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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Minus the Hovercraft: Father of Noise by Anthony McCann

Have I said yet that you must purchase Father of Noise by Anthony McCann? Well, you must. It is chockfull of "church diction" and rayguns and aliens (in both senses). It's an urbane cousin to Maurice Manning's Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions dipped in James Dickey, tinted with just a drop or two of Stevens's kookier colorings, feathered by the white chicken escaped from WCW's coop, possessed of the breath of a Denis-Johnson bender and plenty of jazzy blow. Accurate? I don't know, but it feels close.

Here, I'll type in a poem for you (or a sequence, really) and you can see better what I mean. (That's a not-lazy activity. I am trying to shake this slouch.) Then some notes.



Before money and California;

before the state of Massachusetts

there was a river and it had a name.

Another moseey indian-sounding name.

Woodlands Indian.

There was a river and it loved the land.

The land was rich with whatever land

is rich with, vitamins and minerals I guess.

But then it was scraped away, into the river,

with imported tools, by incompetent invaders

who were cruel and stupid

and filled the land with package stores

and the towns grew and grew around them.

And into this land I was born.

Or so it is said. All I want to tell here Lord

is that I do no know where I really came from

when I was born into this life.

But I was content to suck.

And so I grew to the next stage.


I could call this a revolt.

This next stage.

I don't remember when it started.

I could call it Woburn.

Or I could call it Braintree.

What I remember is that boredom,

its shape. I have driven

that car. But this was one time

I was in love--this was before California.

This was after Panama

but before the Gulf.

I had a brand new pair

of excellent boots and

I drove my car fast

along the river's curves.

Forgive me Lord, I didn't know

what I was really like.


There was a young woman from another state who in my youth I mistreated. We said angry and sappy things as youths will do because we thought we understood our tongue. There are no photographs of us. But take it that she was an unattractive girl and I was an unattractive boy. Together we did unattractive things. Until then I had imagined that I was kind; a somehow wounded young man. I don't remember what actors I admired. But then I discovered arrogance and cruelty and silence in particular and she went back to her boyfriend a small and truly kind boy who played the acoustic guitar. I went and stood on the edge of a frozen parking lot on the edge of that city where the city gives way and the liquor gives way to an empty Taco Time and the death of all enthusiasm. I had some other friends with me, they were asleep in the car and, Lord, I thought they all looked retarded.

received wisdom

Once there was a boy

who wouldn't look up

or he wouldn't look down

I can't remember

and in his mouth he held

a precious stone

He was a stupid boy

The End

Or once there was a boy

who lived all alone in the world

except for his friend

Mr. Egg

And he got what he deserved

and the next stage

And the next stage

is California.


The coast was covered in fog

as I came up over

the ridge in our car

listening to a sad

and triumphant

California song.

I was some kind

of superstar, pissing

in the parking lot

over the Pacific

near the RV's.

What else

can I say?

I came here

searching for you,

through the

interior, dry like a mouth.

Subsisting on bagles

and dope.

And I drove on

into the city, where I went amongst them.

I examined their flesh

and found it to be weak.

Pushed to a certain wall,

my arms and legs

bent to their pleasure,

I expired at dawn.

Giving up the ghost, this body and breath, up

into the cruel blue air.

Beginning again, naked and curled,

in a stranger's bed.

"Confessions" is not the only poem addressed to the Lord. The attitudes of prayer throughout Father of Noise permit McCann's occasional archaisms (like "amongst" here) while alliterations and assonances ring hearty internal chimes (pissing/Pacific, parking lot/RVs, cruel/curled, giving/ghost, body/breath). The heightened diction is interrupted with little gasps of slangy air (as in that hilarious and adolescent final word in "Lord, I thought / they all looked retarded"). Ending the final section "in a stranger's bed" echoes nicely the friends sleeping in the car where everything gives way to "the death of enthusiasm." If you didn't grow up in a dry "blue-law" county, this image may be lost on you, but trust me, it's dead on: Just past the city limits lie the liquor stores amid an ever-changing spangle of boom-then-bust businesses. Then nothing.

In "Walk and Missive," McCann translates a Korean version (the poem is set in Seoul) of Williams's red wheelbarrow scene on which still so much depends: "...back in the neighborhood / the local children are dragging the chicken. / This involves a tricycle, a length of pink ribbon, / and one four-year-old with all the enthusiasm of the world / required to counter the pure reluctance of chicken." It's no accident that "enthusiasm" is pops up again in this poem--just as "cruelty" and "pleasure" and "noise" play throughout the book. McCann's noise is verbal, visual, and spiritual. It can be enthusiastic (America's an idea about milk / Conceived in a bright sweet machine), pleasurable (O my heart, manic mudskipper), cruel (I will people Nebraska with tight lips and cold. / With the silence of kitchens at night following domestic violence), or just plain noise ("Pfft" is the sound / of my karate kick / in empty space).

It's surely the dramatic monologues and the prayers and "Oh Lords," but I sniff Berryman here too and Jeffers, and it's powerful stuff, though thank god McCann displays more humor than the crank in the tower. I mentioned the spaceman before and haven't yet explained that he functions as a mask for the "foreigner" or immigrant, particularly through the section called "Empire State." In "Jack" a new arrival seems to be taking notes: "Jack is a Large American Man of a Typical Brand. He is like a Helicopter or he is like an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. His entire body is covered in hair." In "Experience" the new arrival has graduated to explorer and journalist: "I attempt to describe it here for the journal I will publish upon returning to the angry and colorless city of my birth. It is shapeless, and yet its meat seems firm, with eyes unlike any creature...." And by the time we reach "Report from the Surface," the foreigner is not just not-American, he's downright otherworldly:

You do not understand but

I have been to the other side and

part of me is not here, here

in this parking lot, on this planet

with the parking meters like stray hairs.


...On this planet

with the wird thing bubbling

just beneath the surface. All that we can do

is to stand here in our too-tight suits with the insignia.


Call me Visitor.

Or maybe the visitor, by this time, is the reader--I suspect some kind of switcheroo. When we peep at the future in "My People" we find ourselves "in our apartment complexes / smoking cigarettes in our Teflon suits / while admiring ourselves." Come to think of it, that sounds pretty close to what we're doing right now, minus the hovercraft.

Now, unwrap them gift certificates and get thee to yer local indie.

I have the lingering lazies...

and I can tell because I am designing Elsie the Cow stationery for my mom instead of working. Or, like, doing the laundry. Or typing up more reading notes. Or working on Spooky. Or, um, making chili.

But I did finish The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and hopped gleefully into Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last night. I'm even too lazy to wonder why one title has "the" and not the other. But it does.

Small Spiral Notebook fundraiser...

"January 13, 2004 7PM at The Magnetic Field. Please join authors Sara Gran (Come Closer), Krista Madsen (Degas Must Have Loved a Dancer), Rebecca Donner (Sunset Terrace) along with emerging talents: Felicia C. Sullivan, Tara Wray & Adam Greenbaum to raise funds for the auspicious online journal’s print edition. Raffle prizes, performances & more! $10 Suggested Donation. Magnetic Field, 97 ATLANTIC AVE BROOKLYN NY (718) 834-0069."

Plenty of notice...

for my upcoming reading at WordsWorth in Cambridge, MA next month with Gina Myers. Saturday, January 31 at 5:00 p.m.


is being stupid.

Breaker, breaker...

More on line breaks over at Katey's place as K chats with Antonio.

Sunday, December 28, 2003




'nother niece



I'm reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer too. I plucked it from my Mom's antique book collection after I finished Savage Beauty. The only other viable option (in the particular mood of the day) was Robinson Crusoe, which I put back after I found that it had been "modernized" for the 1925 reader. Ew.

Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Read Nancy Milford's biography of "Vincent" over the holiday. Absorbing, though somehow not as much fun as Gooch's City Poet: The Life & Times of Frank O'Hara or Atlas's Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet despite all the gossip surrounding Millay. I hate the title, though I realize A Lovely Light or similar wouldn't have been much better. Millay's lines suffer out of context.

Millay's college-career mischief was delightful. (She was almost prohibited from graduating with her class at Vassar because she'd snuck away to see the opera. My ass, in similar confinement, woulda been grass.) Her legendary love affairs were indeed often steamy. Her relationships with her sisters also fascinated: Norma, the middle sis, became her executor and controlled the release of material for the biography with a rather tight hand, while Katherine, the youngest, competed with Vincent's literary fame and lost by a landslide, much to K's eternal bitterness. Most remarkable were the charts Vincent and her husband Eugen kept to track their morphine addictions. I've never seen anything like them--though George Perec's obsessive foodstuffs inventory comes close, it lacks the sinister, stomach-turning nature of these odd documents.

For all her reputation as a fiesty, independent, redheaded "New Woman," I was a bit disappointed in her relationships Vincent displayed a push-pull attitude that belied her deep insecurities. She was a needy lover and high-maintenance friend, and counted too much importance on her seductive abilities. On the other hand, she could be generous in her praise and strong in her support of fellow artists, patient with the (emotional and especially financial) demands of her family, and loyal (if not faithful) in marriage. She was driven and ambitious and fairly clear-eyed about the use and extents of her talent. While she was sometimes arrogant, she also strived to please her audiences (which were HUGE) because she genuinely wanted to delight them.

Plenty of poetry throughout too, though the repetition of a few well-known verses got on my nerves, and I wished I'd had the collected poems alongside as well. Annoyed by Milford's own presence in the book--she quotes from conversations she had during the course of her research with Norma and Norma's husband and slips into first-person narrative more than I liked. But those are niggling points.

Nearing the end of the book on Christmas Eve, I holed up in my borrowed bedroom. When I emerged at last to the delight of the extended family, sis asked "How was it?" "Well, it was a biography, so she died in the end. Kind of a bummer."

Loaded Gun...

A week and a half ago or thereabouts I saw Loaded Gun: Life & Death & Dickinson. The filmmaker subjects ED to interpretations by psychologists (who diagnose her as agoraphobic, nymphomaniac, and depressive, among other things), professors (one a granola-crunching multi-culti feminist and the other a bearded stuffed shirt who piously pooh poohs while flashing elbow patches), a genuine biographer (fond and solidly grounded in the facts though a bit possessive), a historical impersonator or "living character" (who works in costume during a themed-for-tourists brunch service), and a slew of auditioning actresses (a stunning variety of teen, tween, and has-been gals here). The resulting views of Emily range from absurd to almost-hey-maybe-that-could-be-right. Recommended.

Back from Texas. Might post a few photos. Never donned a coat the whole week.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Friday night reading...

Wow! The first issue of Call:Review is great. Get yours now.

Dear Poet:

Sorry--it's a very strong MS--RW




Hi Shanna--

Turn to p. 13

and there you are!






48-hour poem...

[time's up.]

Blog Rollicious links just got tastier...

I've added several new blogs to the ranks at right, including two blogs whose owners I'm unable to identify by name. As always, if you'd like to be here and are not, just holler. It's likely I just haven't chanced upon you yet or forgot to create a bookmark.

A thread afloat lately a subthread of which is exclusion in Blogsphere. Funnily enough, some of the people lamenting don't include links to anybody else in their own space. I guess it's not a stated blogpolicy, but it seems like most bloggers follow a reciprocal rule.

Blogger ate my top ten list of yesterday--and that's okay with me. Top tens are difficult. I have committment issues.

But since the post disappeared and Josh is also having Blogger trouble, I resaved my template this morning. Just in case. (Select all, then copy & paste into an MSWord doc. You'll be glad you did!)

Paul Klee, Keith Richards, Felicia Sullivan & Shanna Compton walk into a bar...

I knew about Keith Richards and Felicia, but somehow missed the Klee coincidence until yesterday. It's funny, because I did a "self-portrait" poem of myself as a Klee drawing once. It's the second one here. (Click POETRY tab to find me.)

Ok, enough with the birthday related self-absorbtion already.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Felicia today too!

Also in my inbox...

The Miseries of Poetry. I think it may have been there awhile, but I just found it! Life is good.


I just found Long Nose Pinocchio Bitch in my mailbox! Yippee!

And yesterday, David gave me a copy of his poem "Letters to Young Poets" from Teachers & Writers Magazine. Look! I'm there in the last stanza. How exciting.

The phone is ringing: I've won some fabulous prize.

Nope, just the exterminator.

But still!

It's my birthday today.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I felt the same way...

as Josh when I finally heard the headlines yesterday afternoon. I was rushing around trying to get the chapbook poems printed out for the reading before I headed over to Shortwave, so I never clicked on the news. Usually we grumble at a few of the pundit shows before refreshing ourselves with litchacha.

After the reading, Robert Lasner was expressing his regret that we'd now probably have the Unelected Idjit in office for another almost-half-a decade and I looked quizzical. He broke the news. A befuddling rush of conflicting emotions.

Anyway, many thanks for coming out yesterday, y'all. The final Frequency was a lot of fun. Tom has that dang flu we've all had, so we missed him. But we asked Chris to read in his place and he did some of the Percapella collaborations, and Dan read new poems from GSMQII (you heard me!) and some other stuff.

The few copies of Down Spooky I made up were just li'l EPs--but I did make my goal after all to read ALL NEW POEMS, so I'm pleased with myself. The LP verison will be available in January...I want to take the holidays to stew on those great titles some more. Digging it.

And can I just remind y'all here, while I'm thinking of it, to breathe deeply and often despite the so-called holiday madness? I love going home to Texas to see my family, but I'm leaving on Saturday and already I'm making mile-long to-do lists that I know are impossible. (And blogging at 6:30 AM.) In. Out. In. Out.

Dear everybody...

Thank you for all the amazing donations of books, magazines, time, money, energy, and talent you gave to make the benefit for Todd, Elizabeth & Melissa a big rocking success! Whether you were able to attend in person or not, you should know that your caring HAS made a difference and that all were heartened by such a show of goodness.

We raised about $1400 last night and a few spirits besides! THANKS so much!

Friday, December 12, 2003

Wallace Stevens in a letter to his genealogist...

"It might do you a world of good to spend a little time in New York after Labor Day, getting a complete change of ideas. They are so much cheaper than hats and clothes and shoes, and yet they make just as much difference."


not squawking. Squawk Box seems to be down. And why is squawk so difficult to spell?!

And the winner is...

Down Spooky.

And on that note


I still call them "church shoes"...

"Religion makes one shutter. Religion makes me shudder. Even in America where statistics show consistently a huge percentage of th’inhabitants believe in Something Big up there helping us Timid Little Ordinary Ones down here grow our Perfect Cabbages, even in America I never believe anybody except Wallace Stevens actually goes to church. Went." --John Latta (see Thursday, December 11, toward the end of the post. His archive links don't work.)

Stephens went to church, notably St. Patick's Cathedral in New York--but mostly when it was empty, if I recall correctly. He referred to himself as an "old dried-up Presbyterian" and asserted that "loss of faith is growth." "Sunday Morning" is "an expression of paganism" or "naturalistic religion as an alternative to supernaturalism." He referred to the idea that "the enternal God is thy refuge" as "a potent illusion" on which he might depend if he lived "in one of the smaller communties." But he had fond memories of watching the organist at Sunday School, and remembered his Sunday shoes and the oysters afterward. The priest who attended him on his deathbed says he converted to Catholocism just before finally succumbing to his cancer, but his daughter denies it.

My whole hometown is literally church/gas station/strip mall/motel/church/gas station/strip mall/motel etc. with the occasional lumber yard studding the mix. The newspaper runs a daily bible verse at the bottom of the front page (See it? It's still there!) As a young kid, especially if you live in the boonies, church is one of the rare social opportunities to see your friends outside of school, and there's usually a good meal after it. We had a gym, a basketball court, a racketball court, an air hockey table, and were too young to go to bars (not that there were any in our dry county) or do anything unsupervised. The youth rec center was free--even cheaper than the Taco Bell parking lot. But by high school, we'd mostly all dumped church and were hanging out in corn fields or climbing the water towers.

I like a church, when there's nobody there. The architecture of churches. Appreciation for what I'd call "church diction," especially of the Southern Baptists (um, not that I AGREE with them). My pawpaw was a preacher. But as for religion, I agree about the shuddering.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

You might be thinking it...

but at Lost in Queens, she's saying it. Hee ha hoo.

Poets Helping Poets: Benefit for Todd Colby, Elizabeth Zechel & Melissa Piechucki

Sunday, December 14 at 8:00

On November 19, a fire on Monitor Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn destroyed the home and possessions of Soft Skull poet Todd Colby, his wife Elizabeth Zechel, and their neighbor and friend Melissa Piechucki. Please join us for a great night of music and poetry to help them create a new home!

Bowery Poetry Club

308 Bowery (across from CBGBs)

New York, NY

Suggested donations at the door: $5, $10, $25, $50, $100. Plus $2 raffle tickets to win pairs of tickets from the Joyce Theater, the Bowery Poetry Club, CDs, books and more!

MUSIC by: Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, Rebecca Moore, Matthew Wascovich & Brian Straw with Todd Colby, Alice B. Talkless, Tobi Joi!

READINGS by: Hal Sirowitz, Maggie Estep, John S. Hall, Brendan Lorber, Sharon Mesmer, Regie Cabico, Cat Tyc, David Cameron, Lisa Miller, Karen Randolf, T. Cole Rachel, Brenda Coultas, Marcella Durand, Anne Elliot, Daniel Nester, Justin Theroux, Michael Portnoy & Marrianne Vitale of the Yogurt Boys, Edwin Torres, Dana Bryant, Celena Glen, Tracey McTague, Thad Rutowkski, Dawn Saylor, and Jo Ann Wasserman!

SPONSORS/DONATORS: Soft Skull Press, Bowery Poetry Club, Gammon Records & Jordan Trachtenberg, Slow Toe Publications, 3AM Magazine, Skanky Possum Press, Boog City, Lungfull!, Ugly Duckling Presse, Arthur Magazine, LIT, Unpleasant Event Schedule, Call:Review (John Most), Pagan Place Zine (Merry Fortune), Eric Baus, Eileen Tabios, Joshua Beckman, Noah Eli Gordon, Susan Mills, Poetz.com/NYC Poetry Calendar, St. Mark's Poetry Project, Kitty Magik Magazine, Tish Benson, and Butcher Shop Press!

Great books and zines will be on sale! All proceeds go directly to Todd, Elizabeth & Melissa!

If you are a small press or magazine and would like to donate copies to sell, contact shanna at softskull dot com.

To donate before the event, contact shanna at softskull dot com. Monetary donations, checks and gift certificates in Todd, Elizabeth, or Melissa's names will be accepted and are most welcome! Donations via credit card will also be accepted via the Bowery Poetry Club.

To make a donation on behalf of the other families affected by the fire, contact the NY Red Cross.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Congrats, Dan!

That is just cute.

Slicing the pie?

I just saw a long segment on CNN with the headline "IRAQ: Slicing the Pie." I wish it were a joke. And we've actually banned contractor bids from countries who "didn't support the war."


And I'm NOT like Tigger...

Yet another Shanna Compton has surfaced. I love it. See comment box to the "Problem solved" post below.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Problem solved...

"they should issue everyone / flame throwers. everyone / could melt the hell out of the snow," says Carl.

Reading on Sunday...

So I'm reading (from the new as yet still untitled chapbook) with Daniel Nester and Tom Hopkins for the FINAL FREQUENCY at 2:00 on Sunday, December 14. Afterwards, we'll head over the the Brooklyn Inn, naturally.

It's been great to meet so many of you recently, and of course we'd love to see you again. BUT, if you can only go to one reading on Sunday, please do consider the benefit for Todd Colby, Elizabeth Zechel & Melissa Piechucki. These lovely poets and painters could really use your help! Details for that one above!

Friday, December 5, 2003

Snow or no snow...

please come out on Sunday to hear Dara Wier & Jordan Davis read stellar poems with special guest Christian Bok! Details here and a map here.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

What do you call Santa's helpers?

Subordinate clauses.

From my mom. Usually her jokes are dirty.

Noisemakers & funny hats...

Of the holidays, my personal favorite is New Year's, after all this other crap is over with. A big happy party with toasts to days gone by. Promises to do better be better write more next year. It's a heady cocktail of self-improvement and debauchery. And you can wear a tiara if you want to.

Why don'tcha pick up the latest BOOG City to read my occasional poem "Ecstasy for Guy Lombardo"? It's out now.

BOOG City 12 features: Columnist-at-large Greg Fuchs interviewing Major Douglas Martin, Chief Officer of Santa Tracking at NORAD; East Village Editor Merry Fortune on the neighborhood she's known and the Whole Earth Bakery; B. Friday reviewing Jim Flynn's Stranger to the System, a collection of minibiographies of some homeless people living in and around Tompkins Square Park; Nancy Seewald's Eating Well on a Lousy But Steady Income on Lil Frankie's; Music editor Jon Berger on the Domestics debut CD and what CDs to give your loved ones for the holidays (by artists whose CDs there's no chance they already own; Steve Carll on Continuous Peasant's debut CD; Small press editor Jane Sprague on Dana Ward's Cy Press; and the Printed Matter section, edited by Joanna Sondheim, debuts with Eugene Lim on Toby Olson's The Blond Box, Jill Magi on Yedda Morrison's Crop, Kathleen Peterson on Robert Duncan's Letters: Poems 1953-1956, and Corey Frost on Gail Scott's My Paris; poems from Shanna Compton, John Erhardt, Dan Fisher, Gigi Oliver, and Robert Paredez; art from Brenda Iijima; and the December installment of the NYC Poetry Calendar! Wow...

Wednesday, December 3, 2003


Ann actually made the Columbia World of Quotations with that one.

Here she is on her motorcycle. She was on the cover of Texas Monthly on it too.

More on Texas Talk at Language Hat...

The article Ben Basan directed me to about Texas English (in a comment box below) has generated several comments over at Language Hat.

By saying that Texas English is associated with idiocy, Nick J (whom I don't know, but who commented there) unfortunately highights the assumption that led me, as a native Texan (and natural blond, which carries its own stigma of airheadedness!) to suppress my natural accent for years. Yeah, you kin still hear it...but you oughta hear it after I've had a few or when I'm home with muh momma and muh sisters. Hoo-wee, as they say.

I guess he's right. I agree that the unelected prez does not help matters, but I do like to point out that he was born, not in Texas, but Connecticut, and received most of his education outside the state. Much of his west-Texas cowboyism, is in fact, greatly exaggerated behavior. His swagger is an affectation, and I find it unnattractive and often downright infuriating. Of course, it's hard to separate these feelings from my politics. Ann Richards, on the other hand, who spoke of George Bush Sr. being born "with a silver foot in his mouth," among other bon mot treasures--now hers is a Texan English to aspire to.

I've learned to love the sound of Texas English, while remaining wary of the prejudices held by some--yes, perhaps even most--people who speak it. One hopes though, that as with other stereotypes, this Texas English fallacy (and similar conclusions about other Southern accents) doesn't prevent Texans and their hearers from concentrating on what they say, not how they say it.

I'm totally taken...

with all these taken titles. So many in fact, I'm afraid my chapbook may runneth over. Thanks, everyone! Recent gifts:

The Nicole Kidman Story

How She Almost Lost Her Australian Accent

Buying a Bra in Manhattan on a Brooklyn Budget

Buying a Brain in Brooklyn with a Larchmont Accent

Being a Bard with a Beard in Brooklyn

A Strange Little Girl in Sydney

One Strap Showing

The Phone of Contention

The Irony of the Holy Ghost

Irony is the Holy Ghost of the modern age said Scott Fitzgerald.

I don't want your pity she said I want a job.

That's touching, he said.

They were listening to John Coltrane on the 6:04 to Mt. Kisco.

Hooey Subvert’d Again

The Use and Abuse of Cat Doors

Under This Umbrella Is Another Umbrella

Unresolved Lighting Questions

I am woman, hear me pee

accidental nerve endings

a quiet case of sharpness

crib is where yo ass is

tender flankmeats

the further adventures of dusty horthswangle

will that be all, Mrs. Kickboxer?