The Superbowl is, as if I have to say it, a preparation for a war. Jordan says poetry, like sports analysis, can fit into the superfluous intellectual activity container. But there’s a reason it doesn’t prepare the country for a war that is obviously against the interests of its population. Poetry and music always have a bandwidth of info about life which downloads even beyond the intentions and formulations of its creators (something Gary has been writing about) the collective psychology of sports seemingly subtracts this information stream, as a lot of TV does- or it just overloads (denial of service attack?) with info about what millionaires want. The streaming poetry info comes not just from individual lives, since all poems are collaborations with all the other work one has come into contact with - from all the people who made it, all one’s contemporaries, all the masses of pages one runs one's eyes and ears over in a lifetime, all the reactivations and understandings and constructive misunderstands transmitted across time and death, and even the bailing on or transforming of things one decides are baggage- these are collaborations, whether one likes it or not.

Even the lame poets that Laura Bush invites over for her tea party are ready to kick her husband’s ass! Poetry doesn’t seem turn off our brains to very common sense perceptions: such as- that there is not a threat to the US from Iraq (Iraq mostly does itself- and in very nasty ways), that there is no connection to Osama Bin Ladin (Hussein and OBL are bitter rivals), that there is no threat to Israel (who have hundreds of nuclear weapons), that an unprovoked invasion (which could very well take place in violation of international law) is presently the only imaginable thing that might cause the use of WMD by Iraq. That control of Opec and the region are the main goals, that the war will result in much more terrorism in and outside the US, that this terrorism with further empower the current administration to further remove the bill of rights and to oppose international human rights, that the numbing informationless media landscape in the US controlled apparently by the state department with no effort distracts the population from the open class warfare occurring in domestic policy. I was wondering out loud on the sublist why moderates and conservative and libertarians weren’t coming out against the war - low and behold Pat Buchanian does just this on PBS tonight.

Jordan’s point that there is no consciousness of class conflict is key to why Americans are outwardly 54% or whatever okay with this very bad idea (WITH UN approval that is). If you looked at what was really happening you’d have to admit you were getting robbed and your kids were going to get killed and mass murder was going down on your watch all to make a few oil billionaires a little bit richer and to win a Yale kid another shot of doing the same for the next election cycle. For some reason the American brain can’t admit this - though if you listen to the tone of people’s voice when say they’re behind the war it never sounds quite right. Our internalization of the class war denial script prevents us from being able to understand our own foreign policy. To understand it would be to admit our powerlessness at the hands of an exploiting elite.

Of the many, many ways poetry can activate itself in the political layers of life, one I like seeing these days is the literal spreading info (sublist is mostly politics of one kind or another) – and esp. now, getting people’s asses to the protest (GO KRISTEN PREVALLET!)

Can we imagine what might stop this thing from happening? Withdrawal of support by European powers? Massive protest in the US and abroad? Apparently the protests in the US during the Nixon administration had a large impact - possible preventing them from dropping nukes on Viet Nam. Could we get the protester count to a certain number where it would do something? Could protest always be tied to organized targeting of the media? Should we also focus on simple goals — I quote Mark Wallace here — and vote these guys out of office!?


Superbowl Sunday

I welcomed the snow last Superbowl Sunday, despite the bone-chilling cold which inspired the first thoughts of needing thermal underwear I've had since I was kid growing up in New Jersey. Welcomed become I dislike the vibe on the streets in New York City when there is a major sporting event - patriotic, jingoist, violent. That vibe is valuable though, because it's packed with information about our cultural unconscious. Freud’s work on collective psychology sounds like it was written the day before yesterday, and it describes this dynamic compellingly. Drunken frat boys of all ages and types and races and classes and genders pour into the streets from the bars at end of these ceremonies with their intellects and critical judgments temporality erased. Even after hours of this they don't have their fill of imagining and combating otherness, you can feel them searching the streets for more. Us vs. them / destroy the enemy - this is how the world's elites wish us to think - how religions and governments and artistic movements wish us to think.

Americans are thought of as being anti-intellectual, but if you sit around in a bar during the world series you hear the most intricate and intelligent analysis of the histories and skills and dynamics of these teams and players. Analysis and intellectual activity are a natural function and have to be actively suppressed, which Americans do by directing these energies toward a phantom universe, a phantom that collectively reinvigorates the conception that the meaning of life is exploitation.

The snow knows better though. I pushed through it to the Parkside Lounge at around 7:30, where the game was playing on several TVs to a dispirited-seeming clientele. I ask if there was a poetry reading there and the bartendress shot me a withering, pitying look -- oh, that's in the back room-- and added a superfluous dismissive wave.

The back room indeed. Pushing aside a black curtain, I entered into a contrasting dream-like area. Six musicians lined the periphery of the room - blurps and textures in space. College-age kids were splayed out in all directions, listening, sleeping on the floor, talking, sitting in chairs, reading along. Papers with odd marking in crayon were scattered all around. On the stage Ann Waldman was in the process of reading the entirety of her book-length poem, Iovis. She had started about 3 hours earlier, and was not even half way through. I was impressed that she did not seem fatigued.

Because of the length involved and the quiet, slowly shifting ambient sound instillation/performance pacing, the sense that one sometimes gets from NYC poetry reading overmedication - of having to sit and briefly concentrate on something you're not that interested in - was absent. If you didn't dig what was happening you could come back in a few hours.

I took a break after a while and re-entered the Bar world, talking with Brenda Coultas near the pool table. Apparently a seriously unprepared pool player had inadvertently stumbled into the universe on the other side of the curtain. He spoke to us with a stunned and bewildered tone -- I went in there and it was like - whoa - I'm in a trance! -- Brenda, said, with her unique cheerfulness -- You should go back in, I think you might need more of that!



Waiting at the downtown 110th St. station last night, there were two girl talking - the younger maybe 4 or so, the older, obviously her sister, maybe 14. I overheard the younger one say, very slowly: The government ... doesn't like ... Spiderman….



Nada mentions oscillating bimbo poetics, a provocative way of talking about giddiness (what I would call levity). Giddiness is the main reason flarf is appealing. I love giddiness, though I am almost always put off by self-infantilizing, it's evil twin, which seems evasively calculating, if not tiring. Giddyness infuses rebellious energy.

Oscillation also interests me- in that I often think of things in terms of wave-form activity - you have to if you want to make decent live recordings, etc.... If string theory turns out to be credible then everything that happens will be attributable to oscillating waves. Physics goes back to music theory, which is where it was in 500 BC....

I'm reminded also of trying the Brion Gysin Dream Machine years ago a party thrown by Darin DeStefano in San Francisco. It's basically a set of light bulbs surrounded by an perforated oscillating sheath. You close your eyes and _look_ into it, and the patterns of pulsing red coming through the eyelids are supposed to induce hallucinations. I managed to overcome my skepticism and give it a try. So the thing is pulsing at me through my eyelids for 25 minutes or so and I'm getting a little impatient. I startied to think- god, stupid hippies... drug freaks... but I've already put nearly half an hour into this... okay a few more minutes... Suddenly it kicked in- I was treated to the entire history of insects since the beginning of life on the planet in high speed. Let's hear it for oscillation.


Notes on recent poetry books:

Andy Levy, Ashoka, Zasterle press

Ashoka has substantial helpings of levity and breath. The pulled apart lines have created a more open and relaxed space than I've encountered in any of Andy's previous books. I also get the feeling he is being influenced by his young daughters, whose presence in these poems sparkles. A refreshing ludicrousness and unpretentious meditative warmth are at play together here. I've gone back to this book several times, and the poems seem capable of operating from a slightly different angle at each reading.

Buck Downs, Marijuana Soft Drink, Edge Books

Maybe it's because I've been immersed in Zen literature while working on a review of Pat Reed's work, but I kept thinking of Issa when reading Marijuana Soft Drink. These poems use a spare, honed vernacular and engage in a caring hedonism of ambiguity and closely tuned-in connotative resonance. The book is speculative and lyrical and it unpacks the pleasures (or creative potentials) of disorientation. Or disorientation is deliberately but into the service of contact. There's something about the way the phrases build where they don't lend themselves to quotation - you almost always feel you'd have to quote the whole poem to show what he's doing. Humor is used here on simultaneous levels- for pleasure and for social critique.

Jeff Hull, Spoor, Subpress Collective

Spoor riff-switches between spare word combinations that test each others resonances and transcendental perceptions that rescue themselves from transcendental usage. Incredibly compact and careful handling of two and three word phrase-units.

Jennifer Moxley, The Sense Record, Edge books

Highly crafted poetry with a strong, intellectual spirit: a psychological drama projected from a persona. This work uses intentionally archaic diction, as well as objects, images, and scenes, not for their own sake, but as shapes to build structure and argument around. She unabashedly embraces a pose of literary archness, and this seems to actually up the ante on the variegated streams of thought that are active here. The poems operate as a fantasy-space of complaint against some of the current situations and deals of the White American Adult Mind- and maybe as an attempt at a temporary autonomous zone for sentiment, disclosure and shameless artfulness. These poems caustically valorize their disappointments in a way that is actually engaging, as though turning self-pity from a liability into a kind of engine.


Advice to beginners in poetry.

I've been reading Buddhism and Zen, by Nyogen Senzaki., North Point, 1996. There's a section where he offers advice for beginners in Zen practice. I realized that if you invert the advice and replace meditation with poetry you get something interesting:

As to the place where you write poetry, as well as the conditions for its composition and continuance, there are ten essential requirements (although these rules for poetry apply in general to all who practice poetry writing, they are especially important for beginners; later writing can be done under conditions not suitable for beginners.

1. The place you write in should be cluttered and noisy.
2. Its temperature should be uncomfortable during all seasons.
3. It should be poorly ventilated.
4. The weather should be either too warm or too cold.
5. The place should be either too dark or way too bright.
6. It should offer distracting views.
7. Beginners in poetry should seek out association with either well-known or augmentative people.
8. Beginners should seek out those who are competitive.
9. Beginners should seek out all places and situations such as fire, flood, and the haunts of criminals.
10. Beginners should write poems by the sea or in the vicinity of popular resorts.

Regarding your physical condition:

1. Be sure your stomach is either empty or way too full.
2. Dress uncomfortably in filthy clothes.
3. Sleep either hardly at all or to excess.
4. Have almost no leisure time.
5. Spend a lot of time writing essays about poetry.
6. Write immediately after eating carb-heavy meals.
7. Write when you are nervous.
8. Keep your shoes on when writing.
9. Don't bathe.
10. Since a healthy body means an unhealthy poetry, neglect your health.

There are 5 things you should know about your mind as you learn poetry.

1. Think only of bad or good - and of right and wrong.
2. Think only of the past or future, the present moment should be ignored completely during the writing of a poem.
3. Be overarchingly ambitious about being a poet. Strongly desire to become a poet.
4. Both before and after writing poetry, think of permanence- also think of identifying your self-entity in your mind and in your body.
5. Cling to subjectivity; cling to objectivity. Thinking and clinging purify the mind.


Notes on Hoa Nguyen - Your Ancient See Through, subpress, 2002

Daring and modest work. Each poem spirals out from a central pivot - an idea, a memory.

There's a mercurial quality here - the rhythms are gently undeniable - sound rhythms but also image and idea rhythms that are both cut up and flowing. Much craft but not flying the craft flag high.

The poems build up in small counterpointing layers.

Divulging / hiding.

The particular image details are sharp - intimate and odd micro-levels of detail are put to use both as biographical representation (childhood or childhood-like memory material) and as things to think with.

Great use of negative qualities - cowardice, creepines, unfairness, selfishness, smugness, interacting openly with all the other elements. Nada Gordon does this too, but on the carnivalesque side of the street.

The work resonates with the great relaxed reductionist poetry traditions - Ted Berrigan (sonnets) and Ted Greenwald (Common Sense). Some Bernadette Mayer (in that it's unabashedly insisting on the qualities and mechanisms of personality, not just relying on affect). Rae Armantrout meets Nick Drake?

Food / everyday bodily stuff.

Like some Olson processes in places? Self exploration (and exploration of subject matter) vs. or in collaboration with dramatic hiding (and interfering with subject matter)- like an Emily Dickinson process in this respect. Also - using awkwardness as a positive creative factor in the poem.

Consistently strong throughout the book.

The clear, subtle absurdities.


I woke up this morning before Katie's Amazonian parrot, Henry, which is unusual. I consider Henry to be both a connoisseur of sound and music and a talented musician in his own right. He responds to sounds which I think of as particularly musical- running water, and heated discussions, for instance. He also tends to pipe up when listening to female vocalists- Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Pasty Cline are among his favorites.

Last night I put on a tape Charles Weigl made for me- Silence/Time Zones (Black Lion), with Anthony Braxton & Richard Teitelbaum (and Leo Smith). Leo (who was a teacher of mine) has one of his break-through compositions on this record- Silence- which has huge stretches of silence connecting islands of texture and melody. The aleatory element is obviously strong here, and there's something about the overall rhythm of the piece that sets off the environmental sound elements with even more vividness than Cage's 4'33. I think it’s the interaction with improvisation that does this.

Henry got right in there immediately. His particular take on intervals and melody (He loves flat 6ths) fit in beautifully with both Leo's all-inclusive spatial melodicism and Braxton's tense bursts of timbre. Henry is also very deliberate in his phrasings and likes to wait before moving on to the next statement. You have to wonder what other creative processes are secretly being shared so closely with the animal kingdom. Is there an equivalent in poetry?