Peter G. S. Schjeldahl on Petroleum Hat.
Jonathan reviews the worst french fry ever.


Maybe it's time to re-think the age-old Bob Grenier vs. Ice Cube dichotomy.



from Packet One -- 1st Hybrid Poetry Class, Poetry Project.

Bernadette Mayer from Midwinter Day.

"The Three Little Pigs ... Two of them got eaten by the wolf because they built their houses out of flimsy materials. The third pig who has a brick house which he got by posing as a cripple, winds up boiling the wolf alive and eating him. Admiral Byrd was the first person to spend the winter alone at the South Pole. For a while he did well and wrote a lot of speculations on the nature of the universe, then the stove in his hut began to poison him with fumes."

Rumi, A. J Arberry Trans.

"And even if you turn your back to the water, the water runs hurrying before you. How shall the shadow save its soul from the sun, seeing that its soul is in the hand of the sun? If the shadow stretches forth it's neck, the sun's face that instant is shrouded. Brave Sun, in which this sun in heaven quivers with fear like quicksilver!"

Charles Reznikoff, Testimony

The man at the wheel turned. / with his flashlight: / everybody was turning and pushing against each other; / those near the window / were trying to break them, / in spite of the wire mesh."

New York Times Nightly Television Schedule listings:

"Fire In the Sky (1993) Arizona lumberjack abducted by aliens. Polite to the point of boredom."

"Convoy (1978) Truckers in trouble. Churning but vapid."
Sally Silvers: Puppy Skills, PS 122.

25th Anniversary string of pieces including a remixed series of solos choreographed for group dancers. The first piece had a playful vibe, with three of the more seasoned dancers engaged in humorous activities with wearable sculpture and window door/shadow prop. Family dynamics? Sisters? Friends? Maturity? This was followed by the most grueling piece (in a good way) involving the youngest dancers - complex athletic group movement like a Benetton commercial that has been transformed into a extended gender role nightmare from which you cannot escape. A nightmare of youth?

The dancers were all-female, and the complex element in Silver's work of repurposing gender stereotype material was interestingly splayed across the evening in different ways. Every piece had different manifestations of this mixing with her other major dynamic: a drama of characters interacting, stepping in and out of the stage of power, with the relationships changing, and power dynamics between individuals and groups of players constantly shifting positions. The virtuosity of the choreography and dancers somehow ups the ante on the feeling of conflicts in these social themes, which is opposite of what I would normally expect.

Excellent sound collage by Bruce Andrews with Michael Schumacher -- clear, decisive texture switching maintaining intensity without distracting attention away from the dance. I was struck by the similarity in thematics between Silvers' dance and Bruce Andrews' poetry, that they both deal unreservedly with negative social emotions/perception/dynamics and that in both cases these things are transformed into energized dramas.


Thought-provoking scrap between Joshua, Franklin, and Ange.


Last night I heard Peter Cully read a long, far-ranging, swinging mid-tempo poem-sequence in Lee Ann Brown and Tony Torn's living room. Peter delivered the poem from a throne-like wooden chair, surrounded on all sides by cake-eating, wine drinking poetic revelers. His vocal intonations mixed nicely with sound of the airplanes coming in through the window. The poem included a gentle rebuke directed toward Albert Ayler: "It is about me."


Jordan on Petroleum Hat. Pegs me as crypto-naturalist. Yup.


Life is just a box of Petroleum Hats.

Petroleum Hat, my second full-length book (from Roof Books), arrived from the printers just in time for the BPC trio performance/book release last Sat.

Jonathan and Nick report.


If there is a lump in the throat feeling gotten from this poem, it is the same kind of feeling gotten from a phone company TV commercial. Other people might value that feeling, but I don't -- it's just business exploiting easy emotional triggering. Can you say certain phone company commercials are well crafted? Sure, you could say the well crafted phone company commercial is successful when it gives you that lump in the throat feeling AND leads you to pay money for the service. Is that un-impeachable? If you're a formalist or have formalist tendencies, I suppose you have to give props to any piece of art that reproduces an agreed-upon template. In this country, tacky, lazy, dishonest workshop treacle is a dominant template. So is smooth jazz. This poem is at a level of like, Special EFX, that is, at or slightly below Kenny G.


Kasey does an extreme sports version of the standard debate team trick of exaggerating and warping what someone has said in order to score points in opposition to a stance not actually being made. It's not that he's intentionally being dishonest, it's that he wants to get his argument over so badly that he's not responding to what I'm actually saying. He's projecting onto to my statements the position he wants to debate against. For instance he says:

"Drew seems to mean something other by this than simply that he does not appreciate the poem: he implies a quantifiable mechanical deficit on the poet's part (in another comment, he uses the word "ineptitude"). That is, he implies that Oliver literally doesn't have basis syntactic competence, that her metaphors are literally incoherent. Maybe he doesn't really mean this, but if that is the case, this is a perfect example of the way in which dissatisfaction with a poem's general raison d'etre can slide into a hazy use of craft-based terminology."

Clearly he knows he's on shaky ground here. In fact, I went to some lengths to make it clear that I was providing a subjective response to the poem. "So what am I feeling when I read this?" may have been a clue to this. "I see it as a kind of" usually indicates that the speaker is framing their position as a subjective opinion, not the statement of a provable, objective fact. Ditto "The poem seems like total BS to me." Later he backs off the obviously unworkable direct proposition that I'm positing my perceptions and opinions as objective facts, and he substitutes the weaker and vaguer point that some of my vocabulary was enough to imply this. Then we get this:

"First, he invokes the specter of bad craft by denouncing Oliver's supposedly awkward syntax and inert metaphors. Then he says that these defects are not actually indices of Oliver's craft ineptitude at all, but rather that her "attitude toward reality" and toward her own "role" as poet have somehow "resulted" in bad craft. But then isn't her craft the problem on one level after all?"

These solipsistic rhetorical switchbacks don't really address my point so it's hard to comment on them.

"My suspicion here is not that Drew has failed to give coherent expression to his idea, but--more radically--that there is no idea there to give expression to. When we dislike what we believe a poet or poem stands for, too often we convince ourselves that on that basis alone we may assert that the poet's "craft" is lacking."

There's no idea here for Kasey because, at this point, he's finally wriggled free from what I was saying and is peaking on the trip he had set out for from the beginning: this bit of preaching.