Me reading "On Fire" at DC Arts Center, Washington DC, 10/16/2011

Buck Downs: guitar
Mel Nichols: ukulele
Maureen Thorson: ukulele

Video: Katie Degentesh


Human mic poetry could be like this:

Poets could write poems for the human mic

(Poets could write poems for the human mic)

short poems with clear sets of information

(short poems with clear sets of information)

that work well with these delays and repetitions.

(that work well with these delays and repetitions)


I'll be reading in the In Your Ear poetry series at the DC Arts Center Sunday, October 16.

2438 18th St. in Adams Morgan, WDC, 3:00pm

My photos of the march and the arrests today on the Brooklyn Bridge.

More photos:



Nurses and teachers, working people and public sector workers, the poor, the elderly and the sick are destroying this country, and harming CEOs, hedge fund managers, and investment bankers, the very people who create non-union jobs in the first place. It's just a fact of life that the tax breaks needed for these job creators generate deficits. Someone has to pay for them. It's time to share that burden.

Nobody believes more in free enterprise and competition and of the best man winning than the man who owns the company that can fire you on a whim and have you escorted out by security by 12:00. People need to stop complaining and clinging to worn-out concepts like the forty-hour work week, overtime pay, and upward mobility. They should feel lucky they even physically exist.

The union members try to pretend that they are "middle class taxpayers." Their voices cannot drown out the voices of the countless real taxpayers who want to significantly decrease the size of the middle class in general in the US, leveling the playing field for everyone left with jobs.

Teachers and nurses see their pensions and benefits the way the Mafia views its "partnership" with a restaurant, as described in the movie "Goodfellas:" Business bad? F--k you, pay me. Hey, guess what? I'm a grade school teacher and I can burn down your garage for $300! F--k you, pay me. Your place got hit by a fragment of Spacelab, huh? F--k you, pay me.

Look at any history where people fight for rights and you will find that rights aren’t things people fight for and win, they are privileges controlled by a political class giving or taking them away based on merit. It's true that people in the Middle East are protesting for rights and the media finds that interesting but in the US sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.

Meanwhile for many of us there's such a thing as too much democracy. For mafioso Democrats, the purpose of government is to dole out free money, but government employees aren't exactly like the mob: the Mafia guys have a strong work ethic. And, listen up teachers and nurses -- if you don't like this deal: the National Guard might have something so say about it -- accidents happen.

Public sector workers are living in a bubble, but they need to be living in bubble wrap so they need not worry about being damaged when being shipped overseas. Their corrupt union pays off the political classes to give them benefits that no one in the private sector gets, like having enough time to read the International Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, Article 23, section 4, which says people have the right to form trade unions for the protection of their interests. When it was passed, eight fiscally responsible nations abstained: the Soviet bloc, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.

Play time is over. You don't get to live worry-free while the rest of us have to wonder how to pay our mortgage, taxes, food bill, gas bill, electric bill, and sock away money for our children's education and retirement and funeral, all while carrying you on our backs. If the middle class makes the shift to working class and working people make the shift to unemployable lumpenproletariat we wouldn't have to worry about this type of thing.

It's not that we're trying to trick working people, it's that we’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like has been done time and time again in Washington. We are going to become responsible. Founding father James Madison said that the government ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent (job creators) against the majority. By cutting taxes for job creators and paying for it by removing children from Medicaid, we protect you from having your neighbor be able to afford health care when you can't.

We're doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.



Nada Gordon, Scented Rushes, Roof Books, 2010

Scented Rushes is a series of highly artificed poems of seduction and frustration. It moves from the excited frustration of approach to the bitter frustration of rejection. The book is loosely epistolary, addressed to a distant love object, one who is truly objectified, having little or no presence beyond the engine he creates for the poems. He is a governor in the engine of the book. The poet's obsession is presented as a given, the reader is given no information about what makes this person appealing to the poet. In some respects the book fits the troubadour model of seduction poetry, though gender-inverted. This structure, and the general aura, which feels like Cindy Sherman crossed with Spongebob Squarepants, creates the feeling of a strangely ambiguous musical theatre project.

These are love poems, but they are not erotic in any direct sense. There is very little in the book addressing questions of pleasure or gratification. The dirtiest thing that is said is "I want to see the front matter." These are aggressive romantic provocations launched into deep space. Their drama comes from the poet wrestling against herself.

The undercurrent of playfulness and semi-epistolary orientation call to mind some obvious parallels, Bernadette Mayer for instance. The drama and conviction that fantasies count calls to mind Lady Gaga, and the love of absurdity and considerable energy and liveliness to a perhaps more unlikely parallel, Benjamin PĂ©ret.

The style is violently florid, entailing thickets of verbal laciness brought to an aggressive, renaissance festival extreme. The tone sometimes veers into prime mid-70s British prog-rock.

"Just where the snail falls from the eye of the sun"

Gordon's extravagantly flowery style and seemingly intentional abuse of adjectives is counterbalanced by an unwavering, expert feel for the arrangement of language.

The combination of forces that come into play as the poems progress from an agitated kind of hope to disappointment and anger produce some startling moments:

"So the rhapsodies now turn inward, like condoms on ghosts."

or this, from a poem set on a subway:

"Everyone has earbuds -- and was once a tiny zygote with DARK IRISES alone in a liquid place."

There are poems that use flarf methods to engage with vocabularies and subject matter that depart considerably from what one might normally expect in dramatic love poetry. These are some of the strongest moments in the book, where the traditional sealed cosmos of the obsessing poet/lover allows for uncanny intersections with the vastness of social quantity.

Daniel Nester interviews me at WWAATD.

Dan's questions are appropriated from various teen magazines. My answers are appropriated from a 1985 interview with Klaus Kinski mixed with various quotations from Bertrand Russell.

Two of the answers are "directly" from me, can you guess which? You could certainly argue that all the answers are really from me.


My interview with Michael Gottlieb is up at Jacket2.


This Wednesday, June 1st, I'm playing the Poetry Project with arrangements for poetry and electronics.

131 E 10th St. @ 2nd Ave.
NYC, 8:00pm
w/ Mark Yakich


Download a PDF of the cover art and first twelve poems of Chomp Away here.



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.


My new book, Chomp Away, is now available from Combo Books.

The book release event is this Saturday, 2.26 at The Bowery Poetry Club, 4:00pm

Drew Gardner and Josef Kaplan
Segue poetry series at the Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery (Between Houston and Bleecker)
F train to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker


How much difference could there be between the Egypt NSA briefs that Obama must be hearing and the hysterical Glenn Beck tirades that Americans hear on TV?


There is no broker state (Manning Marable) in Egypt or Tunisia. One thinks of the vanity of well meaning academic socialists in assuming to predict the periodic tempo of crises in the talk of "late Capitalism." The writers who speak of "utopia" -- what do they imagine happens after utopia? In the USA one is actually soaking in the silent assumption that the interventions upon the inevitable crises of under-regulated broker state capitalism represent a kind of economic harmony, whereas it's a scam where the population pays for the investor's gambling losses with unemployment and recession. It's a joke, and yet in Egypt they are ready to die for their imagination of what this could be for them: free elections, free speech, jobs and no torture. The second phase of de-colonialism. To what extent to we have those things? Did Abner Louima have freedom from torture? In Guantanamo? Was eight years of executive branch governance determined by a crooked election and a supreme court justice a free election? Do we have the power to stop wars we don't want?


Bill O' Reilly, who has his own television show, one where he explains that tides prove the existence of God, interviews the president of our country on the day of the super bowl. Sending thugs on camels to whip, beat and slash the protesters in Cairo is as medieval as the scene in Andrei Rublev where the secret police on horseback gouge out the peasants' eyes, but O'Rielly's thinking is no more modern. Maybe the potentially dangerous caliphate we should be first concerned with is the one perpetually lurking in the United States.


If you took part in the 2003 antiwar protests in New York City you know that the police didn't need camels and whips -- false consciousness is a far more powerful weapon than such things. In the faces of the cops effectively corralling us there was a weird mix of fear, derision and sympathy. But they knew their leaders were not in any danger of winding up at the end of a piano wire any time soon, and we were pretty sure we wouldn't be shot. We went back to our jobs. In Egypt there now appears the inverse of false consciousness-- conviction and clarity toward change. The overcoming of fear. The power is in the general strike combined with this conviction. If it sticks it will open something, no one knows what. In Iran in 2009 Facebook went the other way, self-surveillance ending in jail and repression.

There is nothing new without randomness (Gregory Bateman) and there is nothing more random than emotionally charged young people.


But Dickinson was lonely and weird and obscure; the fact that Warren is one of the most successful songwriters of our time suggests that these sentiments aren’t just hers, they’re ours—this blinding crucible of nuancelessness is our ideal conception of love. And, before I get too carried away, I should point out that the schmaltz-addled, love-crazed speaker/singer that emerges from the songs isn’t so unsympathetic. She’s the same wounded, needy romantic that we all remember being, hiding out beneath the covers of some very slick production.

Morgan Myers on Rodney Koeneke's Names of the Hits.