The reason a Roger Corman movie like The Terror is great is because the director lets go of a certain amount of control, due to budgetary constraints in this case. Because of this, other things, things unrelated to the conventional selling points, are allowed into the movie.
Do you guys take requests?

Steve: More reports from the DVD cosmos and sharp, stinging commentary on iffy thinking and writing in the American essay landscape! What do you think of The Return of the King?

Katie: More brief, odd, engrossing NYC public vignettes! What do you think of the disappearance of urban willow trees?

Stephanie: More reading reports from any living room in the Bay Area! In fact anything about living rooms will do: we don't have them in NYC. How do you think fog changes the poetic imagination?

Nada: More intellectual gyrating among the memoir, poetry, and reportage riffs! What are the connections are between the Farrelly brothers and Hannah Arendt?

Gary: More appropriated reviews, live reports and large slabs of discussion on topics about which I know nothing! What do you think of Philip Guston?

Kasey: More refreshing posts on 19th century poets and deer head art! What do you think about minor 18th Century poets writing about rabbits/pets?


Aaron Kunin on K. Silem Mohammad's Deer Head Nation
TV on the Radio
Northsix, Williamsburg, 12/19/03

Imagine what a future version of the band that Parliament, from their first, odd album, Osmium, might have been if they had stuck with that particular bizarrely defiant eclecticism. TV on the Radio, a NY five piece band, fuses eclectic impulses within each song, though, rather than, as on Osmium, genre switching between songs. The impulses are put through a indy-rock/pop/soul/disco juicer, and the anti-oxidants flow.

All the songs at this show were fairly long, and the band had a relaxed, good-humored stage presence and patience for taking their time and building up the vibe of each song gradually. The drum mix was not so hot, the bad-middle-band-mix in a three band show syndrome. The sound person just didn't hear that the drummer had a light touch. The mix -- upfront sludgy guitar and counter-pointing dual vocals, worked nonetheless.

The guitar player did crunchy sweep picking on the chorus of every single song, which sounded great. It added a John Cale drone quality to the pop and soul elements.

I can't help but wonder if there is a parallel here with some recent poetic trends? There seem to be many poets fusing many different elements rather than selecting a single thing to imitate in the present environment with its unprecedented variety of practices and examples available.


There's some very, very expensive flarf for sale in Chelsea.
Giacinto Scelsi
The Piano Works 1, Louise Bessette, piano
mode 92

These Scelsi pieces have an impressive spectrum of tone-landscaping transformations. He is particularly good at drawing out melody sequences at very slow tempos, often separating them with judiciously placed cluster-pylons. He's also great at using folkish, jagged, rapturously self-deconstructing rhythmic events.

Seems accessible and way out there at the same time, a combination of qualities I love.
Here are the results from my request for non-shopping-oriented rap music.
Many thanks to the four poets who contributed:

Brandon Downing:

MF Doom (aka Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah)
The Roots

Noah Eli Gordon:

Dead Prez
Mr. Lif
Mos Def
Jurassic 5

Michael Magee:

Mos Def
Cibo Matto
The Roots
Sage Francis
Aesop Rock
Mr. Lif

Rod Smith:

Scratch (Documentary)


Music or Honesty, Rod Smith, Roof, 2003

This book creates a scrambled, humorous impression of life by orbiting around the subject matter, but aiming for the center of implication via lyric and absurd line voicings and by creating an impression of a person's existence as an engager of creative processes. Leaving all that in and leaving a lot out. Creating a feeling of living and handling the words in a very deliberate proportion. The feelings emanating from Smith's work -- sympathy, humor, confusion, frustration, sadness etc., are surprisingly strong considering the degree of constructivist means being used. There is also something else here -- a need to bond with the reader and a strong intuitive principle crosshatching with the more systematic processes.

Confessional poetry ostensible attempts to bond with the reader and create a strong emotional current but can't succeed because it actually operates on a model of exploitation, exploitation of the writer's experience used as a means for exploiting a market of readers. Smith's poetry actually does bond with the reader and creates a strong emotional current, plus a good bit more, and does so on a model of liberation and fun. Confessional poets would do well to study this work.

Even the sections where it is clear that the majority of Smith's attention has gone into getting the vocabulary contour of the line right, with the feeling of a brushstroke of words, there is often a strong feeling that embedded in the word-arraignment what is being addressed is variations on conflict -- often internal states and tendencies coming into conflict with an unpleasant external social and political world.

In any given poem there are at least two or three different modalities which interact, often seamlessly or with deliberate use of the seams. One of these is an epigrammatic statement:

"everything can be blamed on you when you are poor."

or, in quoting Jackie Robinson:

"a life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives"


"oblivion is prefigured in any emotional state"

Smith is capable of intense hilariousness without ever breaking down into an overly simplified anti-intellectual infantilism.

"Jesus was a sausage"


"no two colossal heads are alike"


"poems about seeing a bear
outside your cabin
don't really work for me. "

There are sometimes short funny insider jokes.

"In a debatable tureen, in nodal space, 37 squirrels childishly ignorant of science storm the gates of St. Mark's Place"

Whatever else Smith is doing, and there are almost always interestingly interacting simultaneous layers and processes in this poetry, there always seems to be at least on toe skimming the surface of a quasi-Zen stream of thought.

The realization of thusness
flowing forth
paint is not food

There are many moments of unflinching, generous absurdity meant to crack the reader up. This will be juxtaposed quickly with mournful voicings, creating an emotionally complex and unpredictable poetic affect-space.

The frustrations and contradictions of communication and thought are engaged sideways and the result is an amusing, curious warmth of cognitive dissonance.

In one section, Smith uses the Mary Tyler More show as denotatively clear direct political commentary.

Smith can mix totally unique modes -- Delius meets Space Ghost for instance.

There are Ginsburg-like rapture/visionary voicings.

"the inner fire's grate"

Jerry G: Here the voicing flow increases in forward momentum, and the feeling of an argument being developed resonates from the poem. The exploration of conflicts deepens here -- the conflict between inner states, needs, what we wish for, and actual social facts we live within, the conflicts between smaller social groups and what is happening in larger political systems…

The weak notes in this book are minor, and few. A few collaborations that don't gel and can't quite see past the next line (though one with Jean Donnelly works). Also some repetition of lines that don't do much that the original line didn't already do. Mostly, though, this is strong work edited carefully into energetically and thematically coherent sections.

If you listed the modes Smith is capable of flipping through it might look something like this:

Direct epigrammatic thought, joke, diversion, indirect emotional insight, opporance, absurdity, rearrangement, backwardly cohering association, magnetic movement toward seriousness diverted and repolarized with humor, benevolent lyric mind-fuck, silliness, absurdity, friendly inscrutable word glob, one-line takes on literary and artistic history….

In a work where indeterminacy is so clearly a value, one of the things that is remarkable is that such a variety of modalities are so interestingly interrelated and joined, brought into a kind of coherence in other words. This modal quality leads me to think that Smith could be considered a new kind of jazz poet, one whose processes reflect the processes operating in more adventurously improvised Jazz musics.

The stylistic forward momentum of the prose is strong. It would be fascinating to see a whole book in the mode of these short prose sections.

There is a consistent sense of lyrical protest, which will be followed by protest of one's own mental environment.

"it is a great annoyance to have so many wishes"

Followed by a protest of one's own received literary history or amusing light-hearted mockery of one's own immediate group.

Followed by direct, unironic statement.

as the navigator fell overboard
in the memory of
the roll of flame
the soft regimes
played softly &
even the smallest lie
in its revolutions

mute the bit
agasp & tense
beneath our calm
song of death

This factor of protest and rebellion is also operating over several modalities, and, along with the human warmth of this poetry, is probably a key factor in how it works. One protest is against the control of language, of course, the "brooding mercenary definitions" as well as the deeper problem that this problem is a part of -- the systematic institutional control of categories of thought and hence potentialities of life. The internalizations of this process and the ability of the imagination to respond with alternate possibilities and propositions on both a personal and collective level are at the center of where this poetry is pointing.


One of the things keeping me warm during this early winter is a scarf Juliana Spahr knit for me. It's made of some kind of thick wool and totally blocks the wind from the vulnerable neck area which is exposed by my pea coat. The deep cut of the front of the coast necessitates a good scarf, and Juliana's creation really delivers.

The scarf is two-tone, a copper-brown and a silver-gray. The two colors interface in the middle with a series of variegating bands. Both ends also feature subtle rows of inset lines that lead into the edges. The bands and the lines make the whole thing gesture towards its own edges, a particularly coherent and graceful way to design a such a horizontal construction.


Many thanks to Noah Eli Gordon and Brandon Downing for their rap music suggestions.
Sullivan on Koeneke


Incapacitated for two weeks from the flu followed by a sinus infection. With the fever going on for that long, and the sinusitis messing with my inner ear and making me dizzy, I literally couldn't do anything at all -- except for watch TV, which started to become pretty hellish. Normally, if I feel I'm not being productive for six hours at a stretch, I start to go stir crazy. Here are some scattered memories of my TV nightmare.

Saw Frankenstein for the first time. Two things: A scene where the monster shows himself by backing into the picture frame though a doorway -- totally uncanny. Also, there was a recurrent element in the soundtrack where bells would ring in the background in very odd tonal areas. The best one was some kind of German folk wedding song with crazy out-of-keys bell throughout.

The Wild Bunch -- couldn't get all the way through it. It had the same problem as Kill Bill in the beginning-- long, violent fight scene opening where you don't know any of the characters or scenarios, and I guess you're supposed to just get into the decontextualized fight choreography, but it's just tiring and confusing.

MTV -- I was amazed at how shallow and depressing rap music, as it is presented by MTV, has gotten. 96% of it is about shopping (for expensive cars and " for girls"). Please -- someone who knows email me and let me know about rap music that is about more than shopping. It couldn’t be that rap ceased to be interesting after It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back?

Wildboyz -- Slightly disturbing combination of idiocy and beautiful animals. Two great scenes, though. One where Steve-O, walking on stilts, kisses a giraffe on the mouth. Oddly touching. Another where he and the other guy dress in a zebra costume and are almost eaten by two lions. One of the lions runs off with the stuffed zebra head -- unusual feeling from the mix of silliness and the actual nearness of predation.