Thursday, July 31, 2008

I just found out that my letters to Cid Corman are now archived at Indiana University , which reminds me of my usual rant about the advent of e-mail and how it has contributed to what probably amounts to the loss of a large portion of the recent historical record of poets in correspondence. Cid’s responses were brief of course but filled with such incredible insight; I can’t imagine that we would’ve labored over e-mail the way we obviously gave thought to writing letters. I’m glad the letters exist now somewhere for safe keeping. In an extreme example, I used to get letters from Charles Henri Ford painted on rice paper. Painting letters on paper made of rice made opening them an occasion that can’t be compared to receiving e-mail. Convenience has cost us something and this is another instance when it seems that technology has trumped posterity. It's interesting to see who else Cid was in correspondence with and when.

drive—he sd

Aram Saroyan's memory of a conversation with Robert Creeley about his poem "I Know a Man" casts the poem in an entirely new light (and shows us the importance of punctuation).

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

—Robert Creeley

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


—after Nichita Stãnescu

There is magic in the wolf

who stares up at the flooding moon.

Whose light is a sling for stones,

a worm's pocket filled with eyes?

My heart is elastic, waits for

the gondola bearing god.

We are entranced by every Vesuvius.

The idea of it gnaws the mind.

And look, your frail teeth

put the moves on a cabbage.

What fugitive cathedral

exhales its pious cargo?

Only the grass can know

the rabbit’s mathematics.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It’s interesting to find out that former Jane’s Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza creator Perry Farrell is still going strong. The first two Jane’s Addiction albums made up part of the soundtrack of my senior year of high school and I have a distinct memory of listening to their first album and thinking “I like this but why does everyone keep talking about some band called Guns n Roses?” As a poet, I’m sometimes mistaken for an important person, so I got e-invited to the Lollapalooza After-Hours Party at Golan Studios Saturday night. Perry Farrell, my high school memories thank you.

cloud capsule

sleeping forest of why


through summer’s sieve
float across
a high-wired silence.


one who sighs
this is for you

the oatmeal oars
mowing the sea of yes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I'm looking forward to the David Meltzer/Michael Rothenberg reading at Myopic on October 12. Thanks to the Poetry Center of Chicago and Francesco Levato for co-sponsoring (scroll down). This comes at the end of a weekend-long symposium at Columbia College on the Beats with readings by Diane DiPrima and Joanne Kyger.

What: David Meltzer/Michael Rothenberg poetry reading
When: October 12, 7 pm
Where: Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee, Chicago

This is a fascinating page about Thomas Merton's Red Diary. It's interesting to see what Merton was reading at the time and the quotes he held dear--I'm still amazed by the possibilities of the Internet. I love stumbling across pages like this.

For example, I otherwise would not have found this quote, of which Dostoyevsky wrote "All the essence of Christianity is contained in this prayer."

"O Lord and Master of my life, give me
not a spirit of sloth, of despondency, of lust or
of vain talking; but bestow on me thy
servant a spirit of chastity, of humility,
of patience and love. You, O Lord and
King, grant to me to see my own errors
& not to judge my brother, for blessed
art thou unto ages of ages."

St. Ephrem

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'll bet you didn't know that Henry David Thoreau has a blog. He must be pretty old by now, but he still makes a lot of sense. (Pictured: Woods near Walden Pond)

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“In what concerns you much, do not think that you have companions: know that you are alone in the world.”

“Men are born to succeed, not fail.”

“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.”

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

To bolster his standing in the polls and to appear ready to tackle the world’s toughest issues, John McCain in a bold move meant to grab the headlines made his first visit to the Internet today. His sweeping tour of the region will find him visiting sites such as, Slate, Wired, Google, and perhaps even Facebook, although McCain’s top advisors admit that a visit to Facebook may be too much for the aging McCain to tackle in one afternoon. Joking with blushing Cindy that he may have to IM her later, a term she was seemingly unfamiliar with, McCain appeared relaxed and self-assured as he emerged to face the cameras outside his home before beginning his historic tête-à-tête with “the Google.”

--Me Tronome News, 7-21

To them in the observatory

That mind and I survive
together and I lust harmlessly the
cross of schedules.

With a heart full of groceries

I wander appetite roads
wearing an enormous blue
mustache like a dessert.

Perhaps you have seen her
indeterminate No
from where she reigns
atop the mosque of sleep?

I’ll continue to prism
the vast outer centuries
until the gavel comes down
upon my conscience.

Who's purring genius,
so thoroughly sidewalk,
climbing what's rafters.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tomorrow @ Brown Rice

@ Brown Rice
Come out tomorrow night to hear my collaboration with musician Dan Godston.

Monday, July 21, 8 p.m.

1st set
Larry Sawyer — poetry
Dan Godston — trumpet, small instruments

2nd set
Laura Emelianoff — open harp
Eric Leonardson — springboard

B r o w n R i c e !!!
4432 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago IL 60625

Doors open 30 minutes before the show begins. Brown Rice is a half block north of the Montrose / Kedzie intersection, close to the Kedzie station on the CTA brown line. The entrance is below a sign that reads "Perfect".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Michelle Malkin on Obama's "Delusion"

“In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.”

—John McCain

“We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”

—Barack Obama

An argument devoid of logic or coherence usually begins with an ad hominem attack. Neo-conservative commentator Michelle Malkin who has made a name for herself by appearing on Fox News, is adept at that type of attack, which is probably rewarded at media conglomerates like Fox, who pad every broadcast with a virulent array of every type of logical fallacy. The sad fact of the matter is that using logical fallacy does in fact work on voters. Appealing to history, appealing to popular opinion, the red herring, ad hominem attacks, and use of straw man tactics and overgeneralizations are the foundation of each and every Fox news broadcast. Malkin’s latest flimsy whinefest attacks Barack Obama (not his platform, or his arguments) as well as John McCain (somewhat indirectly).

Her mention of “Kumbaya Liberalism” further distorts the facts involved and also turns a blind eye to the gravity of our situation. It’s easy for me to remember that the promoters of the Iraq War reminded the American people that the effort would involve “shock and awe” but also the “winning of hearts and minds.” Any educated person realizes that the yoke of tyranny breaks most easily when the common citizenry have changed their minds about a situation involving repression and decide for themselves to take action against their oppressors. There is no more effective weapon, if this process can even be called a weapon. In its plainest terms it is a war of propaganda. It’s apparent that Malkin not only is incapable of remembering her American history, but that she’s also engaging in a war of propaganda against a large segment of the American population who does in fact now agree that the war in Iraq should be reaching its conclusion and that it wasn’t so much a war of winning hearts in minds, but a war to protect our economic interests in the region. Weapons of mass destruction were never found. Malkin doesn’t allow herself the foresight necessary to realize that the weapon that must be used against future enemies of the United States must be the “war” involving diplomacy. The United States doesn’t have the necessary resources to wage a worldwide battle on multiple fronts indefinitely, so Obama, and to a certain extent John McCain, understand that speaking softly and carrying a big stick only serves us up to a point. Both candidates have weighed in on this topic and stated that military muscle needs the support of a progressive diplomatic effort. The real tragedy is that understanding is not fashionable and many are mired in their selfish interests. Fox News has helped to quash the idea that understanding our enemies is worthwhile. The act of understanding or evaluating does not mean that the idea of the use of force has been taken off the table.

Malkin’s selfish interests probably involve working her way up the ladder at Fox News, but in the meantime she is spreading the kind of misinformation that worsens our situation. Both Obama and McCain are correct in their realization that we need to think of a way to stop the self-perpetuating cycle of hatred that is the cause of these horrific acts of violence. The jihadists who committed the terrible deeds she mentions are too far gone for rehabilitation but our only way out of the costly efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is to use all methods at our disposal—military might as well as diplomacy. We have proven that we have the muscle but attempts to add some brains to the equation are routinely demonized by fanatics like Malkin. Her knee-jerk response is the type of absurdity that got us into a situation where we are spending trillions of dollars rebuilding another country at the expense of the economic health of our own.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Sunday at Myopic Books, 7:00 pm – Evan Willner & David Welch

Myopic Poetry Series/1564 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622/Contact: 773.862.4882

David WELCH has published poems in New Orleans Review, Pleiades and the 2007 edition of the Best New Poets anthology, with new work forthcoming in Ninth Letter and Salt Hill. He is set to receive his MFA from the University of Alabama this August, and will begin teaching at DePaul University in the fall.

Evan WILLNER is the author of (Blazevox, 2007). These days he teaches literature at DePaul University and is hard at work on Pirke Avot, Book of Fathers, a new redaction of the Talmud.

And here’s a pic of the Poets’ Loft in Marshall, California (for the quietly indulgent).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Um, Mr. Bush

Re: Offshore drilling

"The lifting of the moratorium — first announced by Mr. Bush’s father, President George Bush, in 1990 and extended by President Bill Clinton — will have no real impact because a Congressional moratorium on drilling enacted in 1981 and renewed annually remains in force. And there appears to be no consensus for lifting it in tandem with Mr. Bush’s action." AP News/7-15

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hokusai braved the bad
weather of his own life
to create the great print
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
which is sold today
at Spencer’s Gifts
at Woodfield Mall in
Schaumburg, IL

Friday, July 11, 2008

There's something about a good author photo that helps sell a book. Like it or not, I know my decisions at the bookstore, involve, in whatever minimal way, a quick face- and blurbcheck as I pick up a book of poetry for the first time. Who can resist the quick flip to scan the blurbs on a back cover before opening the book? I've read of judges of poetry contests who not only mask the names of entrants but who also refuse to look at the front and back covers of a book, in an effort at objectivity. Book covers with their author photos, blurbs, and in their general design, grab the interest and provide some brief context before taking the plunge. Which is the coolest author photo here? Hands down -- Ralph Ellison. (Blaise Cendrars, Jack Kerouac, Michelle Cahill, Umberto Eco)

The Forest of Did

Meet in the Forest of Did
and at the appropriate hour, see.

The heels of our shoes were coated
with algorithms, and our tongues wagged.

In one of our conversations I note
that you are very beautiful for a human.

I’m no longer operating that anyone.
These leaves know time each night.

Even with lime eyes, I’m still
able to recognize what sarcasm.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You may not know about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) legislation that was recently passed in Congress. The Act grants immunity to telecommunications companies (telecoms) regarding retroactive lawsuits. Because it was recently discovered that large telecommunications companies (e.g., AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, Verizon) have been spying on average Americans by turning over documentation of their phone and Internet habits, lawsuits were filed by those whose records were stolen—but because of new FISA legislation those lawsuits have been taken off the docket.

FISA in its current state is similar to measures that were championed by Vice President Cheney immediately after the events of 9/11.

In fact, FISA is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment --The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Without probable cause, FISA enables “government agencies” (a term that is so broad it’s nearly meaningless) with the help of telecoms to record phone conversations, text message exchanges, and e-mail exchanges without a warrant (which effectively eliminates the Judicial branch of our government from the process—a crucial checks-and-balances step in the process that limits the power of the Executive branch and provides necessary oversight). The very foundation of our democracy is built upon the premise that none are above the law.

In fact, the passage of FISA has much more to do with shielding the telecoms from lawsuits and less to do with stopping terrorism. At issue is the idea of securing warrants. Under the previous FISA legislation, which was passed in the 1970s, a warrant was necessary before law enforcement could view information such as e-mails or listen in to phone conversations. The process of obtaining a warrant for such purposes had been streamlined after the events of 9/11 considerably. In many cases, most observers had stated that a warrant under the old version of FISA could have been procured within 24 hours. If the surveillance that occurred prior to the decision to obtain a warrant was successful there would be no reason to believe that obtaining the warrant and waiting an additional 24 hours would present a problem. It’s been proven by intelligence agencies worldwide that any terrorist event on par with the events of 9/11 would take years to plan and stage, giving authorities ample time to detect the activities of terrorists and thwart their plans. FISA allows government agencies, at the behest of the Exective branch, to conduct searches with the help of the telecoms without judicial oversight. Essentially this makes law enforcement judge and jury, which is contrary to the principles on which the United States was founded. Imagine a situation whereby it is legal for law enforcement officials to enter your home unannounced and without a warrant. FISA enables a search of your virtual “home.” Not only are your communications with others fair game but also other vital information held on your computer or in your phone. Purchase histories, social security numbers, credit histories, medical histories, and other types of information can now be brought in with the FISA net without your knowledge. This information can now be shared with others without your knowledge. Those who defend FISA, or who would like to see even broader legislation, counter the defenders of the Fourth Amendment with scurrilous accusations meant to call into question one’s patriotism. But those who defend FISA without a critical eye are ignoring history. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Founding Fathers of the United States knew that oversight, or checks-and-balances, was the only stopgap against the type of corruption that turns public servants into despots.

The fear marketing used by the Bush Administration to advance their agenda has worked. Bush’s time in office has been marked by an aggressive push to increase the power of the Executive and the FISA legislation recently passed is another step in that direction. Most nations on earth do not enjoy the civil liberties that we take for granted. Even most highly industrialized nations in this technological age do not hold the idea of the rule of law dear.

“…an unprecedented campaign (Strange Bedfellows) [began] Tuesday to hold Democratic lawmakers accountable for caving in to the Bush administration on domestic spying. A group of high-profile progressives and libertarian Republicans are rolling out a new political action committee called Accountability Now to channel widespread anger over pending legislation (FISA) that would legalize much of the president's warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans, and grant retroactive legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with the spying when it was still illegal.” —Providence Journal

Barack Obama’s recent vote for passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after it was revised is being called a cave-in by the far left and merely a compromise by others. Obama can’t be viewed as soft on national defense if he wishes to succeed in his bid for the presidency and this is a step in that direction. I hope that he follows through on his claim to provide the kind of oversight necessary to keep FISA legitimate. Throughout American history, politicians on both sides of the aisle have used various forms of domestic spying as a tool to advance their agendas. That’s why recent FISA legislation is such a loss for average Americans. FISA proponents have sold it as a vote for the fight against terrorism when the existing legislation wasn’t in true need of an overhaul. The new FISA legislation opens the floodgates to every kind of potential violation of privacy.

The true danger of wiretapping lies in its lure of invisibility. Bush’s version of FISA places the telecoms above the law.

And some of this makes me think of one of the best British TV shows ever—The Prisoner. Not just because Patrick McGoohan drove a Lotus Seven, but because of the kooky dialog and the swinging Sixties sets.

Just don’t be surprised if someday you are asked for “information.” [Where am I? In “the village.” What do you want? Information. ]

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Philip Metres just turned 38 and so did I, so I was glad to find his entry from a few days ago about Leaves of Grass. I do the same thing—bring out Leaves of Grass to read occasionally to help commemorate milestones or else to just enjoy how my response to the book changes over the years. I can’t think of a book that’s more American. After finding this article on Silliman’s blog, I had to write something. Is Leaves more of a question or an answer? Can it be both? Leaves of Grass evokes some sense of inspired awareness, but not a simplistic religious pluralism. It isn’t that Whitman calls for us to worship what is around us, but he does make the case for a spirituality that hinges on our awareness of the interrelatedness of ourselves and our surroundings. Does a greater awareness mean greater freedom? Or is a heightened awareness of ourselves and the world we live in just another, albeit more elaborate, illusion? At its core the book celebrates existence in a way that hasn’t been seen since. I don’t see Walt Whitman as a prophet necessarily (but if anyone else does, I do agree he wore it well and suffered a bit from vanity but what poet doesn’t), but he points the way to what might be the only way to truly exit the modern condition. In the mid 1950s Jean-Paul Sartre (in the play "No Exit" I believe) formulated an opposite perspective and even went so far as to famously exclaim “hell is other people,” but Leaves of Grass conquers its literary “competition” through quiet persistence. It seems to just get better with age. Whitman reworked Leaves tirelessly. The book went through eleven successive editions until the time of Whitman's death in 1892, by which time 283 poems had been added. Jim Morrison once proclaimed himself an "erotic politician" but I think that applies more to Walt Whitman. There's more sex in Leaves of Grass than nearly any other book in the American literary canon, but Whitman takes us there through his spirituality. It's dangerous and still just really, really good.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Let me not to the marrow squash of true mine fields
Admit imperialism. Love is not love
Which alters when it alternative medicine finds,
Or bends with the recounter to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed marketer
That looks on temptation and is never shaken;
It is the star-chamber to every wandering barley,
Whose wraith’s unknown, although his heirloom be taken.
Love's not timeshare’s fool, though rosy lipoprotein and chefs
Within his bending sickness’s compendium come:
Love alters not with his brief houseboat and weeping willow,
But bears it out even to the edge of door knobs.
If this be erysipelas and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no managing editor ever loved.


I occasionally like to perform the Oulipian N+7 routine on canonical poems as my own personal seventh-inning stretch. The ingenious methods of the Oulipans (of which Raymond Queneau famously said—“Oulipans: rats who build the labyrinth from which they plan to escape.") become apparent only in the process of applying their constraints. Shakespeare can become something entirely now: instead of the assignment or chore it is to many. I sent my Oulipian constraint, the "witch hunt," to Harry Mathews , who commented that it made sense in theory but he'd need to see it in practice. I'm still working on it. Plus, I get to include the history of the seventh-inning stretch, according to Wikipedia anyway. That's Queneau at the photomat having some fun.

“The origin of the seventh inning stretch is the story of Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., the man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan College in the late 1800s. Being the Prefect of Discipline as well as the coach of the team, it fell to Brother Jasper to supervise the student fans at every home game. On one particularly hot and muggy day in 1882, during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans, the Prefect noticed his charges becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind. It worked so well he began calling for a seventh-inning rest period at every game. The Manhattan College custom spread to the major leagues after the New York Giants were charmed by it at an exhibition game, and the rest is history.” —Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My chapbook Disharmonium is now available at the Silver Wonder Press Web site. Sometimes I look in the rearview mirror and think about the many poems I've written and why. I never felt as though writing poetry was a choice on my part. I remember first reading poets such as Ed Sanders, Clayton Eshleman, Blaise Cendrars, Arthur Rimbaud, Emily Dickinson, Gregory Corso, Harry Matthews, Aram Saroyan, Anne Sexton, Ted Berrigan, Guillaume Apollinaire, and others and thinking "that's who I am," not "that's what I want to do." The daily struggle of rewriting a poem only to leave it in frustration, perhaps coming back to it on another day, is what I know to be the writing life--if there is one. Some come fully formed from an overheard conversation, or a half-remembered dream, and some bubble up from the memory as if they can no longer exist in the deeper imagination and must either exist on the page as something separate from me, or they disappear and are replaced by other ideas. Poetry has allowed me to meet myself halfway and try to define what I find there. When I look in the rearview mirror I don't see the Atomium in Brussels, but it makes a good photo. Thanks for listening.