Thursday, January 28, 2010

CA Conrad Tribute

A well deserved tribute to CA Conrad on Ron Silliman's blog.

I first heard Conrad read at Molly's Bookstore... think it was 2005, not long after I moved to South Philly. I count that reading as the beginning of a kind of second life for me as a writer, a change that's drawn me back to poetry, nudged fiction to the side. Can't imagine a better place to be for poets than Philly right now. This has been the most productive five years of my life--and there's no question that Conrad is there at the center, a gravitational point around which bands of creative energy seem to whirl--like planetary rings.

Conrad HERE will make you love the snow.


                                                   J.D. Salinger

                                               1919 - 2010


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don Belton Memorial

A NOTICE of a memorial service for Don Belton, novelist, poet and teacher brutally murdered shortly after Christmas.

There is a tribute schedule for Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 24th from 6-8pm. The tribute with be held at The Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th Street, between Chestnut and Sansom Streets in Center City, along with the support of Art Sanctuary. Please show your support by spreading the word.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trace, Absence, Remnant: The Critical Task

One can only hope for readers who notice the cracks you've left, and the light that shines through from the other side.

I've been thinking about the Trace. As through a cloud chamber an energized particle passes, ionizing the cloud medium, marking the path of the particle--a trace that is not itself the moving particle that made it, but its sign. So a poem, a work of art. What is left on the page, the canvas, resonating in our hearing: the Trace of the encounter that is its meaning. An absence marked, or mark of what is absent.
The critical task, both necessary and impossible, is to evoke through a second level encounter with the Trace (the Thing left to mark the Absence... the Lacanian Real ?) -- the shape of the relationship between the remnant and that which is no longer there and cannot be reclaimed, renamed, recounted. A second Trace, a second Absence.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remembering Kafka

Alice Hertz Sommer remembers Kafka. "A slightly strange man."
At the age of 106, there is much that she remembers. An article in Haaretz by Ofer Aderet posted on The Millions.

In 1942 the Germans arrested her sick mother, Sophie, who was 72 at the time, and subsequently murdered her.

"That was the lowest point in my life," Sommer says. "A catastrophe. The bond between a mother and her child is something special. I loved her so much. But an inner voice told me, 'From now on you alone can help yourself. Not your husband, not the doctor, not the child.' And at that moment I knew I had to play Frederic Chopin's 24 etudes, which are the greatest challenge for any pianist. Like Goethe's 'Faust' or Shakespeare's 'Hamlet.' I ran home and from that moment on I practiced for hours and hours. Until they forced us out."

Read the rest HERE

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Corporation is NOT a person!

Santa Clara County versus Southern Pacific on steroids...

So much for 'strict constructionism,' the U.S. Supreme Court elaborates on the unconstitutional myth of 'corporate personhood.'

Sign HERE to support a Constitutional Amendment to reclaim the 1st Amendment for people, not abstract inventions. Enough of these corporate criminals, who stuff money up the butts of the whores in Congress and the Supreme Court to buy their loyalty, as they strip all but a diminishing minority of wealth, health, power and human dignity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inhuman Ethics (Levi Bryant)

Levi Bryant of Laval Subjects, in a post on how to posit the questions that might be the starting point for an Inhuman Ethics, reminds me of something that frequently annoys me: the arrogance and intellectual laziness of those, who, thinking that in rejecting belief in the gods, that they've freed themselves altogether of the inheritance of religion--when all they've done is kick the spooks out of the haunted house and replaced them with the 'human,' whatever that is--forgetting that this house was built by the gods. That is--its building is what the gods were invented to do, and as its existence makes no sense without them, they are without further ado, replaced... with 'us'... with the mostly unexamined illusions we think we see when we think we're looking at ourselves in the mirror.

What I had in mind when I wrote these two poems: Takeing Leave of the Animals, and Like Nothing in this World (Phila Stories: Winter 2008).

The animals, of course, are not the one's telling the lies--but the irony is itself a multi-layered lie, establishing a falsely separate kingdom of Being for the human while covering over the consequence--by building the myth of the human apart from the 'other' animals, and in that very act, establishing the necessity of duel Kingship--the double thrown of creator god and his perpetually infantilized servant-subject. The complacent atheist pulls the trap door on Nobadday, only to climb onto the vacant thrown and assume that imaginary rule for the hu-Man-god.
We cannot begin without taking leave
He said when he turned us away
Fire leapt from his tongue

Instead, we gathered the names, leaving the animals
Speechless in the forest brakes, the river's course.
Only now do we understand the nature of our loss

We cannot begin without taking leave
They were more than we could bear, these words.
They grew fruitful and multiplied

We hung them on every bough.
There were not enough trees to hold them.
They fell to the earth like leaves

We cannot begin without taking leave
Our lips are dry with trying
Our fingers sign what we cannot say

How can we leave
What was never ours to begin with?
How can we ever return what we found
in their burning, silent eyes?

Like Nothing in the World

The world is filled with gods
They are like nothing else in the world
This is how you know they are gods

The gods did not make the world
The gods were made by the world
They are more helpless then they have ever been

I asked them if they were once
Like the gods of our storied past
But they did not answer

Their tongues were made of stone
And their teeth of wool
They neither sing nor speak

I found them one day searching
For change, but my pockets were empty
Everything now must remain as it was

Only the world changes
As stars withdraw to the beginning of time
As we found ourselves at the edge of the forest

Following the animals over the plains
Listening to their lies, their endless
Stories of gods who will not let them be

Published: Philadelphia Stories, Winter 2008

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iron Man

Raw report (minimal editing and spellcheck)  from the Casino-Free Philadelphia Trial today. 
All charges dropped. The D.A. was incompetent, our councel, Larry krasner, was super; the  judge seemed to be on our side from the beginning.  I'm exhausted (got up at 5:00 AM). 
A moving experience--this was really quite an extraordinary group of people. (see the bios end of this report: HERE We gathered earlier at the United Methodist Church on North Broad, went around the circle ...  Quaker style, taking turns as the spirit moved us to say something about why we were there. This was covered by the press... most particularly, by CNN, which (as near as I could understand) is preparing to do a piece on the effects of using gambling for revenue... including lotteries. The reporter asked intelligent questions--and seemed particularly interested in what I said about the corrupting power of back door taxation. He pushed this question. Pushed it further. Finally asked, "do you think the system is broken?" 
For a moment I couldn't answer... 'do you want to know what I REALLY think," I asked. "Yes, he said... dead serious, without hesitation. "Don't hold back... is it too late, is the system broken? " I'm so tired I can't remember exactly what I said.. something about how angry I was with Gov. Rendell and the PA Supreme Court... that they were all bought-and-paid-and for, that Mayor Nutter had been blackmailed into giving in to the state because of the economy and the city budget crisis-- or the city wouldn't get the funds we needed to avoid bankruptcy.. He asked again, "is the system broken." I said. "Close, very close--but it’s not broken yet. We're here as proof to that. As long as citizens are not afraid to speak their mind, to stand up and fight for what we believe, there's still hope. " 
The whole case came down to intent. No conspiracy (1st charge) without criminal intent, (2) no disorderly conduct  ... D.A. and  civil affairs cop showed the judge a video of the whole thing. The D.A. at one point wanted to fast-forward and the judge said, "no no, pointing to Jesse Brown (my cell mate), with his black suit and clerical collar-- an image you could imagine in  Life Magazine from the civil rights movement... "No no, I want to see the reverend get arrested!" Says this with devilish smile. Picture this judge... Judge Dugan. Big guy.  Type: working class Irish, pro-labor Democrat(?) 
No one resisted, of course--it was clear (the D.A. went to pains to point this out-- several times she seemed to be on our side!)…  that the cops were the ones blockading the entrance, not us!... "So.. says the Civil Affairs cop who arrested us.. “so  they wouldn't slip through into that huge construction site where we'd have to chase 'em like turkeys."  No disorderly conduct in evidence.  So everything came down to our intent: why were we there? To be arrested? To cause trouble? Or to deliver a clear political message? Our purpose was written on our shirts. "The words," our councel emphasized, "The words on the shirts. The words they were chanting. The words we gave to the press--who we had called, of course.... to make sure our message got to the public. 
The D.A., poor thing, was lost for words. She made a sad effort to find a counter argument... something about, even with legal intent if impinged on the rights of others.. "What rights were being impinged?" The judge asked. "Like at the Republican Convention..." Councel: "Where 400 were arrested and all charges dismissed?" "May I site a relevant case, your Honor?" "Please do." ... she fumbled through her papers... "there was a church.... protesters at a church. And they impinged on the rights of the members of the congregation. They claimed the right to protest... and were found guilty." What were they protesting?" the judge asked. .... she stood there, reading the page she had in hand, searching... searching... 
"Something about bringing them... something about scrap iron ... I think." 
The judge looked at her. Perfect comic timing. 
"I find in favor of councel." Got up and left. 
The courtroom was packed. Had to move to a larger courtroom. 
That's it. 
Now--this CNN piece. This is some kind of feature. Not evening news. Have to keep an eye out for it. Seems to be an issue that's catching on around the country. A city like Detroit--major casinos in the center of the city. 22% unemployment. The revenue they were to bring in? The City of Detroit has had to advance the casinos 3 million to keep them from closing their doors. Lotteries and casinos have reached saturation for their markets—why, then, do they keep being built? This  has become a real question... why do states keep pushing them? Who's getting paid here? Paid off? Casino-Free Philadelphia has been taken up in other cities across the country. The kind of grassroots actions they've been doing here for 6, 7 years is catching on.
 Very moving, humbling... to be a part of this.  
Democracy is up to us!
 For more information, visit Casino-Free Philadelphia

Titles of Poems Written in January

Woman Standing on the Shore
Places I Won't Go
Pursue Foolishness Till You Become Wise
Not Making this Up
In My Sleep
Neruda's Last Words
Language Fled
They Say
One Two Three
Old Man Moon
How to Tell a Man from a Tree
Literal Eschatology
Questionnaire for a Future Jury
In Medias Res
Line Breaks
Iron Man
CA Conrad Contemplating Rothko
All Time is Real
Recipe for a Poem After a Busy Day
A Few Elements
One Thinks No Less of Sex
Not Mine
Beauty is a Thing to Fear
Second Childhood
Snow at My Window
Do the Right Thing

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King on the Vietnam War

A speech you won't hear on the evening news. HERE

and another HERE

The greatest purvayor of violence in the world... my own country

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Martin Luther King Day Question...

I sat in a jail cell in Canton, Mississippi, in 1966, That's probably me in the lower right)witness to a life changing discussion between advocates of non-violence and the new wave.... Black Power... 

As outrage follows outrage...A purely theoretical question.. but with profound implications…

At what point are those responsible for the deaths of tens and hundreds of thousands exempt from violent retribution?

The point to consider.. the moral and ethical point ( since it’s easy to posit that killing off the killers might unleash a terrible backlash… but that’s merely a practical, not a moral argument) …is in what way is killing the Blackwater, Haliburton Winston Salem etc etc mass murderers… more morally or ethically reprehensible than what they do?

Is it possible to formulate a moral/ethical defense against such action that isn’t at base… merely contingent practical?

I mean this as a serious question.

I’m very close to being a pacifist… but too reality based to make that an absolute.

If we’re serious here… on either side… time to begin defining the terms.  This is a challenge that goes both ways

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poverty and the Haitian Earthquake

The unimaginable disaster that just struck Haiti is not a “natural disaster”. It is a disaster caused by centuries of exploitation, inequality and poverty.

An article in The Guardian details how the effects of this recent earthquake are in fact the result of “a longer term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment”.
  Article posted by Media Mobilizing Project

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just because this deserves quoting and passing on: Steven Augustine in a post otherwise dedicated to a rant on Norte Americano myths of Niggratude.

We need a non-mercantile equivalent for the word “career”. We need a word denoting a long-term pursuit of creative projects, or project, in which the quality of the ongoing results evolve with experience, but in which the effort is not motivated by the promise of money, or likewise judged by its monetary potential. We need a term like that and there is none; just the vaguely-insulting “avocation” (which imputes, somehow, a touching childishness or eccentricity) or the explicitly insulting “hobby” (for which “skill” plays no necessary role).

At one time... drop the prefix.. vocation had such a meaning.

The Kindly Ones

At some point late in the morning I was certain that I'd gotten notice that a Thomas Bernhard novel I'd ordered had arrived at my local library branch... I couldn't find the notice. Was I remembering a dream? I went to the library anyway, and there at the reserve shelf--a librarian with a book in hand, sheet of paper taped to the back with my name. It wasn't Bernhard, and the copy had just arrived so they hadn't yet sent out a notice.

An interesting way to find Jonathan Littell's, The Kindly Ones in my hand.

I can't imagine I will have anything to add to Dan Green, in way of a review, but the first page alone got me thinking about writing a reader's journal, (pay attention, the narrator warns. I am not writing this for your benefit. What you get out it will up to you.

I like the challenge.

I'll have a good chunk of reading time tomorrow, thanks to an order to report for jury duty.

Library books no longer have those stamped cards on the inside cover so you can't tell how often it's been checked. This appeared to be a virgin copy... confirmed by several still uncut pages.

I wonder what it might have in common with Michel Tournier's, 1970 Prix Concourt novel, The Ogre (Roi des Ulnes.. the title itself a French translation of Goethe's Der Erlkönig, The Erl-King). Also a 1996 Volker Schlöndorff film with John Malkovich. which I've not seen.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Shubert Der Erl-Koenig

English translation of The Earl King ... turn off the sound... really obnoxious

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Literary Judgment

Of course it’s about pleasure (judging merit of a work of art), which is precisely why the timid seek refuge in pseudo-objectivity.
What we examine, analyze—and ultimately compare, is not a work of art as some kind of ding an sich, but our own engagement with it—and all that goes into that.  Out of order perhaps, but let me add, that engagement with a work of art is a public, not a private act. We enter a common reality (common with the work and its contingent reality) when we observe, read, contemplate, respond to it.
The sphere of contingent relations is always greater than the compass of critical thought and/or judgment—that does not make it ‘subjective’(solipsistic), does not make it beyond reach of meaningful discussion. 
Scary to openly engage, think about, expose what one thinks to others in this way because this always, inescapably so—is a judgment that refracts back onto the judge. We are exposed. An honest critic is naked. 
What is “Bad” is closure.  Finality. Circularity (closure of the circle). What is ‘good’ is continual engagement, generative engagement—with the work, with others, and back to the work reimagined and reconnected to other contingent points in the sphere of experience and  cultural artifacts: drawing the lines between the stars, identifying within and between us, new constellations. Endless fecundity.  

Google, China and Human Rights

We launched in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Joyelle McSweeney on the Future of Poetry

Joyelle McSweeney on the Future of Poetry and Goth Mommyhood.

An indulgence of youth to be obsessed with death; a useful mask to hide the greater fear: not dying... growing old, growing very old
We have turned ourselves into collective infants--a two year old--who out of terror and anger at the failure of the gods we invented to define and lead us, are about to destroy everything in a final uncontrollable tantrum.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Corporate "Personhood"

Corporate "Personhood" and Election Financing

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tracing the Real in the Dream

                           IT'S MORNING IN AMERICA

                        The central hypocrisies are obscured
                        in that
                        Language is beautiful
                        in the distant crackle of pre-
                        recorded applause
                        in the ululations that are
                        certitude and color.

Laura Jaramillo, The Reactionary Poems
This book is sold out: if you are interested in reading the rest of Reactionary Poems, you can email Laura at:

When we live in a virtual hologram of unreality--where nothing but the bloodletting and the prisons and the  massive hemorrhage of wealth into fewer and fewer hands is real and the science deniers and corporate fuckwits hellbent on starving and drowning the rest of humanity --when we live in a propaganda machine that makes Orwell look like a bloody
optimist--writing about either personal or social experience directly
only reinforces the delusions. Only way to get at the truth is to NOT
write about what you want to say... in the way I’ve described before... as a patient
in deep denial might (which how the most enlightened of us live most of the
time...else go truly nuts... or take a flying leap into the welcome
dark). Given the task of describing our pathology, the patient
resists and recasts it (as in dreams)... and without knowing how it
happens, fashions an image of the reality made, not of the banal
details of this-happened-and-then-that-happened-and-then-this-happened ('realist' literary fiction)...
but of what it means.

I recently finished re-reading The Interpretation of Dreams. An interesting distinction between Freud's treatment of dreams and that of Jung--at least as they've evolved: while both looked for 'universals' in dream interpretation: Jung in his psychic archetypes, Freud  in symbolic constants of individual development, Jungians are, as far as I know, still chasing after the universals while theory rooted in Freudian thought is less concerned with fixed symbolic content...
and more with process: the content being more deeply related to current experience--relational and adaptive and thus more relevant to contemporary reality—more relevant because the psychic process is formed by adapting to the whole experiential environment--multi-directional, where the generating process is itself altered in its adaptation—as opposed to the assumption, say… of an Oedipal complex that functions as a constant pattern imposing itself on experience, without itself being essentially altered.
For me that’s a very important difference, in that the meaning I want to get NOT writing about it... isn't a universal archetypal, symbolic psychic alternate reality...neither mystical nor idealist—in either a Platonic or neo-Platonic mode, or an unchanging generative ‘complex’--but rather, is traced in emergent aesthetic forms out of the distortions and subversions of the common human world... what the Greeks (Heraclitus, not the Greeks of the New Testament) meant by Logos (for us, a deeply disturbed and perverted Logos).

That's how I see the task of poetry for our time... of art. (See my post on Surrealism).

Stuff I've been thinking about since I started The Dog--precisely what I mean by the Aesthetics of Process-- and I have a sense that they’re beginning to take shape—to have a significant effect on my writing . It's freed my poetry... writing at a pace I've never before managed to keep up... even when at the same time, in love/lust and hypomanic! I'm going to keep pushing to see if I can write a poem a day for a year.

In reading over a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it seems a perfect example of what I’ve just written… which has come, after the poem, as prosaic restatement… not of the poem, but of the idea that provoked it. Without thinking of it as such as I wrote it, the poem (which seemed somewhat obscure even to me) reads to me now as a kind of aesthetic manifesto--as clear as a bell.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Post-Avant, SoQ, Oral/Visual Poetries

A lively discussion from April, 2009,  on how we might critically define our multi-varied poetries. ... or not
G.M. Palmer,
Art Durkee,
John Moore Williams and
VizPo Central all chime in.

What it all boils down in a way is simply the struggle for markets, the creation of marketing techniques, and securing a base from which to launch one's endeavors forth in the poetic /academic market place. "Pushing the Product" as they say in the music industry--"shipping x number of Units"--trucks rumbling through the night on lonesome "routes" long abandoned for the more glamourous freeways, stocked with crates and boxes of Units whoe main point of existence is simply that--that they exist and were shipped. How many were sold--usually conflated with those shipped--is a matter open to conjecture. The books, however, have long been cooked and "That's Entertainment."
 David-Baptiste Chirot

Is this really what "it all boils down to?"

Let's hope not.
Palmer (of Strong Verse) wrings his hands at the sorry state of poetry. Unfortunately, as seems typical of members of that particular choir, he's way too impressed by sales figures and embarrassingly wrong-headed comparisons with the likes of whats-her-name... of Harry Potter Ltd. One more sad example of how the Corporate Empire's Bottom Line psychosis derails rational thought
But he hosts a good discussion.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Readings/Performing Poetry

I never thought I'd want to revisit Vachel Lindsay, but a recent Poem Talk on the Kelly Writer's House/Penn Sound fizzes the mind!

It helped that my damaged hearing couldn't make out the words on Lindey's recitation of The Congo... (what an example of good intentions gone terribly wrong!) ..
.. but the rhythmic presentation, his reading of the poem and the recitation notes were yet one more revelation of stuff establishment gatekeepers marginalized to keep poetry 'safe' ... the Mysterious Cat poem was fucking fantastic!

It wasn't long after that day ouside the museum
I left you a promise to return 

A note written on the sand
I'm not making this up