How did we get here, where we don't belong?
We are birthers, racist against ourselves,
not wanting someone of our color
to be in charge of our lives.

We are showroom birthers. We are standing here
exposing ourselves in the public domain of our friends
and enemies, we go on campaigns
to discredit ourselves, to evade the
question of what we do,
and think of credentials, of paper work,
notary publics, the awards, degrees,
the clubs we're born in and the clubs we join.
We look around and change our pose.
We are birthers.

We're being watched and we feel our pulse.
We have claims to authenticity, and we refuse
to acknowledge them. No amount of proof
will demonstrate to us our own validity.
We cannot be accepted.
We are not natural born.

We go on the television in our minds,
and insinuate that we are ineligible to be who we are.
We start to move, and we break the glass.
We go into a club and there we start to dance.
We are birthers.

There is a mechanism, a network of misinformation
in ourselves. No matter what we put in our minds
this will not be put to rest.
We step out and take a walk through the city.


Abraham Lincoln, Issue #6, Edited by K. Silem Mohammad

Sandra Simonds:
I am like an elephant mom ready to
Bang my trunk against a screen.

Marie Buck:
Tom Cruise suggested in an interview that they had produced a stillborn baby composed entirely of marijuana.

Michael Magee:
Every act of creation is the self-portrait
of a Chia Pet gasping and wobbling

Ish Klein:
I do not know what the inside of this thing looks like
but I think it looks like a brain made of mozzarella cheese.

Lacey Hunter:
A dentist invented the electric chair. That's the galaxy saying hello.

Brain Ang:
the urge to smoke becomes my ultimate concern.


Rod Smith’s new poem “What’s The Deal” illustrates how Flarf and conceptual poetry might be the perfect complements of each other, in the sense of complementary colors. They are 180 degrees apart. Where Conceptual poetry is intentionally boring (“If there were an Olympic sport for extreme boredom, I would get a gold medal." --Kenny Goldsmith) and the reader’s engagement is meant to be minimal or impossible, Flarf is highly engaging. Where Conceptual poetry is made to be as self-referential as possible, Flarf uses a world of complex reference that threatens to veer out of control. In Conceptual poetry, the author is meant to be as distanced as possible from the material. With Flarf poetry it’s the opposite: Smith’s neural net is jacked directly into the spiraling prism-like streaks of digital social information the poem uses as it’s Googled raw material.

Conceptual poetry is rule-bound. Smith’s poem is based not on a rule but a single starting point: repeat a question and see what happens. The two approaches have the repurposing of digital text in common, but their effects are so different that when you put them side by side they cover an amazing amount of artistic territory with very little repetition.

The iterative rhythm of Smith’s “What’s the Deal” moves like a flip book, quickly going from questions about the nature of Madonna to the nature of hydrogen to Grape Nuts and then to "the bright light you see before dying." There are few answers, though one of the most striking is: “The menace of wind turbines,” evoking the feeling of some frightening but sustainable zero-carbon future.

The poem has an inexorable forward momentum. Once you start reading you don’t want to put it down. The feel of it goes from delightful to unnerving and back again.

What's the deal with Sanka?

(this is a cute way
of telling your Barista 'thank you')

I saw some graphic of a black hole
and Sanka

The affect of the questions ranges from imploring to incredulous to frustrated, a distorted reflective surface of multiple selves in which the shifting image of the author is always present. The answer that often seems most likely is “I don’t know exactly.”

“What’s the Deal” is packed with details, details not from the poet’s life, but from other people’s lives. These are built into a whirring kinetic swirl -- interlocking lines harmonized (and de-harmonized) with multiple voices that Smith will then bring to a dead halt by dropping a perfect Steven Wright-like Zen stone into the whole thing:

The socks / appear never / to have / been worn / so the condition is / immaculate"

After a few pages “What’s the Deal” begins to glow with the extrapolated resonance of millions of individual human plots. How do things turn out? Do we find out where the hundreds of rubber duckies came from that inexplicably showed up across the Sunnyvale campus? Who is packing the truck and moving to LA? What's buried behind all these diners?


for the BP oil spill anniversary, #181 from Michael McClure's proto-Flarf book 15 Fleas

one covered with oil
and save his life
and toil to resurrect his beauty
and he'd love me
and be my pet murre
or auk or puffin
I loved the feathered crests
asweeping from their eyes
and their sturdiness
and clowny painted beaks
in midst of dignity
I read a book about a boy who made friends
with an ornithologist and went with him to a bird
rookery and they found all the birds some of them
still alive and faintly staggering and lying
dead and dying with their wings chopped off. The
island had been attacked by feather pirates. And
another story about a native taking people on raft
from isle to isle and they hated him but he had
a secret stash of water that he drank through
a tube while the loathsome white people slept…
I like Egyptian frescoes too…

And to study all the alphabets.


New study is the first to extensively evaluate the influence of poetry on the biochemistry and development of the brain

The scientists observed writers lacking normal poetry exposure levels, then compared their behavior, brain chemistry and brain development to writers having elevated poetry exposure levels. The poetry-free writers were more active and, in specific behavioral tests, were less anxious than poetry-colonized writers.

In one test of anxiety, writers were given the choice of staying in the relative safety of a dark bedroom with a laptop, or of venturing into a lighted kitchen with food and coffee. Poetry-free writers spent significantly more time in the lighted kitchen than their poetically colonized writer-mates. Similarly, in another test of anxiety, poets were given the choice of venturing out to an indie rock show with an unprotected bar to explore their environment, or remain in the relative safety of an afternoon poetry reading protected by enclosing walls. Once again, the poetry-free animals proved themselves bolder than their colonized kin.

Consistent with these behavioral findings, two genes implicated in anxiety -- nerve growth factor-inducible clone A (NGF1-A) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) -- were found to be down-regulated in multiple brain regions in the poetry-free writers.

When Pettersson's team performed a comprehensive gene expression analysis of five different brain regions, they found nearly 40 genes that were affected by the presence of poetry. Not only was this peculiar art form able to influence signaling between nerve cells while sequestered far away in the gut, they had the astonishing ability to influence whether brain cells turn on or off specific genes.


The complete recording of my Feb 26th performance at The Bowery Poetry Club is now available on my Pennsound page.

This was the book release for Chomp Away, and all the material is from the new book. I'm using a looped monophonic keyboard -- a Casio VL-Tone, made famous by Trio, and a Boss Loop Station.