Monday, November 28, 2005

Things suck now

all right. i've been meaning to write a little about steve caratzas's chaps it will be a train (2004) and the incredulity tour (2005) since i got them a few weeks ago, but have been waiting for the opportune moment to write a formal review. when one (me) waits, i tend to procrastinate forever, and as regards to formality, i've never been one to stand on ceremony. the best way to do, is to sit my ass down and do.

and so, caratzas's poems are full of a kind of bitter humor that at turns can run a bit flat. but at their best, and he is near-always writing the hi-octane kinds of shit i love, his poetry is funny, vicious and necessary. take for example the title of my ramble, which is the first line of the poem 'there is something to be said for not saying something' from his '04 chap train. i've must've read this poem a couple of dozen times by now. it is not slapstick, or sitcom-like, that one might expect from its title and opening line, but rather a kind of beckettian (sam that is) black humor to open the fucked-up beauty of our world. another example is the 7th stanza of the same poem: 'When things fall off trucks / It takes a show of hands / To determine how a word like / "Darling" is defined.' the stanza just grazes cliche, 'fall off trucks' and 'a show of hands', but restores itself by moving into a new field, how a word can re-invigorate the common in the language, thereby making it uncommon.

that is perhaps one definition of poetry: to renew the language, vivify it thru itself, and thus recharge the human conditions(s). yet, the black humor can get real dark very quickly. like the great french-irish writer sam b. the poet here is capable of producing texts that puzzle. only for caratzas the puzzling is sometimes worked out to a kind of noirish thriller, a script for a film perhaps. i'm reminded by some of his poems of a type of italian thriller prominent in the 1970s called giallo, the italian word for 'yellow.' yellow was the color of the covers of the pulp novels on which these films were based. at thier best, giallos were hard-edged, dazzling works exploding the limits of sex and death.

Let's Kill Again Like We Did Last Summer

We need another blood pack
And Soon
Our wild love
Just isn't enough.

I take my sprees seriously
And so should you
This is no
Buddies-on-the-run movie

We used to kill each other
Real good
Baby what happened
Which of us changed?

i especially admire the lack of punctuation in the last two stanzas, and the use of colloquial english, such as 'real good' which sounds very like noir to my ears. there is a hint of more radical experimental writing in this poem that is more full explored in tour.

i don't know if the poems in both chaps were written about the same time, or if train contains older poems while the '05 book contains newer texts. whatever, the poems in tour tap the same rich vein as the older (by only a year, granted) collection but mines it with a surer emphasis of the materiality of words. there are more poems in the book, and the humor becomes more acute.

take for example these next two poems. one is a critique of a particular rock band, while the other questions perhaps the influences of the dr. from paterson, nj.

The Jethro Tull Story

Tights + flute =
Rock & roll?


* * *

8-Word Poem

What kind of person
Eats plums
For breakfast?

both these poems are a kind of meta-haiku, the poems resemble the structure of haiku without following its formal variations, critiques of our socialized beings, one who lives in contemporary pop culture, while the other questions matters of influence on an early-21st century poet. this is both the laugh-out-loud kind of funny and satire.

i'll conclude this rambling review with my favorite poem from this excellent chap. here the humor is detailed thru the tension of its language, how the poet riffs thru clutter, the detritus of human stuff and our endeavours. caratzas's got a gob full of chops, which he uses real good.

Better Than A Pack Of Wolves, The Incredulity Tour Hits The Road

Your unconditional positive regard despite head
Injury / detached retinas, a face set on fire & put
Out with cleats. I make six figures, all of them zeros,
With a carpet-bombing perspective & a box cutter
Actually used on boxes. Out of the loop big time:
The Singing Nun stiffed royal & the old cop bullshit,
"Better left unsolved." Unnatural violence of a high-
Fiber diet: more sparrows, fewer starlings. Infrequent
Peepshow fragrance sure beats trashing hotel suites in
Sault Ste. Marie. Do estimable things--the best remedy
For puking over the side of the Sloop John B. Privy to
Admitted shit overheard: we all come from pussy
& good Christian fellowship means no fabulous.

i'll stop here, and say no, man, on 2nd thought things don't suck now.

Friday, November 25, 2005

it's been a long, lovely week off work. spent most of my time with family, reading a little and making notes for poems in my notebook. thanksgiving dinner was a triumph, tho we didn't get as many photos of nicholas i would have liked, eating his first thanksgiving feast.

next month nicholas will celebrate his 1st year. anna sent out invitations a couple of days ago, with our phone number listed so people could rsvp. i asked why she didn't include our email address. cuz no one responds via email, she told me.

guess so, given the omnipresence of cell phones. there are devices for yr hand, contraptions to hook up to yr ear. what next, a chip implanted directly into yr grey matter? wherever you go, whether the grocery store, book shop, video outlet, poetry reading, or just walking on the street, people can't help but be yapping away on these marvels.

don't get me wrong. i ain't no neo-luddite. but i'd rather use email, than the phone. esp. when i'm away from the house i don't want to talk on the phone. anna and i might be the last hold-outs in our not having a cell phone. i'd rather write letters to my amigos. i consider email a correspondence, it is letter-writing, and i love writing them. i've slowed down because of the usual time-constraints most of us have. it would seem that the art of letter-writing has not died away, tho there are many who would rather use their cell phones.

i recall a lecture from the authors of a jackson pollock bio published i think in the late '80s. they explained that the gathering of documents, such as letters written by pollock, was a bit of a problem since he didn't write many letters, in fact he didn't speak much, that most of the info had to come by word-of-mouth from friends, family and acquaintances. there wasn't much of a written record by pollock, and that scholars in the near-future would encounter this same problem since most do not write letters, or other written things, such as notebook entries.

i don't know if that is quite true today. the internet is still mostly text. there are a number of excellent journals published strictly online, there are listservs, and there is email. i've no idea how other writers treat their inboxes, but i think of mine as a treasure-trove of letters. i don' t delete them, but save them, as i would a letter received via snail mail.

this is no way some sort of writerly utopia, by any means. but i can't help but think of the new technologies being a boon to me as a poet. maybe it just that i can't stand cell phones, how people with no one in sight talk into air when they are shopping for noodles at the grocery store. that is kind of spooky.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

yesterday i caught the tail end of a documentary about drag queens. there is something i find attractive in the acts of artifice there. how one creates a self out of his self already. the acts of creation are forever and ongoing. i've not read much poetry regarding drag queens, except for a couple of pieces by mark doty. which were okay, but more fruitful were the novels of jean genet who continuously generated his self(s).

i try take that example in writing. i wrote a little about australian poet alicia sometimes yesterday, partly because i was first attracted to her name. it is the constructed self, the constructions of writing, that we are after, mostly. tho a writer who follows the example of bukowski might argue that there is no artifice in that writing, i would say, yes there is. even the style of no-style is a choice, a construction.

'even in bed i pose' wrote thom gunn in his poem 'carnal knowledge.' the self are selves. the poet richard lopez is the husband, father, son, brother and so forth. all the same, and all so different. i am attracted to names, perhaps most writers are, because they are thrust upon us, and they are chosen. we all have our preferences to sound and cadence regarding particular names. yet they are at the top of our acts of artifice. it is the sound and look on the page about names that we choose, and what we don't choose, whether we choose to keep our birth names or decide on another name. thus the desire to reinvent, to delete, to start anew.

if in doubt of artifice, then think about the last time you chose a particular outfit, a dye to color yr hair, that piece of jewelry, or the lack of jewelry. so it is within writing. we present our self(s) which create reality. which one of us we choose to present lies within the moment of the presentation. if there is one truth to reality, perhaps it is an example of the varied multitudinous of our collective human being, exampled in writing, speech, dress and our name.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

here is stating the obvious, today's sacramento bee published a front-page story about national book award winners joan didion and william vollmann living right here in river city. i'd link to the article itself but the bee has gone and did what it seems every newspaper in the u.s. has done, you must sign up to read its stories.

cheers to the desire to be auden's cheese, local but prized everywhere.

in other news, yesterday clicking thru the aussie journal cordite i read two poems by alicia sometimes, here and here. there is an arc of performance in these poems that desire to be spoken on stage, an energy made from the forms these texts take. i've no idea if sometimes is a regular performer of her work. but instead of being simply scripts for a performance, a weakness i find in much of spoken word writing, it is in the structure of her writing where the performance shape up, the energy of words, grammar and syntax held. sometimes has my attention, even her name, lower-case and an adverb, is cheekily aware of the constructive self, the who who is at once present in the protean art of living / writing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

a coincidence, or what? the winners of this year's national book awards for fiction and non-fiction respectively both hail from sacramento. the non-fiction winner, joan didion, was born and raised here. tho she is a long-time resident of nyc, she has written extensively about her childhood and adolescence in n ca.

while the fiction award went to sacramento resident william t. vollmann who is said to haunt several local dive bars. i've seen him once at tower books with his wife and child buying a shitload of books.

i've read somewhere that the poetry award winner w.s.merwin has lived a long time in hawaii, was born in nyc and raised on the east coast. but he really wanted to be from sacramento, and is working really hard toward achieving that goal.

Monday, November 14, 2005

the sound system sucked. bono's voice sounded almost like a chipmunk, and the bass was way prominent in the mix. and what gives with people who i know spent at least as much as i did on tix who can't stand, or dance, in one place but must always be on the move, bumping into me constantly and knocking me out of my rock-and-roll reverie? admission to see u2 was not on the cheap side, so i say to those who can't chill and enjoy the show for the duration of two or three hrs, stay the fuck out of my way. sheesh!

i've no idea if the band was at the top of their form, or was having an off-night. they are so good, so tight, and they have been around for 25 years that they kicked ass. i'm not the biggest u2 fan, but i knew all but five songs on the set list that night. when the edge played the familiar opening chords of 'i will follow' the song was so old, so familiar, yet so strident in its energy that i nearly started to pogo. too bad they are a supergroup, i couldn't get near the stage, otherwise i'd have done a stage dive.

in spite of sounding like a chipmunk bono was in fine form. he possesses a gorgeous, passionate, voice. when he sang 'gloria' i got goosebumps from it. the edge might just be one of the best guitarists alive. i compare his fretwork with jimi hendrix. i can't qualify that at all, i can just say both are masters. the edge's guitar is one of discipline and control, tight-knit, straight on the notes. but when he cranks the distortion, the sound is articulated chaos. i've always loved loud, messy guitars, but to hear the edge play live the noise transforms into motion. i can't dance at all, but my body moved and again i had an near-irrestible urge to pogo.

it was a perfect night. my bro and i had a great time. we got home at 1:30 am. i was still so wired that i read steve caratzas's wonderful chap the incredulity tour, and the selected letters of james schuyler, which i began on the train to the east bay earlier in the day, till 2:30 am. i felt like one of george romero's zombies the next day at work. i managed not to eat anybody, but i was famished, and absolutely exhausted, when i got home. the good kind of exhaustion, where you stretch out in bed, with yr beloved beside you, and feel yrself unclench, and plummet into deep, deep sleep.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

taken the day off from work. heading out the door in a couple of hrs to take the train to the bay area and meet my brother at his job. then we're going to the oakland arena to see u2. can't excuse the obscene amount of money i'd paid for the privilege to rock out to the supergroup, but never seen the band before, and i got the tickets last may. Anyhow, me and my bro have not hung out in together in ages. bono may have the ego triple the size of the arena but u2 does have some essential songs in my personal playlist.

by the by, henry rollins is on tour again. my buddy b. and i have made it an annual trip to see him doing his spoken word thing in sf for the past couple of years. tonight rollins performs here in sac. the first time in ages, i think. perhaps the size of time is small since i had seen black flag perform here in 1982 when i was a screaming, shaven head punk, at a former disco called the galactica 2000. the mirrored ball was still up, and henry was one pissed-off dude who rocked at such intensity that the very floor quaked. it was my 2nd punk show. and like a comet or asteroid ol' rollins has returned in his arc, older but still pissed-off.

Monday, November 07, 2005

being a new father means that i've found myself changing in some fashions. for example, i like hearing stories about other parents and their children. i delight in it even. more so, when fellow poets post photos of their children on their blogs, i love it. perhaps it has something to do with knowing i'm not alone in my pursuits of reading, writing and parenthood. all are hard, but the rewards are infinite. there is magic there, the wonder and thrill of watching yr child grow and learn. entwined with that is the exhilaration of seeing the love others have for their kids. when one has a child there develops a new pressure, the desire to take thousands of pics and show the world. i certainly want to see.

all of it brand new to me. of course, each birth, each death, is the first one, always discovered, not rediscovered. like the first words, or the first physical desire. and the world becomes scary, strange and marvelous.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

thanks everyone for yr lovely comments here and on yr own blogs re: nicholas in full lobster regalia for halloween. it is the end of a long work week, just got back from the office today, sunday. normally i'm like an old jazzman, working re: writing/reading in the quiet and dark til the wee hrs. this week i tried simply to get to the shut-eye state a bit earlier than usual. that translates to falling asleep with a book in my hand, or a movie in the dvd player. i'd wake to the credits rolling or my hand on the page.

which tells me that i need to start writing more about my reading. yesterday's mail arrived with the newest book by skip fox, at that (ahadada books), a thick collection of texts beautifully designed by daniel sendecki. mouth-watering.

this morning i read steve caratzas's chap it will be a train. a mini-review is forthcoming.

and been digging thru big ted berrigan's massive collected. finally here, it is essential reading.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

here are a few pics of nicholas in his lobster costume on halloween. nicholas was terrific, and really enjoyed being out trick-or-treating. don't know whether he liked being a crustacean but he put on a good show. we loved it.

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