Catastrophe is a term reserved for the horror and peril that surround millions. New Orleans is a swollen wedge of it "as morning's silver / line breaks... Irrefutable / awakening..." (from Kim Lyons's "Fat Tuesday").


A poet's prose should be harmless like an armchair.

Sunny New England. There I was. I'm a swinger through air cast opposite animated gray on white patterned with lime. I don't really enjoy the frenzy of all this spunky talk. I like riding horses, shooting pool, stripes, florals, candy-colored Converse.

My new pal Heath is upstairs tasting some tomatoes. The DNA he's introducing comes from two sources, the greeting squad whoever and a fluid point of view.

(Rain, your holiness.)

My agent is a double. From the simulacra the chimeras are as distinguishable as global nomads. No pieties held. Oh, here's one from last night. Don't sign it.

I speak with self-knowledge, house guest, a word like fresh dragon, but awkward dealing with the edge of your seat.


Nada, please be well. That please is an atheist's prayer. Have had bouts of eye and eye lid trouble, myself, now fully recovered. From that I suggest the obvious. Do the safe, predictable things, use the medicines, draw the curtains, slow it down. The first opthamologist? forget him, stick with his partner. These practitioners are mechanics, and if you get one who is puzzling -- puzzling out loud! -- you need someone else who can synthesize the data faster. Pragmatics. Again!


An emanation is a spectre brought up a peg. Just to clear things up.


I've moved.

Here's the outline. A few strings were pulled to get me in this new place with marble inlays I would never have chosen on my own. They're just givens with the place, the island, along with the house boy. He's mine for the interim or he can be swapped if I want. He's fine as is, but enough about that. I'm here.

This is where I live and work, and I like what I do. I'm a bit but an integral bit of the new Vegas. Not everyone who visits wants to cash out on slots or floor shows, though the blockbuster right now is Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Phallus. They don't even want gratuitous sex all the time. Sex and violence here fall in the red light category, like when a live, naked female gets in the midst of intercourse with someone who could be a boss, only to be interrupted by her mother, his boss, so mom and the girl go at it and the guy gets ripped open. This passes as a talking point for sailors in black leather in the I Hate Perfume Gallery. Another instance has a nearly naked woman and a man in a genius gee-string coupling in an elevator, fully aware of the security cameras under and above them. It's lame until she pulls out his teeth and syringes his gums.

What I do is in a new, white light category. It's talk and insults, no touching with hands and very little sex with drugs, and because of this, a mostly young male clientele ditches the mask and cloak, and comes to me for help achieving a competitive smile, that maxillary edge you own only if you go a little overboard.

I've got a thought altering maintenance regime that hits where it counts, mentalist landscape.

Sounds too simple? Affluent effeminate guys get to a point where they think they're not deep enough: "I only want to lie on my back and read a book." That's where I step in. I get boys to want to read and write. These guys have to have something that's been missing, they need to think of new ways to "energize." So an increasing number, some with royal pedigrees, are turning up at my clinic. I do a lot of different 'next big things' -- from Naropa 101 stuff, like the architectonics of abusive power talking; to master level customized reconceptualization, similar to what goes down at Brown; to wholesale W. S. Merwin memory-as-cartography; to male phrenome moderation (recolonizing Whitman and Rousseau); to island-wide seminars on intellect retriggering and re-altering that I run with Camille Paglia. Or, sometimes it's my house boy. Look, I said this is white light.

One client I've especially affected has a roundish face, green eyes and a slender but blunt nose that hardens his otherwise unrecognizable features. He identifies with the sadness of phantoms. "When I read about them I keep wiping tears from my neck, but I didn't know I could write like them before I met you." After that, Paglia snuggled nearer and asked him, "Can I shit next to you on the ride over?" The client's bodyguard who also has green eyes looked puzzled and pleased, whispering to me, "I think he's getting his energy back."


Missing Nick. Last post cites Paul Auster's blankness. It's a two-week-old event that laid down the it-seems-as rule, as though its reproduction pulverized the aura of Nickness.
Like journalism, this starts with a point. I believe in my mistakes.

It's not what you bring. It's what you take away.

Every relationship has ups and downs. I'm a writer with leg stress and now I want everything, everything but him.

A third party is hovering and ideas just bubble like impulsive action figures.

I've been in the center of a pregnancy riddle, so I'm confessing now I'm with child.

Yeah, and then a thank you.

Making love with him was a mistake, and a health threat!

The cosmos has some real trouble keeping secrets.

I was extremely interested when others told me of their own pregnancy experiences.

I had wanted to try for a baby.

After that they called each other constantly on the phone. This points out the danger of inappropriate friendships in an atmosphere-filled marriage.

Next, I was spotted in a mini-mart buying Reese's.

The deal was unsealed in e-mail:

Our separation is not the result of any speculation reported by the tabloid media. This decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration.

Yeah. He was contaminated and it was downhill all the ice-rocket way, irreconcilable differences classified in ambivalence as urbanistas put it. We'd been together since being set up for an NEA panel, "a farce on a blind date." Some others attended, so it felt a little "arranged" for a comic literary debut, a Mormon humoresque, that's what it read like.

So I began stocking up on junk food and writing at work to protect myself from emotional infidelity. I'm a writer.

We became co-owners. I felt fear, mistrust, doubt and insecurity. When his own parents split up, it's hard to delude yourself.

Thanks, prisoner, for letting me sleep in.

Reality read us like old ruins and sludge. Our compatibility rating was shipped to a low-level waste dump. He's a talker and I'm a slouch. The red monkey designs for him; I'm wearing Edwin jeans.

Waking up with lobster and champagne in a swarm of grunts, a honeymoon suite in customer relations.

We loved working together.

Appearing quite close, slogging through output, air puff pies, peche glaze, sprinkled with puppy chow. That's why we happily remain committed and caring friends.


Underutilized Species
Poems by Cook, County, Crane, Doud, Lansing, Pruitt, Strong
James Cook, Editor
(Self-published for New Arts Festival, Gloucester, MA)

Last Friday in Gloucester mostly local writers gathered for a poetry marathon that included Gerrit Lansing, Patricia Pruitt, Sara Stozer (reading work by the late Linda Crane), James Cook, Patrick Doud, Christina Strong and Mike County. The event was scheduled for a pierside as part of the New Arts Festival, but because of rain, it was moved to the Universalist Unitarian Church. This is a serene edifice of severe, Cromwellian design, which stands tall at the center of a half-block green and, as it sometimes happens in New England, towers over the cottage-like Episcopal chapel, its neighbor on the left.

Lansing started his reading at dusk. A milky aquamarine shone through opened doors, one at street level to the right of the reader, another on the second story, left of center, above. The visual then was of the poet in black at the chancel proscenium foregrounding a barren whitewashed nave lit by failing shore light from two doors, above and right.

Perhaps in tribute to the occasion, Lansing introduced what seems from a number of the readers a communal and fairly nostalgic analysis of Gloucester-as-myth and things-Massachusetts for allegorically figured poetry. Lansing's is a straightforward memory of the city and the Atlantic surround, "the pattern we are hung up on." In the poem "Blue Decrepit Town" Lansing notes impressions from decades ago when, as "a heartland boy," as he puts it, he first visited Gloucester while a Harvard undergrad. Lansing's impressions here do not advance beyond scene setting notations, "nervous, / thinking of sex, / thinking of the ocean..." capped with iconic elements that push the narrative into tall tale-telling, "a golden lion...grabbed by the throat of the mind...as song flickers."

By the time Patricia Pruitt stood up, only minutes after Lansing began, the street level door turned onyx, while the second story door shrank inside dark, saline blues, leftovers from sunset. Under the asymmetrical light-fall Pruitt (who, like Christina Strong, is not from Gloucester) read other pieces than her poem in Underutilized Species, including one she said was "recently untitled" (or at least that is how I heard her describe it). Her published poem, "The Good Old Days," merges tributes to James Schuyler and bay stater Fanny Howe, along with more mytho-reminiscing, "remembered looking into...a microscope, a telescope / And the third eye all at once." For a change of pace, Patrick Doud read multithemed segments from a single manuscript called "Bomb." Doud wrestles with autumnal tones streaked with a North Shore sobriety -- "life reuniting with the whole. // The whole, which is death?" -- sometimes mixing springy dayglows -- "the policeman in the sky"; "me and the zombies of May." A sustained sequence of allegorical events and off-rhyme (phlox / Rock; prickery / Desperately) bare a poetics that is more buttoned down than the title "Bomb" implies, but the venture, which reexamines the occult and other orthodoxies against "the pink // brightness of brain," appears more ambitious and more of a piece than a ten-minute selection might reveal.

Sara Stozer read poetry by Linda Crane, a deceased Gloucester poet who labored under the influence of Charles Olson and seashore imagery. I found it hard to follow these simple lyrics as other than denatured and derivative, given the subtitle, "in dogtown there is a constant spring" and lines such as, "the bird's head opens spilling / milkweed like our blood." In welcomed, hard boiled contrast, Mike County sketches patches of things kept at arms' length that turn out to be real nature poems, including one in memory, possibly, of that milkweed-headed bird, titled "Robin": "Said to be a species...a trick / a deck of pinstripes shuffled... // Say the robin doesn't return? // Wonderful. I'll shell out the money / for wood to burn memory."

James Cook gave a surprising performance tailored to be site-specific, reading from a manuscript he calls "Sugar Cane." I'm told he read these pieces concerning a "faceless" dictatorship for which "all men are servants," partly as "a knee to the groin" of New Arts Festival organizers, protesting the $20 entrance fee for the night's reading ($10 for 'poets'). In a natural, unforced timbre, not straining, de-modulated or otherwise separated from his text, Cook argued to several points -- he subtitles his piece in Underutilized Species "an argument concerning liberation." The "all brown" guard who is "inside and outside ... sits. apart. he sits apart and looks out" on the cane workers and sugar fields within the painting and inside a "dialogue," both painting and dialogue "fixed as in a book. a page you turn." Although the city and state are unnamed, layers of observed-observer complicity and servitude duly registered.

Just giving name to somewhere in poetry, while necessary at times, is a tad reductionist; that's what Christina Strong seems to be saying in response to the Festival and to herself. That perplexing gamin of Black Mountain-by-the-Sea (i.e., Gloucester) seemed awakened and fully alert as Strong read poems about poetry and against the sociopolitical stranglehold of the "narrow as we say conservative." Her poems fell atonally like wee bricks of Somerville sensimilla (a rare species of milkweed) spinning pollen over the fertile runnels and dark pews of Universalist Unitarian. Hers were the only poems off narrative, but they made perfect 'sense' if by making sense we mean they are more than a little tormented as they comment on the moment, on limits of poetry, even while coincidentally picking up others' themes: "...wander beach and all these / fucking pictures, question of pay out or cash inn / name place       zombie all the time." Her poem in Underutilized Species, "mr super stupid head," speaks as a primer on what to hate in strivers' composition, "catalogue group / or specify trickster... // relaxed that this justifies that... / or hem tone to be as that just / throw up or puke the etymology of / pathos." I just had to laugh. In Cromwell's church.


Where Shall I Wander
John Ashbery
Ecco 2005

Like jewelry that inspires online dating, there's always been a dauntless, what-the-h excellence to John Ashbery. It's in the language. Were one's camp bent to flaunt a capacity for twisting lexical items into shimmering bagatelles, one might generate apparently purposeless, American-sounding contexts for Latinate neologisms "susurrate," perhaps, "asperging," "septuor." Or one could try balancing archly-poetic apparatus atop prosaic stumpers like chthonic, tilth, ormolu, portcullis, and others.

A sign of more twistiness from Ashbery is his selection of poems, dropping indifferent leitmotifs in the midst of Where Shall I Wander that contrast with stronger, more aesthetically inscrutable (and therefore more deeply amusing) works in the beginning and closing sections. These pieces intricately meander, as if exercising five -- or what the h -- ten fingers, throwing away end lines, for instance, "sunflowers over and out, / ashes on the clapboard credenza" and "with God's help and that of the fuchsia, the / orange, and the dahlia." A poem such as "The Red Easel," smack in the middle of the book, appears to break a rule of Ashbery's in that it's easily paraphrased: 'Your style is passé and unserious, but -- chicks! pullets! -- watch out! "those swags...of the wrong period" fit in, sort of, and they may not be so fowl.' A barnyard screech ("the plaint / of hens pierces dusk like a screen door") gives notice that even midway filler from Ashbery is more hilarious, livelier, crazier than most meistershaft from other poets, living or otherwise.

The poem "Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse" leads off. It warns us of spiders and then famine, and all the neighbors who've disappeared; ultimately it mourns meritocracy in the chill. The poem also, predictably, queries, "Hadn't we known it all before?" The question and not merely the sobering figures in the poem that prompt it are now-familiar outgrowths of a "skid-row, slapdash style." That "slapdash" echoes an "average violin" from the lead poem, "Street Musicians," twenty-five years earlier, or the repetition of "sometimes," twenty years earlier, "we think of him sometimes" from another first poem, "At North Farm," which concludes, "Is it enough ... // Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?" Relax and thus beware. Affirmative retraction of falsehood within artifice is once again, in "Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse," "the bottom-most step. There you can grieve and breathe."

This role for poetry as "scrambled then resurrected" intervention (to borrow from the title poem, the last in the collection) seems ample incentive reinforcing wordplay and compositional strategies decades in the formulation, now in full force. I could still ask, Why not have the poet elder bust heads, finally breaking with poise? "It is understood that this is now the past, sixty, sixty-four years ago," but it would be only a "clobbered effect," and not a "fully aware" clobber at that, simply to chow, chug, burp and merely mean it: "In the end the jazz reaches will effort it out. Darn it." Or, a more assiduously brusque put-down: "contingency is all the rage here." I'm OK with Ashbery's findings on limits -- "there are none that can placate us" -- clearly part of the contractual fine print in "figure-ground dilemmas." Speaking of the buffest limit, he knows "the season backed up" and the other, sooner or later, mutates into a snowman "headed for warmer climes." I'm more than OK, though, with Ashbery's waiting for the right guest to show up, finally, any way, and with his attendant, goofed-with nostalgia-in-advance for what the guest might do to set fire to the proceedings, and, you know, I feel a frisson of enthusiasm for what comes next: but "would you do it differently?" Remember me, Ashbery pleads mixedly, "Make it stick." No, forget that, no memorial, please, as it just "fumbles its own branching hee-haw." I paraphrase, yet Ashbery is calling us, as it were, as it is, to trace all winged events back to our favorite position in the home -- home, one of those "nutty concepts," he says, it says -- why, it's right here in the kitchen -- of all places -- the hearth where whole generations once got skewered and braised fare to "'bounce' with the ages" in light, airy inattention achieving this splurge of one, this one coupling, "forever." The title poem and the book end -- necessarily unpleasantly, instructively -- on this "forever." "Was that you sermonizing? Go right ahead, be my guest."


A part of what blogging does is let you note what's of passing interest that could be more than of passing importance, to you, maybe to others. E.g., I'm instructed by Alice Notley this morning, writing about O'Hara in the first essay of Coming After, re-alerting us to the significance of his last poems, which I still resist, and whose voice is "anonymous and communal (in the bad sense) in its exploitation of verbal mediocrity." Notley sees O'Hara influenced by the "deadly flat diction" (the first generation of such pervasiveness) from television, thus O'Hara's influenced by sounds of the heinous sort, offering up "warnings." Also in the first essay, on an earlier poem of O'Hara's, Notley avers, "the Buddha fucking well ought to think at this point in history," a rousing supposition on her part about what O'Hara meant by ending "Image of the Buddha Preaching" this way: "...hopeful of a new delay in terror / I don't think" -- timely of O'Hara and Notley.

I note, and this seems of little importance, since I'm saying this with some sense of self-parody, the Great Painter of 8/11, below, is a composite of nonmutual attractions. He is, no latitude, no doubt at all, self-devouring. Moving on in no order, I see Yuri Hospodar continues to live drug-free in ways that are unguarded, uncooked. He's vacationing in Queensland for crissake. And thanks to Gary for a positive read on Tim's and my sleight of hand on Tues. A name I haven't but might run across, Nathaniel Tan. Here's what Aaron Kunin suggests, "never put on your / blindfold (unfold and / study but do not // put it on)."


I decided to blow off breakfast at Jordan's. Tim and I had given this last-minute reading on the Bowery the night before, and I was ready for a different caliber of experience. The no-thing I needed was another huddle with a fab-five wordsmith.

Great Painter had been working all Tuesday and into the night (that's why he blew off my reading). He was spraying a last round of soft vellum pellets (hydrothermal collagen buffered in magnesium carbonate) across what may have added up to forty or fifty paint boards lined against a single wall and part of the floor next to it. I stumbled into the warehouse and looked around before Painter decided to acknowledge me. "Hey, Frosty." Painter's boards were filled to their edges with intricate, cleanly rendered crosshatches over pastel word clumps that seem like busy but cool, almost ambient absence of thought. The vellum changed that impression a bit. A busy, cool thoughtlessness that's slimed, maybe.

Great Painter's is a huge, chai-shade of a space, all the more impressive in that it's Nolita, not Brooklyn. It was 9:30 am, and Painter was wide awake like me. I brought him a tall white mocha quad shot from Palacinka, along with final galleys of Tan's review in Art Forum.

Now gray-beard Tan is no friend of artistry that's not connected to the minimalist-to-rock music scene downtown. (That's why his last piece, on Joseph Deumer, was such a slog.) But this time Tan is breaking the mold, calling Painter "a celebrator of extemporaneity, with a look of the city in which rehearsal space is outrageously expensive and difficult to come by." Painter found this insulting, though, and after reading it, threw his mocha quad at the boards. I'm glad I wasn't crawling on the floor when he did. I could have been!

Back, a while back, when I'd been seriously interested in seeing new things as a lifestyle, Painter had been my trainer. He had been the first man to read poetry to me. And I admit, I had loved every gorgeous second of it, and every hour. I needed a man to be strong, insistent even blinded to others' views, like Kent von Plunk, say; I don't understand it, but that newly awakened need in me was one of the motives for my final 'break' with the ordinary literary scene, aka Flatland Convention, a realization that I can't really write straight stuff anymore, stuff that merely tickles the vast audience of perverse bloggers in the Flyover into incoherence. I'm more hetero than even I like to think, yet guy-to-guy poetry rough-housing is attractive, an overwhelming thing that possesses me and takes me over, but in the long run I can't do it forever, I guess. I'm going to continue to write, but this imitating of any of the crooked, sociopathic second-order parodists has got to come to an end. This is why I came to Painter's, to reason with him, to tell him.

There was one thing Painter had wanted me to try one last time, to imitate von Plunk's style and even his substance, what's left of it, and even though in my heart I had wanted it -- wanted it badly -- I had decided this morning not to give either of us the satisfaction. What am I doing here? The question brought a smile to my lips; the last time I'd gone in search of Painter I'd unwittingly ended up under his chain-of-command and was quite pleasantly talked to by him as he read imitation haiku to me. But no, I said, "Painter, you're an artist for goodness sake, not a sputtering poet. Stop paying shit tribute to all that. Quit it."

He smiled and soon after that he threw me out, with a lovely pat on my hiney.


I rule for a higher authority, like John Roberts.


Just when summer seemed to take over... holding you in its hot Hesperides.

Tim Peterson and me [sic] will read some collab stuff

this Tues. 6pm

Bowery Poetry Club

308 Bowery, a foot off First Street
between Houston & Bleecker
across the street from CBGBs --
take the F train to Second Ave, or 6 train to Bleecker.


Notes to Chagall

"Floating violins and shit" says Marlene Chalk-Outline,
Central director of Oculus Cooperation

If you paint the flowers correctly
The flowers. Several crayons acted mind-numbingly cute

Several blocks away, a mythic character
Awakes in concrete, and decently you pull away, feeling

Look, a flying cow. Unable to establish deep feeling
Corners fold into something you can grok with lunch

Just then, a baker acted like panic sweeping
Up after art history.

There's real worms in this chocolate bar,
Mmmm I'd like to put my Hamilton in.

When Master arrives I curse the mealymouthed misfits.
Her favorite hatbox is in surgery. Aisle five.

Meanwhile, you reawake very much the case. A case of voice
Over matte finish. Hubbubs of grammar. I meet a boy.

His thinking had a shot of morphine, something
We need to split a panino, watching, feeling

Lurid potpourri in the windowbox explode --
Your own violence frightens you hailing a cab

Now the young ambivalent floats back into the vile
God -- the doctor pauses, we don't have a choice

When he awakes in a cocoon of dead ants, the pain!
We are going to have to amputate them.

The human body is a hit. The bolt of cloth catches him from
The right like a vase of bursts from his throat

I obtained some plastic car crash charts at that altitude.
Was covered with shiny black hair. A player

Over half a million works attributed
When in Rome, her studio has a pointy head.

-- Nannette N'est

Sample another.


"Camp Messianism, or, the Hopes of Poetry in Late-Late Capitalism"
Christopher Nealon
American Literature 76, No. 3 (September) 2004

[First paragraph deleted because J.C.'s d/l of the month is not to be publicized. Let's just say it pertains to what follows.]

Nealon's is compelling academic analysis of the most current sort, intelligently weaving (intelligently designing??) Frankfurt School precepts, queer theory, postcolonial studies, feminism, etc. to sharpen our view of a now-perceivable fissure between language and post-language. The former is characterized as a formalist, abstract, technique-conscious poetry of non-closure, with movement (of many sorts) as its ultimate goal and ongoing promise. Post-language is seen as more a poetry of waiting within, rather than movement away from, a totalizing capitalism, nonetheless a polemical poetry that fluctuates between abstract and concretion, fluctuating so unceasingly in the case of Rod Smith's The Good House that Nealon marks this as exemplary of post-language engaged in a process of observing itself as matter -- that is, as part of the problem -- a "second-order allegory that performs and figures the vicissitudes of materiality -- its dissatisfaction with itself as material."

I'm stimulated by Nealon's concern with the "impasse" in literary studies and routine, "self-insufficient" critical reading that has "sacrificed the critical potential of appreciation and advocacy in favor of what has become a rote 'problematization,'" admitting only a text's subversiveness as a quality to admire. Nealon choses his admired texts carefully, focusing on early poems from Joshua Clover, Lisa Robertson's Debbie: An Epic and Kevin Davies's Comp., as well as Smith's The Good House. Thus equipped, Nealon observes the rapaciousness of contemporary poetic practice, one that would have and eat the material world. His essay is a singular accomplishment, stylishly argued, telling us something totally new.


Brandon on Brandon.
Time-out for a demonstration in lift and shift. My post responds to a guest on ___, 8/1.

I will refer to X, Y, Z.

Jest for the record, homey, when you lift text by X and decide what X means by re-categorizing X's aesthetic statement as a "moral decree," you're illogical. It's a trick from the demagoguery tool kit, the one that playwrights, political operatives, comparison-advertising copy writers, and other practitioners in Theater of the Absurd turn to when they need to make something up. The category shift allows for homey's argument to creep along an extremely narrow lofty-seeming toe path landscaped with an implicit passive voice:

But it soon becomes clear that the real (though unnamed) target of X's cry of "Enough" is not the moral arrogance of the Bush administration, but the "righteous monologue" of Y...

Clear to homey?

Those who have been following the discussion in "innovative" poetic circles...should be able to see that X intends his statement, in part, as a response to Z's talk of a few weeks back...

The voice changes into a conditional pronouncement: if you could grasp what homey posits, then X's intention would be what homey says it is, at least "in part."

The deployment of this logic is not only bullying, it is bull.