From Woodburners 2007: FRIEND-O / LOOKING AT NOVEMBER / Harvest / ~ GOT YOUR WOOD UP? ~ AUTUMN 07/ DOG DAYS 2007 / SUMMER HOURS / NOH APRIL / MUD-TIME / YOU MOVE LIKE YOU ARE ALL OVER ALIVE
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WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : FRIEND-O
remembering Landis Everson
He who serves all, best serves himself - Jack London You can paint a picture with dung, or with a pipe, just so long as it is a picture.
Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.
there is a new humanism afoot that will one day touch the world to its
core. tractional poetry is only one of the means by which to reach out
and touch the other. the other is emerging as the necessary prerequisite
for dialogues with the self that clarify the soul & heart and open the ability
to love. I place myself there, with them, whoever they are, wherever
they are, who seek to reach themselves and the other thru the poem by
as many exits and entrances as are possible.
- bpNichol from "Statement" Toronto, November 1966
I love pinball - there should be pinball in every movie.
- Richard Linklater from the commentary "Dazed and Confused" (Criterion)
George W. Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Conventions and human rights law in the treatment of detainees. Most egregious, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. He seeks to do the same in Iran.
This President is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the "crime of aggression". And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for this crime, if we do not actively defy this government, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences.
-Chris Hedges, from "Hands off Iran" The Nation Dec 10, 07
WOLVES ARE STANDING IN YOUR DREAM
Out in the rain, out in the snow
They come with the spring night's winds
that breathe on the window
in the dawn
They come with the migrating birds
hatch when love's struggle
has taken place, give birth
through their mouths
They embrace your naked body
living shadows of frost
-Hanne Bramness, Salt on the eye, selected poems (Shearsman Books /www.shearsman.com)
EZRA POUND'S PROPOSITION
Beauty is sexual, and sexuality
Is the fertility of the earth and the fertility
Of the earth is economics. Though he is no recommendation
For poets on the subject of finance,
I thought of him in the thick heat
Of the Bangkok night. Not more than fourteen, she saunters up to you
Outside the Shangri-la Hotel
And says, in plausible English,
"How about a party, big guy?"
Here is more or less how it works:
The World Bank arranges the credit and the dam
Floods three hundred villages, and the villagers find their way
To the city where their daughters melt into the teeming streets,
And the dam's great turbines, beautifully tooled
In Lund or Dresden or Detroit, financed
By Lazard Freres in Paris or the Morgan bank in New York,
Enabled by judicious gifts from Bechtel of San Francisco
Or Halliburton of Houston to the local political elite,
Spun by the force of rushing water,
Have become hives of shimmering silver
And, down river, they throw that bluish throb of light
Across her cheekbones and her lovely skin.
- Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco)
Don't expect any fireworks here, This is a
paragraph about uprooting ornamentation
in the way of perceiving the world, an argument for
moving prose privileging a shifting position on the
surface of the earth. It takes as its percussive beat
the presence of a mocking bird unimpeachably
outside my bedroom window. Nature's encroach-
ment springs its central aphorism. I find myself at
an impasse, get around it by installing a clump of
chrysanthemums in the center of the room I've yet
to delineate. A wall's a wall. One looks both ways
from a window. There's no social power in the ter-
minal cluster that ends a flower.
-Noah Eli Gordon, Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial)
ATLANTIS - A LOST SONNET
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city-arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals-had all
one fine day gone under?
I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city-
white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is
this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of
where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.
- Eavan Boland, Domestic Violence (Norton)
The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid
this is the true eventual story of billy the kid. it is not the story as
he told it for he did not tell it to me. he told it to others who wrote
it down, but not correctly. there is no true eventual story but this
one. had he told it to me i would have written a different one. i
could not write the true one had he told it to me.
this is the true eventual story of the place in which billy died.
dead, he let others write his story, the untrue one. this is the true
story of billy & the town in which he died & why he was called
a kid and why he died. eventually all other stories will appear
untrue beside this one.
- bpNichol, The Alphabet Game (Coach House/www.chbooks.com)
edited by Darren Wershler-Henry & Lori Emerson. Twenty years since his young passing, British Columbia born Barrie Phillip Nichol has never been more relevent and his own poet, with imaginative editing (including traces from The Martyrology) highlighting the likewise poesy and visuals.
We had a big party
for our 20th wedding anniversary.
Someone said, "Tell us
Everyone left and the marriage
- Dan Nielsen, The Once Over (The Chuckwagon, 146 College Hwy #18, Southampton, Ma. 01073 / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Peter Money and his small crew are going great guns and doing fine work from Harbor Mountain Press (www.harbormountainpress.com) Brownsville , VT. 05037: a new selection of titles has just arrived Sinan Antoon, The Baghdad Blues; Jan Clausen, If You Like Difficulty; William Cirocco, Aerolith; Peter Money, Che, an autoseriograph novella; and David Miller, In the Shop of Nothing where we show one of the many poems from the book below. Miller excels at both poetry and prose; this is a new and selected poems done very trimly and fine:
The black oval surface framed in gilt,
from which I expected my image to return
during a city walk, unaccompanied by flowers,
fails. Catalogue the things evoking love
and evoking desire - the same equal things:
garden in night, pathway, train-station, shops
and cafes; the story binds them disparate.
We fail each other over and again
as if tumbling down a hillside, giggling,
screaming. Each lives to bear difference
which is endurance, on these streets
or in ghostly dream; equally: the face
fails to appear.
- David Miller, In the Shop of Nothing
Three-cheers for the second-chance, the reprint, the used, the here again. White Pine Press has long been active at bringing back out of print books and recovering old classics, as below with one of Sonia Sanchez's finest books:
POEM NO. 12
when i am woman, then i shall be wife of your eyes
when i am woman, then i shall receive the sun
when i am woman, then i shall be shy with pain
when i am woman, then shall my laughter stop the wind
when i am woman, then i shall swallow the earth
when i am woman, then i shall give birth to myself
when i am woman, ay-y-y, ay-y-y, ay-y-y,
when i am woman. . .
- Sonia Sanchez, Homegirls and Handgrenades (White Pine Press www.whitepine.org)
Ben Ratliff is white, New York Times, and he wasn't even born when John Coltrane was jet-propulsion and that's all the more remarkable that he even took this mythic heights on and at least gives the reader a school yard stick measuring of some jazz essence, common-sense and a try at improvisational theory and swing. It isn't the best book on Coltrane (C.O. Simpkins book, I agree, probably holds that title) or even jazz, but I like his heart:
Indirectly, by example, Coltrane encouraged musicians to practice and study rudiments and scales and harmonic theory. He played the blues in unusual keys for the sheer challenge of it. He worked on himself until he became a great technical achievement, the complete jazz musician. Even more indirectly, he encouraged other musicians, in jazz and outside jazz, to transcend their hang-ups and preconceptions and to play a pure intuitive expression, as opposed to learned figures. He helped people freak out; he gave them extramusical ideas.
- Ben Ratliff, Coltrane, the story of a sound (Farrar)
(DVDs & Films) :1924, the year of Kafka's death, saw four short surrealist films released quivering on the silver screen: Rene Clair's Entr'acte; La Coquille et le Clergyman by Germain Dulac; Fernand Leger's Ballet Mecanique and Duchamp's Anemic Cinema can be found now on Anthology of Surreal Cinema, Vol. 1. 65 minutes of silent black and white starring some of the names above, along with friends that show up like Erik Satie and Man Ray.
One of the wildest samurai films and not crazed with cult antics: Sword of the Beast (1965). Mifune shows up in a small role, though a significant scene, of chopping up to size marauders who dare tangle with him in a quiet evening snowfall. The conditions are mesmerizing. The final showdown goes from A to Z outlandish. It all takes place inside a traditional home with paper walls - one warrior with a sword against a myriad of crazed ones, sharpened by evil, so he's wonderfully doomed.
During all of November Turner Classic Movie channel gave us each night a visiting guest who showcased their favorite films for our viewing pleasure. Each night introduced by the gentlemanly host Robert Osborne. Each night more of the same, classic after classic, seen a million times and ways...until, until...James Ellroy showed up to present his jazzed bebop 1950s on location California cheeseball/film noir specialties: Stakeout on Dope Street, Murder By Contract (with dark Vince Edwards), The Lineup (a Don Siegel forgotten) and lastly, and the best, Richard Fleischer's Armored Car Robbery. Great stuff, rarely seen on tape or dvd. And if you wish to enjoy yourself further, seek out any film noir now on dvd with a extra extra bonus commentary of having the team of James Ellroy and Eddie Muller doing a slippery autopsy. But imagine, for the last night of the Turner month long guest appearances - for whom they might have chosen to help host the clincher - they fizzle fart with ex-con businessman Martha Stewart. It might have sailed if she had chosen Caged Heat.
THINKING ABOUT THE MOON
As a child I thought the moon
existed only at night:
there it was
in the dark sky.
When I saw it in the daytime
I knew it was the moon
but it wasn't the real one.
It was that other one.
The real moon had moonlight,
silver and blue
And the full moon was so big
it seemed close, but
to what? (I didn't know
I was on Earth).
- Ron Padgett, How to be Perfect (Coffee House)
~such a beauty, head to toe, stem to stern poem. The ease of spacious line quality and balance, the visual event of it all, the comfort of the language washing right up upon the childhood closing; and to think written by an elderly fellow thinking back, thinking ahead.
MY BROTHER'S TALE
My brother knows everything that happens in the country because
he has an outdoor job that begins at dawn. He says the meth
houses are the ones that have the lights on all night because any-
thing you start on meth you keep doing for days until you crash,
whether it's sex or cleaning. One guy took his tv apart and could
never put it back together. Some people get "meth-bugs," which
is when the chemicals in the meth start to seep out of the skin,
making the meth-head scratch and claw open her or his skin. He
even knew a guy who froze his balls off. The guy went out with
some friends to steal anhydrous ammonia, a frozen gas the local
farmers use for fertilizer and a major ingredient in meth. It's so
malleable you can put it into any kind of container, so he put some
into a paper cup, sat it between his legs, and drove off. The anhy-
drous ammonia spilled onto his balls and froze them off, and his
friends kicked him out of the truck as they drove by the emer-
I did not find many ghost tales, but I did find crystal meth
labs growing in the cornfields. Also, I found that some mem-
bers of the county road crew were swingers. I heard of one farmer
- Brenda Coultas, The Marvelous Bones of Time (Coffee House Press)
:no one poem can quite captivate the range and inventions of this Marvelous marvel of a book ~ roaming with an exquisite prose & poem hand and reach, from a midwestern childhood dreamscape bridging Civil War era, folktales, street wisdom, to an overall Supernatural all its own. Not the usual 'clever,' better: well crafted.
Kirpal Gordon: Eros in Sanskrit, lyrics & meditations 2007-1977( Leaping Dog Press/ www.leapingdogpress.com); (CD): Speak-Spake-Spoke, Kirpal Gordon with the Claire Daly Band (LDP Media): the first is book form, the second on CD, either way Kirpal Gordon is flying as sound on the page, or tunes in jazz and poem off the disc. Be smart and go for both. As I state in full on a cover blurb for the book : "Kirpal Gordon is the Huck Finn of New York City. The kid with the goods, he'll show you how stories are really made and how each one will remind you of some place where you have been, or wish to be. Language driven writing that makes music of those molecules, and for once and for all, has you dancing in an empty, quiet room with a book in your hand. The one you're holding." I meant it, still do.
I LOOK TO YOU
99 / Whenever a man
my beauty increases
- Maram Al-Massri, A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor (Coffee House)
Spanning four decades of poetry, song, street protest & performance, soon to be throttled between the pages of 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border, Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights) from migrant upraising straight up into a professor standing at U/Cal, Riverside, Herrera makes the Chicano wild call.
CHICANO LITERATURE 100
First of all, you are not going to find this stuff at the mall, in one of- Juan Felipe Herrera
those flashy pendejada shops. Maybe you'll have to quiet yourself
down, listen to yourself, try pintura for a few days, maybe weeks, take
rainy walks, make small mirrors, rake the front yards, listen to the
rake speak, do a mandado for your abuelita if she still lives (do it w/o
berrinches), dig up black dirt on the trail in the forest, carry twisted
wood and leave it at the edge of the road with good words between
you and a squirrel behind the trees, go back and find the seed-voices,
the ones that raised you, the letters that arrived with your red-green
spirit, the ancient songs way deep inside.
NO: a journal of the arts issue 6, 2007 ed: Deb Klowden & Ben Lerner: I've yet to see a sorry assed issue. Every one comes thick and juicy, almost a fresh paint smell to its ink while the contents is rich with poetry, prose, installments, art, eclectic visuals, whether "New works from Japan" or a whole pasture of text devoted to Guy Debord. Poetry/writings from John Ashbery, Joan Retallack, Evan S. Connell (going strong), Arthur Sze and many more. The bosses move around but this is the current address: 260 19th St., Santa Monica, CA. 90402. I once time did my laundry in Santa Monica, right next to an ice-cream parlor. (www.nojournal.com)
FRIEND-O: after decades of filmwork, two directing teams are currently stalking area cinemas with two films straight out of the deep bloody shade of the Vietnam War. It's taken this long to get off the combat field, and to see how it all, eventually, comes back home. The Coen (Ethan & Joel) brothers No Country for Old Men has a world of the old wild-west turned upside down since Vietnam, brought home with drugs, busted soldiers and the American dream turned to sour cream. All the major characters in the film were soldiers for their country in one war or another - Josh Brolin's character having done two tours in Vietnam still carries his hunting rifle slung down at hip level steady, like a soldier, when coming upon one more spooky spot. He and headhunter Woody Harrelson bond momentarily on a Vietnam recognition, ditto the border guard prick who softens on a mutual Vietnam hi-sign with Brolin. Who, by the way, is drop-dead perfect in this role, and as a crummy cop in American Gangster. Wait until you get a load of Javier Bardem, in a role that may finally break him open with American audiences, even if it is as the scariest boogieman to hit the silver screen, maybe ever. In the Coens devilish hands he gets to walk away at the end of the film. There are no happy endings after Vietnam.
As for the many Bob Dylans in Todd Haynes probably untouchable I'm Not There, I can't fathom what all the squawk is about with how this concocted line-up of Dylans is presented. It's beautifully choreographed by Haynes with exquisite detail, broad and minute. Top to bottom. An interpreted marvel of identities instead of one more cookie-cutter biopic. If you grew up with every new Dylan song over 40 years, the film's already embedded in you. Come to the film, relax, and let it open you up. Cate Blanchett is a charm as Dylan during the unraveling "Don't Look Back" era. They get the all important hair right, and the stab of Dylan's incessant cigarette. Lay off Richard Gere - he rolls dusty and sure into Billy the Kid role 1, 2, 3. Hell, everybody's great; you're so swept away by the story, and for anyone raised in 60s-lore the whole film is a bedtime story told by mom. I have to say the young black kid (Marcus Carl Franklin) stole my heart visiting Woody Guthrie in the hospital as "Woody Guthrie", with Dylan himself singing "Blind Willie McTell" in the background. Ritchie Havens has new teeth since Woodstock '69 and is given a survivalist position in the film as himself. You honestly can't take your eyes at any time off the screen. Watch Cate B. as Dylan and those actors playing the Fab Four (The Beatles) roll in the grass like kittens! Back when musicians let their hair down, back when there was grass. Nobody but nobody caught, not even for an instant, the flash of gorgeous smile the real Bob Dylan sometimes offers. It once glowed from his face up into his burning hair. That's what we call real life, and why we must rebuild it.
A PROGRAM NOTE: my true love and I went to see No Country for Old Men first, and I realized it took that to parch the book out of me. And while the film is exhilarating, nothing will equal the book, one of Cormac McCarthy's pulpiest novels, at least since his Appalachian period (see Child of God). It may have taken a director like Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials ...) along with a touch of Anthony Mann, teamed with the Coens, to tap this yarn quite right. We then came back a week later, rounding up a day organized to justify gas prices, since these outings take the farmers far afield into the college towns just to find such films: so that makes a big mail day posting for the bookshop, then a few groceries, do some wash, then go to a double feature between two towns (I'm Not There at 10am., No Country for Old Men by afternoon) paying matinee prices (rising); afterwards visit a few good bookstores, Christmas lights in the trees stroll, have a Mexican meal out. Drive home, roads dwindling as we get closer.
I can't imagine viewing I'm Not There in a more ideal spot: the struggling Pleasant Street Theater of Northampton, Mass. Is it true they've changed their name to The Todd Haynes Theater? If this keeps them alive and thriving, terrific. The theater is dug-in-the-wall-small, the screen is tiny by today's standards (the Haynes film edges fell off the screen) but the place dims a luxurious inky black at showtime. Some films, like this one, or Dead Man (once upon a time I took our son out of school at age 12 to go see this film here, dripping cave conditions, neither of us have forgotten it) seem like private screenings. Precious few theaters host you like Pleasant Street: 10 in the morning quiet, a cunning ticket taker, with a co-worker setting out, like crystal glassware, generous portions of popcorn, and it's all free! So is the tea, so is the coffee. The magic carpet ride has only just begun: big posters flop the walls of stunning films to come; there's an etched into the wall Stanley Kubrick quote about cinema humbling any possible pretense, and at least for the Todd Haynes film we have a guest appearance of some guy with a mandolin down in the front swaying away with serenading Dylan songs as our entertainment before the film begins. I had gone out for a walk prior to showtime around town, but when I returned Susan said he just showed up and started to play. Quite quite riddle-like. We saw he packed up his instrument at the darkening hour and watched the film with all of us. Laughing, crying, abiding.
MUSIC TO MY EARS:
Michael Hurley, Ancestral Swamp; John Lurie, Fishing With John; Brian Eno, Luciano Pavarotti et al, Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1; Sonic Youth, Carrie Rodriguez et al, Like A Hurricane: a tribute to Neil Young, Martin Jack and Werewolf Sequence, Ice Thorn (that's Martin J. Rosenblum); The Turfan Ensemble, Morton Feldman First Recordings: 1950s; Cassandra Wilson, Sings Standards; Olivia Harrison, Eric Clapton et al., Concert for George; Yungchen Lhamo, Tibet, Tibet; and while out on road trips to various towns we've been catching (the higher up we go out of the valley)one or maybe two college radio stations from Amherst, Ma. Not the NPR drone, but filigree of everything from bootleg Hendrix to-this-minute punk, gliding and rotten.
- Bob Arnold
2 December 2007
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: LOOKING AT NOVEMBER Another one of those true stories from poetry land
Poet: I started writing very early, as a child. But I wrote terrible poetry, just terrible.
Youngster: (hand raised from the audience) I was wondering - you say you wrote "terrible poetry" when you were young - well, what is a "terrible" poem?
a murmur rises like a hive has been touched amongst an audience of 200 youngsters strong.
Poet: (leaning forward from the podium) What, dear?
Youngster: You said when you were young you wrote "terrible poetry." Can you describe what makes a "terrible" poem?
Poet: That's right, terrible poetry. But, you see, I was young.
Youngster: Well, I'm young and I write poetry and I don't think it's "terrible".
a united cheer goes up throughout the school hall!
Another one of those true stories from poetry land.
I was visiting The Putney School in Vermont one early morning, a ghost fog seemed to be nowhere that morning except on this rural campus, tucked up in the trees, up past the school's large flower garden. Late September still unseasonably warm so the zinnias remained hardy, but the grass around the floral showcase was too tall and ragged. The poet would read to all the school a little after 9 a.m. - they say an ungodly hour for most poets, but I always found it a perfect time to sing like a bird.
The students would arrive at this gathering hall very comfortable in their back-to-the-land gear, some of the girls in tall soft boots and jeans. The guys with shirts out, hair rubbery, long or lank. There were many worn smooth pine benches these puritans had to sit on, for quite a long time, as the poet would read and talk and read and field questions for almost two hours. Not a coat or tie in the place. No serious hard-bitten adult, even the poet was in violet color.
She loved her Mandelstam and Blake, likened herself to, but knew she "was nothing like Elizabeth Bishop" (although she was = the intelligence and care of the poetic line), tried to read into a PA system that was Vermont's best, so it hooted, boomed and squealed. This startled the poet who had been living some weeks at an artists' colony where she circled her room peering into books, getting lost in a dark dictionary, "erasing my words". She would be perfect in a nutshell of college students hanging onto her every cautious notion, and speaking of composing a poetry that "surprises" her. This morning's high school group is quite the opposite, they like to know what makes a clock tick. They wake up most mornings without a sound in their heads, a field catching sunlight. Maybe the clear bark of a crow flying over with them to the dining hall for breakfast. The gravel under foot rattles. A poet's coming at 9 o'cock...what's that all about?
The poet would find out the hard way what-that-was-all-about speaking like a professional poet and not a human being, not a friend, not a regular. Poets floating on their cloud of knowing, that awful gnawing knowing. So as I sat there in the back thinking I knew quite a bit, too, I was wondrously slapped awake the same time the poet was, on her stage (unfortunate for her!), as she drew in questions and attempted to make sense back to the greatest bullshit detectors in all the world. In years and years of questions I've never heard a better one asked, and in the right company, and every ounce of it genuine. Nothing harsh about it. I knew the poet was stunned and the rest of the reading would never shake out right, and it didn't. The question was as remarkable as "why do you love me?" In fact, it was, "why don't you love me?"
- Bob Arnold
Remembering R.B. Kitaj, Jon Anderson & Deborah Kerr
Poetry, first of all, was and still must be a musical form. It is speech musicked. It, to be most powerful, must reach to where speech begins, as sound, and bring the sound into full focus as highly rhythmic communication. High speech. - Amiri Baraka
Gentleness had come a great distance to be there - Henri Cole a boot full of brain kicked out in the rain? - Paul Celan
"Now listen! I'm no fool," (Gertrude) Stein once said in reply to a student's question about her line "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," "I know that in daily life we don't go around saying 'is a...is a...is a...' Yes, I'm no fool; but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years."
- Janet Malcolm from "Two Lives" (and then again there are Hazrat Inayat Khan's lectures from the 1920s collected in "The Mysticism of Sound and Music" which may have influenced Stein, never mind John Coltrane, where the Sufi master wrote: "If you repeat: flower, flower, flower, your mind will be much more impressed than if you only think of the flower.")
What is becomes what was. But the 'isness' remains in the memory and turns to something more stark, more identifiable not of memory but of a stark reality as if what is remembered turns in the earth slowly into a form true and real - Harriet Zinnes
I ask myself, whether,among those who build their leisurely, secure, dead regular academic life on that of a writer who had lived in misery and despair, there is a single one who is ashamed of himself. - Elias Canetti
I came from a place with a hole in it,
my body once its body, behind a beard of hair.
And after I emerged, all dripping wet,
heavy drops came out of my eyes, touching its face.
I kissed its mouth; I bit it with my gums.
I lay on it like a snail on a cup,
my body, whatever its nature was,
revealed to me by its body. I did not know
I was powerless before a strange force.
I did not know life cheats us. All I know,
nestling my head in its soft throat pouch,
was a hard, gemlike feeling burning through me,
like limbs of burning sycamores, touching
across some new barrier of touchability.
- Henri Cole, Blackbird and Wolf (Farrar)
For those that wondered just how it was before Writing Workshops -
I went into the hospital in 1946, with advanced tuberculosis, and altogether I spent three and a half years in the hospital. By the time I got out, I had had 10 ribs removed, one lung collapsed, a piece of the other one removed, and there were some severe complications from an experimental drug that was used to keep me alive. During these years I was given up for dead several times. One doctor told me that I could not live, I just didn't have enough lung capacity, and I should just go home and sit quietly and I would soon be dead. Now, I am blessed with a rotten attitude, and my response to statements of this nature is: Fuck you, no one tells me what to do.
Anyway, I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all my Being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn't be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: I would regret my entire life; I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life. This did not make me a writer, but provided the incentive to discover that I am a writer.
- Hubert Selby Jr., "Why I Continue To Write" from The Outlaw Bible of American Essays edited Alan Kaufman (Thunder's Mouth Press)
Two Lives, Gertrude and Alice, Janet Malcolm (Yale): that's Gertrude (Stein) and Alice (Babette Toklas) as if we didn't know, and their forty year marriage. Alice was known as the workhorse for their every needs - in the kitchen, household, secretary - except in the bedroom where Gertrude claimed she was the "best cow giver in all the world". "Cows" in the Stein notebooks are orgasms , which she gifted regularly to Toklas, though, supposedly, never received. This is a fine ramble of a rumpled book, small in hand which the design crew at Yale has made to look antiquated with a fake wear line along the top edge of the dustjacket, well illustrated and paper text clumped and pesky with gossip, rave insights, scholarly maverick wisdom. A bit like ol' Hugh Kenner in knowing the subject cold and instead of releasing a giant tome door-stopper (Kenner did one: The Pound Era: it's never reached the floor in this house), giving a sweet concise portrait. But do be careful with some of the dates and loose strings of research here: on one page Stein is dead on the operating table of stomach cancer (true) on July 27, 1946...on a later page she is writing her will on July 23, 1947. 1946 is the correct date. When a book is this good you bump over the bumps, plus Stein has never been without controversy, even in biographies. As Malcolm asks and pokes at with a short stick throughout the book: "How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?" You won't like the answer. Nor was Stein ever happy with her under appreciated stake in the literary world. Her masterpiece The Making of Americans remains one of the 20c openly abused products by its host of reviewers - laughing at the idea of even reading such a thing, and proceeding to review the book anyway. Marianne Moore got to about page 50. John Ashbery admits to pretending to have read the book for years, though running out of gas by a seemingly deadend page 30. Now Ashbery has read the book four times "since I had to read every sentence, I think, at least that many times". Malcolm took a different tactic: with a kitchen knife she claims to have cut the big book into six sections, thus making it portable "and (so to speak) readable." Whatever turns your crank. Stein is unavoidable, though many have done just that to her, for the past 100 years. This little book could be your point of entry.
Landscapes of New Mexico, paintings of the land of enchantment, Suzan Campbell & Suzanne Deats (Fresco Fine Art Frescobooks.com) : forget the roundtrip ticket to Albuquerque, here's second best - a broad wing span assembly of painters currently living and painting in New Mexico. A beautiful book. With each artist alphabetically arranged, or if it's companionship you want, they are paired as one, as Alvaro Cardona-Hine and Barbara McCauley are here, and so nicely (I wish there was more McCauley, color and line as Franz Marc). Of course reminders of groundbreakers like O'Keeffe and Hartley from the same soil abound, but the range is wide and wild and gloriously intense whether learning with Teruko Wilde's "paint rain" or the jazz beat foliage of David Foley, to the outback clarity of Wilson Hurley who practices what he preaches "I look, and look, and look". Now come and look. The separate biographical portraits of each artist are excellent, like home cooking.
THINGS THAT ARE FULL OF PLEASURE -
Finally I have a dress that resembles my mother's except for the
buttons. It is a lamby dress: grayish white and furry like wool. A
waist. Three buttons down the front, mine in red, and hers-black
with red in each center. She has tied a red ribbon around my
ponytail also. I love her. I love that we look the same. Am I four?
My grandfather in Wisconsin teaches me how to dog-paddle. The
bottom of the lake is soft.
pine, leaves, rose, hedges, stem
Dad shows me how to wind wire around tiny pine tree branches. It
is five years old but only a few inches tall. We collect new moss to
cover the roots.
The smell of hibiscus. gardenia. I think of my grandmother.
I think of mango trees.
My first husband speaking street Spanish.
My second husband taking my hand and guiding me out of the
rough waves I had gotten myself into. Once on the beach, the hot
air. The hot towel.
My third husband.
Mt daughters, home before midnight and in their beds. They each
come in quietly, and kiss me goodnight. I tell them: sticks feathers
string mud. They understand.
-Kimiko Hahn, The Narrow Road to the Interior (Norton)
One more new poet added to a long and enduring list of Native American poets (and I include some "white" poets on this list) who writes, herself, of Salvadoran Roque Dalton and being mistaken for Puerto Rican. The poems have humor, clicking insight, and move the page (air) with skill -
"I want to see Indian ruins."
So I drove him
Past HUD houses and boarded trailers,
Beer bottles and blood drops
And a three-year-old girl huffing glue
From a brown paper bag
We came to a place
Where the earth lay torn and scarred,
Littered with shards of pottery
And bits of ancestral bone.
"At last," he exclaimed,
"Real Indian ruins!"
- Sara Littlecrow-Russell, The Secret Powers of Naming (U Arizona Press)
LETTER TO A FRIEND FROM THE ROAD
We've been gone awhile, and despite the fog and near ground smoke in some of the regions, an excellent sojourn. First over to the lower Maine coast and down to Hampton and Rye seeking whatever rambles are possible. We see that part of the coast is truly gone. I doubt we'll ever head back. No need to go into the obvious list of travesty. At least an early day hike on the beach nearby Rachel Carson's estate was worth part of the trip. A day trip. No need to fill the coffers of the local gentry since the gas prices to & fro had to be justified somehow. We were traveling in one of the new cars our Toyota dealership offers at a low rate per day, free mileage, and run we did. Already vast stretches of New Hampshire unrecognizable to someone like me who went to high-school there, ran track in some of the school towns, hitchhiked roads that have been ground up and replaced by pulverizing commuter fast tracts. Head up into the mountains if you even think about wanting to smell the roses. We will.
The next morning we left home to be on Race Point on the tip of Provincetown at 8 AM sharp. A four hour drive. We hiked there, the Meadows (Thoreau & Channing did time there) and later bits of Eastham (Henry Beston's spot); that day Race was the one we preferred. Always a drive within the town right into the bowels of the finest old homes and buildings. Strong as ships. An added treat was a somewhat loose but tribal nod and glance to a wide degree of cross dressers and 'dolls' stalking and long legged panty hosing around Commercial Street. Photographers then stalking them. A very different breed than the summer tourists, and nothing as close to the early spring population we like the best: blinking out of a soggy winter, preparing for the cast over to come. We ate beach bum variety, hiked much and then headed back to Vermont on the highways which have gone berserk around Worcester, Springfield and when north at Manchester. 65 mph is now a random bouncing tide going 90 mph. One guy just had to give the farmers the finger, nearly wiping himself and his lousy SUV out on the guard rails.
A few hours rest and we were gone the third morning for the White Mountains, fog or not. It was as smoky as a stove pipe surfing down through Franconia Notch - both dangerous and exhilarating. Half the Presidentials showed forth when heading up through Pinkham Notch, and once out of the Conway traps (twin mall towns) there is some depth of forest and landscape and open range. Small towns fickle with Christian bookshops and old grubby garages that still work on vehicles. You almost want to stand midstreet an applaud. We were gone the day easily up in those parts. The foliage charged with golden beech, birch and the spread of evergreen. Noxious.
Fourth day had us off early again in the dark morning for a more local adventure: book sale outside Amherst, and then a date with a friend's mother who needed repair work on her house roof. Crawling about up high at noontime with a caulking gun of tar, hammer, knives and new nails...a few hours work as a favor to friends and in exchange Susan and I had 7 hours with them and served both dinner and supper and a old style visit of conversation, laughter and being invited in. Nothing like it. One day we will have you here for a similar visit and we'll stack some firewood together in the sun.
I sit down and read and quite often when I finish I walk over and sit again and write just what I think what I just read just like I'm doing now. As Louis Simpson once wrote: "Poets don't have to think - but there poems should." If you don't know Louis Simpson's own work, you might take a look, both poetry & prose. A sensible man. Little read these days. I found this quote while reading before breakfast Joseph Stroud's new and utterly gorgeous book handmade by Jerry Reddan at Tangram Ukiyu-e, Snapshots of the floating world (Tangram). Many these days have tried this sort of old floating world form, bowing to the ancients like Tu Fu and buddy Li Po, and Stroud hits a homerun. How good? Well imagine you are walking through the room and the radio is on and by some stroke of magic there is still a dj out there not working a gimmick or a Clear Channel program and something juicy like Bo Diddley ripples out and around the room. That good. Bo Diddley actually shows up in Stroud's book, a small gem like poem with Ginsberg & Whitman in a top down Thunderbird and who else but Bo Diddley on the radio taking them further down the road. At 86 cents a barrel for oil, the world burning from the ozone layer down into the center of the planet, what else can you hang onto? Your sweetheart, a tree, and poetry. It'll never fail if poetry continues writing as well as Joseph Stroud and the book is finger mortised by Jerry Reddan. Tangram books are issued out of Berkeley in very low editions and immaculate stitching and papers used. I handle my copies like love letters, but then I'm a romantic. Here's one of the poem's from Ukiyo-e, Snapshots of the floating world just to show you how good good can be -
LAZARUS IN VARANASI
From a pyre on the burning ghat
a corpse slowly sits up in the flames.
As if remembering something important.
As if to look around one more time.
As if he has something at last to say.
As if there might be a way out of this.
(what the heck, one more)
Old and weathered, like leather
out in the rain all winter, smelling
of wood smoke, bleached silver
by the days, almost ready to go
back into earth, a husk, almost
empty, filled, almost, with light.
- Joseph Stroud
BOOKS READ WHILE WATCHING THE WORLD SERIES (such as it was) ~
the first night it rained, and Boston was hitting well. There is an awful lot of spitting - even the plate umpire spits into his palm to get a grip on the ball - and all the corporate commercials in a string, and the usual pitchers pawing on the mound, the stalls, the organized feints and stare downs....so there's a lot of time to read. I went through some recent enough art books wide on my lap as company with the games. If you've been waiting for the ultimate Saul Steinberg retrospective, here it is: Joel Smith, Saul Steinberg, Illuminations (Yale) with a personal tip of the cap from Charles Simic as introduction and an excellent commentary into this troubled artist's life. One of the bellowing ironies of life ~ those that make us laugh, cause a smile, stop us endeared ~ have been living through a private hell. Beautifully laid out paintings and illustrations, with thumbnail descriptions, glossary, notes and chronology with photographs. A decade before R. Crumb looked like R. Crumb, Saul Steinberg had that look, including the hat. // Know that Thailand (old Siam) is unique in Southeast Asian history having never been conquered or colonized by the Europeans. When visiting (I don't know) its architecture (armchair traveler) one senses immediately the country's isolation and unique powers of holding no resentment against the usual white race plunderers. One look at their glitter embroidered temples and big hat majestic roofs, those deepened temples, and this was a civilization just too busy at work. Architecture of Thailand, Nithi Sthapitanonda & Brian Mertens (Thames & Hudson) is a golden guide to traditional and contemporary forms. One more bible for ethnic building and ways. I got lost in this one. // I Looked up by the 5th inning (come on! the score was 10-1). A fairly fine synopsis of African American art from the Colonial period to present time: African American Art, the Long Struggle, Crystal A. Britton (New Line) introducing many more women artists as Pat Ward Williams, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Clarissa Sligh, Alma W. Thomas rarely given the coverage, and a concise historical background. One place to get a toe-hold and ask for much more. // Maxine Kumin, Still to Mow (Norton) and by what I've read here in New England of this New England poet as a New England team takes game one of the World Series, I tend to agree with the title. There's some heartwood here, terrorism, end of the world lingerings, musical sluicing...I was okay where it took me. Here's how the book opens, a clincher premiere:
Me in my bugproof netted headpiece kneeling
to spread sodden newspapers between broccolis,
corn sprouts, cabbages and four kinds of beans,
prostrate before old suicide bombings, starvation,
AIDS, earthquakes, the unforeseen tsunami,
front-page photographs of lines of people
with everything they own heaped on their heads,
the rich assortment of birds trilling on all
sides of my forest garden, the exhortations
of commencement speakers at local colleges,
the first torture revelations under my palms
and I a helpless citizen of a country
I used to love, who as a child wept when
the brisk police band bugled Hats off! The flag
is passing by, now that every wanton deed
in this stack of newsprint is heartbreak
my blackened fingers can only root in dirt,
turning up industrious earthworms, bits
of unreclaimed eggshell, wanting to ask
the earth to take my unquiet spirit,
bury it deep, make compost of it.
- Maxine Kumin, Still to Mow
- I've liked this poem each time I've returned to it. It turned my head in a bookshop while leafing, then again in another bookshop, and finally in a library copy. The "honor" word choice could be applied to the poet's way of handling all his work, translations and teaching over many years.
Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.
-Galway Kinnell , from The Best American Poetry 2007, ed. Heather McHugh (Scribner)
To some he is over-hyped, while to others he's essential, and to even some he is a combination of the two. In fact one may have produced the other. Needless to say, it is impossible to comprehend the sixties, or even America without a touch of Andy Warhol. Don't deny yourself, sit with this heavy tome Andy Warhol Portraits (Phaidon) in your lap and wave through 300 portraits made from the 1960s up to the artists death in 1987. His trademark Marilyn Monroe I believe has been replaced over time by the equally breathless and color-toned Blondie (singer, not the comic). His "Unidentified Woman" (1985) looks twenty years ahead of its time by reminding one of the unidentified woman of now: Laura Bush. No matter what one thinks of Warhol's art, his was a cosmic capital eye.
He came from a village in the Chuvash Republic many hundreds of miles east of Moscow and his poetry sparkles with its own effervescence of little lyrical books within one book, constantly surprising and inventing, beginning as if mid-sentence or song as if his poetry body and mind never stopped, it was life: Gennady Aygi, Field-Russia (New Directions). All poets are "nature poets" if they are anything. The poems in this book (gathered up after the poet's death) are a bit more cryptic than other Aygi, but one wants it all. Here's a sample ~
WALKING TOWARD A BIRCH-TREE
IN A FIELD
a - a
no more: it was
gleaming from within
(making clear the limits)
in soundless prayer
with movement - just barely
- Gennady Aygi, Field-Russia (New Directions)
Happily, very happily, I have more in hand from White Pine Press (www.whitepine.org) of their Companions for the Journey series of compact books and oh what a beauty to behold, finally, a full volume of Haiku Master Buson, trans by Yuki Sawa & Edith Marcombie Shiffert. Nicely annotated, bilingual and clean as a whistle. Take a look ~
Almost dark, and yet
today still lingers.
Treading on the dishes,
rats make a noise
A tethered horse
and snow on both of
There are a few boners, like this one made famous and much finer by others: The light of a candle
is transferred to another candle -
-that terrible clumsy pitiful word "transferred" removes all human grace. But then again the best of haiku collections are spiced with a few mangy uglies, poems just too stupid to survive in their translation and they always get the last laugh. Nobody has the foggiest idea about haiku - it's one of the most revered and also emulated to smithereens. Pure Coyote.
Even more so
because of being alone
the moon is a friend.
- Yosa Buson
(DVD) Stone Reader, Mike Moskowitz, director: already a few years old but dealing with an age old subject of one's favorite book, in this case the very little known The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman. A book I happened to have read at its showing and simply because of the bright review of the book by John Seeyle, yet one more forgotten master storyteller in the league of Americana. This is a readers delight of a film, watching the director take on the hunt to locate the elusive one-book-wonder Mossman, who went on to years of drifting, and then solid years as a welder instead of writing book two. Involving visits with Seeyle, Leslie Fielder, Frank Conroy and others show up along the way sharing their insights about great books the director bundles up and takes along with him on his field trip of discoveries. Nothing like a reader grabbing down favorite books from his shelves and packing a box for show-in-tell. Kingpin editor Robert Gottlieb even sits down for a chat. Indeed, only Jospeh Heller is missing. Moskowitz finds his man, so a second viewing, with commentary, is worth buddying up.
Some of the finest comic poetry since Frank O'Hara and whomever else you may like to list. I turned the pages and came to this poem, smiled broadly, read some more, smiled more...went to the beginning and read all the book. Chosen, wisely, by WS Merwin for the Yale Younger Poets Series. There is a poem about Yeats called "Yeast" that is pitch perfect laughter.
Tonight my girlfriend's brother
is visiting from Japan. We take
him to New York's tallest building -
- Loren Goodman, Famous Americans (Yale)
Radiohead In Rainbows (handed to me by Carson straight off-line, down loaded for peanuts, and so readily available to most anyone: this is the future); Iron and Wire The Shepherd's Dog; Bobby Womack The Soul of Bobby Womack: Stop On By; Putumaya Presents Women of Spirit; Mark Knopfler Kill to Get Crimson; Nina Simone Forever Young, Gifted & Black; Abbey Lincoln Devil's Got Your Tongue; Robert Plant/Alison Krause Raising Sand (produced by T Bone Burnett, who has become the John Williams of the
rock/folk/popular sect. Looking at the CD cover Susan thinks Robert Plant washed in from the sea and much younger Alison Krause is there to pick up the saltwater mollusk. Tantalized. They do sound fine together); The Excello Story (Lightnin Slim, Lonesome Sundown, Lazy Lester and a host of blues music phantoms - this sound will put the watery chill in you); Dino Valenti, Dino Valenti :I remember this recording from years ago - one more of the haunted delicious sounds out of the 60s with somewhat simplistic lyrics attached to a overpowering passion unheard of in these now jaded times...so I open the door and let it flow out. Gifted to me since as tape, burned CD etc from friends of all ages from all around the country. Go, Dino, Go, in memory.
I believe the next Woodburners will be after the New Year. I have a "Longhouse Bibliography" to update for all of 2007 with all new entries and descriptions after a very packed year.
~ Bob Arnold
4 Nov 2007
W O O D B U R N E R S W E R E C O M M E N D ~ H A R V E S T remembering ~
John T. Scott, sculptor
Marcel Marceau Sri Chinmoy... ...gone at 76, guru to millions, plus John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana, known to only have slept 90 minutes each day - otherwise meditating, teaching, his physical spiritual workouts, and having written 1500 books, 115,000 poems, 20,000 songs, supposedly 200,000 paintings; god bless'd Caw the great Caw - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
of the elements
Love calls us to the things of this world - Richard Wilbur
nothing more beautiful under the sun
than to be under the sun -
Poets are persons aware of aloneness and competent to speak in the space of solitude-who, by speaking alone, make possible for themselves and others the being of persons, in which all the value of the human world is found. But never assuredly-never without the saying of it (it does not "go without saying"), which saying is what the poet can do, if he is any good at all
- Allen Grossman
Sunday, July 26 1857
The note of the white-throated sparrow, a very inspiriting but almost wiry sound, was the first heard in the morning, and with this all the woods rang. This was the prevailing bird in the northern part of Maine. The forest generally was all alive with them at this season, and they were proportionally numerous and musical about Bangor. They evidently breed in that State. Wilson did not know where they bred, and says, "Their only note is a kind of chip." Though commonly unseen, their simple ah, te-te-te, te-te-te, te-te-te, so sharp and piercing, was as distinct to the ear as the passage of a spark of fire shot into the darkness of the forest would be to the eye. I thought that they commonly uttered it as they flew. I hear this note for a few days only in the spring, as they go through Concord, and in the fall see them again going southward, but then they are mute. We were commonly aroused by their lively strain very early. What a glorious time they must have in that wilderness, far from mankind and election day!
- Henry David Thoreau, The Allegash and East Branch
Bob Arnold & Greg Joly continued their never-ending reading series on the street over September commemorating their two years of reading on the streets since the drowning of New Orleans (Katrina).This time it was merely a 15 minute affair, on the corner, a surprise to both guys meeting by chance in town. Bob was packing some Neruda anyway, and Greg was packing some Martin Espada anyway. This time they read in memory of fellow Vermonter Grace Paley. In December, Bob plans to meet up with friend Louise Landes Levi on the street and welcome her to Brattleboro, slush, snow, rain or shine as they get together a reading and maybe some music.
Why are people destructive and joy-hating? Is it perception of the unimportance of their lives finally penetrating the bark of their complacency and egotism? The slow martyrdom of sexual frustration? The feeling they're objects of use and not of love? The knowledge they're marked out for death, their resentment hardening with their arteries? Whichever is the reason, they can't for long endure the sight of a happy man. You might as wisely light a match in a room filled with cyclopropane as go among them with a pleased expression. Tear it off your face they must, let their fingers be crushed in the attempt. Because many poets have averted their eyes from this radical evil, they strike me as insufferable blabbermouths. They did not retch enough; were too patient, courteous, civilized. A little brutality would have made them almost men. Irving Layton from A Red Carpet For The Sun (Jonathan Williams Publisher, 1958)
WE CANNOT DECIDE
There has never been beauty like yours.
Your face, your eyes, your presence.
We cannot decide which we love most,
your gracefulness or your generosity.
I came with many knots in my heart,
like the magician's rope.
You undid them all at once.
I see now the splendor of the student
and that of the teacher's art.
Love and this body sit inside your presence,
one demolished, the other drunk.
We smile. We weep, tree limbs
turning sere, then light green.
Any power that comes through us is you.
Any wish. What does a rock know of April?
It is better to ask the flowery grass,
the jasmine, and the redbud branch.
-Rumi, Bridge to the Soul (HarperOne, 2007): translated by Coleman Barks and one of the many beauties in this collection celebrating Rumi's 800th birthday. And sounding still so young! Barks travels to Iran with Robert Bly in a small and decorative part of this book to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tehran, where eighty percent of the courses are taught in English. In a city where gasoline costs 15 cents a gallon. This book of ninety new poems, mostly all new to translation. Ah, this country to invade, or to learn from?
Long before Saving Private Ryan, there was Overlord (1975) Stuart Cooper's portrait of D-Day from the unique perspective of a young British soldier on his way to the beach at Normandy, and actual film footage Cooper developed with master skills from cinematographer John Alcott threading miles and miles of European theatre war archive It's estimated the war archive depth, to be seen complete, would take a viewer every day/5 days a week/ 9 years of watching. Slip-edited technique (seamless) with often dream surreal and black & white real war film journalism, stitched into live action. Made by a young director during the ashes of the Vietnam War. There is an eerie shot of Hitler in a plane over viewing a war zone in Poland much like the Punk flying over a sumerged New Orleans and taking a peek. The repeated misery of history.
Other films that may have wasted your time, but they didn't waste mine Perfume; Japanese Story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont; For Your Consideration; Vision of Light; 11:14 : sensory whole and fine use of CGI, the always excellent Toni Collette, never mind Joan Plowright and a reintroduction of the original Brief Encounter, the gift as only Christopher Guest (listen with commentary - then go to the over-the-top commentary on Talladega Nights), to cinematographer secrets & lies, and great fun with overlapping young lives and crimes in the night. On the other hand there is 3:10 to Yuma (or Dumba) one more shocking reminder how the new westerns ain't like they used to be. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are fine, trapped in a very silly remake. You could care less who dies in this film. You almost want to die. The best shot in 3:10 to Yuma is Crowe studying a book, on horseback and a wily hawk. The film should have ended there, at 5 minutes, and been the shortest talkie western ever made. It was downhill after that, fast. Even the psychotic side-kick is going up against a film legacy from Klaus Kinski to Jack Palance and he doesn't stand a chance. But, as a friend and I both agreed, the air conditioning that day was sure nice.
CITY OF DAVID
Jerusalem is a grave of poets. Name
two who are buried there:
the poet Dennis Silk is buried there.
He lived with a dressmaker's dummy,
in a cave, on the Hill of Evil
Counsel due South of Zion Mount.
She bore him children
after her kind. - In any case, whatever
she gave birth to did not live.
Famous Amichai, also a poet,
is buried there. From his apartment on
the eastern slope you can see
a gate of the City, called David's Gate.
In '48, on a beach at Tel Aviv,
the poet Amichai held a dying soldier
in his arms. The soldier whispered-:
"Shelley." And then he died.
Poets built Jerusalem. Therefore,
poets have a duty to destroy
Jerusalem. If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
the world will be better off.
The tree a cat can get up into,
a cat can get down by itself.
- Allen Grossman, Descartes' Loneliness (New Directions)
Baseball Haiku, ed. Cor van den Geuvel & Nanae Tamura (Norton): Masaoka Shiki popularized baseball single handedly in Japan during the 1890s while remaining one of the masters of haiku along with Basho, Buson & Issa...the very ones Jack Kerouac was studying, via tutelage of Gary Snyder, while becoming the first baseball haikuist from America...they of the baseball world have apparently claimed him as one of their own. Unlike most of the Beats, JK was a jock. He wrote only one football haiku, the sport he was best known for as an athlete:
Crossing the football field,
coming home from work,
the lonely businessman.
Here's some others from the baseball diamond -
the baseball rolled
dropping the pop-up
i toss to myself
all the empty seats
lost in the lights
the high fly ball that
never comes down
(Raffael de Gruttola)
the long fly ball to center field
takes its time
(Cor van den Heuvel)
Empty baseball field
- a robin,
Hops along the bench
~ my son runs toward
the budding tree -
their first base
- yes, indeed, everything is now "to market to market". Haiku/baseball/play ball.
whether we want to live on the 13th floor of a high rise
or want to reside by the sea
we all belong to earth.
for one knee to reach ground took ten years.
both knees took twenty
but loss is not futility.
ground is a source of peace;
earth itself is source of human being.
whether we live in a high rise
or live by the sea
earth is our home.
lest we forget.
- Yamao Sansei, Single Bliss (trans. Scott Watson) (email@example.com)
:Yamao Sansei (1938-2001), a long time resident of Yakushima region of Japan who for a time was one of the founders of the Buzoku (Tribe) commune with Nanao Sakaki and others. A terrific poet, this fine selection translaed by Watson who lives & works in Japan and printed as a single sheet broadside magnifico by Country Valley Press. (http://web.mac.com/countryvalley)
(Film) Such any easy mark is Julia Taymor's go for broke and to the heart Across the Universe, a thoroughly cosmic and quite adaptable telling of America in the world of the 60s via songs from The Beatles. Just imagine the Yellow Submarine never stopped sailing. Unlike Dylan, The Doors, The Stones, The Beatles songs have been sung aloud from schools, nursing homes , whole neighborhoods, and prisons (even Charles Manson) and through the bands songful characters Jude and Lucy and Maxwell and Prudence, and even Sadie and Jo-Jo, we receive such an attractive bunch that I haven't seen on the silver screen for years. And you definitely need the big screen for this one. Grab your most jaded and corrupted and foul mouthed pal and take them along. This is an intensely human screening, and Bono and Joe Cocker lend a beautiful hand to things. Something this simple and pure doth make the critics quiver.
(DVD) Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Zhang Yimou): of fathers & sons be prepared to weep openly, as the characters in this film do, including Takakura Ken as an aging fisherman on a journey from Japan to rural China wishing to uphold a mission his estranged son had begun and is now too gravely ill to complete. Imagine, a film for the whole family to enjoy. Ages 5 to 500.
THREE SLIM BEAUTIES NOT TO MISS: Cinema Stories, Alexander Kluge (New Directions): German filmmaker Kluge dreams, invents and writes thinking-aloud here with a splendor part memoir, biographical, short essayist and a conviction "that we can share with one another in public something that "moves us inwardly". A man of his word - start here. The ideal book to gift to the ideal rebel: Poetry As Insurgent Art, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (New Directions) where the granddad of bebop beat, cool business (City Lights) and knowing the difference between law & order comes forth in a cloth copy $12.95 tagged little wonder, filled to the brim with wisdom and sayings from his ever popular "Poetry Manifestos" of the 70s to something as rolling thunder as this: "If you call yourself a poet, don't just sit there. Poetry is not a sedentary occupation, not a "take your seat" practice. Stand up and let them have it" We've all been fingered, never forget it. And Donald Revell does try his darndest in The Art of Attention (Graywolf), these are essays to the poet's eye from a poet's eye. Relaxed and with the reader, moving pleasantly and pleasurably with the help of his text support group ranging from Blake to Whitman, Shelley and Thoreau, Apollinaire, Olson and Ronald Johnson. Amongst the angels finding his way, closing with a sprawling sort of help me Rhonda fiesta on how he suddenly changed his own writing style. Personally I found the new writing style calculated and cold, whereas the earliest poems, before he started thinking too much and just rushed for the pen to sing, the very best.
100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century ed. Mark Strand (Norton): one of those scary titles. It never works. And Strand early on admits he doesn't know enough about poetry from Africa and Asia, so, why include them. I guess it's too much to sit down and begin to read at such a late and prized age? so I admire the revelation for its candor, but am nevertheless disgusted his editors let him pull it off. Imagine no poetry from where lions and Buddha roam? I actually had to read this declaration twice, then push forward. Strand does grab Akhamatova to Zukofsky; the Vasko Popa shows up just about when you're ready to bail and Gloria Fuertes and Nazim Hikmet sail you up into the center of the book. There is the typical loaded names, deadwood, nothing much surprising, very old bland wine appearance and feel to the selection, and while Milosz by some editorial faux pas gets double billing and it looks corny, Milosz edited his own anthology some years ago just this size that blows this one back into the choir where it belongs. Strand pulled in Lorca and Neruda but of course wouldn't let Vallejo show his face. You see, that's what you get for not going to Africa.
TO MY SOUL
Will I miss you
in the next life?
And you & I, my other, leave
the body, not leave the earth?
And you, a child in a field,
and I, a child on a train, go by, go by,
And what we had
give way like coffee grains
brushed across the paper . . .
- Jean Valentine, Little Boat (Wesleyan)
(DVD) Jigoku (Hell): made on a pittance, visually destructive, fascinating, original, unstoppable and in short a wonder, and absolutely hated by some and adored and revered by others. Life isn't perfect, though most of this film swims down in hell. Forget the plot, this one is beyond plot: man leaves the scene of a crime and pays for it within his own mind. Like Ozu, at the opposite end of cinema spectrum (except both masters are possessed) director Nobuo Nakagawa was a hard drinking soul in the real world and did his best living behind the camera. Ozu was also his favorite director. A proven masterpiece, in these eyes, constructed in 1960 and to this day a ground breaker to the mass of buckets of blood and bliss from current Asian cinema. Test your wits. Nakagawa made 97 films, this will be the one remembered. You gave your conscious over to evil
(DVD) Wanderlust: a dreamers compendium of road movies celebrated into a 90 minute documentary here you go! It's just bothered by a silly side show film inserted by the creators of how they could best make their laptop constructed masterpiece, and of course that means to go on the road themselves. Except the road's now about vanished. Thank goodness we had the likes from John Ford (Dennis Hopper's pick for a road film The Grapes of Wrath) to Wim Wenders twin classics Kings of the Road or Paris, Texas (take your pick, but watch both) to be saved on celluloid. Excellent scenes from the field, great and distinguished commentators, turn the key. Press the pedal.
poem for the synthesizer & voice
The mind is a car radio. The body is Cocteau's Orpheus.
The sexual attraction is toward the car. The car as Delphic lover.
The love is for the radio, which is the spirit of the lover.
The love-act between radio and Poet is radiogenesis.
God is universal mind. Space-time is thought
The radio is the mind. The mind of the Poet. The fertile egg.
The Poet whose dials are tuned to the right frequencies that
drink in cosmic milk. White knowledge.
Coming from the mind of God as sperm.
The union of sperm and fertile egg
creates the star-burst chemistry of genesis.
The process of translation of these electrical impulses is genetic.
Electro-genetic. And the result is words.
The writing of these words makes the Poem.
Hours, at all hours, spent in the garage.
In the passenger's seat of the car. With the radio on.
Searching the dial for a voice on the other side of static.
For an inspired paradoxical juxtaposition of spoken sounds.
For a metaphor for daily life as light.
Or in attic rooms or dappledganged hotels listening
to the silence between screams for a sign of sanity.
This the Work. This is the stuff of a stuff better than sex.
The whore of Orpheus. The nightmare of Eurydice.
The thing invisible that becomes seen.
The King of the forgotten.
The siren Queen.
- Thomas Rain Crowe, Radiogenesis (www.MainStreetRag.com)
:Thomas Rain Crowe makes council circle here with love, surrealism, song and the overall radio heart. Turn it up, since he insists it won't be turned down.
The Colorful Apocalypse, Greg Bottoms (Chicago): journeys in Outsider Art. Yes, indeed, I like any book that lives up to its title and even subtitle, and of late University of Chicago Press has been issuing well built, eye-catching titles, fine paper and decorative, at affordable prices. Greg Bottoms has made a fascinating scrapple of a book entwining his own badly abused family background within an outer vortex of searching for, and often far afield (I love his heart & soul here), various Outsider artists right in their domain. I don't believe he ever steps foot into a museum even to take a peek. Living is the museum. Shy of any dramatics or illustrations, the humility of the text, cleanly drafted, paints all the pictures for us. Into the after life of Howard Finster, the better known of a crew of survivors still hard at work and living on shoestring made of cat gut: William Thomas Thompson, Myrtice West and Norbert Kox. The greater art is of course the human story told in plain language as if straight off a seed packet asking us to cut a row, plant, water, and make roots. Splendidly adorned with heavy thinkers and likewise psychological theories left hanging as the sunshine is allowed to splash in through the door. This is breezy, thoughtful, come hither writing. I like Greg Bottoms.
(DVD) The U.S. vs. John Lennon : to be more exact - the Nixon regime vs. John Lennon, which included beasts like John Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover. No one that I can remember then was against John Lennon. The Beatles were ever popular and Lennon was one of turbo jets of The Beatles rise to music heaven.This was also back in an era, before flagrant wealth, when celebrities actually put their lives on the line for the cause of world peace. Appearances range widely on the subject of Lennon from G. Gordon Liddy to Bobby Seale. The music is well chosen, the historical clips are smart, and Yoko Ono likes this film.
(DVD) Oasis, d: Lee Chang-dong: remarkable performances by Moon So-ri and Sol Kyung-gu as two societal outcasts (one is off his rocker and recently released from prison, the other a young woman with cerebral palsey) who fulfill one of the most grueling love story's ever set onto film. Chang-dong both wrote and directed this tale and we watch it as if from some secret perspective the director has plinthed for us. The beauty won't be on the screen, but what possibly bubbles up from the depths of the viewer. It may take one or two swipes before you catch onto this one. Unmistakably one of the groundbreaking films from the Korean New Wave, or any wave. It's by itself.
One of the good things about getting older is that no one
asks anymore "What are you going to do when you grow up?
Or later on, "What do you do?" Questions for which
I never had a good answer. Nowadays everyone assumes
I'm retired, and that I have no ambition whatsoever. It
isn't true. It's true that it's too late for me to become an
Olympic champion swimmer or a lumberjack, but my
ambitions are on higher things. I want to be a cloud. I'm
taking some classes and have a really good instructor.
I don't want to be a threatening storm cloud, just one
of those sunny summer clouds. Not that I won't have
a dark side, of course. I'd like to be one of those big
fat cumulus clouds that pass silently overhead on a
beautiful day. A day so fine, in fact, that you might not
even notice me, as I sailed over your town on my way
somewhere else, but you'd feel good about it.
- Louis Jenkins, North of the Cities (www.willothewispbooks.com)
O hell, let the poet speak for himself about his own poems. He's so intelligent and giving forth in every one of his poems, often heard on recordings with other musicians. "The 42 poems in this book were culled from a 365-poem opus titled One Year. Each poem in One Year was composed according to the following method: I would take a day-say, January 18-and, shifting through more than 25 years of journals, extract everything that was entered on that date (thoughts, reportage, dreams, conversations, overheard remarks, passages copied from books I was reading, etc.). Then I would isolate clusters of material, combine and recombine them, amplifying and further atomizing the fragments and finally whittling them down to no more than one page of text. So while everything that "happens" in a given poem did indeed transpire on its given date, that date is unmoored in time, representing many years and as many places and circumstances-ergo, the "she" who appears in the first line of a particular poem is not necessarily the same "she" who appears in the next line." Big-size, celebratory cover art reminds me of the very best of the late Wang Hui-ming's woodcuts. Yes! Mikhail Horowitz, Rafting Into the After-Life, (Codhill Press). A beautiful book to behold.
Vali Myers, Gianni Menichetti (The Golda Foundation/goldafoundation.org): often when tramping the mud tract of Maine along the Allagash with companions, Henry David Thoreau would awaken before his companions around a dead campfire and a very still woodlands and think he had to "shout" the woods awake. So he would. Startling everything around him. I can think of Vali Myers as much this way - a core independent, marching to a whole different drummer - born in Australia, raised on the streets of Paris in the 1950s, and nurturing her art work, dancing soul and self for forty years in a wild canyon in Italy she called The Valley. In the back issues of The Paris Review one can find Vali's paintings since George Plimpton recognized her talents early on. What we have here are two men who loved the woman and carried the dream on: Robert Yarra as publisher seeing the book made its way into print, and lushly so - golden covers and photographs, and a seemingly open hand for Gianni Menichetti, a lover of Vali Myers, to share essentially his truths and secrets about those years. It's no formal biography of Myers - more visiting for days on end while Menichetti shares freely, candidly, raw and fully, with no bone to pick. They were lovers for 30 years. I feel this by the last pages. No more let Life divide what Death can join together. (Shelley)
- & thoughts to a fine poet just passed away:
In this dark, still room,
which is only a thought,
your star rises again
over calm water,
the air placid in blackness
as it drifts
remote and luminous,
no more a face or body,
nor a wing left to shadow me -
only a name, which is mine,
and a receding light
in the room, across the water,
wherever it is I lie down.
- Ralph J. Mills, Jr. With No Answer (Juniper Press)
Just home here, from Scotland and Laurie & Thomas A. Clark (Moschatel Press) -
within a withy grove
wait to know your mind
a flurry of feathers
angle shades, slivers
of gold on a green ground
- from, Hazel Wood
anyone who is not moved
by the least movement in shadows
who cannot take the evening air
or sit for a while on a stone
among the vagaries of attention
has lost the grace to be alone
from, In the Black Wood
both poems by Thomas A. Clark
The poetry of Neruda that I love best, that I do reread with an always-renewed pleasure, is the poetry of his ripeness, beginning with the first book Elemental Odeas, published when he was fifty years old, and ending with Full Powers, published when he was fifty-eight, eleven years before his death. These are the poems of a happy man, deeply fulfilled in his sexuality, at home in the world, in love with life and its infinite particular forms, overflowing with the joy of language. They are large hearted, generous poems, resonant with a humor that is rare in modern poetry, in any poetry. The sometimes showy surrealism of the earlier poems has mellowed into a constant, delicious skating on the edge of nonsense.
- Stephen Mitchell, translator: Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon / Pablo Neruda
A modest size collection published by Farrar in almost British Faber & faber typography and jacket decoration, I already liked the looks and feel in hand of Selected Translations by Ted Hughes (Farrar) and of course this will be wide scoped, spanning five decades of the poet's whittling through his versions "the type of translations we are seeking can be described as literal" - everything from the ancients as Ovid and Lorenzo de' Medici to modern marvels Janos Pilinszky and Martin Sorescu. Edited and brilliantly annotated by Daniel Weissbort who founded Modern Poetry in Translation with Hughes in 1965, the act of friendship, camaraderie and workmanship shows up nicely here.
Tune in and not to be missed: FARM DAY 2007; Saturday October 20th; 11-5pm Liana Eastman /Eero Ruuttila Farm Manager & Director (www.nesenkeagfarm.com.) an annual bonanza of hard work harvest brought to bear over a weekend of farm festival, outdoor events, and poets & musicians performing. The heart is definitely in the right place on a working farm along the Merrimac River in New Hampshire with fields of green. The poets this year will be Brenda Coultas and Paul Pines. The hosts are tremendous and the show goes on no matter what. One year I was there to read along with Wayne Atherton. It was the year of the high October floods and the farm couldn't help itself but to slip into a mudhole of high expectation (would the rain ever quit?) and: where to read? The outer sheds and barn were filled with crates of vegetables saved from the soggy fields. Often the events breeze along outdoors with the sun of the day. This time it was Noah's Ark. So we all made camp in one of the greenhouses, and people showed up and stuffed inside, and the poetry lit up. One of the finest hours of poetry I've ever experienced. Our farmer hosts filled our truck with boxes of vegetables and produce and we fed off that for months to come. Check in on their website, make a date, show up. It's the real deal. Other past guests have been Janine Pommy Vega, James Koller, Gary Lawless, Andy Clauson, Stefan Hyner, Simon Petett and many more. Good times.
MUSIC WHILE READIN' & WRITIN'
Starbird, Among Us the Many (short film in Brakhage sensory swim w/ choral pulsing); Sid Hausman & Washboard Jerry, Colorado Belle; Muddy Waters,Country Blues; Sam Rivers, Contours; Edgard Varese, The Complete Works; Glenn Gould, Beethoven/Liszt: Symphony #6 Pastoral; Guy & Candi Carawan, Been in the Storm So Long: spirituals, folk tales and children's games from John's Island, South Carolina; Mississippi John Hurt, Worried Blues 1963; Judee Sill, Heart Food; Dexter Gordon, A Swingin' Affair; Norman Blake, Nashville Blues; 13th Floor Elevators, Easter Everywhere; Steve Earle, Washington Square Serenade (Earle's latest as he remains the very finest in hardcore troubadour music/turn off the so-called new country music; listen here); Jim White, The mysterious tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus! (there's a film somewhere, too, which amongst many believers includes Harry Crews); Devendra Banhart, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (yet another troubadour of another stripe, but don't expect to read the fat booklet that packs along with the CD since its washed out and costing production many thousands of dollars and for all practical purposes is unread able. So much for common folk sense); Furry Lewis, Shake'em On Down (take yourself home).
~ Bob Arnold
16 Oct 2007
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND:
~ GOT YOUR WOOD UP? ~ AUTUMN 07
Today, despite the unprecedented availability of written material, it can be argued that we are becoming a less literate culture. Between an overload of information and the relentless manipulation of images visited upon us by mass media, our relationship with books is short-circuiting.
Jeanne Marie Wasilik from "Architectonic Thought-Forms, a survey of the visionary art of Paul Laffoley"
Beyond a certain point, there is no return.
This point has to be reached.
Franz Kafka (third notebook oct 20, 1919)
The lantern of the world approaches mortals by varied paths
The fact of the matter is, I'm not a bestseller because people aren't educated enough yet: just wait and see what the Astronauts of the Year 2,000B.C. (sic) will be reading on Venus and Mars ('t'wont be James Michener).
Jack Kerouac, letter to Stella Sampas, 1965
So long as men praise you, you can only be sure that you are not yet on your own true path but on someone else's
Dear David - I don't know Longford, but I will go for Zodiac since it is a David Fincher film and I've seen everything by him. Often his work needs a few viewings, thus I was watching Fight Club again the day before you were onto Zodiac. The Game and Se7en both can take repeat viewings...and there are others. One of the more interesting directors who rose out of tv and video. Once upon a time Peckinpah and Lumet rose out of an altogether different television land. As with most of the arts theses days, there is both a cheapening scaled from commercial pursuits and angles and indecency, with a sudden rush of brilliance. Look at the disgusting particle that comes along with The New Yorker this week from the music "Rock" world. Oh yeah, we're "rockin'" all right. If it can be fit into a fashion capsule and sold, it's permissible! Otherwise, what comes out of the genuine folk, blues, razor sharp jazz that cannot be pigeon holed (but they'll give it a name regardless), is ignored. Whether simplicity with deepened roots, or your job description (literally yours). They want you feeling independent as they strap your jacket tighter with another belt. Conform so you may rebel! Neither you or I will recognize the world in the end, and there's only one-end now: your own. The future is only theirs. Everything is built for today (immediate profit) unless it just so happens to help mankind (medicine). Bridges will more and more be falling down around our ears, built in the last heyday of craftsmanship by soldiers home from the last world war. All wars since are now mainly for business. If anything, both love and poetry will be the last standouts, the silverfish tough to nab, the wily description of sunlight...thus, Ashbery has been chosen to take the next generation (via MTV) into poetry ennui. Borrowed avant-garde, doorless doors, 'poetry' for the lack of knowing what to call it, a whole lotta nuthin' going on and so perfect to package and sell. I like some Ashbery, certainly, but he reads best piled next to someone like Shih Te, happy as a hermit, being told he should be content in his life: "Just sit by a creek and turn your head / to watch the moon ball roll." But Shih Te is uneasy: "And me? I ought to be at joyous ease / but I can't help thinking of the people in the world." Ah, that pesky conscience to give something back heart-felt, warm as a winter coat, looking back at you like the animal from the deep, straight into your eyes.
Exclusive distribution from Longhouse: full color glory booklet, poems & music of Janine Pommy Vega with friends Across the Table (CD). Twelve poems - the first seven recorded in Woodstock, NY. by the poet, the last five pieces recorded in concert in Italy and Bosnia from 2002 through 2005. With photographs by Pier Paolo Iagulli. The musicians at the table are Nina Sheldon, piano; Betty MacDonald, voice; Michael Esposito, bass; Maurizio Carbone, percussion; Ferdinando Gandolfi, flute; Carmela Cardone, harp; Gaspare Di Lieto, piano; Giovanni Amato, trumpet; Gianluigi Goglia, bass; Stefano Tatafiore, drums, Riccardo Morpurgo, piano; Marco Collazzoni, sax; Luca Colusi, drums; Almir Nezic, bass; Janine Pommy Vega, shaker & voice. The ultimate poet troubadour's show of many shows! The poems performed: Habeas Corpus Blues, There Was A Woman, Madre di Tavolieri, Food Song, Mean Ol' badger Blues, The Green Piano, Across the Table, Mad Dogs of Trieste, Ode to Slippers, The Draft, Musician. Come gather. TO ORDER: $15.00 (plus s/h) please Write Us / OR See Longhouse bookshop website for more!
I am the sign, I am the letter.
I am the language that cannot be come to terms with.
I will go to my resting place
and will not be born again.
I am what is scattered and cannot be gathered up.
I am small, I am silence,
I am what is not found.
- CHARLES WRIGHT, Littlefoot (Farrar)
:the poet has turned 70 and his mind is as sharp as ever, if not moreso, mortality/everlasting requires another concentration, and instead of skilled poesy we now have simple skills. One of his most human books and humble titles.
The Jazz Image, masters of Jazz photography, Lee Tanner (Abrams) a great team have paired up with Lee Tanner choosing the finest of jazz photographers from the 1930s-90s, with one more everlasting prose accompaniment by Nat Hentoff (enjoy him while we still have him). The Coltranes are on the cover, the seminal shot of Punch Miller by Dennis Stock takes you inward through the assembly of 150 physically jumping and intimate shots. This is from an era and eye when Fats Waller walked out in Harlem in suit coat and tie for a hot-dog, then back to more recording. Many of the best photographers are here from Ray Avery to Jim Marshall to Frank Wolff. Go get elegant.
You've no longer read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow complete' until you've sat a full evening into night hours with dangerous minded artist Zak Smith: Pictures Showing What Happens On Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow (Tin House) that means almost another 800 pages to read/look at - and there is no judgment here - imagine someone even attempted this and found a publisher to set it thick as a brick in cloth colored boards and a million images a second slipcase. I'm quite happy with it. See life as an early death or a long enduring beauty, both books will last.
END OF A TALK WITH A JAILER
From the narrow window of my small cell,
I see trees that are smiling at me
and rooftops crowded with my family.
And windows weeping and praying for me.
From the narrow window of my small cell -
I can see your big cell!
-SAMIH AL-QASIM from Sadder Than Water (trans. Nazih Kassis) www.ibiseditions.com. Palestinian born and one of the "resistance poets" since the 1950s warzone of the Middle East
And I.... am digging a path to daylight!
HOW ODD MEN ARE, REALLY
take off their rings
and leave them on shelves,
Their legs below dark coats
in the rain.
And we wait in automobiles
for news from distant quarters.
-GEORGE BOWERING Vermeer's Light, poems 1996-2006 (Talonbooks www.talonbooks.com)
Like with Walden, whenever there is a new edition, I beg, borrow or buy it and reread Songs of Innocence and of Experience, by "the author & printer WBlake" as the poet himself transcribed it on the earliest edition issued in 1789 when Innocence was first released as a separate work. By 1794 the combined books saw the light of day. When holding this wondrous tiny edition in the palm of your hand from Tate, U.K., and the smallness of this eternal bigness masterpiece is becoming, know that only thirty copies were known to have sold in the poet's lifetime. And despite all that, Blake was said to have passed away in 1827 inside a two room garret while singing. Richard Holmes pays his respects by offering an excellent introduction. The tiny cover painting eternally has the power to draw you from across a room.
Piping down the valleys wild / Piping songs of pleasant glee
Just the right snap crackle & pop in this indie film with Morgan Freeman as Morgan Freeman and his made to be reluctant come affectionate partner for the day Paz Vega easily giving any Penelope Cruz a run for her money, 10 Items or Less starts off in a grocery store could be anywhere. I was in one in Yuma once like this, but here it's an unglamorous part of Los Angeles and Freeman has come by to research a role for a film and then old guy meets frisky girl in one of those magical ways.
For those that read the Woodburners regularly one might see that I have much less to say about particular books, especially books of poetry, when a poem or two can be chosen to do just the job. Let the poems speak always before the speaker. Pin them up on a wall, on a tree, post them next to the want ads and rooms for rent, leave one or two off at the laundromat. Make poems activists. Awaken the human sleepy body, the Monday morning slow broom, the custodians of litter. "What's this? Eh? A poem?" Many will read the found poem until its expedient delight and even disgust crazes the discoverer to roll it up in a ball and toss it away. Go fetch that ball. Go smooth it out. It takes work to fulfill the day as fully as the day fills you. I was recently reading Anne Porter's Collected Poems (Zoland) and while she may not be as famous as her husband the painter Fairfield Porter, behind most of our backs she was writing poems that are simply unforgettable, and that's saying something. I don't mean messages and meaning, I mean poetry that ripples and breezes and is free. I said to myself, "yes, this is a good one to show in the Woodburners"...and then I turned a few pages and there was another firefly. Catching them in a glass jar. Or think of that jar by morning with flowers. It's been quite awhile since a poet has done this for me one step, two step, three step, swoon. James Schuyler used to when he was alive and the books appeared after an absence. And just imagine, Anne Porter and Schuyler were friends. What an earth.
There is a hidden kind
Of humble goodness
I love in others
Only an aeon
Of refining fire
Could make it mine
But sometimes it's as if
I were already burning.
The first time
I saw the morning star
I was a small child
Two years old or three
I woke up sobbing
My mother came to me
Gathered me in her arms
And took me to the window
Look she said
There's the morning star
I soon gave over crying
For there it was alone
In the dawn sky
Bright and very beautiful
As beautiful as my mother.
- ANNE PORTER
SOME ART BOOKS TO SPEND A FEW NIGHTS WITH AFTER WORK
Up Is Up But So Is Down, ed. Brandon Stosuy (New York Univ. Press) New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992 poets, activists, punk rockers, guerilla artists etc., mix it up. Look for the conversation between Eileen Myles & Dennis Cooper; Annette Messager, Word for Word, ed. Marie-Laure Bernadac (D.A.P.) writings, interviews and art work with this French artist from early scrapbooks to present day sculptured words, photographs, collages. An illustrated life; Dada, Rudolf Kuenzli (Phaidon) everyone is an artist and anything is art. Live and die quite happy by this creed. This large and extensive mapping showcases beautifully Dadaist of every stripe from around the world, dipping even into rare quarters of central and eastern Europe. Texts span the galaxy of wild minds, biographies included. Of course there is a body on the ceiling of the cover photograph. Blow your hungry mind.
I've seen Punch Drunk Love a few times now - best on the big screen - and each time with the same woman I love and love is the fullest meaning of this little gem. It's meant to watch repeatedly, and even if you don't enjoy the cinema. It's crushing with life's little mysteries and foibles and the actors all overlap nicely. Honestly, Adam Sandler in this is as poetic as Rilke and when his girl Emily Watson is harmed, he's as strong as a 100. Philip Seymour Hoffman in a tiny role is standout. It's already an old film. Pure cinema.
DEFINITELY FOR REPEAT VIEWINGS: How in-time was I the other night with the new David Lynch film Inland Empire - when the fellow on the dark street in the film is asked what time it was, and the reply was "9:45". I looked at my clock and it was 9:51. Not bad, not bad at all. Steven Spielberg once said he could never walk out of a Stanley Kubrick film. Impossible, Steven stressed. He said this on a feature for Eyes Wide Shut, a film one can leave and play three games of ping-pong and not miss a thing.It's Inland Empire one can't take the eyes from; Laura Dern's performance is one reason, the sonic/visual vastness, and the fully unexpectedness of Lynch is another. Dern is so gloriously all time, all I see is the very best of Stanwyck and Jean Arthur in her concentration, range and singular identity as human, as woman, as actress, as foil, as consciousness. Not since Richard Farnsworth has someone in a Lynch film expertly handled the expert. What's the film about? Are you joking - let's start with last night's dream! It's one of the most powerful revelations of woman ever seen on the screen - sex slave and fantasy to galaxied womanhood/independent/fully Mother Nature - nevermind a genuine thrill to ride, and I mean joyride, in the hands of cinema Lynch. And not at all to confuse the train of thought that David Lynch is my favorite American novelist since Thomas Pynchon. As corporations merge and so merge (squeeze) you, may your minds merge and so free you.
Not For Mothers Only, ed. Catherine Wagner & Rebecca Wolff (Fence) the finest publication Fence has yet published and they're regularly at it. This is about 500 pages of mothers, poet mothers, many of our best poets now at work mothers, mothers of mothers, and because of eternal poetic license nonmothers also made the grade because their poems "moved" the editors. I like editors that can be moved. They still missed Barbara Moraff, but most do, and her poems would have been a lovely influence for younger mothers. An invigorating cross blending of poets in the US/Canada; you'll be charmed by the lack of pretense and politics and proving oneself. It's mothers and they all have someone(s) to love. The body inside the body astounds, confesses sins of the funhouse (Akilah Oliver)
PAYING ATTENTION Each day that we rise is a blessing. Perhaps there is a winter
storm coming. Perhaps the wind doth blow and the cold doth scrape at us. Yet we are blessed with another go-round
of sun. With another kiss and caress and hug. With another
chance to tell our loved ones we love them. There's no
iron fist today smashing us into eternity.
So why do I grumble and complain? My excuse, I guess,
is that I forget to count each blessing; I fail to notice each
small and beautiful thing; I fail to embrace the world's hard
Yet today I do remind myself to pay attention. It is all
important and none of it is more important than any other
- Tom Montag, The Idea of the Local and other essays ( MWPH Books, PO Box 8, Fairwater, WI. 53931) :of course the above is a little more of self deprecating wisdom, because if Tom Montag is anything, he's a traveling midwestern boy on foot, or old car or truck enroute to another small town diner for local news, or an old gent's funeral because he was a good man, or following the trail northward into Canada for the ghost of Wallace Stegner, or noticing what his wife Mary notices. How the day notices. What each day brings. This is high scale paying attention done in royal country boy stories, yarns, essays, prose poetry fullness. It's a joy to hold a lived-in book.
Speaking of country boys, Gerald and Loretta Hausman have given us the prince of the woodlands, Henry David Thoreau in their portrait A Mind With Wings (Trumpeter/Shambhala) a book casual to read on a summer afternoon and dedicated to young readers and pitch tone perfect for them. Did you know Thoreau chopped off one of his toes when young with a splitting ax? I didn't, and I read my two huge Dover imprint cloth edition volumes of his Journals when I was 19 years old. Perhaps I forgot, but in the very opening chapter of this biography -a mere two pages of clarity - the reader receives a capsulated blueprint of the man whose friends called "Henry". "Strangers, meeting Henry for the first time, saw a man of average build with unusually large arms. He had a windburned complexion, and he wore clay-colored corduroys that blended in with the woods. Henry said he saw more minks that way. According to some observers, Henry was more animal than man. But he often lay in bed for weeks at a time. The bouts of tuberculosis, which afflicted all of the Thoreaus, were part of Henry's inheritance."This is a book as fine as any from Concord.
The Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery, NYC 10012 || 212.614.0505
betw. Bleecker & Houston, across from CBGB's
F or V to 2nd Ave / 6 to Bleecker St.
:this is somewhere to get plugged into on-line or next time you're in the Big Apple. Joyous announcements for poetry, music, visitors and the overall duty of celebration. I can't imagine old Walt Whitman not being a regular.
As if an open letter - but whom to write it to? Every day, every day, some one innocent or soldier or citizen or human being dies in Iraq. For nothing. For some built up scam of a policy, for some corporate deeper pockets, for an actual 'shit-happens' and this is the shit now. We've all become used to the fact we're in a lucky place thank goodness and someone else is not. That's theirs, when in fact: it's all ours. One day it will inch closer with the acid rain, the loss of fresh water, global temperature rising or falling, loss of farmland, farms and farmers: those that plant, grow and feed the body. Know thy body. Loss of neighborhoods and neighbors and visiting, true visiting - one on one - no cellphone, no masks, no flickering lies. You may live long enough to know what you probably already know: those in government, leaders, are murderers. Through our own history they have murdered villages, whole towns, families, skilled leadership, musicians, poets, mothers and children and fathers and forests. They have lied repeatedly and not even skillfully, pathetically, and we are each an accomplice. The greater They have murdered literature and free music, joy and happenings, day to be taken as received, and they have all but told us They Own Us. If you got a great job or money in the bank or a sturdy car and even a boat, you've most likely stopped reading this. Can't say I blame you. Most children will have to inherit this since real work takes too long and there is no lifestyle for hard work any longer, so most children will never have this upper hand. Many have already given up the idea of growing old. The majority are addicted to something. And the beast goes on. One answer may be to get your hands dirty, real dirty, plant something, anything, anywhere, and then wash up, and do it again tomorrow, and the day after. Once you have something to believe in, you'd be amazed.
Abnormal phenomena indicate in like manner the existence of organic and physical law: for if a living being deviates from those rules with reference to which it is constructed, it still seeks to agree with the general vitality of nature in conformity with general laws, and throughout its whole course still proves the constancy of those principles on which the universe has existed, and by which it is held together.
- Goethe's Color Theory
(DVD) : Champion (2005): a documentary fielding fellow actors Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer and others alongside a full ingredient portrait of character actor Danny Trejo. You may not know the name, but you'll recognize the face from such films as Desperado to Spy Kids, the scary looking dude with tattoos. I also liked him in Heat and Sherrybaby, and the 97 other films he has worked in as standard thug, criminal, all around bad guy...a role he played in real life as juvenile offender straight up to the big-time in almost every prison in the state of California. Since he's been free, he's been busy, and clean, and trying to help those wayward stay out of prison. It's about time he earned a few Hollywood roles as a genuine good guy.
Another good guy - go to the John Lurie-takes-pals-fishing-film now on Criterion with Lurie's priceless commentary about Tom Waits, Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Jim Jarmusch and Dennis Hopper, traveling with fisherman Lurie (musician and actor) from Thailand to ice fishing Maine. On dvd this commentary by Lurie is marvelous. One of the best. Lurie shoulda, at least, taken someone like Christina Ricci out with him as well. Fishing With John (1992/commentary 1998).
I talk to these four walls.
I know they agree with me -
they don't talk back.
What a rare friendship,
where there is no need to talk
when there is nothing to say.
Mountains & River Press / Mtnsfirstname.lastname@example.org
BOOKS TRAVELING AROUND IN THE PICKUP OR CAR "GOLDIE" being read while going, or often aloud, what's a book but to share? This is the little pile started up: Amiri Baraka & Amina Baraka The Music (a reread since I have finally found my own copy in a backwater used bookshop where the shelf was labeled "Blacks"). Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, part one of this infectious and spun-dazed stories for the child mind. Nothing quite like'em. "This time the presiding tutelary geniuses are Jonathan Edwards and Wallace Stevens" with Susan Howe's Souls of the Labadie Tract (New Directions) often the case with Howe, I find the scholarship invigorating and what poetry "Great emptiness as / simple as that went" using the poet's own words or those borrowed and built into her gardening & grafts of archives, scraps and ghost voices from the Labadists, a Netherlands founded Utopian Quietest sect that settled in Maryland in 1684. The publisher has very wisely reissued Howe's My Emily Dickinson (New Directions) cutting down the original front cover photograph of mona lisa Emily to a detail of the poet's hands and holding. Nice touch. Likewise for the preface addition of Eliot Weinberger which immediately juices the mind for what is forthcoming. In this case, poet on poet on poet is only outstanding. I'm wheeling & dealing through mostly a brand new world of Puerto Rican Poetry edited and translated by the everlasting Roberto Marquez (U Mass Press): not just an island grab-bag, but a stunning travelogue steeped from: origins to present day Miguel Algarin, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Martin Espada, Naomi Avala and many many more. This is lush. Our guide Marquez pumps heart and conquest into the history and appreciation. Okay, enough! I'm about to start a very detailed book on Roman Woodworking by Roger Ulrich which looks yummy and timbered which I'll no doubt spout things to say by the next Woodburners. That the Roman woodworker, like other craftsman of the Roman world, took pride in his work is clear, even without the direct evidence of written testimony.
There was still no central heating
in the tenements
We thought that the cold was
the oldest thing on the planet earth
We used to think about my Uncle Listo
Who never left his hometown
We'd picture him siting around
cooling himself with a fan
In that imaginary place
called Puerto Rico
- VICTOR HERNANDEZ CRUZ from Puerto Rican Poetry, ed Roberto Marquez (U mass)
If you're going to watch a BOMB, watch this one: 3,000 Miles to Graceland. Christian Slater is mercifully killed off early. Good start. Wyatt Earp Costner is now the "son of Elvis" (Kevin Costner) and this once Oscar star is playing in fun garbage with Courtney Cox and real mccoy Elvis vintage Kurt Russell. Toss in Ice-T for a few minutes of pirouetting on an assembly drive, upside down, while shooting his many guns. The montage burglary holdup in Las Vegas would have Eisenstein stop in his tracks and smile. Very little makes sense. Save it for Friday night during a summer salty heat wave or you're snowed in with winter. Costner looks pretty convincing in leather pants, Kevin Pollock plays a deadpan cop, there's old cars, and Cox stays up with the boys. What are you waiting for?
KEROUAC: bowing to a masterpiece 50 years after the original, published on September 5, 1957, now comes "the scroll version" of On the Road (Viking) which I have seen propped up in a few bookshop windows and am presently reading and massively enjoying: On the Road as supposedly we can imagine it from Kerouac's original scotch taped together pages "scroll" of running free prose that his editors at Viking, then, Malcolm Cowley as linchpin, revamped into presentable paragraphs and novel form. It's easy to love both versions. The 1957 version was octane for generations...okay, bring on the original. We're getting used to life is but a dupe, a sham, so let's dig and find the original. It's almost the new art form. Poets wake up every morning and docket into the Internet to see what one or two famous "Oz" types are detailing on their blogs as essential for the poetry mind. Are you kidding? Can you imagine Dickinson, Niedecker, Eigner quality is being found on the Internet? Best poetry has always originated and been found in the bushes. Viking has not done a cheap frills job with this making of the masterpiece version of On the Road: it is the text as best known from JK along with a lengthy trail guide explanation from editor Howard Cunnell & his rumble-seat associates. Viking has also published separately Why Kerouac Matters (the lessons of On the Road (they're not what you think)), John Leland, a refresher course and mighty fine - the author even looks beatnik, chin hairs and all in his photograph....all of this reminding me to return and view again John Antonelli's excellent Jack Kerouac King of the Beats (Mystic Fire) first released in 1994 and I believe still the finest film introduction to Jack Kerouac. Expertly consulted by noted Kerouac thoroughbreds like John Tytell, (it also sports such grounded folk as Peter Coyote (narrator) and superb snatched reverie from solids like John Clellon Holmes, Robert Creeley, Herbert Huncke, Joyce Johnson, Carolyn Cassady and one or two Lowell pals. There's a parallel bio pic running within this film of Kerouac in his heyday with young actors catching Kerouac on the fly, Neal Cassady and even bits of Gary Snyder. And the whole she-bang opens and closes with the magnificent jazz flow moments of Kerouac reading on The Steve Allen Show, which only gets finer to me. It was 1959 and I remember as a boy watching it. Frankie Laine was on the same program. But who was this tie-less suit coat handsome fella, straight out of a film noir, with such sympathy and auditory wonder. It's still possible to hunt up a copy on dvd and purchase very reasonably. A must for every school library. In those brief moments with the lovable Steve Allen (and I mean this) one can watch and listen to Kerouac explain with a shrug and all-in-a-day's-work attitude the pages scrolled version of his masterpiece."And don't you know God is Pooh Bear" he picked up from young Cathy Cassady.
GO SEE: flurry after snowy flurry of blossoms or snow small poems on the newly posted website: Lilliput Review blog ~ http://donw714.tripod.com/lilliputreviewblog/
Don does a crackup job for the smallest poems possible.
JUST IN: do not pass Go/do not collect 200 dollars/go immediately not to jail but to Berkeley, small press minded and old tale Litmus founder and heralder Charles Potts double volume in softcover memoir Valga Krusa (email@example.com ask for Ms. Bree) about 700 pages of gimmie, poetry, poetrybiz, living on the good life edge by one of the sixties stratocaster singers of tales, at the cost of about 7 gallons of gas. It's not all "Keep your fucking hands off the tomatos" but it's a fine middle section of an odyssey.
So nicely able to fit right into my back jeans pocket like paperbacks of old! this gatefold issue of Poetry of Zen translated and edited by the tag-team made in heaven Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton and affordably price from Shambhala. I plan to take this with me on the Labor Day weekend when Greg Joly and I will read on the street once again to now commemorate the second anniversary of Katrina and the messes left behind. Literally, this floating world.
My heart's like the autumn moon,
reflecting from the clear pure waters of the pool.
There's nothing to compare:
What can I say?
- HAN SHAN
MUSIC PLAYED: Johnny Shines, Too Wet to Plow; Rev. Gary Davis, I Am the True Vine; Thelonious Monk Quartet, Misterioso; Duane Eddy, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel; Nina Simone, Remixed & Reimagined; Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dear Ella; The Doors, Live in Boston 1970; Freddie Hubbard, Open Sesame; Sonny Clark Trio w/ Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones; Marc Savoy, Oh What a Night, MV & EE with the Bummer Road, Green Blues (this is the ever goodness swirl of Matt Valentine and Erika Elder on Ecstatic Peace!); Yoko Ono, Yes, I'm A Witch; The Blues Project: John Koerner, Geoff Muldaur, Dave Ray, Danny Kalb, Ian Buchanan, Mark Spoelstra, Eric Von Schmidt (where you'll find some of their very best work); Fracoise Hardy, Comment te Dire Adieu; Sam Rivers, Contours; The Swan Silvertones, Singing in my Soul; Blue Mitchell, Blue's Moods; Hobart Smith, of Saltville, Virginia...taking us into one more uncloudy day.
Bob Arnold 2 September 07
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : DOG DAYS OF AUGUST 2007 In memory of Laszlo Kovacs
( say it isn't so )
Francis by name, France's by birth
(I've never had much luck on earth)
~ Francois Villon Pilgrims were people who figured things out as they walked.
On the road you can think forward, you can think back, you
can make a list to remember to tell those at home.
~ Anne Carson I write for those who stumble in the night
~ Doc Pomus
Well, it's a rich man's world, a rich man's world
And who am I in it, who am I in it?
Nothin' but a lonely rambler girl, lonely rambler girl
~ Eilen Jewell
One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself,
" What if I had never seen this before?
What if I would never see it again?"
~ Rachel Carson
Generation On Fire, voices of protest from the 1960s/an oral history, Jeff Kisseloff (Kentucky 2007): a well built compendium of personal essays by all involved, and those involved are an eclectic lot and fine surprises, including Paul Krassner, Daniel Berrigan, Peter Berg, Elsa Marley Skylark, Barry Melton, David Meggyesy, Verandah Porche and others. With photographs of each from the heyday to present day, and other than appearance, not much has changed. These are the fruits of the stalwart.
REQUIEM FOR ELISE COWEN
there was space, there was a room there
for negroes, for jews, for canucks
gays, madmen, bums & junkies
there was even room for women
who are nowhere in the world
except in India
and on the moon
- CAROLINE HARTGE Requiem for Elise Cowen (www.engstler-verlag.de)
Bound in twine, snow-white cover as per this publisher's touch with earth and sky tones typography a slower shower, Alec Finlay (Island/www.essencepress.co.uk) Number 15 in Julie Johnstone's compilation & editing a steady stream of issues evolving space for writing and artwork inspired by nature and landscape. Other issues concentrate on walking/open spaces, wild places/ all wind and sunshine / sight-lines. The adventurous reader is highly recommended to go investigate. a slower shower / passes over
They Would Never Hurt A Fly, Slavenka Drakulic (Viking) a fascinating portrait-by-portrait of war criminals on trial in the Hague from the Yugoslav wars of the 90s. Born and raised in Croatia, the author has offered in many of her books a unique perspective - none the more intimate than this one, often setting parallels between the murderers (many regular civilians before the war) and her own relations and family in the country residing behind seven mountains and seven rivers. The ultimate irony being how once the criminals were captured and brought to the detention unit of the Hague in the Netherlands, how bonded they are one to the other. Is it the familiarity of their crimes? "Another thing that unites these men, besides the food, language, and sports, is that they are accused of having committed the worst war crimes in Europe since 1945. One would think that since they were at war with each other and might still be deadly enemies, it would be logical to place them on different floors according to their nationalities. But here Serbs and Croats and Bosnians, who for years fought each other, live happily together. And although each of them continues to stick to the political opinions that brought him to Scheveningen, they obviously have reached a compromise that enables them to live together, something that people back home can only dream about. "When I came here, the first man who greeted me was Esad Landjo, a Muslim," said Goran Jelisic, a Serb who specialized in executing Muslim prisoners from close range. "He helped me. He told me about the rules and what was waiting for me in the court." back home Esad Landjo specialized in torturing Serbian prisoners.
The Good Life of Helen K. Nearing, Margaret O. Killinger ( U. Vermont): a fine peek into Helen Nearing. I have yet to talk with one or two Nearing disciples and scholars to see just how tidy the book is. Not that I care all that much - myth and tall tales all come from any wilderness - and this couple was mired with complexities and paradoxes. Did you know the back country task master and homesteader Scott Nearing believed in fairies? Neither did I. But this is one of the first interpretative biographies of the northern New England dynamo duo that includes much less Scott and devotes itself to the legend of Helen. A slim book cutting to the chase of Helen's life from travels and soul made exploits in India, into the texture of post-Depression years Vermont and later along the coast of Maine. Don't expect any detailed surroundings from either location. This is the pared down version of a whole book one day to be sculptured from the rocky soil of either socialist, who can't be separated from one another in their grand theater anymore than sand, water and lime can be to set-up mortar.
First note and this brand spanking CD by Eilen Jewell is on. There's a million out there sawing with fiddles, strumming guitars, singing songs of peaches on the vine, but there is something wholesome and incomparable about Eilen (pronounced as "feelin'") despite the correct comparisons, some, to Lucinda Williams and others. But start with a clean slate and just listen to Letters from Sinners & Strangers, one of the finest recordings I've heard from Signature Sounds growing in reputation from western Massachusetts....where, surveying all the town libraries in that region for anything by Eilen Jewell, and nothing was found. There was a lesser circulated CD produced from the artist's own hand in 2006 (Boundary County). I'm in no mood to Google anything about the singer, raised in Idaho, dad a tree farmer who played Beethoven in the family car and that EJ is on tour this summer with this excellent ride-along CD under wraps. I think I would have ended the set with her floating version of Dylan's "Walking Down the Line", rather than next to last. I listened to the CD one night with headphones outdoors under the stars laying in my sweet baby's arms. Someone has to be a hopeless romantic.
At some point, the prevailing wind of fertility lifts high a small bird
or breaks the fall of a chiaroscuro man
who is standing on a planet and slipping
on narrow subway stairs.
At some point, all the parts of a bird, as loud as possible. At some point, f-flat, an arroyo, and a moon gate. At some point, strawberry gum.
from Structures of the Embryonic Rat Brain, Christopher Janke (Fence): celebratory isolated howls from a being on the planet. It reached me, with thanks.
As I say these things, I begin to feel the worst sort of emptiness: the loneliness of the wretch. I think a wretch is the worst kind of "bird" because a wretch wretchedly believes a thing to be true when others have proven that even if it were true it wouldn't matter. And he is actually able to resign himself wretchedly to it all.
When I try to tell my story to more than one person at a time, this confusion takes hold of me, and love for the lost songbirds looks like something that only a wretch would need to talk about.
Even as I said that, a small dark look slipped out of my eyes and I felt tempted to say the true things of which I have no doubt and speak of the wretchedness of this world.
from Extinct Songbirds of Maine, Stephen Petroff (Blackberry) Stephen just dropped me a note "One sad thing - the Audubon Society just sent out a letter saying that 70% of the songbirds in Maine have disappeared - something that was NOT on my mind ten years ago when writing Extinct Songbirds."
A FIRST DAY IN PARIS Some twenty years ago I was still a young man. I did not
know anything more about Paris than a small black-haired sea
tern knows about inland mountain gardens on the first day of
his life. All he does is gaze around him, puzzled at the soli-
tary distances of the ocean. How many mountains I have
flown across, how many nests. I have lain down in an aban-
doned between the big American cities. Now I walk in the
gardens of the Tuileries. Here, a song tells me, some twenty
years ago the chestnut buds in April were too heavy to bear
themselves any longer. When a late frost fell on them, they
suddenly shuddered in the night, and the next morning they
opened, green as before, in spite of everything. The startled
frost ran off and vanished, and the open blossoms turned
white in their own good time. In Paris the natural world, alert
and welcome in a moment to its own loveliness, offers a
strange new face, as though God were creating it for the first
time. Sometimes the women in the Tuileries grow so old they
outlive death, and their shadows lie on chestnut leaves like
~ JAMES WRIGHT, The Shape of Light (White Pine): this poem stopped me in my tracks once again after reading it decades ago. Now reissued in Dennis Maloney's White Pine Press "Companions for the Journey Series". An ideal one.
O my goodness, just imagine Delmore Schwartz, Leslie Scalapino & Wendell Berry in the same rowboat together! This is exactly what poet, and here collagist, David Giannini has done in Others' Lines (Series I and II) or what David likes to call a "Tricollage" - "utilizing only first lines of poems by others", as mentioned above, and making a poem that stands as well as stone:
Let the musicians begin,
believing in constructing-by keeping up the
Raindrops on the tin roof.
It's not random. "Each triad is placed in collegial as well as historical juxtaposition, and every effort has been made to reproduce other poets' original lines intact (grammatically and syntactically). A colossal waste of time, as one has grumbled? You decide. This is an ambitious gathering that includes 210 poets from all walks of life. Come walk the line. (small chapbook project, 45 Ravenwood Rd., W. Hartford, CT. 06107-1539).
You're Gonna Miss Me, a film by Keven McAlester about Roky Erickson (DVD). : for those not from the 60s, or Austin, Texas, that's Roky pronounced "Rocky". And for once we get a rock ' n roll psychedelic icon documentary which is more on the family, and less on the cheap thrills of music ephemera. Roky is everlasting for many of us, but in the real world of people and emotions and psychic balance there can be terrible troubles, and Roky fell into a personal swamp of drugs and madness for vast amounts of years. Many thought he was lost forever. His many brothers thought he may have been lost to their dear mother, and for a while Roky was in a pit-stop of hell with dear ol' mom. Not that he didn't look happy and content living in a junkyard of mom's home brew remedy of recovery for her boy, but if you love the music of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators and wish to thank one person for pulling him through (and looking like he went through some of his own punishment in the bargain), hug Roky's younger brother Sumner. The humble hero of this biographical film. To see vintage footage of The 13th Floor Elevators on crummy stage, poor lighting, never mind taking a majestic spin through Dick Clark's American Bandstone program (I missed that one!) is a treat. Watching the absolute downfall in appearance of a young music gemstone is not. It hurts. But Roky will prevail, and his decency and quiet ways of achieving and allowing all this attention is enough to put all the loud mouths of rock 'n roll in their place. Watch Roky climb back when a therapist on her pastoral outdoor deck asks Roky to sing her a song, like it's a professional trick to get him to reach out. She means well, and Roky has all the charm of Smokey the Bear. A song? he seems to be asking back. Okay. A smile. He lifts his guitar for what seems like the first time in a century and with that voice and tone and word play wholeness, he's back. Please be sure to watch all the extras which span with the film in patient documentation from 1999-2007.
Imagine an evening undisturbed and your playing these champion tunes: Lonely Avenue, Boogie Woogie Country Girl, Teenager in Love, This Magic Moment, Save the Last Dance For Me, Little Sister, No One, I'm Gonna Cry 'till My Tears Run Dry, Hushabye, There Must Be A Better World Somewhere, Dreams Must be Going Out of Style, Suspicion and toss in Viva Las Vegas for good measure - all written by Jerome Felder. Who? Doc Pomus. Who through the guidance of Alex Halberstadt gets his first royal biography written and it's about time Lonely Avenue (Da Capo). A man of one-thousand songs, who even Bob Dylan came to see for writer's block advice. Stricken by polio as a child Pomus performed in braces and with crutches, sporting big rings, big hats and a big smile. His business card was simple: "I've Got My Own Problems". Head for the songs, then read about this one of a kind author.
DIVIDE, COLORADO Altitudes race our strength to nothing. Camped now higher
than the eight burning hells. Within a glass-tmber morning
we stumble about after the night of demons. It was 3:00 a.m.
when the emperor leapt from his bedclothes shouting, "Some-
thing is biting my nuts!" A hornet I suggested. An angry father
god he was sure. We scoured the blankets, he was weeping. I
stood in the huge Colorado mountain darkness, training my
flashlight on his parts. I have never been a warmhearted per-
son. My father and I shook hands on Christmas, birthdays,
and farewells. "Do you want to trade sleeping bags with me?"
"Yes", he said very fast. We exchanged bedding. He lay rus-
tling a long while and fell at last into mistrustful sleep. I viewed
the stars. The summer constellations are complex. Far too
many stars, late and young, shuddering. Many a classical mas-
ter turns in old age more and more to brushwork to transmit
the spirit beyond words.
~ ANNE CARSON, Plainwater, essays and poetry (Random): I prefer Anne Carson's writings on the move, not as lodged in her skull but the better skull of imagination, whole physical and mental, so charged.
Realizing the Impossible, art against authority ed Josh Macphee & Erik Reuland (AK Press/www.akpress.org): anarchist aesthetics/anarchist political art as compiled by anarchists - the book the editors always wanted to read and could never find, now located from their own hands. Street theater, video guerrilla art, Bread & Puppet Theater, 100 year ago French cartoonists to renegade playgrounds in Denmark, stencil art of Argentina and interviews with Clifford Harper, Gee Vaucher, Black Mask members and Carlos Cortez "poet, writer, anarchist, activist, artist, pacifist, conscientious objector, organizer, friend, husband, and "abuelo" - grandfather to all." Loudly illustrated in the People's black & white. A furthering history lesson for us all.
The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, a film by Jerry Aronson (New Yorker Video): if you are a lover of Allen Ginsberg or need that rightful introduction (short of picking up his books and simply reading) this is the one. An excellent survey, well executed, of the poet from birth to his death in 1998, where he seemed, ever and ever, to be on to read his poetry aloud for us. A bundle of extras come with this 2-disc set including some sparkling dry moments with William Burroughs reflecting on the past with AG. The young fellow we checked the dvd out with in town seemed to have no interest much in Ginsberg...it was "Huh, Allen Ginsberg. Any Bill Burroughs on this?" The guys seem to go for Bukowski and Burroughs to this day. Bob Dylan and Ginsberg visit Jack Kerouac's grave here and say a few words, plus excerpts from filmwork by Gus Van Zandt and Jonas Mekas. Many interviews with many close friends, well done, particularly Ed Sanders and Patti Smith. The only shameful thing about the film is the gathering of famous names, mainly, to speak about AG. The majority have nothing really new to reveal. I can think of others off the top of my head who may have gone the distance: Gary Snyder, Janine Pommy Vega, Andy Clausen, Eliot Katz, Joanne Kyger and others who would have given a grounding for AG and a depth over time. Yes, the moments with Ed Sanders is one of the best here. The memorial at St. John's the Divine Church (the same night as the final Seinfeld airing) for AG is luxuriously shared. Pull up a chair, the film and flight of extras is over six hours long. Breathe in/breathe out.
"Don't write yourself"
Don't write yourself
in between worlds,
rise up against
trust the trail of tears
and learn to live.
~ PAUL CELAN, trans. John Felstiner
from Twentieth-Century German Poetry, ed Michael Hofmann (Farrar):plenty of Rilke, Brecht, Enzensberger; coulda been more Bachmann and Inge Muller. The younger poets born after 1940, like Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, receive only two or so pages, except Durs Grunbein earns a whopping 22 pages for some reason and essentially whipping out the chances for a dozen more young, unknown poets to be showcased in the 2-3 page allowance. Doesn't paper grow on trees? A few more pages to welcome poets the world should know and justify the $40 price tag.
The world weeps. There are no tears
To be found. It is deemed a miracle.
The president appears on screens
In villages and towns, in cities in jungles
And jungles still affectionately called cities.
He appears on screens and reads a story.
Whose story is he reading and why?
What lessons are to be learned from this story
About a time that has not arrived, will not arrive, is here?
Time of fire and images of fire climbing toward the sun
Time of precious and semi-precious liquids
Tome of a man and a woman doused in ink
Rolling across streams and down valleys
Trying to leave some string of words behind.
- JOHN YAU, Paradiso Diaspora (Penguin)
Stone Primer, Charles McRaven (Storey Press): a modest title for a very well built, extravagant book from one of the oldest hands at explaining with needed common sense the techniques, styles and rhythms of stonemasonry. From dirt rudiments to posh examples, it's here in living color, including footbridges and waterfalls and sculptures, plus respectable side portraits of various stone artists from around the USA. Equilibrium is the key to fine stonework as well as this book.
Biographical Information and Information Said to Be in Sappho's Poems
"Sappho was born on Lesbos and lived in the city of Mytilini. Her father was Skamandros, or according to some, Skamandronymos. She had three brothers, Eurygios, Larihos, and Haraxos, the oldest, who sailed to Egypt and became the lover of Doriha, on whom he spent much money. Since Larihos was the youngest, Sappho loved him most. She hd a daughter named Kleis who was named after Sappho's mother. She was accused by some writers of being irregular in her way of life and a woman-lover.In appearance she seems to have been contemptible and ugly. [Socrates called her "the beautiful Sappho"]. She had a dark complexion and was very short. The same is true of...[A;kaios?], who was smallish...She used the Aiolic dialect...wrote nine books of lyric poetry and one of elegiac forms.
~ Papyri Oxyrhynchus 1800 frag. 1"
from Sweetbitter Love, poems of Sappho, a new translation by Willis Barnstone (Shambhala)
One of the somewhat forgotten film classics from the 1960s cinema is Lindsay Andersen's If....Originally to be called "The Crusaders" this final title holds over decades now, as does the film. With commentary not to be missed by Malcolm McDowell who reflares the whole film event 40 years later. Boys in a British school decide to, well, shoot it out. I watched this Criterion dvd as a double feature, opening with a dvd of Kenneth Anger's Fireworks and other short films, with likewise walk through commentary by none other than Anger himself, spanning back in time to 1947. A cross between Cocteau and Maya Deren films but holding decidedly Anger vintage: embroidered, cosmic, dangerous fun. What have I liked of recent films? Try The Dead Girl: an excellent ensemble of women performances, including director Karen Moncrieff, and especially Mary Beth Hurt and Toni Colette.
Invaluable: Censored 2007, the top 25 censored stories, Peter Phillips & Project Censored (Seven Stories): indeed media democracy in action. "Project Censored is managed through the Department of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University. We are an investigative sociology and media analysis project dedicated to journalistic integrity and the freedom of information throughout the United States." Them are big words and I'm happy to report they back it up. Now in this 30th anniversary issue. The world's most neglected emergency, according to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator,is the ongoing tragedy of the Congo, where six to seven million have died since 1996 as a consequence of invasions and wars sponsored by western powers trying to gain control of the region's mineral wealth. At stake is control of natural resources that are sought by U.S. corporations - diamonds, tin, copper, gold, and more significantly, coltan and niobium, two minerals necessary for production of cell phones and other high-tech electronics; and cobalt, an element essential to nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries.
To Lives to Fly, John Kruth (Da Capo), the ballad of the late, great Townes Van Zandt: say the name Townes Van Zandt aloud to this day in a crowded record store and you may get one or two fellow travelers lifting their heads and staring you in the eyes that eye of knowing. For decades, starting from the late 60s, one tended to find his albums in cut out bins and dollar stacks. It was such joyous hunting that I can tell you after almost 40 years of this just where I found each album, some collected in triplicates. It's pretty much dried up now since Van Zandt died ten years ago at age 52 and with a moniker at being the next Hank Williams in death, more than life (Townes survived much longer than Williams, though fell on the same date). Since then collecting desires have shot through the roof. His recordings were often uneven, small label'd, eventually repetitive versions, and absolutely haunting. Like nothing else. There is no such thing as a 'better songwriter' - the often heard Steve Earle quote of believing his friend Townes was the best songwriter ever and he'd prove his point by standing on Bob Dylan's coffee table and telling him so. That's showbiz. Townes Van Zandt didn't write songs, he literally to his dying day survived by his songs and brought them out in increments as all unknown poets do in small editions and under a big tent show of who cares. He did. And he proved it time and again, small club date to small club date, heartworn highways, each etched song with that oil streak of Lightnin' Hopkins meets Billy the Kid. For once it was true, his bigger-than-life (like it was for Kerouac when described) and for once you'd be a fool not to believe it. John Kruth not only writes the first fully authorized biography of Townes Van Zandt (it seems everyone talked, except Susanna Clark and that would figure, quite Townes-like and probably his very best friend: what's unsaid in this case is as vital as what is said), with rare photographs, he does it in complete Van Zandt style: shaky in the limbs (his confrontation with Guy Clark is one of the best dance steps in the book), confessional self doubts, defiant roots, no stone left unturned, and pretty much as wholesome as its subject. That's saying something. Like his once roommate Roky Erickson, Townes Van Zandt was from Texas through and through. As child wonders they both went through nut house incarceration in a time when anything looking strange or out of the ordinary was suspect and' treated'. Many perished. Those that didn't often slowly rolled out and away with a lust for dependency drugs or drink, but also with keys to the highway. This is more information than any of us who never knew Townes Van Zandt, but loved his music, have ever known. So savor it. I've fallen it's true but I say unto you / Hold your tongues until after I've spoken
MUSIC PLAYED while writing: Columbia World Library of Folk & Primitive Music, southern Italy & the Islands (Alan Lomax), The Columbia Singles '65-67 (The Byrds), Heart Food (Judee Sill), Ruff Stuff - the roots of Texas blues guitar, Stax 50th Anniversary Collection, Buell Kazee (Buell Kazee / June Appal www.appalshop.org), Sagan Om Ringen (Bo Hansson), Further Father (Pop Staples, suddenly needing that steady rhythmic guitar chant blues), The Sound of Howard Finster, man of visions (Howard Finster), Letters from Sinners & Strangers (Eilen Jewell), Sings Bessie Smith (Dinah Washington), The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Traveling Wilburys: Orbison, Dylan, Harrison, Petty, Lynde), Icky Thump (The White Stripes), Columbia River Collection (Woody Guthrie), I Wonder As I Wander (John Jacob Niles), Newport Folk Festival 1964, evening concerts vol. 3 (maybe you were there with Fred MacDowell, Judy Roderick, The Swan Silvertones, Doc Watson, Koerner, Ray, Glover, Tom Paxton, the Cajun Band, Hedy West?), Gates, Grills & Railings (Bobby Vee)
~ Bob Arnold
P.S. Charles Simic has just been crowned USA Poet Laureate. I don't believe two back to back poet laureates have hailed from the same state, and such a small state, New Hampshire. Donald Hall is a traditionalist with nary a surrealist bone in his body; the newcomer is a surrealist sort who writes without a bone in his body, all wry spirit-spooky stuff. The ghost of Robert Frost lingers.
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND ~ SUMMER HOURS
It isn't that one brings life together - it's that one will not allow it to be torn apart. Muriel Rukeyser "Mom, this isn't right."
- PARIS HILTON, after being ordered back to jail.
Suddenly there is no time to say much about books. If I do, I'm not reading. And when not reading, it's a full day at outdoor work. with everything flying at us fast: stonework, carpentry, landscape jobs, treework, firewood falling, cutting, hauling (we use two wheelbarrows as its own brigade to get it across the yard; old pickup truck to fetch it out of the woods). Never mind Origin gathering, reading, editing. And to top it off, I'm editing the Selected Poems of Cid Corman with Ce Rosenow for a Longhouse title in late 2007. Where'd the day go?
Today we swept the chimney after nine months of woodburning. Enough! The match we lit in late September was the only match we used for those nine long months; the fire never went out. Time to light another sort of match with the flower beds.
Here are some books I've recently enjoyed and highly recommend for a million reasons. Take a chance, take a gamble, just pick up something different for a change and maybe it will blast the top of your head off. Oh yes, I've seen it happen.
Granada loves tiny things, and so does the rest of Andalusia. Popular speech places even verbs in the diminutive, making it easier to trust and love. But the diminutives one hears in Malaga and Seville are but charm and rhythm. Seville and Malaga are cities on the crossroads of the water, cities that thirst for adventure and slip away to sea. Granada, tranquil and refined, girded by her sierras, riding eternally at anchor, sets her own horizons, takes pleasure in her small jewels, and offers her bland diminutive: a diminutive without rhythm, almost without grace and charm when one compares it with the phonetic dance of Malaga and Seville, but cordial, domestic, affectionate. A diminutive frightened as a bird, one which opens secrets chambers of feeling and reveals the subtlest, best-defined nuances of the city.
From A Season in Granada, Federico Garcia Lorca. Uncollected Poems and Prose. Translated and edited by Christopher Maurer (Anvil 1998)
The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, ed. Janet E. Kaufman & Anne F. Herzog (U/Pittsburgh) But a word rings beside your cheek / all day long. A bone of a poem.
The Flowers of Evil, Charles Baudelaire, translated newly and heavenly by Keith Waldrop (Wesleyan)
The Outernationale, Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan) Her shine, I should say, could take me anywhere
When Thomas Hardy was born under a thatched cottage in Dorset, 1840, Thoreau was much in his prime. He would go on to become the supreme example for others as a life with simple principles, and a poet who wrote straight up to his dying days in his late 80s, commanding poems. A life and poetry to envy. Little did many know that baby Hardy was born and thought dead and thrown aside by the doctor, only to be recovered by a wise village nurse who felt the newborn's heart still beating. When he died 88 years later and the Powers that be wanted his ashes laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, this happened. But first! that same heart the nurse felt was cut out from Hardy's body and placed with his wife's grave in the churchyard at Stinsford.
Someday, after the pomp and ceremony, the next world will make up their mind about Hunter S. Thompson. For now we have one of his closest and honest friends, Ralph Steadman, The Joke's Over (Harcourt) making his own appraisal. It ain't all laughs.
Somehow when I was a kid, even as a country boy, I was able to find issues of The Black Panther from The Black Panther Party. For 25 cents as I recall. And what drew my eye, after the explosive front cover photograph, might be the art work of Emory Douglas. Much of his finest from this period and afterwards come in Black Panther, the revolutionary art of Emory Douglas (imagine! 40 years later and now published from Rizzoli!) big and bold and now cut down to size as almost a memorial album since a vast majority of the Panthers have been murdered, vanished, silenced. Yet the poets and artists are here as contributors to the cause. Hail the poets & singers: Sonia Sanchez, Kathleen Cleaver, Colette Gaiter, Greg Jung Morozumi, Amiri Baraka, St. Clair Bourne. All art was a reflection of a class outlook. Which is true, even today (ED)
A massive volume and so beautifully laid out - photographs, annotations and footnotes to every left side page - Tennessee Williams, Notebooks (Yale) to the right side pages, and quite nicely the twain meets. The compiler and editor Margaret Bradham Thornton is wonderfully served. The writing, the reading, the period, the man is addictive. Saturday, 2 July 1955: Saturday - Rome: The most embarrassing of all relations is with a whore. At least, after the act, when you suffer the post-orgasmic withdrawal anyway, a good whore, in the sense of a really wise one, knows how to create an atmosphere that obviates this hazard but the one this afternoon, though divinely gifted in the practice of bed, made me feel very sheepish afterwards. I didn't know how to offer the money or how to say goodbye. It is because of my Puritanical feeling that it is wrong, wrong! - to use another being's body like this because of having need, on one hand, and cash on the other - Still - I owe more pleasure to this circumstance in life than anything else, I guess. Can I complain? Breast beating is twice as false as the love of any whore.
Arriving just in time as I ended the Williams Notebooks comes The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams, edited by David Roessel & Nicholas Moschovakis (New Directions) with a CD thoughtfully packed in the back pages. The first poem is incorrectly stated by page on the opening poem, so be prepared since you will want to sit awhile with this selection of poems, including "The Summer Belvedere" and the Mississippian author's short blues songs/poems. It's less than 12 minutes in all, but the book is a powerhouse ingredient. Like a chat from the front porch evening. My feet took a walk in heavenly grass / All night while the lonesome stars rolled past.
Jewish American Literature, a Norton anthology, ed Jules Chametzky et al (Norton) an immediate classic, spanning over 1200 pages, comprehensive, balanced, neglecting and still nourishing. Political music lyrics would have been nice, certainly where is Lenny Bruce? and a dip into brethren Jerome Rothenberg's seminal, mossy watering hole A Big Jewish Book for how to extract contemporaries: Corman, Jabes, Mac Low, Schwerner, for starters. The whole book maps 350 years of writing and it could be summed up as from Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans: "The old people in a new world, the new people made out of the old, that is the story that I mean to tell, for that is what really is and what I really know." The biographies of each author and historical essay interludes is breathless.
I'd love to own this book - it's my local library's - so you can partially own it, too. Go fetch. A pure dream assemblage and chronology, with a CD you can borrow and burn of how music and recordings were made in Nashville from 1945-55. It was you and me making music then, local folk, small town business men and the like cutting records on labels like Speed, Bullet, Tennessee, and digging into the fabric finding the real McCoy's of blues, dance bands, country and gospel local talent. Local around Nashville means soon-to-be worldwide. The research, layout, appendix mapping and showcasing for this book is mouth watering. A Shot in the Dark, Martin Hawkins is the man (Vanderbilt University).
Everlasting, reversible, waterproof here comes once again for a new generation Laozi's Daode Jing (you might own an old copy that reads Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: same critter) (Flood Editions / www.floodeditions.com) as translated by Thomas Meyer "who has always lived where there are cows and there is rain" ~ this seems important to import Laozi. Do not miss out. Jeffery Beam made sure I was gifted a copy, and like a vitamin I pop a poem once a day. Here is today's ~
do nothing and that way influence people
remain calm and that way people are honest
making no plans makes people rich
stop wanting stuff and anything's possible
when regulations are extremely lax
people are open and honest
when regulations are very strict
they complain and worry
bad luck depends upon good fortune
success hides its face behind failure
who knows what the point is
this seems to have no right way
- Laozi (trans. Thomas Meyer)
Some of the finest essays written over the last ten years from America have been made by Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (U/ Cal. Press) but a brief sample ~ (Buffalo Bill) William "Cody was born in 1846, the year the United States began its war with Mexico for what is now the American Southwest, and died during the First World War; he began his career as a buffalo hunter and army scout and ended as silent-movie producer. He is the crowning achievement of this proto-shape shifting, a prefigurative mix of Andy Warhol and Steven Segal and Michael Eisner. There is now a Buffalo Bill Museum in Colorado, and, like the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles, it presents Westerm history and theater as though they were one - and in crucial respects they were. To comprehend the Wild West Show, imagine that Colin Powell toured the country in a theatrical production simulating the bombing of Baghdad, and that saddam Hussein joined him occasionally for a command performance. The stars played themselves, and actors played the smaller parts. Enemies on the battlefield became costars of the circus, and Cody harbored an outlaw for a while who played himself - Gabriel Dumont of Canada's Riel Rebellion. For many of the most prominent characters of the West, crime, law enforcement, and entertainment were not distinct categories: Las Vegas already existed in spirit."
There's a sudden island Sea sculpture cradle
graves between ether and salt
the mists of its paths wind around the rock
and over the noise and silence voices rising
Here seasons wind directions have a home
and shade is good night is good sun is good
the ocean would be glad to lay its bones here
leaves are dressing the weary arm of the sky
Its frailness amid the tumult of the elements
when at night in the hills human fire chatters
when at night in the hills human fire chatters
and in the morning before Aurora shines out
the first light of the sources rises in the ferns
-Zbigniew Herbert, The Collected Poems 1956-1998 (Ecco)
"Forty years ago, when the U.S. was bombing a small Buddhist country (Vietnam) "back into the stone age", as one General LeMay promised. Merton wrote there words in a letter to Abdul Aziz, the Pakistani Muslim scholar" "Well, my friend, we live in troubled and sad times, and we may pray the infinite and merciful Lord to bear patiently with the sins of this world, which are very great. We must humble our hearts in silence and poverty of spirit and listen to His commands which come from the depths of His love, and work that men's hearts may be converted to the ways of love and justice, not of blood, murder, lust and greed. I am afraid that the big powerful countries are a very bad example to the rest of the world in this respect."
from Pax Intrantibus, a meditation on the poetry of Thomas Merton by Frederick Smock (Broadstone Books.com) A modestly honed down primer of 75 pages catching the many sided Merton at work.
My 8th grade history teacher, Mrs. K. would have this to say this morning: "Here is something for you to read about your American History, please take note." We say the same. If there is one item for you to read today, make it this one:
NEWLY RELEASED FILMS ON DVD WE SAY YES TO: Straight Time
Sansho the Baliff
Candy (not thee; the latter fine Heath Ledger role)
Vengeance Is Mine
and, If... finally being released
THE MUSIC PLAYING: Kekele Kinavana and their "rumba Congo". The greatest of "enslaved Africans brought to Cuba came from the Congo region. As late as the 1870s...slave ships still ran from the mouth of the Congo River to Matanzas and Havana - which meant that many Cubans living well into the 20th century were Bantu born in Central Africa. So of course Cuban music is full of Congolese elements." Gorgeous here.
~ Bob Arnold / 06 June 2007
Wishing you well
the whole day I
have been there too
- Gene Frumkin
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : NOH APRIL
REMEMBERING GENE FRUMKIN, KURT VONNEGUT & DAVID HALBERSTAM
Having learned to sing
I find it difficult
to come back to earth -
-Ethan Paquin , The Makeshift
(Stride / www.stridebooks.co.uk)
Joe Boyd, White Bicycles (Serpent's Tail): making music in the 1960s. You're probably sighing right about now thinking, "Not another one?" Correct. But this is the one. Trust me. An anomaly: a player who had both business savvy, while never losing his gas for music, and the gift for telling a story. With its lousy title in mind, White Bicycles - I went searching for this book at area bookshops. I wasn't going to make it easy for myself by asking a clerk where the book "White Bicycles" might be. I never ask where a book is located in any bookshop. The best way to find the second and third and fourth book you're going to read is to hunt and crawl and snoop through a bookshop's stacks. There's plenty to be found. Finally, after rummaging four bookshops in two towns, a copy of the book turned up. Eric Von Schmidt is on the cover, Serpent's Tail as publisher, all good signs. After Eric Von Schmidt passed away, the teeny bopper magazine Mojo squeezed out an unsightly two-square inches of obituary space in their magazine layout for him. Insult enough.
When listening to Leonard Cohen sing over the credits during the opening of the film McCabe and Mrs. Miller, that's the Joe Boyd touch. Ditto in Deliverance with those dueling banjos. Boyd headlines his book of 60s music galore with the likes of Von Schmidt, Geof Muldaur (an old pal of the author), Coleman Hawkins, seminal folk UK groups, Muddy Waters, Pink Flyod, Nick Drake, plus a priceless reminiscence of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Rev. Gary Davis, (or Freddie Hubbard) and a very young man's appreciation of one Lonnie Johnson. Along with writing about them all, Boyd knew them all, produced many, road-managed a bunch, and he truly loves the music. So I knew from page one I would never want the book to end. And I read it all on a wet snowy day with the power conked off, woods ice ragged, by window light and then the kerosene lamp into the night as Ghazels by Kayhan Kalhor and friends played over and over and over from a battery operated player. There is a CD import with the same title White Bicycles issued with many of the players Boyd was associated with in his work & travels. This makes an exceptional package along with the book.
Somehow The Fugs are not even mentioned in this book of the 60s and music. But Anne Briggs is, plus a photograph of her, and one of Vashti Bunyan t'boot. It's how you balance your disappointments and emotions. This is a killer of a book by someone who played hard and well through the 60s and remembers it with a invigorating ship captain's recall. Take your doper mentality riff - "if one remembers the 60s then they couldn't have been there" - and go swab the deck.
Hello Lars Amund & Hanne,
I'm just in to clean off paint brushes. I've double stained the two porch decks yesterday-today and have scraped one side of the house for painting (now). Yesterday I also dug into the old pickup body and rebuilt two fenders.Painting that now. At 3:30 I've promised a friend (Greg Joly) I can meet him in town and read some poems to whomever wishes to stop and listen and chat, all for Earth Day. In 1970 I held a rally on the street for Earth Day, read poems and of course hardcore against the war. I was up in true-blue redneck country of New Hampshire then and at the start of the proceedings a truck load of John Birchers jumped out and advanced on us with bats. Not drawn. Just to scare the kids. We held our ground; in fact I read them a poem by Wendell Berry. Take that!
I may read some of your poems today, then I'll give your booklet away as a gift to someone who pleases my eye, who really listened. No matter the age.
So I have your letter and fine poems ahead to read by Erling...I'll get to this over the weekend. Many thanks and an embrace.
You can't believe just how the seasonal turn of events has turned our fur overnight from white to brown. We are working in the sunlight all day, long, as if it is charging our heart batteries. Well, it is.
Back to you shortly
all's well, Bob
OTHER BOOKS -
is the passage
down which meaning flees,
now and now,
carved a climbing vine
- Rae Armantrout Next Life (Wesleyan)
All of Rae Armantrout's new book of poems hangs distinctly within 78 pages of skilled placing. Open to any page - zing, zing, zing. Zing.
Emily Dickinson as recalled by our Vermont neighbor Genevieve Taggard, from The Life and Mind of Emily Dickinson (1934) : once upon a time a fellow poet could get away with this free floating reverie on a page as if speaking with and for the poet and for ourselves. It made for great reading prowess, sweeping the reader back into many poems, from either poet, and seeking to learn what there is still to learn. Earthy.
For twelve years Emily had been cultivating her garden in stoic silence, her face bent to the ground. Two ghosts often came between her and her azaleas, printing thin shadows across her working hands. She weeded and crumbled sod. Although she seemed to be ignoring them while she worked, bending and rising as if she listened to nothing but the innocent birds, much was exchanged between herself and her visitors without stirring the flowers on their stems. The first ghost came in 1850; he stayed; he did not excuse himself and go when, four years later, the ghost of a man not yet dead entered the plot and interrupted a conversation about poetry between Emily and the first comer. After a little time the two shades dwelt together in peace, for although they had the energy of her memory, they also had its calm. And when Emily went into the house, they waited outside together.
Inside the house Emily had another life. The winters were long, and in consequence the other life was often tedious. But even inside the old brick mansion Emily kept her soul upon the window-pane and lived, with secret devices of many sorts, gradually becoming a spinster, a recluse, one of the queer women of New England. Poetry had long been self-forbidden. Why? the first ghost wanted to know. Before he died, Emily aspired to become a poet; she commenced the process bravely,with a light heart. And then, abruptly, she stopped. Why? If the first ghost asked, Emily only shook her head and went on weeding. Amherst said that she was unfortunate, that she was proud, that she was a Dickinson. Emily made no comment to explain why, years before, she had renounced life and - what was harder - had renounced writing poetry. But while Emily was refusing to write poetry, she was nevertheless preparing to write it, and her impervious silence only served to distill what she was thinking about. Bright flowers spread their petals like fans, vines ran blooming, and clusters fell in cascades, while Emily carried on a very complicated inquiry which continued for years and years - twelve years.
Lucky for us, out of the sunset on his horse rides Edward Dorn. A silhouette figure, we shade our eyes with our hands. Already notorious and most unwelcome in some towns, other towns know no better, a few more wait for his arrival. It's a slow horse and the saddle fits the rider. Of course a rolled up blanket. So here we have Way More West (Penguin), selected poems of el Dorn by the good hand of Michael Rothenberg, with a built-well essay by Dale Smith. What is wrong with this picture? Nuttin'. I don't know how you get out of 20th c. world poetry alive without reading Ed Dorn. In 1967 as a scrapper I saw this same Dorn had once been the proprieter of a press called Wild Dog. Wild Dog, I thought, what in the world? In a then world of The Paris Review, and The Saturday Review and the Kenyon Review...so what was this? I went searching. I'm happy to say I'm still searching. I've never seen poets at a more "me" stage than now. And I believe the Ed Dorn syndrome is a poet read mostly by men and supported by a junior league of Dornlikes. His world is over and this great gaggling bunch are hanging onto his coattails for all its worth...whereas Ed himself would be looking back smacking with a stick at all their grasping fingers, shouting "Get a Life!"
Drawn from the Colombian artist's own private treasury - rounded and often exaggerated figures set into paintings and sculpture - revealing a portrait of the Spanish colonial mind meeting the vivid and activist hand of social realism. Yes, even the still life pieces are threatening. The Baroque World of Fernando Botero (Yale)
I would go
where the tangle of fallen trees
creaks in the sun
as if by itself
under the lining of snow
I would find reflections
I would find
the eyes of one ray
I would fall
from one world
as if by itself
to the sun
- Eugenijus Alisanka , City of Ash
It's funny how the world works. Of course I like a great deal of it, and then there is a portion all its own that I've never steered with and never will. Imagine magazines asking that a reviewer not know the author one is reviewing! As if first-hand blood knowledge isn't a benefit and wonder. You've crossed the seas with Melville and when it comes time to write your salty memoir as Queequeg it'd be best not ask Melville to write an appraisal of the book. In other words, reviewer, you are not to be trusted. You're a pesky in-house lying crumb who will do anything to back stab an old foe in print, or else embellish and give your buddy or lover a rousing salute. I can usually smell a rat, can't you? Right now I have spinning Joshua Burkett's latest CD: Where's My Hat? From its opening sounds, powers of invention, delicate and grousing, this recording lifts me into its world. Am I lying? Is that a bagpipe working with acoustic guitar skimming off some percussionist self sound? For the first time ever I am hearing Josh's voice - distinguished words, I mean. In previous recordings his voice could be bird flight, wind under the door, eerie and whispering, the sea from a distance. Now the words have been made for songs and every second of every song is accounted for in a combined unity of tonal texture, meeting a plot, dismantling into a graceful or lagged bass string thud. It's perfect. And the songs don't noodle and drift self-consciously into a personal no man's land. There are borders and this musician bounces against them with a playful and dead serious ambition. Harmony wants to be on the plate with dissonance. It's about making sense. It's about visiting us with a smile. So far only distributed as one-of-50 from Feather One's Nest (I have number lucky 7) handed to me by Josh right out of his traveling satchel when I walked into his used record store. I believe Karen Dalton was playing on the turntable. A few stragglers had come in from the cold. Fourteen songs, all recorded at Gold Studios over some years, and of course wishing for a blue world.
For the Time-Being, the Bootstrap Book of Poetic Journals (www.bootstrapproductions.org) edited by Tyler Doherty & Tom Morgan: a fancy fine compendium of many hundred pages of poetry, prose, journals and interviews tracing influences from Basho, Thoreau, straight up to our modern era of Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger and practitioners of notebook & journal jottings today. This sort of thing can blend into word-mush if not edited properly, and properly both editors have scalloped a sincere and challenging collective. Here are the contributors listed in full, worldwide spanned, and I'm one of them proudly, having no relationship with either editor but from the outset being drawn in by their care and eager curiosity. A journal or notebook is idle without curiosity, so I knew this bird had wings. Go and fetch to read: Jack Collom, Joanne Kyger, Joel Sloman, Hoa Nguyen, Tyler Doherty, Stephen Ratcliffe, Pam Brown, William Corbett, Ken Bolton, Michael Rothenberg, Tom Morgan, Mark Pawlak, Ryan Gallagher, Andrew Schelling, Joseph Massey, Aaron Tieger, Laurie Duggan, Thomas A. Clark, Stacey Szymaszek, Louise Landes Levi, Shin Yu Pai, Michelle Naka Pierce, Marcella Durand, Daniel Bouchard, Jonathan Greene, Bob Arnold, Dale Smith, Rachel McKeen, Joseph Torra, and some high-school students whose work could have been drawn a bit more deeply from and fitted in with the hierarchy. I believe this book will hang around for awhile to come.
Another recent gold mine of indigenous riches would be Native Genius (Rivendell issue 4, www.rivendelljournal.org) edited by Sebastian Matthews & Ryan Walsh: in the tradition of this journal's ways & means of seeking territory & character from one spot on earth. Their other publications have worked the charms of southern California, outback New England, workshops and composing, and now greater Appalachia of sorts, where the journal has its headquarters. My only regret is I find much of the poetry running the same stream, which is odd coming from a landscape of hollers. And I know there just had to be a few mischievous storytellers set back in the hills behind a thin rise of woodsmoke who would have been willing to talk some poetry. Otherwise, the book is packed and rich in interviews with Jonathan Greene and Jim Wayne Miller - plus poems from the same. A conversation with James Still. Poetry or prose with Jonathan Williams (more! more!), Thomas Meyer, Robert Morgan, Keith Flynn, Thomas Rain Crowe, John Lane, Charles Wright, Ron Rash, Irene McKinney and other notables, plus a wide swath of work from the journal's locale in Asheville, North Carolina. Bracing author's biographies for a change from the usual spin mill go nicely with all other graphics, photographs, and even ads and general information. It's very well set up and ready for a spring house sip.
Dudley Laufman, Walking Sticks (Beech River Books / www.beechriverbooks.com) New England born and rooted Dudley Laufman is on the winning side of life. As both a musician and poet he has always had one of the finest tuned ears for hearing country folk and how the ground moves. His humor is infectious and a glory for poetry. He likewise has a gift for leaving home and finding it anywhere else he may be. Rare talent. For good country cinema, read Dudley's poem "Spreading It" (the poem can also be read in Origin 2 and know this is hand-shaped poetry as good as it comes, lived-in and earned.
to harvest a pear
is like knowing when
to pull in the oars
gliding to a pier - Dudley Laufman
What in the world is going on with Shin Yu Pai, Sightings, Selected Works 2000-2005 (1913 Press / www.1913press.org) and that's exactly what is in store for the reader - varied works (or worlds), physically placed within the text, reinventing the book form, parting the waters. Sections of love poems "pediment / pedophilic / fetishists", athletic poems termed "Unnecessary Roughness" complete with graphics, game plays, nothing is ever halfway with this poet. Photographs are poetry - this poet will teach you this - they may also be something else...keep the eye open, the mind alert, the mind emptied. You've just entered a short play of four voices made up from a Chinese-English phrase book. What follows rousts between advertisement, nutrition, what you eat is what you are, an eye-exam, and a roaring good time with the entire book's typography and behavior. At a guess I would count on the poet having something to do with designing the book's cover ISBN code to look altered and unique. The whole of twentieth c. art is somewhere hidden in all this poetry and it spurts and flourishes at the reader with the same visual blast of exciting cinema. Like the futurist FT Marinetti came back for a visit. No seat belts.
- Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer (Green Integer)
Ideas gathered from reading will always be bookish ideas. Go to the persons and objects directly.
Don't show all sides of things. A margin of indefiniteness.
Create expectations to fulfill them.
Practice the precept: find without seeking.
Images. Like the modulations in music.
Your film - let people feel the soul and the heart there, but let it be made like a work of hands.
JUST IN THE DOOR - DON'T DELAY !
Jimmy Sntiago Baca, Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande
Kamau Brathwaite, DS (2)
Eliot Weinberger, An Elemental Thing
(all New Directions, 2007)
FILMS watched as the bad weather rolls on by: Val Lewton's Ghost Ship (ideal for the Punk's administration);Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (Imamura's never ending powers); Along Came Jones (Gary Cooper like you've never seen him); L'Argent (Bresson's last); Siberiade and Mirror (deep in mother Russia); Le Cercle Rouge / Casque d'Or / Le Trou / Au Hasard Balthazar / The Bridesmaid (French masters one and all); the reclining Buddha of all sorrows / joys in The Burmese Harp (elegant Ichikawa). The disarming excellence of The Lives of Others shown in a theater with Rodriguez/Tarantino double-feature Grindhouse where we could just about time the ending of the German award film and slip into the grubby stunt driver's seat beside Kurt Russell and rough shod the back roads in Tarantino's portion of Grindhouse (Death Proof). A sleaze film made by multimillionaires with a credit scroll as long as Saving Private Ryan. If you really want to have fun, check into Seijun Suzuki's Youth of the Beast, made back when The Beatles first landed in America! nevermind. Those four mop tops who ripped off Black music along with the Rolling Stones, while Tarantino rips off the true Asian gangster masters. O well, it's all make-believe, since nothing's like the real thing.
In the cold of winter,
wrapped with slender hairs,
a grass-stalk, look,
bluish the stalk seems lonesome,
yet wrapped all over with slender hairs,
a grass-stalk, look.
Way beyond the sky foreboding snow,
a grass-stalk begins to flare.
- Hagiwara Sakutaro
trans. by Hiroaki Soto
from Howling at the Moon
In closing, Greg Joly and I will be reading down in the southern Berkshires sometime this week. The weather has broken nicely, snow is about gone, the road south of here has two or three deep mudholes on the way so we'll steer back the other way and hit the main roads and be there in no time. No one knows we're coming, no plans, no schedule; just find a spot that looks a little festive and begin to read. This will allow Susan a full day away from Origin work (me too!) and we can read the day away for Earth Day & Peace. Who says we don't have a plan?
~ Bob Arnold 25 April 07
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : MUD-TIME
Protagoras sold firewood. Demokritos liked the way he bundled it for carrying, and hired him to be his secretary.
Just one of those things - winter then spring - and just enough time to read some books and watch some films and listen to plenty of music (Champion Jack Dupree on right now, serene spinning LP) but little time at telling you much about all these things. So I will make a list with a high-sign to each and gladly recommend you head to your local library, bookseller, used book venues, Internet bookselling mash potato, friends who still have libraries, browsing tables, lending libraries, local video hutch, even Netflix...who, by the way, deliver at twice the speed of Blockbuster if you have even a flickering interest in either. Although, I waited four days for a film to be delivered from Netflix - the rare to find and when found still very lousy resolution Patterns with Ed Begley and Van Heflin. A tale of the corporate world, which is now very much in the poetry world. It took days to arrive from Panama City, but lo & behold was received back in Panama City from Vermont in one day! How could that be? It seems Netflix doesn't mind you waiting and paying on a four day travel plan for one film, but sure enough they want their booty back fast to rent again. I watched this also happen with a film coming from far away San Jose Netflix: five long days of travel by plodding conestoga wagon to reach us. One day on Netflix imaginary Concorde back to San Jose. It's uncanny, often, how America works.
Let's start the reading plan off with something personal, home grown, out of the root cellar, made by hand, lots of friends coming together gel:
Origin, Sixth Series, Issue 1 ~
the poets & artists in this first issue of a scheduled quartet are:
Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Jonathan Greene, Red Pine, Hermit-sage Tradition / Mike O'Connor, Robert Sund, Tim McNulty, Wei Ying-wu / David Hinton, Clifford Burke, James Koller, Franco Beltrametti, Miyazawa Kenji / Gerald Hausman & Kenji Okuhira, Bob Arnold ~ Origin feature, Jerome Seaton, George Evans , Carson Cistulli, Rita degli Esposti / Coco Gordon, Steve Clay, Gerald Hausman, Mike O'Connor, Yuan Mei / J. P. Seaton , Laurie Clark, Thomas A. Clark, Ian Hamilton Finlay ~ Origin archive feature, Janine Pommy Vega, Lars Amund Vaage / Hanne Bramness, Hayden Carruth, Kent Johnson ~ Art & Photography: Dobree Adams, Susan Arnold, Ed Baker, Shizumi Corman, Alan Lau, Louise Landes Levi, Chung Ling, Laki Vazakas ~ It should be self explanatory once you land. Knock. Wipe your feet. Walk right in. Say, "Hello".
The second listing is our very own Longhouse Bibliography. 35 years of gimmie. Like an ever moving loop of small press book reviews of limited editions. You can spend all day here and even share it with a friend. It's all free reading from both websites so far listed. Nothing to lose but time and your mind. Of course, feel free to purchase, at your whim, booklets from us.
Next up, a stack of books I recently culled out of one library, some book hunts, and three or four arrived by mail. Friends still know how to send a book as almost a personal visit.
Tom Jay, The Blossoms are Ghosts at the Wedding (Empty Bowl), selected poems & essays from this long time Pacific Northwest bronze caster-sculptor. Ideal to be read in small increments, one poem, one short essay, lasting for days. When two ecosystems meet, say the forest and the prairie, you often see a border of rich diversity and fertility: a place of increased imagination.
(Allen Ginsberg) The Poem That Changed America: Howl, fifty years later, ed. Jason Shinder (Farrar): an admirable cross-blend of insights etched in by this editor with skill, from Amiri Baraka to Frank Bidart, and that is a stretch. A 50 year retrospective of that lousy magnificent poem I've seen stocked on shelves as distant as downtown cobbled Cambridge, to mount-sloped, backcountry cafe Nederland. The book and poem has done gone and proven itself true.
David Carradine, The Kill Bill Diary (Harper), a great idea hiding in an almost unreadable book, but I read it. Of course Quentin Tarantino does the only cover blurb. And Carradine is "Bill". The rest sells tickets. Now if it was by and about Zatoichi it would be three times less in size and quite something to read.
Charles Burchfield, by Matthew Baigell (Watson Guptill), an older book by one of my favorite artists of the 20th c., born in Ohio and composing most of his work in upper NY State - watercolors that were layered upon layer until they held the weight and context of an oil painting. Best known in his middle period and regionalist work through the 1920s-30s which for the life of me I don't know why - such dreary and maudlin episodes. It is his early and late periods of high fantasy and color, rhapsodic woodlands and seasonal zest that really shine. Right there with Emily Carr, Franz Marc and Kirchner. Quite a guy to be able to regain this spirit and beauty so late in life.
Will Pryce, Buildings in Wood (Rizzoli), the librarian that handled this heavy volume over to me for the next two weeks may as well been handing me a bag of melted sugar hot cross buns by her gasping enthusiasm and appetite for the book. I still love finding librarians and readers who value books as much as eating, even gorging. There is a reason for her fattening delight: a photographic odyssey of the history and traditions from the oldest building material: wood - coasting from the ancient Kyoto Buddhist temples to Alpine, pagan-inspired stave churches, to New England saltboxes (I'm in one), cathedrals, tudor, whimsy innovations abound. Magnificent wood to form, shape, plane, sand, cut cross grain and rip. It grows on trees.
(Robert Frost) The Notebooks of Robert Frost, ed Robert Faggen (Harvard): everyone should from time to time dip back into the eerie, placid mind of the white haired terrier. Culled from 48 notebooks the poet kept from 1890s to the 1960s . I lost count how many Presidents that covers during the same time period, but it was one man and one wife, some disturbed children and the editor has annotated and lovingly cared for the cracker-barrel, homespun, wise man unity, right down to the size of each notebook, color of ink, how bound, and location. I am told you have been calling me a counter revolutionary.
(Allen Ginsberg) I Celebrate Myself, Bill Morgan (Viking), expertly handled by subtitling "the somewhat private life of Allen Ginsberg", friends that knew him, assure me, this is most likely the best of the biographies to come during the life of Allen Ginsberg - meaning for all of those millions, worldwide, who grew up with him as readers and should linger for almost 30 more years. This is the one. Its authenticity pressed up against the fact its subject was the grandest of all the self-biographical legends. It's all in his own poetry, journals and correspondence. But don't we all enjoy hearing someone wise speak about us in a balanced, thoughtful tone? Of course we do. The cover photograph shows the classic city boy stuck in short pants on some mountain crop, not smiling, brought there by some wild friend. He was known to get around most anywhere. Thus such a poetry of life. The biography and subject matter is so persuasive it throws a chain around the 50s-90s America and drags its contents right along with it. That's a book to own.
Are we running out of subject matter for books? Not quite yet. Tom Lutz has just written a history of loafers, loungers, slackers, and bums in America and he calls it Doing Nothing (Farrar). It has an index (good sign). Tuli Kupferberg is in it, of course; so is pile-driver Scott Nearing, somehow. I'm liking all the signs and still reading. Theodore Dreiser almost became a tramp.
There's joy in this new publication from Blackberry Press - spanning poets hearts & causes - Gary Lawless with fellow Maine artist Richard Lee and their unity visit in Cuba with poets like Manuel Alberto Garcia Alonso: Cuban Heart (Blackberry) is a slim collection of poetry and art forming a common ground. As Lawless writes, "You cannot embargo the human heart". All proceeds from the sale of this book will go toward the purchase of poetry books and books for children, in Spanish, donated to the public library in Trinidad, Cuba. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing like justice in the peoples' hands.
Interlude: the World has to hold its breath a mere twenty more months while the Punk and his band of criminals decide when to save Iran, Afghanistan all over again, and while we're at it, Pakistan. The media is all for it since they're only running hot shows on predators and someone that will sing like someone else on American Idol, and besides: there's just a lot of great money in war. We've almost convinced the American public it isn't too bad to live at 19 years of age with both legs blown off, no power in Congress, and making a handmade cushioned war for old soldier John McCain to sit on the throne of for the next eight years. You don't think the country is going to allow a Democrat (who as a majority voted for the war in Iraq), or a woman, or a black fellow to arm and defend our homeland with four hopped up terrorist countries soon-to-be breathing down our necks, do you? So pull up a chair, cellphone clocked to your deafening ear, the real war is about to begin again. The one that should outlast you to the grave.
I think we are less safe now than our grandparents
Were when horses turned their faces to look at them.
D A V I D S H A P I R O
In my cup
In the thin snow
In front of your window
In the window sky
In the blue distance
In the scattered doors
In the pool near your room
In the shadow on the highway
In every quarter of the evening land
In the staves of the sky
I seem to hear your voice
Isn't that poem a beauty? from David Shapiro, New and Selected Poems, 1965-2006 (Overlook). Shapiro was 19 years old when his first book January was published and endorsed by none other than Jack Kerouac and John Ashbery. Unlike recent retrospective tomes of New York School poets, this collection is a-267-pages-short and not a bad poem in the bunch. The poet's first four major books of poetry are out of print and here's your chance for a rematch. His years of translating Alberti, friendship work with Rudy Burckhardt, writing art criticism, and a professional violinist in the cards hasn't been lost one cadence second in these poems. Probably the finest example and thread between the 1st generation & 2nd generation NY School. An eloquence, independence and lyric status. Without a subject like a fireweed
Speaking of "perfect (little) poems" as Walker Evans described them with accuracy, and akin with Shapiro's eye to detail and grace, William Christenberry (Aperture) photography is such a piece of cake. This collection spanning from the 1960s and mainly from the artist's American South (chiefly Alabama), welcomes the citizen into a multifest of mediums: paintings, drawings, assemblages, sculpture, found-object fare (his fascination for Duchamp is that the French bricoleur could make his art out of anything, of course). Christenberry is interesting with all his hands, but photography is his touch and poetry. His photograph progression of facade changes over years, even decades, of buildings, churches, forest engulfing houses/sheds is mesmerizing. The patience of a snail. Never mind his haunting KKK rallies and becoming enrapt - spooky darkness and glare lighting - camera clicking. Working large format, 35 mm, and humble Kodak Brownie snapshots that welcome the reader as a stepping stone pathway inside.
Welcome to where indigenous gods and the conquest of the Christian God meet: Saints & Sinners, Mexican devotional art ed., James Caswell & Jenise Amanda Ramos (Schiffer), ever modern and evocative from the 18th to 20th century, well displayed ceremonial death masks, devils, angels, sinners, milagros, alight and suffer throughout the home and church. One might proclaim the whole book is immediately holy. Richly colored.
THIS INK BOTTLE
R O B E R T S U N D
I've used a lot of ink from this
This ink bottle is my wife now.
As good as
Do you have children?
All my children
What I gave them
is what they are.
What others give them
will round them off.
Everyone who has read Robert Sund's poetry, knows Robert Sund's ink bottle. It's been with his every book. And to make a specific point of all his books, let me list every last one of them - knowing, somewhere in the crowd of browsers is actually an eager and very hungry and young poetry lover who just might love combing the websites for these titles, or used bookshops or have these titles on a ragged book list in his traveling pocket. I own a few of them found that way: Bunch Grass, Why I am Singing for the Dancer, The Hides of White Horses Shaedding Rain, How the Dancer is Carried Into the Hall of Light, This Flower, Ish River, As Though the Word Blue Had Been Dropped Into the Water, Shack Medicine, Bringing Friends Over, Poems From Ish River Country: Collected Poems and Translations, and one I just handmade myself out of leaf cover stock bought from Thailand, from Taos Mountain. This limited edition from Longhouse is a few leaves from the grand and newly published Taos Mountain (Poets House Press / www.poetshousetrust.org) edited by the poet's close friend Glenn Hughes, who was as personally kind to me when asking for poems to hand publish into one of our booklets, as he is showcasing Sund's poetry and seventeen paintings in this tall, cloth bound, blue water volume. This is the quiet legend of the Pacific Northwest away from home. There is exquisite balancing and in-the-works tempo to this collection, scaled nicely from the poet's visit to Taos in the early 90s and the poems and paintings he left behind with friends. It seems the creation happened all at once in a short time space with day by day accuracy being the miracle. My weaver Susan sat beside me the moment the book arrived, in a pickup truck bumping mud roads to town, and asked quietly with a glance at the paintings, "Are those weavings?" Mission accomplished. Now imagine the poems.
Every day / fresh paper laid out / for the mountain / to wake up on.
In the meantime: I'm working on a few books midway reading: Robert Stone's (Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties, ah lousy title) nearly breathless retelling of some personal facts, some 1960s hardcore brethern remembr ance (Kesey, Cassady etc) and of course one would expect the author's vivid account of riding on the Kesey legendary "Furthur" busride, manned by Cassady at the wheel, to be a highlight...but there is a burning civil-rights period transfer of the author on a bus ride across country all by his beatnik lonesome that will haunt you afterwards and be quite the point about America. Likewise: just starting to wade into the salt of the earth William T. Vollmann's (Poor People) with characteristic Vollmann right there; heady traveler like all 19th c. greats like he is just trapped in a different century. He uses all the modern advantages, including photographs. Both books are both hands on the wheel.
Reading Ron Silliman's blog this morning, because I was drawn there by someone else for Ron's /Ed Dorn account - I'd say this is an excellent appraisal from one side about El Dorn. Yet another Selected Poems of a sort, edited by versatile Michael Rothenberg, and all trapped within the muscle of American poetry politics which just can't seem to stop arguing, bitching, fussing, maligning, god-building, Olsonthis, Creeleythat, bringing Ezra Pound once more down the stairs like the rickety old granpop in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. 'Sit at the head of the table, Pop. Eat up, everyone'. I've got indigestion even before I find the damn book! Young poets take heart - read everything - make up your own minds, please learn a trade (poetry isn't, it's blood), stay above the fray. I dare you!
While Writing : who in the world watches Van Johnson any longer? Deborah Kerr, yes; Alan Ladd before he went puffy and dark, certainly; and could Richard Widmark still be alive? Films by the great Naruse (Floating Clouds; The Woman Ascending the Stars) much less known than Ozu, and both alcoholics and hobbled strugglers with real life while putting reel life onto the piercing cinema screen. Also I've been long in France of late with Jean-Pierre Melville, who makes Kubrick's studio-hermitage look like a short commercial. Melville seemed to stay within and work inside his studio for years on end. Interviews with the man show a bald head and face the color of glue, almost vampire expression and lingo; such devotion! Even when his studio burned down around him. Clouzot, ever prankish and working straight through the Nazi period. All residing on the edges of Renoir, who over shadows the unique Jacques Becker. Go find, go find, morefilms are made available every day. There is District B13 from France, fairly new, and busting out with gangland acrobatics. To be seen just for the foot chases. French cinema, even before mouthing the names of the notable avant-garde, had Jules Dassin hanging out there chiseling up some masterpieces, never mind the fact the skipper of them all - Robert Bresson - lived through almost every year of the twentieth century, and that gravitas shows up in every one of his singular films. Over the weekend I plan to calm down in the Brrrrr of sled dogs and northern lamp'd cabin and horizon, right beside Clark Gable in The Call of the Wild. Childhood should never be too far away.
Music to my ears: Hank Mobley, the Complete Blue Note Recordings; David Axelrod, The Edge; Ali Farka Toure, Savane; Eddy "The Chief "Clearwater, Cool Blues Walk; Billie Holiday /Teddy Wilson, Once Upon A Time; Jim Labig, Come on Friend: a 30 year old recording from this neck of the woods (Chelsea House Records, Vermont) who does some profound versions of Rosalie Sorrels, Hank Williams, Don Gibson and mostso Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips. This is singing, resonant and thoughtful, shooting straight up the pant leg.
- Bob Arnold
21 March 07
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : YOU MOVE LIKE YOU ARE ALL OVER ALIVE remembering Tillie Olsen & Alice Coltrane My readers are the people who have read me. I know almost exactly how many they are, and I even know a large percentage of them personally. And by statistical extension I know them all. I'd say that's the first responsibility.
~ Ed Dorn
Express no message, represent no canon, abandon all literary ambitions. Be neither idealistic, materialistic, socialistic, nor scholastic. Spurn any program. Simply hobble along in your own "sensation".
Is that what it takes for a writer to stay sincere?
~ Gail Sher
An entire ecosystem can exist in the plumage of a bird.
~ E.O. Wilson
It just started to snow one afternoon near New Year's, so we let the Leonard Cohen film run all through the afternoon hours. Leonard Cohen/I'm Your Man (dvd) I had watched it a night or two earlier, enjoying it immensely. Forgetting all the hype and hysteria that accompanies production pieces now - Cohen is quite attractive through the film during interviews, often branched off in snatches and interspersed with performances and right on cue. All the performers are sincere, some rise to the rafters, particularly Martha Wainwright with Cohen's "The Rose". Her brother Rufus Wainwright delivers on each song; Linda Thompson is a pleasant surprise to see on the stage; Antony is in a shock of desire; Beth Orton nails "Sisters of Mercy"; and Cohen even sings "The Tower Song" backed up by U2 on a stage that seems straight out of David Lynch productions. A very fine combination of music and literary sensibility, framed by the director Hal Wilner. Mel Gibson adds his money and interest into the film as one of the producers. Little peeks into Cohen's past life in Montreal as a poet with Irving Layton, and off the Greek isle where much of his finest earliest songs and prose were written. An excellent introduction to the singer, even if you hate his work. It was half my fault / and half the atmosphere
Victor Moscoso ~ Sex, Rock & Optical Illusions (Fantagraphics Books): shame on the cowards at Fantagraphics Books - often a pioneer at designing wild and robust books by modern artists. When it comes to Victor Moscoso, they get about everything right: size, colors, back cover graphic, upside down and rightside up graphics, and no information on the playful dustjacket flaps, cartoon figures bigger than life running through the preliminary pages of copyright and table of contents. It's immediately a ride. Then someone goes and puts a dumb swimsuit on the cover groupie chick (remember the times, 60s are heavy here) whereas they cut a gilt-naked design of the original on the cloth cover. So lift the dustjacket for the real. After seven years of high class schools: Cooper Union, Yale (Joseph Albers) "I could have been a doctor" one of the tempests of psychedelic posters and artwork says...which continues to this day through classic album jackets, Zap Comix, paintings and portraits. The music posters from the 1960s, mainly all done within an eight month period of electric flash images, still causes shivers I do not draw if I can copy. I do not copy if I can trace. The river takes the easiest path to the ocean.
The Light Within the Light, Jeanne Braham (Godine): a package deal, mouth watering for those country folk who fall all over themselves to get more of Barry Moser illustrations, appropriately attached to text portraits by the author of Donald Hall, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin & Stanley Kunitz. A very heavy contest into landmark territory skillfully etched by both Braham and the publisher at an even 90 pages. Quite a feat! Despite the fact I am bored to tears personally reading yet one more passage about these four particular New Englanders, and one or two of the stars here may agree: 'Isn't there new blood in them thar hills?' Be reminded - Thoreau went mainly unread in his lifetime, whereas Longfellow was the catch of the hour. Who honestly reads the gray bard now? when Thoreau lived in the heart and set it on the page. Of all the Moser portraits only the Kumin looks all wrong. Much too stern, and I know she smiles. Same old same old but done with insight and care, marvelously selective and a perfect preamble on your way to the four author's tomes. The world is awash in unwanted dogs
you who hesitate on
the skirts of the wood
you are separate from
delight by a step
-Thomas A. Clark from Hazel Wood (Moschatel Press / at www.cairneditions.co.uk)
And, leave it to the USA - the country that gave the world Santa Claus with a shopping cart, and as the eternal elder greeter at WalMart - to advocate an execution from Iraq around the holidays. Something for the kids to remember. A glory be headline for New Year's Eve. Let's pat ourselves on the back once again.
I AM TOO ALONE IN THE WORLD
translated by Robert Bly
I find you in all these things of the world
that I love calmly, like a brother,
in things no one cares for you brood like a seed,
and to powerful things you give an immense power.
Strength plays such a marvelous game -
it moves through the things of the world like a servant,
groping out in roots, tapering in trunks,
and in the treetops like a rising from the dead.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Recently, we met up with Anne Waldman who was in Brattleboro for one of her spiked poetry performances. This poet is still high on delight and works the stage like a wrecking ball. Toi Derricotte was on the same bill and she opened with a crushingly end all Tennessee Williams like entry of pure song. Gospel. Sweet moan. She swept up all the audience who couldn't help themselves. The reading was pretty much over in five minutes. I liked the Zora Neale Hurston-infused-like mama stories/poems and she even attracted a young student friend to read up there with her, and very well, this legacy play between a mama and her daughter (and it worked)...so by the time Anne arrived, and the audience has been waiting for her, the Ginsberg "holy" and rants and war-must-go and deity didn't quite have any room left to rattle. Even with a brewing sax player as accompaniment. Toi came with a song. Anne first wrote to me in the 70s a note on the same postcard Charlie Plymell used preparing my first book of poems from his press ...we wouldn't meet until 2003 out in Milwaukee when I was there with Cid Corman and other friends for the Lorine Niedecker centenary festival. Just like this night Anne all scarves like Susan, took to us fast and affectionately, and we put our heads together in the shorthand of two editors (talking poets & possibilities). Gerald Stern was shambling around the room and Anne invited him over. He looking at us curiously. There were 12 miles of wet and then very muddy roads to get home to so we had to skip the after reading crash in some restaurant. But Anne is a sweetheart, energy is real and she's storming. Too bad we couldn't have met up earlier in the day and done a real deal reading on the sidewalk. Where it's quieter and people have to get real close to see into your eyes. Anne Waldman's latest cd of poetry & music is with her son Ambrose Bye - fly to it - The Eye of the Falcon.
AND TO MORE SHOWBIZ -
Sorry Peter Bogdanovich is such a bore doing the commentary for Orson Welles Lady From Shanghai. Bogdanovich was so strong and informative in his early years with John Ford study, and his own masterpiece The Last Picture Show. Here with another masterpiece in his mitts and instead of addressing the greatness - Rita Hayworth never mind - he rambles with personal reminisces of Welles from his ascot pedestal.
Another to avoid in the commentary department, and what a waste since many of us waited so long for Nightmare Alley (1947) to reach the dvd level of restoration. I last saw the film on a black & white 11" tv screen butchered by editors. The film remains a smarmy original, but the two myna birds that fuss over one another's commentary in geek competitiveness have just got to go. Is it that tough to find a pair that either like one another, or hate one another enough, to make it a rip-roaring talk fest of cinema magic? These guys do a much better job yakking with Sam Fuller's crime noir House of Bamboo. The closing visuals of the Saturn shaped downtown Tokyo highrise playground, they both agree, is a knockout.
Few beat the commentary on Point Blank (1967) with director John Boorman and student-at-the-feet of-the-master Steven Soderbergh. Revealing point by point conversation sticks with the muscle and motion of this bristling classic. The guys talking enjoy the tough guys in the film, but they seem to miss the outstanding fact that Angie Dickinson is in the film with Lee Marvin.
Oh! how I miss Sam Fuller being able to do his own commentary in his still crazed 40 Guns (1957). Ever seen a half dozen gunslingers take a bath in separate casks, soapy and having fun? Brando has his own unique bath scene in The Missouri Breaks, but this one stands alone and never stops - including a showdown between two where one of the gunfighter's stuffs his revolver down inside his pants while stalking up the dusty street and he still has his bath towel around his neck! Only Sam Fuller makes this work. He'd go on to teach youngsters Wenders, Jarmusch & Tarantino some tricks.
Be sure not to miss one of the toughest Bette Davis films ever made. Marked Woman (1937), a feminist crime drama if there ever was one at the time...as a clutch of prostitutes, led by Davis, go up against gang leader Lucky Luciano. A real deal phenomenon of the time. Women that hang together have power is one of the many messages of the film - strong stuff at the time (and remains so) - showcasing an inspired sisterhood for all the exploited and downtrodden.
For those craving a whodunit - The Big Clock ('48) is the ticket - from the Kenneth Fearing classic and remade in updated mode successfully as No Way Out. With the great Charles Laughton and the forgotten in these times Ray Milland - a very unusual actor who worked in films until the last year of his life at 81 in 1986. Less heralded than other artists born in Wales, Milland cut his own swath through Hollywood appearing in such beauties as Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear, Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend, the saturnine The Uninvited, and little seen The Thief and The Safecracker. Milland also directed and led in a western worth note A Man Alone...and, yes that is Milland as the father in both Love Story and Oliver's Story. Unlike many of his generation that sank into low-budget film hell, Milland did, but with style - scope out Frogs and Roger Corman's The Man With X-Ray Eyes and be sure to keep a sense of humor about yourself. Spanning his film work from adventures, social dramas, thrillers, horror, westerns and science-fiction, often as the lead, Milland wasn't as suave as Cary Grant, but his film career lasted longer and there was a brotherly resemblance in their work.
The greatest film Jean Cocteau never made (too horrific, tho poetic) Eyes Without A Face (1959) Georges Franju's bloodful fairytale now on Criterion is what a father devotion/guilt will go to after his daughter's face is burned in a car crash, caused by the father, and his relentless pursuit of young women - for their faces - to graft, through experiment, onto his daughter's. Pierre Brasseur, the depraved plastic surgeon /father, seems eerily like an equally obsessive one from The Vanishing (1988). Don't make a mistake and watch the US version of the latter, stay French, both films, and make it a double feature. Sweet dreams.
And, for something New: Matt Dillon playing early Charles Bukowski in Factotum (IFC) it's way too modern Los Angeles for the time period of the novel, but what the hey - with cellphones, perfect morning latte, the New York Times in your lap and 24 hour news pumped into the veins, way too much is already perfect these days. It's very good to watch Dillon pull of the Bukowski nuance, and since he's already played side by side with Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy, why not give him the On the Road part before it's too late. Both Lili Taylor & Marisa Tomei shine as sidekicks.
By the second week of January 07 we hear the titmouse at the feeder with its spring call. Oddly magnificent for this time of year. We then see someone parked alongside the river after a cruise up through the woods returning in his t-shirt and energetic like a summer body. And since it is near 70 degrees, and 7 days since the New Year! we look at him twice. Never seen anything like this in well over a half-century in northern New England. Unexplained. Polar ice cap, ozone layer sheering, and all the rest can't sum up quite what the Mother has in store since she has already dumped three blizzards into Colorado while we enjoy this banana belt seasoning. Yup, syrup makers are already tying their sap lines up in the sugar bush. Dumbfounded is the one-word explicate. We just may burn ourselves - fossil fuel jettison as our living culture now is - straight back into a stone age.
Charles H. Miller I've published and written about elsewhere (ie., The Longhouse Bibliography). He was a husband, a father, the eighth child born out of ten from a Michigan rural life where his father ended up taking his life. As a young man he shared a house with W.H. Auden and worked as a cook for the elder poet. He'd go on to write one of the best memoirs of the poet who left an undeniable mark on Miller's own poetry, not always for the better, sometimes staged and as set pieces. But when the country boy in Miller let himself relax and pour freely into his living and earth language, he was as good as any of them -
Cunning of you, northern elderberry,
to elude me for a half century,
then pop up in a Berkshire backyard
and supply two full pints
of pellets the size of peppercorns
flavored between lingonberry
and black currant: cooked down
to a jam as cloyly bittersweet
as my grandmother's face.
I daub you thinly on toast,
you caviar of berries.
It would have probably worked better without the last two lines of the poet coming to task, and instead be left with the language and sensation of berries and a remembered face. Still, it's on the path of a Robert Francis poem, who was a neighbor of Miller's in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts. Charlie Miller should be much better known for his friendship and study of the mysterious B. Traven. Cut from the cloth of anarchists, some manual work and deep literary reading he was one of the last of that kind. A bookseller of note in western Massachusetts. Behind his work desk with cigar box cash register, a personal letter from Auden would be tacked on the wall. The best books in all the world flocked the place. I made my own pilgrimages to either Charlie's shop or Joe Dewey's in Williamstown in the late 60s for the best of book browsing. Who needed a city when you had these quixotic book masters in the hills? The last time I saw Charlie he was just standing outside our stonewalls and gate I laid up over many years - standing there like a passenger pigeon just landed. No advance call or note. Twenty miles over some purple hills to get back home. He'd built a few stonewalls in his time and was just visiting to eyeball mine. He was nearing 80 years of age and would be gone soon in 1992. Woodcutting In Winter, Charles H, Miller ( One Potato Press, c/o Lynn Perry, 73 Burrington Rd. Heath, MA. 01346 ) with introduction by William Jay Smith and potato prints & drawings by the poet's son Lark Miller and Lynn Perry. Plus a jacket blurb from Richard Wilbur to believe in.
For all readers of Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia (Fuel), now Volume II is out in full menace and scope. Gathering up more of the outstanding photographs and graphic drawings from the archives of the former guard at St Petersburg's Kresty Prison, Danzig Baldaev, along with Sergei Vasiliev. Anne Applebaum inserts a introductory passageway into the land, history and personal of over 2,000 concentration camps, prisons and psychiatric prisons in the former USSR. Here is but a sampling of her powers of research: The Russian criminal tattoo is a means of secret communication, an esoteric language of representational images which the thief's body uses to inform the world of thieves about itself....A thief's body is the form in which the world of thieves clothes its thoughts, even for the thief himself, it is the 'external world' in which he lives. In this sense his skin coincides with the boundaries of his symbolic universe. That is, the tattooed body is the only thing that exists in the world of thieves. And this body is the only place in which the world of thieves can exist. For the sake of their tattoos, thieves perform feats of heroism, sacrifice themselves, go to prison camps and even die.
A suggestion for a fine reading aloud experience, try your hand with - open it anywhere - Ken Kesey, Kesey's Jail Journal (Viking). Rollicking, sonic even, gathered up jail notes smuggled out with art work and collages by the convict and his conspirators. A pot bust put the celebrated author into the San Mateo County Jail in 1967. For whatever reasons it took 30 years for the book to finally materialize. Great reading popcorn.
One more of the Kansas wunderkinds to join the ranks with Dorothy of Oz, Ronald Johnson, Charlie Plymell and a host of others born in its own neighboring state delta that would also include William Burroughs, Ed Sanders, Fielding Dawson, Wright Morris, Michael McClure, a bunch of New York Poets and artists - endless list really - hold your breath and dive straight into The Art of S. Clay Wilson (Ten Speed Press), the artist, according to R. Crumb in the book's introduction "who started it all". "It" meaning a colorized mayhem report to modern life & warfare. Nice of Ten Speed not to fashion a "Parents Advisory" sticker to the front cover; somehow they also found a detail for the cover from one of Wilson's paintings not showing a woman being butchered. These are not cartoons, but paintings, to be hung in all prestigious museums, right next to, say, Red Grooms. Brief explanatory prose pieces by Mark Pascale, John Francis Putnam, Charlie Plymell, Geoffrey Young and Bob Levin at the outset to remind you human beings are involved, before you must (and you must) crawl into the beast.
What I miss most about the St. Mark's Poetry gang of the 60s is not much of their poetry - and then again without the poetry is a bird without wings - I certainly couldn't be without a chosen dozen of that squad....much of the rest going to silverfish, depthless oblivion, ashes to ashes and I know there is a certain someones out there that have one copy by someone in that group still on their shelves. They published so much, and rapidly, and shared it around, and it was cheap if not free and there was a ragged war going on...beautiful losers. That energy is just what is alive in someone like Kent Johnson. He's massive in outlook as a poet, essayist, thinker, tinker and spy. Yes, spy. How else could this man write so many books, dig into so many poets lives, boldly invent and pull the wool over the eyes and come out relatively unscathed and remain with so much robust optimism to do more? Here are just a handful of his recent titles which I read between Christmas and New Year's when they arrived on Christmas eve in a juggly box with books knocking around inside. Packed by a man in a hurry, a man with many more thoughts in his head, a man itching to get to more. The titles: Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz (eleven submissions to the war) from a great little press: effing press out of Austin: www.effingpress.com; Epigramititis (118 Living American Poets) a killer-diller of a book, part visual puzzle meets straight up gonzo poetry from Blaze VOX out of Buffalo, NY.; let's not forget the unforgettable translations of Alexandra Papaditsas, The Miseries of Poetry from the Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry www.cccp-online,org, uk; the two goldmine books from the one and only and phony and beautiful Araki Yasusada: Doubled Flowering, from the notebooks of Araki Yasusada, and: Also, With My Throat, I Shall Swallow Ten Thousand Swords (the former is from Roof Books, the latter Combo Books) Johnson has his hand on the throttle with editing, translating, conceiving and believing, along with phntoms Tosa Motokiyu and Javier Alvarez. I not only love the work, I love the preoccupation with invention in all styles and identities. Once again Kent Johnson proves white boys can indeed play the blues. There are also the translations with Forrest Gander of Jaime Saenz, and forthcoming from Longhouse I Once Met which is more hit-and-never-miss boss reflections of poets in their often unawares. You just have to love a guy with this much reel and tackle. I am sorry to have broken the ancient chamber pot. I feel terribly about it.
Don't miss the range of improvisation with poetry, prose, interview (Charles Lloyd), conversations (Sascha Feinstein), photographs and choices in the brand new spanking Asheville Poetry Review: the Jazz Issue, ed Keith Flynn & Sebastian Matthews / ashevillereview.com : alot of wallop for $13. Billy Collins squeezed between Hayden Carruth and Cid Corman! And while we're still south of The Mason & Dixon Line - go enjoyable reader and share into the wealth and piths and luxury read of Jonathan Greene's Gists. Orts, Shards / BroadstoneBooks.com, a master's ladling up some of the best & brightest from texts, music, poems and such shimmering between the covers of a nicely gleaned commonplace book. When you get to the bridge of the tune I want y'all to play so soft that you can hear a rat pissin' on cotton - Art Blakey
from Tig by Maurice Scully (Shearsman Books): more to be had by this excellent Irish poet in readings from Sonata (Reality Street Editions / www. realitystreet.co.uk) and Livelihood (Wild Honey Press / www.wildhoneypress.com)
let's do another -
my attention back
to the window where
the laws of tension
The poetry of despair
is blank. Sit. Quote.
Birds fly, tie down
the birds. Mind darkens,
rock splits, head
blazing, hands hope-
less in place of
splinters where the laws
of listening & the laws
of tension meet
the laws of light. . .
to fight it out
- Maurice Scully
And, lastly, just in with the morning mail (instead of snow) a bountiful packet of books and cards and all things grand from Simon Cutts & Erica Van Horn at Coracle www.coracle.ie in Ireland. Something to whet the whistle for the next Woodburners down the line. Aye! Here is something from Simon grabbed up after one of his recent US trips -
from this journey
that you can take
the shower cap
from your hotel room
and use it as
for your telephone
when you get home
- Simon Cutts (from Led Astray By Language, Coracle 2006)
Here's a poem by Clemens Starck that Mike O' Connor likes and thought I would like, and I do! so I thought you might like
Firs on the hillside:
mist drifts through them like smoke.
White mist, black trees . . .
Headlights sweep the wet pavement.
Waiting at home
my son--he's ten, he wants to know
what were here for.
Black firs. White mist.
Loose tools rattle in the back of the truck.
In twenty miles I ought to be able
to figure out something.
- Clemens Starck from Studying Russian on Company Time
Clemens newest book of poems is Traveling Incognito (Wood Works, Seattle)
Near the end of writing this Woodburners we lost power for three days after a massive and brittling ice storm. The utility lines can take some ice weight, but not the trees...and down they came. No water, no lights, now all kerosene lamps, drawing our water out of the river like old days and as always the woodfires. We slept more. By the second night I pulled out the battery operated cd player we use on jobs and listened to the very best music for kerosene and two cozy woodfire rooms: Blind Gary Davis Harlem Street Singer, Memphis Minnie Hoodoo Lady, Luther Snake Boy Johnson Get Down to the Nitty Gritty, and of course: John Hurt everything I own. Otherwise MUSIC on while writing: Rachel's Music for Egon Schiele, Uncle Earl She Waits for Night, Sandy Bull Still Valentine's Day 1969, King Creosote KC Rules OK, P. G. Six The Well of Memory, Satie Piano Music Melodies (Reinbert de Leeuw), Walter Lowenfels, ed. New Jazz Poets, Roosevelt Sykes & Little Brother Montgomery Urban Blues, Lightnin' Slim Rooster Blues, James Brown Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things (rising many times to set the needle back down on "Home At Last"), Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith, The Persuasions Sing Zappa
SAVE YR PLANET HAVE A NICE DAY SAVE YR PLANT HAVE A NICE DAY SAVE YR PLANET HAVE A NICE DAY SAVE YR PLANET HAVE A NICE DAY SAVE YR PLANET HAVE A NICE DAY SAVE YR PLAN
-- Bob Arnold
21 Jan 2006
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Earlier Woodburner Reviews from 2002