Monday, October 27, 2008

Benevolent as Gold

derelict page an in
vitation to grace, thus we ga
ther innocence almo
st tangential, a high minde
d echo, like a silo or dyna
mite. the eye must be
a salesperson to marry
these hours, their signifiers

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ti Jean

Jack Kerouac's On the Road works best when read aloud ... quickly, slowly, with a careful mind paid to the sounds and rhythms of the words as they loiter and rush across the page. The [. . . scroll of paper three inches thick made up of one single-spaced, unbroken 120-foot-long paragraph . . .] was written by Kerouac in three weeks in a marathon series of day and night writing as Kerouac transformed himself into the American Balzac. Because On the Road rolls outward in a torrent rather than _____ in stasis like a carefully crafted sculpture, the writing style and method of composition is American in the sense that the emphasis is on timing and production.

Kerouac churned out the novel like he laid it on an assembly line and the speech patterns of the sentences when read aloud have an obvious connection to jazz ... America’s only indigenous art form. When reading this mountain for the first few times, it’s nearly impossible for the reader not to feel swept away by the exuberance expressed by the book and the obvious reverence that Kerouac endearingly held for his subjects. The author, as Sal Paradise, casts out doubt and ventures in the Wilderness to find the elusive truth that he feels bubbling inside him. Certain aspects of On the Road give it a spiritual quality; as heroes Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty race back and forth across the country searching for what it means to be alive in various cars that are nearly like ships slicing the waves of farmland that crisscross middle-America. Kerouac’s bookish alter-ego Sal Paradise, even in name, jumpstarts a journey of discovery that leads none know where. Submerged in the book one also experiences catalogs of details of a 1950s America that Kerouac so lovingly documented. Kerouac also framed the downbeat characters in the novel unabashedly. His polyphonic portraits were nothing more than thinly veiled representations of his own inner-circle, which sometimes gives the book a feeling of inspired gossip. It was enjoyable for me to discover who each subject was and to eventually read their work. This has led many to claim that On the Road is the novel that set them on a path toward an active interest in many other artistic and cultural rivulets and streams. The characters, Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac), Rollo Greb (Alan Ansen), Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs), Jane (Joan Vollmer), Damien (Lucian Carr), Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady), Chad King (Hal Chase), Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg), Ian MacArthur (John Clellon Holmes), and Elmer Hassel (Herbert Huncke) all seem on the edge of something: But what that something is doesn’t resonate completely. It’s a feeling being expressed in these pages, not a dismal or defeatist existential problem. The book celebrates life and emphasizes the journey (versus the destination) in a wholly unique way. Kerouac’s oratorio hums in the imagination and lingers in the mind. There’s something singular and elemental about this book like the smell of a winter fireplace, or sighting a planet in the night sky, or watching a dog catch a Frisbee in the park, or the sound of a lonely ship’s horn enveloped in mist, or gazing down on a panoramic view after hiking a woodsy hillside. Kerouac’s deft timing and sincerity reaches out through the page and grabs you by the arm, pulling you along for the windswept cinematic ride. [Pictured: Neal Cassady, circa 1955]

Columbia: On the Road Reading

Come hear me read a portion of Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road, Wednesday, November 5, at 8pm in the Conaway Center, 1104 South Wabash, on the Columbia College Chicago campus. Here's how I answered the introductory question of what On the Road means to me.

"On the Road was one of the first books I read that really ignited a sense of the passion that I hold for words. The musicality of the language was such an inspiration at a critical time in my life. Seeing the world through Kerouac's eyes in this book gave me hope for my own journey down life's proverbial 'road.'"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Get Your Yeats On

A rare, first edition of a poem by William Butler Yeats, "Easter 1916" , is sold at auction for $9,600.

Here's the poem in its entirety.


Image: William Butler Yeats, by Louis le Brocquy, 1994

(This has always been my favorite WBY poem.)

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Scroll Down

Amy King and Vincent Katz at

The blood, sweat, tears of Jack Kerouac: The scroll of On the Road .

The passing of a saint: The death of Sister Emmanuelle .

John Ashbery's "intentional unmeaning" ?

The last voyage of Captain Shock ?

The Chicago Tribune endorses Barack Obama?

Michele Bachman: still stuck in the Fifties.

A postcard from Japan.

Alan Kaufman's Outlaw Bible online.

Judge orders excavation at Lorca's grave.

Jackie Lalley's economic stimulus package.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McClure's Rich Silence

It was really something to hear Michael McClure read his work the other night at Columbia College here in Chicago. I'd never heard him read before, although I'd spent a few hours with him at his home years ago, which is a great memory. Reading from Plum Stones and other books, McClure used his voice to really awaken a sense of wonder in the audience by offering rich silence in equal measure to the words themselves. Each was like a Calder mobile-sculpture that hung in the air until McClure moved along bringing the audience with him--marvelous to hear his "beast-language" poems too. There was something expressed therein that is inexpressible with poems that rely on a literal meaning. Peering inside each poem presented by McClure was a real gift.

Here's a link to an interesting renku and some of McClure's haiku followed by a few of mine.

coven of leaves
how hot is the breath of
tomorrow’s fires

jet insect above
make thick trails of smoke
of our hasty goodbyes

drop of honey
sweet golden lightshow
drown on my tongue

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some Vague Attention

Some vague attention
of wind stirs the golden oats

-Joanne Kyger

Desolate film,

haunt that totality
where we opera.

The size of Finland
my invisible alto.

Dream-starve the
metallic gauze of permanence.

A stethoscope heard itself,
left us thumping.

Drenched in owls,
these mysterious data.

Forests allow themselves that exact tangle.

Thax Redux

[Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips and Thax Douglas discuss the merits of giving senior citizens a free ride on the CTA.]

Sunday, Oct. 26
Reading: Thax Douglas and friends
Location: Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee, Chicago
Time: 7 pm


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Luckily I saved the PDF of Issue 1 before the "editors" took it off the Internet. Like all good pranks, it's now just a memory. Thanks to Gary Sullivan for mentioning my review of John Ashbery's and Joe Brainard's The Vermont Notebook in his Oct. 8 blog entry .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Being included in Issue 1 is like one more chain letter, but it's interesting to browse through all the names. It raises questions of authenticity and identity, being assigned a "poem" without knowing the author. Then, finding out, (surprise), it's supposed to be me. The concept pokes holes in the ego. Someone, somewhere has a lot of free time. Here's the poem I "wrote." I wonder what Pablo Picasso thought about when he read the issue. I never thought I'd be published with Osip Mandelstam or Isadore Ducasse. Hey, he once wrote "plagiarism is necessary." Maybe that's what Vladimir Zykov, Stephen McLaughlin, and Gregory Laynor (the three responsible) had in mind by listing themselves as "researchers." More than 3,000 pages? I'll need an intermission.

Like a Spot


In heaven
Throwing trust

Your impetuous existence
A spot
New as coming
Of lightning

Friday, October 03, 2008

@ Myopic Books

Chicago is the place to be next weekend. Four Beat poets will be in town next weekend for readings and talks. This is a unique opportunity to see these talented authors read their work and share their experiences. [Pictured: Joanne Kyger]

Oct. 10
Reading: Joanne Kyger
Location: Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.
Time: 7 pm

Oct. 11
Reading: Michael McClure
Location: Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.
Time: 7 pm

Oct. 12
Readings: Michael Rothenberg & David Meltzer
Location: Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee
Time: 7 pm

A leading poet of the Beat Movement, David MELTZER was raised in Brooklyn during the War years; performed on radio & early TV on the Horn & Hardart Children¹s Hour. Was exiled to L.A. at 16 & at 17 enrolled in an ongoing academy w/ artists Wallace Berman, George Herms, Robert Alexander, Cameron; migrated to San Francisco in l957 for higher education w/ peers & maestros like Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Joanne Kyger, Diane DiPrima, Michael McClure, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Jack Hirschman, a cast of thousands all living extraordinary ordinary lives. Beat Thing [La Alameda Press, 2004] won the Josephine Miles PEN Award, 2005. Was editor and interviewer for San Francisco Beat: Talking With The Poets [City Lights, 2001]. With Steve Dickison, co-edits Shuffle Boil, a magazine devoted to music in all its appearances & disappearances. 2005 saw the publication of David's Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer by Viking/Penguin, a collection spanning over forty years of work that paints a vivid portrait of Meltzer's life as a poet through poems taken from thirty of his previous books of poetry. With a versatile style and playful tone, Meltzer offers his unique vision of civilization with a range of juxtapositions from Jewish mysticism and everyday life to jazz and pop culture.

Michael ROTHENBERG is a poet, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge magazine online at His poetry books include Man/Woman, a collaboration with Joanne Kyger, The Paris Journals (Fish Drum Press), Monk Daddy (Blue Press), and Unhurried Vision (La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press). His poems have been published widely in small press publications including, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Berkeley Poetry Review, Exquisite Corpse, First Intensity, Fish Drum, Fulcrum, Golden Handcuffs Review, House Organ, Prague Literary Review, Tricycle, Van Gogh's Ear, Vanitas, Zyzzyva, JACK, and Jacket. He is also author of the novel Punk Rockwell. Rothenberg's 2005 CD collaboration with singer Elya Finn, was praised by poet David Meltzer as "fabulous-all [the] songs sound like Weimar Lenya & postwar Nico, lushly affirmative at the same time being edged w/ cosmic weltschmertz. An immensely tasty production." He is also editor for the Penguin Poet series, which includes selected works of Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer and Ed Dorn. He has recently completed the Collected Poems of Philip Whalen for Wesleyan University Press.