Responses to Wieners's romance.

...I hadn't ever thought about the connections between Wieners and, say, Mallarmé but it makes complete sense. Especially what you say about his work in Behind the State Capitol & later seems so true. His work really seems unusual to me in that he got more interesting and experimental as he got older. And he understood the uses of silence, or of waiting. What I've read of Behind the State Capitol in his Selected Poems and fragments I've come across of later work seems miles ahead, or beyond, anyone in his generation or subsequent ones. And all done in his humble and earnest way [...]

I keep thinking of the time I saw him read at Waterstone's Bookstore (I think it was in 1997 or early '98) and though I suspect some audience members were impatient or perplexed with his reading style, I found it astonishing and refreshing. How he took his poem "Ode on a Common Fountain" and "remixed" it with interruptions & asides, creating a marvelous expansion of that text, updating it...

-- Guillermo Parra

he told me something once that I’ve never forgotten. I mentiond a poet (who I have forgotten) expecting some evaluative response. "I'm a friend but not a fan" he sd. & I've been waiting decades to use his line.

-- Alex Gildzen


Sometimes I'm asked about my itty fixation on John Wieners, and in particular, what's the deal beyond a Boston accent and all those fiercely lovelorn markers? Well, there is that twang along with bucketsful of paradigms in heartache. That might be enough. But to sum up his worth, to me, in temporal terms, I am pulled apart by his backward and forward movements. Like Clark Coolidge, Wieners's formality is prominent. His, that is, Wieners's distills several romantic regimens, symbolists Mallarmé, Redon, Wagner, Verdi, connecting to Thomas Malory and a more secular lyricism of jongleurs and trouvères, partaking of an impure tradition, if you will, stretching as far back as Ovid and Propertius. Then, Wieners's forward movement from the mid-1970s on (Behind the State Capitol and after) is predictive of language behavior today. He understood spam decades before the rest of us. This could be Wieners: Those are names. Rudy trade bow rotten. Soon I am old self miss relation. Douce composed turn farther, her rose. It's yesterday's spam. Without a spam blocker my new e-mail site shows all the junk streaming thru my addresses, maybe 200-300 texts on an average weekday. Now without a monitor I see what I've been missing. So Wieners-Coolidge-like are a few of these, I'm starting a collection of the best, beginning with Heya, this it or no. The best? Ones in which John is talking to us now.


Boston beat: Lost chance to hear Nathaniel Tarn & Janet Rodney and then Jim Dunn & Jen Tynes. Jen read here a few weeks ago, but missing her second reading is still a loss, and I wanted to hear the others as well. Looking forward, then, to the rescheduling of Sean Cole who pairs up with Susan Landers on Sunday for Demolicious, 206 Prospect, Central Square, 2 p.m. Moving to the right a few hours later, David Rivard & Ralph Angel at the Plough and Stars, 912 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 7 p.m.
Retting triceratops.
Tulle underbelly.
Duma unanimity.


Another reader writes.

I'm afraid I don't follow what you are trying to say about America and all its poets of varying persuasions. (Get it right, Jack, variety, a lot of terrific writers is a good thing, but not for a miniscule elite that you don't belong to anyway.) I know that you were just adding commentary to the (tedious) discussion ongoing about the avant garde, whether there is one, or many of them, Jack, but when you drag in the old codes like "refinement" and "guardians and arbiters" it's pretty clear whose side you are actually on, landlord. It's just that any of your claims of innocence have always bugged me for that reason. I mean, yes, it was the old timers like Hugh Kenner and Robert Lowell and the whole science = progress = "I hate speech" act that was practically an article of faith among the beats-to-language poets, and the idea of being used for EEEVILL wasn't on anyone's radar screen, but come on, a poetry elite seems like such an obvious next step. Anyway, I honestly wonder if the possibility crossed your mind at all that your writing about fast lanes in poetry could be used to justify oppression. I don't see how it couldn't have either but, who knows?


In avant poetry nobody drives in the slow lane, colloquially called the lane of the lame. So it’s somewhat of a mystery why the chic-prone avant poetics industry, one of the primary engines of the culture economy, continues to putter along year after year doing 50 while counterparts in France, Eastern Europe and even the UK go whizzing past.

Nowadays more aspirant than exemplar when it comes to patrician elegance, in terms of volume of production, U.S. poetics remains a force, one illustration of this being the sheer scope of poets' numbers here. No fewer than 1,200 so-called poet's web sites are noted in the rolls of the most definitive bloggers. Yet to be honest, there are no more than a handful of blogs that anyone cares about or that the ever-expanding posse of international poetics press and poetry readers is eager to visit or peruse, much less read.

Among the handful of most important online sites, at this point there is Diane Middlebrook's acclaimed Pangrimmeron, based in distant Denmark. Some say Middlebrook's lack of proximity to the American elite of poetry hardly limits her ability to generate the prerequisite line of abstruse, philosophy-laden questions and observations addressing American verse that readers expect from top-tier poetics blogging. There is Molly Peacock's aptly-monikered Blind Poetics, which, unblinkered, monitors bacchanalian verse occasions nationwide, with a special emphasis on the piped-in and pumped-up from California wine country. There is Pack Bringley. There is Lance Phillips. (That neither Bringley nor Phillips has posted for months does not lessen readership one whit.)

Truth be known, American elites are as ambivalent about blogging as they are about national identity. Beginning last year, Chris Funkhouser made even clearer the shakiness of his allegiance to what’s termed the American poetics system when he packed up his electro-poetics ethos and started restaging it in southeast Asia.

What happened? Poets like Siri Hustvedt, Ray DiPalma, and Weldon Kees, whose brands are now global behemoths, once also dominated the aesthetic side of the poetry business. Why does the U.S. seem like it was run off the road? "American poetry has a big, big problem, which is that everyone has lost his nervy edge, there is no residual pretense, only constant change,” said Ted Kooser, the perpetrator of Poetry National, a respected but largely commercial enterprise that is, in typical un-avant fashion, commemorating its 21st anniversary this year. “Designwise, factorywise, in terms of the bureaucracy, we’re behind.”

It is not just, as many suggest, that the U.S., long renowned for its rebels, its misfits and its high aesthetic standards, has lost large hunks of its poetry market to Europe. Plenty of people here will tell you that the Euro-avant experiment has not necessarily worked out. Cheap foreign copies of American poetics are fine, but not fine enough, apparently, to satisfy the trained eyes and ears of readers spoiled by the access they’ve always had to the best poetry around.

You don’t hear the word used explicitly, but the quality missing from poetry here now is what a few of us refer to as refinement. This is not a small detail in a country historically defined almost entirely by its poetry culture. What has replaced it in part is imported tackiness and vulgarity of which America once claimed the dominant market share. American pop culture at this point is largely vapid and formless. What is Paris Hilton but a cloud of pastel neo-Euro ectoplasm, its molecules barely sticky enough to hold form? So too American poetry-pop culture produces its own manifestations, one being the careers of the poets Robert Pinsky and Wanda Phipps, who are incredibly talented composers of astonishingly avant verse in their own enormously respective ways, but whose status as media deities owes less to their poetry skills than to their genius for tapping into a youth culture just as dumb as ever.

It was the filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock (himself a naturalized American) who first pronounced doom on America’s aesthetic and moral standards based on the decadence he saw emanating from the boob tube. But that was eons before the country’s biggest porn star, Scooter Libby, became a snack foods huckster featured in commercials for Peter Pan peanut butter whose tag line uses a double entrendre that is slang for salmonella and a part of the president's anatomy. Like most eggheads of the period, Hitchcock decried the vulgarization of culture by the ubiquitous new medium. Yet in Hitchcock’s day, the U.S. could still be said to have a vital literary, artistic and cinematic scene to counter the television’s evil rays. Even applied parodic forms like villanelles and sestinas then embodied an image of the U.S. as a holdout of refined, if ironic, tradition and Americans as warm-hearted guardians and arbiters of patrician ways.

That this fantasy has not altogether faded can be seen in the poetics press obsession with C. A. Conrad, reprobate grandson of Joseph Conrad, the former novelist in chief. Despite repeated goth metal binges, stints in gambler's rehab, his overdose on grunge in the apartment of a middle-aged transvestite, Conrad is invariably seen as a paragon of elegance. Mostly this is because he spouts his grandfather's prose and wears his grandmother’s clothes. There is a particularly old-American (and dare we add blue-blooded) message in the fact that, no matter what kind of antics Conrad gets up to, his inherited hand-me-downs possess the magical power to restore him to moral rectitude.
...in his fifties. Or possibly sixties. That 'urts.
Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry by Andrew Epstein. Newest must-read, 5 stars from Kevin Killian. (Scroll down three or four entries to find the review of Epstein.) KK's summary and citations are exhilarant.


When good things happen around poets, pix everywhere... Philly's on the rebound! Baltimore's Mardi Gras Views 1 and 2. Oakland's Vanitas.
Merging XIXth Century, Modernist, and contemporary thought is both predictable to the nth and token-most of a deeply conservative American paralysis.


"And when you learn to draw, remind yourself..."

The brain is said to resemble Gary Norris. It's
an interesting esthetic, not be fatal -- Gary or
a bone out of line is nothing. Really really
bad movies remind me of political allegiance
to the ice ants a-swarming when I learnt dark.

Seth's millionth collaboration was then initiated.
I heart negative phrases like "Repetition worries"
and note too I am Metropoli. And if over
liver failure of the irrational gamma ways
carry places in the heart, everything could unravel

as unprotected woods bout with louder projects.
The magic marker in June 2007 hill figures / naked
waiters like ours that's staged livestock in ideas
after winning best actress off the teacher-y ocean /
a chickee surrounding these things --

'cause Seth is from out of town, design wise, cradled
amongst fans of Steve Reich. My heart condoms him.
Weldon by Beckett tho is different, not about "Honk
if u heard this before I feed it to lunch 'cause
I'm pretty sure we're running out of constellations."


A lot more seriously off key than expected, but worth the wait, Part I. (Next time, sit up front, Jimmy.)


Even the Dalai Lama's an adjunct.


This would be the clearest explanation of the Scooter Libby debacle to date.


My daughter, the notebook. (Thanks Gabe.)


Keep the old blue notebook? or throw it away? How it was, that year in the month of her birthday: car windows smashed twice, living on the other side of town, another country, getting lost a lot...
(Thanks Kate.)
Pee Wee Herman had it right at least half the time. To paraphrase, I know you are, but what about me?
Let's all bug Behrle to get the Stephen Rodefer video up.


This note from a reader.

Dear Pantaloons,

I'm certain, and I'm pretty sure you are too, an art guy's and, most of all, a poetry guy's lack of historicity are as offensive as proceeding as if one were a god-thankyou-god pioneer in
anything belies a self-serving ignorance, a flaw too broadly smeared over time, over one's esthetic not to be fatal.

That's fatal, not funny. You are not funny. So, next? Set up new rules? Do what you do and call it comedy? Write a poem -- hahahahaah. Take a sick day. What ay ay ay ay hooooo-ooot! Sip tea, fuck that's fuck hilarious, ow, watch it, you're hurling hot liquid ho!

I find it disgusting you live this way.

Putin, who has been called the greatest television emcee and joker of the century, clearly agrees with you. Brezhnev, Pinochet, should I continue?

Two stories dominate my consciousness. Men like you receive adoring attention in the magazines and online. You've been writing for 18 years in an era of poetic stagnation and intellectual abuses. And yet guys like you've never been more in vogue. Secondly, you know this is about you and that's why it isn't talked about. Before you can do anything about it you'll need to know more and everything that can happen. Until then, watch it.
Whatever the ism its urge to oppress is atresic.
If you don't get this right you could become a hermit like me. Publication is a dot in the nexus. A party, two or three. What we leave for posterity, photos and links. Signed, Apparatchik


Shanna Compton, Katie Degentesh, Sampson Starkweather, Jen Tynes
Feb. 10, Lily Pad, Inman Sq.

Features of the So-and-So Reading Series: four readers form a kind of ensemble-marathon-ette and they are usually way under middle-aged and from out of town, distinctive features of cohort info-gathering by Cambridge-based Chris Tonelli, Series curator. Four at once, nearly, Chris and his audience at the newly-neat Lily Pad pick up a lot of fast and useful data from unjaded practitioners of The Art. That these data from four unique smiths moosh together over the course of a Saturday evening is nothing but the byproduct of a) the wind-down of everyone's enormously busy work week, b) readers' hard road to Cambridge (inevitably part of most self-intros), and (in my case) heady affects from a pop or two preshow. This time, happily, things were unmooshed. I came out of this So-and-So invigorated and impressed that the Poetics Labs are ablaze with fertile initiatives, thanks to what Shanna Compton, Katie Degentesh, Sampson Starkweather, and Jen Tynes do.

Shanna led with unpublished pieces about body worship and mind control, poetry that makes me stop fidgeting, sit straighter, better to take in false clues to an alter-ego, "thank you, ice in the glass." Shanna in real life is neither frosty nor needy as the one-eyed beastie chirping, "I'm really a nice guy, once you creep me out...there are never any good women Satanists." A number of falsehoods proceed from corporal reappraisal, culling or otherwise adapting a Victorian primer for and about girls' [stet] "special physiology" [stet]. Shanna's titles inch toward perdition: "The young lady must"; "Pride in having small feet." "On speaking for oneself" headlines "the book's briefest chapter." Lie after lie, Shanna is copping a special touch and feel, her bad-girl, smacked-down nose in the air with "a vigorous strength in her natural waist."

It's tuneful and instructive to hear Katie read from The Anger Scale insofar as her interpretation skews collage and pranksterism to more newly thoughtful areas (the center of a group hug) juxtaposing a type of protorobotic lyricism, "a canine spirit," with "long division" over randomly sterilized surfaces, giving up, as if by chance, such venial rhymes as cosy [stet] and spermaceti or bosom and bomb. Read aloud, the poems carry deadpan to literal bounds, that is, land's end to concise, unpretty, yet decorative indeterminacy as in the final couplet of "At Times I Have Fits of Laughing and Crying That I Cannot Control":
many nasty falls I've taken into the future
are to be ascribed to Susan
Katie's tones and flavors are not simply whacky (speak to God about the vibrator) or comedic (masturbation...and the vulgarity of walking). They ring and taste of a potable future that's shaken up even though it's been around awhile:
And I can't tell what is serious and what isn't.
Is it supposed to be funny? It is incoherent.

Animals are feeding on their little ones...
This reading was my first chance to catch up with Sampson Starkweather. He's coined a portmanteau to describe his versions of César Vallejo and of Max Jacob, among others: transcontemporation. He read a set of these confrontations, as it were, which are often stunning. He begins one adaptation from Vallejo's Trilce, "The computer travels inward, / feminine, without the luxury of salt..." Sampson's intent is not only to update (computer) but also outspin (travels inward) the original. His adaptations of Max Jacob's prose strike a balance, I believe, between observable and fantastic, "a canoe full of burning grass." Also,
When the book opens, you can hear oars rowing, geese flying by, people pointing fingers at the sky. The pages are made of paper, naturally, and everyone knows paper comes from trees; each tree was a persona from a Fernando Pessoa poem.
Jen Tynes came up from Providence to read from her subtly filmic collaboration with Erika Howsare, The Ohio System. Jen describes these as integrated entities whose individual parts can no longer be attributed to one collaborator over the other. They sound and read as quirky cinema of naturalistic and anatomical views: "The inside of the brain is said to resemble a tree"; "Having twisted its head back, the story continued." These pieces also show recent changes we should have spotted earlier but waited till now to see, "You have an arm that fits an outlet"; "A bleary new way to shape a sentence." One cinematographer's trick that is extremely successful is mixing angles -- close-ups panning to long shots dissolving to miniature panoramas:
Dear pelvis, there are some Indians stuck in your hair.

You are required, in case of emergency, to bronze yourself and then fall in glass.
The collaboration was initiated as a quasi landscape to the Ohio River, but it's less conventional than al fresco sketch work, and more intimate than mutual portraiture, animated with a plain language that's staged for surprise, "livestock in the fridge"; "gigging the bastards." I'm inclined to agree that Jen's and Erika Howsare's methods are systematic, if we count on their focusing on the tangibles, the almost-solids and ongoing interruptions of nature as the bases for filming (if not capturing) perpetual flow.
And if over the years I gathered "all the things that you sent downstream"
would it account for the drain? I imagine all the places we could place a net.

It's the Ohio system of ending things with a pause or hold for safety. I have in
my tool shack a neglected system of pulleys, a hair that is systematically wild.


Montage from photos by Stacy Szymaszek and Erica Kaufman of, around Queering Language Launch, BPC, February 10.


Best two lines from a blogger, ever.
Driving home from the gym, by chance I caught only the last two minutes of poet and NPR producer Sean Cole's piece for Valentine's. (I never listen to Weekend America but I was driving a rental and the radio was tuned to WBUR.) Moving on, I heard several NY accents that I almost recognized and two others that I knew right away, Jim Behrle and Wanda Phipps. Wanda read a few lines about dogs and boys, "I want a kennel of men." The Weekend America site has audio of Jim's, along with poems from Franz Wright and Beth Woodcome yet, snarly bitch gawd, nothing of Wanda's. Hey, why not? Here's the audio site.


Anonymous writes,

I'm too busy to remember how this started, but it's brilliant when a cheesy trick wins the day, one of my pseudo-cat-poo downloadables -- to which I can pen my name, say -- earnest readers and others to follow, cite, link to it -- it winds me up for a little linking, myself, to tripe by some student or irresolute editor stuck in snow, so I look lost like everyone else even though I'm controlling things at my end, and it doesn't seem that messianic because I'm playing at idiocy for the savants.


Frozen earring -- spam subject header pick of the day.
In one other notable event touched by C.A. Conrad, we have this audio memorial to kari edwards. (Audio along with photo stills from a memorial reading January 27 sponsored by Narrow House, Baltimore.)


Today's update on Frank Sherlock from C.A. Conrad is half-encouraging. Frank has left the hospital, but he is still frail, and he returns to an underheated apartment (amidst the longest cold span of the winter on the East Coast). If you want to help, mail a money order or check made out to Matthew McGoldrick, 1504 Morris Street, Philadelphia PA 19145.


This link with a message is making the rounds, but bears repeating. Poet Frank Sherlock has been stricken with a serious and costly illness and needs our help. Details here.
Queering language now.
Junk in orbit, astronaut triangles.


Vene, vidi, Wieners as it was.


Living around here I guess I feel the onus ... how about that Aqua Teen hoax!

Boston is a cartoon town. Sure, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Wellesley -- who am I leaving out? -- a prominent symphony bankrolled by descendants of the China trade (opium). Good hospitals, forays into biotechnology. Some notable archtecture, pre-XXth Century. A physical link to the sea, like scores of other cities. A fifteen-minute drive from downtown to the exurbs, like Philly or DC or Montgomery et al. Yes, a liberal tradition that's more and more the preserve of deeply conservative forces. The Mayor of Boston, untrained in aesthetics, takes on architectural arbitrage, critiquing Harvard's new graduate student residence largely because it isn't dressed entirely in red brick; instructing the Diller + Scofidio firm to redesign ICA windows into standard, transparent "sweeping views" of the harbor; suggesting on a whim that the tower at 111 Huntington Avenue sport a dome, better to call attention to the visual havoc of all Prudential Center structures that darken XIXth Century townhouses huddled below.

And there's his honor yesterday on cue, darkly scowling into the cameras, "An apology is not good enough,'' Menino said, "I want them to pay,'' outraged that two dim-witted hired hands (their supporters call them art students!) planted Turner Broadcasting circuit boards promoting teen hunger under Beantown bridges and at famed crossroads by the Charles. These two employees of Interference Marketing think they are still on the job, apparently, have not yet apologized. They are a cheerless embarrasment as is the mayor. Turner executives say, quite apologetically, they will pay for police costs, etc. So where does this put Boston now? The news cycle shifts to fresh atrocities, more fake humor. Boston is left to its cartoon cold.
Sunday will be a little less super, Demolicious cancelled.


The Poetry Project Newsletter -- just a gloomy arc jet engine of new search and despair. How can Berrigan and Lorber turn on the same dime? On one hand we have Anselm's discreet "I'm leaving by my own choice...been a solid pleasure..." Ok, hands up, fingers uncrossed, repeat that. While -- on the other hand -- whirling Brendan unloads cultural perçus: "Poetry doesn't merely guarantee zero scratch & tiny fame -- it guarantees even less as time passes. Poets are most successful in the moment before they first identify as one." Before! And zero scratch -- zut, now he tells me. And, oh, oy, now he's got me: "Snapped in the gnashing bear-trap of nostalgia for their own lost youth on one side & desire for a great seat in the lineup of future history, poets become paralyzed, desperate & sheer poison." (Can hardly stay afloat flailing in my vat of absinthe.) Time for a few women to move back in. Where's Stevie Smith now?