Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Chicago" Poetry

Ray's comment raised some questions for me. If experimental poetry is in some renaissance in the city/region, is it being written from a specifically Midwestern viewpoint? Is experimental poetry "regional" in the U.S. any more? What schools of experimental poetry are there in the city and who are the poets associated with them? Do the different poetic groups in the city depend on economic or academic standing? Are different groups really open to each other? What experiments are being done here that are not being done other places?

Anyone want to offer an opinion?
posted by bill @ 10:22 PM 9 comments

At 4:49 PM, Larry Sawyer said...
Random thoughts here...this recalls Kerri's comment re: shared geography vs. aesthetic differences? I think internal observers would probably be more aware of aesthetic differences and categorize along those lines and outside observers would tend to lump Chicago poets together according to shared geography. I personally think a little community building is a positive thing. I seem to note shared aesthetic allegiances among Iowa grads--not making a value judgment about it--and then, of course, there are divisions among the poets here, definitely, regarding stylistic and aesthetic allegiances. Perf poets being at one end of the continuum and page poets at the other? But setting it up as a dichotomy is simplification to an absurd level. There are many varying gradations inbetween. I've been living here for approximately 5 years now and feel much more at home than I initially did--I view bumping into the same groups of talented poets at various local venues as a blessing. I'm not one to quibble to the point of absurdity, most interesting poets I've met here are using collage tactics, colloquial language, somewhat surrealist juxtapositions, and various disparate elements mined from various media sources to make their work jump. I don't think many of the poets I admire around here worry much about whether their work is accessible, they operate on simultaneous levels of thought. I'm not sure many Chicago poets I know necessarily consider themselves "Chicago" poets either--seems limiting to apply the label. But this is America and marketing is key! Is there a craft vs. inspiration argument? It's possible to write oracular poetry that's also very experimental or else to write experimental poetry that seems perfectly comfortable to never leave the page. At some point any reading is a performance of some kind. One may choose to mutter barely audible poems but if the work is solid most audiences I know would still respond to it. Gabe Gudding recently gave a soft reading and was so masterful that one strained all the more to be sure to catch every word--is there a recipe for anti-performance? Can we figure that out and play off audience expectations? Is there now a Chicago school?

At 1:02 PM, Ray said...
I think that there are certainly some groups that have similar interests and concerns and then there are groups that are in dialogue some not.

Here is how I view Chicago poetic groups and some of these groups are in dialogue and some are not.
All of these groups have good poets and I think that it makes our city quite rich in poetic presences.

Here is my assessment of the subgroups within the "experimental" world of poetry in Chicago/Milwaukee anyone I left out please forgive me in advance.

Academic Experimental Poets:

Type of Poet: Tend to be full time professors or teachers.

These are poets who are marginally or completely experimental and can be interesting but who do live within an academic setting. This is the best marketed group in Chicago poetry.

S. Reddy
Arielle Greenberg
Tony Triglio
Dan Beachy Quick
Robyn Schiff
Bill Allegrezza

Non Academic Experimental Poets tend to be a little more daring than the academics but need to work harder on self marketing.

Type of Poet: Well educated but not teachers of poetry primarily

Chuck Stebelton
Kerri Sonnenberg
Jesse Seldess (Left us)
Mark Tardi
Ray Bianchi
Larry Sawyer
Roberto Harrison
Dave Pavilich

Hyde Park Poets/CPP/Danny's
a group that is very similar to the Academic Experimentals but they are either not academics or are Graduate Students and tend to be in dialogue with everyone. Strong Duncan influence here.

Matthias Regan
Eric Elstain
Peter O'Leary
John Tipton
Joel Craig
Michael O'Leary
Mary Margaret Sloan

UIC Poets, this group should be larger but I dont know all the name they are not experimental poets but they are not mainstream either there are many Steven's devotees they are more traditional and tend to use experimental forms and usages but are not easy to stereotype.

Kristy Odelius
Garin Cycholl
Simone Muench
Michael Anania
Mary Bittinger
Chris Glomski

Slam Poets/Hip Hop Poets

This is a mixed group some are totally Slam oriented and some are more talented and do other things two of my favorites in this group are Krista Franklin and Tychimba Jess

Therapeutic Poets

Finally there are a whole ocean of poets who could best be described as hobbiest poets or therapeutic poets and I dont know these poets well and much of their work is focused on self rather than poetry as art.


I think that all of these groups are in dialogue to a degree. There is not that much to say with the Therapeutic group since their concerns are different. I think that one area where all four "experimental groups" are weak is to be in dialogue with those poets like Krista Franklin and Tychimba Jess who are fine poets and who tend not to be from the same background a real outreach should happen on this front.

At 5:00 PM, Larry Sawyer said...
What is considered "experimental" is a mutating concept, so it may be interesting if we make an attempt to define our terms. Is experimental: Olson’s poetics as “open field”; Pound’s emphasis on image above all else; the worldwide Surrealist emphasis on experimentation and bizarre juxtaposition; the Beats emphasis on controversial subject matter, raw presentation (i.e., first thought=best thought), and line length governed by breath unit; disruptive syntax and avoidance of the lyric of Language poetry; maximal actualism of poetry like that written by the late Jim Gustafson; talky-quirky, city surrealism of Frank O’Hara; abrupt variation in diction and tone (latinate and slangy words commingled) of the New York School? Does any of this apply any more?

Flarf? Certainly HTML and Internet use, not to mention the proliferation of the poetry workshop has affected the course of poetry in the United States. I usually assume that experimental does not include poetry that relies solely on contraversial subject matter with a disregard for craft. I've had Clayton Eshleman tell me that he goes through hundreds of drafts per poem. Cid Corman told me that producing a poem consists of excising all superfluous words. Is there a re-emergence of the lyric? Are sound poets being the most experimental. Obviously what was considered experimental in the days of the Don Allen anthology no longer applies, although I gained much from reading that book way back when. What's next is what I want to know. I'm genuinely amazed and constantly excited by this idea called poetry and all its permutations.

At 6:30 AM, Ray said...
Experimental is a throw away term. I prefer to look at contemporary poetics in the following way.

Out of the Pound tradition there is a profound use of many sources and a sense of history as poetry.

Pound's work comes out of that sense. So as contrasted with say Williams who was concerned with the everyday and using that to create new ways Pound and his followers are concerned with bringing our shared poetic history and a dialogue with other languages into the poetic conversation.

Duncan and the SF Ren people along with many Black Mountain poets do this well.

The best examples of this kind of poetics I have found recently is Chris Glomski's new book and Lisa Jarnot's Second Book (for its complexity).

I also think that there is a profound avant garde sense that does not desire this dialogue with other cultures or languages. This sense might be called Steven'sesque even though this is simplistic.

There are allot of 'experimental' poets who are not concerned with history or our poetic past or other languages but more with a sense of poets on a mission.

There are an aweful lot of these poets around. I think that it is easier to be this way since it requires less reading and can be more focused on self experiences in a non confessional way which also comes out of the Whitman tradition.

I think that to use contemporary MFA programs as a way to define the poetic 'tribes' so to speak is not helpful because it is too simple.

Chris Glomski for example went to Iowa MFA but his work is really aesthetically in the Pound/Black Mountain camp. He has much more in common with say Duncan than with Jorie Graham who was his teacher.

A poet like Garin Cycholl has many influences. His work could be a fusion of many things not least of which is a sense of the land and geography which is usually absent in contemporary poetics.

Another poet like Jesse Seldess has much owed to Stein and her sense of language and repetition and little to do with any aesthetic other than his own and Jesse went to Iowa as well.

So what is an experimental poet? My friend Joe Ahearn defined it this way and I cannot think of a clearer definition;

Concerned with Language non-confessional the postmodern sense that we can fuse traditional forms with non traditional forms fluidly.
a profound dialogue with other artforms. A dialogue with the actual and the non actual to create a new sense of language and poetry.

Regarding the internet I think the only difference between the Internet and years ago when poetry magazines were printed is a sense of access. Poets today can get their work out but the sheer volume of garbage has hurt the critical structure of poetry and I think that this has not been good for the artform the need for critical structures is the key thing needed for poetry. Someone needs to think about whether or not the poetry that is lauded is really interesting? I find allot of the poetry that is award winning boring and banal. I also find that allot of Post Language poets to be formulaic in their writing but they are getting published by intertia and reputation.

At 10:30 AM, Kerri said...
sorry i've been out of it lately. stil l waiting for a chance to collect my thoughts about last week's kenny goldsmith reading which i'll post here.

all of this vocabulary is very tricky, and part of what i want to say is that so-called experimental writers by my definition engage with the conceit that language is an imperfect system, an illusion of certainty that makes the whole endeavor of taking it up as one's artistic/expressive medium kind of absurd. writing that is not written with this (liberating? baggage?) in mind seems to lack a crucial dimension that I, as a reader, miss. This writing, that some may term non-experimental, conventional, school of quietude, etc. is best defined by my eye and ear as work that operates under the assumpion, the trust really, (in) of language as an authoritative tool. Authors that consider themselves masters of this medium, and masters of their readers' experience have always seemed to me a bit deluded.

similarly, i once attended a fundraiser for a local literary organization that situates itself within the traditions of identity/performance/declarative poetics. readings and mingling occured that made me and the fabulous and now in egypt dawn b. feel a little out of place. the director of the organization came over and asked us if we were poets, and then what KIND of poetry we wrote. that question still stumps me. dawn replied for the both of us, "postmodern." i'm not sure if this was any more definitive than "experimental" "for the page" or any other designation, but it seems the least problematic of all the terms kicked around so far/usually.

At 11:05 AM, Kerri said...
let me go back to a few of bill's initial questions, good ones. just when one thinks they can provisionally resolve the issue of what constitutes the "experimental" there's another issue of what constitutes regionality to a poetic school. i think it's more difficult than 10, 20, 30 years ago for geographic locales to develop a sense of poetic school because a. americans are very migratory, poets even more so, i.e. how many poets in sf or ny are born and raised in either place? are midwesterners more rooted to a sense of place? a lot of us seem to have a hard time leaving this region.. what keeps us here? (our highly developed "family values?"!) b. the post ww2 growth of the college industry that brought education to outposts that typically are not urban centers, or other traditionally artist communities. u.s. poets relying on these insitutions for work take on a nomadic lifestyle as a result, and add an interesting dimension creatively to one's sense of place. c. a unique sense of place is increasingly hard to come by in much of the country where the franchise landscape makes houston look like rockford (il) look like mesa (az) look like... a dearth of places, mostly older cities like chicago and ny, seem poised to blunt this homogeneity at the level of their local culture and thereby have more to offer writers/artists taking up questions of place in their work.

At 9:12 PM, Larry Sawyer said...
More random and forgive me if I stray too far from, ahem, the topic at hand, but I found an interesting Pound quote that had me thinking a bit more about the nature of what could be called "experimental."

--As for experiment: the claim is that without constant experiment literature dies. Experiment is one of the elements necessary to its life. Experiment aims at writing that will have a relation to the present analogous to the relation which past masterwork had to the life of its time.--

This reminded me of Ray's comment that there are experimental poets here in Chicago relatively unconcerned with the history of poetry or history in general. To understand the relationship that past masterworks had to the life of its time would require some understanding of the social context in which these texts were written. I think to a certain extent the attitudes of some younger poets, including their ambivalence regarding poetry of the past, reflects our consumerist culture where something that has only existed for five or so years is considered "old." It may be that it's natural that personal taste guides one to read only what one likes, consuming only the new, versus expending the effort it would require to study omniverously the poetries of the distant past or world poetries. I admit that writing poetry has shortened my attention span but it has not decreased my interest level.

It may be, going in another direction here, that poets who have no understanding that language in itself is a faulty construct and that narrative is at best a fallacy will forever write confessional or therapeutic poetry but by increasing their knowledge of what has come before and subverting it they may begin this process of renewal that could be called experimentation. I do see that there is a group of poets here in Chicago interested in innovation who understand that mere stylistic effect is not enough and that a focus on the malleability and plasticity of language must be grounded in an understanding of history, or at least literary history, in order for a work to have real social relevance. I think it may be that an awareness of all this is a distinctly Chicago viewpoint right now among poets here who are attempting something different in their writing, only because there may have been a lack of this viewpoint in this city until fairly recently, thus a "renaissance."

There are poets across the nation attempting something similar but there is a confluence of individuals here who are bent on innovation and they all seem to be of the same age range? The common denominator is aesthetic standpoint in a general sense versus using the locale of the city of Chicago as subject matter in the work. It may just be happenstance that so many interesting poets are now calling Chicago home.

At 11:49 AM, Kerri said...
The review of Ted Berrigan's Collected in the Poetry Project Newsletter has been reprinted on Silliman's blog today and it strikes me as relevant to some of the points Ray has brought up on the definition of innovation in poetry, the role of class and employment sector one's in poetics and poetry community, the role of history in innovation, etc.

I thought this bit was of particular interest, probably because "unkempt" sounds like a fitting description of my own activity.

Quote is from film critic/artist Manny Farber: "Good work usually arises usually arises where the creators... seem to have no ambitions towards gilt culture but are involved in a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor that isn’t anywhere or for anything. A peculiar fact about termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art is that it goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.”

At 12:12 PM, Kerri said...
on the charge that a lot of poetry being written today is not concerned with history, i disagree. while overt quoting from the iliad may have fallen out of f(l)avor, my sense is that there is more history, literary and, uh, the regular kind, pressed into allusion than i credit myself with being able to detect.

kind of like how the colbert report expresses a progressive viewpoint through the manufactured lens of a conservative slant, i think a lot of postmodern poets advance a keen knowledge and sensitivity to history with the informed structures they build on top of it. If I spend enough time I can usually find it peeking through the shutters, or perhaps history is more appropriately the hvac system in this scenario/contemporary practice.

maybe i just want to be talking about the colbert report and architecture and this has been a fiendish tangent. apologies.

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I found an old photo I'd taken of Ira Cohen inside St. John the Divine in New York. The definition of poet's corner is expanded, however, when Ira's in the frame. He's a photographer, poet, filmmaker, and provocateur. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Queasy Century Seeks Quiet Home

Call me future tense. Your docent is a few potatoes short of a full harvest. Up doesn't help much in the dark when the furnace is calling. Finally call it a night and snuggle up next to another tomorrow. I haven't been here for awhile, even though a delicate situation requires delicacy and this is no longer a poem about anything other than the fact that I've opened another Tuesday. Crouching under the couch are other reasons why it's been icy all along. He’s a phony fire hydrant of a man. My arms of dynamite are pushing up through neighboring gardens. The vortex of our collective future is calling my name and I hear Italian tenors serenading nightly. No. That was just my stomach again. Can't you hear the gears of remembrance? Something has changed drastically. Someday I will—my shoes rise up impetuously and disappointingly, still. For this or that or the other reason. It doesn't matter. It would appear that my thoughts have taken me elsewhere, anywhere but here. Dazzle all with Gregorian chants, but meanwhile ordinary sticks eye me suspiciously from their own cramped boxes. You try to sort it all out, pay the bills, bang out a poem. Airline stewardesses are so post office. Sometimes adding it all became too complicated to be just one person all the time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Times Ten

Puck hid from Oberon as long as he could, but in Wrigleyville the crowd erupts like a shook up can of Old Style. My Ivanka, how I love thee and the plastic horse you rode in on. Troubadour, derived from occitan trobador, literally means “finder.” O haughty life, crowned with darkness, my boredom is prehistoric going back millennia. The receding hairline of history. My lassitude is pouched like bored kangaroos traipsing imaginary outbacks. This kind of collective apathy forms an entire dull universe where dimming stars are encircled by galactic yawns. Yes, it is quite uncertain here on planet shrug.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It’s Just That Simple

That must be some Hawaii.

Would tasting the lava be wise?

You tell me no and go into the house.

Stranger, who led me like Dante to salvation?

Let me leave you here to eat the flowers.

Best wishes said the gameshow host.

At the picnic we ate cellular phones.

That’s what it’s like being in love (I guess).

Each moment: pregnant with expectation.

Might one word sum it up completely?

Let’s lead a life of modern conveniences and

every so often stand on our heads.

Let’s barbecue all of our envy and anger.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Currently reading...Heart of the Breath/Jim Brodey, The City Visible/anthology, Allegrezza & Bianchi, eds., Notebook of a Return to a Native Land/Aime Cesaire, trans. Clayton Eshleman, The Collected Poems/Octavio Paz, Anne Sexton/The Complete Poems

Sexton once explained, ‘I'm hunting for the truth. It might be a kind of poetic truth, and not just a factual one, because behind everything that happens to you, there is another truth, a secret life.’ Though many people, consciously or unconsciously, resist treating Sexton as an intellectual (a fact that has something to do with her high school education and early self-image as ‘a buried self’ who only knew how to ‘diaper babies and make white sauce’), her incessant drive to uncover ‘another truth’ has everything to do with the cycle described by Wittgenstein: ‘When you bump against the limits of your own honesty it is as though your thoughts get into a whirlpool, an infinite regress: You can say what you like, it takes you no further.’ Sexton's poetry is fixated on this language-game: she was, I think, both totally seduced by the Oedipal narrative of discovering ‘the awful truth,’ and totally aware of the impossibility of such a venture.”

—Maggie Nelson

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Break out the ego cleats

my wife is lightning:

tomorrow’s surf board.

O stanzaic nation

wake the blue, brilliant

crescendo of French horns


A free double feature

about Death Valley,

she eternals me.

In the lens there is a great distance


beautiful as a volunteer.

Demure, all nerve

the farthest music still audible,

we hail a taxi made of bamboo.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Here (in the Cathedral of Now)

cannot hear the breezes
in the
belfries of your heart
from your last vacation
On the brand new phone
called Life, we are getting nearer.
In the deli of the soul
My ineffable melodies
once so trivial,

who knows what time it is?

The television is a

with the centrifugal force of an

the wall
swims through your


Sunday, May 20, 2007

In late 2007 Fantagraphics is going to publish the story that I've been working on with Joe Kimball! I need to get busy. I'm behind the times when it comes to my knowledge of R. Crumb, Peter Bagge, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes, Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, Jessica Abel, Sophie Crumb, and Charles Burns. I know that Chris Ware lives in Oak Park. Clowes's GhostWorld is really super. Are comics the medium of the future? Here's a panel from the story.


The Jim Brodey book Heart of Breath (Hard Press) contains some great, loose passages. There's a desperate, lonely quality to Brodey's poetry that makes me wonder if Brodey was nearly like the Lew Welch of the 2nd generation of New York School poets.

Bob Kaufman

Originator of the dense thought
Made lyrical this solitary
Wanderer of Brain St.

Succumbed to infinity
By bleak choice
Nominated in bliss

To rule a purple void
Wanderer of Brain St.
The calm & quiet explosions

Of natural chaos
Calm & exciting mentor
Of evangelical stroll

He the parent of his own body
Flesh of silence grilled
In an honesty only humans ignore


Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm traveling to the fine state of Wisconsin to give a reading tonight, which had me thinking about all the readings [David Trinidad, Mark Tardi, Brenda Cardenas, Antler, Raymond Bianchi, Kerri Sonnenberg, Paul Hoover, Ron Padgett, Eliot Weinberger, Brenda Iijima, Maxine Chernoff, Garin Cycholl, Daniel Borzutzky, Krista Franklin, Mary Margaret Sloan, Susie Timmons, Clayton Eshleman, Wanda Coleman, Gerald Stern, Philip Jenks, Simone Muench, Ira Cohen, Sheila E. Murphy, Gabriel Gudding, Joshua Beckman, Diane Wakoski, Tim Yu, Simon Pettet, Michael McClure, John Tipton, Roberto Harrison, Chris Glomski, Adam Fieled, Aaron Belz, Catherine Daly, Steve Halle, Robert Creeley, Vincent Katz, Duriel Harris, Daniel Nester, Douglas Rothschild, Kenneth Koch, Nathalie Stephens, Sterling Plumpp, Peter O’Leary, etc.] I've attended over the years. I've awarded these poets superlatives, but you can cast your own vote.

Most fashionable…Antler
Longest asides…Diane Wakoski, Robert Creeley
Most cryptic…Philip Jenks
Funniest…Ron Padgett, Aaron Belz
Sexiest…Gerald Stern (yes, kidding)
Most mathematical…Mark Tardi
Beastiest…Michael McClure
Grouchiest…Kenneth Koch
Most Likely to Succeed…Tim Yu
Psychedelic Award…Ira Cohen

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sal Paradise

For a mere $1,100 a month you can rent Jack Kerouac's birthplace and write your great American novel. At Superfight last night I had an interesting conversation with someone who noted that the gulf between art and anecdote is wide. At what point is a narrative taking on a life of its own? Kerouac, although faulted as being a "typewriter" by Truman Capote, excelled at turning his experiences into art. If objectivity is unattainable, wouldn't any attempt at writing prose be art? Not really, unless the craft involved pulls the reader in and immerses the reader in the experience. What causes immersion? Effective plot, believable dialogue, flashbacks, characterization, interesting description. The craft of writing brings a barebones story upward to another level. How effective the author was at his or her craft is another question. When critics disagree something new and important exists. Lowell, MA produced one of America's best storytellers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tonight I'll be at the Superfight. With all the events going on around Chicago, it's hard to pick sometimes. There's of course The Danny's reading series, the Discrete series, and the Red Rover series.

Last night it was good to go down to The Cafe to see my good friend, the inimitable Charlie Newman.

So my point is quit looking at Suicide Girls and do something constructive. Head down to Moxie and talk to Chris Gibson, publishing extraordinaire or take your pick. I was talking to Jessa the other night about how she doesn't have to work anymore. However, updating Book Slut probably requires a little bit of work.

Yes, this is an advertisement for Chicago. This city has made a Conscious Choice to clean up its act. Charles your magazine is looking good.

Oh, and there's the view at the Signature Room which is not bad.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


There are many poets out there still blogging, even though the phenomenon itself probably reached its high-water mark a few years ago. Belated congratulations to Amy King for winning the prize of poet laureate of the blogosphere. I check in on a regular basis, Amy. Maybe Ron Silliman will throw some more statistics out regarding the demographic. It seems most poet bloggers (and most poets) are professors, who use their blog to announce readings, new publications, and post photos.

Poets have to be self-promoting. Think of the two most famous examples. To whomever tunes in to read Me Tronome, thank you.

Have a look at Chicago Bloggers.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Here are some highly professional photos from the Borzutzky, Belz, McSweeney, Jameson, Gudding reading last Sunday. The power went out on the entire block halfway through the night, but it was impossible to not smile while these poets were reading.

The yeowling street musician who plays the keyboard at high volume on Milwaukee in front of Myopic even stayed home that night.

To-Do List

windows to the else
convertible conversations
four corners of maps
glimpsed shadows
forgotten explanations
lawn mowers
lore of elders
lightning autumns
tabloid galaxies
card games involving dogs
magic lanterns
love songs
muscle cars

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tonight at Myopic Books/Comedic Poetry

If you are in the Chicago area be sure to come down to Myopic books tonight at 6 pm. The bookstore in located at 1564 N. Milwaukee in Wicker Park.

We'll be featuring comedic poetry with a 2-hour reading by these poets:

Daniel Borzutzky, Joyelle McSweeney, Gabriel Gudding, A.D. Jameson, and Aaron Belz.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'll keep bashing my head against the wall called "poetry." I mean I can't stop writing it.

Charles Simic has been one of my favorite writers. This quote works for me. "Poetry is no longer a matter of choice with far back as I can remember there was a kind of dumbness in me, a need that sought expression. How it eventually materialized in the act of writing a poem, belongs to a biography which I have only been able to recount in a few successful poems."

Here's one ...


The trembling finger of a woman
Goes down the long list of casualties.

The list is long.

All our names are included.

James Tate's work has always been something I turn to ...


I look up and see
a white buffalo
emerging from the
enormous red gates
of a cattle truck
lumbering into
the mouth of the sun.
The prairie chickens
do not seem to fear
me; neither do the
girls in cellophane
fields, near me, hear me
changing the flat tire
on my black tractor.
I consider screaming
to them; then, night comes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Rhinoceros Confetti

As if there was a man who wore the
mask of a man and that man
noticed behind the mask that there
were shadows covering the earth
like semesters. The man realized he
had a lot to learn. So he studied the
tongues of the shadows as they
spoke a language he'd never heard.
At night they sang the most
intricately embroidered songs.

Perhaps there was a refrigerator in the
sky that he rode to forget himself,
this man who exhaled librarians.
Day and night he read the
silence, cutting his throat with
syllogisms. Butterflies burst forth from his
calamari as he ate it. He noted these
details lazily and continued with his
reverent stroking of the sun.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Egyptologists enact effluent entrances
grease easing the deceased eventually
mummies entombed even when leaping
knead evil December deals, festering clever
lackluster cities, expanding exhausting possibilities
each evening Eros escapes elegantly
ephedrine escapades erode extracted elegies
escrow grantees evidently evict elephants
excellent exceptions being inevitable
elliptical epigrams either erode ecstatic earnings
else economize eager edgy egged effects
ether escaping electromagnetic elements
entering embarrassing emerald embedded
emporiums emitting empty encyclopedias
engaging sneezing engineers en route
elsewhere entrusting entire epochs
en masse equally ere equivalent equations
erupt erotically exploiting exotic exile
excavating eventually, expect extinction

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's good to hear that the City Visible is now available from Cracked Slab Books. I'm glad to be included. Peter Gizzi writes "When Carl Sandburg asked in his Chicago Poems, close to a hundred years ago, for "a voice to speak to me in the day end, / A hand to touch me in the dark room / Breaking the long loneliness," little did he know his city would be so fully and livingly answered and so honored. Chicago is again transformed by poetry. Here in these myriad acts of imagination, the poets of The City Visible give to it again, in Shakespeare's terms, a local habitation and a name."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Tim Yu was kind enough to send a few photos from the last couple of readings at Myopic. Don't miss the reading this Sunday, if you're in the Cheecago area--Aaron Belz, Gabriel Gudding, Joyelle McSweeney, Daniel Borzutzky, & AD Jameson. It will be good time.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

For Guillaume Apollinaire

Fins of an ancient world, a burger
beneath the Eiffel tower a troupe of matadors
assess the lives of antique grocers
Romain lettuce peering out from automobiles
religion is resting still nude upon the grass
Europe of the soul, Christianity smells
of modern equations, Pope with your robes
reticent observer walking these streets
confessor of eggs and wallpaper
the prospect of these catalogs in the rain
25 cents for the adventures of policemen
divers beneath the shadows, your portrait
lends joy an obsolete moon, clarion of sun
director of beautiful dinosaurs, flesh trumpets
resound beneath the mural on the wall
streets of Paris resound in your mighty charms.

Violins of June, an encore of strange beautiful infants
white habits dancing in the glass
ancient friends among the pews, stained glass
pompadour of love and you there with your hours
blue casements of forgotten collage
amethyst profundity pronounces torch-lit red vents
gas creeping silently along the skin
eternity is honored among six branches
seven if you count resuscitation
Christ was an aviator to birds
landing on a record playing venerable hymns.

Oceans of Africa, fountains of mercurial blood,
forgive us of our sins this immaculate night of panthers
dripping instants, a siren awakes and calls your name
Paris dances, a foul maintenance man
roulette wheels spinning monasteries and short piers
dropping off into nothing but blackness.

Sad music of presidents regard the women beautiful
you are an orange or else the moon
a house, a table, the lips of a rose
you resemble a song, familiar as yourself
brilliant son of lost waters.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Here's most everything I've published on this blog recently under one title--The Dim Schizophrenia of Owls. For a limited time only, you get an all-access pass to my inner monologue, gratis.

You may have to wait a few seconds after clicking on the link, then double click "Download File" at the top left-hand corner of the page.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I hope you can make it up to Milwaukee for my reading at Woodland Pattern on May 18 at 7 pm. Here's an interesting article on the bookstore I found online.


Karl Gartung and Anne Kingsbury met when she was a teacher and he was her student. They moved to Milwaukee and in 1980 opened the Woodland Pattern Book Center. "We've always wanted not necessarily to be the biggest, just the best," she said. "I think what makes us a little different from other literary centers is that we've presented different art forms where it intersects with text or literature."

"I guess literature and the world where it crosses into other things—that's what we want to celebrate. We want to get past the idea that people are creative only in one thing. . . The poet Derek Walcott, for instance, is also a very accomplished painter."

So, the center, which stocks around 27,000 books for sale, has also curated art shows, hosted jazz musicians, held poetry readings, taught neighborhood children how to tell stories, given lessons in making books, invited major writers to read, invited obscure writers to read, and even reserved a section of its shelves for Wisconsin writers who have self-published their work.

While many smaller bookstores across the country have fallen victim to competition from mega chains such as Barnes & Noble, Woodland Pattern has survived—or "managed" as Kingsbury says—for three reasons.

First, it has never strayed from its niche; it remains a powerhouse of poetry and small presses. Second, as a long-time non-profit center that actively takes its programs to the community, it has been fortunate enough to find some support from arts boards and private foundations each year. And third, because Kingsbury and her husband, Karl Gartung, both passionate book and art lovers, doggedly refuse to let the tiny store they turned into a non-profit book center founder.

"We started with less than a thousand books," Kingsbury said. "One thing that really helped us was that Truck Distribution, which distributed small press literature, let us take books on consignment. For quite a few years we were able to build our inventory with that. It allowed us to build with books we hadn't heard about.

In 1980, Paul Metcalf gave the store's first poetry reading, Tom Palazzolo was the first visiting filmmaker, Laurie Anderson was the first performance artist, and Milwaukeean Jill Sebastian was the first exhibiting visual artist.

Since then, the center has brought in a host of artists and writers, among them such exiles as Chinese poet Bei Dao, and in 1995 it organized its first poetry marathon with 90 Milwaukee writers participating.

Its work has been noticed; the center is now considered one of the foremost stores for poetry, especially new poetry, in the nation.

"The reputation of Woodland Pattern is itself national in scope, and I know of no other center—anywhere in the U.S.—that has carried on a more intricate and demanding program in the literary arts," wrote writer Jerome Rothenberg in 1989.

Deflated Parade


How many pesos make a sparrow?

Attention shoppers
my mind’s oven bakes excuses.

I love these ingredients
gathered before me:
there’s no junta quite like it.

Doo wap groups mock me:
enough charm to persuade perspective
to give up and collapse.

The earth is slowing down.

Each moment is a coin,
a coyote in the belly.


Sprouting spring jackets of

replete with suede lapels
look so perfect on the cattle

plowing the boulevard.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

There is also the oft-told tale of "Ern Malley," a poet who was invented by James McAuley and Harold Stewart who spent an afternoon in 1943 synthesizing quotations and extracts from various sources in order to perpetrate a hoax on Max Harris, the editor of a literary magazine they scoffed at. When Harris found out he'd been the butt of their creative joke, he was understandably upset but also bemused. He realized that what they'd done was remarkable. A few passages in the "Ern Malley" poem (titled "The Darkening Ecliptic") are unintentionally brilliant. This is one of the more famous, from their poem "Durer: Innsbruck, 1495"

I had often, cowled in the slumbrous heavy air,
Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,
All reversed in the quiet reflecting waters—
Not knowing then that Durer perceived it too.
Now I find that once more I have shrunk
To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
I had read in books that art is not easy
But no one warned that the mind repeats
In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still
The black swan of trespass on alien waters.

However great poems are written it seems unavoidable that there must be some element, conceptual or otherwise, that provides a glimpse of something unique. Even if it was entirely accidental that the experiments of McAuley and Stewart that afternoon proved successful beyond their dreams, the fact remains that their efforts were not only noticed, but that their creation (not only the poem but the fictional poet) will be remembered forever. In a very post-modern way "Ern Malley" launched the literary world headlong into the future.