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.