I come up John Keats.


On the C last night, every male in our car had a look of intense abjectness. One guy in his forties with an expression as though something he cared about deeply had been taken away with incontrovertible, unfair irrevocability. Another -- early thirties -- beamed with an intense scheming anger. Another -- mid twenties: numb withdrawal and denial. They seemed to represent some negative trinity of pre-middle age male life cycle. What are the stories behind these expressions?

The amount of brainpower we've evolved to identify and process human expressions must be considerable. What is the result of these thousands of expressions that pour into our minds from a simple commute? This must have a major effect in any poetry where the writer is working in a context of urban density.


Ellington-Blanton duets, Bluebird/BMG, rec 1940

Pitter Panther Patter

Sequenced vamps of elasticity and élan, with mini-trade fours scattered within. Ellington and Blanton weave in and out of the melody, and the elaboration and content blend seamlessly into one.

Body and Soul.

The opening arco playing coaxes so much melody out of the lowest of partials. The ear is not meant to understand melody as well in those low pitch area, so as to avoid being overwhelmed by the sound of our own heartbeats and blood flow. Lets be clear, the deviation here from equal temperament is for vocal expressivity. The vocal levity in this playing is amazing on an instrument that, in arco mode, can so easily be associated with a whale.

The outro piccicato soloing on take three is so detailed, so present, as to create the feeling of a person before you photographically detailed in its specificity. You're not just hearing the bass, you can hear the guy's hands playing the thing. It feels like a person is physically present. The feeling is impressive enough that you might even forget that Blanton, at the age of twenty one, is inventing the modern approach to the bass here. He would die of tuberculosis a few years later.

Sophisticated Lady.

Ellington is restrained, relaxed and distant in the mix, since this recording was meant to showcase Blanton, but there's something powerful about Ellington being at this unusual volume remove in a duet setting, where the detailing of the piano is still vivid in spite of the distance. It's as though the sonic magnetism that is a central quality of his playing was amplified in direct proportion to the distance.

The sense of a person dealing with society in a complex way, which is often foregrounded in Ellington's big band, is not entirely absent here, but is transformed into the subtext of private conversion. Pleasure, subtlety, relaxation, intelligence, sensitivity, confidence, and expertise are the overt materials of feeling being put into play. The complexity within these things, and the necessity of balancing conflicting elements of life force and social world are still the fabric this is made from, channelled though a private exchange we are overhearing. Both things are in conflict with themselves and with each other, and yet a image of _dealing with it_ is created with an amazing sense of balance and beauty.

Mr. J.B. Blues

Even when Ellington is in his most restrained, minimal, straight-forward comping mode, he still can't keep the life information from pouring out of the voicings: information-rich dissonance. Arco solo from Blanton has its tension/relaxation thresholds fused in a way that suspends the normal dramatic tension one gets in a blues form. The duet tensions are broken into chucks the way they would be twenty years later on Money Jungle. This music was way, way ahead of it's time.


Sharon Mesmer, In Ordinary Time, Hanging Loose Press

These short story/micro fictions/prose poems expertly balance absurdity, comedy, pluck and pathos in shifting proportions. Here’s a section from the opening piece, The Mexican Shirley Temple

"She tried and failed at grabbing her ankles to assume "rock and roll" pose -- she was just too old now -- and slipped slightly out of the harness. A gasp rose from the audience. Laughing, she just sat up in the harness and swung back and forth. The other mistake she made was wearing a dress -- everyone could see right up it. But it didn't matter, everyone loved her, and then more than ever because of her failure, which amplified her innocence. She was never, of course, innocent. She was pure evil. But to her audience she was the Mexican Shirley Temple."

Any readers who are afraid of enjoying themselves are going to want to keep a safe distance from this writing: the fun and style meters are off the chart, which may hide the fact that part of what we are getting is nuanced portraiture -- in this case portrait of the artist as an old circus performer, done as a kind of dream fable.

If you've ever seen Mesmer live you know that in performance she is, far and away, the greatest slam poet ever, period, while also transcending that genre, since these prose poems work just as well on the page.

Mesmer commits herself to a setting -- circus/black magic convention/ French town etc./ and then puts the details in motion with a unique kind of sympathetic satirical aplomb.

The fact that this book is not yet being breathlessly discussed in major magazines as the real chick lit is just wrong ... though I guess if some of my favorite underexposed musicians -- say, P.J Harvey and Joanna Newsome -- were suddenly played 24/7 on pop radio it would piss me off, so I should consider this situation as a kind of blessing... for me anyway.

Some are carefully wrought, engaging fantasies, like a post-Catholicism Italo Calvino, but with zaniness in the place of pretension.

Mixed in with these poetic micro-fictions are longer stories, adept straight-forward reportage of Ghost-World-esque adolescent rights of passage set in Chicago. These feature a certain sympathy with past selves that produces some of the more poignant moments in the book.


26 Magazine, issue D, has arrived.


Stans Apps, Douglas Rothschild, Bowery Poetry Club, 4/7/05

Stan Apps

"Mainly I feel like a meek oppressor."

"Nothing is more enormous than that person you haven't become yet."

"It needs to be so intensely not true that it is immediately real."

"I love a cheap epiphany, but an overpriced epiphany isn't worth a damn."

Douglas Rothschild

"It's the bad smell coming out of the kitchen that worries me."

"I've never met you, I'm only taking it out on you."

"If you don't have a cake, you can't eat it either."

"Try to figure out exactly what it means in relation to the bees."

Anyone wanting to read a PDF of the selected poems of Douglas Rothschild, please email me: drewgardner9 at hot mail dot com.


The electric guitars pierce through the sound of the machines, finally.

As for the instruments too delicate to compete with this, we’ll find a place to hear them, later, in private.


The Hat has arrived.


Yesterday a one-hundred year old retaining wall collapsed near 181st St in Washington Heights. Helicopters were kept a mile away to keep the vibrations from setting off more avalanches, so the video shots all presented the scene from a distance, blurred, with a trapezoidal area of dirt splayed across Riverside Dr.

The overturned trees look like broccoli, except they have firemen walking around among them. Cars backed up for blocks all around. Fantastic balance of themes: scale, obstruction, collapse, growth, structure. Dirt, trees and broken mortar as content... collapsing and spilling onto the highway as form.... Helicopter as publisher...


Anselm Berrigan, Matt Hart, Ron Silliman, 11th Street Bar, 5/9/05

Showed up too late to hear Hart or Anselm. I only knew Anselm, Karen Weiser, John Coletti and Murat Nemet-Nejat in the audience. The room was otherwise totally packed with a 20-something crowd, so I hovered at the bar/backroom no man's land, separated only by a curtain.

Silliman was accompanied by a jukebox and loud talk from the front of the bar. This combination reminded me a little of the old Ear Inn series, where the frying bacon and football game would provide distraction/ambience accompaniment. There was lack of oxygen in the room (Anselm would later emerge drenched in sweat), so I fell into a rhythm were I would listen for five minutes, go get some fresh air, listen for another five, repeat.

All these elements combined would normally create an impossible atmosphere for hearing poetry: lack of seating, bad PA, no air/too hot, loud conversation and a jukebox playing. To my amazement, this turned out to be an interesting way to hear Silliman's work.

Hearing this poetry separated into several disconnected five-minutes chunks didn't change the way it worked, or its effectiveness. It actually enhanced a quality of it: the fact that it is composed of sequenced autonomous units which operate by accrual. If you pull a chunk out, even skipping across poems, the poetry still works. The resolution just changes. Despite it's sharp and odd particulars, there is an ambient quality to this poetry. It's values are distributed with an environmental equality through it's extent. You're not going to miss a crucial punch line or plot twist.

This ambient quality was enhanced by the sound-bed of conversation and jukebox in the background -- after a period of mental adjustment, the poetry co-existed with it rather than competing. People talking about their credit cards and bosses, a John Mayer tune, and Silliman's atomized paratactic non-hierarchical sensory description, puns and recountings all formed into an interesting poetic/sound/social ecosystem.


Michael Gizzi, Clark Coolidge, Poetry Project, 5/4/05

Michael Gizzi

Gizzi's work is charged with an original pleasure of creation intense enough to shoot through the full spectrum of it's materials even when those materials plunge toward the melancholic and tragic. This work is welcoming, rich, wildly wacked-out impressionistic autobiographical poetic crime-jazz with family history as the plot: beautiful, comic, heartfelt and possessed of the power to frighten square people of all types.

"a ukulele speeding towards the heart"

Clark Coolidge

Shelly Man in warmth and relaxation, Hans Bennick in humor and spectrum of response. Jazz/noir voicings with an intense improvisational sprit. An inexhaustible feeling of positivity. Answering everything -- experience, memory, dream, art, politics, environment -- with artistic productiveness, like saying, no, THIS is the mental space I am choosing, one that can't be contained within a bullying consumerist expansionist apparatus -- wacky, quirky, hilarious, joyful, melancholy, unceasing. Theatricality blurring in and out of the language with micro-characters and settings, like a quantum-theory Tom Waits.

“oops. My mother is a gas tank”

Lines that make the top of your head boil over:

“You can’t put your arm around a manta ray.”

“Imagine a dental pain that helps you express yourself”

“There’s a snake in the hallway and we WILL be friends.”

A musical response to everything at the same time.

Heavily grounded, and heavily playful, responding to a gigantic spectrum of life information. Seamless conversational riffing mixed with zany vocab strings.

Total interdependency of the recombining elements of life information, life energy, and language.


Booklet for the Music and Poetry Workshop #5:

Williams Carlos Williams, from Kora in Hell: Improvisations. Short prose sequencing working across a wide spectrum of creative and social concerns. Journal/poem/criticism fused. Accumulation.

"Between two contending forces there may at all times arrive that moment when the stress is equal on both sides so that with a great pushing a stability results giving a picture of perfect rest. And so it may be that once upon the way the end drives back upon the beginning and a stop page will occur. At such time the poet shrinks from the doom that is calling him forgetting the delicate rhythms of perfect beauty, preferring in his mind the gross buffetings of good and evil fate."

Carla Harryman, from Gardener of Stars. Working across a wide spectrum of creative and social concerns. Intimate, critical, cosmic and dramatic. Character, theme, scenario and thought operating in speculative environmental space. Large-scale reverb settings mixed with close-up character information. Seamless transpositions of scale.

"Some people say I'm impatient and others don't notice. Appearing, disappearing, grouping, regrouping the stars, about which I personally know nothing, do not want to research, but plow over obsessively, mentally, as if I were trying to read my own genetic code for no reason other than that I had been genetically programmed to read it. Thus, the stars form or inform, shape, deplete, slacken, and even leave my thoughts to their own devices. Which, ill-informed as they may be sometimes, do not sleep piled up on themselves as male captives in sloughs of despond but bounce toward the massive externality named the world: this is were "there is so much to be grateful for" drives it's messages. The messages then take root, lining the streets with palms that rise to such heights one blinds oneself looking for their tops."

Bruce Andrews, from Divestiture – A. Crammed paratactic structure -- small sequenced blocks of noise. Using negative social emotions to foreground social issues. Employing unusual settings on creative social filter dial. Discomfort/humor. Accumulation. Zero/negative reverb setting.

"Do microscopes turn you on? My desire for freedom is too weak, just kiss yourself and watch the blood run out, making her feel guilty, externalizing my self-dislike & laying it on her -- pretty great! "What we need is a female victim of sudden death. Can you do it?" -- you wear it when the novelty wears off BEFORE THE EVENT. "

Joe Brainard, from I Remember. Attenuated list structure with uniform syntactical template. Allowing unusual (embarrassing) social filtering settings to create social-environmental detailing and intimacy across scales of time and place. Equality of units -- heavy and banal treated the same. Accumulation. Memory and time as environments (w/ particular reverberation characteristics). Clarity.

"I remember the first ball point pens. they skipped, and deposited little balls of ink that would accumulate on the point.

I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.

I remember the day Frank O'Hara died. I tried to do a painting somehow especially for him. (Especially good.) And it turned out awful.

I remember canasta."

John Godfrey, from Midnight on Your Left. Lyrical/mental/environmental tangle.

"It must be ecstasy to die in action. To think children are afforded this privilege. The sky suddenly comes up real close and your body is on it's own in the middle of the whole world. De-boned legs of such a drug are roasting in a room next to the one I am in. Hunters are waiting to be paid. Without the moon things go better. All the heroes come out of the firmament smelling blood. "

Rae Armantrout, from Made to Seem. Ambiguous or negative emotional resonance or framing (self/social inducement/ coercion) transposed into meditative, lyrical, comedic with energetic "pop." (i.e. cold fusion) Clarity.

"The idea that they were reenacting something which had been staged in the first place bothered her. If she wanted to go in, she'd need to ignore this limp chronology. She assumed he was conscious of the same constraint. But she almost always did want to proceed. Procedure! If only either one of them believed in the spontaneity of the original actors and could identify with one. Be one. For this to work, she reasoned, one of us would have to be gone."

Christopher Dewdney, from The Natural History. Large-scale lyric/environmental time/place reverb settings.

"There are two worlds -- one diurnal and that other world, where lunar mottled eels stir like dreams in shallow forest water. Allowing both to continue, we painstakingly remove and replace their parts with corresponding and interlocking absences. The glass machinery equally full of allusion to our summer carnality, an infinite part of the pattern that references itself with it's own repetitive logic."


Tim Hawkinson, The Whitney Museum/ The Sculpture Garden

Rough materials, around the house/off the shelf /jury rigged DIY (not expensive, but time-intensive) – crazy whimsical/inventive/humorous hand-made robot-poem-instruments.

Very large and very small scales.

Propagated self-portraiture – interconnected community in tree playing percussion instruments with different body parts.

Inflatable man self-portrait in-utero air compression plastic cow sounds.

Mundane objects made into clocks -- insane meditation on time, scale and object significance – one might not even notice these are working clocks -- a hair brush with two hairs as hour and minute hand.

Most of this won’t come across in photo or description. You have to be there. The essence of sculpture.

Tiny toy motor turning many gears increasing in size across the room with courtory cloth gear-teeth until the last wheel turns once every hundred years.

Micro Horton hears a who stuff from body growth materials- nails and hair. Their growth is also a kind of clock. From these materials, tiny bird skeleton, feather.

Percussion tree dripping water controlled by elaborate switch box. Such pleasure in the handmade construction of the switchbox, the careful but simple construction creating a personal feeling from a machine. Transparent mechanics -- you can see how everything works -- hence a feeling of honesty. A punk -I could do that- feeling of permission.

Giant blown-out tire as rearing monster.

Lee Bontecou influence/ dark whimsy.

Gaskets and air pressure/ the tubes and chambers of bodily functioning.

Uberorgan -- At the Sculpture garden on 56th. Too big for the Whitney. Football-field-scale machine/ robot instrument player piano bagpipes.

Cardboard tubes. Plastic sheeting. Aluminum foil. Materials a kid might use to build a robot costume for Halloween. Plays every hour. Plastic bag / body organ / bagpipe shapes hanging from ceiling, tubes crisscrossing everywhere like part of rainforest canopy. Giant “score” “recording” dots and dashes read by electronic eye, going up to the highest point in this outside/inside/ public/private corporate space. Birds flitting around trees. Very low cow moos/Godzilla goose honks from organ. Somehow still unassuming. Enormity, but with handmade feel/open wiring, open construction. Silver cardboard tubes hanging from ropes. Powerful Dr, Seuss vibe. It’s like the opposite of Matthew Barney, who is all about liking it when money/class war/capitalism forces its way into your dreams and calls the creative shots. Hawkinson is about constructive dreams and poetic questions that are undeniable in any space, that can’t be ruined.

What’s incredible is that work this inventive, this poetic, this anti-corporate could even be in this space at all, and that it would work when it is here. This shouldn’t have happened. It exists here the way the birds exist inside this space: they make it work. They are themselves.