Monday, January 30, 2012

quick note on a good read

for a while i lost touch with a poet who i consider a good, if geographically distant [because i'm west coast and he's east coast, and i rarely leave my burg], friend, steve caratzas. if you clicked on that link you'd see steve's not updated his blog in over a year. a few weeks ago i was curious to see what he was up to so i googled the hombre and found a few of his poems published here and there.

i also discovered caratzas recently published a new chap, past present suture [drifting man press, 2011]. i ordered it right away. a few things are different in steve's verse. the work still retains a tough rind but has become structurally ambitious. i once compared caratzas to a meat poet. a meat poet was a label used on writers publishing during the mimeo revolution of the 1960s and 1970s where the work was simple and brutal. early bukowski fit the example; so does sac's own douglas blazek.

these aren't poems that are throwbacks to an earlier era in publishing. instead, steve's formerly snap-in-place linebreaks are looser and enjambed. these poems remind me a bit of australian poets like david prater or liam ferney or paul hardacre. if i lose the thread here it's because steve's poems sound and nearly behave like i've known them in earlier chapbooks such as It Will Be A Train [2004] and The Incredulity Tour [2005]. yet the toughness of these earlier texts have yielded to an ambition in the making of these newer poems.

Blue Noise

We could use the discouragement
so gimmie gimmie gimmie some
pain that lavender scented everything
makes nothing feel better who knew
though I have long suspected life is
tricky sometimes in a sweet way too
but you know the tune better than
most unlush life without a roman collar
on nor god nor irony and something
about men and their fear sets you free
under the influence of me arms without
hands on the jackpot didn't you? I hadn't
thought about it was you and you only
such infernal appraisal is final approval.

i love how this poem quotes, i think, song lyrics. that's how i read it since the line '[s]o gimmie gimmie gimmie some' sound to my ears a lot like an early black flag tune rasped by henry rollins. it is one of the many pleasures i have with this book. caratzas is also a musician and his craft with sound is plenty abundant in the many slant rhymes in the lines.

these are fluid, ambitious texts. but the old caratzas makes an appearance in the book too. many pieces are flat out funny and they are poems of work and working for a living. steve caratzas is a full-blooded 21st century writer. one whose poems embody not just the life of the text but the life of the writer. take this poem to the office with you.

Life Among the Cubicles

I've completely lost my will to live
I wonder what I should have for lunch
I can't believe that pig is married
It smells like someone is eating stir fried shit
No one cares about your trip to Baltimore

tell me you don't recognize yourself in that piece. anyway, this is an excellent chap and i'm glad steve is alive and writing.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

one of the most moving love scenes in u.s. cinema -- ever!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

a few thoughts on aging

maybe half-thoughts, or inklings, or low glimmers. at any rate, the poet donald hall published a lovely essay on aging in a recent issue of the new yorker. hall was born in the 1920s and is now 83. hall has a huge gusto for life [yeah, i know. who doesn't] and tho i'm so-so on his work i do have a book or two by him and i think he's a tremendous talent. he's as talented a prose writer as he is a poet tho who is making the distinction. after all, writing is writing no matter what you call it.

what i loved of hall's piece in the magazine was its humor and humanity. instead of turning into a cranky old man, he is instead, an old man with a bit of distance and perspective. that distance gives him the ability to laugh so that he still enjoys living. not an easy task. try it. say if your approaching 50 how often do you stop and, in the habit of our late, beloved kitty, ernie, eat the flowers? is it not easier to feel the world collapsing around you and your prospects getting narrower?

after all, aging is no picnic. our bodies change and not for the better. we don't get older and stronger. we get older and weaker. and there is memory. which starts to fail. the person you meet in the mirror more and more looks like your father, or mother. hair falls out, gets thin and grey. and so on and so forth. aging is a long ride into decrepitude and senescence. who gets pleasure out of that?

that's one way of thinking of it. another way is realizing that life is a gift. at any age. there was no contract so you can be here, now. no fate. nothing written in the stars. it's all luck. so feel lucky. age can have its pleasures too. if i wasn't growing old i could remember what are those pleasures.

i told a couple friends today who were complaining about growing old that i look forward to decrepitude and senescence. in the history of humanity growing old is a great privilege. until fairly recently people died very young. so feel lucky that most of us will see our seventies and eighties. if your body hurts and you can't remember where you left your glasses think of yourself as the lucky few who because of today's technologies and so forth are partly responsible to allow us to hurt in old age.

then again, i don't worry about growing old because i've always thought i was old even when young. some of my favorite poets didn't start writing their best work until they were well into middle-age. a few poets i've been reading returned to school in middle-age and are writing some of the most exciting work i know.

plus, i've never thought of poetry forebears as my mothers and fathers. i read rather ahistorically, not in a physical sense, after all i'm well aware of the constraints society placed on women in the past, the horrors and injustice, when i read say stein, plath, rich, dickinson et al. however, i read poets of every era, if those poets speak to me, as my brothers and sisters. that the only time we occupy is the present and if i'm reading catullus then catullus is alive, for me, right now. sometimes i think catullus and i might be collaborating and sharing work. i know that's a poetic fiction, a conceit, but so what.

the beauty of life: no one is getting younger. i've yet to meet the person who on his/her birthday becomes a year younger. nope, everybody gets old. every one. if life is a ride why not enjoy each segment of the journey. sounds silly and hippyish pablum but again so what. this is it, amigos, this one life. ask yourself what you want to do with it. then start doing it. what made reading hall's essay such a pleasure for me is how the poet embraces life, even at its end. that is a gift and very generous one at that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

quote unquote

I’m all right, I’m okay, I’m not a John Berryman, suffering, being an alcoholic. I’m a middle-class poet that took a shower this morning, that is happily married, has the typical conflicts of people who live in a neo-capitalist society. My only struggle today is whether my pension is going to go up $25 or $40 a month, you know. I have no other basic conflicts.

--jose kozer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2 movies i want to see -- eventually

Monday, January 23, 2012

some movies simply haunt me

i caught an extended version of david lynch's adaptation of frank herbert's vast novel dune [1984] the other night. it's not what you might call a good movie. the film is a huge, sprawling mess of portentous cries and whispers. lynch might not have been the best choice to bring herbert's visions to the screen. yet, what lynch achieves is a kind of lunatic genius.

i remember seeing this picture at the local multiplex when i was 17. long before i read the novel i didn't know what to expect but i'd heard that it was the most expensive sci-fi film thus far produced. i was vaguely aware of director david lynch but barely. i'd seen the elephant man [1980] but remembered the movie for its intense melancholy.

we were given leaflets as we entered the theater. a glossary of terms that were spoken by the characters of the movie. didn't make a lick of sense and in the darkness of the cinema reading the leaflet was out of the question. i was wholly disappointed in the movie. confusing, long, and pretentious as all get out i wondered how something so cheap looking could be the most expensive sci-fi movie in the history, at that time, of movies.

but that wasn't the end of my viewing. dune was released not long after on vhs video cassette. i lost count on how many times i watched the movie. something about the set decorations, the religious sweep of the action, the bizarre formality of the characters in manner, speech and dress. there was a kind of faux-victorian design of the sets and the space ships that beguiled me. there was also a sadean body horror present in the vision of lynch and embodied by the baron harkonnen and the guild navigators. if this flick was a mess it was a beautiful sort of mess.

then i got around to reading the novel and of course the story made sense. i watched the movie with new eyes. i don't know if i fell in love with the picture. i am haunted by it. i still am. the vast scale of herbert's creation might not be an exact fit for lynch's manias. lynch proved himself an adept at sadean horrors in smaller films such as blue velvet [1986] which is as close to a masterpiece in contemporary u.s. cinema you can get. dune is rather an experiment in scale for lynch. i'd imagine hardcore herbert fans were probably deeply disappointed upon first gazing at dune. i argue that if one is to take the time there is much to admire in lynch's vision of herbert's book. then again maybe that's just me. perhaps the movie for me is like staring into the abyss. stare long enough and you find it stares right back at you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


hello it's me again

you greet the face in the mirror

as you scrape the last day's stubble from your face

* * *

you wanted the day to caress you on your cheek

not sucker punch you in the solar plexus

you have no answer

* * *

still you buy books even if you ask yourself

what is a book?

in this brave new digital age

* * *

reading an interview with tan lin on jacket2

you find that lin's published his poetry book

in a variety of formats including sound files and blog posts

* * *

you never wanted a career

in poetry

you do your best to rid yourself of ego

* * *

try again

you love books don't ya

almost as much as you love the poems

* * *

you recognize the face in the mirror

you stare and it stares back

you can swear it nearly recognizes you too

Thursday, January 19, 2012

don't stress: a poetics

when you come to a fork in the road don't worry about the path not taken for any path will do because it is the journey -- right -- that is the gift and be glad if the path is not the shortest route because you want a quality that is difficult to measure and make last for as long as you possibly can

a poetics: an anti-manifesto

when walking on a wet sidewalk do not stop to pick up that shiny object -- whatever it is -- glistening in the wet for it may well trip you up and down you go BOOM

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


fascinated by 'marquee moon' by television

those hard, clean guitars by tom verlaine and richard lloyd

to wonder what is in a name, indeed

compared to such glorious sound

* * *

name? i mean didn't shakes ask is not a rose

still as sweet by any other name

i suppose because shakespeare didn't care

about the spelling of his own name

* * *

tom verlaine does since he named himself

after the french 19th century poet

lover of rimbaud and long the keeper of

ol' rimbe's flame

* * *

oh what is in a name indeed

since mine is so generic a shopper would

pass it by unnoticed if it were sitting on a store shelf

* * *

still there is a beauty in the anon

i am the voice of seven billion

i am a voice of seven billion

* * *

there is that lot of us, as whitman said

and all so luscious

* * *

i make shit up and go on

Friday, January 13, 2012

how to disappear completely

i am an addictive walker. i used to be addicted to long bicycle rides. now my addiction is for long walks. often when i find a rhythm i lose track of where i am and even my movement. there is a danger in this because to not know where you are can make you vulnerable to, say for example, walking into a busy intersection and getting smooshed by a car. yet it is lovely to lose yourself in your gait. kinda like meditation. you are here, and you are at the same time elsewhere. the field of time, of presence, ceases, for a while. it is the best sort of getting lost. you are still you but you become something else, somewhere else, when time turns from something to endure and get thru and changes to a vast and narrow at once. not that time stops but that you become dimensional like time and experience it as wondrous pleasure. every step is an additional increment toward an alternative creation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


i pretend to be a buddhist monk

i want to shave my head

but afraid of what i might find hiding


* * *

reading jose kozer

i too am more or less a middle-class poet

who took a shower today

who prefers health

and a happy marriage

* * *

in the produce section tonight

as i was scanning the tomatoes

an older lady says to me

oh! you look like jon huntsman!

he's so handsome

do you know who he is?

he's running for president

he's married and has seven kids

* * *

i persist

i write the next line

and the next line

and the next line

Monday, January 09, 2012

the tao of grocery shopping

i am -- we are, i'm guessing -- creatures of habit. i was watching henry rollins do his spoken word thing a few nights ago and he had this bit about grocery shopping. he shops like me. or rather i recognized my own habits in his spiel.

you see i usually stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. i walk past the supermarket anyway. i pick up what we need in small bundles. whatever i can carry home with my own two hands. which means that i am a pretty fast shopper and i buy the same shit every time. so does rollins when he bitched about people who are slow and linger over items while they are standing in the middle of the aisle and blocking your way lingering over a can of peas like it was an ancient artifact dug out of the sands of egypt.

which is proof of my own habits. i'm sure the clerks who if they don't know me personally can tell a lot about the contents of my cart. which rarely varies. i don't mind shopping. i have a few friends who hate grocery shopping. i know what i need for the family and i can get to it in a speedy manner.

still i've long thought that shopping for need, such as buying food, is a kind of art. maybe even a spiritual exercise. if we are what we eat then surely we are the also the sum of the items we put into our grocery carts. and if you're like me than that cart usually holds the same things for each visit to the supermarket.

could be another subject for writing. recall ginsberg's 'A Supermarket in California' where the beat poet meets up with the good grey poet, ginsberg's spiritual father. if that don't sound too far-fetched and i'm guessing that it is not. since we all have to live in the world and make do with it however we can. a suite of poems about grocery shopping? why not. because food shopping is an individual and collective activity with its own codes and signs. like language. each day i go to the store is another line written over the line of the previous visit. a palimpsest of behaviors encoded, mapped and drawn over each time we try, each day we visit , sharing in that most intimate portions of ourselves because we are what we buy.

Friday, January 06, 2012

the language of drugs

it's no secret that that pharmaceutical leviathan has appropriated all sorts of media to sell their products. they've been shilling their chemicals in print publications for many, many years. they are on the web, but a relatively recent phenomenon is their tv commercials. any student of pop culture and media would find this new development, tv commercials for prescription medications, fascinating. we've all seen the adds for erectile dysfunction and depression. everything onscreen is sunny, warm and the actors are all well-adjusted and happy after their prescriptions got from their doctors after the patients asked for these drugs by name.

it's not the language of advertising that i find interesting. writers have appropriated that grammar for some time. rather it is the language of the risks tasking these drugs. because in these ads must be disclosed potential risks in taking these medicines, including the risk of what is not-so-euphemistically called 'a fatal event'. i'm not down-playing the need for these drugs. i am interested in the language used in marketing these chemicals and the language marketers use in relaying the risks involved in taking these medicines.

for if this is indeed the post-capitalist society [i really don't know what that means, even tho i hear it used often enough] then nearly everything has a potential market value and thus there is a language to sell it. including those items that was once rather private and maybe even sacrosanct because the old language for prescriptions was privileged between physician and patient. thems were the old days. now these prescriptions are marketed to us in a big way.

i'm getting off track. the language of risk and the selling of that risk in tv commercials i find worthy of study and might well be put to good use in poetry. you know the words i mean like 'consult your physician if your skin starts peeling off and you begin to see in purple' and 'some users of y experienced polka-dot sight' and 'some users of y experienced a fatal event. if this should occur to you consult your physician'. that sort of thing. it's the tone of the marketer and the absurdity of some of those risk factors i think can be fruitful in writing. the language of drugs is also the language of the market and is too the language of adverts.

but how to use in poems. well now how indeed. i'd imagine jonathan swift, were he alive and writing today, going to town. i recall a poem by polish poet ryszard krynicki that used the tone and language of a tv quiz show. i remember that being a pretty good example of life in the post-, or post-post, modern age. now matter what the age there is always it seems an excessive level of absurdity in our cultures. for writers there appears no shortage of work.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

small chunk of black

imagine your way in
to summer '77 nyc
when the city goes
mad from bankruptcy
garbage piled high
son of sam on the hunt

go one imagine it
as you step off
the train in
to what you might
think is the lost world
found again just for you

one could dream, right
because your 10 years old
chump and the toughest thing
you have is a switchblade comb
bought in a joke shop
strum your lyre boy

odysseus is laughing to the gods
you think you're
the star of an exploitation movie
played at half speed
on a stained screen at the deuce
the soundtrack recorded on mars

Monday, January 02, 2012

quote unquote

Zombie Tip:

Remember that YOU have the power to change the world.

Not in any real, meaningful, geopolitical way, of course. But if you're willing to scale things back just a bit, you'll see that real change is possible when you work on a one-to-one (brain-to-brain) level.

--scott kenemore [The Zen of Zombie (Better Living Through the Undead), fall river press; 2007]