Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
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.
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.
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
Or once there was a boy
who lived all alone in the world
except for his friend
And he got what he deserved
and the next stage
And the next stage
The coast was covered in fog
as I came up over
the ridge in our car
listening to a sad
I was some kind
of superstar, pissing
in the parking lot
over the Pacific
near the RV's.
can I say?
I came here
searching for you,
interior, dry like a mouth.
Subsisting on bagles
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.
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.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
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."
Back from Texas. Might post a few photos. Never donned a coat the whole week.
Friday, December 19, 2003
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!)
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
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.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Monday, December 15, 2003
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.
We raised about $1400 last night and a few spirits besides! THANKS so much!
Friday, December 12, 2003
"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."
"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
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
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
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
Thursday, December 4, 2003
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
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.
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
the further adventures of dusty horthswangle
will that be all, Mrs. Kickboxer?