE shop at the store to help them in this time of need. IF THERE ARE BOOKS YOU WANT but cannot find, they WILL order them for you. Below is a note from Edwin Hermance with many more details. Please shop at Giovanni's Room, for all our sake! CAConrad

from Edwin Hermance, owner of Giovanni's Room Bookstore

Giovanni's Room, the oldest independent LGBT bookstore in the United States today, needs your help and support to survive. Our 12th St. wall, which is structurally unsound, must be taken down and rebuilt from the ground up; construction will begin by sometime in August. The cost of this renovation, roughly $50,000, will not be easily paid; independent bookstores, lgbt bookstores included, have never been that profitable. Our store's success is measured by the people Giovanni's Room has helped in an almost limitless number of ways and by the exposure we have given to authors and publishers, filmmakers and musicians.

This will be a delicate time in the store's history. We need your support more than ever, and the store will remain open during the construction. Here is what we are asking you to do:

*Continue to shop at Giovanni's Room despite the challenges.
*Order in person, online, by email, and by phone.
*Show your support!

We have often faced adversity. In the beginning, in 1973, we had hardly any books to sell and the store was staffed 100% by volunteers. When homophobic landlords evicted us from the Spruce Street location and no one, on a major street, would rent to Giovanni's Room, we were able to raise the down payment for the current location by borrowing from you, our customers. Over 100 volunteers helped renovate the building to make the beautiful space we have occupied since 1979.

Now, at this defining juncture, we have formed a Committee that will be addressing fundraising, volunteers, special community and author events, and other activities to help meet the cost of this repair.

Keep gay heritage alive. Volunteer your time - make a financial pledge! Your support to Giovanni's Room will help us survive our 36th year.

Edwin Hermance


Friday, July 17, 2009


As many of us know the PEW Fellowship in the Arts gives out individual grants to artists in various disciplines, and as many of us know poetry used to be in the rotation for those grants every two years. Then poetry was switched to every four years.

I've just spoken with people working at the PEW office in Philadelphia, and have learned that they are considering NOT having poetry in the rotation this year. Meaning if it's next year that it's now moved to every five years? If even next year, as it seems now that there're no guarantees for poetry grants.

I asked permission for an e-mail where we poets could send encouraging mail in the hopes that poetry be put into the rotation for this year's grant considerations. This is the e-mail: info@PCAH.US and I am asking every poet in the Philadelphia area to please write to this e-mail address AS SOON AS POSSIBLE with your letters of encouragement.

I say write AS SOON AS POSSIBLE because they are AT THIS MINUTE making the decision whether to include poetry or not in the rotation for this year.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brian Allen Carr is outrageous! 

Brian Allen Carr seemingly had the balls (note "seemingly") to call Magdalena's novel "boring" and "student-grade," but when she takes him on online he suddenly wants to play a passive-aggressive game of back-peddling, saying such things as, but "I've recommended the book," yeah, well, that is nothing short of outrageous.

Brian Allen Carr you can't have it both ways! You can't slam someone in print by calling them boring, then CLAIM that YOU REALLY REALLY REALLY ACTUALLY LIKE THE BOOK AND IN FACT LIKE IT SO MUCH ACTUALLY THAT YOU ACTUALLY RECOMMENDED IT TO OTHERS, YEAH, REALLY, REALLY! What? Really? You want us to believe that you recommend books that you think are boring? Wow, that's so weird!

I would have had respect for Brian Allen Carr if he had ACTUALLY had the balls to stand behind his original convictions about the book. This pathetic game of HATE YOU, LOVE YOU is a big warning sign. And I say a big warning sign to ANYONE out there ever interested in dating the guy.

But I thank Brian Allen Carr for making my choice for me about whether to have respect for him as a reviewer. I certainly do not!

Oh, and I simply do NOT believe for a second that Brian Allen Carr would call a book boring in print, then recommend it privately, secretly, to friends. No way.

And I also HATED the "I'm sorry if you think my review was unfair," bullshit. What's unfair is the unsaid game of "I know I called your book BORING and STUDENT-GRADE but, but, but LOVE ME ANYWAY!" NO! FUCK OFF, how's that?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

twixt the reasons for WHAT in the world we write 

My FACEBOOK husband Magdalena Zurawski has been caught in the cross-hairs more than once since winning the Ronald Sukenick Award for Innovative Fiction for her novel THE BRUISE. I admire her latest post about innovation, and in particular about the Brian Allen Carr review of the book.

Carr responds, which you can see at the bottom, but my question is whether Carr himself lives up the standards of innovation, of The New? Judge for yourself with this poem. The question might be whether Carr wants innovation in other writers and, well, not so much for his own work? To be honest I like this recent poem by Carr, but I would never point to it as shifting the paradigm, not for a second would I say so.

The po(e)t calling the kettle black?

And it feels so funny sometimes talking about such topics with the LANGUAGE poets now writing ballads, writing sonnets, writing New York School-like poems at times.

Do I think THE BRUISE is great!? Have you never spoken to me? THE BRUISE is one of my favorite books in recent years. It's something I read without stop, and more than once.


Monday, July 13, 2009

...and free bus 

Cathleen, for Tuesday there's a free bus. The link is HERE and I have no idea how many seats are left. See you Tuesday! CAConrad

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arts Crisis in PA 

I hope that everyone has, by now, heard about the rally for the arts in Harrisburg on Tuesday, July 14. There are buses leaving from Philadelphia. The details are below. I hope that some of us will be able to make it to show our support for arts funding, but if not, please call your state reps tomorrow.

Thanks, Cathleen

The Pennsylvania House of Representative Republicans released details of their version of a budget bill on Friday which, not be be unexpected, include the ELIMINATION of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA). Tomorrow the House Democrats are planning to put SB 850, which also eliminates the PCA,up for vote in the House Appropriations Committee. Both of these bills have dire consequences for the future of the arts in Pennsylvania. We have a critical situation here that requires your input if you think arts funding is important to the Commonwealth.
We NEED YOU and YOUR FRIENDS on TUESDAY in Harrisburg ...
to join us at the Save the Arts in Pennsylvania Rally at the State Capitol. Tell your friends and family about the Arts Rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, July 14 at 11 a.m. in the Rotunda of the Main Capitol. Your presence will make a powerful statement of support for the arts. Please register for the rally at Survey Monkey . Updates for the rally, including schedule of events and speakers, may be found on Citizens for the Arts in PA Rally webpage.
Several groups around the state have arranged bus transportation to and from the rally. If you are interested in joining them at the rally, please RSVP at:
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Bus Trip at http://savetheartspabus.eventbrite.com/
Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council Bus Trip at http://www.proartstickets.org/events/view/369
ArtsQuest Bus Trip at
Please contact at least 5 OTHER PEOPLE to get them
to send a message to their legislators by using the Citizens for the Arts website at http://capwiz.com/artsusa/pa .
Some ideas to consider for your rally visit:
Now is the time to demonstrate your support of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and state arts funding. Be in the Main Capitol Rotunda at 11 AM at the Save the Arts in PA Rally on Tuesday!

If you have any questions, please contact Jenny Hershour at jlh@citizensfortheartsinpa.org or at 717-234-0959. Please help us ensure a future for the arts in Pennsylvania

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lines on lamp posts 

At the last Chapterhouse reading, I had the pleasure of meeting Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz, a student in Film and Media Arts at Temple University who has initiated a fun project called Exhibit Corpse. Based on the collaborative art-making procedure of exquisite corpse, the idea is to "paper our streets" (however ephemerally) with lines written by different people throughout the city. 10-11 line poems written by 10-11 people, each person responding to the line that came before. The poems began with a variation on the first line of Robert Frost's "The Most of It":

"He thought he kept the universe alone."

Aggie has documented the process with some short films, which you can check out here.

-- R. Eckes

Sunday, July 05, 2009

big fat BOOKSLUT! 

BOOKSLUT editor and writer John Zuarino just interviewed me about Advanced ELVIS Course for their site! Check it out HERE!!!!

Elvisito Gloriana Yustavalia,

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