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Friday, September 30, 2005

At last!

A Google searcher seeking "spooky poems."

Breakfast, by the way...

...is what I shall make for you if you are housing us during the tour. Rise and shine, y'all. Because I am a whiz in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Scanning the illustrations...

...for an upcoming SSP book, and I just can't resist.

I still need to clean up the edges, but aren't these great? BIG thanks to Archie Rand.

I really really hope...

...to meet this goat in Georgia.

Friday & Saturday...

we'll be packing and getting on the road, so I'm gonna miss this. But you should go.

A Benefit for Hurricane Katrina [& Rita] relief efforts

Friday from 6:00 PM at the Bowery Poetry Club
Saturday from 1:00 PM at the Poetry Project at St. Marks Church

Performers include [at the BPC] Anti-Folk scene, Amiri and Amina Baraka, Marc Ribot, New Orleans poet Kalamu ya Salaam, Eric Bogosian, Dean Bowman, Bob Holman, Anne Waldman, Peter Stampfel, Sonny Boy, John Kruth, Suheir Hammad, Willie Perdomo, Reverend Jen, A Brief View of the Hudson, Kevin Powell, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, The Georgettes, Beau Sia, Taylor Mead, The Howl, Jose Angel Figueora, Ewuare Osayande, Wallace Rooney, the O'Debra Twins, Third Party (Say Word?!?), and Surf Burlesque hosted by Miss Angel Drake featuring Liz Maher, Sarabella, Nasty Canasta, Bunny Love, Belle Morte and Velocity Chylde, and [at the PoProj] Toni Morrison, Cecil Taylor, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dael Orlandersmith, Anne Waldman, Denize Lauture, Suheir Hammad, Roger Kamenetz, Steve Cannon, Bill Martin, Eddie Bobé, Moira Crone, Hal Sirowitz, Patricia Spears Jones...and many more.

There's gonna be a book sale too, featuring donated books from a mess o' presses, including Soft Skull. Check both sites for more details!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My to-do list...

...is as long as I am tall.

If you need something from me before October 12, speak now kids. The slippage is astounding.

I think Jen & I will be able to report a bit from the road. Maybe not with photos tho. My laptop + dialup = $#%*&@!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005


Down Spooky is now available for purchase from Amazon!

You can also order it directly from Winnow.

Bookstores and libraries may order it from Baker & Taylor.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

REMINDER: Tonight!

(Click for larger view.)

The very first copies of Jen's book are coming from the printer this week arrived yesterday! Hope to see you there.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Go, Jason!

Jason Schneiderman is featured in Robert Pinksy's poetry column in the Washington Post. (If you can't click through, you'll have to set up a username/password.)

Good news & bad news

Good: Rita has been downgraded to a 3

Good: S's family is safely all out of the Beaumont area and creeping steadily toward the DFW area

Bad: Rita's turned east and is heading straight for their homes

If you are, like I am, sick-unto-loathing of those doomsday freaky CNNers and their ilk, maybe try the Weather Channel. They are slightly less punch-in-the-facey.

Or check out this meteorologist's (whose early resignation was just accepted by his network--so many talk shows, so little time!) site which explains in detail his theories concerning the Yakuza mafia, a Soviet secret weather machine, and weather-related catastrophes as "inside jobs."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dear Texas,

Brother-in-law, sister-in-law, their two kids, her mother and her grandmother evacuating now. Not sure about S's parents yet* or any of his uncles or grandparents. (S is in Chicago for work today but will be home this evening.) Technically, their towns (Kountze, Silsbee) lie just beyond the outer rim of the "at risk" area, even for a Category 5. They are north of the main flooding zone, above I-10. But that's too big a gamble.

My mom and my sister and her family are much further north (Arlington, Temple) and are not in any danger.

*UPDATE: S just got a message that his mom & her husband are heading for Dallas.*

*UPDATE: S's dad and stepmother are also heading north, probably to my mom's.*

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Walt Whitman's amazing expanding beard

I went to see this on my lunchbreak yesterday, because I am a sucker for manuscripts/handwritten letters/faded photos/ephemera and as a saint of the DIY, WW is a giant in my personal pantheon.

His cursive script is as expansive as his line, and I had to wonder if his training as a printer/typesetter and the 9 x 11 trim size (guestimate, I couldn't measure through the plexicubes) of the first several editions inspired or freed up his charateristic long line--"the longest lines of blank verse ever published to that date," according to the program. He ranged all over the page and very infrequently resorted to indenting a wrapped line--not something he could have done in a smaller book (and he designed most editions of the books himself, and all the frontispieces and title pages, covers, spines, bindings)--a physical consideration I'd not entertained before, but it occured to me immediately when I saw the books.

He never considered anything finished. Retitling. Rewriting. Pasting revised forewords, prefaces and new or rewritten poems right into his own copies of the printed and bound books. Layers and layers of them, pasted sheer sheets in shades of cream and brown. His inkings are sure, and even his penciled documents confidently scribbled. No hesitation in that hand. First words as bold as later crossings out.

His handwriting increased in size and flourish as he grew older. He wrote his mother letters of several pages, filled front and back, with inky meandering, boasting, and stories. Oh how the man could boast and bluster. A truly beautiful thing. And in the portraits how his beard grew and grew and grew.

In Elkton, Maryland, newspaper Whitman ran an ad that falsely claimed he'd been seated next to Abraham Lincoln on the night of the assassination, hoping to drum up a bigger audience for his Lincoln lecture that evening.

Whitman was the first to refer in writing to baseball as "the American sport." He loved the game.

In William D. O'Connor's copy of the 1855 edition, there's a penciled underline on page 29, beneath the line "The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer." And in the margin to the left, two penciled exclamation marks: !!

Other attractions include an original edition of Ulysses [comparitively yawny, I've seen the MSS in Texas (of all places wink)], some DH Lawrence MSS on Whitman, a terrific photo of Sylvia Beach & James Joyce once owned by the lady herself. Lowlight: a manic, annoying stage-whispering woman imploring her husband over and over and OVER for a credit card which he refused to relinquish. Walt stared her down from every wall and won.

Go see it.

Something by Sharon Olds I wish I wrote.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Austin alert

Oops. AWP 2006 slightly overlaps with the infamous SXSW music/film festival.

If you are going to the conference, and want a convenient room downtown, I'd book now. The Hilton still has rooms in the conference block as of this morning. A couple of other places I would have preferred are either all booked up or not accepting reservations this early (puzzling, but true).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Note to self:

Don't get me wrong. I love men. I like baseball. Even the spam has grown on me.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Note to self:

Psst! You're paying attention to all the wrong things!


In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman [I got through all of "West" on vacation and have been slower due to so many interruptions since I got back, just entering "East." And here is what I want to know: Why in my 10 yrs of formal literature/writing education I was never assigned this book rather than the freaking Norton for the 10th time? Huh?]

My Life by Lyn Hejinian. [See question above.]

The Manikin by Joanna Scott [A gothicky romance in the gothicky romance tradition, but with her own stamp. A creepy old mansion filled with eccentric millionaire dames, quirky subversive servants, lots and lots of freaky taxidermied animals including a totemic snowy owl, and young gothicky romantic ladies flirting with the love that dare not speak its name and overcome with a parallel desire to be modern. Not as taken with this one so far as by her Fading, My Parmacheene Belle but here, too, her sentences are wonders. Sniffy little scents of Henry James.]

The Best American Poetry 2005

And I just finished Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. [I enjoyed it greatly, though the contortions to which he had to resort because of his decision to use only nameless characters were kinda grating. And it was not as asskicking as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, if you will permit me such a hifalutin critical term.]

Friday, September 16, 2005


I have reluctantly resigned from my beloved indie press, for which I simply do not have enough time and attention to spare anymore. I will always be a Soft Skuller in my heart, but officially, I will just be finishing up the books I have already started and am privileged to work on: debut poetry books by CAConrad, Ron Palmer, Danielle Pafunda, Jennifer L. Knox--all of which are just almost out--and two collaborative projects with enough poetry all-stars to make your head spin. (We're, sigh, they're doing an American edition of Christian Bok's Eunoia next spring, too, so it won't be 25 bucks to import from Canada anymore, hooray.) Then it's on to new projects. I'm not saying what...yet.

I hope you will all continue to support SSP's brave, essential, culture-broadening indie projects in fiction, political nonfiction, memoir, children's books, and the little bit of insanely excellent poetry the press will continue to contribute to the scene!

Update: This means, actually, that I will still be working for SSP as an editor at large until sometime next year, through the publication of Saints of Hysteria.


Some of you may have noticed a retardation of the once rapid rate of reading reportage here at the blog formerly and still sometimes known as Brand New Insects. There are several reasons for this, one being I have been too busy to go to many lately, another being the summer season is traditionally slight for such events, and another being an uncomfortable scrutinizing of reported events, the fishbowl or big picture window effect.

So I was gonna report on the Tarpaulin Sky reading I saw last weekend but then didn't. I was gonna say how I enjoyed all of the readers, particularly the amazing Mrs. Staples who read a poem with an epigraph from one of my poems and what a blush-pooling-in-the-dimples wonderful surprise that was and Michael Gottlieb's long catalog-copy list poem re: September 11, 2001 which took a thread of American consumerism and teased it into an actual emotional tangle. It was an object object object chant until some human beings human being human beings got collated in toward the end. I was choked up by catalog copy! The kind I write everyday!

I was not going to report on the reading last night since everybody knows who was there and nothing "off-book" happened but might as well. Everybody read the one poem in the volume except Ashbery who read his contribution as well as one new unpublished poem that I think I would have enjoyed had I not been busy thinking "I'm next I'm next I'm next." It was a lovely evening, despite an attack of nerves. Apparently the larger the group of poets the more panicky I feel and this is perhaps, in addition to the availability of social lubricants on tap, why I prefer venues like Pete's or the Four-Faced Liar. Still, a wonderful occasion, very ceremonious if somewhat chilly and luckily I had Jason Schneiderman (and his poem "Moscow") to snuggle and Paul Muldoon could read the telephone book and make it sound like a best American poem. He read Donald JUSTICE's weird little poem and it's a weird little poem. Edward Field's poem about his prostate brought down the house. The audience totally loved Stacey Harwood's poem "Contributor Notes" and told her so. Susan Wheeler impersonated her mother. Speaking of mothers, Vicki Hudspith, reading her poem "Ants," looked like a younger version of mine who is gorgeous and that's a frivolous thing to say, but I can't help remarking. Matthew Yeager's poem about a very large ball of foil was terrific and my nonpoet sister's favorite. I could only see the top of Marilyn Hacker's glasses over the podium from where I was sitting in the front row. A small personal posse went with me out for Mexican after skipping further officiousness. I regret not getting my book signed by everyone but there's only so much a girl can manage while doing her best not to pass out or slip on her new heels (like she did outside of the 4th floor restroom) in front of American Poetry. Jennifer Michael Hecht is glowing, so you know what that means, and she said she knows Anthony Bourdain, another of my chef crushes so he knows I gotta thing for him because I admitted it in my backofbook note.

And also I went to see the Million Poems show this week, but you should read Drew's report. Drew left out that we had planned in advance to go all Jerry Springer and I was supposed to cry on cue and maybe throw a chair. I thought Jordan's tale of circling round and round Ithaca but being unable to reach it was quite simply mythological. Oh, and my curse word was "c*ntweeds" but that's not actually my favorite. That's a secret. [expurgated]'s was "d*uchebag." Somebody wrote "pigf*cker" and another person wrote "c*oter" which Jordan didn't seem to know was the same as "p*ssy"--I think it must be regional, I have only heard one other person say this. One of Anselm's onthespot lines was something like "I was so upset by having to write a line containing the word 'c*nt'...[long pause]...that I thought of [expurgated]." And I have to agree about Leslie Mendelson and wonder why I didn't buy her CD and spend all night reminiscing about the old days in my room singing along to Olivia Newton John whom I then wanted to grow up to be so much that I saw Grease 14 times.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Last night

Launch reading & celebration for The Best American Poetry 2005
Hosted by guest editor Paul Muldoon & series editor David Lehman

With readings by Shanna Compton, Elaine Equi, Edward Field, Leonard Gontarek, George Green, Marilyn Hacker, Matthea Harvey, Stacey Harwood, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Vicki Hudspith, Sarah Manguso, D. Nurkse, James Richardson, Jerome Sala, Jason Schneiderman, Susan Wheeler & Matthew Yeager

Tishman Auditorium
New School University
66 West 12th Street
7:00 PM

UPDATE: The event is free for New School faculty, staff & STUDENTS with IDs.

Also, I just heard that Mary Karr and a special surprise guest whose name rhymes with Fawn Lashtarry will also be reading.

I will be onstage for approximately a minute and a half, so please don't worry if you can't make it. I promise you will get SICK of hearing me read this fall. :)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Across Sick





Note to self:

Every statement is a manipulation.

Moral outrage is exaggerated self-confidence.


There seems to be some kink in the supply line. And not the fun kind of kink.

In other news, happy anniversary to the robot, my favoritest blog.

In other news, the news is still unbearable and people do keep running their mouths.

In other news, I went to a fantastic reading this weekend. And forget that silly stuff I said here earlier about why I'm not blogging about it.

But, upward, onward, oh up on on.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Representative Faker

"We finally
cleaned up
public housing
in New Orleans.

We couldn't do it,
but God did."1

Frequency, now more frequent for fall than it was when it was off for the summer!

The fall Frequency Series kicks off TODAY. Tarpaulin Sky presents Robyn Art, Jen Benka, Michael Gottlieb, Heidi Lynn Staples!

And please bookmark the new site and welcome Sam Amadon as Shafer's new co-host!

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Poem Beginning with a Line by Tom Beckett

[time's up]

A decade in NYC

Next month will be the tenth anniversary of the big move. We flew an airline that has since fallen bankrupt from Austin to New York City on a crisp day in mid-October. My little sister and her boyfriend moved up from Dallas last week and while watching them navigate the torturous process of what we call acclimating to the city I can't help but think of our own first weeks here, their age and even less prepared with no family here, just a couple of friends and a mere pittance to live on while we interviewed at job after job, rented ourselves out as waiters and bartenders, were bumped from crosswalks by cabbies, schelpped books for a certain behemoth chain, lived in a tenement apartment on the lower east side with a toilet in a closet a bathtub in the kitchen and a nonworking oven with a warning tag from the gas company. Much less glamorous down there than it is these days: the pellet gun to the window I received as payback for a flip remark to a teenage neighbor I threw my Collected Auden at him but he only laughed oh and the heroine hooker on the doorstep. Yes. New York. I hated you then you made me cry and I hated you worse when you began to snow and snow and snow and the blizzard of nintey five covered everything with white until the dogs came to make their golden pissholes.

Oh city. Oh decade! Oh me.

Captured in a Caption

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Elected Despicable

didn't go
right? [Blink. Blink.]1


...to Janet & Eileen for pointing to the recent found poems. I can't believe some of the things that come out of these folks' mouths. The manner in which they [and really by "they" I mean all politicos and publicos, not just the hateful ones] empty and pervert words hurts my poet feelings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Give displaced kids books

Dick (without) Decorum

I mean,
you have people

who don't heed
those warnings

and then put people

at risk as a result
of not heeding those warnings.

There may be a need
to look at tougher penalties

on those who decide
to ride it out

and understand
that there are consequences

to not leaving.1

First (Class) Lady

Almost everyone I've talked to
says we're going to move
to Houston.

What I'm hearing--
which is sort of scary--
is they all want to stay in Texas.

Everyone is so
by the hospitality.

And so many of the people
in the arena here,
you know,

were underprivileged anyway,
so this--this heh heh--
is working very well for them.1

Monday, September 5, 2005


On the one hand,
they're just t1ts.

On the other hand,
they're just t1ts.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Jesus, people!

And I do mean that literally.

Yes, the Red Cross is technically a "faith-based" operation. But I really don't think now is the time to quibble about who believes what. Personally I don't give a damn. 95,000 107,400 (and counting) people are being sheltered and mostly fed, not preached to. Good enough for me. No doubt the Red Cross volunteers are praying--terrific. Who could possibly be offended by that?

There are certainly other organizations. The important thing is to help if you can, and to do it now. The NAACP has a hurricane relief fund, for instance [also there's toll-free number on their home page], and ACORN (which already does lots of good things for NOLA and other cities) has a direct donation link up now--but their local office has been destroyed and they themselves are refugees. Here's MoveOn.org's housing effort.

PS: F*ck Pat Robertson. I'm sure God is as baffled by him as the rest of us are.

It's the Humidity

The shuttered afternoon,
the slow desiccation of an espresso drop
on the countertop, its pep all lost.

Long vowels make this southern.
and the shadows, moist and literary,
secretive and suprascientific.

Marianne would discuss the fauna,
but I'm not gonna. It's enough
to sip this drink and await the flutter.

The shutters open.
The play lets out.
And the captivated once again

condense around
the bright wet points
of late day.

[Another one set in New Orleans from Down Spooky. I'm posting these photos and poems as a way of communicating what I found special about New Orleans and as a sort of prayer that the city will recover eventually. Other words and images to absorb are plentiful right now, but it's helpful to me personally to balance those horrific scenes with others like these.

The rumors circulating about the Red Cross not being able to get into New Orleans have been confirmed by several sources. HOWEVER, they are housing about 95,000 people in about 250 shelters in surrounding areas of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, SO DONATIONS ARE STILL HELPING. If you haven't yet, and can afford as little as the $5 minimum donation, please visit redcross.org and ask your company to match it.]

Here is New Orleans

Ken Foster has set up this blog to collect original art, stories, etc. about New Orleans. Send your poems, photographs, essays, and stories to hereisneworleans at gmail dot com.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Commander in Grief

"The good news is--
and it's hard for some
to see it now--
that out of this chaos
is going to come
a fantastic Gulf Coast,
like it was before.

Out of the rubbles
of Trent Lott's house--
he's lost his entire house--
there's going to be
a fantastic house.

And I'm looking forward
to sitting on the porch.

[The f*cker should be impeached immediately. Then he should be committed to a mental health institution suffering from a dearth of funds, preferably in Louisiana, because he is obviously insane.]

Friday, September 2, 2005

Thank Y'all for Appreciating My Animals

We know how she feels--her slanted
sidewalk, her white house, her
days of the week--and also
the way she walks talking, saying
nothing about n@sty exploit3d te3ns.
Her teens were actually twenties;
they were matter-of-factly male. Here comes Evangeline.
Might as well call her Dulcinea
she's so sweet, so unItalian, so right.
and we should bear it in mind,
the architecture--it's Spanish, not French.

We're talking about there's a place
on his chin that does that to me.
The river
moves along hustled by riverbent light.
The slats in the bedroom let in
only enough to curve him like that,
you know?
The river slops out of its sides
like a dream you shouldn't tell.
And his lips, too, do this funny thing
when we're.
The river
mechanizes motion, liquid and solid
slapping in blocks and sliding columns,
like a tray of letters pushed
to the side. The river pretends
to be caressed by a breeze.

Did you see the black wings, I can't believe
you missed them.
The teens shimmy
out of their shirts if you let them.
Let's call her Dulcinea, the sweet one,
the ladylove, who speaks for all of us.
His hair is darker in the morning,
like coffee without anything in it,
it's not even wet.
She's the corrected
version of herself; she threw out the old
copies. She's the new chapter, the last
page, the back-flap doodle even. She's
the one we met on Monday night--
the woman, the man, the shepherd,
the goat-footed nanny of us.

[Commemorating this occasion in New Orleans. Forthcoming in Down Spooky, originally appeared in Skidrow Penthouse.]

If you haven't yet, and can afford it: redcross.org. The minimum donation is only $5 and perhaps your employer has a matching program that would double your generosity?

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Coupla poems set in New Orleans...

...in the forthcoming (like any minute) Down Spooky and here is one of them, with Lake Pontchartrain (the main culprit in the current flooding) appearing in it in a less menacing light.

I also wrote one called "Hurricane on the Gulf Coast" a few years ago, but don't think I ever sent it out. Not such a rare occurance down there. But this one is obviously extraordinary.

Very glad to hear Cori Copp's mom and pets were rescued yesterday!