28 February 2012

Either Way I'm Celebrating

"It's always strange to be born / before the cusp of some new age, / hanging onto nothing" (22), writes Sommer Browning in her book Either Way I'm Celebrating (Birds, LLC 2011). In some ways, I think this sums up the experience of reading this collection, at least to the extent that it's strange to be on the cusp of "the new," especially if you're predisposed to hang onto genre distinctions. By this, I mean that Browning's collection oscillates between comics, poems, flash fiction, and oblique notes to a housesitter. Given the alterations, its changes could be disconcerting if you're looking for familiarity; but if the prospect of variety sounds exciting to you, then Either Way I'm Celebrating makes for a fantastic read.

The opening series of poems works best when the speaker incorporates phrases that read like one-liners (as in jokes, not as in lines of poetry). Some of my favorite moments include: "I'm worried how many more times I'll tell the story / about peeing in a cop car before someone loves me" (18), "I collect books found in celebrities' bathrooms; so far / my life sucks" (19), and "um...you're going to make me say it? Your taint. Is it your taint?" (32). What all these excerpts have in common, I think, is a particular irreverence (at least in relation to most poetry) and a casual tone that makes the speaker sound both identifiable and believable. This characteristic is important because, when the speaker delivers her more grandiose statements such as "Sometimes, it's the world that's inadequate" (18) and "There is too, a galaxy in poetry" (19), we're willing to accept them from a voice we've come to trust.

In the second section of writing, we told a tale about a couple staying in a hotel to watch a UFC fight and visit a historical Whitman site. With its catalogs of the contemporary American landscape and consumerism, it reads like an update not just of Whitman, but also of Ashbery and Brainard's The Vermont Notebook (which itself was a Whitman re-write).

The final text portion of the book is titled "To the Housesitter," which, as previously mentioned, are a series of notes to someone who will be taking care of (you guessed it) a house. The notes create an ever strange and mutating house that "is as malleable as vocabulary" (86) by offering us both prose and verse, which turns the commonplace into linguistic novelties, such as a "dribbling refrigerator...shaped like mouths" (67).

Of course, the most prominent aspect of the Either Way I'm Celebrating are the comics; by turns witty and absurd, they provide visual respites before and after each section of text. My favorite (as well as indicative of the tone and aesthetic of the comics collectively) is the "Critique of Pure Reason":


I can't tell you exactly why someone stuffed a copy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason into the middle of a sandwich, but what does that matter? The seemingly random gesture undercuts the inherent seriousness (some may say pretentiousness) of philosophy and those who choose to engage such subject matter. And it should also be pointed out that the black and white drawings, at least aesthetically, once again echo The Vermont Notebook and Brainard's charcoal drawings therein.

Finally, in the spirit of the collection, I'd like to share an experience I had when reading the poem "Empiricism" (Click image for detailed view):


Kemp Sorta Disses Griffin

Today on SI.com, there a link to a new Shawn Kemp interview wherein he claims to be more powerful than Blake Griffin. I heart SK:

27 February 2012

Album Purchases


This morning, I headed down to Twist & Shout and picked up a couple records. I bought Perfume Genius's debut LP Learning, filled with lo-fi, down-tempo pop music; as well as Okkervil River's The Stand Ins. I recommend them both.

26 February 2012

The Poetics of Spuds MacKenzie

Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle
Whimmy wham wham wozzle

24 February 2012

New Spiritualized: Hey Jane

The first single off Spiritualized's new album Sweet Heart Sweet Light was leaked earlier today. It's vintage J Spaceman and it's good. The whole record drops on 17 April. Listen below:

Scary, No Scary (or Return of the Poop Book)

I used to read books while I pooped. I read Leaves of Grass in its entirety, over the course of a two year period, on the toilet; the first thirty cantos of Pound's The Cantos (only a total asshole would read the whole collection); and an historical overview of visual collage, which was the last book I read under these circumstances, just to name a few.

But ever since May of 2011, my housing situation has been fluid and I haven't settled into a solid poop-and-read routine. Until now.

I'm not exactly sure how, but Zachary Schomburg's
Scary, No Scary ended up on the ledge of my bathtub, so I started re-reading the book while taking my morning "bathroom break." To my mind, it's a book of discovery and transformation, both of which are found in "New Kind of Light":
I move my hands
in these woods
to find her sex-parts.

We discover our sex-parts
make heat
and blue light.

We become outlines of ourselves—

long scratches
in the sky.

We have a daughter
who was never born.

She lives in the house
we never built,

But in this new light,
you can almost see
its tattered roof. (9)
Both the discoveries and transformations are fantastical, creating a dream-like aura. Many times, they deal with the natural world. Take the excerpted material very next poem "Your Limbs Will Be Torn Off In A Farm Accident," for instance:
Your limbs
will be torn off
in a farm accident.

Tree limbs
will grow in those places.


Soon you'll be
more tree
than person. (10)
Of course, it is not until the book's closing poem that the "You" of the poem, or the poem's speaker for that matter, understands that the transformation takes place. Moreover, the transformation only registers when the natural world informs us, so to speak: "if there is a shadow of a tree and no trees around / I am the tree" (58).

Certainly, these tropes can be viewed through the lens of an American neo-surrealism, which often seems to be the case with Schomburg's writing. But a different (and for that reason more productive) reading could be to filter Scary, No Scary through an eco-fabulist lens, wherein the poems convey extraordinary parables about humanities interaction with nature. Of course, because of the abundance of death within the collection, readers may wonder as to whether or not the relationship is parasitic or symbiotic. The answer may be a matter of personal interpretation, but one thing is clear: regardless of whether the interactions are cyclical self-regulating systems, or self-destructive mechanisms, we are told to approach them with courage, just as the speaker does: "You'd think I'd be scared / But I'm not scared" (79).

23 February 2012

Sink Review

The ninth issue of Sink Review is now live, which stars several members of the Glitteratti: Jeff Alessandrelli, Bret Shepard, and Tina Brown Celona. There are also a bunch of other folks in there as well, such as Stephanie Anderson, Sommer Browning, Heather Christle, Tyler Flynn Dorholt, Amy Lawless, Mike Lala, Ashleigh Lambert, Dolly Lemke, Timothy Liu & Hansa Bergwall, Aubrie Marrin, Henri Michaux & Paige Taggart, Gina Myers, Brandon Shimoda, Bianca Stone, Robert Alan Wendeborn, & Jared White.

Louise Glück's No Hammy Hamburglar


Christmas by Fernando Pessoa

One God is born. Others die. Truth
Did not come or go. Error changed.
Eternity is different now.
What happened was better always.

Blind Science plows the useless sod.
Fool Faith lives the dream of its observance.
A new God is but a word.
Search not, nor believe. All is hidden.

22 February 2012

No One Is (As I Are Be)

Below is "No One Is (As I Are Be)," the first video-single from Stephen Malkmus's most recent album Mirror Traffic, which I purchased a vinyl copy of this past weekend. It's not revolutionary, but it's solid Malkmus; and, in my opinion, it's his best album since Pig Lib. My only complaint is that the album is three-sides, meaning the second side of the second record doesn't have anything on it. Weird.

"I can't even do one sit-up / sit-ups are so bourgeois":

20 February 2012


"Today I have lived wholly inside the drift from how I feel / to how others feel about me. I'd like to forget everything, / and then I do" (9) writes Paul Killebrew in the poem "Invisible Scoring," which appears near the beginning of his debut collection Flowers (Cranarium 2010). Killebrew's poems, and the collection in general, do indeed drift, so much so that we forget where we are located. Such drifting and forgetfulness, though, should not be interpreted as a pejorative assessment of the poems therein; instead, it becomes an aesthetic imperative to the extent that "it's not entirely clear that the poet exists" (6) in this flow of memory loss. True, the poet declares a "wish to be conscious / of myself," but must concede that "My frontiers are long and insecure," and thus he "cannot command them" (5).

Given this lack of self-knowledge, or at least an absolute self-definition, how does the poet navigate both the world and his poems? Killebrew proffers an answer, it would appear, in the humorously titled "John Fucking Ashbery": "Sometimes when I'm only a sense of myself, / I answer the phone and just breathe. The soul / coagulates behind the eyes and I think not / of the self in its dissolution" (11). Just breathe, the poet suggests, and stop thinking about the ever-
deteriorating self. And that is what these poems do: breathe within an amorphous context of forgetting, which allows the poems, the poet, and the reader an opportunity to be "digested by time" in order for us "to lose thoughts or patterns of thought" (49).

It should be noted, though, that if these poems cause us to lose patterns of thought, it does not mean they are vacuous or meaningless. In fact, "meaning is always happening" (11); it's just that meaning, to some extent, is a function of the subjective mind: in all reality, "there's no message in the incidental," but nonetheless we "hear whatever message [we] listen for" (28). In other words, there are no master narratives, messages, or meanings, but there are local ones that form, deform, then reform throughout these poems. It should come as no surprise, then, that "The present forms of glory,"
which are those found within Flowers, "are much less indelible" (64) than those of days past.

Of course, in these less indelible, drifting, forgetful, and selfless poems, one may question whether or not we should care about a work of art that lacks authority, permanence, or stability. Killebrew worries little about these matters; in fact, he acknowledges that "I know that I'm at least barley relevant" (29). But what of what concern is relevance or glory when "It's not art if it feels important" (7)?

17 February 2012

Several Gravities

In the poem "The Ghost of a Hunter," reprinted in Several Gravities (Siglio Press 2009), Keith Waldrop writes: "The shapes have been salvaged" (49) and "Of countless ruined world, he would appropriate the essential" (48). These quotes, to a large extent, could be read as guiding principles for Several Gravities, as well as Waldrop's entire career as a poet-artist. In the former instance, the book contains samples of Waldrop's expansive career as a visual artist, in addition to poems excerpted from seven earlier collections. In the latter instance, as Robert Seydel (the editor of Gravities and author of the afterward) writes, Waldrop's oeuvre has been marked by "multivalent" tendencies that are "rife with the dispensations of the plural," which speak toward "an originary confusion" (85) in his work. In other words, Waldrop salvages shapes from "countless ruined worlds" in order to "appropriate the essential" to create a wholly new construction. But these constructions are tenuous in form, so much so that "fragments align only partially, and their alignment is always fragile" (94). In the excepted portion of "Poem from Memory," the speaker informs us that:
demands images at
strategic intervals, something
steady on which to
map the random. My world
is in disorder. Like-
wise my schedule. I
live within
tolerances. At the
intersection of innumerable
fantasies. Irreconcilables
point me to
my orient. Ambiguous
suns. A shower of
elementaries. Venus rising
from the nutrient broth.
Accidents of sensual
logic. Fringes of
interference. That
doorbell. (35)
A world in disorder and randomness, but a world that can be mapped with images and strategic intervals. While mapping and randomness appear to be at odds, the speaker is oriented within these irreconcilable concepts: an intersection of disparate but elementary components that produce accidents of sensual logic for both the producer and consumer of these visual and linguistic collages.

In Several Gravities, the speaker in the fragment excerpted from the poem "Potential Random" tells us that "The shape of things rise up against me....and threaten to trip me up, obstruct me, box me in"; to counteract these possibly destructive properties, the speaker declares: "I take them all, straight-lined or curved, reducing each...by a movement of my hand" (65): a dangerous energy converted into artifice/art through the hand. Here, then, are two examples of how Waldrop converts destruction into an affirmation of piecemeal art-objects:

"In my tender years, I fretted because I could neither whistle a tune nor draw a likeness. Though I no longer fret about it, I still can't do either" (14).


"I have no sky. Sometimes the ground seems tenuous. But composition remains an enjoyment" (15).


14 February 2012

Harp & Altar

The 9th issue of Harp & Altar went live yesterday with new poems by Tina Brown Celona, Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Dougherty, Kevin Holden, Paul Killebrew, Noelle Kocot, Aubrie Marrin, and Sampson Starkweather. There's also prose by Oisín Curran, Farrah Field, Gregory Howard, and Jenny Nichols.

13 February 2012

2 poems by Devin Johnston


At the sink, a business traveler
memorizes one hand with the other.

The Difference

I wake up missing what
I would no longer want.

12 February 2012


I am unsure of the writing process Michael Sikkema employed while writing his 2008 collection Futuring (Blazevox), but given the fact that these poems exhibit an aesthetic that is a) acoustically-driven, b) serial in nature, yet c) semantically fragmented, I'm left to assume that he used some type of collage, erasure, found, or procedural method when writing these pieces. Reading the poems as such, they function mainly as soundscapes within/upon the field of the page. It is no coincidence, then, that Geoffrey Gatza designed the book artifact in a landscape orientation, literally allowing Sikkema's words (and their corresponding articulations) both to populate and situate themselves within the dual sonic and material fields. In lieu of a more traditional review, then, I thought it would be more appropriate to collage (mostly) phrases from Futuring together so as to offer a review that embodies the aesthetic of the poems while simultaneously addressing the text's conceptual underpinnings.

Hidden in the acoustics of imagined geographies, the girl wakes with an excited sentence in her mouth: "Everything you see is music," she says, "but my voice is not quite loud enough to cross so many fields." Yet, when crossing the field, this distance filled with static, this brilliant meadow, there are no names for trees or the idea of you in it. If the field is a landscape, then give me a landscape as real as a painting so paintings operate like sunsets. Undone by sounds, we look up from syntax to find the music irreparable: a series of hole-punched suns.
Finally, it should also be noted that there are some great, lasting images scattered throughout the collection as well. Particular favorites of mine include: "fuckable sunshine during police raid," "after a condom on a pie plate," and "Men harness cattle to the Trans Am."

10 February 2012

Good poem in the new Boston Review

Ambiguous Origins

The desk is of a deep grain like a stirred pond
but also scored with nicks. Whenever I open it,
select a hammer, and try to describe, with hammer,
my origins, these grackles always flock up
from the power line as low as my shoulder
as though jolted by a surge (they looked
lifeless before), and hover in the close gray damp
to whoop wings all at once. That’s how
I was born: all at once. Born in the suburb
with a pocketful of what. Born in the riverbed
just moments before the flash flood.
I was born busy in some new kind of flight, and
though I don’t recall it, that’s the wonderful story
I’ve always been told. In a spring-green slum
those birds will swim you with their dreaded drone.

08 February 2012


For Dusie Kollektiv No. 5, BJ Love and Friedrich Kerksieck wrote the chapbook Fossil. While the full contents can be found online, purchasing the artifact is well worth the $10. Like everything Kerksiek produces under the banner of Small Fires Press, this collaborative chapbook is a well-crafted art-object that is a joy to look at and hold. As the back matter states:
The book is constructed from various handmade sheets pulled at the Lost Arch Paper Mill in Alabama or the front cover, Clearprint Vellum for the text, & Chipboard for the rear cover.

Images & Bell MT fonts have been reproduced with photopolymer on a Vandercook No.4 Proof Press at the Small Fires Press Memphis studio.
Of course, even if you know what all that technical jargon means, it still doesn't do justice to the fine quality of the artifact. But buying a copy and pulling the lengthy accordion vellum will help in understanding the fine craftsmanship that went into its making.

As for the poems therein, Love and Kerksieck write mostly about dinosaurs, but, obviously, it's not just about dinosaurs; these are love poems as well. Take, for instance, the following lines from the opening poem "Lava! Lava! Lava!":
Let us set something in stone: Apology is
an invention that is still a few years off

& that is why I can never be sorry, but
what I can tell you now is that, when your

fossil is found, I hope everyone will love it
just like I do & though I can never promise

anything this sweet, or even milkshake sweet,
what I can promise is to hate every evolution

that removes you further & further from me.
A lament to a fossilized lover about the trouble of evolution. Yes, it is humorous, but readers get the sense that it also is heartfelt. Later, in the poem "Rawr Rawr Rawr," the poets strike a more wholly sincere tone, albeit sandwiched between some lighter verse about dinosaurs, milk, and tar pits, when they write:
All history is according to
carbon, which is no more
the history of our own breath,
that time when we sat, face-to-face,
& just breathed through each
other's mouths. All I have ever wanted
was to give this some kind of name.
A touching moment to be sure, distilling passion, science, and longing into a remembrance when two lovers shared each other's breath and, in doing so, created a shared history in carbon: most definitely a Whitmanesque concept.

I'd like to close with what I believe is the strongest poem from start to finish. It's titled "The Thing About Dinosaurs Is That They Only Get Famous After They Die" and reads:
You keep telling me it's only a photocopy
of a dinosaur, that his teeth aren't scary
rather, they're duplicates, & duplicates
of duplicates at that, that that is no more
scary than any great waste of ink, that
the fear of dinosaurs is based on the price
of toner alone, but you can't make those
cavities any less real, I think, not the fact
that every hole in his collated head is
an exact, though concaved, reproduction
of my arms, my legs, my purple lungs
&, as I've always said, if I'm going to be
digested, I prefer it come with the dignity
that a stomach offers & not the slow
disgrace of being worn away by tongue
& spit, which isn't digestion at all, no,
it's more like recycling, that is, if recycling
was just tubs stuffed with nightmares &
breaking up bags teeming with rats, or
maybe the neighbor boy who screams
like rats, & this death is horrible, & this
death is scary, & this death has already
been scanned into the imaging unit, &
if you leave, this dinosaur will surely eat me,
& then he'll put on my glasses, & wear
all my t-shirts, & kiss you in that one place
that only I get to kiss you, & he'll become
an excellent copy of me, & you will never
be the wiser, that is, until he gargles, &
rather than gargling what you will hear is me,
the actual me, complaining about the cramped
& damp conditions, about the loss of skin,
about how I miss you most of the time, but
especially at night when I can still hear you
snore, yeah, that's when I'd miss you the most.

A few more items of self-promotion.

The new issue of esque, edited by Amy King and Ana Božičević, is live and I have poem inspired by Jacques Lipchitz's Hagar I in there; also, in the new Word For / Word there are some illustrated collaborations of some of my "Tree Lung" poems. Finally, over at HTMLGiant, Christopher Higgs wrote a lyric/visual/collage essay that contains a brief snippet of Homage to Homage to Homage to Creeley toward the end.

07 February 2012

Echo & Ache by Carolyn Guinzio

Come back, sound of out-
stretched arms. Look away
from the bones pieced back
together. Last bright vision,
they buried the loved
little dog in the mound,
little bowl. A quarter
moon in a daytime sky,
a season at the threshold
between barrenness and being.
Lean, lean, to rupture.
What the clouds
come to cover is still
behind the clouds. Nothing
can banish what has existed
into never having been.
A bag in the back of the drawer
holds the teeth
that would have been
sorcered away
back in the other world,
back when the other world was.

(from Free Verse, Issue 21, Winter 2011--
http://english.chass.ncsu.edu/freeverse/index.html )

how like foreign objects

A variety of tropes reoccur throughout Alexis Orgera's first collection how like foreign objects (H_NGM_N BKS, 2011), but one of them stands out for it meta-poetic qualities: the voice and, to a certain extent, its attachment to the body via the mouth and throat. Within the collection, readers learn that in Orgera's poems "the office is a voice speaking / inside me about all the things left / to do, the never-ending possibilities / of overcoming" (29), or "Their voices are seagulls" (32), or "Giving up is hearing a voice you've always known / sing a song you've never heard" (41), or "No light except what exudes / from both my bodies, / as if they are riddled with the light / of memory, the millions of tinny voices / the...scream" (56), or "A man with fibrillating voice / sang into my left ear—" (61), or "One afternoon, a strange voice came home / sopping wet and blue-lipped / ... / and this is what the voice told me: / your fingers are electric // when you drown / your lungs explosions" (81), or "all the voices— / I mean all—corpses in the corner / of every living room in America / must have risen together / because the drone was deafening" (93). We encounter the voice as office, seagull, resignation, light, fibrillator, a drowning victim with surreal anatomical knowledge, and American corpses.

And what of the voice's attachment to the body and its effect upon the speaker? The list of attachments and their effects is no less expansive: "If I ever go to hell it's because / of my motherfucking mouth" (13), and " we laugh in the mouth of the fire" (14), and "I get to sit inside your mouth" (20), and "Happenstance has a way of shoving / that little square of paper / into your mouth... / ... / while a mouthful of post- / teens strip and swell in the mud" (33), and "It's a myth that the right hand feeds the mouth / of the world"(44). The mouth (i.e. the conduit for the voice), it would appear, damns the speaker to hell, is a fire starter and a receptacle for paper and naked teenagers.

Such diverse ontologies of the voice and corresponding utility for the mouth are cast within a pejorative light; certainly, this is intimated at when taking such statements as "Nothing works, but what doesn't work / most is the word flesh as in flesh" (86) and "sounds / like failure. We are failing // us. I am failing us" (64) in combination. The flesh of the mouth and the sound of the voice have failed us, producing "a language I still don't quite get" (42) because "we [speak] / gibberish...or didn't speak / at all"(22). In this sense, our consciousness, seeking to escape our minds, cannot; thus, our thoughts become "like foreign objects in [our] own skins" (20). The zenith of this failure can be found in the"On The Exile Of My Throats"; the poem concludes:
But that's so many years ago—
before words stuck
in my thirty throats weaving tender
tendrils from their vowels. Today
is another story altogether.
Today we are sad, me and my throats.
We wake up that way
after certain events we can't name.
I hear my throats cawing
through the window—I locked them out,
one thing leading to another
around midnight. They are meaner
than rooks, uglier than magpies.
My throats are a folktale
always throwing
their eyes into treetops
or spelling my thoughts inside out. (30-31)
In a pre-Lapsarian time when all was well, one could find such diversity of voice "weaving tender / tendrils," but no longer. Today the voices and the throats in which they are contained are sad, mean, ugly, and turning thoughts inside out. The speaker of these poems faces a new reality that does not embrace an egalitarian utopia filled with variety, but fears we have entered a monolithic society that would rather lock difference outside than nurture it. One should be no means infer that the poet or the speaker agrees with this stance; instead, the poet and the speaker call attention to the alarming "events we can't name" because we no longer have the mouths, voice, and words to say them.

02 February 2012

Dr. Ware

A belated SKC congratulations to Mr. Ware for now being able to introduce himself in the following manner: "Hey, I'm Joshua Ware, Ph.D. Pleasure to meet you."

Dr. Ware, you now join these other fine Dr. Wares--maybe a mid-country dinner party at a conference hotel restaurant is in order?

01 February 2012

ILK Issue 2

The second issue of ILK is now live, which contains two new poems of mine. There is also work Erika Jo Brown, Gina Myers, Nate Pritts, Nick Sturm, and several others.

My Fiction Debuts


Some "Impossible Motels" I built have been published and recently released in the new issues of Nano Fiction and Hobart. What's even more amazing is the fact that I receive actual money for publication in the latter of these two journals. Either way, both of these journals contain loads of awesome short fiction and whatnot.

Hard to argue with, popular or not

"Publicity is the medium of choice for many of our most popular artists."