Thursday, April 30, 2009

the cruelest month review series #12

i figure an even dozen reviews for eliot's famously dotty idea of april being the cruelest month shall do. but before i even dare to eat a peach i'll close out the month with a quick glance at another poet's blog series for the cruelest month.

i discovered bill cohen's blog tattoosday when gina myers was a featured poet with one of her tattoos and a poem. cohen asked a varied group of tattooed poets to submit pics of their ink and a poem or three for his blog. the result delighted the hell out of me. myers is one of my favorite poets, hands down, and i've seen plenty of evidence of her ink thru pics either sent my way or on her and other poets' blogs. but it wasn't until last night when i went thru the whole series and found quite a lot that made me happy.

the gist of the series was to get pics and poems but also summaries from the poets themselves on the how and why they chose that particular piece. that's what grabbed me by the boo-boo. i'm a sucker for tattoos. even more compelling are the stories about tattoos. the scope of the pieces is mind-bending. they range from lines of text to a part of punctuation. however, i would like it if the story included the very fact that the wearer simply loved tattoos for the sake of ink. not every piece is imbued with deep meaning. my own first tattoo was got because i simply wanted a tattoo and the image became meaningful as i aged.

at any rate, instead of linking to my favorite contributors i'll conclude by stating my highlights include the poems and ink by eileen myles, gina myers, nathan logan [who has a fantastic punctuation tat] mike sikkema and cody todd [who possesses a large bobba fett/millennium falcon backpiece that, i dunno, i like quite a bit even if i think the choice of subject ain't exactly my choice - who am i to judge some one's taste, and besides, i fucking love star wars, which was a seminal experience of my childhood]. and i strongly urge you, even if you don't like tattoos, to click thru too.

now that april is over i can start thinking of other things. summer is nearly here. it is time again to start thinking of nights at the drive-ins [its days are numbered but i am lucky that it has survived for another summer] and beach movies. the days are long and the light now is turning fluorescent. now, if you'll excuse me there's a peach calling my name.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

untitled proem

upon thinking of not much but walking w/ nicholas as he stoops to his bughunting on busy alhambra blvd there was an unfocused memory about an old friend's father who died years ago from lung cancer he must've been in his mid-40s and adjusting the mind's camera for a clearer picture at that moment i swear a bicyclist swept into frame w/ his t-shirt stretched on the muscles of his back and there it was written TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE whereon i turned to see what nicholas was holding in his hands

Monday, April 27, 2009

the cruelest month review series #11

over the weekend i had a number of ideas of what book or poem to review. today, however, being a monday, a day i took off work to try to get my bearings and restore a sense of equilibrium, my ideas all fluttered out the window and onto the heavy breeze now blowing thru the valley. ostensibly, my reviews were to be about my daily reading. and they are for the most part. but if i were to write about everything i read in a day then that would be quite a long and scattered list. for example, i did find a couple novels by richard laymon and read one yesterday. genre fiction is addictive as hell.

which brings me to my subject. as usual i clicked thru and read a number of blogs today. i noticed a few days ago jim mccrary put up a link to his review of an ed wood jr pulp novel. i re-read that review today and one of the many pleasures mccrary gives me is not only a roaring prose style but his love of trash culture. let's call it trash culture for lack of a better phrase. really, i don't distinguish between hi and lo cultures but if one were to call the films and novels of ed wood jr something, the word trash will do just fine.

now, mccrary writes about wood's novel, death of a transvestite [four wall eight windows press, 1999] like it was a poem. or to paraphrase the conclusion of one of mccrary's self-published chapbooks: he lovingly mangles the english language. like the sound generated from mccrary's minimalist poetics his ear is keen in his prose too. mccrary's technique is similar to the way jimi hendrix used feedback and distortion. i'd go further and compare mccrary to iggy pop for his effrontery and self-deprecation and it would not surprise me a bit if i discovered the poet had hummed 'i wanna be your dog' as he penned his review.

what i dig most about mccrary's review is not just his taste in books but that the review is, at least to my eyes and ears, an extension of his own poetics. if i hadn't known mccrary is a poet by reading the review i'd suspect as much by the time i finished it. there is something within the way the review is arranged on the screen that is like a poem. also, how mccrary triggers one idea into another as his mind sifts thru wood's story of a hitman transvestite has a kind of hyper logic that all of his poems do.

it might seem a bit strange to review a review but what i think i'm doing is writing about a poem that functions like a review. for me, mccrary is all poet and whatever he writes is part of his poetics. dig it. and read mccrary's review here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

the cruelest month review series #10

yesterday on the way home from work i made a quick stop at a local indie bookstore, time-tested books, which is open fairly late and recently moved to more spacious digs. i was in a hurry so i didn't have time to fully browse. i had stopped to glance at their poetry section and find a pulp novel by horror novelist richard laymon. didn't find the laymon but i did leave with a collection of poems and a volume of reviews of splatter movies.

it's been a long while since i stretched out and read a book of poems from beginning to end. i was exhausted last night, the previous night i'd managed only two hours of sleep, and after watching a scooby-doo film -- i'm trying to figure out how to include the mystery inc. gang in my poems because i'm watching so many of their movies -- with nicholas, i stretched out with my new collection of poetry and read it all before my eyes shut and i blissed out for the night.

crow with no mouth [copper canyon press, 2000] is a collection of translations by stephen berg of the poems by the 15th century zen monk and eccentric ikkyu. i am in the habit of reading buddhist texts but that habit goes in cycles. i am deeply respectful of buddhism and tho i am not a buddhist and only have a very minimal grasp of its tenets there are some things of zen buddhism i try to practice as i live my life: mindfulness and loving-kindness. there are a few contemporary buddhist poets whom i adore, such as the estonian poet jaan kaplinski and joanne kyger. but the deep reading of buddhist texts, as i just said, goes in cycles for reasons i'm simply not sure.

at any rate, ikkyu was a man who lived a deeply passionate life. he loved sake and women and as berg mentions in his forward, '[i]f one avoids giving pain, if one abides by what is Buddhism's golden rule, to live inoffensively, why not live passionately.' that passion was not limited to the sensual pleasures. he also couldn't stand snobbery, elitism and high airs that were often the domain of his fellow peers. ikkyu even famously burned the writ given to him by his master certifying the poet attained satori and thus had become a master himself.

yet ikkyu was serious about and a seriously devout zen buddhist. he also lived a long life and fell deeply in love with a young, blind girl when the poet was already an old man. here is a poem detailing his love:

how is my hand like Mori's?
it's her freedom I love when I'm sick she makes me hard
fingers lips rove everywhere brings my followers joy

see there, in this text, is ikkyu's deep sexual hunger as it meets the solid joy of the love of a particular woman. according to berg ikkyu wrote his poems using four lines. berg approximates ikkyu's technique by writing in free verse a very loose, nearly prosaic clump of language. some i think are not too successful. i can only judge these translations as i can't read 15th century chinese. however, as the above-poem illustrates berg can and does sometimes recreate the majesty and fire of ikkyu.

here's another poem that i like as it reminds me a bit of the sensuality found in that great ancient roman catullus:

I still worry about how I look my dry white hair oh
age wanting to fuck but I'll sing no matter how things are

i find the desire to fuck, even in old age, very appealing. the desire to write too relates to bodily desires as well. textuality and sexuality are not new in poetry. we just need to be reminded of it every now and again.

i enjoyed berg's translations and lucien stryk's preface which was a brief history of ikkyu. the book is solid enough even if i think some of the texts read like a session of awkward sex. that has its pleasures too but in the end it feels as if the partners were just not the right fit. but then, who knows, i liked the book well enough that i know i'll be reading it again. the texts that i do like i like a lot. perhaps when i read berg's versions again i'll fall deeply in love like how old ikkyu had fallen in love with his blind mori.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

pictures of you

everyone must age. even goths. i've not been a big fan of the cure but they have a fistful of songs that are sad, slow, melodic and the perfect soundtrack for feeling sorry for yourself. they are a band of my generation. and now my generation is hitting middle-age. today the leader and poster-child for a generation of pancake-makeup wearing, black garbed, and spooky goths, robert smith, turns 50. somehow that blows my mind. i've been stuck on the following song for a couple weeks now. with age, the tune now takes on a different level of resonance.

Monday, April 20, 2009

another possible title for my book


Sunday, April 19, 2009

the cruelest month review series #9

it felt like i didn't do anything all weekend. at least that what i had planned was to become engrossed in big chunks of nada. i partly succeeded, given that today i spent a very warm -- nay, hots!!!!! -- april sunday in our garden re-reading a pulp horror novel and hanging at the local park with the family. yesterday, nicholas and anna and i replaced a toilet tank -- the one nicholas destroyed a couple weekends ago -- then nicholas and i took in a movie, monters vs. aliens, which was cute enough being that it is a mash of '50s sci fi cliches and shit, and that's when i was astonished by the teaser for where the wild things are. i've no idea how that movie will turn out. the teaser, on the other hand, is a doozie, a real blast, a near masterpiece and now i have two movies to look forward to seeing in the fall, where the wild things are and the long-delayed, and allegedly slated for an october '09 release, adaptation of cormac mccarthy's the road.

at any rate, my review of michael sikkema's selection of poems led me to re-read a little book by a poet with whom i have the highest regard. sikkema's minimalist poetics reminded me a bit of a little chapbook by jon cone, enough salt, that was published, i think, by canadian alt-poet jwcurry's press curvd h&z and dated 19march2001. the book is very short and the texts are printed on heavy paper with what appear to be stamps. the texts are untitled and segue into the following text thru association rather than causal meaning. if i had a scanner i'd show you a pic of the chap for it is an elegant affair, a small rectangle, white with a cover that is torn like a child's construction paper is torn near the top that confirms that each copy of this chap is hand-made.

it is a labor of love and a pleasure to hold and turn the pages. the title is also printed with a rubber stamp in faded black ink with the lower portion of the letters are faded so what we see, for example, is the lower bar for the capital letter E missing. this follows an incomplete letter N, the bottom of the O is left open, and so on.

furthermore, cone's texts complements this hand-made elegance by being both gnomic and earthy. cone writes with an undisguised eroticism that grounds his lines both in the head and in the groin. take for example this piece:

Her behind beckons
like a bicycle seat.
The milk-heavy thighs
of the maiden beckon, also.

before one could think that the groin controls the mind other pieces within the collection serves to underscore a kind of detachment and serenity a zen acolyte might muster. take this:

What about the lies?
Show me the man whose
throat is uncluttered.

i'd argue that this sort of serenity is not a stable state nor is it easily attained. i read this piece as being stable and accusatory at the same time without lapsing into melodrama. it is a delicate piece written by, and i don't say this for the sake of merely saying it, a master craftsman.

now that cone is now too an excellent blogger [see my link to the right for his blog] i hope that he takes this chap and scan it in its entirety and publish it on his blog. i know the danger of small-press publishing is the fugitive nature of its publications. by posting it on his blog cone could make it available to any one who would want the chap.

that's, obviously, a decision only cone can make. it wouldn't replace the pleasure of holding the physical object in hand. however, the texts are what matter. i'll end by quoting another piece by cone, one that illustrates both a sense of humility and dedication of a life in poetry:

I remain a loyal servant,
looking for an ax handle.

this might be one of the greatest teaser trailers

yesterday i saw this teaser trailer at a screening of monsters vs aliens. holy shit, i nearly wept. seriously. can't explain why. perhaps the director, spike jonze, really captured the look and spirit of the book. perhaps its because of the great arcade fire song. perhaps because i am, we all are, still, deep down, children. whatever the reason, check this out and see if it moves you too. the movie is an adaptation of where the wild things are.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the cruelest month review series #8

it was a beautiful day. too good to be cooped up in the cube all day. so at lunch we walked over to the local mall to get out into the sunshine, breathe some fresh air -- and more that several hundred pounds of car and diesel exhaust -- shouldered our way to an open table and simply sat. or at least i did waiting for my companions to make their way to the table.

in the meantime, i opened my backpack as i thought of a most excellent title for a manuscript that i've yet to put together, much less work on, but i thought, man!, i think i've got enough poems for a full-length book now, so perhaps i should start putting something together. but what to call it? i had a song on loop in my head this morning. that song was 'dance away' by roxy music. i still have looping within my brainpan as i type. yep, that's it, my book shall be known as DANCE AWAY. i can't think of an argument against it. but then to put this monkey back in the barrell i thought about it and then wrote an alternative title in the moleskin when i got home tonight after a long walk home. i picked up nicholas from daycare and i walk to his school, about a 45 minute walk, then we walk home together which takes another hr. it really is a short walk, about 20 minutes, but with a very inquisitive 4-year-old who stops at every third step to look at birds, bugs, moss, lichen, bees, trees, flowers, garbage, old gum, bottles, and oh did i mention bugs?, it takes us an hr. back the my alternative title. here it is, brace yourself, are you sitting down? my alternative title is DEATHRAY.

at any rate, as i was sitting by my lonesome among the crowds in a mall on a beautiful spring day i started to rummage thru my backpack. i've not cleaned it out in a long time. i still have brochures and receipts from a trip to london anna and i made in '02. nestled beside these are drafts of poems, class assignments from nicholas's school, the book i'm currently reading, old newspapers, and e-books i've printed out from the web. one of the e-books i'd forgotten about. so i took it out, leafed thru it as i waited for my companions, then set it aside to read again tonight when i got home from work and nicholas was in the bath.

actually, it's not an e-book so much as a pdf from blazevox of a selection of poems by michael sikkema. since blazevox also published the poet's first book, futuring, i suspect that these poems are culled from that book. i first read sikkema in the journal the tiny a couple of years ago. rather than resort to the cliched, i was blown away, by sikkema's poems i knew i was reading a bright young talent.

the selection that i had printed, tucked away in my backpack, and re-read tonight confirmed that. these are mininalist, elliptical pieces that are not like anything else quite written at the moment. i wouldn't go so far by saying that sikkema is sui generis, but i'd be hard-pressed to place him firmly within any single tradition. a quick glance thru google for more texts by sikkema i see that another poet-blogger places sikkema somewhat in the eigner-grenier tradition. that seems about right, esp, how sikkema's lines drop and elide into the next using the space of the page as if it were a frame of film or a canvas much like eigner did with his texts.

even if some of sikkema's poems move like eigner's pieces the younger poet subjects are -- oh i don't know -- somehow more homey and even more alien than the late poet. for me, pinpointing sikkema's meanings is damn near impossible. these are poems that resist the paraphrase and neat summary. instead, sikkema's themes plug into technology, geography and the life of a family. take this line from his sequence 'This Form of Life is not Symmetrical':

string of horizon pours into your head kids naked from the bath make crow sounds with crows to become an echo isn't will but matter as music wakes in itself

boy, there's a lot to unpack within that line. first off, i just simply groove on the form of the text, a string of unpunctuated prose that glides into a sequence of images. again, like a frame of film as it composes a long shot of the dusky horizon.

there's much made within these poems that i re-read the selection twice tonight. i've not read sikkema's book but if all the poems are like these selections then it will be first-rate. i've only glossed on these poems. i suggest you read them yourself. you can find the pdf here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the cruelest month review series #7

blog crush lists seem to become passe. they were the rage a few years ago but perhaps that was because blogging was brand new and we were all getting used to not just becoming poet-bloggers but most critically readers of blogs. still, if one were to wonder what my crush list is then all you need to do is look at my links to the right. these are not all the blogs that i read regularly, but these are the blogs that i hit up for new work several times a day.

with that in mind, my review tonight is not a critical examination of blogging but a look at one of my most favorite poet-bloggers, w.b. keckler's joe brainard's pyjamas. keckler is a most prolific poet and blogger with updates almost hourly. but rather than despair on not being able to keep up with his writing i do plunge into his work with utter glee. keckler is hilarious and cutting too. once, in a post, while he was at work the poet posted a line that literally had me fall to the floor and holding my stomach from laughing so hard. instead of hunting around for that post i'll just summarize it. it went something like, 'returning to my desk i could smell something like burnt popcorn. i shouted to the office, what smells like cum'? oh man, i don't do it a good service but it is that sort of humor and boldness that i admire in keckler as a poet-blogger.

even still, keckler publishes entire chapbooks worth of poems. take a look at his recent sappho online series. even more, the dude loves pop culture and art. and he's got good taste. it would seem that the hombre spends most of his time online prowling for more, and more and more.

and why not. in my eyes this is a poet who knows the deep meaning of the phrase carpefuckingdiem. again, this is not a critical examination of keckler as a poet and blogger but just a few notes on why he's one of my favorite poets and bloggers writing today. check it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the cruelest month review series #6

last fall, i think it was last fall, my memory is kaput, i think, if only to remember, but last fall i received in the post a lo-fi publication edited by portland, or poet jesse morse, POP SEANCE #27. the zine is a stapled little number with the pages that fold up in the manner of a legal tablet. inside are four regular contributors who each, i think, take a turn editing an issue. #27 happens to be morse's turn to edit.

i dig small-press work like this which hearkens back to the mimeo revolution. the only difficulty of such small-press work -- the zine is not supported by either a blog or website -- is its scarcity. if one were to read this brief review and want an issue i'm not sure where to point to get a copy.

and these are poets that should be better known. i believe all of them are younger, like in their early 30s, and if you google a bit you'll find bits and pieces of their work. but not a whole lot and not enough to satisfy a hungry reader.

the contributors are erik andersson, richard froude, ryan newton and jesse morse. each are solid writers and each different in style from their fellow contributors to make this zine spark up. each poet is hopped up on pop culture, language, literature and friends. theirs is a clubbiness that, at least to me, does not seem exclusive. rather, the texts within these pages are redolent of the lushness of the beats and the sensual details found in the 1st generation nyc school.

newton even conjures the late, great lew welch in his poem 'welcome to the city of portland and the city that works' by addressing welch directly. there's that much of newton within to really make me want to read more of his work.

froude's piece is a prose poem-essay that is an investigation of the hybrid and concludes with a list of source texts. froude is more akin to the investigations of post-language writing. here's a taste.

Hybridity is not a costume, for the human or the text. The hybrid text is a naked text. . .

andersson's poems are sonic paeans to the harshness of art and life, the art of living. andersson's texts sound at once old, world-weary, yet hungry for the lived text of experience.

morse, i'll confess, is a lived-in, rumpled shirt, comfy jeans sort of poet. i mean that as a high compliment. i find his texts thoroughly winning and i hope that he starts a blog where he can post more of his poems and the texts of the miscellany of living.

i'll conclude with a piece by morse that illustrate what i mean.


thrilled really -
      fire calm in front
tv muted to basketball
stereo playing
      writing poems
on speed

these are a few
of my favorite things,


all senses clicking

all time

pop music lyrics embedded in the text, drug taking, tv watching, brain humming, poem writing as it is addressed to, what i assume to be, his friend ted as the life is so full it is hardly contained.

as much as i like paper i'd rather see these poets shift their publishing to a blog. it'll still be the same poems but just more accessible. moreover, POP SEANCE, and that is one cool name for a zine, is a fine addition to the small-presses.

porno chic is dead

it's been dead. for a long time. but for a brief moment in the early 1970s porn got hardcore and became mainstream. for a short time you didn't have to be caught dead in a porno theater. you could step out of darkness of the theater and into the bright sunlight of an ordinary day. and not worry about being seen much less caught in the act of viewing a hardcore film.

not no more. tho one can argue that porn is still very mainstream, after all, it wouldn't be such a lucrative industry if it were habituated with just the raincoat brigade. but now we worry about being caught dead with our trousers, or skirts, around our ankles and flesh flashing onscreen.

egads!!!! no, no one i know reads or watches porn. gadzooks and sakes alive!!!!

it is with terrible sadness that a friend informed me that porno chic icon and all-around girl-next-door marilyn chambers has died at age 56. here's a link the the ny times story.

also, listened to an old interview by terry gross on npr this morning with another veteran of the porno chic era, gay porn actor turned theater producer jack wrangler. very funny man and a person who also checked out too early. you can listen to the interview here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

the cruelest month review series #5

not only does hoa nguyen have one of the coolest, and i might add prettiest, names in contemporary poetry, she is simply one of my favorite poets writing today. perhaps it's her own domestic bohemia written in a disjunctive, minimalist style that i not only identify with both as a parent and a poet but also how her life, from the distance of my vantage, has become the life of poetry.

what i like about this vid of her reading is how she brought her son onstage. the boy, keaton, stands by his mother's side but also gets into stuff as many young kids do. i suppose i respond to this vid because i am also a poet and a father of a young son. yet, it's nguyen's poetry that is the crux of why i've viewed it several times.

what i also find interesting is how literacy is changing in the digital age. not only am i reading books, but i'm reading more and more self-produced chaps and most critically, blogs, e-zines, and e-books and watching readings on the internet such as this one. videos such as this are not ancillary to poetics but now a part of poetry too. i return to videos of poetry readings not just to hear the poems, tho that is indeed a large part of why i watch, but also like a rock concert i want to hear those poems performed live.

nguyen is fit for the task. in my book, she rocks.

happy ---good--- friday

life's a beach


feeling light and feeling good. big fluffy clouds, cool weather, today is what anna and i call a swedish summer day.

got home from work and thought of this fatboy slim vid, live at brighton beach down in oz. if the first track doesn't get you grooving then perhaps you need to make an apt. with your doctor for you are in danger of having no soul.

get yr groove thing
yah yah


Thursday, April 09, 2009

the cruelest month review series #4

as a reader of poetry and as a poet i have to come clean and say sometimes i don't know where the hell the poems take me or what they are telling me. language is made of signs and signifiers so even nonsense still will make a kind of sense even if we are unable to paraphrase it. take song for instance, we get carried by the emotional pull of rhythm, melody and beat which in turn, if the song is good, carry the energy into our heads. we think and we feel even if the message is a bit opaque.

such an analogy i think is as a definition of complex, difficult poetry rather broadly drawn. my point being that poetry need not make a prose-like utterance of the kind we would expect of say an essay. well, no duh. even experimental novels and cinema do tell a story. poetry works in the groin and in the head. poetry is an alchemy and behaves in much the way that music works on us.

and that brings me to guillermo juan parra's chapbook phantasmal repeats. a terrific collection of untitled texts that i read as a sort of diasporic engagement of being a human being and poet in our new century. these pieces read, to me, as if they were handwritten in several places, or at least one place where the poet lives either part-time or frequently visits. knowing parra is from and does indeed make frequent visits to his natal country of venezuela bolsters my reading of the poems as originally notebook entries during a long visit home.

a sense of loss permeates the book. at times that loss is melancholy and other moments these texts exult in their state of exile. even the structure of the book and a recurring motif is writing synthesized in much the same way sound is synthesized by a moog. even the sounds and lyrics of bands such as new order and sigur ros are are mixed into these poems and parra identifies these bands, along with singer-songwriter sean lennon, on the end-page. the repeats of the title of the book recalls the technique of a master d.j. spinning a recurring sound that punctuates his set with a hook. the repeats i think are love and loss, those timeless subjects not just of poetry but our veritable human being.

what i dig about parra's chap is his use of an old-fashioned typewriter that create in his texts a funky font that is redolent of the mimeo press and zine publications. because these texts are typewritten they possess a sensuality that is not easily doable in our digital world. still, it is the music of these poems, a music that makes reading a pure pleasure, that get this reader jumping. take, for example this piece.

Crystal boxes of clouds worn for rhyme
And the breeze across this tableau
Electronic birds feign illumination
Fantasy currents weaken my frame
Forgotten pages, others transformed
Into the flesh of my flesh, a flurry
You let yourself be conquered so easily
Dario meeting an aging Verlaine in Paris
Who responded, "Glory? Shit and more shit"

parra is being earthy here by quoting the old french poet as an embittered old man, and yet as i read the poem i find a healthy does of irony for shit is shit and there's tons of it but that it is a substance made from the living and without shit, without the ability to take a shit, or even detect some shit talking shit to us, life would just cease.

but it is without irony that i read this collection. parra i think self-published the chap, my kind of publishing, and i think if you visit his blog for a copy you can ask for one. the favor you would be doing is your own for this is a poet not to be missed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

americathon [1979]

taking a break from my cruelest month review series, i'd forgotten about this flick until i saw the trailer for it on a trailer compilation series i'd bought last weekend. starring john ritter as the president of a bankrupt u.s. it is the year 1998 and the country is about to be foreclosed on. there's no more gas and people jog, walk and ride their bikes but live in their cars. the president decides to sell san diego to mexico. but to get real dollars he and his cabinet hit upon the brilliant idea that the best way to raise cash and stop foreclosure is to host a telethon, an americathon.

whooo boy, what a novel idea. the filmmakers are nearly prescient in their vision of a blighted but goofy future. today the economy's imploded, the budget deficit for this year is something around 1.4 trillion dollars and unemployment is the highest it's been in several decades plus we are now being told by experts that we have reached or about to reach peak oil. this flick, rather than being relegated as an artifact of the high inflation, energy strapped, and eco-conscious 1970s now speaks to our time too. perhaps we should all get together and ham it up before the cameras for a little dough so we can raise enough cash to pay our way out of this mess. we can put ourselves up for sale. can we find any takers?

Monday, April 06, 2009

the cruelest month review series #3

i'd been mostly but for an hr last night off-line last weekend. the weather and the events happening in my house, which include nicholas smashing the toilet tank and the base of the pedestal sink in the back bathroom as the boy was standing on the commode and putting all his weight on the sink as he tried to look at himself in the mirror when the sink lost its mooring and crashing into the tank and base leaving large cracks, were too fine and dramatic for me to do anything but odds and ends around the house and grooving on these gorgeous spring days. as for the watercloset luckily nicholas was unhurt - thank the maker - and the damage, overall, is quite minimal, but man!, what a heat-attack inducer.

instead i turned to the work of thom gunn and re-read in piecemeal fashion gunn's last published collection, boss cupid [fsg, 2000] thru the weekend. i like gunn in his totality, even at his most flawed and boring, his reserve and his desire for sensual pleasures win me over each time. one of the books that changed my life is gunn's collected poems which i purchased in paperback after discovering his '80s collection the passages of joy in the university library way back when. his love of life and his contradictions are so appealing that when i read gunn i discover anew that poetry and life can become a single thing.

another thing i like about gunn is the poet's expansion of generosity as he aged. as we get older we all, i think, fall prey to irritability, stubbornness, pig-headedness, and inflexibility. i don't know why, but perhaps the synapses begin to harden as the body begins its slow decay and the memory begins to fail leaving us that much more cynical and intolerant. these are of course generalities but to my eyes gunn, in his work - as i know very little about his private life and frankly when it comes to the work that is all that matters, hadn't succumbed to such brittle hardening of the heart. rather, his heart grew two sizes larger with an edge to it that makes the reading much more delicious as the vista of love grows so does the poet's shit detector.

which is obvious in the title of the collection, boss cupid, that love, desire, sex, generosity and power all spring from, as gunn concludes his poem 'a wood near athens':

The intellect as powerhouse of love.

too, gunn explorations of desire go wild as he includes a suite of songs titled 'troubadour' that about the serial killer, cannibal and necrophiliac jeffrey dahmer. how does dahmer jibe with cupid? only does gunn's almost zen-like restraint pushes forward this conceit and succeeds by the contrast and comparison. cupid's makes love grow by shooting arrows into our hearts and thus we are possessed by desire with the need to possess the beloved dahmer's desire grows monstrous yet still remains fixed in the need for possession too. again, in 'a wood near athens' gunn reminds us that love and desire are 'Beautiful and ridiculous'. and that:

Love makes the shoots leap from the blunted branches,
Love makes the birds call, and maybe we are right.
Love then makes craning saplings crowd for light,
The weak being jostled off to shade and death.
Love makes the cuckoo heave its foster-siblings
Out of the nest, to spatter on the ground.
For love has gouged a temporary hollow
Out of its baby-back, to help it kill.

gunn makes love rather gruesome in such particular details. but again the poet asks, 'who did get it right?' among love's famous historical figures.

who has indeed. instead of settling on desire and love as two negatives that make a positive gunn's poems in this collection are filled with delight. even the poem 'classics' where 'bartending is a branch /of show business' when the bartender is also a well-known porn star where the poet looks upon him with longing and concludes that 'It was a pity about / the sibilance, but / I could have killed / for a chance to chew / on those jumbo tits' is hearty as it keeps distant and also is full of a falstaffian humor.

finally, gunn addresses cupid directly in the poem 'to cupid' as the poet fights off sleep to listen to the neighbors' wedding feast and delights in the decorum and comeliness of the occasion.

Good will within delay within good will.
And Cupid, devious master of our bodies,
You were the source then of my better rest.

poems so full of life and love even as they take delight in some of cupid's more salacious aspects are for me an invigoration and affirmation of life and the life in art and why i so love gunn's poetry.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

the cruelest month review series #2

a few weeks ago i received s.f. poet patrick dunagan's chap from chansonniers published by blue press books. i've long admired dunagan's work from what i've mostly online and was happy to get this chap. i've read it now at least four times and if that doesn't give you a hint at my admiration for this collection i don't know what will.

it is a collection of love poems addressed to an unnamed beloved. if the poems get a bit weak at times as a result of the lover's unrequited ardor they make up for it in tensile strength from the lines and the poet's overall craftsmanship. to my eyes dunagan studied not just old wcw but also the playful structures of post-war european poetry. the lines fold into each with out drowning out meaning. the acoustics echo feeling as they tightly control it as well. the endstops are pushed out into the lines as if inertia is propelling the words forward. take for example these concluding lines of a poem:

being you is the reward of poetry the you
& you know me as you are red or pale fading
re-affirming coming on strong or quietly
a belt on a pair of jeans longing rides upon

there are probably technical terms for what dunagan is doing with caesuras and endstops and line-breaks here. no small matter because the magic is found in the poet's technique. yet, if ever i need an example of the poems reading the reader as much as the reader taking in the poems then this chap illuminates my admiration for a poetry that dares to be bold in emotion as it trusts in language to create some dazzling effects. dunagan's love poetry soothes the mind as it sharpens the ear. these poems reminds me a bit of the music of the contemporary neo-punk band yeah yeah yeahs. a guitar, a caterwaul and a set of drums exploding the structures of the three-minute pop song. again, the poems read the reader as i struggle for a comparison in music. and i don't know how to label this sort of poetry other than say it is new and refreshing with a timeless sound. labels suck anyway. let me just stick with calling it poetry.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

. . . is [not] the cruelest month

i've no idea what the fuck eliot had against april. perhaps the same 'tude he sported against eating a peach fuelled his antipathy for the beginning of spring. oh, there's life out there, the poet observes and shudders at the thought as he turns the wick up on his gaslight and dips his quill back into the inkwell to record for us the horrors of our human civilization.

nevertheless, april is now poetry month and for many of us that might mean more readings, or deals for published books and chaps and zines, or the writing of a daily poem to post on your blog. all these are noble and good. rather i am for something a bit different. i love reading poetry as much as writing it. indeed, without readers half of the equation that makes for poetry would simply disappear and the sounds we make thru our words, and for vispoets images, would just be more chatter to compete with that passing escalade blaring thump-thump music.

i even develop crushes on poets and poetry. thank god for google and online zines and blogs. i can satisfy my crushes every time i fire up the laptop. and i get pissed if a writer doesn't have a blog or refuses to negotiate with digital publishing. that sort of thinking belongs with the minds that developed the 8-track tape player and refused to deal with cassette tapes. but i get off track. for this cruelest month what i propose to do is write little reviews on my daily reading. these include individual poems, chaps, blogs, zines and books. i'm not going for full-on, hardcore exegeses. just a few lines about my current obsessions in poetry. these little reviews will be wholly biased, completely emotional and totally committed to the art of poetry as a way of living.

i probably won't post everyday, but each time i do post it will be about my daily reading. it won't be much but it will make this cruelest month a bit more kind. i'll begin with this poem by the wonderful duncan mcnaughton that i think takes eliot to task.

dealing with fruit

I ate a peach
          not the peach Prufrock considered

the peach I ate
                was very like the pussy of a girl

a long life pussy peach

mcnaughton is naughty like an old blues lyric yet erudite like a don. the poet can make talking shit sound like shakespeare and what might seem like a sexist piece is turned by its tenderness for life into a hymn of sensuality. this is a poem about the love of life and, as i read it, turns eliot's despair on its ear. it would seem like hyperbole to confess that i love this little ditty, and yet i do. mcnaughton is not a household name among poets, i think, but he should be. this is life in poetry at the first intensity.