Saturday, October 28, 2006

Poets of the Future

TRACK CHANGES! How will future poetry consumers understand the personal suffering you experienced over putting in that personal pronoun if all they have are your slick, finished word documents. But the fine folk at Microsoft have your back. Just hit cntl+shift+e for 'e'mmortality.

I thought they were fighting in the captain's tower

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reading Report on Meredith and Peter Quartermain by Henry Gould

Attended Meredith & Peter Quartermain reading on Saturday at Bowery Poetry Club (yes, friends, occasionally I do leave the library. It's about an 8-yr cycle). Glad I went. Well-organized, sparsely attended. Charles Bernstein was there, along with Nada Gordon & Gary Sullivan, the emcees. Some NYU students.

M. Q. read from Vancouver Walking, a book she said was influenced by Pound's Cantos historical grab-bag, which she was reading at the time. Also Charles Olson's passion for local news, & Zukofsky-Niedecker word precision. (She is a very good reader. Every word spoken clearly & distinctly, yet without a lot of mannerism. Perfectly matching her style.) Now I'd like to read this book, though the poems were almost too dry and world-ironic for my taste. A long satire on the subliminal influence of Queen Elizabeth II on Canadian culture - seemed a subject not worth attacking, exactly. But that's just me. Overall it was fascinating to hear someone contemporary carrying on a certain vein of 20th-century poetry in an honest, authentic way. (Plus I was in Vancouver once. Can't think of a better city for walking.)

P.Q. read a chapter from work-in-progress, a memoir. An early passage, relating adventures as the youngest boy (age 7) in parochial British boarding school. Very charming, entertaining. I spoke with him briefly after - asked whether he simply had good recall for those days, or whether it came back to him during the writing. He said the project started when he & a friend decided, as a joke, to write some of each others' autobiography (sounds like a Brit schoolboy thing, to me). Soon after, he was flooded with childhood memories, & started writing it in earnest.

He told me he set some firm rules of style beforehand (in order to avoid memoir-boredom) : ie., no subordinate clauses. I said "the Hemingway approach?" He said he hated Hemingway, but, yes. It worked – became fast-moving, a "page-turner", in his words.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

October 28: Bill Luoma and Juliana Spahr

Nada's introduction to

Bill Luoma

Bill Luoma is the author of Works & Days, Dear Dad, Western Love, and the unpublished sound sequence Some Math. He lives and works in the bay area.

Over ten years ago, when I lived in Japan, I sent an email to Bill asking him “what’s inspiring you these days?” He responded that he was fascinated by, of all things, the Weather Channel. And this is what I love about him: how his fascinations illuminate subjects others might find quotidian or inaccessible, and how he transmutes these subjects into writing.

Indeed, like Goethe, Athanasius Kircher, Leibniz, Pan Chao, Leonardo da Vinci, Coleridge, Ben Franklin, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Jose Rizal, Queen Elizabeth I, and H.G. Wells, Bill Luoma is truly a polymath.

According to Martin Frost, a renaissance man (which is, of course, a sexist word for polymath!) should:

• Be able to defend himself with a variety of weapons, especially the sword.

• Be able to play several musical instruments.

• Be able to paint and output other works of art.

• Be forever interested in advancing knowledge and science.

• Be able to engage in debates regarding issues such as philosophy and ethics.

• Be a skilled author and poet.

I’m not sure about the first two criteria, but I am certain that Bill meets the other four. His capabilities are capacious: he makes collages and visual detournements, lettrist vispo and digital artwork; he built a random media generator; he thinks and writes about mathematics, gender, baseball, and life among poets; he translates from Greek; he writes site-specific poems, western poems, poems about his dad, poems about lovers, poems about (and, I’m guessing with) math, and poems of amazing concatenations of words so plastique you can almost feel them knocking about in your head.
Juliana Spahr’s books include This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, Things of Each Possible Relation Hashing Against One Another, Everybody’s Autonomy: Connective Reading and Collective Identity, and Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You. Her next book, The Transformation, is forthcoming from Atelos Press. She co-edits the journal Chain with Jena Osman.

Poetry news every Seguegian should hear

*Bernadette Mayer et. al. are reading from 0-9 at the Poetry Project Wednesday 10.25 @ 8.

* Nathaniel Mackey is reading at the poetry project this Friday at seven. This is not going to be one to miss. Also here's to Splay Anthem winning the National Book Award on November 15th.

*Corrine Fitzpatrick and C.A. Conrad are reading at Zinc this Sunday.

*Chris Westcott has created an NYC poetry calendar (focusing on new/innovative/experimental/post/avant writing) that is the most useful addition to the world of digital poetry dreck in quite some time. Check it out.

* Earlier this month Brian Kim Stefans launched a new flarf blog that will "examine how this new phenomenon just could not have happened prior to the internet." I happen to have it on record from David Shapiro that he invented Flarf in 1968, but nevermind. Discuss amongst yourselves.

P=H=O=T=O=S 10/21/06

More great photos from the inimitable Nada Gordon along with penetrating commentary from the ____ Alex Young.

Meredith Quartermain reads poems about walking in Canada and riding a train in California.

Peter Quartermain gives us the skinny on life, language, and warm-smelling nurses in English public school.

The Segue blog presents: MEGABEAK. Actually Jordan Davis presented them early this month.

Our esteemed host Bob Holman, also appearing on the Million Poems Show.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Nada Gordon's Intro to Meredith Quartermain

Meredith Quartermain has published and read her work in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. Her most recent book is Vancouver Walking (NeWest 2005). Chapbooks include Terms of Sale (Meow 1996), Abstract Relations (Keefer Street 1998), Veers (Backwoods Broadsides 1998), Spatial Relations (Diaeresis 2001), Inland Passage (housepress 2001), The Eye-Shift of Surface (Greenboathouse 2003), and [with Robin Blaser] Wanders (Nomados 2002). Her book of prose poems, A Thousand Mornings (Nomados 2002), is about Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood, the dockside area of Strathcona.

Metaphors that posit the poem as terrain, map, space, or landscape and the writer or reader as traveler, flaneur, surveyor, or adventurer abound. And in Canada, which is all about sheer land, more than one writer has literalized the metaphor by writing works that trace and traverse terrain in verse: I think here of Lisa Robertson’s Soft Architecture: A Manifesto and Gail Scott’s Paris.

I also think of Bruce Chatwin’s book, The Songlines, in which he explores the Australian aboriginal custom of singing the world out of dreamtime. He recounts the aboriginal creation myth thusly:

The Ancients sang their way all over the world. They sang the rivers and ranges, salt-pans and sand dunes. They hunted, ate, made love, danced, killed; wherever their tracks led they left a trail of music.

Meredith writes: Geography means writing the earth, or you might say writing the world. It 
seems to me that the act of writing the world is the act of creating it. As such I 
would hope that this writing keeps rewriting itself, or that writers, as geographers 
keep rewriting the world-space, and keep approaching it as an act which must 
unfold in the presence of a plurality of such actors (geographers), so that there is 
no definitive world or definitive geography, but rather an ongoing discussion or 
network of stories.

Today, we are fortunate to join Meredith on her peregrinations. Please welcome…

Gary's intro to Peter Quartermain

Peter Quartermain has authored and edited many scholarly books, essays, and books of poetry over the years, including, Getting Here; Basil Bunting: Poet of the North; Disjunctive Poetics; The Objectivist Nexus (edited with Rachel Blau DuPlessis); and, with Richard Cadell, the groundbreaking anthology Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970, which miraculously collects together the likes of Maggie O’Sullivan and the late Bob Cobbing, and yet was not photocopied and hand-stapled, but somehow published by Wesleyan University Press.

The male half of the Quartermain powerhouse has written essays on many of your favorite poets, including Lorine Niedecker, Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, Lyn Hejinian, Bruce Andrews, Mina Loy, and Louis Zukofsky (if you haven’t yet, check out his completely engaged and engaging “Thinking with the Poem” in Jacket magazine’s recent feature on Zukofsky).

Like Zukofsky, Quartermain brings an open ear to bear on what he sees and seizes, with an eye towards what he hears or feels he hears in here [points to head] as well as out there:

Sun blurs my lash catches
cold fire the heat of my hand
like love goes through the plashy fen
vole's questing feathered feet
to type what right
here I can never see
but feel

Please help me welcome Peter Quartermain to the stage.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nada's photos

Nada Gordon took some great pictures of Stan and Kim's reading--that's Stan with the marascino cherries in his eyes. Enjoy.

Bruce Andrews and the Martini Rodeo

Stan Apps brings the Flarf

Katie Degentesh, who was on her way to band practice. No really.

Gary Introduces Kim

Kim Rosenfield

Lucca & Lytle Shaw

No Comment

GOOD AFTERNOON EVERYTHING: Dirk Rowntree reports on Stan Apps and Kim Rosenfield

It was a gorgeous, if not a little too warm, October 7th, 2006. The Bowery's upper reaches were bathed in Indian summer gold with shards of reflected sun streaking from the windows of new condos across the shady boulevard. Inside Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club glowing and refracted light continued. On this particular Saturday the Segue on-the-Bowery experimental reading series featured Kim Rosenfield and Stan Apps. This section of the series is curated by Gary Sullivan and Nada Gordon and shrewd curatorial acumen was displayed by the pairing of these two writers.

Each poet read for the customarily amorphous block of time except for Ms. Rosenfield, who had to almost battle with an intrusive and insistent stage manager for her last few minutes of showtime. The poet, not surprisingly, remained focused and composed and finished a colorful and multi-textured bolt of a reading that, at times, had young, already jaded, big city children singing out loud and much older former teenagers wrenching their eyes in disbelief.

Ms. Rosenfield is the author of a number of volumes of poetry including Good Morning Midnight and Trama. She maintains a bustling psychotherapy practice in Soho and can smell an underpriced second-hand Mark Jacobs bag on the other side of town. "I think I'm just naturally making my writing more performative as I go," she once confessed.

Holding forth last Saturday Ms. Rosenfield embodied her typical combination of humility, championship style, and grace and as she led us through territory that felt familiar, but somehow disrupted. Growing up in the spidery edges of Los Angeles might have something to do with fomenting a sensibility that wires together advanced physics and lipstick etiquette, dank juvenile folklore and blank-faced medical procedure.

Grandmother Rose was briefly channeled when Ms. Rosefield credited the departed seamstress with the design and production of the stunning black sweater the poet choose for her reading. Densely encrusted with countless sequins, it dazzled under Bob Holman's stage lights sending off a faithful metaphor for and premonition of the theatrics to come. "I'm acutely aware of how the language of beauty and perfection under the guise of guidance marks and reformulates culture. Beware of anyone offering solutions is really what I mean. Science can work in much the same way. Both genders are affected by fashion although women are more targeted and men are more part of the fallout."

At this reading, everyone was part of the fallout.

Stan Apps, who's favorite American poem is "I've Been Working on the Railroad," lived in Waco, Texas, for several years before taking up residence in Los Angeles, where he now maintains a college teaching position and keeps up an active life in the local new writing scene. Among his recent publications is a small chapbook, the title of which commands us to "enjoy your everything." Other pieces include "soft hands" and the upcoming "Info Ration."

Mr. Apps, when encouraged by Nada Gordon, made this poignant observation about feminism. "feminism made my wife a worthy companion and adversary, a person who has flowered into a genius of free-will and intellectual curiosity (so I can imitate what she says and sound smarter)."

It was his reading that kicked things off on this sunny Saturday. On the black stage, Mr. Apps displayed an easy congeniality and the calm exuberance of a slightly demented Jimmy Stewart. Associated at times with the "cult" of Flarf, the poet delivered a notable lesson to this observer. It's clear now that a charismatic reader with an audience in his\ hand can take the "arf" out of Flarf. For instance, the poem "I (heart) Melinda Gates" as presented that afternoon, on reflection seems openly narrative with smooth rides across bumpy emotional and representational terrain. The poem sounds almost placid, with heartfelt giddiness and spite rolled together with generous elocution and humble body language. Its performance was a hit drawing audibles from all ages. On the other foot, reading the poem in the slim printed volume entitled "enjoy your everything," produces a different array of tones. The dirty bleeding toes of the Flarfian are far more evident in the cracked contextual windshields and spilt milk of the printed poem. The printed subject, gone now and then, is dispersed into a post punk architecture of glare and redirection while grazing and scraping everything. On-rushing corners of reference are suddenly invisible, replaced by blinding free falls and hilarious blankness.

Mr. Apps has made this observation about advanced poetry of the last 5 years. "Poets study the work of pornographers, economists, and real-estate developers. They know a poem must satisfy the needs of a consumer, and that the needs of a consumer must be defined in an abstract and generalized manner, without too much reference to specific persons, in order to facilitate the production cycle. Every poem is a new tax-free anal McMansion for that reason."

All the workers on the railroad had their consumer needs satisfied this black Saturday on the Bowery.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Gary Sullivan's introduction to Shanna Compton

Your mother put a
fan in the oven,
he said, to cool
it down. That’s right
the door is open
and on it sits
a little fan, blowing.
I am a little
fan, she says, an
ardent fan, a big
fan of yours. Whew.

That poem, Shanna Compton’s “Post-Texas Expressive Heat,” is quickly becoming one of the most often-quoted poems of her generation. It’s short, it’s funny, and like William Carlos Williams’ plum-eating confession it’s memorable. It’s also a great example of how a poem can keep resonating in myriad ways, up to and including a meta-reading of it that focuses on how the poem, as though it were the blades in a fan, turns right in the middle to upend or 180 our expectations & get our thoughts spinning. Whew.

The poem, the playful messing with expectations, is par for Shanna’s course. But to the extent that poetry is golfing: An exceedingly dull competitive sport wherein the world’s blandest, fashion conscious-less human beings follow each for endless hours over astonishingly unremarkable landscape trying to “score less” than each other, Shanna Compton is mini golf all the way, and “Post-Texas Expressive Heat” is the windmill on the 7th hole. Like a mini golf course she is various, ironic, surprising, colorful, and deceptively simple.

Her new series, “For Girls,” poetic responses to 19th and early 20th century women’s physiology and etiquette books, is delightful, and as I believe she’s going to treat us to some of those poems this afternoon, I’ll say no more about them.

I do want to say, before I bring her up, that I just finished Gamers, the Soft Skull Press book she edited wherein poets and musicians and other artsy types write personal, theoretical, and historical accounts of everything from Space Invaders to the Sims, and I have to say, it’s one of the best-edited projects I’ve read in a long time--I read it straight through, completely riveted, despite having (a) no time and (b) no interest whatsoever in gaming or gaming culture.

This is the part in the intro where I should link up the playful mini-golf aspects of her poetry to some larger, more grandiose idea of “Gaming”—“for life is but a game,” etc., etc.—but that would be obvious, predictable, and Shanna Compton is anything but. Please help me welcome her to the stage.

Nada Gordon's Intro to Michael Magee
Michael Magee is a senior lecturer in English at Rhode Island School of Design and director of its new Institute for Poetic Arts and Critical Theory. He is the editor of Combo Magazine, publisher of Combo Books, and the author of Mainstream, MS, Morning Constitutional, and Emancipating Pragmatism: Emerson, Jazz, and Experimental Writing.

Michael Magee’s writing is sardonic, well-informed, whack, capacious, soulful, cheeky, hilarious, and transgressive. His poems are cultish artifacts of a world off its rocker, and as such, sometimes get inside people’s bonnets and buzz around, making trouble. His classic anthem MAINSTREAM POETRY, in its splendid quasi-evangelical vigor, functions as a kind of theatricalized flesh-eating bacteria, showily devouring its subject as we watch in stunned glee.

As do all of the poets in the Flarf Collective (of which Michael is a key member), Michael takes much of his language from online sources. This re-purposing of language has taken on the loaded term, “appropriation,” – the ethics of which continues to be hotly debated as one of the central cultural controversies of our time – and about which I have composed this little tune:

Two hot twins of Peshawar are drinkin’ brilliantine
In the blazin’ sun of Providence, RI
And My Angie Dickinson, with glittering gray eyes
is pissin’ dead popes out of her urethra

Mike pulls out his laptop and starts googling squid
and soon dick cheney’s rendered in marzipan
That Mike Magee is messin with my head

Appropriation’s just another word for a lotta words to use
And poetry ain’t worth nothing if it ain’t free
And if taking words is easy, well now, how can we refuse,
Cuz stealin words is good enough for me
Good enough for me and Michael Magee

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Saturday, October 7th: Stan Apps and Kim Rosenfield

Nada Gordon's Introduction for Stan Apps:

Some people have been asking me, “Who’s Stan Apps?”

We know the bio-data: He is a poet from Los Angeles, author of a chapbook of poetry, soft hands, from Ugly Duckling Presse, and of an upcoming full-length collection, Info Ration from Make Now Press. Stan co-curates the Last Sunday of the Month reading series at the smell in L.A. He is also co-editing a new chapbook press called Insert Press. His blog, refried oracle phone (which can be found at is one of my very favorites.

But who is he… really? And how good is he?

I don't want to sound too flowery, but he's so good that it makes me want to work harder to make him proud of me. His writing is so uncommonly lucid and weird and funny that each piece is like a bright piñata releasing little treats of insight, and we’re the eager kiddies clambering underneath to grab them up.

He’s so good that the whole world wants to wrap him up in a big huggy bundle.

You will understand this shortly.

He's so good that I just put him in front of the tv and he behaves himself. Sometimes, I turn off the tv and have him play with his toys. He has truly mastered the art of playing. In one of the mind-blowing essays that appear frequently on his blog, he writes,:

Inspiration is when you suddenly think of a beginning… .The beginning comes when something that was not fun becomes fun, or when fun energy suddenly comes over you while you’re doing something else. Good writing is fun because the writer was having fun.

I have to admit that my writing is fun and rarely work, because I usually find that I can be having fun (inspired) from the moment I sit down at my writing desk. Now that I’ve admitted this, I can’t expect to be financially rewarded for my writing, because since it is fun it’s obviously part of my leisure time, so I will have to always work at a real job. This real job will provide me with edifying interludes of not-fun, so I can experience reality and I won’t get out of touch, living the life of imagination’s hummingbird.

We today are privileged to bear witness to the frantic beating of those wings. Please welcome…


Gary Sullivan’s introduction for Kim Rosenfield:

“Our childhood is a blackmailer, it makes us pay over and over again.”

—Kim Rosenfield, the last line from her manuscript, re: evolution.

Not since Don Marquis has a poet fully appreciated the appeal and the power of what, for want of a better word, I’ll call infantilization. That word may dredge up images of adult men and women wearing diapers, and although that’s related, as is baby talk between consenting adults, Kim’s sights are trained generally on the power (and terror) of regression, flights from responsibility into fantasy, passivity and awe, and cue-taking from those who “know better”:

“Say ‘ouch’ ‘help’ and ‘fire’ many times. Pretend being donkeys and repeat ‘Heehaw.’”

The surface of Kim’s writing tends to be both playful and complex, often drawing from several genres at once. Here’s “Value for the Volume of the Ocean,” from re: evolution:

Molocules they undergo many collisions

and their direction of motion

alters everything

Their movement is sometimes called the drunkard’s walk

and there’s value for the volume of the ocean

Ring of solid/ carries no charge

ring of solid/ it carries no charge

a gas

a glow in the dark

The extent to which she’s playing here, the extent to which this is actually quite beautiful and lyrical, suggests more than mere critique of infantilization or regression—it’s really an exploration, by someone—and Kim is of course a psychotherapist—who has done a lot of thinking about childhood and how childhood continues to echo into adulthood. And, because it does echo, how others can manipulate it. We probably would all agree that much of what has been perpetrated post-9/11 in and by the U.S. elsewhere has been allowed to happen in part because we allow ourselves to be infantilized. What Kim looks at and explores in her writing is our deeper “contract with childhood,” which is not in and of itself a bad thing, although big bad people may use it against us, including some of the big bad people inside us.