My article on Tony Conrad is up at The Brooklyn Rail.


Don't cry over spilled mirage.


I used to think of sampling as a relatively recent human musical phenomenon.

I've recently learned from The Life of Birds that it is neither recent or exclusively human.

The Lyrebird is the original sampler.


Kristin Prevallet and Taylor Brady
Segue Series @ BPC, 12.2.06, NYC

Taylor Brady

Brady read from Occupational Treatment

Treatment as in film treatment -- the sections he read from were like a multiple camera shoot hovering at the permanent circumference of a string of settings, issues, questions. Some of the freedom of voicing here I might associate with say, Will Alexander, but minus the mystic intonation, and with very different selections of material, repetitions and social contexts invoked. Brady focuses on the details and architecture of an environment and the mental space of a reading practice and a question of memory was continually superimposed on it. He follows unusual logic riffs and more often than not gets them off the ground. The overall fictional/poetic space could vary its comfortably between effects one could liken to Goddard, Leslie Scalapino and Dave Burrell by turns. Thought-provoking smart writing.

There's a strong gnomic impulse operating below the surface and it occasionally bubbles over: "he was haptic as money," "misunderstanding is a signal fire," "understanding is stupid, let's bleed"

This writing invites you to root around in it's materials, even as a listener.

Like a sequence of reshuffled visual-sestinas with images stretched out and repeating.

Repeated terms: money, face, eyes, porn, love, hand -- these build into a kind of harmonic / thematic fabric.

"Now the territory is a hole in us"

"water is stupid"

deliberately, patiently crafted environment / fiction / mediation / essay / poem

Looking forward to reading through the whole book now.

Kristin Prevallet

Compelling well-paced opening sequence involving cybernetics and surveillance.

"What can be separated from my immediate fear"

This series voiced almost like the notes of a FBI agent against a poet.

"Something is written by one person that is crossed out by another"

Moving beyond the image to the intensions behind it

dramatic fssssst sound between stanzas

"annoying as anti-everything"

"remember when we hadn't yet been told to return to normal?"

Prevallet closed with a hilarious film/poem of the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner which dated from her Buffalo college days and stared Taylor Brady.

Prevallet in introducing the film: "Romanticism was a rhetorical gesture there"

Brady deadpanning: "I fear you, Ancient Mariner!"

Addressing an interpretation of materials, and in a fairly straight-forward way, the question of what the hell does this poem have to do with me living as a student in Buffalo NY right now. More an attenuated poetic gesture than a movie exactly, certainly an interesting engagement with the question of activation of text / history and setting. I always like it when poets change up their presentation and take some risks.


Disappointing to hear Baraka sound like a moldy fig in the Poetry Project Newsletter. I suppose most poets become moldy figs by that age, it's just that not all of them publicize it?


The difference between the RITE-AID and the DUANE-READE glucose tables is that the RITE-AID ones are IN-EDIBLE.


Two Or Three Things I Know About Her

Interesting, grueling essay/painting about changing economy of France during the Vietnam war. This movie could have been made the day before yesterday.

As much a piece of writing as a film. No characters but tropes. Goddard is using the movie to write with.

Largely complaint via portraiture of the culture of first world economy via an allegorical bourgeois emptiness. Not just an annoyance at kinds of people, but a representation of a global system. You could easily juxtapose Iraq carnage and Paris Hilton with the same effect today. The film is devoid of the kind of playfulness you get in Weekend or Alphaville or Band of Outsiders, except for the universe in a coffee cup shot and the kid narrating his dream where he sees twins merging into one and interprets it to his mother as North and South Vietnam reuniting - that's startling.

Aggression towards the audience/hatred of the audience (arty middle class people): the kid shooting a toy gun into the camera. The intentional tediousness of the film is also kind of attack on the audience (how much poetry is like this?) because the audience ... is the economy? hmmm... It's not clear how much he implicates himself in this equation. This tendency evolves eventually with Goddard into exhausted self-righteousness years later with In Praise of Love.

Cars are filmed more lovingly than people. Beautiful oversaturated oranges and reds, clothes and signs. Grey construction scenes with the algebras of shape and connotation I know well from living in New York: creativity, organization and resources put toward increasingly undo-able and undesirable ways of life. The distant consequences of our development leak in in brief whips of language on the radio and TV.

Scenes take place in unassumingly stark, socially disconnected consumerist space -- bars, lots of liquids consumed: coffee, beer and coke. Also domestic family space. A brothel (or is it day care?) where people pay the hotel manager in cat food: barter thrown into a setting involving the purist expression of capitalism.

Centralized capitalist economy controlling how people live, what they feel, and the meaning of their time -- the movie works by never expanding from this theme or introducing too much ambiguity about it, but pounding away at it incessantly by dramatizing an exaggerated portrait of the culture it creates to perpetuate itself. Capitalism makes people steal without them intending to.

Orpheus riff with the pilot/father listening to the radio but it isn't poetry being broadcast but Johnson speeches about bombing Vietnam.

The film is mostly women's faces: reciting poetic essays about their own emptiness. Little male presence in the movie.

"what is it about signs that makes me distrust language."

"your shirt is very America Uber alles"
"yes but they invented the jeep and napalm"

The main character is reciting philosophical poetic prattle in front of an apartment building while in the background two people, who look like they really live there, lean languorously at a distant window. After a while it's impossible to listen anymore to the character's speech - and the people in the background become the most interesting thing. He's created a feeling here where you wish to escape from the movie -- escape from the new Americanized global economy/culture.


Doolittle, Ben Sisario

Kim deal once classified her bass style as "boingy-boingy-sproingy"

Boston Phoenix classified ad for which Deal was the only call: "seeking female bassist into Husker Du and Peter Paul and Mary"

"...what matters more is that (these stories about Frank Black) helped establish his persona as an Everydude, a pudgy blank slate who lacked the looks or poise or stage presence of any rock god yet matched them by force of screamy will"

Joey Santiago on Wes Montgomery: "Ah, that's a hook. That's some hooky stuff in this jazz world... and that's how you do it. You just simplify it."

Debaser: "all that is poppy and pretty will meet its raging, deformed reflection"

"And there is Charles Thompson's songwriting technique, or at least Charles Thomson's songwriting analysis technique. Guy reads article in newspaper, thinks about the awesome power of the ocean, scratches butt, writes song."


Lincoln Center Tower Records going out of business sale has creeped up to 40% off. If you have to charge $19 per CD, you really should be going out of business. Even at 40% off much of this stuff is still too expensive. The shelves were maybe 40% full. Friday I was hoping to find the Blue Note John Patton CDs I had previously passed-up. No such luck. This is going to keep me busy for a while anyway.

Clientele in jazz section: starving vulture Barney's sale vibe minus the dense crowd. Mostly forty to fifty something males. Clearly the prime foraging window had already closed. Still there where things to be had:

Larry Young, Into Something:
Yes, you heard the line-up right: Sam Rivers, Grant Green, and Elvin Jones. Yes it's awesome.

Charles Eubanks, New Beginnings, I heard a solo Eubanks set a few years ago at 5C: my advise to you is keep away from him if you're scared of very beautiful piano playing. This CD is absolutely gorgeous and for real from beginning to end.

Alice Coltrane: Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana:
Okay, I knew this one was risky, but I love Alice Coltrane. She's the kind of artist who is very inconsistent, some genius, some drek. I tend to like artists like this though -- like Terry Riley. When they're hitting, people of this level of inconsistency have a freshness that is rarely equaled by their more consistent peers. This CD was a total loss -- pious corn. I still love much of her music, and this minor setback will in no way stop me from continuing to dig through the back catalogue.

Chris Kelsey Trio, Wishing You Were Here:
Group w/ Francois Grillot and Jay Rosen. This one is still in the shrink wrap but I've heard all three of these players in other units live and they're great: will report.

Passed on the Grant Green Box set: I have to draw the line somewhere, right? Or am I crazy for not getting that?

At the register:

"Not much left on the shelves, huh"

Crazed-looking old mustachioed casher guy:
"You can't go through life with that attitude. I'm 68 years old. I've been kidnapped. I had surgery and they cut my whole chest and stomach open from here to here (gestures across entire stomach, chest and sternum) and when I woke up I said to the nurse, "You wanna make love right now???" I went to work once and they were waiting for me with a gun and a chainsaw. You have to be positive in this life, never be negative!"
I saw a young hawk half-heartedly dive-bombing squirrels in Tompkins Square Park.


Falling behind on pen and ink notes:

Smart, sharp riffs on Katherine Harris, congress poem satirical warp as opener, followed by a series of economically contoured mytho/ personal/ political/ lyric/ speculative fantasias like what Kathleen Raine and Frank Black might have dreamed up together on retreat. Combinations of gravity and humor. "If I can speak for the entire space station" "Even in terror we survive the collapse of yesterday's cake" Amazing how much warmth and beauty she can generate while keeping it just cryptic enough to engage you fully in the puzzle:

Elizabeth Willis at Dixon place.


Fantasy settings, the details of which, as they accrue and filter and take their place in the scenes, operate like a hologram to create an off-kilter, indirect self-portraiture:

Kate Colby
Later on, the idea matured of not only looking for the fall of Ulises, but also to transform the conditions of our lives that we have, and in our bases to create a new relation between society and the government.


Just finished Dai Griffiths' Ok Computer. There are so many passages that are Ron Sillimanesque in their close reading approach that it's hard to pick one. A sense of the generally Asperger's-lite-o-lishishness might be demonstrated with this:

"Thus, in simple quantitative terms the tracks on OK Computer average 4.27 each; however, if the notably short track seven is removed, the average length is 4.40. This is longer than Radiohead's previous album The Bends, where the average length of tracks was 4.03. That may not seem a big deal, but in music in general, the world of the pop song in particular , a minute is a very long time indeed."

The Griffiths, like Ron when he's in close reading mode, obsessively paces around the cartographic parameter of the album, with a strict distance maintained, constantly referring back to the most literal (and littoral) issues of production and presentation as grounding points.

Here's another example, this time dealing with York's Lyrics:

"...there seems to be a lot of internal alliteration, rhyme even (landfill/kill), all on the theme of h and l: heart, full landfill, slowly, kills, bruises, heal, look, unhappy (the listener sure to hear both 'an' happy' as well as 'unhappy"), I'll take, life, handshake, final fit, final bellyache, house, as well as recurring words 'alarm' and 'silent'. Outside these sounding correspondences are some characteristic words: job, bruises, bring down the government, carbon monoxide, the pretty garden, and surprises itself. References to polity and science contrast with the 'homes and gardens', and these contrasts perhaps help make 'No Surprises' a track that's characteristic of the album as a whole. "

Another person who shares this critical quantitative OCD characteristic is Phil Schaap, a legendary DJ on KCR. I have heard him read out several serial numbers from a CD series not once, not twice, but three times on the air. If he had gone for a forth round the differnce between Shaap's radio show and some kind of avant-guard performance art would have been pretty thin. Understandably there are people who are put off by this tendency, but there's something about it that I find interesting in terms of the drama of critic, and which sends me back to the material under discussion. Dai's book sent me back to the Radiohead CD with a vengeance even though it didn't say much about it beyond cataloguing details from it. The slabs of data cataloged are mostly not in themselves interesting, but the critic's dramatic fixation on them as a way understanding and engaging with the reader/listener and the art creates a particular kind of dramatic tension. The critic is activating their engagement with and passion for the material and their attitude towards their readers with extreme indirectness, as though overcoming some kind of emotional blockage related to attachment.
Rick Snyder on Deer Head Nation, Petroleum Hat, and V. Imp


So long Brad...

Brad Will 1970-2006

More here, here, here, here


Traveling at the Speed of Thought

Ultramagnetic MCs'coming up on the A-train iPod Mini shuffle lottery more than once this morning on the way to work got me thinking about the poetics of Kool Keith. The rapping on Critical Beatdown is classic 80s dramatic formalist self-consciousness: rapping about rapping. So the degree of uniqueness in the vocabulary, and the inventiveness of the similes are the things that stand out from this self-imposed constraint. And Kool Keith is especially inventive, often coming up with "what did he just say?" head snappers. "I'm like a bird when I'm pecking your skull." It's the relationship between the predicable and unpredictable elements that cause a certain kind of energized effect. You wouldn't get anything like this if it was totally constrained or totally unpredictable.

Traveling hard, ill off, another lunatic
Smacking germs, eating bugs, biting mouse
Roaches wonder why I'm traveling
On to Bellevue because I'm sick
Traveling hard at the speed of thought


Dai Griffiths points out in his 33 1/3 book OK Computer that when the capacity of CDs was being decided by Sony in 1980, sixty minutes was first proposed as the maximum length, but Sony president (and conductor) Norio Ogha insisted that this wasn't long enough because Beethoven's Ninth symphony wouldn't fit on it, and many operas would have to be cut before the end of the first act, thus is we have 74 minute capacity CDs today.


from Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up And Start Again: Postpunk, 1978-1984


Exuberantly mixing informality with ineptitude, early Mekons gigs were "complete art noise chaos," recalls Burnham. "They opened for Gang of Four at our second show ever and they had a sofa onstage representing a spaceship. It had the word 'spaceship' painted on it. It was genius and hilarious."


Deliberately simple, (Vega's) lyrics risked corn and trusted in the timeless power of cliché.

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks:

James Chance was an early member of Teenage Jesus, but Lunch kicked him out for having too much contact with the audience, even if to attack them. "Don't touch those bastards, let 'em just sit there in horror!"

James Chance:

"Anyone with any semblance of a brain should know by now that it's time to forget about all this out-dated, cornball 'new/no wave' drivel," sneered Chance. "Anyone who stays on the Lower East Side will become the inevitable victim of provincial mind rot… so dislocate yourself. Get slick, move uptown and get trancin' with some superadioactive disco voodoo funk."


…with Bernie Worrell stacking multiple Moog bass tones to create the most lubriciously gloopy B-line ever heard.


Because making statements or self-expression wasn't the point, nobody was precious about the words. They were simply material to be messed around with.


Flipper stared into the abyss only to hock a lugie into it.


A confessed TV addict and lazy sod, Lydon told Sounds, "If I could get away with it I wouldn't even walk. I'd love a mobile bed. One thing I've never understood is people complaining about bed sores. That's a luxury, isn't it?"


It was almost as if Bono was consciously preparing to take on the role vacated by Curtis. According to Tony Wilson, that was pretty much the case. "Two months after Ian died U2 were brought round to my office at Granada TV by this plugger looking to break them, and I remember Bono sitting on my desk saying how incredibly sorry he was about Ian's death, how it had really hurt him… how Ian was the number one singer of his generation, and he, Bono, knew was always only ever going to be number two!" laughs Wilson. "And he said something else. Something like, "Now he's gone, I promise you I'll do it for him." Not quite that silly, but along those lines.


Kevin Killian on Rodney Koeneke.


Gary responds to Gabriel
Alan Gilbert on Lisa Robertson.


Michael Gizzi and Michael Magee making news.


See you in Carlisle


Noticed Ben Ratliff used violently twice in one week:

violently twee


violently condescending


The moon makes nothing happen.

uh, wait a second...


Rod Smith on the DC Carol Mirakove / Adam Good reading.


Caught Batman Begins on TV -- a highly confused ninja film staring Bill Gates and penned by G. Gordon Liddy. The moral turns out to be that problems of social justice should only be addressed by individual billionaires.


I'm not normally prone to matchmaking, but I can't help wondering whether I could get these two together.



Pierre Joris on Douglas Oliver.


Alexander Cockburn explores the distant past in Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel: Everything You Need To Know


Fighting the heat-induced torpor, Katie and I took a Saturday afternoon field trip to the Met. The East Village in full afternoon sunlight felt like Death Valley or Reno. We immediately caught the uptown 21, a polarity of that familiar line I am less intimate with. The bus runs up the frontage road, with its odd no-man's-land configurations of cramped parking areas and besieged/empty feeling slivers of park space that dwell beneath the FDR exactly like the setting of a 1970s J. G. Ballard novel.

The public transportation karma was clearly switched on for the trip, because the 6 train was practically waiting for us at the transfer. Space can render itself as sheer obstruction in New York City, especially when you are in a hurry and confronted with a maddeningly slow wall of people creeping up a subway station's stairs as though they were at a funeral. When the stars align in the right way, though, even the most distant destination can seem to gravitate toward you within a spectacularly short time frame -- in this case about a half an hour.

So we arrived at 5th Ave, walked past the swarms of loitering tourist and headed into the massive hording-behavior spectacle of empire that is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, intent on checking out Treasures of the Sacred Maya Kings, a kind of lifestyles of the sacred Mayan rich and famous / Mayan MTV cribs.

There were ceremonial and ritual objects and some status objects and expensive kitchenware, fascinating and beautiful, most of it the accoutrements of a religiously justified system of class warfare only slightly more explicit than the one whereby The President of the United States believes he has been chosen by God to run the country. Beholding the Mayan jade blood letting needle of the king, I couldn't help wondering if any blood spilled on the ground during our president's periodic mountain biking accidents might not result in some kind of spontaneous eruption of petrochemicals from the earth, magically ensuring a profitable financial quarter for Halliburton.

The most interesting objects to me were the ones that incorporated the images of animals into the object design, this cormorant for instance. There was also a lovely caiman /crocodile. Whoever the craftsmen was who earned a living creating this kind thing for king/priest class, that person certainly had a feeling for the animal. The little crock was what you would call cute, foreshortened, rounded and fierce in an adorable way. The power of cuteness is an affirmation that we very much belong to the animal kingdom. Looking at this thing, I momentarily lose the sense of religion as class warfare and feel the natural environment this civilization lived in transmitting information to me through this thing via it's anonymous human creator.


Cool water courtesy of Alex.


Staring at the tunnel doesn't make the train come any faster -- or does it?

That is: what qualifies as a state of poetic concentration,

even if no poem is produced?



Possible reasons why I tuned in hopefully to the Henry Rollins talk show on IFC last week:

1) Out of my misguided pattern of continuing to associate Henry Rollins with Sim Cain, and by implication, Regressive Aid. My LP of Effects on Exposed People melted across the seatbelt brick in the back seat of my parents' Ford Fiesta twenty years ago.

2) Out of the thought that the sales of Rollins books may have contributed to the survival of SPD in the 90s

3) Out of a somehow still fond memory of a line from a Black Flag song that I recall as "I want to crucify you to your front door with the nails from your well-stocked garage" (pentameter, with a great use of a hyphen)

What the show turned out to be:
punk rock Andy Rooney.


In general I'd agree that the writing at Gamespot is slightly better than at Pitchfork, but they're both quite good. Most poetry reviewers would do well to get their writing up to that level.
Dream House, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela

After years of intending to go to this long standing sound/art installation, I finally did. Jordan has some photos here

The Dream House is basically a loft space on Church St. with magenta gels over the windows and a couple of small hanging mobiles lit to project symmetrical, blurred, letter-like shapes on the walls. Four PA speakers on wooden risers placed in the corners of the room play a constant sine wave drone of, let us say, an extremely particular set of intervals, from low bass to very high. In other words, it's a big, mirror image chord. The name describes the intervals in what may be a bit too much detail for most listeners:

"The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119, a periodic composite sound waveform environment created from sine wave components generated digitally in real time on a custom-designed Rayna interval synthesizer."

The title is really the score. This would demystify the installation (something it really needs) except the intervallic explanation is for the most part inscrutable.

Because of the nature of sine waves, and the positioning of the speakers, the quality of the sound changes drastically depending on the position of your body in the room. Even turning your head an inch to the left or right will change the sound dramatically. The carpeted room, which you enter after removing your shoes, is empty except for the speakers, hanging art and a shrine.

The three-dimensional moiré pattern waterfall of sound doesn’t change--it just has different dimensions. Your position in it changes, and the information that the different positions express shifts based on where you are within the space. It's a fascinating, physical experience of sound. It's almost silly to try to describe it too much using words-- check it out.
In almost any context, bring politics into a conversation about poetry - even to tell someone you like what they're doing, and a previously established agenda set in previously established terms barely related to yours will be immediately and ardently projected onto you.

A) People are defensive B) People crave opponents.


Great to see a piece on Kevin Davies in this week's Village Voice.


from Laynie Brown's fantastic reading at Dixon Place, 5.9.06

There is nothing wasted in this poetry, and it's full of subtle and unpredictable turnings.

"fire is the quickest of animals"

"vampire squid are kept in jewel boxes"

"I examine the list of things that lie between our temperaments"

"ceremonial constitutions of behavior"


Mogwai, Webster Hall, 5.12.06

We walked in halfway though the first song, so I missed out on the opening moments where the band arrives and finds their stations, which always tells me a lot about a group. All I could determine was that there were a bunch of guys on the stage all dressed exactly like Brandon Downing.

The first thing I noticed about the sound was that the mix was crystal clear and not too loud. It was, hands down, the most conscientious mixing of any rock band in a venue this size I have ever heard. They had no stage presence, or, I should say, they had a classic shoegazer stage presence. They literarily looked at their shoes for the entire show, and barely moved, though they were intent-seeming and did seem to enjoy themselves. Careful, crystalline production of their signature sound is what they were there for. They actually seemed uncomfortable with themselves on stage physically- which worked fine. The audience seemed to reflect some these characteristics - being mostly polite mid-to-late twenties couples totally engrossed in the music.

There were almost no vocals. The vocals that Mogwai did use were arranged like instrumental parts - vocoder-ized and produced with no particular fanfare by the keyboard player. I was surprised to find that my absorption in the show was delayed my the lack of vocal drama. That expectation of a rock show must run a little deeper than I realized, since 70% of my CD collection is instrumental music in the form of jazz... People do need a character to identify with. Mogwai works a little differently, though -- they produce an environment that the listener is gradually absorbed into, and hopefully, swept up in. At the beginning of songs, audience members were clapping and cheering in recognition after a single bar of a picked guitar pattern was played. This made me think that listeners were spending a lot of time with the albums, perhaps to the point of self-medicating with them.

Much of Mogwai's music is based on petal-point guitar picking patterns contrasted against big, layered, power chord riffs, giving a modal feel but with the excitement of heavy rock music --all with a broad underlying spectrum of texture that ranges from single-note tremolo picking to lush organ to jagged guitar noise. The subdued picking patterns are build into huge, gothic power chord landscapes, creating an undeniable feeling of expanding scale, riff-switching between earthy and celestial effects.


Tom Beckett interviews Gary Sullivan.


Good to see Halliburton finally doing something about the environment. Order your SurvivaBall now.


Shanna Compton, Down Spooky, Winnow Press, 2005

Portraits and landscapes with verbal playfulness chops out the wazoo. Vocab harmonics -- "traffic light" / "light subjectivity," intertwined scenes and wordplay are all executed with a crucial balance of relaxation and density of detail that rewards repeated readings. Complex and casual, the poems in Down Spooky use appealingly jumbled details on the surface, an engaging rhythm and a narrative subtext moving underneath: fun, alert, charming, and animated with a buoyant, light touch.

Pet peeve: the introduction uses my least favorite intro strategy: the introducer is more interested in the introduction as an occasion for his own expression than in saying something to the point about the poems.

Compton uses phrases that balance alluring and puzzling qualities. - "hookymaking convincability" along side carefully crafted dreamy epistolary textures: "My dear and loving head wound"

"my sister and I once spent the day / walking around in Brooklyn / We watched a Capybara do / nothing, for like an hour."

What feel like word replacement effects work right alongside a Creeley sing-song modality and place / mood suspended chords under charged lines of sharp giddiness and beauty. And the wordplay permeates the settings and portraits, it doesn't just sit on the surface of the poems.

High School reminiscences.

In "Last Paragraph" the address of the poem and the address between the characters in it is intentionally blurred. Here, Compton uses a scene -- an account of a moment in a relationship where the vocabulary in the poem seems to be almost taking over the story, and this makes for a layered harmonic effect. I think this quality of her poetry is related to the way certain choice sentences / lines spoken in the midst of a personal conflict between lovers or friends can stick with you for years after the fight is long over - as much or more than a line of poetry can. The words take on a life of their own, and this might have as much to do with language and poetry as it does with memory and emotion. Compton's poetry is especially keyed into these interlocked processes.

"Map of the City" uses appropriation of and/or is written the style of a state tourist pamphlet, except it could apply to any state, and seems to have more to do with how a city is remembered or thought about than how it is sold. So this is a kind of satire where the purpose isn't (just) to make fun of something but to use the satirical mechanism, the taking up of a voicing, to activate another artistic effect.

"all are washed over by the paradox of open space"

Compton will go from a gentle, almost pastoral poem involving birds to "The day of prophesy has come and gone. / It seems our father never did possess / any ecclesiastical spacecraft."

Blurred barhopping accounts.

Some lines are worthy of Rogers and Hammerstein, with an extra comic twist: Let's skip / the argument about who's haircut's / worst in the senior picture/ At least you weren't wearing a boa."

Some of the poems are left underdeveloped. They work better when she's combining more elements. She has a contained swagger and in places I want even more swagger -- with less decorum.

Compton always adds a little wry distance just where it will do the most good -- in the few places where a poem is listing towards sentimentality or cliché. Or she'll deploy a cliché on purpose, but with a intervention: "The river pretends / to be caressed by a breeze."

As in James Schuyler, some poems work well as vivid, pleasurable portraits or scenes but also operate on another level, but with so little fuss that you might not even notice it on first reading: The "the slow desiccation of an espresso drop / on the countertop, it's pep all lost" works as a scene and a joke, but Compton is also thinking with the images -- in this poems (and others) there is a kind of meditation on the passage of time -- the drying of a drop of coffee on a table's surface.

In Down Spooky, literary references are delivered in the style of Ella Fitzgerald: "Marianne would discus the fauna, / but I'm not gonna. It's enough / to sip this drink and await the flutter."

Synesthetic, comic impressionism.


Fact #122

A duck can't walk without bobbing its head.


Jordan's got video from the Flarf Festival last weekend.


Wolf Parade, Webster Hall, 4/10/06

Next time I go to venue like Webster Hall I'm going to have try showing early and getting a seat in the balcony. We snagged the last passable standing real estate a half hour before the headliner's hit time, so we missed Holy Fuck entirely and caught the last few songs of French Kicks, who were relatively unobjectionable. The show was sold out long ago, so of course we're immobilized in a dense underbrush of nervous twenty-one-year-old white kids. Normally this would be endurable when the music is good, except for cases where someone in front of you smells like a poorly maintained kennel, as was unfortunately the case on Monday.

The band came out maybe five minutes behind schedule and Spencer Krug, singer and keyboard player, immediately apologized for being late. This pattern continued for the entire set -- they barely said anything between songs, but when they did, it was to apologize for something, that they "suck at this" for instance. No one in the group made eye contact with the audience for the entire show, favoring a space on the floor just in front of them, and the guitar player and bass player played with their backs to the audience for the first two songs. The general stage presence was shyness mixed with mild self-effacement. The vibe of the band actually got more introverted as the evening went on, but with an increasing intensity, as though there was only one direction for the drama of the performance to go, which was toward the inside of the band's overall sound, not outward toward the audience from the individual members. It worked.

Wolf Parade's strategy is to layer up thick, balanced textures and use a lot of lead synth melody. Hadji Bakara played a reverb-&-delay-drenched theremin that expanded the timboral landscape of the songs with some Mariana trench-like moments, providing a needed element of gentle menace without departing from the catchiness or late post-adolescent dramatic intensity. In the beginning of the set it felt like they were holding back a little, but it got better as it went along, with some very broad and quite pleasurable peak-outs toward to end and in the encore. There's so little energetic or tempo variation or density contrast in the song structures that it almost doesn’t read as pop music, it's almost a drone music, though the keyboard melodies are pushing Cars-level catchiness in many tunes. Krug and Dan Boeckner sing equally well, and both use a similar kind of stylized warbly cracking intensity that seems like someone politely controlling emotions that are bigger than they are. The pop music of not being able to help how you feel.


There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito.


I noticed that in David Orr's New York Times Book Review cover story on Elizabeth Bishop he complains that more people know the lyrics to Total Eclipse of the Heart than know Elizabeth Bishop's poetry. It seemed to me that it might be more interesting to combine these two writers rather than setting them up in a false binary, so below is a line by line combination of Bishop's Florida with Jim Steinman's Total Eclipse of the Heart.

The Total Eclipse of Florida

Turnaround, Every now and then I get
out among the mangrove islands,
a little bit helpless and I'm lying like a child in your arms.
They stand on the sand-bars drying their damp gold wings.
Turnaround, Every now and then I get to an un-lit evening,
a little bit angry and I know I've got to get out and cry.
Enormous turtles, helpless and mild,
turnaround. Every now and then I
die and leave their barnacled shells on the beaches,
a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes
and their large white skulls with round eye-sockets.
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
I'm twice the size of a man then I fall apart.

And the palm trees clatter in the stiff breeze
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and then I
like the bills of the pelicans and the tropical rain comes down.
then I fall apart,
to freshen the tide-looped strings of fading shells.
And I need you now tonight:
Job's Tear, the Chinese Alphabet, the scarce Junonia,
and I need you more than ever,
parti-colored pectins and Ladies' Ears,
and if you'll only hold me tight
arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico,
we'll be holding on forever.

the buried Indian Princess's skirt
will only be making it right
with these the monotonous, endless, sagging coast-line
cause we'll never be wrong together.
Delicately ornamented,
we can take it to the end of the line,
Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down.
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time,
over something they have spotted in the swamp.
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
in circles like stirred-up flakes of sediment.
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks,
sinking through water.
I really need you tonight,
smoke from woods-fires filters fine blue solvents.
Forever's gonna start tonight,
on stumps and dead trees the charring is like black velvet.

Forever's gonna start tonight--
the mosquitoes,
once upon a time I was falling in love,
hunting to the tune of their ferocious obbligatos,
But now I'm only falling apart.

After dark, the fireflies map the heavens in the marsh.
There's nothing I can do
until the moon rises.
A total eclipse of the heart.
Cold white, not bright, the moonlight is coarse-meshed,
Once upon a time there was light in my life
and the careless, corrupt state is all black specks.
Now there's only love in the dark,
too far apart, and ugly whites; the poorest.
Nothing I can say post-card of itself.
A total eclipse of the heart
After dark, the pools seem to have slipped away.

--Jim Steinman/ Elizabeth Bishop
Watched the DVD of John Water's Pink Flamingos, last seen at a midnight showing sometime in the mid-eighties in NJ. Much of the intensely particular feel of the film comes from the spontaneous nature of the shooting, and the way the monetary constraints were handled in the production, and may explain why his later movies retain the charm but lack the poetic of this period. The use of a single, appropriated camera and rescued film stock, combined with the odd and hilarious mixtures of hand-make/thrift shop set design and wardrobe combine to form some very strange color schemes and textures. There's a particular feel for wall paper in the movie. The repeated long single-shot scenes come from the constraint of only having one (stolen) camera. The effect created successfully combines several odd elements-- especially a feeling that everything in the movie, regardless of setting, is somehow actually taking place on a high school multipurpose room stage. This coexists with a Night of the Living Dead horror/documentary realism effect, and this binary defines the film's poetic. The acting also style fuses odd but effective elements -- amateurish but absorbing, intimate but artificial, gross but somehow touching.

The famous scene of the burning trailer where the camera perversely lingers over the flames is explained away by Waters in the commentary track as "bad editing," but there's something that he's missing about his own film here. There is a dynamic of inclusively which depends upon the overall equation of rough on-the fly production, perversity, humor and pathos, and this inclusiveness allows this fire scene, which would otherwise bring everything to a screeching, incongruous halt, to actually work in the overall rhythm of the film. The flames, clearly out of control of the under-prepared filmmakers, take on a beautiful hyper reality that actually harmonizes with the angry, pre-punk rebelliously anti-social creative energy that the director and cast channel into in the project. It also harmonizes with the poetics of fixation that are so clearly a part of Waters' approach.


Dreamt Ange had cornrows.


See you at the BPC tomorrow for Elizabeth Robinson and Robert Kelly.
More adventures in the Rhodes-o-sphere.

Pyramid: Lee Konitz, Paul Bley, Bill Conners, 1977, Improvising Artists

Track 2: Out There (Lee Konitz)

Bley plays a Rhodes on the first half of this track, mostly doing a one-note tremolo sustain. The thing about a tremolo sustain on a Rhodes is that the instrument fights it- partly because of the action, which is stiffer than a piano, and partly because the attack shape of the tone is long, so a quick tremolo roll cuts off before the full attack is done. But the rhythmic effect created don't sound like a _hampered momentum_ as you might expect -- it sounds like any situation where you have to maintain persistence in a resistant environment or in the face of some natural disadvantage. It sounds like energy which is about to exert itself. Coming into the solo, Bley slows the tremolo down to open up the full tone a little, and does a very brief interlude where he foregrounds the lush bass tones of the instrument.


Saw Kevin and Dodie at their packed show at White Columns gallery -- art related to Mirage magazine. Fran Herndon painting, signed poster for a Kenneth Anger film (which I coveted) , a photo of Tim Davis w/ hair, an Emilie Clark piece, and several other things related to the autograph theme of the Mirage covers. Regretted not being able to make their reading the next day.

Sat afternoon I was able to make it to Gary Sullivan's reading at the BPC, which was the best reading I've heard him give -- absolutely hilarious and totally committed to his performance. Ran into Kit Robinson and Marianne Shaneen, among many others.


See you at Gary's reading Sat.


The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was too ubiquitous for me to listen to much at the time, but now that I go back to it I have to say the arrangements really are fantastic. Particularly interesting to me are the harp parts courtesy of Elisabeth Valletti. Also: the perfectly placed timpani on Ex Factor. Harp and timpani are both instruments that sound particularly good represented via speakers -- they blend well with paper and magnets.

As much as I dislike between song skits and flat vocal quavering, this is a great album. You can hear a lot of people working together here, and that they're contributing and involved creatively, not banging out pro parts. The vision is really focused by Hill as an arranger.


I'm amazed that there are some people capable of taking my this-one-goes-to-eleven-grade sarcasm in "Chicks Dig War" at face value.

The process of writing the poem started with gathering source material with a set of google search on "chicks dig" and "chicks really dig," and then improvising search and replaced Iraq war stuff into resulting items and then heavily re-editing and re-sequencing it. It's obvious if you read the poem in the context of the book that it's an absurd anti-war poem using an appropriated vocabulary of male insecurity, and pitching a confident logic that doesn't make any sense. It was written to match the media absurdities we were inundated with at the time it was written at the height of the war (and still are), where the thinking and opinions being bandied around on the TV, from the administration, and in the New York Times seemed often to have about as much actual rationality as this poem. I wanted to go with absurdity in approaching political material when we seemed to be in an area of the cultural landscape where rationally suddenly wasn't allowed at all.

The poem is so packed with self-cancellations and reversals and is so flagged as sarcastic that ... but I guess there must be people who are angry and bewildered at the right wing Stephen Colbert too right? so... let em think that!


Herbie Hancock, Crossings.

West African-sounding drum arrangements with vivid, coherent, stretching Rhodes soloing from Hancock. Like a cross between Bitches Brew and Sun Ra. Julian Priester is on it, and there are moog sections via Patrick Gleason (note his Amazon comments above). It must have freaked out his record company. Twenty minutes songs broken into suites. Rubato and out-of-time passages as well as deep, straight-ahead grooves, though with Billy Hart almost never on the two and four. Nearly Harold Buddish ambient passages. Other sections have a lot of activity but don't sound busy. It would fit into a prog framework except for the jazz chord voicings, and the balance of activity with relaxation. Prog has to be tense. Also, no one on Crossings solos towards anything show-offy. It's ensemble playing, with range and depth.


Some interesting stuff over at Limetree with the Basboll Jennifer Moxley vs. Billy Collins challenge:

Collins has a certain way with words, even though I'm put off by what he's saying, and what it implies. Kind of like Phillip Larkin, who also has a certain skill with words, but who I'm totally horrified by beyond that. Collins approximates the relaxed, immediate tonal effects of Kenneth Koch, but to very different ends. The poem in question at first seems like a relaxed accounting of comfort with and pleasure in one's environment and life. Sort of. Okay, read it again: it's a tense, naked celebration of self-satisfied complacency. Yes, but there's more. Read it again: what it's doing is locating the process of writing (a writer's table and solitude and pen is the setting) as a mechanism for asserting a separation of selfhood and history. It's saying that writing is about using one's creativity to call up a triumphant fantasy of withdrawn total independence from the world. It's saying you don't have to engage with the actual environment you exist in because you can withdraw into a private magic circle where you have no needs and you have no claims from the outside world apart from how you wish to imagine it for your own comfort. So it's actually neurotic power fantasy: a very common poetic one in fact. This poem is the embodiment of a defensive disconnection presenting itself as happiness. The affect of the words doesn't lie. There's no real joy in the feel of the poem, there's tension, because the poem claims to take pleasure but actually clings uneasily to a defensive fantasy. The tone is seemingly Kochian, but it's a long way from Koch, who would never bother with this insisting on being in control of some imagined suit of armor of independence from context. He would use a related tone, but would drawn down details and information from the environment, the pleasure of life, and mix them with playful rearrangements responses that would actually engage the human and social vibe of that environment and of it's actual, dependant pleasures and comforts.

The Moxley poem is similar in several ways: the setting, the details and some of the themes. Her chops are much more advanced, and are put into the service of different things. Comparing Moxley to Collins is like comparing June Tyson to Bing Crosby. The Moxley poem is about rejecting some social pressure to over-plan life in the name of comfort and security. So, like Collins, it involves a rejection of claims being made upon one, but it feels like specific claims being responded to in a specific context. It's engaged. Read it again-- it's saying: I don't want to arrange my life (and my mind) so that everything is totally safely planned out ahead of time according to some standard social material script. It's reacting to the suffocation of material comfort and safety and the vision of time and change that goes along with that. Like the Collins poem it deals with a kind of psychological need for independence, bit it handles it much differently.


Abhishek Bachchan acquits himself pretty well on the thumping 50-Cent-via-Bollywood "Right Here Right Now" track from Bluff Master.
Joshua Clover on Charles Reznikoff and Paul Beatty on Bob Kaufman in this week's NYT Book Review.


I picked up the ideal volume of Taylor Mead poetry: a signed paperback of On Amphetamine and in Europe, Excerpts from the Anonymous Diary of a New York Youth (Boss Books, 1968), the edge of which is well chewed through by a dog. You can see the individual tooth indentations. I think a forensics person could identify the dog with this book. It's hilarious.

Mead manages to be equal parts ingenious and feeble. Like the perfect mixture of Jack Kimball and Hal Sirowitz.

"Pardon me while I disband our friendship."

Print this over a jpeg of a strapping Macy's model and you got Jack Kimball, right?

Hal Sirowitz has a more studied stupidity and less natural persona inspiration than Mead, but here's the's Sirowitz mode:

"The reason I'm an idiot is because I'm so intelligent I've transvalued intelligence."

Some raw specks of proto-flarf:

"The sun is so orange it's pathetic"


"rabbits are eating my underwear"

Some is high resolution glammed abhorrence:

"wine should not be sold to people over 40"


Bill Withers, Use Me

A perfect arrangement of simple materials. The song is a single clavinet vamp with no B section or chorus, just one brief drum break, of a tastiness not to be believed. It has a stripped down funk instrumentation: clavinet, bass, drums, guitar, vocals. The relationship of syllable placement to the Modeliste-esque drum groove is incredible - two fields of mutually enhancing pulsations. It's the spaces allowed in these overlapping rhythms that gives this tune it's amazing resolution of relaxation and forward momentum.
iPod notes

Husker Du, Warehouse Songs.

Husker Du was one of several blessings that got me though New Jersey suburban public high school in the mid 80s. I can still remember a major shift in my musical brain when I brought home the 45 of Husker's cover of The Byrds' Eight Miles High, totally floored by the passion of the singing, and the noisy, expansive guitar sound. It felt like whole set of confined emotions being released all at once. It would have sounded like pointless, angry noise to most people around me, and I greeted it with the relief and joy of suddenly and unexpectedly being understood.

What I couldn't have known at the time, and what I see now looking back on the musical archeology, was that I was receiving an odd, multilayered transmission of American modal sound that went from John Coltrane to The Byrds to Husker Du.

As a teenager, I avidly collected any Husker Du I could get my hands, which was most of it, I think, because I was lucky enough to live within driving distance of The Princeton Record Exchange - a crucial source of music in that area.

I know I'm not alone among people my age in feeling that Zen Arcade is the Husker Du masterpiece. I still think that. By the time Warehouse Songs came out - '87, on the major Warner Bros., I recall thinking they had sold out or something, and consequently didn't pay much attention to Warehouse Songs. What is it about the teen age mind - not fully wired yet they say?

Warehouse Songs is actually great pop/punk way ahead of its time. I can now appreciate the more shimmery production and get into the pop element. Simple, short earnest songs that just define their own parameters of reality and expression and communication, often in an unabashedly dramatic and sometimes almost theatrical way. Yet I still feel I am in the presence of real people, which is often the thing that is missing in very dramatic music.

One natural reaction is to say the Grant Hart songs aren't as good as the Bob Mould Songs. But there's something that happens in toggling between the two that expands the information grid you're working with over the course of the album. The more muted patterns of the Hart songs and the more brilliant patterns of the Mould material form a moiré pattern.
Learn more about the Alligator Gar over at Shanna's.


Jordan Davis and Chris Edgar, Poetry Project, 1/1/06

Chris Edgar

"tiny halos of not"

"I asked the Verizon guy to use as many sixes as he could"

Jordan Davis

"Dad, please stop rhyming"

"Alligator in mirror might be nicer than it appears"

Jordan read a hilarious series of poems whose titles were taken from the stat-counter info about what Google searches led readers to his poetry blog, such as "Turtles Generate Poetry."


Twenty Ruptured Paragraphs, Noah Eli Gordon, subpress Self-publish or Perish

Excellent, meditative prose-poem chapbook in the subpress self-bootlegging tradition. Actually far from ruptured -- rather, carefully assembled (new?) sentences maintaining continuity of theme without being restricted to continuity of context: puns, riffs, sudden segues, questions, details, thoughts. There is a combination of elements and attitude which feels like a fusion of Stephen Rodefer, John Clarke, and Ron Silliman.

The feedback tonic note of checking in with writing processes as you're using them is sustained though every piece, but doesn't feel belabored or obligatory, and each paragraph has at least one killer sentence. Gordon isn't afraid of allowing the sentences to quickly shift from graceful to awkward when it advances the building propositional overtones.
Happy is the literary movement which requires no heroes.


Picked up Herbie Hancock, Secrets last weekend. Wonderful advanced art/party music. The kind of thing that pisses off jazz purists (or rock/funk purists for that matter), which makes me love it all the more. I tend to admire anything that angers zealots. The opening track, "Doin' It," has an almost minimalist (in the sense of Riley or Reich) pattern interweaving. What could you call this now to keep the fusion scare quote thing at bay... post-soul-music?


The Poetry Project New Year's Day Marathon reading is about the gradual accumulation of many voices over a long period of time. This year it made me think of The Coltrane Church in San Francisco, which I sometimes went to when I was living in SF in the early nineties. It had four or five-hour ceremonies, comprised mostly of music (including all of a Love Supreme) and a sermon that was all about politics. I'm a card-carrying atheist, but I liked the vibe at the Coltrane Church because level of playing was so high -- often much better than what was in the jazz clubs. The other thing I liked about it was the creative, communal vibe -- half the audience was carrying instruments, and would come up to take solos. This process could go on for a long time, and the quality of playing could range from great to abysmal, but it didn't matter, because the social vibe included a suspension of critical judgment, or, at any rate, suspension of the type of critical judgment that most resembles making impatient and repeated special demands on a waiter while eating out. Some players would be good and some bad, but anyone who wanted to be included would be, and the overall social/creative collectivity was what it was about. It was a refreshing change of context from the social frames of the jazz and poetry scenes, both of which were (and are, in NYC as in SF) ostensibly communal but as deeply competitive as any professional sports in reality. Not that I'm totally against that, cooperative and competitive modes both have their place. But I never left the Coltrane Church feeling - wow, that person was awful (no matter how weak some of the individual playing might have been). It was always like -- a beautiful mass of variegated social/musical information -- which is what the New Year's marathon is like.

In poetry there's almost no difference between the audience and the artist. At the New Year's reading you get up from the audience and read (to a room that is mostly other poets) and then sit back down while another poet gets up from the audience and reads and sits back down etc. At a rock show, the artist is pointedly superior to you and separated from you, and that's how you want it -- you're using them as an avatar, and fantasying about having their power. At the marathon reading the one actual rock star, Patti Smith, also gets up from the audience and then sits down with everybody else (she was actually sitting next to me this year). Of course, all the 15-20 year olds pour out as soon as she's done. (I'm no doe-eyed Patti Smith fan, but her performance this year was quite good -- solo w/ guitar playing a single Indian-inflected D-chord and really belting it out.)

So there's stuff across the spectrum, terrible, great and in-between, and it all accumulates in a way that inevitably makes it about the collective experience. The downside of this is a certain exhaustion, as it was at the Coltrane Church, but the unique context makes it worth it.

It's interesting to see how people handle the situation of being a blip in such a larger event (which is so much what people are as individual biological entities anyway). Some read one or two short poems and in a modest way (surely the most difficult thing to pull off). Some read one short strong piece. Some go three times too long with weak, unrehearsed material. Some blare theater chops. Some mix poetry and music. Some trot out well worn clichés. Some open a detailed window. Some make people laugh. Some do hilarious poetic performance interventions. Some share intimate details. Some evade. Some annoy. Some hint. Some bewilder. Some turn the camp up to eleven. Some declaim. Some list. Some drone. Some mumble. Some chronicle. Some fantasize. Some object. Some charm. Some surprise.