1/9 train wall - lens crafters ad - model with one front incisor blacked-in with ball point pen. the simplicity of the gesture, crosshatching, traces of the human hand on the surface of the photographic reproduction, so effective at destroying the commercial usurpation of this small public rectangle of space. completely takes it back.

on the train to NJ – sun waning in smeared gray sky – Arthur Dove-style but with more menace. beautiful industrial blight with tall march weeds. the stranger's conversation in the next seat. giant letter "A" filling with neon light atop the huge evil-looking anheuser busch brewery. the graffiti out here, on a tanker train among the trees and rusting warehouses stands out strongly. on an iPod ad in the NYC subway graffiti is almost invisible.

the sky changes again. salmon plum clouds against blue.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Gary Cooper. naive, tuba-playing poet inherits millions, feeds doughnuts to a horse, is exploited by and falls in love w/ gossip columnist and has his social conscience awakened by a destitute, homicidally enraged farmer.

hilarious court scene to prove his insanity for giving away his money - diagnosed manic depressive. "He feels total elation when he plays his tuba and writes his poetry."

"Pixilated" meaning crazy – as in visited by pixies – "He sure is pixilated!"

"everyone in Mandrake Falls is pixilated"


Jordan weights in on clarity, a topic that can make poets nervous. One default assumption among some of our more opaque writers seems to be that all clarity is bad clarity -- unconscious patterns of communication which reinforce power structures through faulty associations. This take on clarity is more about the institutional maintenance of categories of thought, mass psychology and suggestibility. It’s not about clarity per se.

What is bad opacity? Rumsfeld’s poetry embodies opacity as calculated obfuscation. The language he used in the press conference where he told soldiers they should get used to dying because it’s not convenient for him to deal with getting armor for vehicles is in exactly the same register as his poetry and press conferences. When he was caught off guard and out of context, though, the obfuscational power of the language, the suggestive vagueness, broke down. It’s all about the framing.

Is vagueness, a factor so prevalent and yet presently so un-discussed from within avant-garde poetry, parallel in some way to the Rumsfeld thing? Create vague word sequences and frame them in such a way that people accept the whole shbang as social power? Is this acceptable as a mirror-critique, or could this be thought of as a mere symptom?

Is there an element of the anti-social which operates separately from clarity as such? Ashbury or Tina Darragh can be very unclear but neither ever sounds anti-social. Can the genX punk concept of antisocial as a good thing -- a big NO -- be said to apply to obscure poetry? Maybe not, since Punk was simple and antisocial and that’s why it worked. It was extremely clear.

Cecil Taylor is difficult, baroque and anti-social, and covers a wide spectrum from unclear to lucid. Maybe difficulty, or challenge, should also be separated from questions of clarity. Ninja Gaiden is considered very challenging, but it’s also very popular. Some of the more challenging poets I like, Carla Harryman, Alan Davies, etc. rarely strike me as unclear.

I do like some unclear poetry (David Melnick anyone?). I am also very uncomfortable with the idea that challenging writing has to be a collectors’ cult you have be initiated into and have to pay a tithe for – poetry as antisocial in a bad way.

If I look at clear poetry that I dislike, it’s never because of the clarity. It’s because of the cluelessness, awkwardness, and bland pandering.
This week’s essay in The New York Times Book Review features Jim Behrle, who is quoted at length on the question of techniques needed to achieve groupie-worthiness. Hot author photos, ACDC T-shirts, and an aura of availability are some of the trade secrets he imparts based on his years of observation organizing readings in Boston. If there is ever a Sex and the City reunion show Jim is going to be the go-to guy for writerly crushes.
The majority of a piano's range uses notes which are produced by a single hammer hitting not one but three strings simultaneously. We hear it as a single tone.

You would assume that the best quality of sound would be achieved by tuning all three strings to the same exact same frequency -- in unison, but this isn't the case. The three strings are detuned slightly -- this produces a better tone with a longer sustain. The strings are intentionally put out of tune make them sound better.

Poetry with overly meticulous lines falls into a similar pattern -- they need to be more out of whack!


The Pixies, Hammerstein Ballroom

When the Pixies where happening in the late 80s I enjoyed what I heard but didn't get deeply into them. I was foolishly purist--the MTV presence and pop riffs kept me at arms length. The last few years I've been listening to the CDs and asking myself, "What the hell was wrong with me that I didn't like this more at the time?"

We got to the Hammerstein early knowing the show would fill up fast. It did. The crowd was much younger than I would have expected -- mostly mid-twenties, through there were a few people my age. Very excited people. Heavy competition for floor real estate. We stood down front, Kim Deal side.

Opening were Le Tigre -- a band I had read about but never seen: three young women doing peppy retro-disco/punk with feminist/queer framing. The music was almost all laptop tracks. One guitar got traded around occasionally, and the odd keyboard doodle was thrown in here and there, but this was all about singing over the hard drive. They did cute orchestrated disco party moves and wore sparkly outfits -- queer political performance art rock with karaoke party as model?

I have to admit I was struggling to access the music, which seemed shockingly sleepy. Maybe this works better on CD? It was hard to discern much content apart from the framing. "All feminists report to the front desk" is as far as they could take the material? The tone was trying to be fun and serious at the same time(Margaret Cho influence?), but it too often veered into a preachy/awkward/immature zone.

The drum machine and synthbass sounded brittle and one-dimensional, like a storefront façade for a western done in high-contrast black and white halftone. The song writing was all bare minimum retro-formalism, though two or three of the tunes toward the end of the set had better dynamics and actually developed some forward momentum and contrast. Maybe I don’t really get this music, but it's still good to see younger musicians trying to keep some kind of politics upfront without loosing a fun vibe entirely. It could also be there is a generation gap between me and Le Tigre?

I did notice, in the overall performance, something that resonated though -- the unhealed, rejected teenager in me that still needs to bond with others who also don’t fit in to their larger social world for some reason, though my identification to this as a straight male happens on a different scale.

The Pixies came on after the traditional unnecessary rock-concert-torture-waiting-period, which is designed, I suppose, to frame the music with a giant block of tedium and thereby have the featured act come as a kind of relief. From the first few seconds of the opener -- Wave of Mutilation, it was obvious the show was going to be incontrovertibly awesome.

The formula for the songs worked over and over with variations: great verse vocal melodies with odd and inventive lyrics, solid but aggressive pop groove with simple propulsive drumming, bringing the energy up three or four notches on the chorus with the beautifully vivid Frank Black scream (I kept thinking: Glenn Danzig!) and Kim Deal harmonizing. Piercing single-line guitar riffs repeating the vocal melody. Every element of the song added a strong element.

The mix, which started a little muddy, got progressively worse, eventually degenerating into a pulpy, over-processed blob that actually obfuscated the last few songs, including Debaser.

They broke the set in half with a twenty minute guitar feedback solo with some antics involving a drumstick and a bottle of beer while the rest of the band stepped to the side. It was almost like a magic routine -- the drummer's influence at work perhaps, since he has been a professional magician.

There is often a trace of something embarrassing about watching a rock stars, but this was entirely lacking with The Pixies. No chat or commentary between songs. Hardly any stage movement from anyone. The Doolittle-heavy set didn't slow up for a second. They mostly went straight from one song to the next. It actually got faster and more aggressive as the evening went on: One great song after another for an hour and a half.

The band was visibly happy at how much people loved the music, how happy they were to be there. The Pixies play a music that is a fusion of exuberance and unhappiness, maybe trying to purge the unhappiness, but also using it as depth, holding the unhappiness up the light of exuberance to see what it is.


I’m loving Shanna’s Gamers, which is finally out from Soft Skull. The Boston Globe mentions my article in it about vector graphics games and physics. I’ve only had time to read a few of the pieces, but here are some highlights so far:

The book kicks off with this Charles Bernstein quote: “If a typewriter could talk, it probably would have very little to say; our automatic washers are probably not hiding secret dream machines deep inside their drums. But these microchips really blow you away!”

Daniel Nester: a fascinating and slightly frightening portrait of ex-competitive gamer and tarantula rustler Todd Rogers.

Mark Lamoureux: Barthes collides with the Atari 2600. Writing on the primitive bit map graphics of the system, Lamoureux says,"The images are incomplete, standing upright only upon the crutches of context and metonymy. It is through those holes in the extremities of representation that the creatures of myth are allowed to enter."

Katie Degentesh unpacks the internalizations of late capitalism via the Atari800.

Shannon Holman: Finally, a lesbian perspective on Moon Patrol.

Ernest Hilbert: a fellow Jersey-boy gamer on golden age coin ops.

Mark Nesbitt reports from beta-tester hell.

Bill Spratch: The best walkthrough for playing George W. you going to find anywhere.

Nik Kelman walks a few MMOE miles in the shoes of a female, and learns to his irritation that “men call you ‘bossy’ when you make any kind of suggestion as to what might be the best course of action.”

At the release party this Sat at the BPC, I’m going to play some improvised music with my laptop and midi controller using sampled sound effects from the game Gravitar as the only sound sources.


Ave. B: doughnut holes arranged lovingly on the windshield wipers of a vintage MG.
There is a marvelous, crystal-clear savaging of Dana Gioia by A.O. Scott also in the Sunday Times Book Review this week. The Book Review should fire all their poetry and fiction critics and hire movie critics to replace them.


When I noticed the New York Times Book Review did a piece on Lyn Hejinian's Best American Poetry I thought, hmmm... I'm sure this will include an extensive, thrilled quotation from Kasey Silem Mohammad's poem Mars Needs Terrorists. I'm sure they wouldn't just run series of understated, threatened put-downs....

What we get is a picture of Lyn, which is shocking enough to see in the Book Review, with the words What Were You Thinking writ large below it. Then we get complaints that experimental poets are actually established, clearly too established for Orr's comfort. This is followed by complaints that the "traditional" sources BAP is taken from, Poetry, The Paris Review, etc. are missing.

I have to admit that I found Orr's comparison of the relative print runs of Shiny, The Yale Review and Cat Fancy amusing. Then the central complaints: the poetry here is not based on anecdote and "constructing a reliable voice."

Orr uses the second Matrix movie as a metaphor for what he sees as the weakness of experimental poetry. Metaphor can sometimes have a way of magnetically pulling away from uses the writer had intended for it. The closer, related, metaphor here would be the first Matrix film, where Neo, still in the ignorance-is-bliss Fox News/ Yale Review Matrix, is offered the pill and rabbit hole of a less reassuring but more real version of things (less based on anecdote and reliable voice you could say). Maybe Orr will one day go back and decide to take the other pill. You can imagine Lyn offering it to him with a sunglasses and an ankle-length leather trench coat. Lyn is Morpheus. Kasey is the pill itself.

Mlinko on primal self-expression.

Magee on Iraq blowback.

Kimball on Jordan Davis and Stephanie Young.

Latta on Padgett, Culley and Gottlieb,


Stephanie Young and Jordan Davis, BPC, 11/13/04

Came in slightly late to the BPC, where Stephanie had already started, sporting a (new?) rocker-Cat Power-ish look. Almost didn’t recognize her from a distance. I settled in at the bar in the midst of her startling, marzipan-heavy series featuring a haunted talking bracelet and a robot: totally marvelous.

“I lick the plate of macaroni. I have a sincere desire to change.”

“I had gone far to rest among the foxglove.”

Jordan Davis:

Is there a correlation between an appetite for Dub and the relaxed line and welcoming tone modulating themselves to the demands of circumambulation? Am I right in thinking there were more specks of disclosure in Jordan's reading than I'm used to?

“Taco hot dog blooper magnolia.”

“Under interests she listed sex and power, and then crossed one out.”

“It’s got to be overcast to mean business.”

“It repeats it, out to the edge of the pancake.”


Two things from different talks given by Steve Evans and Michael Magee linger together in my mind, though the talks were given months apart. Steve made an off the cuff remark worded with chilling concision about how the world had apparently been reabsorbed into a fundamentalist mind-set -- a perception our recent election confirms and deepens.

Magee's riffing off of the Burke thing about how diversity in America can have an ameliorating effect on the use of negative mass psychological forces for concentrating power - that we can't agree on who to hate, seems like it might be up in the air now that American Republicans/Christians seem to agree to hate Arabs and queers together? Or they agree enough on this that a little voting fraud in the right place does the trick.


The election...

no acceptable reaction...


Notes on Michael Magee's talk
Ralph Ellison: Pragmatism, Jazz, and the American Vernacular
Poetry Project, 10/22/04

Emerson -- "How easily we capitulate to badges and names."

The maintenance of idealism in the face of the myth of democracy.

How to avoid the patterns of getting locked into the traditions that precede you.

Social flexibility vs. stagnant institutional power as a discipline -- that is -- what a process of democratization would actually mean.

Magee paraphrase of Emerson: "part of self reliance is to protect other people from yourself."

History is a text that can be revised.

Symbolic action -- creating new idioms, new dialogue, new ways of speaking -- hence new thoughts reflecting new realities, and: new actions.

"All literary power is social power."

Burke's take on Hitler and his popularity w/ Germans at the time: enforced repetition of thought until it becomes tradition.

Complicity of power and language, which can cut both ways -- the opportunity available to use the social power of language for change.

Burke's take on why America won't ever go fascist -- we can't agree on who to hate.

The polyvocal aspects of jazz -- the including of dissonance -- different needs and voices in the social sense, as enriching and inherently progressive socially.

American culture is "jazz-shaped."

Making players out of audiences: this point made me think of a recent performance of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning I participated in recently (there was no other way to experience it, really) where the entire audience emptied out from the bleachers and joined the musicians on stage -- players and audience were one, voila!)

Ellison on interdependent form and content -- heavy overlap with Creeley.

The Bill of Rights as improvisation.


I added a link (left),for the Poetics Orchestra, including some mp3s from the Free Radicals concert.

Next gig: Bowery Poetry Club: Nov 5th


Butch Morris with the Free Zone / Sound Infusion Orchestra
Bowery Poetry Club, 10/17/04
Conduction No. 141: EMYOUESEYESE

Met Steve Dickison early at the BPC due to some conflicting time listings, so we got to see Morris warm his band up before the concert. His comments to the players were barely audible, but fascinating -- I think I overheard "why is there so much doubt…?" during a cue where he was trying to get fully extended duration from a full orchestra pedal chord. Certainly a valid question. I couldn't help wondering how much of an orchestration could be done by simply asking the orchestra questions?

Musicians kept filtering in up to the last second - there were at lest 16 on stage by the time they started. The piece began with Adam Lane on bass, rhythmically ping-ponging between the low and high end of the instrument while keeping a continuous melodic stream of variation going. The bass was an anchor and an engine for much of the piece. He was slowly joined by violin and cello -- an extended string texture over which Morris began to signal with flourishes and punctuations. Much of the piece used this method- some players creating static or repetitive structure over which dynamic layers would be superimposed.

The overlapping tonalities were dense, and hovered in a thick mid-low ball of dark gray energy that would transform into beautiful and somewhat nightmarish shapes, creating a constant counter-pointing feeling. It was beautiful and energetic, with a certain amount of anxiety shot through. Not unlike life in NYC.

When I followed the cues it was clear that Morris was tightly controlling the orchestra movement the entire time, though the overall feeling of structure also came across as pointedly dream-like in its logic, with a consistent sense of interacting elements of carefully interwoven particles and sheets: balanced volatility, mass and organization.


Kit Robinson, 9:45, The Post-Apollo Press, 2003

Honed, focused attention, cognitive torque, and dry humor.

Robinson plays off of numbers as particular instances and pivots of thought and memory. The numbers also function as nodal points of subject matter -- often records of money and time as poetic opening devices-- with the dimensions of life and thought opened by these particulars recombining.

The numbers measure mundane given conditions and stamp them with a particular signature, and the fact of their perception -- rent due in a particular apartment (first last and security) / at a certain time in life (age "29")/ the number of messages on an answering machine("30"). These things become inseparable from branched interconnections of poetic meaning and chains of thought through linked classes of subject matter.

Elements and details are broken down, but not as fragments-- not as reflections of a damaged whole -- they are dissolved parts brought to a point where they gain recombining associative potential -- Zen immediacy --"daily mind" -- set on puree.

Memories, meditations, and questions.

It's impressive how much context and thought Robinson can compress into so few words.


Paid a visit to my dentist Wed afternoon. Light classical music combined with the sound of air sucking through the tube in my mouth-- good arrangement!

Then down to 18th St. to Academy Records, which has above average used jazz and _Post War_ classical sections. I had a few things to sell, tried to hold off buying, though tempted by a Tony Scott CD. Ran into Joel Lewis. Talked for about a half hour in the front of the store's cast of characters. Topics covered included: the Zukofsky conference, the relation of aging and poetry scenes, Hawkwind, Dennis Charles, do young people read Zukofsky?, Neil Young, Amiri Baraka, early Can 1968-1971, Hoboken, Objectivism, acceptable "poetry gig"-type day jobs, John Cage's botany tutorial where he went door to door telling people - "I'm teaching a class about botany, which I don't know anything about." (my comment- that's when the rents are very low...") The amazing Max Roach/Cecil Taylor concert outside at Columbia a few years ago, The Max Roach bio that Baraka is working on, Billy Higgins, A-22, A-23, Ed Blackwell, Patty Smith, Lorraine Niedecker, Steve Winwood, spending money on CDs vs. poetry books...

Down to 2nd Ave. for hot borscht and challa bread for dinner at B & H. Deep red tones. The clientele totally uncontaminated by new East Village yuppies. A restaurant with a spatial extent so narrow as to be effectively two-dimensional. It's like being a character in Flatland. You can see the sphere pass through, but it looks like a bowl of borscht disappearing into your body. The cook hands you the soup over the counter. Best challa bread in town. Total:$3.75

6:30pm: the Jordan Davis talk show at the Bowery Poetry Club. Jordan's opening monologue is the highlight. I was thinking he should stretch/wig out even more during this section. Late late late late show maybe? Where is video net streaming? Pleased to find Jim Behrle and Brandon Downing in the audience. After, Jordan and I discuss how unemployment has been good for Jim's comic art. Met Miss Meghan and shook her down for info about the message my shoes are sending: I am drawn to comfort.

Off to The Poetry Project to hear the Eileen Myles Opera "The Workshop from Hell." Packed house in the large room. Jim, Brandon and Bob Holman all came over from the BPC. Eleven piece chamber group. Great to hear harpsichord, vibraphone and bassoon. Professional, slightly campy neo-classical music. I had no idea what was going on plot-wise, though- couldn't make out most of the words- though I liked hearing the poetry sung. Some fragments came through, imagine them in camped-out operatic voicings:

"this is the first Goth PO-em"

"hold ON -- my browser's STUCK"

"we thought hell could be REPLACED by an inexpensive WAX MODEL"

"the trees won the earth FAIR and SQUARE"
(There were some (singing) trees holding golf clubs)

(and, my favorite,a dig on poetry bitching):

"the people of Iceland have been writing and telling STORIES for thousands of YEARS in an incredibly obscure LANGUAGE- you don't hear them COMPLAINING...."


This is first time I've seen Ezra Pound compared to Resident Evil 3.

I have to admit that the Hell Cantos do play a lot like RE3- awkward.

Other parts of the Cantos play more like Silent Hill, though, discontinuous, compelling, and full of odd detail, and with a flow and rhythm that increases one's curiosity about what's going on in this odd world.

One's position as an agent in The Cantos is also more like Silent Hill in general- one stumbles through it, not getting the references, absorbing the atmosphere, and moving through an altered spacialization of time and history where an investigation is part of the reader/player's participation in the story.


The Kerry team doesn't seem to understand that they are fighting two Mecha-Godzilla-scale forces of human repression: religious faith and fear, things that by themselves have the capacity to shut off the powers of critical thinking, and can combine to do untold damage, esp. when harnessed by dangerous millionaires. These forces make people feel protected by their exploiters.

I think Kerry still has a chance of winning, but he has to somehow use the media to send the message to the population that the Bush crew is 1) robbing us 2) killing our children for no reason 3) poisoning our air and land 4) raiding our retirement funds 5) systematically bankrupting and weakening our country. Can this be done in the current media landscape without threatening people's realities to the point where there's a backlash within the population, causing them to retreat into a violently self-disempowering fantasy space where they have not elected a maniac, putting their poetic imaginations to use in the face of an unpleasant and unflattering reality?

For most Republicans, the fact is that their father-figure/buddy leader and protector is stepping on their necks, and they respond to this by asking for more -- and by licking the offending boot. Will the swing voters adopt the same mental strategy? Is Kerry too blandly patrician to understand what it would take to win against people like Carl Rove? You have to credit the Republicans with a knowledge of mass psychology that completely leaves the Democrats in the dust. The RNC was brilliant performance art. The Republican poetic is masterful. These tactics, the swift boat stuff and the RNC pitch, the bald opposite-of-the-truth dissociations, the fear mongering, the character assassination, these are thousands of years old, and the Kerry crew responds by taking a nap.

If the Bush people win again the ante on the worst-case scenario is up considerably: American religious fundamentalist-led creeping global neo-capitalist corporate Stalinism working in a symbiotic relationship with an equally fundamentalist and militarized fragmented Islamic radical terrorist _opposition._ It's a perfect mutually-empowering partnership against the populations of the world, who are the real opposition to both groups. If this happens you'll have the Christians of middle-America to thank: people so uncomfortable with their own identities they agree to tolerate having their children killed in profiteering wars of foreign occupation as long as they don't have to hear anything on the news about the president getting a blowjob.

As long as W keeps intoning _I'm protecting you people from A-rabs_ and there's no proper answer to it from anyone, then he'll win. Then again, the American death count in a war justified by and universally accepted as unrelated to 9/11 is already at 1/3 of the number of people killed on 9/11 and rising.


I know what reading suggestion I'll be making to any stray RNC delegates I run into this weekend:

"The idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind both in theory and practice. He who desires to worship God must harbor no childish illusions about the matter but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity."
--Bakunin, Federalism, Socialism, and Anti-Theologism


Morton Feldman: No salad. No soup. Just blintzes.


"Now people pursue rock music, and they go, 'I have something important to say, and here's what it is, and ooh, I'm singing it from my heart, too.' And it's all too serious. And people totally miss out. They totally miss the fun, Jabberwocky, fun-with-language, fun-with-poetry."

Charles Michael Kittredge Thompson IV, aka Frank Black, in the Sunday Times


people in a flaming basement room / a giant anteater licks an ant off a hit-and-run victim's cheek along a tree-lined road / Ed Begley Junior's face / elevator cables snap / corny sentimental explanations of changed alternate time-realities / two people hold hands, causing a drawing of a fire extinguisher to become real / dark clouds move slowly as a girl's face appears in a starry night sky.

Final fifteen minutes of Kingdom Hospital. Knowing nothing about the show, and seeing it totally out of context really liberates the images from the narrative....


Schema, Alli Warren, Housepress, 2004

Reading this chapbook, I kept finding some little nuance or charm I had missed in the previous take. My similarity-reference-needle kept wildly jumping around, one minute the poems possessed an Alan Davies-grade morphed intensity of differed eros, the next they felt like what might happen if Elizabeth Robinson started writing flarf. My conclusion: these are the early voicing of a highly distinct writer.

There are instances of sense here framed within a feeling for mental space which is allowed to remain partially distanced while also magnetizing along vectors of curiosity, humor, and warmth. The poems keep moving toward, and refracting through, different series of questions -- carefully arranged, funny, slightly inappropriate in an unpredictable way, and possessed of a charged and balanced intelligence.

& negation

here & there

your little lazy sex
immoderately expands
great pleasure from
watering the garden
with a hose

the larynx
is smaller than
& I am
to make resolutions

Warren's line can be blunt and delicate at the same time:

On the subway
trumpet sounds,
dragonflies screw
in the air above us

A correspondence inherent in the psychic energy required of word arrangement and the ability to both process sense perception and navigate a scrutiny of emotive states becomes, in her work, a poetic space of allowance with a vacillating rhythm of hiding and disclosing that connects it with the poetic tradition of Emily Dickinson. There are places where it glows with the energy of unspoken wishes and unspoken complaints fused at the moment where they manifest in a string of words.

There are some poems in Schema, where, within a certain limit of warmth they becoming almost Olson-like lyrically honed motions of perception, without losing any of the humor or oddness:

Velle non discitur
did you mean or

terra cotta I meaning
the hair in my eyes

smelling like "beer"
have you seen my dictionary

looking like "underpants"
are we the polis eyes

still awaiting fever
however subjunctive

the intention
in our starry air

naked error how to say
a sedentary peninsula

we can't go out and play
on the mainland

the surrounding area neither
yet known as phenomena

we are loaded full of fruit
I mean not conclusively.

The feelings, circumstances, and thinking are all handled with great care and verve in this work. Warren can handle both impossible and ordinary situations between people as well as situations which occur between the conflicting layers of oneself.

Glenn Branca, Lesson No. 1, AcuteRecords, 2004

Listened to the first track at the uptown Kim's listening station for about forty seconds and realized I needed to get it right away. Recorded in 1980 during the Rhys Chatham Kitchen era, this is a Pre-Sonic Youth minimalist art-rock band with Anthony Coleman playing organ. New wave/no wave/punk channeling of Terry Riley's in C with a beautiful balance of tonality, dissonance, and looping rhythms.


Metropolis 16-26, Robert Fitterman, Coach House Books, 2002

A remarkably flarfy procedural poem, Metropolis 19, entitled Dream Cuisine: Neo-Colonialism, Nouvelle Cuisine, Lewis & Clark and the Union Square Café, is a spare cut up of the journals of Lewis and Clark mixed with the menu copy from the Union Square Café in New York City.

The poem goes beyond a simple distanced ironic equating of pretentious urban dining with colonialism because the actual attraction of the food (and of the descriptive food-language) and the appeal of equating Lewis and Clark with self-exploration are both intact in the work, despite the intentionally flat arrangement/critique. This sets up funny, contradictory energies in the poem, and makes for a tone of fused lament and absurdity:

Elk skins, I was obliged
to leave my celery root

coconut chutney of self-

a fine morning bejeweled
pulsating with Mexican seasoning.

we had the trumpet sounded, and fired several shots
but he did not join us, the evening 's growing influence

of a black root; a kind of Liquirish

social fabric
croquetted wontons

the birnt hills, down the lolo trails

the lower part of the Cove, gusto

the same sleeping crepe.

Rodney Koeneke, Rouge State, Pavement Saw Press, 2003

feelin' Albigensian?

wild, friendly baroque wackiness and serious intellectual warmth.

"Mammogram the bildungsroman, induce
dingbat hexameters in the heldentenor's
yeasty Hornitos. Queen Ixnay to the E-bay
goes Braxton-Hicks on mother's bad milk day.
Computer's at last completely stewy--
picked up the bug at the honor bar. Citizen Quiggley
from the Gun and Doll Commission seeks flap
with pointillistic gabardine. Bad weekends for
two straight quarters--look inward and talk
to the polygraph: Have you grokked
Hampton Hawes today?"

Comedic/absurd virtual memoir improv riffing

"our Mordor grows more porous"

"here at the garden's hot marges
events soften into fire ants"

"in a moment of vast inattention
where everything happens together, a glimmer"

"when did the world tree, Yggdrasill, get so decorous"

"The body removed like a vacuum bag
from that chrome gleam
the dead part touches the live part and then
The whole thing, it pivots or turns."

"ego is an autopsy
at which you're a guest but also its theater"


Jemeel Moondoc
Revolt Of The Negro Lawn Jockeys, Eremite, 2000

Moondoc (alto sax); Khan Jamal (vibes); Nathan Breedlove (trumpet); John Voigt (bass); Codaryl Moffett (drums)

Beautifully integrated swinging polyglot soundspace. Jamal's playing central in unifying the band sound. A tonality from the vibes like light piercing the darkness of a room: permeating, major/dominant tonalities. Now loping, now swinging, now staggering -- so much is allowed. He blurs the boundary between comping and a slow, patient soloing.The awkwardness, oddness, wackiness allowed to exist with the beautiful, cool and darker tones. Jamal's solo on You Let Me Into Your Life sounds like weather. Each bar of the vibraphone being an instrument in itself, collected in a row. How much the world is the interacting of groups of particles in space.

Moondoc: relaxed, Dolphyish, warped, good humored... some chord changes even! It is as though the tunes were left alone, to be themselves. Swing and awkwardness and humor together, liking and leaving room for the other players – as you would like and leave room for the people in your life....


Fung Wah to Boston, schlepping piccolo snare, cymbals, kick pedal, stick bag, and a new blank book. Several fellow passengers eating chinese food in the still dormant bus.

Lots of congestion coming out of NYC. Five hours up. Walked to Boston Commons and down into the Red line. Tokens for entrance. Everyone wearing white sneakers / baseball caps. Sunflowers seeds on the train floor. Charles river out the subway window. Out at Porter Sq. Up the hill to Dan's. Across the street a crazy house with religious rant lines all over it, like lines of poetry. That's publishing.

Dan's sitting on the steps. Two studies in the Kate/Dan household. I dream of getting my books out of storage.

Lovely back yard bbq involving portabellos and kielbasa. I get the skinny on Kate's theater career and a report on Dan's recent reading with Ron Silliman.

Into the car and out to Zeitgeist, where there some kind of poetry reading is just finishing. The house drumset turns out to be excellent. One minute of downtime before the set starts and I meet Cristina Strong. Cross draft coming through with the back and front doors open. Brief sound of rain. The set goes well.

Back to Dan's with Christina for post gig hanging out and talking. Asked about Christina's poetry origins and time in SF, where we overlapped but never met. I shake Dan down for reports on how Gerrit Lansing, Patrick Dowd, Jim Behrle, Joe Torra, Jack Kimball are doing. Hit futon at 2:45.

Woke at 6 am to a beautiful, restrained mocking bird. Really picking notes carefully. Back out till 11:00, dream of car crash where I berate the driver afterwards for carelessness. I am uninjured in the dream.

Dan gives us a copy of his new chapbook, Sound Swarms and Other Poems, Slack Budda Press.

Book hunting with Kate and Dan. Pulled a rare upgrade and got a hardback vers. of John Wieners, Cultural Affairs in Boston, which I have in paper. At The Brattle Book shop I find Emerson, the Mind on Fire, Robert Richardson and Karen Horney, New Ways in Psychoanalysis, both cheap.

Burgers before we get on the bus. Goodbye to Dan and Kate.

Best Fung Wah Driver ever, though he talked on his cell phone at near yelling volume for most of the trip. At the gas station rest stop he refueled at the diesel self serve. It came to $230.


MS, Michael Magee, Spuyten Duyvil, 2003

Playfulness, jokiness and serious engagement. Focus and then letting go of focus. To get the contradictions of life and presentation up front, rather than evade or hide or refuse to have a good time.

Most people are like trees, they are caught between competing sets of counterproductive /destructive forces. Between gypsy moths and being make into paper. Magee understands this.

"this is a fact check
from the girl at the hat check with the hatchet"

People places and things in these poems are constantly becoming each other. As in the ecosystems we are part of. The writer and reader and language and materials and experiences linked. As in ecology, the linkages have to be dealt with one way or another.

Goofy thematic fugue-like development. Ronald Johnson in science of perception mode if he had gone through the poetics of Jackass.

"the rest of the brain is barley"

Partly on nerve, partly on riff energy, partly on schtick, partly genuine interest in who might be listening. With his guard partially down. No transparent formal procedures or formalistic distancing to shield the poetry from the threat of the reader. A critical acumen operating from within. Letting the forces run openly through the poem, not screening out the contradictory stuff, not sidestepping the social phase cancellations.

The tension between the layers half the point. Dealing w/ it. Riffing, goofing, figuring, addressing, reapplying, and re-developing, The vectors of thought and playfulness. The light improprieties. Puns, rearrangements, cliches turned inside out. Figures of speech turn around.

Satirical suburban landscape as one of several enviornmental objects of address. Development as in the Duncan Doughnuts sense vs poetic development.

"the way to a man's heart is through his sternum"

References to Ayler, SunRa

Jazz voicing in dada mode- like Hans Bennink...

Riff-based Paratactic sequencing with active morphing.

Sweet/smart. Strong when deflating things.

MS is slop ala Mingus.

How much sampling?

"The 'I'm Tiger Woods, Motherfucker!' of indecision"

Dear P- Blog like epistolary prose dropped into the middle. Implying that the poet is doing a similar investigation of Globalization -- Capitalism -- Race from a different angle.

Readers hungry for more should check out My Ange Dickinson.


Ken Jacobs & John Zorn
Nervous Magic Lantern Live Collaborative Performance
Celestial Subway Line 3

Anthology Film Archive, 5/29/04

"AIRY NOTHINGS would be a way of describing the illusion of moving through and about places that aren't there. I can understand not wanting to throw away hard-earned (by somebody) money on such frivolity, like riding a cloud through the heavens solely to gawk in wonder. The Nervous Magic Lantern opens before us an unsuspected cinema, without actors and their fascinating problems (movies are about actors, they allow common people to learn something of the problems of exceptionally beautiful people). While only recently acquiring the Nervous tag, it is a technique that could've been employed before the advent of film, and way before electronics. As soon as light could be concentrated and focused through a lens in a surrounding darkness against a reflective surface, and a shutter could be made to spin, it was at hand. I figure it had to've given evidence of itself during the time of optical toys and experiment but got pushed aside, was skillfully shunned as extraneous to the inventing of cinematic mimesis. Recognition of its potential required a mind primed by Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. A mind also willing to turn its attention away from human strife, hi-tech barbarity, stupidity, venality, needless pain and waste in the service of God or The Nation. This dream world is a deception of another order, modernist deception, stating itself as such in the same way Houdini attacked priestly miracle-makers and spiritualist con-artists by performing tricks and saying so. Now if you as viewer wish to join in and lend substance to the work via your own depth projection, well, that's okay. Let us tangle." - Ken Jacobs

Met Brian and Marianne at Anthology.

Zorn doing a laptop score of some kind. Relaxed unnerving tamboural movements.

The Nervous Magic Lantern projection system does seem like it could have just as easily have been done with candles and a hand crank in the 19th century. The operation and design was intentionally obscured by pieces of cardboard (don't pay an attention to the man behind the cardboard?) Different objects/photos of some kind, including slides covered with colored granules and half-deflated balloons, seem to be placed under a moving projection lens /strobe -- or maybe the objects themselves were moved. The system allowed for the improvisation of different effects -- radial blur, a panning effect, maybe even some kind of stereoscopic effect or simulation.

Most of the material looked like a helicopter-eye view of a barren / alien landscape, like opening shot of The Shining or the planet surface sections of Solaris. The point of view was a disembodied watcher floating over nightmare landscapes, looking for something. Endless variations within the sameness of the surface textures. An alienation effect created by the disembodied viewer pespective, as in the monster-eye view in horror movies, not frightening, but unnearving, since the monster is no longer unknown: we are a spectator watching powerlessly from within it. Seeing this flim is like watching someone else play a video game designed by an evil shaman.

Shifting blurred forms and powerful strobing. Made me think of a Butthole Surfers concert I saw in a small building on the campus of Bard College in 1987 where there were two separate epileptic seizures from the strobes.

The Nervous Magic Lantern strobe is relentless and slightly nausea and headache inducting. Add to that the constant panning and blurring and it becomes mild torture. The darkened theater becomes a dungeon. Constant hallucinatory texture of mineral surfaces. Some kind of suggestible state / hypnotic state induced by the strobe? Seeing things in the mineral surface forms -- faces mostly, and skulls, but also a pair of vice grips? What does that say about me? That I project issues of identity, death, and agency onto what I see? Brian and Marianne later reported also seeing faces.

At one point a 19th century family portrait of some kind was the photo source, and the people became a nightmarish shifting landscape. The surface of human historical record or memory rendered into a morphing lava-like fabric...

Maybe if we worked out our nightmares more in virtual realms we would export them less to other countries...



Peter Gizzi, talk on Jack Spicer. Poet's House 5/6/04

I came in late to this talk as Peter was discussing After Lorca. It occurred to me that having Lorca introduce you is a great deflationary comical rearrangement of Whitman's "stealing" his introduction from a private letter of Emerson's without asking him for permission. Could Spicer be considered a negative or reversed transcendentalist? My mind kept going back to the arena of poetic social manifestation were the poet attempts to associate their work with artistic status figures…. what is this process? What does it reveal?

Gizzi in this talk made a pitch to see Spicer as a traditional poet in the good sense, that is -- keeping basic poetic gestures alive (by morphing them) in one's time and according to the demands one's experiences in the world call for. Great to have Spicer described not as some magically depressed hermeticly private crank, but as a reflection of the larger history happening around him.

Discussion of basic Spicer moves -- puns, degraded sources, etc., leading up to a comparison of Spicer with California funk art and assemblage, and, in particular, Bruce Connor.

Gizzi showed the Connor film Report, which was totally riviting. Repeated (sampled you could say) news images of the Kennedy assassination that never get to the actual moment of violence, but seem to be infinitely approaching it. Against this disorienting permanent deferment of the moment of truth a news voiceover continues uninterrupted, the temporal continuity of public language seeming to flow and change even as historical meaning is frozen. I thought more than once of Sept. 11th, and the nightmarish media repetition than followed.

I felt in the audience a fascinating rift between the older audience members who had lived through the assassination and the younger ones to whom it is all more distanced media and myth. The older man sitting in front of me kept shaking his head and quietly saying, "why…why…" not understanding what this has to do with Spicer or why a filmmaker would do such a thing.

More than once I thought of JG Ballard during the course of this film, and I realized there may be strong connections between Ballard and Spicer… the use of repeated media/myth images and their fetishistic aspects, the deflationary use of this material which also invokes the dynamics of individual fixation that these myth/history/image systems involve.

Talking with Steve Evans afterwards we both agreed that the deflationary power of Spicer's work is one it's most valuable qualities.

The poetic movement not from unknowing to knowing, but from believing to not knowing? Not art that destabilizes myth but art that reveals an unstable reality from beneath a myth, or, one could say, a wish for stability.


It's hard to imagine that the patriotic denial of national guilt is stronger anywhere in the world than in the USA now, esp. relative to the ostensible level freedom of speech we're suppose to have here. And esp. considering that we could just be getting started with this neo-imperialist shit. This is something traditional that happens in all countries with power, because patriotism, along with it's sibling, religion, are the primary ways leaders switch off the critical thought of the population in order to exploit them, and to use them to exploit others. (my thoughts return to the obvious again!) So it's been for 2000 years with empires, but I do think the USA has cornered the market!

Our corporate media broker state apparatus themselves broadcast these picture of war crimes day after day and Bush's approval ratings stay the same. Rumsfeld's defense is basically that war crimes are no big deal, and people should shut up about it -- he should be able to do as he pleases without the interference of "the world" knowing what he's doing. As if we could hide the meaning of our actions from anyone except ourselves!

There must obviously be guilt in the population (of the paralyzing variety not of the "okay now how are we going to make it right" variety), but it goes with an equal helping of denial. Paralyzed /unprocessed guilt and denial, those are two great American tastes that go great together. The current leaders are clearly beyond the reach of guilt feelings -- these people are expressions of narcissistic tendencies so extreme that guilt is no longer a possibility.

Our guilt about the history within the USA, which is about genocide against Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, and the cast system and repression of our underclass, all operate here in a strong but deeply sublimated domestic guilt/denial system. The powers of denial here are ten times stronger than the powers of guilt as conscience. In the USA, morality operates as an opinion you have about others, it's not something you would apply to what you actually do, or to what "your country" does.

Americans, on the surface, are infantile in their understanding of what it's leaders are doing and why. We look for images of fathers in a president, trust our government, and we "get mad" at people in other countries when they "don't like us." That's how many Americans think. We're not stupid. This is a tactical suppression of intelligence.

American guilt is a guilt that makes us more violent. We think -- what if somebody tried to do this shit to US? We'd want to kill them and torture them. So then we have to be more violently repressive towards them because we're afraid they would want to kill us as much as we'd want to kill them in the same circumstances. That's how the real white guilt works.

It seems that only in academia is historical guilt allowed to be a topic of conversation for extended periods. Because it is contained there, like a protest march route set by the NYPD is contained. When Goering has his own show on Fox the topic is not going to be historical guilt. "You're just having white guilt" means shut up. It's a reactionary statement. I have to admit, though, that saying "we are all complicit " and just leaving it at is a drag and rings false. If it's not elaborated on it can come off as saying "please watch me wringing my hands."

The guilt incurred through imperial repression of other countries is not quite on the mental radar of Americans yet , though I think we project our domestic guilt onto foreign others. The Abu Ghraib prison pictures are reminiscent of American lynching photography. Think of the treatment of Aber Louima got in jail after being falsely arrested in New York City.

Will these fragmented country/ gulag zones be allowed to flourish? Will they grow? The pictures show a tiny sliver of what's going on over there. They also show just a tiny lighted corner compared to a lot of the things we know about foreign policy/CIA/MI history and what it was done over the past 50. America has been such a quick learner. We were able to learn so much from the Nazis and their innovative ideas about counter-insurgency, and to make sure that that Nazi culture didn't die out, didn't go to waste after WWII.

When Rumsfeld was questioned on the armed services committee was very angry about digital photography, and how easy it is to distribute. He was complaining about this when he was being questioned about why 60 minutes was asked not to show the pictures. This was his main concern.

Funny, I remember all these newspaper articles about the digitizing of photography when it was just starting years ago, how it would mean that no one will be able to believe media or history anymore. Looks like it (combined with networking of computers) is going to have the opposite effect. Information leakage may be a lot harder to contain than the Bush team thought. You can bet they will now redouble their effort to control it now.


5/1/04 4:30

Deirdre Kovak, Kamau Braithwaite, Bowery Poetry Club

Deirdre Kovak

Strong sound-based orientation. Dense, meticulously controlled phrases and sentences carefully smashed together, operating in a intentionally attenuated spectrum of variation, not unlike Bruce Andrews in these respects.

"love it or leave with it"

Much deadpan humor and riffing off of self-discomfort and social discomfort in a look / look away pattern.

"The lack of siblings has contributed to my lack of emotional growth."

"Smoking is not speech."

It feels as if the negative psychic energies of living on this side of empire are being transformed into something constructive, a persona processing system mowing itself down in a sequence of downwardly curved starts none of which, in and of themselves, are allowed to develop, but which nonetheless build into larger thematic images. Information, energies and structures emanate as this system is pummeled with gobbets of decaying contradictory truths.

"like your hand against the squeamish of history"

"tomorrow is touching itself in public

"heaven is a do-over"

Kamau Braithwaite

The excavation of history from one's present moment is epic poetry is it not?

"it it it is not. It is not enough to be. To be free of the red white and blue."

Drumming lightly on the table. Half sung.

"to be semi-colon, to be semi-colony"

"95% of my people poor. 95% of my people black. 95% of my people dead."

This poetry moves beautifully away from mysticism. The necessary opposite of mystery. The articulation of why we have trouble understanding.

"there is an absence of truth, like the good tooth drawn from the skull"

"out of the Coney Island of our mindless architects"

"this perturbation that does not signal health"

Halfway through this increasingly riveting reading, Braithwaite went into an extemporaneous explanation of the origins of the Limbo dance, that it comes from the torture of the middle passage, the vertical space of the slave ship decks. How during the dances the tourists always bend over forward, the easy way, not understanding. Braithwaite's reading was so patiently developed that his story telling skills snuck up on me at this point in the reading, before I even realized what was happening. The story and improvised explanatory information fused beautifully and powerfully with the overall body of poetry being read. It felt not like an interruption of the poetry, but like the opening of a related dimension.

"to negotiate this passage and rise on the other side,
rise like the sun to the wonderful glow of the drums."


5/1/04, 3:00

Sound Cube, Charles Morrow, The Kitchen.

Short pieces by Olivia Block, Nicola Green, Shelley Hirsch, Martyn Ware/Vincent Clark, Miya Masaoka, Steve McCaffrey, Charles Morrow, Phill Niblock, Michael J. Schumacher, Scanner, Stephen Vitiello, and Pamela Z .

A sound cube is a three-dimensional multi-channel surround sound system, a frame holding eight speakers. There were two separate cubes here, one with enough room for about 15-20 people, another smaller one, with room for 6 or so. With this system, the sounds can be positioned and moved anywhere within the cube, vertically and horizontally. The larger cube made for a more communal listening experience, and the smaller one had sharper sound images, because there was less reflection. The best possible position for clarity of image was for a single listener sitting on the stool in the center of the smaller cube. The tension here between clarity of sound image and space that allowed for social listening was interesting. The social connotations of reverb….

Phil Niblock
Beautiful, thick, undulating drone. Slow microtonal variations in the drone layers. This piece was ending just as I came in, so I didn't get a sense of the how the sound cube and 3-D positioning was interacting with this signature Niblock sound.

Charles Morrow
Not surprisingly, this piece best captured the feeling of object three dimensionality the sound cube is capable of representing. Sawing wood, tapping sounds. Vivid feeling of the substance of wood.

Shelley Hirsch
A kind of sound theater/installation poetry. Back yard sounds, connotations of suburban childhood. Mouth sounds.

Also used backyard sounds. Riffing off remembered suburban sound space. Yard/space art/space. containment. Birds / synth tones.

Stephen Vitiello
Mesmerizingly beautiful organ tones mixed with particle movement sounds. Gravel sliding off a metal surface. Tonality and texture mixed, as with many of these pieces. The sound of tarps being pulled over wood. Digital delay.

Miya Masaoka
Sounds recorded from a three-dimensionally mic'd koto, as though the listener were inside a giant koto. Eight microphones on a single instrument. Texture sounds, scrapes and taps. Small-scale timbre sound events and drone.

Steve McCaffrey
A marvelous digital arrangement by Charles Morrow of McCaffrey's poem Cappuccino, in which words are taken from mathematical language and given Italian suffixes. Here his voice has been multi-tracked, spacialized and looped -- a single voice recording made into a percussion orchestra, Varese-like rhythmic structuring and development.

Nicola Green
Layers of laughter panning around. Most interesting when there was a overlapping of several layers of laughter. The decontextualization of laughter from the source of humor created an odd drama. Are we being laughed at? Is the laughter sincere? What made this person laugh? Who are these people? Henry, Katie's parrot, almost always considers laughter as a musical event worthy of a response, even laughter on the television or radio. He can imitate it quite well.

Had to leave before I got a chance to hear all the pieces. Adeena and I bumped into Charles Morrow on the way out, said hi, and jumped in a cab to go hear Deirdre Kovac and Kamau Brathwaite read at the Bowery Poetry Club.


Breeze, John Latta

Themes and thoughts in a connective tissue of images. Closely controlled almost formal feel. Frank O'Hara / Robert Duncan echos.

Latta gives equal importance to following perceptions and to following the shapes of the poem's construction and associative turns, even when these elements come into conflict.

"rhythm, unavoidable, makes a ratio"

A few separate modes at work here, I prefer the lighter poems that juggle particulars, rather than the ones that come to conclusions.

Interestingly uncomfortable and distinctly crafted rapture-textures.

At moments the poems push into an almost mystical over-expansiveness as a way of resolving tensions, just when I'm wanting him to go deeper into the tensions....

"lines of distress and conjecture"


Hank Lazer's The People's Poetry

Lazer talks about some good things here, like Susan Schultz, Walter Lew, internet writing and publishing as possibly constructive reversals of globalizing infrastructure. He makes an attempt at addressing rap and spoken word (though in embarrassing uncle mode, ugh!), and goes out of his way to discuss neglected writers like Taggart, Enslin. He talks about Maria Damon! It's clear he's genuinely interested in asking questions about what the present situation is in poetry.

More importantly, he gropingly sees the idea of _dispersal_ as being possibly constructive. He is not even close to understanding the depth of the paradigm shift he is glimpsing out of the corner of his eye. He nervously reverts to mostly giving shout outs to Language poets who are already very well known and widely influential.

When discussing younger writers, this otherwise interesting essay becomes questionable. There seems to be some defensive gravitational impulse that keeps him from escaping triumphalist generationalism, though I would add that he's hardly the only established writer to have this problem:

_A major hazard for this generation is a bland eclecticism, with technically adroit writing that remains superficial because the cultural and historical tension of the formal gestures has evaporated._

If these gestures now lack historical tension (meaning it is no longer the 70s and early 80s?) then he is complaining that young writers sound too much like language poetry and that this doesn't work any more because those gestures only had a political meaning during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations? Would this mean the Lazer considers himself and his contemporaries to have at some point (in the mid 80s?) to have stopped writing in the present? He would then be advocating completely different gestures (direct contextualizations I assume, and think he's hinting at) that operate in present political context of the 90s and 00s? Gestures that poets of his generation are not making, even though they are working in the same period?

Or does he mean that only work that repeats Language Poetry's formal gestures AND framing propositions is valid? That _their_ work is _pure_ (his word) and that _younger writers_ are adulterated?

This seems like a hasty recycling of statements from Lyn Hejinian's famous Rain Taxi interview. My most cynical read on this is the possibility that this kind of statement is intentionally picking out some Iowa workshop / Jorie Graham imitators (work which actually IS confessional poetry with spray-on coating of Language Poetry) and ingenuously saying _look the kids aren't any good, we're the real deal_ as a generational PR move, ignoring the interesting younger writers. Lazer may actually not know about the existence of much writing by poets 20-40.

Or is this kind of statement just a temporary thing -- a presently incoherent conflicted response to a group artistic mid-life crisis?


Jack adds to his streak of interesting, thoughtful reviews with this take on Mike Scharf's Verite:


The night beacon of the lighthouse pulsating in the darkness. Giant bands of glowing fog-light turning through space every ten seconds.

Pigeon Point. Named for the wreck of the Carrier Pigeon. This was a good spot for shipwrecks and rum-running, for the same reason.

Oil lamps and Fresnel lens -- 1872. 1,008 brass-framed prisms to concentrate the source of light. Joined together to form a six-foot-diameter in a circular frame.

Now a 1,000-watt light bulb.

When the steam whistle first blew, cows from a nearby ranch stampeded to the beach. "The cows must have thought there was a very wonderful bull down there."

1970's, the signal was automated.

The night sky, fog moving under stars.


Butano State Park. Coastal Redwoods. Damp and dark at the stream basin. Areas of thick underbrush and overturned redwood trees. Steep slopes and moist, thin topsoil. Not the tallest redwoods but still big enough to be micro-environments in and of themselves. Ferns growing on branches 100 feet up. Purple Iris'.

An economy of sunlight, with the tallest trees taking the most and the animals and plants who dig moisture and shade thriving at the bottom. Some of the lower areas are only redwoods and ferns. Prehistoric looking. Banana slugs, moss, spiders in rotting, upturned root beds.

Going up the ridge. Small desolate areas of terminal Douglas fir forest. Dead trees that choked off their own light -- renewal cycle sustaining them in the overall balance and long term coherence of the forest's symbiotic mechanisms.

Hot, flat fire road with sunlight enough to sustain poppies. A relief to start back down the trail into the cool, moist air and complexities of the mixed Douglas fur and Redwood areas. Sharp patches of sunlight filtered though branches. Unusually quiet. Recent burn marks around the trees -- everything here evolving around the fires. Improvising to turn destruction into something good.

I love the chaos and order mixed together. Are these state park enclosures preserved areas of nature? Or are they now art?


Pescadero, ala trout fishing spot, classic tiny old west town crossroads but with New England architecture. Used to be a seaside resort on the stage coach route.

We arrive at our resort, Coastnoa, Right up against Butano State Park.
Mix of tent areas, cabins, rooms and common areas. Young couples and families. Lightly streaming tinges of anger beneath the crunchy veneers.

Fire place in the room. Duraflame logs provided. Wax and sawdust. I take an interest in Duraflame as a take on content. Their motto is the secret of fire.
Half Moon Bay. Pleasant small town. Crunchy yuppie stuff and child rearing scenes. Katie's friend Stephanie grew up here, living on a boat.

Picked up, to my surprise, a used copy of Georg Lukacs, The Historical Novel, in the used book store here. Marked up only in the first chapter.

Excellent, strong coffee available every ten yards. Why did the culture of strong coffee never develop in the East? Must be the French/Italian take on eating, which involves taking time to enjoy one's food, never happened in the East, esp. New York City, where food is quickly shoveled into one's mouth as you earn money or race toward the next marker. That, or eating is an excuse to be seen in a status-generating/reinforcing room, where one waits to enter, and is then rushed out like an item in a factory.

NYC has a dispiriting, corporate-dork Starbucks every two blocks, but does not have anything like the coffee culture of the west coast. The East Village has many small coffee shops that survive, not one of which has coffee one tenth as good as an average place the Bay Area. Not exactly about coffee. It is about whether there is an expectation that one is ever suppose to feel that they are abiding within their own duration, even for a small stretch. In the culture of NYC this feeling would be taken as a sign of weakness.


Space of pacific coast highway 1, the realized dream of Dr. John L. D. Roberts. An incredible artwork, though one build by prisoners etc. 1919-1937. Pacific ocean and lush farmlands right up against each other, flowers and vegetables. Limestone cliffs.

The total lack of commercial signs. No McDonalds. No Billboards. Because of policies. Ecologically unsound road repair methods let in destructive nonnative plants, Pampas Grass. Unbelievable feeling of freedom and space on this road. Curving and extending. And the air so full of information -- compared to the unbreathable stuff we use for oxygen in NYC.

San Gregorio State Beach, south side. Old Ohlone village. Estuary and freshwater marsh. No egrets today. Crumbling cliffs and expanding views. The combinations of types of erosion here, sea water, creek water, wind, create a particular variety in the contours of the limestone and shallow topsoil. I remember seeing humpback whale flukes come out of the water right at the beach here years ago. A little girl pointing and screaming in delight and fear.

The cliff line looks like a turkey on a slicer. The Red-winged Blackbirds doing legato notes with a curious timbre. Bright orange shoulders. The sound a combination of machine and cat. Excellent group riffing.

Sparkling early evening sunlight on ocean waves.


California Notes

Flying into SF at night. Black area of bay water. The negative space of man-made light. Water, not development.

San Bruno extension of airport. Connecting transport structures imposed over older small CA town.

San Bruno Regency Inn motel, the room smelling faintly of melted plastic. The details, a perfect piece of installation art about accommodation and alienation, a space created for people to not actually be there, but to be contained and seen to, a bit like the alien studio suite at the end of Kubric's 2001, A Space Odyssey, but of course without the appropriated poshness. The awkward attempts of the aliens to provide a living space, the subtler connotations of which they wouldn't be concerned with. The class implications of the expensive furniture transplanted onto another planet creating much of the alienating upper-class human-pet-hospital-through-the-eyes-of-other-beings vibe.

Low flying airplane sound at night. Amazing bass and treble layers sliding away from each other in the sustain. The depth of the partials. The implied power of the engines a bit too close. Nervousness charged into the sound, beautiful.


Will Alexander, Bowery Poetry Club, 4.3.04

Missed Harryette Mullen, but arrived in time to see Will Alexander's whole set. He read with an electric guitar player, who improvised with loops and textures.

Alexander read with the same style and pacing as he normally would without the music, so the overall arrangement was in the free jazz tradition of streams of separate things happening at the same time in phenomenological polyphony. The poetry was read blastissimo, without breaks or pauses, and the guitar player essentially took a supportive role. The music added a lot to the overall performance energy, and I thought there could easily have been a whole band here, at least bass and drums in addition to guitar.

Alexander's poetry is thought provoking and extremely vertical, with vocabularies building and massing into color areas. You could think of this performance a duet for two harmonic instruments. I experienced it as a movement through space, with cloud and particle formations of vocabulary spiraling past. The guitar player also implied movement through a sound space that could have been considered very small or very large, esp. in his loop sequencing.

Alexander's syntax is fairly static, with constructions that fall into an elevated surrealist argument / description voicing. This static syntactical element is a stable structure around which the vocabulary structures are built dynamically (though this dynamic quality happens within a fairly controlled set of registers). The word groups tend to fall within several sets of concerns -- environments, animals, minerals, elements, and mental states. The words pile up with only ostensible syntactical exchange. The vocabulary sequences, and their implied subject matter, linger way past anything suggested by the actual sentence structures, like:

levels / vertigo / hummingbird / omniscience / nostalgia.

Almost any of the words from these concern-sets can be and are plugged into the syntax grid, and this comes off almost as a proposition about ranges freedom within agreed-upon formal arraignments.

It is impossible to even scratch a doodle onto a scrap of paper without invoking the question of what identifiable parts of the past still have a claim upon us. Alexander addresses this question by actively joining in dialogue with the works of Aime Cesaire. I guess it could be argued that anything identifiable as a claim from the past that one could pick to attend to on the basis of one's own tropisms is already more of a function of what we think of as the present, and the more crucial aspect of the past are those things which also have some kind of claim on us but which we are incapable of seeing at present.

Alexander's work also operates as a perpetual motion machine whose function it is to reject any external definition or limitation of identity or experience while refusing to posit an alternative except the ambient motion and particle phenomenon that seem to go along with and exist as the very substance of this rejection. It felt like the embodiment of the wish to be completely uncontained, hence the impact of the work feels ambiant and spatial. The rebellious, speculative, and of course, impossible quality of this embodiment are so obviously related to the work of Sun Ra that I won't belabor the obvious here.


Laura Elrick & Barrett Watten, Poetry Project, 3/17/04

Laura Elrick read from a new, longer sequence called Fantasies/Impermeable Structures

32 line, 32 stanza structures. Modeled on 32 bar song structures?

"both the object seen and I that sees"

Started with quiet almost introverted reading style, and gradually warmed up into a more dramatic, declamatory style.

18th/19th century voicings as in recent Jennifer Moxley or Lisa Robertson.

Iambic riffing.

Focus on issues of social justice and subjectivity.

"here's where I commodify my sorrows"

"life with partially-hydrogenated declaration"

Brief portrayals (Reznikov?) and Susan Howeish vocab constructions and blurring

"I wear my sleeve on my heart"

"on the grassy knoll of good PR"

Unique feeling of public/private institutional / internal spaces in which mutually-leaking containers filled with the problems of class warfare and artistic representation mix.


Barrett Watten did a two hour PowerPoint presentation about his own poetry with readings of his poems, and interpretations of and commentary on his own literary history.

I guess it would be possible to dismiss this performance as an outrageous act of self-absorption. Whether this is healthy or not, I'm not sure, but I found the whole thing interesting. One important point of reference was my memory of Bob Grenier's slide presentations in San Francisco, where he discussed his own hand written poems, often talking for extended periods about how a particular letter E was trying to become a letter A and so forth, performances I loved for their craziness and outrageousness. Breton is also, obviously a model here. I tend to like multi-media genre-mixing and almost anything that departs from the standard podium reading.

Watten showed a photo that one of the poems from Bad History is based on, an anonymous Korean shop owner during the '92 LA riots shot from the back as he points his gun to unknown targets outside the frame of the photo-- a photo pushing into Gustony cartoonish abstraction. Watten basically implied that what we're seeing here is actually an image transforming into a module or machine used by power the purpose of which is to destroy information about violence while transmitting representations of it. He didn't come out and say this, but I assumed he was implying that the result of this is to make the conception of violence and it's place in history a kind of digestible abstraction that obviates the more important layers of meaning which would have to be dealt with in a representation that included undeniable particulars, particulars which would inevitably draw the perceiver of the photo into the problematics of the historical scene, into the nets of power and meaning evoked there, and into questions of the viewer's own place in these things. There were several moments like this in the talk where I thought focusing on more basic elements of the issues brought up would have made the performance less daunting and more engaging. As Watten went into increasing nuance and complexity on issues of psychology, representation and power, I kept reasserting basic questions to myself that he was invoking be not addressing -- here esp. the issue of intra-class conflict between the immigrant shopkeeper and the rioters.

Interesting sequence starting with a photo of a car being manufactured, looking exactly like a HR Giger painting. Watten read a description of a car manufacturing area where the identification with these capitalist production means was allowed to come through unrepressed, which was then countered with a quote from the book Rivethead about the destructive triviality of the manufacturing process.

Describes Ford's insight that paying the workers enough to buy the cars is a kind of feedback.

Describes the fantasy that the negativity of profit is loss relative to development and production in the Detroit landscape. This was one of several times I thought of Foucault during this talk….the question what is your relation is to the constructive element of power systems…

Appropriately enough: The morning after the reading, on the C train on the way to work, I picked up a NY Post that someone had left on the seat. On page three was a story about how the CIA had Osama in their sights in 2000. Included was a photo, with a copyright NBC, apparently taken from a unarmed Predator spy plane, of Osama. The picture was nothing but a beautiful smear of abstract green and blue color areas with video pixilation bands.


Poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms couldn't possibly manage.


Wallace Shawn / Richard Foreman talk at CUNY Grad Center, 3/3/04

This moderated talk about theater was itself like a play, with Shawn exactly reprising his My Dinner With Andre character speaking very slowing and trying to work out something reasonable to say, and Foreman playing a perfect brilliant introvert character coming out with funny, provocative statements.

Foreman: "I have always hated theater."

Foreman suggested that working in theater has been appealing for him because it has allowed him to relate to other people in relation to his own fantasy life.

Foreman: "I like theater because it's real people and real stuff in front of you -- like life." He suggested that poetry is a contrast to this. He's thinking of Mallarme here? If I had stayed for the Q&A I would have asked why language isn't stuff or something in front of you. Later Foreman says his is a language based theater and I again wonder why the the presence language isn't like the presence of the actors or sets...

Both Wallace Shawn and Foreman discuss their respective relation to narrative. Shawn talks about having to have something to follow when he's seeing a play -- and that too much abstraction and lack of narrative create a situation where the play is like a sequence of abstract paintings. There problem with this, he says, is that you can take in an abstract painting very quickly. With abstraction in a play the first few "paintings" are interesting, and then his interest drops off steeply as the play goes on. He also talks about not liking narrative that is too obviously going for a verisimilitude that a theatrical performance can never create the way a movie can -- a character kicking the snow off his boots as he comes in the door, for example. Foreman says that in a film, his suspension of disbelief with the narrative is deep and almost automatic, and that in a play it never happens because the physical presence of the actors and sets destroys it for him.

Foreman spoke of a new play he's working on called "Pancake People" about internet culture and the general effects of information disbursal in the present era. This is something I think about a lot and feel is a important force operating on my generation of writers. I continue to wonder if we are in a period where the artistic phenomena are increasingly vertical (chordal) -- or that the vertical and the horizontal, the synchronic and diachronic are in the process of fusing.

The comically uptight moderator (unintentionally providing a great theatrical performance here) asks both of them how they start a play, a question which makes both of them uncomfortable and a little defensive, as though the maintenance of some kind of mystery in regard to the inception of the creative process is important to them. Foreman says he starts with "sentences" and Shawn says "sentences, including grammar."

The Moderator character asks about politics in plays and Foreman said the way he addresses politics is by exploring his own inner fascist in the plays. Shawn more or less concured and said "When I'm here talking to you or at dinner I'm a progressive guy, but putting the play together, I'm a progressive, I'm a conservative, I'm a fascist, etc. the whole spectrum..."

Foreman also relates this to being adopted and said, "I could have just as easily been adopted by the Bush family, and then I be like them!"


Jack Kimball does short takes on Corina Copp, Mark Lamoureux, Allison Cobb, Michael Gottlieb, Tan Lin, Barbara Henning, K. Silem Mohammad, Albert Flynn DeSilver.


Packed house at the Poetry Project for Michael McClure and Ron Silliman, last night.

Katie and I had been at the Richard Foreman / Wallace Shawn theater dialogue at CUNY grad center, where we ran into Cori Copp. We all split before the Q & A and jumped in a cab, getting to St. Mark's just as Larry Fagin was starting his introduction.

McClure, who I had never heard, read first. He went chronologically starting with his first poem published in a magazine (Poetry). Interesting sestina.

(when I hear the door creak of audience members coming in late, I always have to look -- what am I looking for?)

Stories of beat companions and a haiku about the light show at the Fillmore.

Sing song portraits of consciousness.

Read from Fifteen Fleas, which Larry Fagin edited and published as a stapled book for the reading. Startlingly flarfy work. Based to some extent on comic books. Lovely, energized swirls of insignificance.

"An animal is a mind."

"Be in comfort Chet Baker"

Ron Silliman started out by saying he was more interested in poetry than in poems.

Read from Albany

"I used my grant to fix my teeth"

Descriptions of public spaces / observations of homeless people / statements / puns / autobiographical elements pooling together and building as discrete units rather than strung into a story.

"I began to wonder… is Bob Dole… also … a Muppet"

"the essence of dance is fundraising"

I didn't get a chance to talk to Ron after the reading at the Telephone bar, but I found myself coveting his Howard Dean baseball cap.


Caught some rare Orson Wells short films at Film Forum last weekend. A lot of magic act material, including Wells dividing Marlene Dietrich in half.

Thinking of why I have an instinctive dislike of magicians. I realized it hits the button with me where I'm pissed at the degree to which the world is fixed, rigged…. Also wondering how much of any art is a sequence of tricks…?


Jim Behrle ups the ante on the poetics of hot dogs.
After the prestidigitator’s trick, which I inadvertently played into, seeking with too little knowledge to expose it...

I felt for my watch, which wasn't there.

Later I found it on the night table.

my relation with the tricksters


The Frequencies, Noah Eli Gordon, Tougher Disguises Press, 2003

I sometimes think of blogging as cross between writing a journal and hosting a radio show.

Noah Eli Gordon, in his first book The Frequencies, takes the writer-as-radio/DJ metaphor and rearranges it in dozens of combinations in a series of prose poems written from the perspective of a kind of DJ/poet/blogger. The poems veer between essay, dream-poem, and quasi-narritive.

Metaphors of broadcasting, sound and signal phenomenon are applied to many subjects, often personal relationships and questions of creativity.

"Is it charming to destroy silence? To glue the bits back together, to appreciate the possibility of selection, to talk with someone in line at the grocery store who gives the standard objection, says it's like a drop in the bucket, this wanting to be heard."

Many details associated with a radio are used to explore some subject matter -- for instance, a series of riffs on time are invoked with a clock radio.

“part suspect, part seduction”

Gordon does a lot with these elements -- light, fun, aiming to please and delivering. Wooing the reader.

Michael Friedman-like voicings crossed with Frank's Wild Years. Waits-esque vibe throughout:

“The station memos were full of roman numerals & everyone in the coliseum had their thumbs pointed down. The queen bee was drinking oil, thought the ticking in her ears was an engine.... Face it, we're all in love with landing gear.“

The few sections of repeated grammatical arrangement don't add much to the book, but there are very few of them.

He implies a lot more interesting material and thought than he develops, a kind of chord building made of implications and hints.

One sentence construction that he handles well is a run on sentence with an argument building tone that doesn't necessarily build an actual argument. This rhythm is combined with figure of speech and cliché mixing and juggling.

The most of this work has a funny, light touch, though Gordon will sometimes orbit closer to a more serious question:

“What we hear off the air is not the radio lying to us, but what we encode to come to terms with our own enclosure.”

There are moments where the identification reverses and the radio become a imitation of sound or a representation of the commercialization of sound, countered here by attending to live sounds coming through the window:

"The windows were open & I could hear people laughing from the roof. It was good. The bed was full. The radio was stiff & prim & explosively still."


Thoreau's preoccupation with the parallel forms displayed in leaves and in ice crystals led him to suggest a kind of early theory of everything based on leaves. This same observation would be fully articulated, in the 1970s and 80s, in fractals -- self-similarity.

Thoreau is often at his most fascinating at these points where a quasi-mystical theme wrestles itself completely free of its metaphysical connotations and becomes a fusion of empirical observations, speculation about consciousness, and poetic, intuitive leaps. The Journals are full of variations on this pattern.

He is investigating the self-similarity patterning of consciousness and attention interacting with high-detail observation and multiple simultaneous layers of theme and subject matter?

Interesting to get his impressions of New York City when he spent nine months in Staten Island in his mid twenties trying to make it as a writer. The blur of faces. Also the similarities of elements of his bio to many writers I know. The college years, the early affinities and imitaions, the historical forces, the critical alliances, the lack of ways to earn money, the disappointments, developments, growth and decisions. You have to wonder about the patterns of how our live as writers pan out and how much of it might also be described with fractals....


Jack Wright (sax) and
Reuben Radding
(bass), COMA series @ ABC No Rio

Beautiful saxaphone/ bass duet with combinations of negative space, forward momentum and focused self-control, often all at the same time.

This was a half hour of music played almost exclusively with extended technique. The dynamics were mostly quiet, and it's great to be able to listen to acoustic music at close range with no brittle PA in the almost shockingly low-noise ceiling environment offered by a frigid winter night on Rivington St.

There's something about the way Radding and Wright play together that foregrounds the shapes of the collective pauses, the negative space, which, in a way, is the most deeply collaborative musical element at play.


Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson, 1970

A prodigal son story about the alienation of an underachieving upper-class trade-down. The film is a sieve though which partially digested information about class identity and dynamics pours.

It’s possible to feel the director’s life coming through the film from the first shot, with careful nuanced character renderings, subtle dialogue, scene arrangement and cinematography. Odd to think of this director as the creator of the Monkeys.

Rafelson is good with text. The scene where Nicholson sleeps with Sally Struthers ends with a shot of him wearing a TRIUMPH motorcycle t-shirt. In the last shot, where Nicholson abandons his pregnant wife, the blocking includes the word MEN from the outside bathroom for the entire shot.

He's also good with machines and cars, which are picked out and shot with as much care as the people. He likes to put objects between people, like a cigarette machine. Nicholson is immediately handed a sewing machine in the sequence where he and Karen Black give a hitchhiking lesbian couple a ride. In this scene, which is intensely comic, Helena Kallianiotes so commands the manic dirt-obsessed character and takes so much joy in the portrayal that the rest of the movie screeches to a hilarious halt for the entire time she is on screen.

Great sound moment when Nicholson plays the horrendously and beautifully out-of-tune truck piano and it mixes with the horns of the traffic jam.

There is an interesting mix of class languages and scenarios, though there are never any overt questions of class conflict. The estrangement information is only rendered in the small details of an impossible individual escape from a pretentious, bogus upper-class elite to a frustrated, unaware working class. This is a movie about rebelling against pointless rules and not fitting into any class identity that has spilled over into a partial rendering of the general American aphasia of class estrangement.


Katie and I put on A Love Supreme this morning in honor of Valentine's day.
Looking at anyone's work from the point of view of how it works relative to touchy subjects.
The audience at poetry readings is comprised almost completely of other poets. Is it that only other poets can digest poetry because we have developed four stomachs or is it simply that there's no money behind it?

The quickest glance at the art world implies the latter. When I remember seeing U2 in a stadium in Philadelphia in the mid-eighties, though, I can't help but think that the entire audience was comprised of rock stars.
Is it possible to draw out frivolous-in-a-good-way and serious-in-a-good-way at the same time?
When getting really into it, in a certain way, is a problem.
the myopic, long-distance lecture from the intellectually tone-deaf bully-in-training

the misapplied energy...
The established artists who hold their ears when they hear something that doesn't conform to their ideas.
"The universe is harmonic, or it wouldn't work"
Guy Davenport


"The habit of the realist is to find things the reverse of their appearance."
heard in rapid succession, walking down Ave. A:

a man saying:
"The more money you have, the more boring you are."
a woman saying:
"I've been unfaithful since a week after I got married."


Wondering last night how much reception and suggestion are factors in what is happening in the audience's mind during a poetry reading.

Is it like a tarot or palm reading, where there is ambiguity, a suggestible state and a subject who is searching for meaning?

Or is it more like a pop song -- a canvas with roughed-out templates for painting your fantasies?