Thursday, December 07, 2006

Change of Format

I've been a terrible blogger lately. Basically I haven't had time to write, or haven't prioritized my time that way.

But I still very much like having a blog, and am still very committed to reading blogs.

So, I'm going to try something new for a while. Basically, I only feel like blogging about books, so, henceforth, this blog will contain lists of books I'm reading and want to read, along with selected commentary. I know it may seems presumptuous to assume that anybody wants to know what I'm reading, but I like reading lists, and one of my favorite things about blogging is how democratic it is: if someone don't like my blog, they can simply ignore and no one is hurt.

So, we'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I've been reading a lot of John Steinbeck. Almost done with EAST OF EDEN. I gather, from a tiny bit of reading on Steinbeck, that critics were unsure about his work during his lifetime. I can't quite see why, though I'll have to read up a bit more. He seems to me to be among the best novelists I can think of: poetic, lyrical, able to create believeable, engaging characters and to tackle the biggest of themes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here's the link to an interview I did for PW with Nathaniel Mackey last week just after he'd won the American Book Award for poetry.

Happy T-Giving

Thursday, November 16, 2006

National Book Awards

Attended the National Book Award ceremony tonight. It was actually quite moving. Mark Doty introduced Adrianne Rich, who won their lifetime achievement type award. Then the New York Review of Books won an award. David Remnick of the New Yorker gave a moving tribute to the NYRB.

Nathanial Mackey won for poetry, which is something of a happy surprise. Gluck was the likely winner (I love Averno and would haved been happy if she won, though she by no means needed the prize), and there was also the young Ben Lerner among the finalists. I think Mackey's win is a wonderful step for experimental writing, and should draw some much-deserved attention to Mackey's career.

Richard Powers won for fiction, which was not a surprise.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I've got to stop telling folks to check things out.

Reading Steinbeck--THE WAYWARD BUS about a family that runs a sort of truck stop and bus station in the middle of nowhere california. Don't know what happens yet. But I like Steinbeck very much. His prose is simple, but still ornimented where it needs to be, full of metaphors, and forceful. Something makes me want to compare him to Hemingway and to say that I'm enjoying him more than Hemingway. I have this idea that Hemingway had to work very hard to make writing come out and that Steinbeck was someone who just issued prose. That's not based on anything, just a notion I have from reading them.

Friday, November 10, 2006

When you have a moment, please check out the new issue of THE BROOKLYN RAIL (available online, and in old-fashioned print around NY) in which I've got a poem.

Monday, November 06, 2006

*Please check out the new issue of LA PETITE ZINE (, with a long poem by me, and great poems by friends Stefania Heim, Thomas Hummel, and Jasper Bernes, as well as wonderful poems by others.

*Reading INTO THE HEART OF BORNEO by Redmond O'Hanlon, a funny travel book about two Englishman's journey into Borneo. Along with the author, poet James Fenten goes along on the trip. I'm also reading through Fenton's new SELECTED POEMS, out last month from FSG. Fenton is an important poet in England, who writes cleverly and movingly about war, among other things.

*Sat on a panel this weekend for CLMP about poetry reviewing, along with Herb Leibowitz of Parnassus and Albert Mobelio of Bookforum. I hope we gave the attendees something useful. It was certainly fun for me to talk that much about reviewing, which has become an increasingly important part of my writing life, and a way to read better and better. It's a practice I recommend highly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reading BIdart's earlier poems collected in IN THE WESTERN NIGHT. In these poems, BIdart is as intense as he is now, but far less obscure. The first two books nakedly wrestle with Bidart's relationships to his parents. There are also extremely disturbing poems about insanity, the best of which is "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky," a dramatic monologue spoken by the early 20th century dancer and choreographer, as well as by his wife. Over 30 or so pages, it narrates his building awareness of his own insanity as it relates to his art, a subject that seems dear to BIdart. There is also the stunning "Confessional," an attempt at reconciling his anger at his deceased mother.

I find Bidart's intensity almost contagious. When I sit down to write after reading him, I feel crazed, almost out of control. Frightened of him and myself.

I love the newer books, especially "Stardust," but often find myself lost in the longer poems, which are usually tied to other texts. But, still, that palpable intensity remains. There is no poet like Bidart. The influence of Lowell is obvious, but no one has taken these things to quite the lengths Bidart has, even, perhaps Lowell (though Lowell's gruesomely confessional sonnets are probably more crazed, and destructive, than anything Bidart has done, or is likely to do).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Very saddened by the news, which I read on Josh Corey's blog, that Deborah Tall, poet, memoirist, and longtime editor of Seneca Review, has passed away. I never knew her, but came to admire her greatly through some correspondence we had about Seneca Review, and through her new lyric essay/memoir, A FAMILY OF STRANGERS, which I read over the summer. It's an astonishing book, a very powerful account of a search for origins after the Holocaust scattered her family. She seems to me to have been a very positive and generous force in the American literary community. I'm sad indeed to hear she's gone.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A busy weekend with dinners and a wedding and drinnks, then a lazy sunday today. Got a bad case of that feeling I always get on sundays where everything feels fake and distant. hate that feeling. It makes me wish for monday.

The Paul Hoover book is pretty good. Not much surprising in it, but a lovely set of aphorisms at the end. He's kindof a light surrealist or something.

Is everyone sending out their mannies? It's that time again. Write your checks, cross your fingers, and be good for goodness sake. Ugh.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I want to add another book to my weekend reading list. CURVES TO THE APPLE by Rosemarie Waldrop. I've read the first two of the three books collected here. I was never sure of how to relate to Waldrop's work, but I cracked this book about a week ago and something shifted in me. I was ready for it. It's astonishing, some of the best writing I've read in a long time, some of the most moving. I've found myself completely in the thrall of this book since I started reading it. I'm not feeling particularly articulate now, so I'm just going to type in one of my favorite pieces from the book. But suffice it to say that Waldrop has a way of rendering a discussion about the relationship between language and experience using very dense and tricky language that makes an utterly convincing argument about how we live in the world as thinking beings.

Here's part 20 from the second section of Waldrop's LAWN OF EXCLUDED MIDDLE, the 2nd book collected in this volume:

What's left over if I subtract the fact that my leg goes up from the fact thait I raise it? A link to free will or never trying as only our body knows to disobey an even trade to the sound of a fiddle. Something tells me not to ask this question and accept the movement. The speed of desire like a hot wind sweeping the grass or flash of water under the bridge. For doing itself seems not to have any volume: an extensionless point, the point of a needle out ot draw blood regardless.
First things first: my profile of Paul Muldoon is the cover story of the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (click here). This accounts for all of this summer's posts about Muldoon. I was working on this article, and trying to be secretive about it.

I've been laxed about my blogging, for which I feel bad, especially given that I put my blog in my P & W bio.

On the reading list for this weekend:
A book by Tom Bissell

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Reading Wayne Miller's ONLY THE SENSES SLEEP, just out from New Issues. Or I guess the technical pub date is 10/1, but you can get it already. Highly recommended.

Also reading Alice Notley's new book ALMA, OR THE DEAD WOMEN. It's a bit of an uphill climb, but full of gems. Sort of a deeply obscured novel in prose poems and verse, or the other way around. The cover is utterly beguiling.


Now I'm off to see Alex Lemon read with B at the Burning chair in Brooklyn. I guess the L trains out, but you should come anyway.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

OK, so I’ve pretty much established myself as an infrequent blogger. That’s the truth—what can I do. Thanks to those who still check in.


What have I been reading? Of late, my favorite book of poetry is THE BEST OF MY LOVE by Aaron Kiely, from Ugly Ducking. He’s brilliant, earnest, right about everything he says. This book is better than most books I’ve read in a while. Get it! Get that and Alice Notley’s selected poems.


The Yale Review took a poem recently. I’m excited about that.


Check out the new FORKLIFT, OHIO, in which a poem of mine appears. Especially check out Matthea Harvey’s poem, “Dinna Pig,” in the same issue. You can see her poem on line, though for mine you’ll have to find a copy of the print edition, and I think it’s mail order only.


I’m listening to fusion-era Miles Davis right now. And I’m drinking water.

Monday, September 04, 2006

by Juliana Spahr, Univ. of California (2005)

This fast-moving collection is one of the more effective poetic responses to 9/11 that I’ve read so far. It’s composed of two extended pieces in prose, the second far longer, though perhaps ultimately less moving, than the first.

That first piece, matter-of-factly titled “Poem Written After September 11, 2001,” overtly references that day only in the title. The poem itself is an attempt at consolation and the assumption of responsibility by the individual for the events that take place in the larger world, seemingly outside of the sphere of individual influence. By an impressive act of linguistic accretion, Spahr manages to illustrate how each individual in factually, if not scientifically, connected to every other, and is therefore responsible for everyone else. She begins like this (I will use this symbol “#” below to separate quoted text from my own writing):


There are these things:

cells, the movement of cells and the division of cells

and then the general beating of circulation

and hands, and body, and feet

and skin that surrounds hands, body, feet.

This is a shape,

a shape of blood beating and cells dividing.


Soon she shows us this:


There is space around the hands and space in the room

Everyone with lungs breaths the space in and out as everyone
with lungs breathes the space between the hands in and out


Toward the end of the poem, several pages later, she has built up to this:


as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands
and the space around the hands and the space of the room and
the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space
of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the
space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space
of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the
space of the troposphere in and out


While the experience of reading this work can get a bit tedious (she adds another element to the growing list with each new stanza/paragraph), which is my only real issue with this poem, Spahr manages to take us through, or lead us into, a prolonged act of empathy. By the end, it seems impossible to think of oneself as anything but a part of a minutely interconnected system, which, hurt at any one point, is hurt throughout. Hence, by titling the poem as she does, she shows us all to be responsable for the events and aftereffects of the Trade Tower bombings. It’s at once a grand gesture of consolation and a powerful call to do something to repair the damage.

That gestures segueways into the second part of the book, which takes up most of its pages. It’s called “Poem Written from November 30, 2002, to March 27, 2003.” It’s made up of many several-page sections titled with their dates of composition. In it, Spahr narrates her own observation of the TV news as the bombing of Afghanistan and the War in Iraq gets underway. The poem is set in Hawaii, where Spahr is living along with a lover. She addresses the lover and us throughout as “Beloveds,” and, once again, links us to the unfolding events of the war:


When I speak of your thighs and their long muscles of smooth-
ness, I speak of yours cells and I speak of the British Embassy
being closed in Kenya and the US urging more aggressive Iraq
inspections and the bushfire that is destroying homes in Sydney.


I like this piece less than I like the first, in part because reading it is more tedious, and because the language is sometimes so journalistic it approaches regular prose, and because I have a bit more trouble buying Spahr’s syntheses of self and other in the poem. But, unifying the whole piece is a consoling, guilty tone—the same as in the first piece—that I find very remarkable.

Overall, I think this book is an important piece of 9/11 literature that in fact expresses the complex ambivalence many Americans have felt since 2001. I hadn’t heard much about the book and came to own a copy of it in a rather random way. I think it ought to be read by any sensitive person looking for a way to articulate their own feelings about the last few years in American life.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Spent the weekend mostly hanging out with B and working on this piece I'm writing about Paul Muldoon. Also reading Lynda Hull's Star Ledger, which takes a bit of work to get into, but is really something once you're in. She's a kind of mix of Bishop, Rick Moody, Deborah Eisenberg, Amy Hempell, and I can't think of who else, though these are just the writers who come to mind right now, and they're probably not the right ones to describe her work. Also reading The Aeniad. Yup, that's what I'm doing with my weekend. Crazy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

B and I have been listening to music tonight and having a wonderful extended conversation about how music shapes and fosters the identity of its listeners. A strange thing, music—a song is an aesthetic object, but it also exists in time, must be listened to, or at least rehearsed in the mind to have its effect. One can’t simply take away from a song one’s interpretation and be done with it; one needs to experience it, in the moment, to have any sense of what it is. If one is being a purist, the same is true of poems—they don’t mean anything, they are things. But we have so much trouble with that idea. In schools, poems are taught like puzzles, depriving would-be readers of poems’ true powers, which are to be things, to create experiences out of language, a medium we otherwise think of in terms of what it means. I’ve been having a little discussion with Andrea Baker on her new blog about this very issue in the poems of Kay Ryan. It took me years after high school to overcome the idea of “interpreting” poems. Now that I’m no longer anxious about understand what poems “mean,” I’d hate to go back to that other way of thinking about them. Which, of course, is not to say I want poems to simply be musical. I just never want to worry about paraphrasing them again. At their best, poems bring us back to a purer experience of language, to the place just before it means anything, to where words reach out to the things they refer to, but don’t quite grasp them, because once they grasp them, they’re dead.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Trying to take a break from always writing/ worrying about writing. Certainly for me it takes on many of the characteristics of an unhealthy addiction all too often. Anyone else know the feeling?

So, I’m devoting myself to loafing around with B, playing my new ukulele (one of the spoils of my honeymoon), and reading a novel purely for pleasure, which I shall not write a word about.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cool! This is a word cloud that shows the most common words used on my blog. Got the idea from C.Dale Young's blog. Try it. Weird:
My album purchases this week: BRIAN ENO: TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY) and PATTI SMITH; HORSES. guess which one is better…

Ok, so I’m drunk now…

Pattie Smith is better, of course. Because she’s unafraid of her passion, no matter where it directs her. While Eno has very clear plans for where his passion, at least on this album, should go, though on later albums (like MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS) it’s less constricted.

Friday, August 04, 2006

“…If poetry is knowledge, it is a forbidden one. These are not the kind of thoughts Mommy and Daddy are thinking as they sit in the parlor. The clearheaded are lonely. As for torments of self-doubt, could there be Art without it? Well, yes, surely, but not the kind that would have any meaning to Emily Dickinson and Louise Glück.”

The above passage is from Charles Simic’s review of Glück’s latest book, Averno— which, if you happen to have been reading my blog around the time of its release, you’ll remember I went on about quite a bit—published in the 6/22 issue of The New York Review of Books. It’s a very, very fine review, really Simic’s take on Glück’s whole career. He likes the early books and, of course, The Wild Iris, and, rightly, has some reservations about the books between that book and the new one. But he portrays Glück as nothing less than the very great and utterly powerful writer that she is.

As taken as I always am with Glück, I’m also very moved by Simic’s clarity and emotion as a critical writer. I wish I wish I could write lovely sentences like those quoted above, which not only say something deft and moving about the work, but, at the same time, leaping off the work, about what it is like to be human. Criticism should justify itself beyond its function as a window into particular works of literature by being compelling literature in it’s own right. That’s not a new idea, I know, but reading this wonderful essay on a writer I love by a writer who has also been very important to me—seeing what a good critic Simic can be—reminds me what good criticism can do.
I’ve been listening, sort of obsessively, to Talking Heads for the past month or so, especially to three albums produced by Brian Eno: MORE SONGS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD, FEAR OF MUSIC, and REMAIN IN LIGHT (which I think is one of the best albums I know of). David Byrne was on hand to speak for—and from within—the ambivalent moment when late 70’s and early 80’s culture was reacting to, even clamping down on, the irresponsible ethos of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was, I think, a confused moment, and Byrne understood the earnest desire to seek stability—through stable jobs, houses, committed relationships—as well as the undercurrent that came with that desire, which knew that that kind of stability was precarious, even a lie.

Tomorrow, I will endeavor to purchase Eno’s TAKING THE TIGER BY STRATEGY. I’m always late (two decades) on these things, but I find my way to them.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

So, a day later, I still think that BR piece is a hell of an interesting review, and a good example of the kind of skepticism in criticism that I think is much needed in the current poetry climate. It’s the kind of skepticism I aspire to when I review, but which I still feel like I am too timid to attain. Which is not to say that skepticism is my idea of the highest good in criticism. Compelling characterization of the work, and interesting prose are as important. I’m going to be participating in a NBCC panel at this year’s AWP (representing bloggers—for which I feel somewhat unqualified—and as a PW editor) on the current state of poetry reviewing. It’s months away, but I’m eager to see what we come up with. Topics want to discuss now include the kind of puff-piece review (of which I must admit I’ve written several) that has become common in many literary mags, what impact—if any—a review of a poetry book has on its sales/ renown, poets as critics, the abundance of (often similar) first books, and, of course, poetry and the internet. I wish AWP were sooner. I could use another vacaiont.

and miles to read before I sleep.
and miles to read before I sleep.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Surfed—I’ve just returned from Hawaii, remember--my way today to the newest issue of Boston Review, in which there is, at least to my way of thinking, an extremely incisive review of LEGITIMATE DANGERS by Katie Peterson. In her assessment of what she perceives as some of the major trends, and ticks, in the poems collected here, Peterson makes a number of winning characterizations of aspects of many young poets’ work that turn me off to their poems, that see like easy ways out of difficult problems. This passage grabs me particularly:

“Even though poems like these say they’re about us, the readers, they’re not really. They are performance scripts that demand our presence, but not our personhood. That is, we are not asked into the poem to react to a specific event or set of identifiable feelings; as Marvin and Dumanis write, “Neither of us feels that a poem needs to hold the reader’s hand or be ‘about’ something, especially about a specific event, thought, or experience.” Poems like Smith’s and Davis’s also seem to value our anonymity. They speak from little context and immerse us in an ambiguous emotional condition, one whose drama is most possible on the page or in the imagination.”

In the rest of the review—which I highly recommend reading—Peterson puts this paragraph in the context of a larger explication of a frustrating weakness in many poems. She goes on to say that most of these poets have demonstrated a capacity for more powerful work elsewhere. I think part of what she’s arguing against is the easy leap—for a writer of poems—into a poetic world that has little implication off the page, meaning that there is a tendency today, a trend, toward poems that are closed systems. The kinds of tragedies they describe are enacted solely in the language, not in the lives of those who use the language. The selves in the poems don’t come into focus because they do not refer to selves outside the poems, but to selves which only exist, in a piecemeal fashion, in the individual poems. This is more or less the problem I had—described yesterday—with the Peter Carey novel. Once the book is closed, the writing ceases to affect my life, because the world in which it’s set is only habitable within the narrow confines of the individual novel or poem. It’s as haunting as a game of checkers is the day after it’s played. Perhaps that’s too general and harsh a statement—and I’m aware that I’m not backing myself up here with specific examples—but I’m finding myself more and more drawn to writing that has an implication—and there are many ways of connecting sufficiently with a reader to foster a real implication—for my own sense of selfhood. I don’t mean I want all poems to be about me, but I do want a poem to elucidate, create, point out, a sinkhole that I’m capable of falling into, a risk that I take by reading the poem, rather than one that I could only take were I to live in a hazily shaded fictional world that exists only in the poem. I hate to close a book and never feel forced back to it, simply because I know I have no fear of encountering the same vulnerabilities in my real world.

Monday, July 31, 2006

back from paradise

Hi all,

so I’ve been a patchy blogger at best lately. Why? Well, a month ago I got married, which, as you can imagine, required a great deal of preparation. Then I was teaching night classes alongside my 9-5er. Then B and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We got back this morning. It was paradise, and the transition back to normal life will not be an easy one (for one thing, it’s unpleasantly hot here). In Hawaii, I bought a Ukulele, and am now slightly obsessed with it. And B and I spent a lot of time snorkeling, boogie boarding, and drinking tropical drinks. There’s not much of that to be had in NY.

But, now that things have calmed down, I hope to resume writing a bit more regularly.

Read the new Peter Carey novel on my honeymoon (it’s ok—a novel that doesn’t quite extend beyond the boundaries of the world it’s made; in other words, it doesn’t have much implication for me, or, to my way of thinking, any reader. An entertaining read, though). And read about half of the Collected Poems of Donald Justice. Some wonderful things there, but, overall, I was underwhelmed, or at least there were fairly few poems I want to return to. Still reading a great deal of Paul Muldoon. And thinking again about Lowell.

There are a bunch of forthcoming books I’m excited to check out when I get back to work—look out for a debut by Jillian Weisse and a new edition of Thomas Transtromer.

More soon.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Post-wedding shock and business is beginning to settle down, and I feel like B and I are resuming, and beginning, our life. This long weekend has given us some time together, for which I’m very grateful.

After years of virus and spyware infestation, and an increasingly sloth-like and frustrating computing experience, I’ve switched from PC to Mac. The changeover has been surprisingly pleasant, and I’m a bit obsessed with playing with my new toy—and Macs have a way of feeling much more like a toy than a pc. It’s got so many little gadgets and doohickeys. And it’s fast enough to run GoogleEarth (my old one couldn’t handle it), which is an altogether thrilling and mind-boggling experience—the world has gotten small and vicarious enough for us to travel it (and actually have a kind of experience traveling it, seeing it pass beneath us) while simply staring at a screen. Very strange.

Listening to a lot of Brad Mehldau, reading a novel and Paul Muldoon. Seem to have gotten over Lowell for the time being. Reading the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, Ben Lerner, the new issue of Tin House (with a compelling interview with Will Self, whose forthcoming novel THE BOOK OF DAVE I’m eager to read on my honeymoon), and watching Woody Allen movies. Ah, married life…

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I’ve been off this particular grid for a little while. Why? Well, I just got married. B and I were married last Saturday, June 17th. It was a lovely ceremony—Jewish with some poetry mixed in—and the party was completely overwhelming to me: dozens of friends and family members from all parts of my and B’s lives. It’s strange; in that situation, you have to kind of shift between the memories you share with each person or group of people. It’s like you’re climbing into a different brain, a different part of your past or present, at each table. Anyway, totally overwhelming, and exciting, and overwhelmingly touching.

But there was a lot of preparation to be done, obviously, which didn’t leave much time for blogging. But things are calming down now, so here I am.

What have I been reading…let’s see: tons of Robert Lowell. The letters alongside the poems and a biography. I can’t quite get over the way he was willing to portray himself as the monster he seems that it seems he was—I’m reading a biography, too, LOST PURITAN—well, and his ambition. It seems he set himself the goal of becoming the most important poet going, and he did. Anyway, I can’t say much about how I’m feeling about Lowell now. Suffice it to say, he’s what I’m reading.

I’ve sort of finished a big writing project, and I’m caught in that space after a big writing project of wanting to start something new and not quite being ready to start it yet. I can’t really write right now, and I’d like to. Plus, I just got married and feel rather distracted. So be it.

Dunno. More soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hi all,

I have a new poem up at Guernica (, which you can read or listen to me reading.

I'm getting married on Saturday. Wow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

So I haven’t posted anything in a long while, a fact about which I feel somewhat guilty. But there’s a reason—I’m getting married a week from today (to B of course), so there’s been a lot preoccupying me. That said, I don’t imagine I’ll have much to say until the wedding’s done.

I’m about to finish reading GREAT EXPECTATIONS, which has kept me going through many a train-ride of late.

Hope everyone’s well.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If you love good books, and I know you do, please check out my dear friend Scott Snyder's website for his forthcoming book (due at the end of this very month), Voodoo Heart, an absolutely life-altering collection of stories. It certainly altered my life...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I’ve been reading some very strange and challenging critical writing today, essays explicating one poem each, and this reading makes me think about the many ways a reader can engage or interact with a poem. Discussing what happens in a poem is only one way of approaching it; in fact, it’s probably just the first step: understanding who is talking and who is being talked about, where they are or what situation they are in. Then one must go deeper, or if deeper is not the right word (because it’s tired to the point of perhaps not meaning much), begin to pick at the overall fabric of the language (tone, diction [high, low, a mixture], then word choices) and then to upturn particular words, trace why the poet chose them, speculate as to their origins in other texts, then give examples of those origins to substantiate those speculations. Whether or not a poet is intending to make certain associations between words in one text and another—even if they just mean to say whatever it is they are saying and not reference anything—they still do, and those associations are part of the fabric of the made poetic object, just as a certain kind of brick is a part of a wall and to describe the wall in detail, one must know about the bricks. So, in that way, the aspects of the poet’s own personality that led her or him to make particular choices are as much under scrutiny as the words on the page (I’m countering New Criticism here, aren’t I?); to explore a poem in as many ways as possible, I can’t see another way to think about it: the poem’s relation to the whole world (of which the poet is certainly a part) is under scrutiny.


Saw an excellent reading tonight at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project: Michael Scharf and Steven Burt. Scharf ripped through his discursive, obsessive, associatively charged poems, leaving off suddenly with a startling cliffhanger in medias res. Burt read a wonderful sestina that impressively and clearly laid out how America got itself into the mess it’s in with the current administration. It was one of the most pleasurable hours of poetry I’ve heard in a long time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I was in the mood today to read something English (I lived in England for a little while in college and sometimes miss it) and had a copy of ICARUS ON EARTH, a second book by young English poet Jane Griffiths. She was born in 1970 and did England’s version of fancy school in literature (she didn’t do anything like an MFA, it seems, at least from my cursory view) who published her second book with Bloodaxe (I love Bloodaxe books—they publish all kinds of things from translations of major poets like Thomas Transtromer to critical looks at contemporary masters like Paul Muldoon to huge multi-volume collecteds by major English and European writers who are not well known here to books by very young English poets). So I thought I might take a look at some of Griffiths’ work (though understand I’m still in the middle of the book, so some of my thinking my be a bit half-baked).

While England has its share of fragmentary poets (many published by Salt Publishing, and I’m sure by other presses I don’t know about), my tastes, in general, tend toward intensity and narrative. Griffiths’ poems are fairly dense narrative poems that loop around and fold in on themselves. One can certainly hear a love of Frost and maybe Plath. Here’s a poem I like very much, which is part of a series near the beginning of the book called “Origami,” based on the painting that graces the cover of Griffiths’ first book:


Go back, a long way, snout
to beak, barking up a tree
or pacing a short space

of riverbank. Looking to lay
to rest their differences. Led
astray by their own shadows.

As once the fox, thinking to put
a stop to this vaunting parodist
made off with the rooster across

his back—but when the cock crew
and the woman ran out with a torch
what he saw in silhouette against

the barn wall was the rooster
bearing a fox like a cowl. He knew
then there’d be no clean end to it.

At the root of this is an interest in parable and cliché or figures of speech. Note how many of the sentences rely on figures of speech, recast them or find them a new home in a new mythic landscape: “barking up a tree,” “lay/ to rest their differences.” The two animals themselves come right out of fables (this is a preoccupation throughout the collection, which is titled for a sequence that recasts the Icarus myth in contemporary England).

The poem has a strange way of unfolding: it begins with a command (“Go back” into an archetypal vision of history) then proceeds through a list (Griffiths has a penchant for lists, of metaphors, adjectives, etc.) of archetypal situations for these two animals. Then, cued by yet another cliché (“Led/ astray by their own shadows” from “afraid of his own shadow”), the poem tells a little parable about the fox kidnapping (presumably to kill) the rooster to end the rivalry.

What happens next seems ambiguous to me, but interestingly so. It seems that, in the act of making off with the rooster, the rooster crows, waking the woman, who runs out to see what would make the rooster crow in the middle of the night. In the light of the woman’s torch, the shadow the fox (with the rooster on his back) casts appears reversed, with the rooster “bearing a fox like a cowl.” To me, this transfers the action of the poem to the imagination, where fear and guilt take hold. We have to assume, as one must in all fables, that these animals stand in for people—that their sins figure ours. So the poem concludes with a kind of veiled moral: “there’s be no clean end to it.” Meaning that what we do does not end after it’s been done but lives in shadows and fears, in our own imaginings and reimaginings of what’s happened, which are always colored by our fears and needs.

This poem takes a much-trodden yet refreshing path to this moral. I’m glad to know that this sort of work is actively being explored by young poets, who have in their arsenal all the interiority and intensity that has come to characterize contemporary poetry. There’s much more of this in Griffiths’ book. For a good read, I recommend it highly.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's fiction, I know, and this is ostensibly a poetry blog, but, if interested, check out my review of Gary Shteyngart's ABSURDISTAN in the Minneapolis City Pages.

I know I haven't written anything of substance in a little while--forgive me; I am planning a wedding--mine--you know. My mind's a bit scattered.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Not much to report. If anyone is interested, note the updated, more user-friendly reviews section to the right, which has links to a few of the reviews I've written.

Hope everyone in the world is well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Well, I feel quite honored: Simon DeDeo has turned his powerful critical lens on me, for my poem in this excellent 8th issue of typo. Check it out at Rhubard is Susan.

Thanks, Simon.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

So I’ve been reading A.R. Ammons’ TAPE FOR THE TURN OF THE YEAR. I’ve finished reading it, actually. I don’t exactly know where Ammons stands in the pantheon of contempoetry—I don’t think he’s read much now, especially by young poets. Perhaps the new selected from Library of America will change that a bit (that’s what hooked me). But, everybody should be reading him. His concerns seem to me to be at the core of where poetry, and America, are at right now.

TAPE FOR THE TURN OF THE YEAR is a 205 page poem, published as its own volume, which Ammons wrote in the mid 60’s. He was waiting to hear back from Cornell about whether or not they would give him the job he famously held for the rest of his life, and to deal with that anxiety, he decided he would fill an entire roll of adding machine tape with a skinny poem.

So, the poem itself, the object, the pile of paper, is a metaphor for all the kinds of preoccupations people come up with the pass the time between birth and death without freaking out about what’s really going on. At the same time, the poem tries as hard as it can to look at what’s really going on, so it’s like two river currents flowing against each other (which creates TENSION)—the poem tries simultaneously to avoid the world and to engage it, which is a pretty accurate way of conveying experience (mine, at least).

Written in a plainspoken, matter-of-fact voice, the poem winds its way through descriptions of the natural world—sections often begin with weather reports (“raining: / at the borderline & promise/ of snow:/ gale warnings up/ along the coast:/ no small craft to/ enter heavy water:”)—metaphysical and philosophical considerations (“I feel ideas—as forms of/ beauty: I describe/ the form as/ you describe a pear’s/ shape:/ not idea as ideal—/ideas are human products,/ temporal & full of/ process:”), and, most important to its dramatization of anxiety, narrates its own composition:

the reason I write so much
that I can’t do anything
poem must be now
close to 40 feet long: I
can’t get it out
to write letters or
postcards or anything:

The single word lines above should be indented a bit.

This poem dramatizes my own anxiety better than anything I’ve read; I can’t imagine it’s just my anxiety it dramatizes so well. The book’s still in print. Go get it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Check out TYPO 8, which is just out, and features a poem by me, and poems by many other wonderful poets.

I've been reading A.R. Ammons TAPE FOR THE TURN OF THE YEAR. I've got a lot to say about it, and look forward to finding the time to do so this weekend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Reading the new selected Zukofsky. Never read Zukofsky before. Was always intimidated. Now I’m trying to think of what Zukofsky was trying to get poems to do. Was he trying to see the world without him in it, to see the world via language, to see the words without the inflections of people saying them, and therefore to see something not through the lens of a human consciousness? Or is that oversimplifying? Certainly, he was trying to admit more of the world than, say, Eliot, who was really projecting his own consciousness onto myriad things and ideas. Zukofsky doesn’t want himself muddying the ideas. He wants to see the ideas as themselves, even if all the ideas he sees are his.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Allan Peterson
University of Massachusetts Press, 2006

This book was recommended to me as a challenging but extraordinarily rewarding read. I’m in the middle of reading it now and I can’t help but agree. This is a great book from out of nowhere. It won the 2005 Juniper Prize; Peterson published one previous book, Anonymous, Or with a small, small press, and this is his second collection. And it’s frickin’ amazing.

Peterson’s dense sentences, wild associations, and straight-ahead metaphysical thinking recall the work of William Bronk, and put him in the path that extends from Stevens and Frost. Closely packed words force each line into many directions, and, as Peterson progresses from one idea or image to the next in order to extrapolate whatever thought the poem begins with, the poems accrue layers and resonances. To get a sense of what this book does, I’m going to quote a poem in full:


To say it right you would have to gather the printers of Meriden
Connecticut and of Basil
paper makers from Tin Rocker in grinders cuttlefish and soy
metalflake lapis suspended in oil
typecutters calligraphers applicators rubricators floralized reps
from tattoo parlors who are taking pictures
you would use only small letters since you mean soft and intimate
use plain water but natural not tap
that with spat and barnacles nauplia zoea zooplankters hydroids
more varied than intruding vessels from science fiction
a phrase like pigmy mammoths
two ospreys whose doubles float below them for miles
pidgins dialects jargons creoles
rebus acrostic and seven down the nine letter word for outnumber
Nothing is simple but what we choose to ignore
like the ciliated tufts in the oviducts of a mouse waving like grass
seasonal variations in salinity
If nature is all we have the god-noun that encompasses everything
and I am of it since it cannot be otherwise
then everything I imagine is and all scrutinized day night or afternoon
on the knobby couch and bumper flash
from Nancy’s classic Thunderbird This is the message:
Of love letters in English there are 26 and feelings outnumber flies

Reading this I have a strange image of a thought on a train that’s just left the station—someone who is trying to explain the thought is running alongside the train trying to keep up with the thought onboard, to describe it while it is speeding past. Lines and images briefly come into focus and then speed away. It’s thrilling to simply try and keep up with the associative thinking. But what grabs me most is how straightforward, how unironic the voice is—it’s dire, though the speaker knows he can’t quite say what he means to say, so he alights on a few easily understood phrases (“Nothing is simple but what we choose to ignore”) in the midst of far-reaching, often very obscure references and abstractions. In the midst of all that, the voice is absolutely matter-of-fact. Though this work doesn’t feel at all alien in the company of other contemporary experimental poetry, it’s also subtly unlike anything else I’ve recently read. Jeeze, I want to write like this.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Just want to say quickly that the book I’m most excited about right now is DO NOT AWAKEN THEM WITH HAMMERS by Lidija Dimkovska, just out from Ugly Duckling Presse. She’s a young poet from Macedonia. The translation conveys all the ironies of the poems—and there are lots of them. She’s hip, funny, pissed off. I’ll quote some lines in the next couple of days. But if you can get your hands on a copy of this book, do. I saw her read last night at KGB. It was wonderful. She speaks English with a very, very think Russian-type accent that gives the poems even more force. Before the reading, Steve Martin—the real Steve Martin—walked into the bar, looking for the theatre next door. It was awesome.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I was just talking to a poet friend, who is not a blogger, about the blogosphere. He brought up a point that I think is a very good one, and he phrased it very well. He said that each person’s experience of the blogosphere is inherently subjective. That made me think of the past week’s discussion about how the scene should/shouldn’t be represented. Each reader is drawn to the blogs that feature writing styles and subject matter that matches his/her taste. From those blogs, they are led to others that match that blogger’s interests, and it goes on like that forever. Characterizing the blogosphere accurately is impossible, as it’s entirely different for each person.

And that notion points the way toward thinking about what really makes the online poetry scene so different from the print-publishing one: there isn’t the same kind of branding on the Web that there is in a bookstore. (There is, of course, a different kind of branding: each blogger has his/her own brand, which they must establish, update, and maintain. The same is true for each web mag.) Rather than associating a poet’s work with Knopf or Verse Press or Faux Press or The Canary or The New Yorker, each poet has a stronger hand in determining how they will be seen, in terms of what they write. The web mags of course establish their own brands, but it’s still new enough that those brands don’t have such a hold on how a reader thinks of the work they find on each particular site. I think the same rules apply, however, as the web-branding takes a deeper hold, but at least now the poets get to make the rules themselves, steer the course of their own reputations, in something like real time. It’s not entirely different from reinventing the printing press.


This new issue of Cutbank is really a stunner. So many good poems. I want to look for a sec at the first stanza of the first poem in the issue, which is by Britta Ameel, a poet whose work I knew nothing about until yesterday. Reading this poem got me thinking about the problem of finding subjects for poems. Here’s the first bit:

The moment after begins. Birds on your sill
offer themselves. A flock of thumbs. Flight. No question
of ascending. Speed. After. What did I do?
An act I remember but can’t place. Something small.
The turning of the faucet. Afraid to move the papers that stack like layers of earth.
Not—glow, not—light, something silver and sticky.
After water. Smoke. After gauzy curtains blowing in the middle of a hot day.

What got me going here is the invocation that takes place in the first sentence. Rather than immediately setting up a scene, the first sentence locates us in a general idea of time. We know we are located at the beginning of a moment that takes place just after another moment that does not take place in the poem. Ameel then goes on to shade in a few aspects of a scene—birds, a house, a kitchen, a desk, the speaker’s memory—but the subject here is really the simultaneity of things, the way perception places things in time that don’t happen in time: “The sugar still sweetens in a blue bowl on the counter.”

The poem goes on to roam at lightening speed (“We are fast as highway nerves”) across an array of disassociated landscapes, landing on a campsite, a pasture with a cow. The poem asks questions (“Is there anything to know”) but doesn’t come to a conclusion more definite than its lovely last line: “We are water and it’s a wonder we do what we do.”

Through examples, images, and questions, the poem tries not only to think about “what we do”, but to enact it. The mind at work is by no means a new subject for poetry, but the way this poem gets into that subject—by wondering what a moment is—is thrilling to me. The fact that a poem can start with such an invisible abstraction as a moment and find its way to the concreteness of “We are water” helps free me from my habit of writing poems that have to be about someTHING.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Cutbank 65 is out and available—at least it would seem to be given that my contributor’s copy came in today’s mail. My contribution is a review of Andra Baker’s LIKE WIND LOVE A WINDOW, which, really to my surprise—I didn’t think I’d get into it at first—was one of the most astonishing and original poetry books of 2005. Cutbank 65 is really a very muscular issue, with poems by Cal Bedient, Adam Clay, Carl Phillips, Lisa Jarnot, Matt Rohrer, Joyelle McSweeney, Dan Beachy-Quick, and others, as well as an interview with D.A. Powell (along with a new poem), who is, in my estimation, the major poet of his generation. It’s really an impressive undertaking, and Brandon Shimoda and Devon Wooton, who recently took over as editors, should be commended for putting it together.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Well, I’m glad to see things are simmering down. I appreciate everyone’s comments, for, against, about, not about, and around my article. The discussion raised a bunch of important issues.

What I’m thinking most about is the question of why all of us are out here blogging, and what the kind of relationship/community created by people in the blogosphere means for poetry. I think, too, the notion of defining a blog was raised. Is there a divide between the kinds of discursive blogs Silliman and Corey write and more diaristic ones? And, of course, where can that line be drawn. The most discursive blogger posts news about their personal lives, and on every poet’s blog that is often about daily goings-on, there are frequent posts about books, poetics, issues and ideas. Do bloggers begin blogging for a sense of community? self-promotion? an outlet for their excitement, enthusiasm, anger? I would have a hard time believing that any blogger isn’t after all of these things, and others. And, of course, it’s a way we can create a poetry community in our own image, instead of in the mold of the long tradition and the political publishing world. But, again, most of us are part of that world as well, and don’t want to divorce ourselves from it—I certainly don’t; I love participating in it. But then there’s something different going on here, something I still feel like I’m apprenticing myself to.

Something different is happening to poetry, to how and by whom it’s being read, and to our expectations as writers of what we can put in front of someone else’s face. The community is also ongoing, constant, not dependant on magazines to publish any kind of discourse. I wonder where it will be in five years.


Anyway, I look forward to returning to doing what I like doing best, Yammering on about what I’m reading. I’m too tired tonight, but I’m reading something wonderful that I’ll go on about tomorrow.


and I’ve done some light housekeeping to the right. I think things are a lot tidier over there now.

and to all a good night.
At this point, I'm trying to take in each day's developments and gather my thoughts. I agreethat the way women are represented in my article points up many vital problems in the politics of poetry, the blogosphere, and the world in general. I could have written it differently to avoid this criticism, but I didn’t, both because of oversight and for considered reasons. Of course I had to leave people out, though I in no way wanted my exclusions to be representative of the blogosphere as a whole--of course it's inevitable that they will be, and I'm learning my lesson about that now.

I was trying to offer the best representation of the blogging scene I could given my limitations—some of which are personal (my knowledge, perspective, biases, preferences) and some of which are imposed from outside (word count, etc.)--and I had criteria for choosing who and what to write about--one of which was certainly the prominence of a particular blog or web (as I understood it), and another of which was figuring out how to tell the story so it could be understood by the audience I felt I was writing for. This wasn't the conversation I thought the piece would spark, but it's important that it did—the issue and feelings that provoked this response were out there, and if my article brought them to the fore, I’m glad the blogosphere provides a place for those thoughts to be heard. I certainly expected to be criticized.

My frustration now is that the discussion, at least as represented by some of the comments on my last post, has begun to devolve into defensive sparring, which overshadows the other issues that the piece might raise. That said, I'm also very glad and inspired by the fact that--as Danielle points out in the comments to the last post--my blog, or any blog, can harbor the discussion that's going on right now. What better forum, really, is there for hammering this out?

The repeated response that really irks me, though, is from the surprising number of bloggers and editors who basically wrote in to say “well, why didn’t you mention me and my blog, web journal, whatever…I have more visits than Corey…” I’m really surprised that people did that—it’s something I wouldn’t have the audacity to do, if for no other reason than the fact that it would weaken my argument.

Of course, the blogoshere isn't new news to the people who've been participating in it for years, but it's now-established importance is still news to the publishing world--whatever segment of it cares about poetry, and perhaps the rest of it, too. I guess I'm surprised that more people haven't written about the implication of the world beyond the blogoshere perhaps getting that news through their heads. I’m glad to see Tony and others expanding the discussion of the gendering of my article beyond just my article. But what does it even mean that the multi-voiced discussion we're having now is possible? What does it mean that poems are traveling as fast as email--are they more or less disposable/permanent than when they were just on paper, or just in the air? The roots of this whole blogging business are only getting deeper, and it's going to continue changing things. I wish more of the discussion would focus on how.

I picked the blogs and web-mags I picked because they are consistent, of high quality, were not vanity projects, and would clearly show an uninitiated audience the basics of what the blogosphere is about. I wanted to pick web sites, which, if read on any given day, would feature interesting, relevant and engaging content. It happens that three of the web-journals I listed have women editors, but I picked them because they are good publications.

I think the other issue at stake here is about what it means for the larger poetry audience to become aware of the blogging and internet scene. Is it good for poetry, bad for poetry? How is the internet affecting the way poetry happens? I think Tony is also developing this side of the artgument in a very relevant way. The search for answers to those questions is what drew me to the blogosphere in the first place. Those questions seem to have been completely overshadowed, which I think is unfortunate.


Also, I'm adding a few of the people who've chimed in to my blogroll, which I haven't done until now only out of laziness.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hi everyone. Thanks for your kind words about my PW article. The discussion it’s spurred on the blogosphere is an inspiring example of the very phenomenon the article describes.

I’ve gotten one consistent criticism, from Shanna Compton, Reb Livingston, and others,—that no woman bloggers were profiled—which I’d like to address. It’s certainly true that writing this article for PW afforded me the opportunity to portray the blogosphere as a space for dialogue on all sorts of issues between and about women and men in poetry and literary culture in general, to show that men and women are equal contributors to the blog scene. Basically I picked Silliman because you can’t tell this story without him, and Corey because, to my knowledge at the time, his blog got the most visits next to Silliman’s. That may not be true—I did not check everyone’s site meters—but it seems likely. I did try to get an interview a woman Web-journal editor, but she did not respond to my queries, and I was on a deadline. Both Silliman and Corey are very outspoken commentators on the blogosphere as well as on poetry, so they were ideal subjects for interviews. But the reasons why those two blogs are the most prominent may speak to an unequal distribution of influence in the blogosphere.

It shouldn’t be overlooked, however, that in the same issue of PW I did a profile of the poet Kay Ryan, who is, among other things, a woman, and a very extraordinary person in general. In planning our poetry coverage, which, in PW, is basically confined to one annual issue, the other editors and I were conscious of not portraying contemporary poetry as an art form still dominated by male voices.

Regarding the blogging piece, this was, of course, a very cursory survey of a very complex and subtle scene (I didn’t, for instance, say much about flarf, though I would have liked to, because I didn’t have the room); it was targeted at an audience that potentially has little investment in or knowledge of poetry, let alone the online poetry scene. Writing it, I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to dig deeply. The story is far from being all told, and I think it’s important that someone else take up the thread and do another piece in a print magazine, one which is more of an insider’s view, which is something my piece for PW couldn’t be.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Well, Blogosphere, here it is, my PW article on the Internet Poetry scene. It's the cover story of this week's issue, and you can read it online at

Also not that there's a profile of Kay Ryan, which I also wrote. She's wonderful.

Do with me as you will.
B and I are just back from a whirlwind trip to Dallas, where we visited my family. It was a very busy, and very good trip. But, as anyone who has held the formidable COLLECTED POEMS OF TED BERRIGAN knows, it is, unlike my tiny toothpaste, not travel-size. So, wanting to continue my little exploration of second wave NY school poems, dork that I am, I bought THE SELECTED POEMS OF ALICE NOTLEY (talisman house, 1993), which easily slips into a carry-on bag.

Understand that this is not the kind of work that I usually gravitate to--tend to favor neat stanzas and a sort of mythic tone a la Merwin or something--but I am really enjoying pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Along with the poems "January," this is my favorite so far in the Notley book (it's actually on the page after "January" ends:


The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne,
Especially in the way that lucid is shining and bright.
What her husband George Burns called her illogical logic
Mad a halo around our syntax and ourselves as we laugh

George Burns most often was her artful inconspicuous straight man.
He could move people about stage, construct skits and scenes, write
And gather jokes. They were married as long as ordinary magic
Would allow, thirty-eight years, until Gracie Allen's death.

In her fifties Gracie Allen developed a heart condition.
She would call George Burns when her heart felt funny and fluttered
He' give her a pill and they'd hold each other till the palpatations
Stopped, just a few minutes, many times and pills. As magic fills
Then fulfilled must leave a space, one day Gracie Allen's heart fluttered
And hurt and stopped. George Burns said unbelievably to the doctor,
"But I still have some of the pills."

That last line shouldsignalingent singnaling the continuation of the previous line, which blogger most likely won't preserve.

Anyway, what I love about this poem is the combination of detachmnaiveteldlike naievity, and emotional vulnerability. The language of the first stanza verges on the scientific, but its last line, about the halo, has a vulnerable, childlike quality. Then there's the strange bit about magic in the second stanza, which totally surprises me. The final stanza is so sweet and sad, and yet also amazed and flat in its delivery. It's really a very wonderful poem.

Well, tomorrow's my big day--my first two feature articles for Publishers Weekly come out. One is a profile of Kay Ryan. The other, and this is the one I'm nervous about, is a sort of layman's introduction to the online poetry scene. This is our one yearly issue about poetry. I interviewed Ron Silliman, Josh Corey, Zach Schomberg, folks at the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Daily, and a heap of others. I wonder what you'll all think. Will you rake me over the coals? You should be able to access the articles through our website:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Once again I’m a late-comer to something everyone else knew all about. Where have you been?, you’ll say. I dunno…a person writes some thing off and then comes to discover later that he was missing something he did not want to miss. Anyway, I just got a copy of the recently published Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan and began reading it on my train ride home from work just now. I’m reading Sonnets. It seems to me, so far, that these are very wonderful poems—full of quotidian surprises, sudden intimacies, exaltations and damnations, but all of it conducted with a certain quietness I haven’t seen before, a subtlety that is highly attractive. I’m gleaning this impression from perhaps 10 pages, so I’ll have more to say later, and I’ll be better informed when I say it. The trouble with me is, I had really written off the New York School in a lot of ways, or at least all of it but Ashbery. I had a brief fascination with Koch, but eventually it got to silly for me. Well, and I like Schuyler—or at least I did when I borrowed his collected from my local library when I was briefly living at home after college, meaning I haven’t read him in years—which I guess means that in fact it’s O’Hara that I could never really get with. He’s too much in the world for my tastes. I like ‘em more in their heads. So, anyway, I think I had grouped Berrigan very much with O’Hara and assumed I wouldn’t enjoy his work. But there is a kind of push in it, a way that Berrigan is prodding the world around him with language that is really quite satisfying. Then, of course, there are the later poems to look at as well, which, at least after a cursory glance, seem different from the sonnets. What a prolific writer he was! 700 pages in only 20 years. I have the giddy excitement of coming across a monumental book.

Also, the new Joshua Clover is out and about. I’m wondering what people are thinking about it. I haven’t read it all yet, though I’ve had the galley for a while, which, I think, betrays my ambivalence about it. But, if there is such a thing, I think it’s a passionate ambivalence. I’ve been looking forward to this book for two years or so, since I first read Madonna Ano Domini in grad school. I didn’t dive into it, I think, because I’m afraid not to like it, or, worse perhaps, not to get it. It certainly seems much more prohibitive to me than the first book, though those poems didn’t do all that much come-hithering. Some of these new poems seem a bit slight, and others seem very impenetrable. Again, this opinion is based on a cursory reading, and I will go at it a bit harder soon. But, does anyone out there have a thought or two to share about the book?


It’s a couple of hours later. Still on Ted Berrigan. I’ve read a bit more into THE SONNETS, though I’m still not done—I’m savoring it a bit. I’d like to look at one of the ones I like so far and see if I can articulate why I like it.

XVIIfor Carol Clifford

Each tree stands alone in stillness
After many years still nothing
The wind’s wish is the tree’s demand
The tree stands still
The wind walks up and down
Scanning the long selves of the shore
Her aimlessness is the pulse of the tree
It beats in tiny blots
Its patternless pattern of excitement
Letters birds beggars books
There is no such thing as a breakdown
The tree the ground the wind these are
Dear, be the tree your sleep awaits
Sensual, solid, still, swaying alone in the wind

I gather that many of these were written using collaging or other randomizing methods. With that possibility in the background, this poem begs to be read as both an unfolding meditation—a kind of pastoral—and a jerking collage of lines or strings of lines that are only vaguely related. A line by line reading may be the best way to get at how these lines work on and against each other. Of course we have the tree and its surroundings, which set a scene, and an emotional landscape in which the poem takes place. The first two lines convey a Zen-like calm, patience. Then the confounding third line—why is "The wind’s wish the tree’s demand"? You would think it would be the other way around, the wind demanding the tree to bend one way or another. Perhaps the tree is "solid," so, while the wind can only wish, suggesting the direction of the tree, the tree exerts real force on the environment around it. And perhaps that’s reading the line too closely; suffice it to say that the third line is an interruption, a pause, a moment where the reader’s mind trips—it complicates things significantly. The in the forth line, a return to the initial stillness, though the diction is clipped this time, almost dismissive of the increasing complexity of the lines that came before, almost suggestive of the nonsequiteur of the forth-to-last line. The pacing wind complicates things further, adding a more overtly human element to the scene, an increasingly pervasive projection of the speaker’s consciousness onto a poem that has waffled between letting nature be itself and forcing it to be a human idea. Then the string of unconnected words: "Letters birds beggars books". The birds and beggars jive pretty well with a panoramic view of where this place might be; I imagine a boardwalk, beggars skulking in the corners, seagulls diving for trash. Of course, that’s just my association—it’s not suggested by the poem, but those big spaces leave room for associative thinking. Then the letters and books bring me into a cluttered apartment. It seems to me that the consciousness of the speaker melds here with the pastoral scene: the speaker can’t parse his cluttered world from the world outside. Then the wonderful nonsequiter: "There is no such thing as a breakdown". This is the point at which the whole poem clicks into place for me. One reading might be, as the end of the next line suggests, that "these are," meaning that nothing in the world breaks down or stops—it just keeps going and it is we who fail to keep up. This line makes the whole poem sad. It’s a little like James Wright’s "I have wasted my life"—as if the insistence of the tree, the birds, the wind, the whole scene in motion forces the speaker to understand that nothing, no one will forgive him (or the "Dear" whom the last couplet addresses) , let him (or her) off easy, for failing to keep up. Hence the lovely last lines: "be the tree your sleep awaits / Sensual, solid, still, swaying alone in the wind". The words "your sleep awaits" confound me a little, but they are beautiful, and the suggestion seems clear—if you wanna be happy, be flexible like a tree.

It’s really a very rich poem, and different in its richness from what I associate with New York School writing, which I often think of as more random or quotidian.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Of course, the Bishop books is the talk of poetry town. It was bound to be controversial, so it’s only fulfilling its destiny by causing a stir. Anyone who hasn’t already should read, first, the book itself, then Vendler’s review from the New Republic, then today’s NY Times article, then Josh Corey’s thoughts on the matter, then whatever comes next.

I think Vendler’s article is pathetic. As if she was afraid many of her shots would miss, she aims at every possible target in the book, including its lack of an index, which has little to do with the matter at hand. I do appreciate her readings of several of the poems as poems, rathar than examples of poems Bishop “repudiated.” Vendler is a reader with an unusually broad view of poetry, historically speaking. Her analises of a few of the poems as poems is valuable. But, the fact is, it no longer matters what Bishop would have wished any more than it matters that King Tut would have preferred his tomb remain unraided. That comparrison perhaps seems unfair and exadurated, but the point is that Bishop is no longer here to express her preferences. What she left were art objects—things, which can only be judged on the basis of the impressions, the intrusions, they make in the world. There is no point in protecting Bishop now, especially from herself. It’s as if Vendler wants to argue against the very existeance of Bishop’s drafts. Alice Quinn has accomplished the very important task of bring those objects—which exist by virtue of Bishop’s having made them—into view. To encourage her or anyone do otherwise would have been to lie to ourselves. Bishop’s unparalled poems can take care of themselves.

I appreciate that Josh points out a couple of outsize remarks in Vendler and Orr’s reviews of the book. Bishop is not “the best artist of the second half of the 20th century” or whatever Orr said. She is a very great artist—one of the closest to my heart—but she is not the best. And Josh’s point about the reference to “the insular poetry world” in today’s Times—perhaps turning this into a catfight between two powerful women in poetry is the only way they can think of to make this issue palatable to their readership.

This is a scattered post full of incompete thoughts, but this is what I can come up with tonight. Edgar Allen Poe and The Juke Box is an important addition to the Bishop cannon, and to the body of poetry that we have. I’m glad to have it.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Fuckin’ jesus it’s finally spring! I fuckin’ love spring.

Books just our or out soon I’m excited about:


Green Squall by Jay Hoppler
Wind In A Box by Terrance Hayes
Mulbery by Dan Beachy-Quick (soon)
[Forgot the Title] by Matt Hart
In The Middle Distance by Linda Gregg


Brookland by Emily Barton
Seeing by Jose Seramago
Send Me by Patrick Ryan
Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder (soon)
River of No Reprieve by Jeffery Tayler (soon)
Absurdistan by Gerry Steingart (soon)

When the fuck am I gonna get to read all of these? I’m not, that’s when. But if you do, you can tell me all about it.

Git outside!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I’ve been pretty amazed by what Jim Bearle has been posting on his blog lately. Because his comics invite us into a kind of intimate, though often antagonizing, relationship with their author, I feel it’s alright to say it seems like he hasn’t been too happy lately, that he feels something of what he’s done has been misunderstood. I don’t know that Ron Silliman’s “tragically out of control” is quite right—perhaps it’s more like “tragically self-loathing.” But, then, isn’t that the principal muse of the tradition of comics he’s writing himself into? The comics really stun me. Reading them—especially the recent “Stone Cold Poetry Bitches” pieces—is like looking into a mirror that shows much of the ugliness, pettiness, and wrong-headedness that I’m afraid to face in myself. Whether intentionally or not, Bearle has made himself into one of the principal chronicalers of the poetry scene of this moment, with all of it’s infighting, backstabbing, and undirected passion, to name some of the bad things. He’s also shown it to be a world that is profoundly concerned with its own integrity, something he is helping to preserve. And he’s exploring the medium of the blog in a way no one else is, a medium which is not only capable of broadcasting one person’s thoughts, but of broadcasting those thoughts in immediate response to others’ thoughts and to events as they transpire. And the most recent comics, the takeoffs on Optic Nerve, seem to me to do what the best alternative comics do: make the self-loathing, fear, and culpability of their author into compassionate, ultimately redemtive mirrors for the reader. There does seem to be something of a tragic spinout to Bearle’s recent posts, but I think they’re some of the more important contributions to the unfolding story of the poetry blogosphere to have come along. I’m not sure that anyone disagrees with me on any of this, but I just felt like saying it.

Monday, March 13, 2006


So EDGAR ALLEN POE & THE JUKEBOX, Elizabeth Bishop’s drafts and fragments, is finally available. I fear there’s going to be a lot of backlash against the book, and I may be biased—Bishop is very important to me, I love Alice Quinn, the editor, and I interviewed her for PW (see the link to the right)—but I urge skeptical would be readers to give the book a chance. Alice did an extremely loving job with it, being careful to contextualize these poems as drafts, not finished pieces. If you saw some of them in the New Yorker, that was the wrong place for them to appear. Their place is with each other, where you can experience the buildup of Bishop’s voice over the cours of many poems and many years. This is a wonderful book, and a treasure trove for anyone who loves Bishop. You will find many things that will make you happy, especially “Breakfast Song,” probably my current favorite in the book.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

So I’m not at AWP. Sounds like there’s a lot of poems being read and schmoozing being done. Alas. No reason to be there. But hope you’re all having fun. I will say one thing: it’s lovely and warm in New York, so you Austiners are missing the nicest weather we’ve had in months. Though I gather it’s nicer there. Alas alas.

Working on my Kay Ryan profile. Doing wedding-planning things. Moving around furniture. See what y’all are missing!

Friday, March 03, 2006

B and I are off to San Francisco tomorrow, where will attend a wedding and where I will interview Kay Ryan for PW. I’ve never been to SF and I’m royally excited. Should be a good trip.

Packing to old Unrest, Sebadoh and Big Black 7”’s . Good.

Reading a history of impuse records. Reading Kay Ryan. Reading a forthcoming novel and upcoming poetry. Reading reading reading on the plane to SF.

A good weekend to all.

Monday, February 27, 2006

So, the reading was an intimate and successful event. There was a late location change, and it was frickin’ freezing outside, so the crowd was not huge, but we had a great time. Tom read new poems—certainly new to me, who hasn’t heard him read in two years since we were MFA classmates. I tried some new poems too, and B read a couple of her newer ones. Then fun drinking after.

Spent today’s train travel time reading GREEN SQUALL, the forthcoming collection by this year’s Yale Younger Poets winner Jay Hopler. This is Gluck’s last selection. I’ve really enjoyed her tenure as judge—she’s picked work with qualities I enjoy in her work: a merciless inward gaze, tight, despirate langauge, and a struggle to relate to the experienced world. Hopler’s book certainly displays all of these qualities in abundance. There are a couple of clunkers, as there should be in any good first book. But the really good ones are really good, and really strange. Here’s a little teaser:

A sigh. The first long satisfied sigh of summer.
Satisfied—that can’t be right; summer’s never

Satisfied, never quite.

A strange kind of metaphysical probing goes on—the speaker is confronted with a stunning natural world he can’t quite bring himself to deserve. So the poems are very self-depricating, very ironic, and yet the portrayals of nature are ecstatic and very moving. I think people are going to like the book. Though of course, some people will find it overly self-indulgent and solopsistic, but I love that; I just want more.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

So, if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that B, our friend Tom, and I are giving a reading this evening, as follows:

Thomas Hummell, Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher
Sunday 2/26 7:30 PM
The Fall Cafe
Smith Street near the corner of Union
Carroll Gardens
Take F or G trains to Carroll Street
Exit at the back of the train (if coming from manhattan)
take a left out the exit, walk half a block, cross street and there you are.

But, as that’s all I’ve bothered to write about lately, I’d like to get beyond that and write about something else. I’m writing a couple of feature articles for PW’s national poetry month coverage. The first is a piece about (guess what?) poetry and the internet. I’m covering blogs, web journals, and the poetry publishing industry’s (industry?) response to the above. Of course, my audience is mostly people who know nothing about the online poetry scene, so those of you who are familiar with the blogosphere should not be surprised by a lack of surprises. Though I’ve done some good little interviews with folks who’ve had some very interesting things to so, so those will make it in there.

The second piece is a profile of Kay Ryan, a poet whose work I admire tremendously—it’s a kind of bedrock poetry—it’s got all the force that poetry has to offer, but it’s closer to the elements, made of earth, fire, water, tone. I’m going to be meeting her next weekend when I go to California for a wedding. Here’s a poem from her second of five books:


No rime-grizzled mountain climber,
puzzled by where the put his fingers next,
knows the least thing about
how narrow work gets
that depends only on pleasure.
When it gets late or he gets depressed,
he can hang in a nylon sack,
his whole weight waiting
for the light to come back.
Bur for people who ascend
only by pleasure
there are no holding straps.
The must keep to the
hairline crack all the time
or fall all the way back.

The book from which the above poem comes, Flamingo Watching, is, I think, out of print (though I was able to get it no problem from Amazon). It came out in the early nineties. The one before it was in the eighties. And there was some kind of very small press first collecion which I have not been able to get a hold of. Grove has published her last three books, which are the ones I’m most familiar with.

She is an absolute master of compression and extended metaphor. The vehicle and tenor alternate taking the emphasis, so that the poem is part fable, part impartment of wisdom. There’s really nothing else quite like it being done, except perhaps James Richardson’s aphorisms, and they really have something different in mind. She’s been publishing for about twenty years, and she keeps getting better with each book. The early books have a more religious focus (though only in as much as they take the opportunity to debunk biblical metaphor), while the more recent ones go to the source of figurative language: invention out of necessity. Here is the title poem from her newest book, which came out last fall. I think it’s incredible—mysterious, slippery, and incredible:


As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.

What I mean by invention out of necessity is that, here, the goal is to convey the inner moral of this story: it’s easy to place oneself in the path of great danger and to ignore what is about to happen. But to get there, to make sure we are as surprised at the end as these characters are, Ryan choses and utterly strange and illogical narrative: a story of people eating dinner atop a moving river. We are as disoriented by their situation as they are by its consequence. Ultimately, the poem has a great deal to do with us, who, in each of our own ways, are heading toward a waterfall. She has that incredible way of slipping into our heads like that and implicating us without our really knowing it. Her reputation has been growing and growing in recent years, and no wonder.

So, hope to see you at the reading tonight, and perhaps for drinks after.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Final Reading Details

Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher, Thomas Hummell

Sunday 2/26 7:30 PM

The Fall Cafe
Smith Street near the corner of Union
Carroll Gardens
Take F or G trains to Carroll Street
Exit at the back of the train (if coming from manhattan)
take a left out the exit, walk half a block, cross street and there you are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brenda and my reading changes location

Our reading (with Thomas Hummell) will now be at THE FALL CAFE in Carroll Gardens instead of the Cloister Cafe (due to heat deficiency, among other things). The time will either be 4 or 7:30. I'll get back to you about that.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

B, Me, T reading

B, me, and friend Thomas Hummell will be reading next sunday, the 26, @4 as part of the excellent Burning Chair reading series. It'd be great to see you there.

Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher, Thomas Hummell
Sun. 2/26/06

The Cloister Café
238 East 9th Street
Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues
East Village, NYC


Just saw a great KGB fiction reading: Patrick Ryan (SEND ME, 2005) and Tom Bissell (GOD LIVES IN ST. PETERSBURG, 2004). I'm a huge fan of Bissell's journalism and stories, and Ryan was really good too. You should have been there.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bloggin’ and rockin’ on a Saturday eve. I have an hour and a half to kill before going out into the miserable weather.

Been writing PW reviews all week. Sometimes it gets hard to work with books, try to write things, have books be my major hobby, and still love books. I get to feeling alternately overloaded and overnourished. Trying to shift some attention to my other hobby, music, but I must say obsession with books is a hard habit to kick.

Do other people feel a bit unhealthily yoked to their book/writing obsession at times? Of course, for me, a large part of why I read and write is for the job and companionship words bring me. But I know a large part of it too has to do with deep self-doubt, with the sense that if I’m not making/reading/ingesting something important, my identity feels like it’s unraveling and I don’t know who I am. That’s not how it is all the time, but I certainly get into a mode—and it can last for days—where books are everywhere, swooping down at me like cartoon bats.

But I’ve got the Fugazi documentary INSTRUMENT from Netflix. That should take about an hour and a half, right?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I’m just gonna ramble like a bunny in the bramble. Listening to the new Cat Power, which seems to me to be a tremendous step in an exciting direction—clearly formed songs that reference a kind of Memphis twang that brings out the sultry, unresolved thing in Marshall’s songwriting. I’ve been waiting for this album and didn’t know it.

Wedding planning is stressful—details, family, finding ways to agree on everything and being in the mood to talk about plans, the future, etc. Not a new story though. Seems like everyone has wedding nightmare stories.

Reading many great books for PW. Just finished Charles D’Ambrosio’s forthcoming collection of stories THE DEAD FISH MUSEUM. Craftwise, D’Ambrosio is perfect. These are stories about wayward losers trying and failing to find some kind of meaning in their lives. Dark stories, dark, driving prose. I really enjoyed the book, especially two or three stories, though for my tastes, it’s a bit, as my friend Scott says, bloodless—we’re let out of the stories without feeling like they affect our lives and the world we live in. But I don’t really feel like that’s D’Ambrosio’s fault. The stories are done right; someone else would find them perfect.

Started reading IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER by Italo Calvino, but PW work intervened so I stopped midway.

In poetry, I read Major Jackson’s new book HOOPS, Emily Rosko’s first book RAW GOODS INVENTORY, Linda Gregg’s forthcoming IN THE MIDDLE DISTANCE and a book of Jack Kerouac’s called BOOK OF SKETCHES. All of these are due out in March or April. Surprisingly, my favorite was the last one. I don’t know how many of you feel repelled by your high school fascination with the Beats, but I certainly do. But this is actually interesting work—Kerouac recording his impressions in loose poetry like an artist might do in a sketch book. I guess it reminds me of my high school journals, which is somehow comforting. But a good book.

Now I’m reading a book of short stories by a Japanese author named Uchida Hyakken called REALM OF THE DEAD, due out in April. Tiny, strange little things. The book is from one of my favorite presses, Dalkey Archives.

One great things about working at PW is the constant stream of new things to read. There is never a shortage. If the world is hard to bear sometimes, there are always more books.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Goddamn. I don’t know what to say. I am one sad-feelin’ dude. B and I just went to see BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. That is one sad movie. Let me tell you, things don’t work out. It’s sad. I feel like I’m in a comma.

Thankfully, Cat Power’s new album THE GREATEST is really beautiful and sad and makes me feel normal to be sad in a sad world where sad things happen to sad people. She’s got this sultry Memphis band, weepy guitars, sexy horns. You feel transported to the climate of the songs, the sadlands, but also vague redemptionville.

Spent the weekend reading, writing reviews, sending out poems, lying around with B, seeing sad brokebackmountain, sleeping a lot. We also took B’s dying computer to the apple store in soho today and saw Martha Plimpton, the actress who excellently played the very troubled daughter in Parenthood, who was also tending to a sick computer. This is turning into one of those blog posts where I tell you how I cleaned my socks. I didn’t, by the way.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The following is a modified version of a part of an email discussion I’ve been having with another poet. I ended up writing about a few li’l poetry controversies that have been on my mind, so here it is:

I certainly agree that poets are coming out of programs thinking they’re brilliant for writing poems that sound like other people, but many very original writers come out of MFAs writing wonderful poems in the spirit that was always theirs, only they had time to really indulge themselves and hone their craft. So lots of bad poets, lots of good ones. I'm not convinced, though, that there are proportionally more bad poets or good poets than before, or, if anything, I would say there are proportionally the same number of bad poets and a few more good ones (who are, nonetheless, outnumbered by the bad). Stevens stuck because he was the only Stevens, but I can't help but think there were many, many would-be-Stevenses whose books have pretty much completed the journey from paper back to pulp by now. I don't have numbers on that, but that's my opionion. And, I think there may be artificial communities created in MFAs but there are also real and vital relationships developing around those classroom communities, not necessarily in the programs but at readings or parties or workplaces, all the normal places people make friends--I still workshop with a group of poets many of whom I didn't go to school with. Most of my best poet-friends were not in my MFA; they're people whose work I encountered or who invited me to read somewhere, and then we struck up a friendship in the usual way. And I don't understand this point--one that is often made--that the readership for poetry is dwindling. If there are 3 or 4 times as many writers than before, there are at least that many more readers. And the notion that poets don't count as readers doesn't make sense to me either--poets are regular people, too, who come to books for consolation, stimulation, entertainment.

As far as making a living goes, I don't know many poets who don't pay their rent in the typical manner. Most poets have day jobs. Obviously, we try to find jobs that meet some of the needs of our obsessions, but poetry is something we do because we earn the time to do it. The notion that anyone is entitled to a poetic career is appalling.

Point being, in my mind, it doesn't serve anyone to be skeptical of the institutions, which foster both bad and good. It's good to be skeptical of the books that don't meet our standards, and to be joyfully surprised by the ones that exceed them.


On another note, I’ve been revisiting a favorite record label of my younger days—not surprisingly, Matador—and finding that they are putting out many great new records, such as LOOSE IN THE AIR by The Double—this is really a surprising and stunning record: melancholic and melodic songs buried and blurred by layers of distorted guitar and keyboard—and what seems to be many people’s new favorite, TWIN CINEMA by The New Pornographers, which I am still in the middle of listening to for the first time.
A good writing weekend, this one. Worked on a couple of poems and a handful of PW reviews that are due. Finished reading one book, started another—IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER by Calvino. A quiet weekend as well. Yesterday Thai lunch and pool with friends. Was at the launch readings for Cate Marvin and Michael Dumanis’ new anthology LEGITIMATE DANGERS, which is a pretty comprehensive survey of a certain swatch or two of the poetic generation between roughly 30 and 45 years old. B. is still out of town—she was came home to teach then went away again until Tuesday—so I’m stuck in a kind of companionship limbo. Joined the National Book Critics Circle. Not sure yet what that will do for me—something, I think—but I like newsletters and membership cards. I keep thinking about the new Cat Power album, due out this Tuesday. I’ll be at Other Music during my lunch, I think, to pick up a vinyl copy to go with my vinyl copy of YOU’RE FREE. That’s all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Onward and awkward with Craig’s “What the Hell Was I Doing When All The Good Music Came Out” exploration. So tonight I’m discovering the Silver Jews. I know, I know, everyone was telling me in ’97 and I paid no attention. Well, you have to save some things for later. I guess I didn’t need them then. I’m listening to THE NATURAL BRIDGE right now. I haven’t even gotten through the whole record yet, but I’m utterly convinced that this is a sublimely beautiful album. It has the feel of something much older. There’s a private, melancholy quality to it that makes it a really good record to listen to alone. It’s good sad company.

Beyond that, B is coming home later tonight from her long time away, which is the big, big news in my life. Jeez I’ve missed her.

I have nothing to say about poetry. Absolutely nothing.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I want to revise my opinion on Pavement’s last album TERROR TWILIGHT. Previously, I said it was disappointing. In fact, it’s not. It’s actually an incredible album. I read a review of it before I got terribly into in, I think on, which said that it felt something like a Malkmus solo album, and I think that colored my initial impression. Actually it feels very much like a collaborative effort. “Spit on a Stranger” is an incredible song, as is “Carrot Rope” and “Ana don’t cry,” and those songs rank with Pavement’s finest. Also exceptional is Malkmus’s most recent solo album, FACE THE TRUTH. It’s the best thing he’s done since Pavement. His first solo album is great too. Only the middle one is lacking something.

Also, check out the new Pleiades, which has two prose pieces by me—one is an extended review of Simon Armitage’s selected poems THE SHOUT. The other is a review of Richard Siken’s debut CRUSH. Also, there are poems by Louise Gluck’s forthcoming Yale selection, along with an excerpt from her introduction.

Also check out the new issue of Octopus, which features 8 reviews I edited of books by Andrea Baker, Dan Chiasson, Arielle Greenberg, David Larsen, Danielle Pafunda, Richard Siken, Rachel Zucker, and Cole Swensen. Those are the ones I edited, but there are others, too, along with a heap of wonderful poems and other great stuff.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Busy week. Was in Oregon over the weekend, way out in Oregon, visiting a dear, dear friend who has recently had a baby.

Tomorrow I conduct a short interview for PW with Yannick Murphy about her forthcoming book HERE THEY COME, due this spring from McSweeney’s. It’s a stunning and strange book (as I have said below) and I suggest that everyone read it.

Feeling exhausted by the whole poetry game, by my own obsessive relationship to poetry. That feeling seems to go around every now and again. I’m trying my hand at a little fiction in the meantime, because I’m not good enough at it to worry about publishing.

Lookout for the new Octopus, which Zach says should be up as soon as tonight. I edited a bunch of the reviews in this issue.

Still on my Pavement jag. Netflixed the official documentary THE SLOW CENTURY, which was, frankly, disappointing. The film stayed fixed on the goings on within the band and didn’t touch at all on the amazing things that were happening around them. That was the rock n’ roll moment that I feel I was present to. I was 14 when CROOKED RAIN came out, and I saw them many times during the few years that followed. I was in a band at that time too, and you couldn’t listen to or play indie music then without being influenced by Pavement. And lots of wonderful bands were pulled into the indie spotlight by what was going on with Pavement, like Guided by Voices, who had toiled in obscurity until they broke at the same time as Pavement, and toured with them. I was hoping for a movie that, in the same way that THE YEAR PUNK BROKE was for the scene in ’91, would be a kind of historical document of that musical moment. Alas, it was not. I’m listening to Malkmus’ most recent album, which is the best thing he’s done in his solo career so far.