Friday, December 26, 2003

Heading off for San Diego, today, for the MLA convention and job interviews, through Tuesday. Wish me luck.

And if you happen to be there, and don't have anything better to do between, say, 1:45 and 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 29, you can come hear my paper on Allen Ginsberg--it's part of a panel called "Recorded Sound, Experimental Text." Solana Room, San Diego Marriott. Just don't throw things.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

blogs are shops, while the list is the public square.

Oh, come now. I don't pretend to understand what's going on with the current Ron Silliman/Leslie Scalapino fight that's going on over at ye olde Poetics list, but I get a bit frustrated when a disagreement with a blog posting that pops up on the list inevitably turns into an attack on blogging itself. Why? If Silliman had published his take on Scalapino in a magazine--where there's certainly far less opportunity for immediate response and dialogue than in blogland--would his critics attack the printing press?

Robert Corbett's equation of blogs with "shops" (where, presumably, merchandise is carefully controlled and displayed and everyone is smiling) and the Poetics list with the "public square" hardly seems fair. The former image--blog as shop--is a strange extension of someting I also see on the list from time to time: "I don't have a blog; therefore [stated with apparent resentment] I am excluded from the discourse that is going on there."

But a blog doesn't have any overhead (Tympan: coming to you free since March 2003), nor does it (as I can attest) require any serious technical savvy. And it certainly doesn't require any more time to maintain a blog than it does to keep up with and post to the Poetics list (which I've always found exhausting, even in digest form).

In fact, I've found blogging (as I've said before) to be a much more open and welcoming forum than the Poetics list, which I've never felt comfortable posting to; if the Poetics list is a public square, it's one where the loudest speakers are constantly yelling at each other and intimidating anyone else who might want to speak in more measured tones. I wonder if those on the list who attack the exclusiveness of blogs ever stop to notice that those who post on the list with any kind of regularity probably don't number more than a dozen.

Monday, December 15, 2003

On Friday I managed, for the first time, to make it to one of Stephanie’s apartment readings. The setting is absolutely perfect, as if Stephanie had gotten the place just for this purpose: a big kitchen where food was laid out before the reading, and a gorgeous living room with lots of dark wood, couches, chairs, cushions, and even a big window seat, people right up next to each other and Stephanie perching on the arm of a loveseat. The lights were turned out except for a table lamp to the right of and slightly behind the readers, who sat in an armchair, faces in shadow, as if presiding over a round of ghost stories.

I’d seen Mary Burger open for Ron Silliman at 21 Grand over the summer; at the time I’d found it difficult to gain access to her work, but in this more intimate setting I think I got a better grasp of her project. The bulk of her reading was from an ongoing work called Sonny (which I, of course, wrote down in my notebook as "Sunny"), whose genre, Burger told us, was that of the "speculative memoir," a phrase that makes explicit the problem of anyone setting out to write a family history: not even in your own family can you find out everything that happened, whether because of death, failure of memory, or willful withholding. Burger’s solution to this problem is to write a family history as a kind of abstract prose poem, with philosophical statements ("the act is different from the understanding of the act") alternating with biographical vignettes—though the vignettes themselves were still generic enough that they could have been (to paraphrase Stein, a hovering presence throughout the evening) anybody’s life.

The obvious contemporary comparison, of course, is Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, which I was thinking about throughout Burger’s reading. My Life works because of its pitch-perfect balance of the universal and the particular, the lyric and the narrative, but perhaps most of all because of its discovery of an organizing structure that’s an alternative to that of the conventional memoir—the repetition and variation of phrases, the numerological correspondence of sections and years—a homology with a life that doesn’t purport to be a transparent rendering.

Burger’s project is, at some level, more ambitious and difficult, seeking to reconstruct the lives of others as well as her own. Yet I also couldn’t help but feel, at times, that Burger doesn’t fully take advantage of those strategies Hejinian uses to keep My Life compelling. Burger does do some interesting play with narrative, as in one section where she presents overlapping narratives of a man’s life, starting over several times at different points in the life with slight variations, to show us the difficulty of constructing a narrative that represents "the life." But something in Burger’s reading style—taking each sentence as if it were a line of poetry, giving little variation in inflection or voice—prevented the glimpsing of anything like a narrative through-line that could exist in tension with the work’s more speculative aspects. Perhaps this is something that would be more visible on the page; though it may also be the case, as Burger put it, that "what is individual is not visible."

Stephanie offered an intermission but no one took her up on it, so we launched right into the second reading, by Magdalena Zurawski. Zurawski (a recent transplant to the Bay Area) had arrived late, after transportation incidents including a broken windshield wiper and Bay Bridge traffic, but still sporting a brand-new "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" T-shirt.

Zurawski started off in a kind of introverted monotone, but by midway through I was getting chills down my spine and my jaw was somewhere on its way to the floor. While Burger’s touchstone seemed to be poetry, Zurawski was more firmly in the camp of prose, with long, run-on, hypotactic, self-conscious and self-referential sentences that seemed at first to be doing a kind of David Foster Wallace or Dave Eggers thing; the first piece, "The Ham Steak," was set in a college dining hall and dwelled lovingly on the translucent surfaces and methodical eating of the eponymous low-grade meat (including a long exposition, delivered utterly deadpan, of the geometrically and obsessively precise arrangement of ham, peas, and potatoes on the eater’s plate). What at first seemed clever, though, suddenly opened dizzyingly up, beginning with the narrator’s casual but repeated mention of a bruise on her forehead whose story she dared not reveal, for fear of giving away the secrets of her imagination. Zurawski seemed able to do, almost effortlessly what somebody like Eggers is constantly tying himself in knots trying to do: to take some lying-awake-at-night, collegiate existential conundrum and open up the real abyss beneath it, bringing emotion and terror sidling up as if by accident.

The brilliance of pairing Zurawski and Burger was most evident in Zurawski’s second piece, "A Drugstore Comb," which begins from the portentous pronouncements of literary theory: "In literature class I learned that memories live not in people but in things." I was a little worried when I heard this one: any number of overly precious poems and stories present themselves as illustrations (or refutations) of such lit-class platitudes. For Burger, such a statement might be something to be mulled over, permuted, obliquely illustrated. But Zurawski used this thought to plunge into an almost pathological solipsism, driving forward with relentless logic and chillingly repeated motifs. Like Burger, Zurawski was preoccupied with memory; but while Burger meditated on memory’s incompleteness, Zurawski gave us a Borgesian excess of it, reciting at one point a photographic recall of the entire list of ingredients of a sandwich. And—surprisingly, to me, I guess—all this worked because it was deeply psychologized, woven into the character of the young college woman in whose voice lines like this were spoken: "I needed someone to see me so I could see myself."

Sunday, December 14, 2003

It’s too bad I don’t fly more often—I’d have a much steadier supply of blog material. Today’s in-flight entertainment included a documentary on the founder of Hershey’s Chocolate.

I’m returning from a fun-filled trip back to the Bay Area, where an hour or two of actual academic business helped justify what was really a poetry vacation. There was a delightful poetry-swap reunion on Wednesday evening, fueled by chicken soup and potato pancakes at David’s Deli and concluding, after a rain-drenched uphill sprint, with poems at Del’s place. An early Christmas: when I appeared at David’s Cassie greeted me with two bags groaning with Australian books and journals and a thick sheaf of photos from the postcard poems reading (featuring things like me, Stephanie, and Del doing what looked like a little doo-wop together at the mike and Catherine making rabbit ears behind the head of any unsuspecting victim she could find).

Stephanie, meanwhile, handed me a mysterious manila envelope labeled "TIM LNPB"; inside was a stack of thin, beautiful, nearly square chapbooks, each with a slightly different, finger-painted image on the front: a circle topped by a pyramid with a protrusion that looked suspiciously like an elongating nose. Stephanie had, in fact, followed through on her promise to preserve Long Nose Pinocchio Bitch for posterity, with my, her, and Kasey’s LNPB poems now prefaced by Jonathan Mayhew’s ode to an alternate species, the Long Nosed Pinocchio Squirrel Bitch.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Blogs in space: Now blogging to you from 39,000 feet, on my way to San Jose. Seemed like a better way to pass the time than watching the four hours of golf commercials that the video screens seem intent on bringing to me.

This will be my first trip back west since moving to Chicago in August. Everyone always assumes that the weather is what I’d miss, but honestly the Chicago chill (admittedly mild thus far) hasn’t bothered me. In fact, I’ve missed the Bay Area much less than I thought I was going to—most likely because I’ve been busy almost nonstop since moving. But also because Chicago has proved to have its own pleasures, old ones and new.

What I did miss about the Bay Area—as evident from my cry-for-help post last week—was a poetry community I’d just started to feel a part of, especially my good ol’ poetry swappers, who I’d come to think of, in a lot of ways, as the primary audience for my work. The couple of weeks before I moved I remember desperately bouncing from one Chicagoland academic website to the next, casting around for a class to take or sit in on—anything that might connect me to a new group of writers.

I guess my post last week must have sounded pretty pathetic, because it brought in an email from Chuck Stebelton, and on Sunday I found myself sitting down in a cozy apartment with a group of poets whose names I’d heard and who I’d even had some email contact with but never met: Jesse Seldess, Kerri Sonnenberg, Ray Bianchi, and Mark Tardi, as well as Chuck.

Driving up to Jesse’s place I was feeling a weird twinge, as if I were somehow, I guess, cheating on my old group. I realize lots of people are in multiple writing/reading groups at once, but when any of the Bay Area poetry swappers would talk about going to their book group or having brunch with a bunch of other poets I’d always feel oddly jealous, like I didn’t want to share—just a sign, I guess, of the weird intimacy of such groups. And even stranger, then, to be the interloper, joining a group already in progress, shifting the dynamic just by showing up.

Fortunately, my fears proved unfounded. This group, it turns out, is just getting off the ground, and everyone was warm and welcoming. The format, too, was different than what I was expecting: rather the bring-a-poem poetry swap, the group had decided to read a critical essay for each meeting and discuss it in depth.

The selection this month was now-NEA chairman Dana Gioia’s "Can Poetry Matter?", which I read years ago when I was working on my undergrad thesis but haven’t had a chance to revisit since. In memory, I’d lumped Gioia in with other "poetry is dead" hand-wringers, usually of a reactionary bent, and useful mostly for his diagnosis of the dullness of the workshop aesthetic. I was surprised to hear the other people in the room meeting Gioia’s claims for poetry’s irrelevance with earnest concern. I suppose I’ve never had much use for the myth of the "general reader"—it usually seems, in the context of contemporary poetry, as a covert way to lobby for an anti-experimental aesthetic. But in hearing the others talk about it I realized it’s also part of a desire for relevance, for an audience, for a sense of connection to the larger communities in which we live.

In fact, as the conversation went on it became clear that what Gioia frames as a national problem—the invisibility of poetry in the mainstream media—has really become, for poetry, a local question. Kerri and Ray both brought up their work in the Chicago schools, teaching poetry to young students, which opened into the question of what the place of poetry in Chicago was, anyway. I remember thinking this, too, at the Notley reading at the U of C, with an audience of about 60 people, compared to the packed auditorium she read to in San Francisco. Is Chicago a town that just doesn’t care about poetry?

By the time I left I’d actually come to feel that the Bay Area was a place where poetry did seem important, relevant to the cultural life of the region. I even developed a theory about this: that it was San Francisco’s very provinciality, the smallness of its other cultural institutions (Chicago’s art museums, opera, and theater—as least at the marquee level—could eat San Francisco’s for lunch) that made it possible for poetry to seem important there. In Chicago, perhaps poetry, always a low-budget endeavor, was being drowned out by the more glamorous (and more corporate-sponsorable) hoopla of blockbuster Impressionist exhibits, Barenboim and Boulez, and Frank Gehry architecture.

There was some grumbling over Ron Silliman’s recent remark (which I hadn’t read) about "poor Chicago," which didn’t even have the poetry scene of a place like Milwaukee (one of the few cities insecure Chicagoans allow themselves to feel superior to). Surely there was no shortage of poetry activity in Chicago; the poets right there in the room were actively running reading series, editing magazines, and teaching. But even in these folks Silliman’s remark touched a nerve; somehow things didn’t seem to quite be coming together. A lot of speculation as to why: Chicago’s non-coastal position? the remoteness of its universities from its cultural life? Chicago as a breeding ground for talent (Second City, Steppenwolf) that then moves elsewhere, erasing all evidence of its embarrassing Midwestern roots? gentrification leading to the culturally deadening rule of the Trixie?

Well, it’s not really true to say that Chicago hasn’t made a name for itself in contemporary poetry; what it’s known as, though, is as the birthplace of the poetry slam. So the real question is whether more experimental, textual modes of poetry have a foothold here. A "scene," I think, happens when an institution (and it can be anything, a reading series, a magazine, or just a regular gathering at someone’s apartment) lines up with a distinctive aesthetic, a set of goals or problems that a certain number of people are working on at the same time in the same place. Maybe that’s starting to happen in Chicago, between Danny’s and the Discrete Series and everything else; I can’t quite tell yet. Maybe we just need an army of bloggers to report on it.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Tuned into the banned-in-Iowa episode of Saturday Night Live just in time to see Al Sharpton blow whatever miniscule chance he had to win the Asian vote in 2004. I mean, come on. Sushi jokes are so 1980s.

Not to mention which the sushi chef in the background made up to look Japanese just reminds you that there are no actual Asians on the SNL cast.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Loop [2]

Sir Smack is

at the kill-dare pump.
Pulled as keys

from a scent-full ark
off the kidding Z.

western horn

is the 18th time
pork raised its voice

to halt it, a clung
ton, a lazy L.
I can't get that damn Strokes song out of my head.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Loop [1]

The howling
oak’s parked

along the
ridge and

the cost of
tin sent

through me.

pulls ass—kid

conserves a
story. Keds

in every tree.
Hello Hello,

And please go pronto to the brand-new SHAMPOO issue 19:

Yes, yes, you really must. It is so super-sudsy and includes such starry ingredients as Alli Warren, Zinovy Vayman, Eileen Tabios, Todd Swift, Chris Stroffolino, Ron Silliman, Todd Shalom, Suzy Saul, Christopher Rizzo, Chris Murray, Gordon Moyer, Bruna Mori, Bobbi Lurie, Lewis LaCook, W.B. Keckler, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, Jill Jones, Laura Jent, Yuri Hospodar, Tom Hamill, Adriana Grant, C. E. Gatchalian, Drew Gardner, Carolyn Gan, Andrew Felsinger, Michael Farrell, Jason Earls, William Charles Delman, William Cannon, Mike Bucell, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, Melissa R. Benham, and Stephanie Beecham; plus radiant ShampooArt by Nico Wijaya.

Even better than shopping,

Del Ray Cross, Editor
clean hair / good poetry
The Last Samurai certainly looks like an "orientalist nightmare" (Robin originally thought upon seeing the teasers that Tom Cruise was being cast as a Japanese man, although I'm not sure the truth is a whole lot better)--but I can tell you that since coming home at the beginning of this week my father can talk about nothing else besides going to see the damn thing on opening night. If I weren't already writing a dissertation I'd have another one right there.
Santa, I want a Pinay Barbie for Christmas.
Ha! And you thought I was kidding about that "New Prairie" thing.
Long Nose Pinocchio Bitch lives!

I foresee a merger/sequel: Long Nose Pinocchio Bitch Chokes.

(Was that really in October? Egads. A slight twinge of remembered pain.)
There's been a bit of an exchange on the Poetics list the past couple days about contemporary poetry and academia, which at some point transmuted into a conversation on race and its alleged monopoly over the current study of literature. I'm always a bit surprised when conversations on the list take this kind of turn, as they often do when race comes up--I guess it shouldn't be odd to find that the avant-garde wing of contemporary poetry (which often prides itself on its leftist allegiances) can be just as wedded to the ideal of the poem as aesthetic artifact, untainted by social context, as any other group of American writers. But it always disappoints me a little.

Kirby Olson's original post observed that there are "no jobs teaching contemporary poetry," to which Joel Weishaus correctly replied that, well, there are really no jobs teaching anything. As someone who's on the job market I can confirm that there are very few jobs explicitly advertised in twentieth-century, much less contemporary, poetry, but I think this is less a symptom of the decline of the field of contemporary poetry than another sign of the arcane and erratic state of academic hiring. Medieval literature--a field that encompasses not fifty or so years but several centuries, and which is also frequently said to be in decline--usually has only a handful of job postings per year. This year, unbelievably, there are something like fifty. I doubt that there are significantly fewer jobs in modern and contemporary poetry now than there were a decade ago; in fact, if anything, I see major programs like Penn and Buffalo continually expanding their commitment to it.

But while there may be very few jobs advertised in contemporary poetry, there are a truly astonishing (well, for the English job market) number of jobs being posted in creative writing--a point that Olson alludes to, but which I think is really central to this discussion. It's becoming increasingly likely that in an academic English department, contemporary poetry will be represented on the faculty not by a scholar with a Ph.D. in poetry but by an MFA-holding, widely-published creative writer, who is often called upon to teach introductory poetry classes in addition to teaching writing workshops. (This phenomenon--of poets being assigned to teach intro poetry classes--is prevalent even at a place like Stanford, which has historically had no shortage of faculty in poetry.) Undergraduates are, indeed, flocking to poetry classes, but those classes are most likely to be classes in creative writing--enrollment in such classes is one of the few growth areas for many English departments.

So what we're looking at is not a decline in the number of people teaching contemporary poetry at the college level, but a significant shift in who's doing that teaching--from the Ph.D.-holding scholar to the creative writer. There's no reason to assume that this is a bad thing--that it represents the triumph of the bad old "workshop aesthetic" of the "MFA mainstream"--not least because that aesthetic has changed, as much the kind of work that's coming out of workshop-trained young writers these days has at least a veneer of the experimental. It might very well have a liberating rather than conservative impact. But it might also result in a narrowing of the field, with the craft of poetry as it is done now coming to dominate over broader historical and critical perspectives.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I've come to realize how much the rhythm of my blogging was determined by the structure of my life back in March when I started: having an office to go to where no one could notice how much time I was spending blogging instead of working, good several-hour stretches of time where I could blog for a while and still feel like I had enough time to get some work done, nights when I was able to stay up until 1 or 2 finshing some long entry.

As is probably obvious from my sporadic posting over the past few weeks, I haven't yet figured out that rhythm here. Job market panic mostly means that every minute spent sitting in front of my computer is one of stomach-churning anxiety rather than scholarly contemplation, and it's been hard to hack out a well-defined workspace here at home, where piles of my papers are tottering on either side and there's nowhere to put them.

Mostly, though, it's the lack of a reinforcing real-time community to keep the virtual one churning along--I'm not seeing my poetry-swap buddies on a regular basis, which at the least meant I had to write something once a month. Well--at least a swapper reunion has been planned for my trip back to the Bay Area--maybe that will give the blog a shot in the arm.

Monday, November 24, 2003

It's official: the Tim world tour will make its triumphant return to the Bay Area from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13. Get your tickets now.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The strange experience of stepping outside and not actually knowing what the weather will be like. Twenty-degree temperature swings in the course of five minutes. A beautiful morning into a rainstorm. A miasma of leaves on the ground and brought into the house on big dog feet.
Huzzah! reading reports popping up everywhere: Kasey on Mytili Jagannathan and Rodney Koeneke and Stephanie on Manguso/Davis/Edgar. I'd try to keep up my end, but it looks like the U of C reading series has gone into hibernation until February, which means that I might actually have to leave Hyde Park to hear some more readings. Shudder.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

At last, my report on the Notley reading...I know you've all been holding your breath.

So I'm on my way over to the Alice Notley reading last Monday and I get a call from Li Bloom, who I'm supposed to meet up with. Turns out Li's fallen victim to the Chicago highway tangle, literally at a fork in the road and not knowing which way to go. (I had this horrible image of Li sitting in her car in the middle of a highway median, cars whizzing by on either side, horns sounding.) I end up talking her all the way down from the Loop to the South Side, having her make U-turns in the middle of Lake Shore Drive and who knows what else, standing in the middle of 59th St. waving my cup of coffee to flag her down. (Weird moment of standing there talking to each other on cell phones while looking at each other through her car window.)

Even as she was trying to find her way down here, Li was thoughtful enough to ask me for my whole life story and give me part of hers. (Insert "strangeness of meeting someone you only know from their blog and how you know them but don’t really know them" riff here.) She told me it was the first reading she’d been to in a long time—I sympathized, having grown up in the same suburban enclave she now inhabits. But meeting her was just delightful—all energy and enthusiasm and poetry.

Really, though, most of this came afterwards, since by the time we got into the building the reading was about to start. Eirik Steinhoff of the Chicago Review introduced Notley and praised her a number of times for being part of no school and free of dogma, which always makes me a little suspicious—a little like "fair and balanced," if you know what I mean.

But that’s no fault of Notley’s. When she took the podium I was struck by how utterly different the atmosphere of this reading was than the last time I saw her at Lone Mountain in SF—that was a huge auditorium, more or less packed, with a sort of rock-star atmosphere and a who’s-who audience that made me a little queasy. The room here in Chicago was full, too, but that meant 60 people—both more and less intimate. People were there to hear Notley, but not necessarily because they knew her.

Notley’s certainly not a ranter at the mike, but she is, in her own way, a consummate performer. Stepping up to the front, she leaned back and kind of framed the podium with her hands like a director lining up a shot, then told us that explanations of anything would be reserved for her talk the following day; right now, she said, "I’m going to perform."

Listening to her made me think a bit of the low, rich, "thrilling" voice of Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby--but while Daisy’s voice is full of "money," Notley’s seemed more to be verging on tears, as if it were being held up in the lower registers by a suppressed sob. That’s a bit dramatic, but maybe appropriate to the material Notley was reading.

Part of what made me feel a bit like an outsider at the Lone Mountain reading was, in fact, Notley’s material—she read extensively from Disobedience, whose diaristic quality, allusions, and inside jokes seemed to delight those already familiar with her and her work, but it gave me that feeling I get when reading some of the more insiderist work of the New York School—like I wasn’t being invited into the conversation, sparkling and brilliant as it was.

The quality of this reading was utterly different—at one point I leaned over to Li and said that Notley in SF had been more "upbeat," though that wasn’t quite the right word. Her reading in SF was haunted by death—her brother’s, her husband’s—but not obsessed with it; here, it was as if she were down in the grave and trying to dig her way out: "I have come from another form in the ground." She read almost entirely from new work, serious and driven by rage and grief, with titles like "They Are All Dead Today" and "Decomposition"—the last, perhaps, an apt term for a project of writing one’s way out of death.

Perhaps the sense of a project in progress is what gave the reading its feeling of unity. Like Disobedience, the new poems were often animated by dream imagery, particularly that of the "dark woman," both archetype and self-portrait. The dominant tone was less elegiac than unflinchingly and viscerally memorial, the language of a present consciousness wounded by death: "You have left a bloody corpse in my bed…No one in a small town should have a pauper’s grave…I loved someone who died…My mind isn’t safe."

Yet Notley would hardly be Notley if there weren’t some sparkle of wit in the pain—a "funereal repartee," as she put it. The "world drug, the beauty drug" may be an opiate, but it’s an irresistible and even natural one.

And the intrusions of the public world of politics and war—characteristics of Notley’s recent work that have led some to read her as a powerfully political poet—were also in evidence, though less conspicuously than in Disobedience. One poem, "Ballad," which alternated quotes from Dick Cheney with images of elegy and dream, seemed formulaic, with Cheney’s rhetoric too easy a target; more powerful were the moments when public language asserted itself deep within the personal, linked with the stasis of death: "The president comes into every part and stops it."

Afterwards I’m talking with Li and this guy comes up and introduces himself—it’s Chuck Stebelton, who’d emailed me a few weeks back to let me know about a few good Chicago reading series (which were threatening to burgeon, egads, into a "scene"). Pretty soon we’re all talking about blogging and how weird it is to meet people who you’ve only met as blogs and how can we get everybody in Chicago blogging and…well, you get the idea. Watch out for that New Prairie School.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

My blogophobia reached such levels that I have not even read anybody else's blog for the past week, because I realized doing so would make me feel even more bad about not having blogged.
And just when I was wondering if Chicago was ever going to open its brawny arms to the blog: I walk into a restaurant this afternoon and see this week's Chicago Reader and there's Bookslut, right there on the front page. There's even a picture.
Sorry. Something like a blog breakdown over the past week--I dunno, every time I thought about posting my cursor would hover over the link to Blogger and then just slink away.

It's just been a tough week. No personal, political, or poetic spins to be put on it.

I still owe you all a report on the Notley reading. I have a notebook full of stuff. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

I'll be there--and it looks like Li will too, so we can meet at last! A veritable blogfest. Oh, and Notley's pretty good too.

*************** ALICE NOTLEY ****************
at the University of Chicago

Monday, November 10, 5:30 p.m. (Classics 10): Poetry reading

Tuesday, November 11, 4:30 p.m. (Wieboldt 408): "My Lines"

A reception will follow the reading on Monday.


Known as one of the most important voices in the second generation of The New York School, Alice Notley is author of more than 20 books of poetry, including The Descent of Alette (1996) and Disobedience (2001), which won the Griffin International Poetry Prize for 2002. She has published an autobiography, Tell Me Again (1982), and works also as a painter and collage artist. In 2001, she received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Shelly Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. She lives in Paris, France.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Good Lord. Those of you anywhere near Stanford can hear Billy Collins, Robert Creeley, Eavan Boland, Michael Davidson, and Thom Gunn read all in the space of this next week.

Tomorrow: Thom Gunn, the Lawrence and Nancy Mohr Visiting Poet, will hold a colloquium, Wednesday November 5, at 11am in the Terrace Room, Fourth Floor, Margaret Jacks Hall, Stanford English Department.

Friday and Saturday: Poetry and Politics: Black Mountain and Others, at the Stanford Humanities Center. Robert Creeley, Eavan Boland, and Michael Davidson read Friday at 8 p.m.

And Billy Collins will read on Monday (8 p.m., Cubberley Auditorium) and talk on Tuesday (11 a.m., Terrace Room, English Department). I'll be the guy in the front row wearing the moth-eaten "IMPEACH BILLY" T-shirt.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I missed William Fuller reading up in Winnetka, but when I saw he was reading down here at the University of Chicago I hardly had any excuse. Of course, I always think that 20-minute walk to campus will take about 5, so I left late and spent the whole walk saying to myself, "No poetry reading ever starts on time..."

The reading was on the first floor of Classics, in a longish lecture hall with just enough vintage woodwork to make me remember I wasn't in California anymore. (The equivalent reading space at the Stanford English department has a big plate-glass window with a view of red tile roofs and the foothills behind them. I suppose this is just a sign that I spend too much time during readings staring off into space.) A solid turnout--I'm guessing at least 30 people--though I have no idea how that ranks for Chicago poetry crowds.

I must say that I knew nothing of Fuller's work before the reading, apart from a piece or two I'd looked up online. I'd seen a lot of mentions, locally and on the Poetics list, of his new book, Sadly, enough to pique my curiosity but not enough to really tell me about his work. In short, I was a pretty clean slate.

In a lot of cases, it may be that attending a reading is absolutely the worst way to be introduced to a poet's work. Listen to a tape of Wallace Stevens reading sometime and you'll know what I mean. I guess this is particularly true of experimental writers whose work is dense, textual, very much on the page--there are obviously some who are consummate performers (Bernstein, Silliman) but it often doesn't seem to come naturally. Maybe this is true of Fuller, and on the page I would find his work deeply engaging. From where I was sitting, though, it was difficult to get in.

One of the first things we were told about Fuller is that he's worked for Northern Trust for twenty years. But this wasn't just a "poet day job" thing: it came up repeatedly, as it became evident that Fuller's poetry is very much of the workplace. While that may conjure up the spectres of Philip Levine or Dana Gioia, Fuller's project is a lot closer to that of somebody like Bernstein (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Silliman): an interest in the discourse and language of the contemporary workplace, particularly in its more extreme forms of jargon. In Bernstein this is often played for laughs or parody, but there's also a cutting sense of the ideology of that language, the way in which it veils, justifies, numbs.

I think Fuller represents the next step in engaging that language--a kind of surrender to, even embrace of, its headlong rush. Beginning a poem called "Profitability Death Spiral," Fuller noted that his co-workers (who are apparently aware of his poetic vocation) will occasionally bring him particularly prime examples of finance jargon. "If you have enough of these sources," Fuller remarked sardonically, "you don't even have to write the poem."

I think anyone who's worked with any kind of linguistic material that seems to be endlessly self-proliferating and mechanized--whether it be computer-generated text, pop media, Google poetry--gets that feeling sometimes, and doesn't quite know how to feel about it. To my mind the most successful poetry of this sort manages somehow to hack out a critical position within or against the discourse it grows out of. Bernstein or Ashbery may occasionally read like a technical manual, but there's a zaniness and verve that both makes it possible to keep moving forward and allows one, possibly, to laugh oneself outside of ideology for a moment.

Seen in this light, Fuller's poetry seemed too, well, earnest, even didactic. In mining business language for poetry, Fuller takes its poetic quality too much for granted. In this sense maybe the apt comparison isn't Charles Bernstein but Susan Howe--more specifically, Howe's faith (following Pound and Olson) that the fragments of the historical record, its language, may yield up some transcendent quality if put under enough pressure. Fuller mixes in a fair amount of Howean historical material, 16th- and 17th-century primarily, but rather than fragmenting it remains discursive, fusing into a single stream of language--an effect heighted by Fuller's headlong reading style, with little space between words and sentences. "Basic objects leap into the sea, which revives them with doctrine."

I can't help but contrast the title of Fuller's Sadly with that of Lyn Hejinian's Happily. In reading, at least, Fuller does seem to use language sadly, carried along on the flow of information, earnestly trying to make sense of it all, but capsized on each successive wave. I don't see Hejinian's happiness, the pleasure of engagement and play, those brief moments of freedom before being carried under again.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Please come to a reading and lecture at the University of Chicago this week by:

*************** William Fuller ****************

Thursday, October 30, 5:30 p.m. (Classics 10): Poetry reading

Friday, October 31, 1:00 p.m. (Classics 10): "Restatement of Trysts"

A reception will follow the reading on Thursday.


Drawing equally on Buddhist sutras and country blues, William Fuller's latest book, Sadly (Flood, 2003) derives compassion from its ironic vision. Quick and sometimes elusive, his poems observe fluctuations in economic markets, the weather, and human consciousness. In the Chicago Tribune, Maureen McClane has described Fuller's "dense, elliptical mediations," writing that his "luminous images…consistently marry the cerebral and the sensual." Fuller lives and works in Chicago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Two bleary-eyed blogless days filled with job apps. I don't recommend that 4:55 p.m. sprint to the post office when you haven't eaten anything all day, or the frantic run to Office Depot (around the corner, thank god) ten minutes before closing time to rub paper samples looking for the right one to match the stuff you've already got. What was scary was that I was not the only one there rubbing paper--there was another similarly bleary-eyed guy picking up all the paper I'd put down.

Choke poetry seems to have gagged its last. It was a good run. Thanks to all who coughed something up.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Hey bloggers: go academic...

Panel on Weblogs
Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association Conference
at San Antonio, April 7-10, 2004

This panel seeks papers from bloggers either analyzing some aspect of the culture of blogging or presenting critical and informative personal narratives about blogging. Presenters need not be academics, and graduate students are welcome.

Please email a short abstract (one paragraph) and brief biographical note by November 10, 2003.

Joseph R. Chaney, Chair
Computer Culture Area

Department of English
Indiana University South Bend
(574) 237-4870
fax: (574) 237-4538
Gary Sullivan answers my question about flarf and Googlism:

There was a brief period on the flarflist when everyone found Googlism and threw in funny searches, like "bad poetry" or "great poetry." The one I remember best, of course, is:

Googlism for: flarf

flarf is come festival in florida
flarf is officially over for this year
flarf is the faery cast
flarf is held at quiet waters park
flarf is over
flarf is come festival in florida flarf is officially over for this year flarf is the faery cast flarf is held at quiet waters park flarf is over
flarf is come festival in florida
flarf is officially over for this year
flarf is come festival in florida flarf is officially over for this year flarf is the faery cast flarf is held at quiet waters park flarf is over posted by
flarf is appealing
flarf is the faery cast
flarf is the oversized fleece/flanal blue striped/plaid shirt jacket thing that jessie stole for me from thrift junction yesterday
flarf is over

... although, the last time I saw it done there were fewer lines.

Mostly, I like to edit Googlisms, when used. So the above would be more like:

flarf is come festival in florida
flarf is officially over for this year
flarf is the faery cast
flarf is held at quiet waters park
flarf is the oversized fleece/flanal blue striped/plaid shirt jacket thing that jessie stole for me from thrift junction yesterday
flarf is over

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Which makes me wonder: how do flarfers feel about Googlism? It seems like there's something of the same thing going on there, like a tech-geek version--the results, at least, often don't look that different from my own pale attempts at the genre. Of course, I presume Googlism is the result of some kind of automated process, which flarf flirts with but doesn't completely embrace...I guess.
Both The Wily Filipino and Gabriel Gudding pointed my attention to Googlism on "choke," part of which Gudding was kind enough to send to me:

Googlism for: choke

choke is offered in pressure
choke is on you
choke is the result of 13 years of continuous research and development
choke is on you last aired on
choke is a damn fine novel
choke is no exception
choke is the major
choke is also equipped with a set screw to lock the setting in place and avoid its movement due to vibration
choke is pulled open can be adjusted by bending the "u
choke is about taking the next step
choke is getting a mixed reaction from critics and fans alike
choke is what you might call a man's man
choke is the story of a young man named victor mancini
choke is pretty complete
choke is brilliant and extremely funny
choke is strangely familiar
choke is a documentary that follows three fighters as they prepare for the 1995 vale tudo fighting championship in tokyo
choke is considered modified with as small as
choke is to minimize the rf loss caused by the resistor
choke is a stab in the eye to anyone with
choke is very low
choke is one of the few worms to spread via instant messenger services
choke is usually late summer or early autumn
choke is quite high
choke is a replacement choke tube precision made of stainless steel
choke is a tru
choke is to reduce the air intake into the carburetor
choke is simply a tapered constriction of the gun's bore at the muzzle end
choke is no different
choke is a monthly magazine
choke is great for targets less than 20 yards
choke is a humane form of control that offers the advantages of a
choke is eminently memorable
choke is blued and designed to shoot either lead or steel shot
choke is ported
choke is an apologetic novel in which chuck palahniuk
choke is designed to close off the outlet spout of a bulk bag thereby allowing the partially emptied bag to be easily removed from the
choke is a constriction in the end
choke is placed subsea it has been designed to cope with all the conditions it is likely to encounter without
choke is a bilateral carotid choke
choke is
choke is equivalent to multiple turns of wire inside "their" choke
choke is king
choke is a difficult decision
choke is a
choke is glad to be back in canada
choke is a technique applied against the throat that cuts off or restricts the flow of air to the lungs
choke is an effective
choke is a critical
choke is situated at the pipeline inlet at the wells
choke is pcu divided by the square of the rated current
choke is called a "cylinder bore" and delivers the widest spread
choke is a worm which attempts to send itself through the msn messenger instant messaging program
choke is in open position
choke is leaking
choke is housed in a miniature surface
choke is constant and hence it is
choke is changed often without proper cleaning
choke is simple
choke is to pass
choke is food impaction within the esophagus
choke is perceived to be
choke is a terribly simple little thing
choke is very effective it can also be dangerous
choke is a caucasian male
choke is to build it directly into the fountain tube by compacting clay around a former known as a nipple
choke is up to the challenge of holding that pattern as tight as it should be at 40 yards
choke is in closed position
choke is watching with great interest to see if anadarko can finally realize the potential in the undervalued and underdeveloped upr strip
choke is to a shotgun
choke is very fast and very powerful
choke is made from 0
choke is very important to maximise your scores at the various disciplins
choke is on the chassis upperside
choke is the degree of constriction at the muzzle end of the barrel
choke is also a definite recommendation to all those not
choke is a fixed one or is it removeable? i use
choke is used
choke is a measure of the opening
choke is held too long
choke is 1k
choke is manufactured by shyam electronics
choke is the latest novel by stuart woods
choke is used when the engine is cold
choke is told from the point of view of a dropout medical student
choke is closed
choke is minimum
choke is like he throttle
choke is one that is often misunderstood
Kasey is with me on this whole "scansion is useless" thing, though Jeffrey Jullich begs to differ.
Mystery Choker Revealed...

I thought Michael Magee's fingerprints were all over this one, but now he's come clean.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

From Sean Serrell, who says: "I hope the choke-wagon isn't so full it can't accommodate one more." Hey, there's plenty of room--jump on.

Choke Tubes/Chuck P.’s Choke/Kickin’ JC’s ‘nads

Until recently, everyone thought that by funneling a wad into a smaller stream under pressure, the spread could be concentrated at a distance onto a target. This cut-away illustrates the patterns produced by replacing the old "funnel choke" with a patented wad retarding system which stinks of either conspiracy or revolution, I can't tell which:

Go talk swearwords about God
You all will die, stupid humans.
Bye slut, go talk shit about me.
(Call me a 'psychophatt')

When people ask "What would Jesus not do?" I will have a clever response for them based on something I have done. What would Jesus NOT do? Disgusting Post Modernism, however I must point out that Jesus did in fact assault people. The most common hold is from the front with both the assailant’s hands around your throat. Since the two handed front hold is the most common, it will be the best to learn how to escape. Every man has had a sister, mother, wife or girlfriend that has mentioned "kicking a man where it hurts." The most important thing is to run away once you are free. Never stick around to see if your attacker is going to get up.
Three Chokes from Gary Sullivan

Did You Mean To Search For: Chokes?

(a "B" side for Tim)

SiStAh! WhEaH yOoH bEeN!
hAcVeNt TaLkEd ToOh YoOH InNaH cHoKeSs

cowerkers are kewlness...gotsta love them...when i came home
lenlen asked me if i wanted to go dolly's house
so yeah we went there...had chokess ppls...

i hAvE sHoRt HaiR nOw, LiKe uP tO mAh sHoULdErS

plus, since there was chokess amounts of people
the noise level must've been pretty loud

iTs LaYeReD LiKE tHaT
ShOOtS..DiD yOOH EvEr FiNd OUt aBoUt DaT jOb ThInG? ...

HoW yOOH bEeN?

CHOCKINGG (Outtakes)

Chockingg, chockinng, chockiing, chockking, choccking, choocking, chhocking, cchocking, chockerr, chockeer, chockker, choccker, choocker, chhocker, cchocker, chockinf, chockinh, chockibg, chockimg, chockung, chockong, chocjing, chocling, choxking, chovking, chicking, chpcking, cgocking, cjocking, xhocking, vhocking, chockign, chocknig, chocikng, chokcing, chcoking, cohcking, hcocking, chockigg, chocknng, chociing, chokking, chccking, coocking, hhocking, khocking, chockee, chocket, chockwr, chockrr, chocjer, chocler, choxker, chovker, chpcker, cgocker, cjocker, xhocker, vhocker, chockre, chocekr, chokcer, chcoker, cohcker, hcocker, choceer, chokker, chccker, coocker, hhocker, khocker, chockin, chockig, chockng, chocing, chcking, chockk, chocck, choock, chhock, cchock, chocke, chockr, chocer, chcker, chocj, chocl, choxk, chovk, chpck, cgock, cjock, xhock, vhock, chokc, chcok, cohck, hcock, chokk, chcck, coock, hhock, khock, chck. chockingg, chockinng, chockiing, chockking, choccking, choocking, chhocking, cchocking, chockerr, chockeer, chockker, choccker, choocker, chhocker, cchocker, chockinf, chockinh, chockibg, chockimg, chockung, chockong, chocjing, chocling, choxking, chovking, chicking, chpcking, cgocking, cjocking, xhocking, vhocking, chockign, chocknig, chocikng, chokcing, chcoking, cohcking, hcocking, chockigg, chocknng, chociing, chokking, chccking, coocking, hhocking, khocking, chockee, chocket, chockwr, chockrr, chocjer, chocler, choxker, chovker, chpcker, cgocker, cjocker, xhocker, vhocker, chockre, chocekr, chokcer, chcoker, cohcker, hcocker, choceer, chokker, chccker, coocker, hhocker, khocker, chockin, chockig, chockng, chocing, chcking, chockk, chocck, choock, chhock, cchock, chocke, chockr, chocer, chcker, chocj, chocl, choxk, chovk, chpck, cgock, cjock, xhock, vhock, chokc, chcok, cohck, hcock, chokk, chcck, coock, hhock, khock, chck.

lesbiana named ledbians cuoking lesbias lesians lesbiaans esbians
chojing lesibans girk lesnians chokking lesbianz lesbianx

blowmob pofn mvoies moviees pifture mocies pi cture chokiny ipcture
womann blowjlb rree fr e pidture blowiob blpwjob bolwjob blowjobb

ow joh low chokung bllow chokiing lbow ob blpw cchoking
c oking c hoking cnoking blow jbo chpking glow jon chokiny

dohor blo w mo vie jovie chokiing eperm joh blpw bblow mpvie
jo b perm hcoking jjob choking chokung chokjng choknig aperm

movoes c oking pictur e pictuure chokimg m ovies
jobw moviss chking mov es b ow pictu re moviws

v deo yays jkb vi eo ree ideo frer gwys videoo vixeo gaye
vid eo npeg video agys asuan as an cideo chokking gasy asiaan

iny chokimg phhotos ojbs choikng jogs bblow pen is peniss mpeg
chokong chkoing chking hotos pyotos jbs pjotos tniy choknig bllow

bl ack pictu es back cboking pivtures bliw lictures choiing blwck
chiking bllack blpw pixtures pussy chokingg pi tures pictu res

nuses aadults nudees adu ts job moviees blo w adultts sdults movues
adjlts blos chhoking movjes cgoking chokin g nhdes nud s aults chokking

panites choing witb pamties gkrl iob gidl choking moive whits jjob
chokijg pantie s blo chhoking pahties movi e mov ie w ith chooking wbite

anateur nyde moviw amateu kobs amageur choki g pictire amteur pictue
plst po t poat picturs jbos mo ie picyure picgure mobie mofie chokking nide

galleriew gallerues bw ga lleries chok ing hardcorw hardcoe gall ries fere galleris
chokihg feee falleries chokinng chokung h ardcore chokking choing gqlleries

f ree frde pissung chokung p ic chokint pizsing bow ppissing pi c ic gay piv gsy
fere pising hob pisskng pc jpb pjssing pidsing pissinb bllow chokking blpw oic
Choke Lit USA

Choke lit modern romance fiction
Choke lit search word spy
Choke lit married man
Choke lit dispatched within 24 hours
Choke lit hates me because I’m cute
Choke lit sex-soaked candy-colored indiscreet romp
Choke lit personal trainer hug
Choke lit so you’d like to…
Choke lit read by 579 people
Choke lit stop rubbishing "hairy-legged" female
Choke lit irrepressible (and unavoidable)
Choke lit musi c. mischie f. ar t
Choke lit pink lit?
Choke lit of a fat bride
Choke lit behaving like adults
Choke lit black authors getting in
Choke lit puts her finger on
Choke lit collapse this category
Choke lit between doing your hair and make-up
Choke lit espresso stories
Choke lit fashion and beauty articles and lifestyl…
Choke lit "fragrant literature"
Choke lit deals more with the realities of dating
Choke lit looked down their noses
Choke lit just a lot of froth
Choke lit push-up bra G-string chastity belt
Choke lit aimed at the modern gal
Choke lit traditional romance fiction

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

[choking moments in Ohio from "rhode island notebook 3.7.03"]
Gabriel Gudding

I-270 N 342 M 12:50 PM EST
sun out Wham! As I bounce over
the Olentangy State Scenic River
356 m fr. BL & Northwest of Columbus
2 Canada Geese traverse hwy
50 ft Above car. They do not honk.
It occurs to me I should have
honked at them
On rt, in bright sun N of Columbus,
375 m fr. BL, I see, in a muddy,
furry oval of hay, a press of
horned Kine in tumid Anoraks
feeding & lazing in sun booms:
I notice in shock they are bison.
Small hawk kites over median,
southward, yawing
STOP TO EAT, GAS, PEE 1:30 exit 151
10.1122 g 390 m = 38.57 mpg very low mpg
1:40 A fish sandwich
at McDonalds, I bite it in parking lot, choke
on the bite of hot cod puck. My sinuses ache

1:52 pm EST back on road
and so Laura Bush picked up her
husband's hawky-pointy flared nostril
nose, smelled it, sniffed hard at it,
cried about it and put it safely
in her bosom brassiere. There in
turn it snuffled in little
fooms her bosom smells
76 east 2:44 pm 450.7 m fr BL.
Long steep downward slope near
Wadsworth OH, never noticed before
Traveling perpendicular to me on
an underpass beneath
the freeway, I spy a large clear white
Ford pickup w/ an immense American flag
on a 6 ft pole flickering Above its
hitch-bulb and I am once again shocked
at the ghastly, kitschy, tacky, tasteless
and disturbingly hick-like & white
non-urban, gun-bearing & ignorant

nationalism, which is. Nationalism is.
490 M 3:20 pm near Mt. Union
College, am very tired.
3:33 PM I sneeze explosively.
And, simultaneously, the loosened nose
of G W Bush sneezes between
Laura Bush's easy breasts w/ a puffing bang
rocketing the wedge of flesh
up the Valley of her cleavage
slopping her firmly under the chin
and slipping back w/ a snotty swash into her
silk and smelly valley.
Meander Reservoir 510 M 3:39 pm
80 e 3:41 pm 513 m I sneeze again
and again the loosened nose of G
W Bush burstles upward slapping
past the lip-gates of Laura Bush's mouth-lips
lodging under her Uvula. She glottal chokes
ejecting the nose, plosive phlegm-noise
follows the nose's arc outward: the nose splats in the
party's heels. A startled pause.
In the social air a bloom
of pallid phlegm unfurls. "For the
first time in my life I have
had to confess I am ashamed of my
country." -- Richard Olney, 1903, re:
Roosevelt's seizing of the Panama Canal
Pennsylvania Welcomes You 527 M
STOP TO PEE 3:53 -- 3:57

In Western Pennsylvania near
Clintonville, A bright but long-
shadowed March afternoon as the Alleghanies
begin, smattering of snows remain in
the woods and the large
meadows/small fields, but in the
median, a shallow-v in cross-section
the tan dead grass slicked-down by snow melt.
Am very achey.
[I'm afraid I'm not sure who this is from...contributor, please identify...sorry...]

You let out of it.
I ran it like that
for a spell and it
cleared up.

I never knew
what caused it,
but sometime
later it did it

again and I
choked it.
The whole „if
you‚re Œanti press‚

why publish?‰ argument
immediately started
climbing up the
back of my throat ˆˆ

but I choked it
back down ˆˆ and was
shot in the bathroom,
made me cry.

When I got it
home I choked it
and pulled it once
and it fired right up!

They were the arms
of Elvis choking. I
fought them hard; I
could not cede.

„There is no Devil!‰
I choked it out,
„And I‚m in the arms
of Elvis, too!‰
From Chickee Chickston:

I'm choking right now
but I don't care!
I'm gonna sell this car

Sir, ack argh spew,
herk, herk, herk,
how do you like the nice leather interior?

(Note to self: no phlegm)
it's fast too!

then voices
then bright light
Did I make the sale?

I'm the man!
From Stephen Vincent:

My mother choked
Constantly choked
Still chokes
Has not finally choked

That’s the truth
The sad terrible truth
I confess
I confess for her

Dinner - the father, the children
Macy's - the perfumes
David's - the blintzes
Nixon - the jowls
Nixon again - more jowls

Choke against the rage

She's done it - Reagan
She's doing it - Bush
O mother
Do it again
Harder, harder - Bush, Bush

Do it till you belch your guts out
Belch all over
Bush & again Bush

Whatever they did
And whoever did it before they did

When you break the sleeve of your body
Crack the air
Vowel by Holy Vowel
Sing unto us,
O Sing unto us
Around the table
Father, brother, brother and brother
We who were
Will not be - O Sing unto us -
Slender & bright as Crimson silk
Rolled into the sky
A ribbon under whatever God
Gentle unto that loving, endless night
Absolutely, forever may it be
The total song Unchoked.
While Choking
By Daniel Silliman



I choked and as I choked
it grew worse. “Water,” gasped.

that one damned bone
irony of strangulation
food cum death,
or is it qua?
food qua death
eating a good meal gone bad
that punk of a
grim reaper chicken
sickle of a bone in my throat.
From Stephanie Young:

On Choking: the use and abuse of pronouns in cases of self medication, a mystery strung together by commas, exactly the type of sentence that can cause a person to choke, a room with four walls, I choked on my latte, or choked with contempt, caught on her own words, being choked from behind, her own voice, all attempts to properly organize the father, "I saw how she touched you!", the line had a lot of static, your voice periodically sounds like a cell phone that has lost its connection, pieces of the email may break off, illegal jelly treats, "I am tiny!", choked up with emotion and stumbling over her own words, who is the misanthrope in the following sentence? My voice choked, and the words I could not speak to you quite choked my heart.
Keep on chokin'...

From Jack Kimball:

We were headed to Miami. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Boston sings! Yo Chicago to the rear!
And all grew hushed. But in that Boston silence
NY singled, homered and changed everythin dear.

Quiet creatures gather from the Bronx,
unhurried forest out of New York, and nest;
and so now Miami must have their stealthiness
that was not born out of cunning or of funks,
but just from chocking. Chicago, first -- the roar
seemed tiny to Boston hearts. And where before
there barely stood a bat boy to take this in,

a wailing crowd hides within the deepest darkest Fens,
for Boston lost its entryway as beanpots trembled --
as NY builds for Marlins thus a sacrificial temple.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Yet More Chokepo

Aaron Kunin

point of a building's
shadow enters you
Ferdinand Lopez

(are you carrying
anything that will
set off the alarm)

at Tenway Junction
(the security
guard sees that you have

no destination)
through a cloud choking
the sky's mouth minus

(smashed into bloody
atoms) his face said
get back on the train
A choke poem from Kent Johnson [revised].

I was having dinner with Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters, and the Count of Lautreamont. Some other minor poets of the pre-war years were there. Lautreamont was dead, of course, and his boiled body was being served in thin slices stuffed into baguettes the shape of milkweed pods. Everything was going famously, Picabia was making Vvvvv sounds, holding the severed wheel of his crashed Belogna; Ball was flapping his papier-mache wings at top velocity; and Man Ray’s three girlfriends, with their pointed, penitent hoods, were drinking absinthe and whispering mysteriously near the lime tree. Then it happened that Breton gave his ten year old, bowl-cutted son, Aragon, a slice of the Count’s perfectly shaped derriere. The child swallowed and immediately commenced to gag and retch, his little hands going to his throat, like the hands of a shot head of state, and he turned violet throughout the whole area of his body. Nadja began to scream, and Breton began to shout, though not words, but primal commands. The sounds coming from the child were those of crows, or something else I cannot yet name. In this moment of crisis, I didn’t choke, nosiree, I did not: I sprinted over and performed the maneuver I had brought with me from the future, the Heimlich, as it is known, wrapping my arms around the little Stalinist brat and squeezing and lifting his rib cage with all my might in five rapid successions. It worked. There on the parquet floor, ejected and writhing, covered in a film of slime, was a baby shark. "How on earth did that get into him?" cried Lacan. "I don’t know, but I could give a shit," said Gertrude Stein. "Pass the butter."
Must have more choke poems! Send 'em if you got 'em! Write 'em if you don't!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

More Chokepo

small parts
Alli Warren

appearances show

the mouth

floods repeatedly

chokes on


in the study

red wax

in the head

err on the side

one will

still not

a cure
Eileen Tabios

She has not looked back for three years. For three years, she lived her life by skimming the thinnest surfaces of an ice-covered body of water -- what she did for ecstasy billowed the sails pulling her iceboat. She could twitch the rudder so easily to return to thicker ice or solid ground. But bliss is addictive, even as she feels her bones thinning from a lack of rest. She sensed that looking behind herself would present the painful image of white shards fragmenting black water. So she continues to knife towards the horizon as if the horizon could be a destination. Perhaps a point exists ahead where the ice gives way to warm water thickened by salt -- it doesn't make her less or more eager. "Our deepest sense of what is fair and generous gets tossed aside so quickly in favor of a powerfully racing heart."* Untoward, she has grown accustomed to breathing through her drowning.

* Quote is from "My Russian" by Deirdre McNamara (Ballantine, 1999)
Did You Mean to Search For: "I choked"?
Gary Sullivan

[for Tim Yu]

As I saw what had become of them
a horrified shudder fled through my skin
and I caught a gasp in my throat
I chocked on the gasp and as I chocked

it grew. When they gave me processed
stew I chocked just a little bit again I asked
Dude I just almost choked on whater
Sarah: water!! Lisa: hee Sarah: What's

worse i almost typed chocked Lisa: I chocked
on whater! Help! In other fine moments
of recent days I had the most awful tasting
cough syrup ever ... I think it was Bill's Ocean

the name escapes me now but I was glad to
see Bill! I chocked the wheels with beer cans
gagged a few times but he just laughed.
After what seemed like hours he finally came

I chocked on his cum as it shot into my mouth
"Please let me come" I chocked through tears.
I used to go to this little dinky porn theater
on Melrose and I gagged but continued to suck

Would it kill you to ignore those M&M's I ate
a couple days ago? Could you let those french fries
I chocked down yesturday just slide on by!?
Then, someone must have come and unplugged it

because I wasn't so happy anymore
I chocked it up to his being an ex-seminarian
standing there naked masturbating! I feel sick
every time I think about it.

At the time I chocked it up as an unimportant
forgettable drunken moment.
And then I chocked myself full of Apple n Peach
And then my stomach hurt. Hm, it's the meat

attacking me one last time! Yes, I think
that must be true because I chocked during dinner
too. Haha, yes, okay ... I chocked it all up
to being a new mother--all those new duties

nightly feedings diapers bottles laundry
I felt nervous and excited all at the same time.
"You look absolutely beautiful"
I chocked out as we sat down

"Take your time and order whatever you like
I love you girly. So, yah, the time when i
chocked on you hair very funny
for me ha ha ha i went blah morning evil

morning carnt think." "Megatron, new body,
stronger!" I chocked. Optimus patted my back.
"It's okay Son, Megatron isn't here." he said.
Suddenly my mouth became very dry I was

exhausted but I chocked that up to not
listening to an album. I mean purely
because of the album. I hope the songs
keep coming. Ah the Souls. Imagining

vampires in every corner I chocked
the door open with my short sword
and we carefully pulled each coffin out
before opening the lids ... nothing.
Four-by-Five Pronoun Choke
Chris Murray

Choked? You? Never on!
Say, no I had to.
Say, no sequin love
could ever be It--

shining this sequence
in that final big.
Nor. Displaced, stepped off
to another choke,

struck full of wonder
bread: break-through preserv-
atives, man. Just do
It like shoes: Us

It was, pair as They
say, We: some big They
show. If She, always
He He anyway.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The Choke Goes On

From Ben Friedlander:


"could've been should've been would
have been without a doubt but
only if that kerry kood've
kept his wits for one more out,"
emits the drunken sadeyed lout

And from Patrick Durgin:

I will not regret choking
but self-medicate instead.

She asked me to dance but I wouldn't
and answered in fact that I couldn't;
then I limped to the bar
with my head in the stars
and retrieved my false pride where I put it.

Friday, October 17, 2003

More Choke Poetics

Courtesy of K. Silem Mohammad. Keep 'em coming!

Bourgeois Family Christmas

In February 1985, my throat and mouth
muscles lost all coordination.
I could not swallow and began
choking on my own saliva.

Due to a sore throat I had been swallowing
too frequently over and over repeatedly
like a mentally retarded dog, and was
choking on my own saliva.

Time: 5:33 pm. I started feeling all sorts
of "bad weird." Is that a mood?
I felt as if though I was
choking on my own saliva.

Thank fortune, I had gone to the bathroom
before I left work. Rather than
wetting myself, I settled for
choking on my own saliva.

I had a seizure in the kitchen
of my mom’s house, passing out
watching my hand slap uncontrollably while
choking on my own saliva.

The huge brown spider jumped on me!
Then I woke up panicking. The rest of the day,
my right eye was twitching wildly and I was
choking on my own saliva.

They tell me I will get so I will choke
on my food and evidentially get so
I can’t swallow and will end up
choking on my own saliva.

Who knows? See below for even bigger,
better results. Oh sweet Mary,
mother of Jesus. I am
choking … on … my … own … saliva.

"You mean my c-cock and … and balls?"
He nodded. "W-what … h-happened?"
I could barely find my voice and felt myself
choking on my own saliva.

I said, "Hello, Sanzo? Can I get a ride home?"
Response. Nothing. —What? My breath came
in gasps. I swallowed, almost
choking on my own saliva.

Current Mood: annoyed.
September 8th, 2003. 12:00 pm —> *cOugH
Yes. There was a lot of saliva.

Don’t hate the playa hate the game!
I’m choking on my own saliva

People will kill me for this, but I remembered
choking on my own saliva
when I discovered that some phrases
I couldn’t recognize at all as Japanese were

off in my world of gnomes that strip and breakdance HAMMER TIME…
cuz I had that hideous mouth holder thingy and he had to push on it a li’l
to reach my back teeth and I kept saying no, while
choking on my own saliva.

Eleven years ago, I smoked two packs
of menthol cigarettes a day. However
there are no answers for preventing
choking on my own saliva.
Choke Poetics

Now soliciting: "choke" poetry from all corners, from Oakland to Boston to Chicago to Minnesota and anywhere victory inexplicably slips away. Send it here and I'll post it. Look for the anthology at a concession stand near you in April.

Here's a contribution from Taylor Brady:

CHOKING IN OAKLAND (for Terence Long)

How do you not swing?
An almost perfect bond

unites the man with thousands
circling him. He joins them
watching him as on a screen

he watches life seep from

things watched. A watch

is not a clock. It holds
the wrist stiff, outside

the time in which a flick
or stroke would come in time.
The pigeon in the field knows
your eye is there. Doesn‚t care.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

"I Choked"

I didn't do it. I choked back the tears
and didn't sleep a wink last night.
Definition found in 1: "I laughed so hard
I choked on my spit!" Bottom line: my
frou-frou bottled water, my fanatical
apathy ruined my life.
Other people lose jobs = I make money.
Holdsclaw: I think I shed a tear--
oops--I think I choked her,
a little dark joint winking
in the dark warm narcotic American night.
Here's a tale of the annual company barbeque:
you sucked, i choked on an undercooked
mailing list. That's
what lack of Baan work does to you.
It looks like a really trashy
hotel infested your new layout.
Sweet Jesus, I choked on a cookie!!
Well, when it came time to use the knowledge
that I thought had been firmly ingrained in my head,
on my first real day as a Dartmouth student,
ready to get ya jugglar vein slit/ your now dealin with
the scallop at the eat off.
I choked on a radish and the radish
had no name.
Cubs Elegy

You might want to add his sun-
shine side to the shuffle: don't

think you're so safe when you're
ground down & packed in.

Aloof, you're reaching the
point of prowess when,

as it would if you
hadn't been there, bat-

man hands wing out
like a wavefront. By

this prior arrangement we've
gathered sticks and stone-

pressed ice cream, horn-
rough beers and garlic

tones: but wait
for that gutter leaf to fall

from the year where someone
must have painted it.
I must have missed this, but The Skeptic and I were both citing Creeley in the discussion of linebreaks last week.
The latest poetry superstar...P-Gizzi?
No joy in Blogville tonight.

Well. Go Sox. The only thing more boring than mainstream poetry would be a Yankees-Marlins Series.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Oops. When I said that Nick's blogroll was "no longer his own," I did not mean to imply that the EPC had somehow seized editorial control of his links list--just that Nick's own blogroll was now appearing on the EPC--though I can totally see how what I said could be interpreted as meaning the former.

In fact, as Nick explains, the only change Nick made in the blogroll to post it up at the EPC was to alphabetize it; otherwise it is his and his alone.

My cryptic comment might also have been taken to mean that I think putting a blogroll up at the EPC is a bad idea, which I don't. I've always found the EPC to be an absolutely crucial resource, a kind of home base for many poets I'm interested in (and sometimes the only place on the web you'll ever find anything about a lot of them), and I think that poetry bloggers and readers have many points of connection--if not overlap--with the readers and writers served by the EPC. It makes sense to me that EPC users, many of whom may not be regular blog readers, ought to have some kind of gateway into the blogging poetry conversation that's going on.

It also seems to me that Nick is the perfect person to ask to do such a thing. He's been blogging as long as any of us; he has ties to a large community of writers, including bloggers and those associated with the EPC; and he's never allowed himself to get dragged into some of the squabbling that goes on among some of us at times. Most importantly, though, he's been a great supporter of other bloggers and an enthusiastic and comprehensive linker--generous and fair in this regard, more so than almost anyone. Putting together this list for the EPC just seems like an extension of what he's often done on his blog, which is highlight blogs, old and new, that he really enjoys and trying to help get them the audience they deserve.

That said...My comment may have betrayed some ambivalence about the idea of having an "EPC Blog List" at all, in part precisely because of the central role the EPC does play as an on-line poetry gateway. The EPC has a centrality and officialness, and I wonder if the EPC list will come to be seen as "definitive" by people, not so much by bloggers themselves but by non-bloggers who are just coming to the thing.

Part of this is just an inevitable effect of making any catalog or list. I always think, in this respect, of Ron Silliman's introduction to In the American Tree, where Silliman writes that "there are literally dozens of other poets and writers whose work has both influence and been influenced by the debate reflected in these pages" and that "a volume of absolutely comparable worth" could be constructed from their work--and then goes on to list eighty other writers who were not included. (This in an unusually generously proportioned anthology that already fills over 600 pages and includes some forty writers.) Yet ultimately a choice had to be made, leaving some in and some out for reasons that might in retrospect (or even at the time) seem pretty arbitrary.

The blogroll, at least, doesn't have this restriction, in that it can be infinitely expanded. And I do think that having one person's blogroll, formed by personal preference and experience, make up "the list" is far preferable to having the EPC folks officially arbitrate who's in and out; Nick's list is, I'd like to think, much more a report from the field than a carefully vetted table of contents, and will, I imagine, continue to grow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Nick's blogroll is no longer his own; it's the "EPC Blog List", edited by Nick Piombino.
The rain's finally stopped--depriving me of the chance to try out that new raincoat I'd bought for a damp Bay Area winter, not a soggy Chicago fall--so it looks like Game 6 is a go.
Cassie in her own private deer head nation.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Enjoying the cut-ups and collages at Ironic Cinema, esp. the writing-through of Proust:

legend were my sorrows

my room the light arms
of my mother

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Speaking of favorite montages--though I admit being the film rube I am I'm not even sure this really is one--I have the screenplay of Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould here and was flipping through it and remembering the scene where Gould goes into a truck stop to have breakfast (all bundled up & anonymous) and begins eavesdropping on people's conversations, first one strand (a busted flirtation) then another (two truckers swapping road stories), the camera cutting from one conversation to the next with increasing rapidity, then occasionally back to Gould who is sitting at his table, listening, conducting what has obviously become a fugue with the tips of his fingers, until his food arrives and he puts a whole lot of ketchup on it.
Jeffrey Jullich's original query about line breaks (to which I was responding earlier this week) is posted over at Silliman's Blog, along with Silliman's own, very interesting, reflections on the matter.
from Summi Kaipa...

Interlope #9 is out!

Interlope, the journal of Asian American poetics, has just released its 9th issue featuring work by:

Minal Hajratwala
Michelle Naka-Pierce
Jerrold Shiroma
Ken Tanemura
Hung Q. Tu
Tim Yu

Single issues are available for individuals at $5/each. Please send checks (payable to Summi Kaipa) to:

PO Box 423058
San Francisco, CA 94142

NEWS: Interlope #10, to be published this winter, will be the final issue of the magazine. It has been a rewarding endeavor, and I thank all of you who have supported it. If you know writers who might be a good fit for this last issue, please forward them to

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

An email came in (no, don't worry, a very nice one) over the weekend from Jeffrey Jullich, asking, in the wake of the discussion of Linda Pastan over at lime tree, what "lines" and "meter" even mean these days--can it be measured by conventional scansion, is it some kind of intuitive going on your nerve, is it an anarchic free-verse-for-all, or--worse yet--a residue that we all just use like robots?

Good question, Jeffrey. This is probably going to get me violently flung out of grad school, but I must say I've never seen any point in conventional scansion--you know, the funny little accentual marks that some English teacher along the way probably put over a line of poetry, or that you might find in the first few enthusiastically marked-up pages of your used copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry. Not that it doesn't have its uses, or that I haven't used such means to make a literary argument. But when I see any critic, no matter how brilliant, from Jakobson to Vendler, try to make an argument for the meaning of such rhythms, I admire the ingenuity, but am skeptical about how defensible such a conclusion really is. Usually what's happening is that said critic is simply explaining how the rhythm enhances the paraphrasable content of the text, thus demonstrating the poem's perfect unity; yet that critic might find him- or herself arguing that the same figure means precisely the opposite thing in another poem, given context. Nothing wrong with that; but it makes me wonder what scanning a poem really gets you.

As for my own writing--well, I've noticed that while I rarely write in conventional meter, the rhythms of my lines are extremely regular, sometimes (to me, at least) sickeningly so. I essentially seem to have two modes--a more discursive/expansive one, with long lines, and in this case my lines always seem to have precisely four stresses per line, though the number of syllables is totally elastic. In my more minimalist mode, it's generally two stresses per line, which usually translates for me to two or three strongly stressed words per line.

What gives? Well, these stress patterns seem to me (at least) to give the language a certain charge that I need to recognize soomething as poetic language. Hopelessly retrograde, I know, but there it is.

As for line breaks, they seem to be more radical for me in my shorter poems, where I often like to break phrases in the middle--a lot of heavy enjambment. For me, I guess, the king of the linebreak is still Creeley--the first time I saw "a" or "the" dangling at the end of one of his lines it blew my mind. The use of the linebreak against syntax is its major function for me, at least in these poems; it generates the tension that forces attention.

A couple years ago I was in a workshop where we were supposed to write a letter (fan mail, basically) to a writer (living or dead) we admired. I picked Creeley, and looking back at the thing it was mostly focused on Creeley's lines, so I'm going to paste it in here. I've toyed with the idea of actually sending the letter but have never really got up the guts.


Dear Robert Creeley,

Hearing you read for the first time—the sense of your voice, a new sense of how the movement of your lines mapped that voice precisely, the line breaks your actual hesitations, stutters, doubts. Your speech-rhythms naturalized what on the page seemed so fragmented, language exposing its own seams. The look of your poems was, then, deeply personal, grounded in your body and breath, form merely the extension of content.

And yet I think also of what you said of Williams—how you were surprised when you heard him read, reading right through his line breaks, when you had thought of them as full stops, the line pulled up sharply at its end. Your Williams was the Williams you saw, not heard, and you took his radical breaking of the line, the sentence, and the phrase as a model for your own even more severe practice.

When I look at your work what I see is speech, but speech struggling to birth itself out of the uncompromisingly objective materials of language. Your poems are full of "I," but so often I appears at the end of a line, the phrase that would give it content broken:

John, I

Locate I
love you

Splitting these atomic phrases releases a kind of syntactic energy; the incomplete I leans forward over the line’s edge. It’s this kind of energy I have tried to harness in my own writing—an energy that can be produced by the simplest phrase left incomplete or dangling. And these are more than games. Language itself is your drama. Your poems make profoundly moving, and human, the exploration and relation of nouns, prepositions, even numbers.

An individual line can seem reduced to the point of nonsense. Yet somehow its compression and movement is lyric, in part because you find the burden of the lyric past in every particle of language. It risks banality, for not every reader will agree to grant each word this weight. Perhaps the best work is circular, turning obsessively back on the same words again and again until their histories are revealed—basic, embodied, utterly new.
The crazy-warm weather--it's in the 80s today--is killing the Cubs but bringing out the ladybugs, who have been wakened from their hibernation and are menacing downtown pedestrians. I tried looking out the living-room window this morning and found my vision obscured by about two dozen ladybugs clinging to the inside of the screen and crawling up and down the pane. One ladybug is cute; twenty is a conspiracy.
Well, at least the"Racial Privacy" initiative went down. I'd been planning to keep my race private, but I guess there's no hiding it now. Look out. Raar.
I knew it was going to be tight, but I didn't expect Davis and Bustamente to get pasted quite that badly.
Cubs lose, Arnold wins. The forces of good are having a rough night.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Chris Murray explains, quite sensibly, why that debate ain't happening.
I received a huffy email this morning from Michael Neff of Web Del Sol, accusing a number of us, mostly bloggers, of all manner of things, including "lack of nerve, peer fear, bad advice, psychotic break, diabetes, blog mouth, whatever, who the hell knows."

Our apparent crime was sabotaging the "poetry debate" ("post-avant" vs. "mainstream") proposed by Kent Johnson over at lime tree a few weeks back. Kent emailed a bunch of us to ask if we were interested in participating. I'd responded with some trepidation but basically said sure, why not.

That was the last I'd heard of it until Neff's venom landed in my inbox. A follow-up email from Neff declared the whole affair "a supreme waste of time" and a product of "bloggish, borish sniping."

Well. I like to think that in my brief blogging career I haven't been much of a sniper, and I can't think of many bloggers on Neff's email list who are either. But I don't appreciate it when people I don't know and have never had any interaction with start sending me emails basically accusing me of cowardice for no apparent reason.

For the record, I missed the whole Houlihan affair in transit--it happened while I was driving out here from California--and so really don't know what all the bad blood is about. I eventually did take a quick glance at the offending essay and was a bit surprised that there'd be so much rallying against an attack on Fence, which has been the subject of much withering critique from some experimental corners as well. The broader point--about the emergence of an avant-garde "establishment"--isn't such a bad one. Fence's slickness does make me queasy at times, even as much as I like the work that appears there.

Even Houlihan's dismantling of poems didn't strike me as all that surprising; the central point, that the individual words in each poem just "didn't matter" and could be exchanged with any other, has been made just as forcefully about "mainstream" writing by people from Marjorie Perloff to Ron Silliman. What "matters" depends on what framework you're using. Houlihan's takes on individual lines--

The word “muzzles” is an odd, perhaps inventive choice that may hit us later as the perfect one. For now, however, there's the troubling “that.” What is the referent for “that” if not the “axiom's inversion” from the preceding line? But how does the inversion of an axiom “muzzle”? At least the word “muzzle” is enjoyable, connoting a forced silence, a softened violence. In fact, all of the words are somewhat enjoyable: axle, evacuation, inversion, muzzle.

--wouldn't necessarily be out of place in a piece of pro-avant-garde criticism. Houlihan simply believes that a good poem should be obligated to offer up answers to these questions more readily than I do; these questions, for her, are dead ends rather than beginnings.

What I imagine really got people angry was that sense of the old wars being fought again, e.g. in Houlihan's last paragraph, comparing avant-garde writing to "the early stages of dementia." Okay. But even Fredric Jameson labeled the sensibility of Bob Perelman's "China" "schizophrenic," not to mention Jakobson and aphasia.

No, what's distinctive about Houlihan's position is that it's one of resentment--Harold Bloom likes to talk about the "School of Resentment," but here the dynamic is precisely inverted: it's the avant-garde that seems to be in ascendance, forcing its willfull anti-pleasures on the rest of us. It's that which gives the essay its bitter tone, that keeps Houlihan from arranging her close readings into productive rather than desctructive constellations.

And I guess that must be what's behind Neff's attack as well. Note how bloggers are made a particular target, with Neff trumpeting the virtues of his own "bust-ass-everyday" Web venture.

I guess this is exactly what I was afraid of: that this "debate" idea would degenerate into name-calling, power play, resentment, giving those identified with the "mainstream" a smug satisfaction in having opened their big tent to the rabble, giving some avanters a different stage on which to promenade.

Part of me wants to say that the very binary of the debate--mainstream vs. avant-garde--is the problem, that it just doesn't correspond to what things look like these days. But not because of what you might think--that we're all just getting along now, that the mainstream has opened its big heart and the avant-garde has settled down. It's that--and this seems to be what Houlihan is so steamed about--the avant-garde wing of contemporary poetry has gotten so big and influential that it's spawned its own institutions, its own "mainstream," if you will, which has little or nothing to do with the old "official verse culture" of the bad old days--as if my dream were still to publish in the New Yorker or Poetry. There are now multiple centers of gravity. But that does not mean they don't still have relations of power and conflict with each other. It's more that in the debate of mainstream vs. avant-garde there's really no prize for anyone to win; after it's over we'll just go back to doing what we've been doing--for better or worse, in some relative degree of comfort.

But of course the avant- wouldn't be very avant- if it weren't still pissing some people off.