Monday, May 31, 2010

Where is the outrage?

From Larvel Subjects

But as Graham puts it, one of the most disconcerting aspects of the BP oil disaster is that people aren’t more shaken up. This numbness, this lack of outrage, this lack of shock, isn’t unique to this disaster. Somehow it seems that people responded this same way to the economic crisis, to the fiascos of the Bush administration with respect to fabricated reasons for going to war, torture, assaults on privacy, the theologization of government, etc., etc., etc. Nothing seems to phase us anymore. It’s as if nothing could happen to shock or surprise us.

Questions I've been asking myself since the stolen election of 2000.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poetry Reading: Mostly Books. Kim Gek Lin Short, Benjamin Winkler, Jacob Russell

Mostley Books
529 Bainbridge
Friday, June 11

Benjamin Winkler, Kim Gek Lin Short, Jacob Russell

This will be a first public reading of my 7 day cycle: observation exercise, walking meditation, pilgrimage of the ordinary.

From private to transitional to public space, ending in the political heart of Philadelphia: City Hall Courtyard.

Forty-two paired stations, the first, concrete, immediate impressions--and with each, a translation... an AfterWords of Transport. A journey with my Spirit Stick.

I'm honored to be reading with Kim  and Benjamin.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Repetition and Difference: A Poetics of the Body

I circumambulated the parking lot on Passyunk. Walking around the perimeter. With my spirit cane. Observing. Attending. I had no plan in  mind. Was not sure whether I would walk the circle once or more than once. I noticed so much the first time, so many details… things… that I was drawn into beginning again. Splatters of paint beneath the mural. Oil stains. Cigarette butts. Shadows cast by pebbles. It was like flying—looking down over the earth from many miles up. If I'd told myself: I'm going to walk around that parking lot 15 times, I would have so strongly anticpated boredom than I likely wouldn't have done it even once. I learned this from my Seven Day Six Places Poem. With the first repetition I was impressed by how much was new. What I’d not seen the first time. The same for the second circle. There was also now repetition—though it wasn’t quite, as what I’d seen before was companion to newly observed details, and so existed in changed patterns, and being overlaid with memory, I too felt myself changed. The first three times I was aware of number. This is my first time around, I heard myself say in mind, the second… third. Sometime after that numbers fell away. I could not tell you how many times I circled the lot. I would guess—more than 12, fewer than 20. At some point I reversed my direction. Would this be like unwinding, I wondered? But it wasn’t at all. More and more I would see what was familiar from before… other things would be lost to memory and seen as though for the first time. Familiarity seemed to have the power to erase some things and heighten attention to things I’d not noticed before.  There was a stone lying near the corner of a square of concrete.  I’d seen it several times. Missed it several times—when I felt a weak impulse to kick it… or nudge it with my stick. It was the first time I’d felt a wish to intervene—to bring about change. This seemed strange to me, the desire to experience agency.  So much was happening by letting go. I could tell how that alters the mind.. I carried that stone with me for many yards after… thinking about  it, remembering, wondering about this business of agency. What did I miss because of that? The more we do, the less we see, the less we are present in the world.
                                                                        Walk     Remember      Record

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20,1957 53 years....

A number of people have posted their memories of the Ruskin F5 tornado at Winston Riley's SMILING HEART blog.

My account HERE

A video on YouTube the DAY AFTER.

I take my Spirit Stick... and shake it in the 4 directions. then up. then down.. Then in a circle.
We are all connected.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Exercise in Observation...

Part One.
The plan was to record observations in 6 locations, repeating the round in the same order for seven days. These were to be concrete. Perceptions of the physical world: sight, sound, smell and touch. Avoiding—without making hard rules about it: metaphor, simile, overtly figurative language. Select by first impression. Whatever should happen to grab my attention? Keep it short. No imposed links or connections.

Begin in my apartment. My living center. Expand outward from there. Next, behind the house: the mostly concrete slab that serves as back yard; followed by the front porch overlooking Morris Street two houses West of 13th Street, then to a bench on Passyunk midway between Morris and Tasker; from there to the crossing at Broad and Morris a block and half away. Take the subway and make the last observation in the court yard of City Hall where private, public, commercial and political space converge.

Later the same day, write a second section to each of the stations visited. These would be free to go wherever mind, memory, thought or flights of fancy might take me. Their connection to their partnered pair need not be explicit, but again—first impressions rather than studied or thought out responses. Don’t reject design and pattern as it might emerge, but don’t impose or force it.
When completed, there will be 42 Stations, 84 sections and (probably) a concluding piece

surprised at how easily this came. Of course, this is hardly foreign territory. Do this in my journal every day—though with no formal structure, and no distinction between concrete observations and flights of association and personal reflections.

Greatly increased consciousness of the countless details left out. I chose to limit my selections. Knew perfectly well they represented but the minutest fraction of observable (and observed) reality in any place I stopped to pay attention… but began to feel viscerally the absence of so much left behind. And began to grow aware of the importance of the circle… thought of it for the first time as a form pilgrimage—not the linear journeys from to origin to destination, but the ancient Celtic pilgrimage sites that still remain in Ireland: circles with stations designating degrees and forms of connections with power to bring the sacred into the world.

I would not have thought of this had I not been carrying my Spirit Stick.

 Today that spirit of pilgrimage grew even stronger—the more so as the ‘stations’ were/ are secular, everyday places. The repetition of the circle felt like winding a spring, concentrating the power of the sacred.

When I finished the rounds, I stopped at the PCA window with the carved ceremonial sticks. I noticed my reflection, and the reflection of my own Spirit Stick. Behind me, the passing cars, people—buildings across the street remained opaque, while we were transparent to those beautiful ceremonial sticks—as though they were passing through the center of my body. When I realized this, I positioned myself, beginning with the center and moving first to the left, than to the right—centering myself (my reflection) before each stick, letting each in turn pass through my body, fusing with my spine, my Spirit Stick.

I’ve seen no ghosts. What I believe is no lest evidence and reason based than before. No mystical sense of the divine. Same world. Only imagination changes… but I found myself profoundly moved…to the point of tears as I descended down to the subway station.


Neighbor in the house in back was out in their yard... too distracting to meditate. Is that where things began to go wrong? My sense of this as pilgrimage, from intimation to assured acceptance. Realize how identity changes as elements in the aggregate change. Realization not of thought or experience, but thought attempting to describe what has happened--the reality of what has happened exceeding what is experienced. Spirit stick again. Leaves dry up and are replaced. Pieces I've attached work loose, are lost and replaced. It's the same and always different, as I am the same and different with different people, in different places. In the presence of the spirit stick I change, and having changed, when I put it down, I'm not what I was before I took it up. Too much caught up in these thoughts. Seduced by a false sense of well-being. I failed to recognize the warnings... the thunderous parade of cycles, the sirens, the flashing lights. Mindfulness is being-in-the-world, not zoning out. Poetry is not wishful thinking. No less vulnerable, no less in danger for poetry and spirit stick... perhaps more so... all the more important to be present and mindful.

It wasn't so much the loss of my notebook with the day's entries (also lost: observations from Morris Park, sketches of wildflowers, measurements of American chestnut saplings, sightings of birds...) --as my reaction when I returned to where I'd left it not five minutes before and found it gone. I was fucking PISSED! Where did all that peace of mind go! The bull shit about that damn cane! At least I knew enough not to leave. I circled around, peered in trash receptacles, returned again and again to where I'd left it... as though I expected it to magically appear. I didn't leave in that agitated state but waited till I regained my composure. I went over what I was going to do... skip this day and add another? Leave Day Four blank? Would it be dishonest to record both parts after-the-fact? The more I thought about it the more unimportant the actual writing seemed... the words on the page I mean. One writes in mind as one scratches figures on the page. I may have lost the page but I haven't lost my mind... well, not entirely.  No, the words are still there, and if not quite the one's I'd set down, wasn't that like the Spirit Stick? Shedding it's parts, gaining new ones.

There were other disturbances that day. A bill from a visit to the emergency room from a fall on my bad leg--though Medicare covered all but $45.32 of the $2,805 total, I only have $9.00 left in the bank till my next Social Security check... and on the same day, another medical bill.... this from a visit to my primary care physician for my hypertension. Another $65.00.

Yes, poetry can save us...but not from the risks inherent in living in the natural world.

Day Five

I met Sam who told me about Bakti Yoga... a Cambodian Buddhist with a computer downloaded image of Shiva on his wall.

OMNAMA SHIVAYA he wrote in the notebook... Shiva... the Hebrew word for seven. My seven day poem. Walking, not sitting. What was I mourning?

Day SIX HERE , Day Seven HERE
A let down from day five.  The mind resists consolidation. Two encounters though--on the bench on Passyunk and at City Hall. I've become utterly indifferent to who is there or who is not--when it comes time to read entries from the the previous days. Indifferent for myself... not for how I might intrude on others. The man beside me on the bench... we exchanged a word or two... felt comfortable to go about what I was there to do. Wrote in my notebook. Took out the scroll of previous days and read aloud.  For politeness sake I said, as I was preparing to leave, that I hoped I hadn't disturbed him.

Oh no! he said! ... nothing more. But sensed that he enjoyed this... no explanation needed. None offered.

At City Hall--sitting not far from where I read my piece... printed scroll flapping in the wind, a young man... 17 .. 18... with graffiti covered boom box as his feet.  Who are you? he asked.

What did he mean...?  did he think I might be someone famous, a celebrity perhaps? (this only occurred to me later... my thought then was that he meant, not who... but what). Said my name...and told him I there to write a poem.  A poet

He looked at me... not quite there, it seemed.  Could you teach me to be a poet? he asked.

What could I say? ... Only your heart can teach you to be a poet, I said ... such a cliche...

I have to go, I said... I really need to pee! (I did),  Oh, he said... suddenly animated and altogether there... Wendy's lets you use their men's room--pointing the direction. You know where it is?

I did. And thanked him... and went my way.

Day Seven

Difficult. A rainy cold day.  But the rain let up and I managed to muddle through. I made my appointed rounds... and only at the end when I read all the previous sections from City Hall did it come over me... that sense of having done something, a wash of spiritual accomplishment. My Shaman Stick in hand... I stood there for a long time watching the traffic, the people passing by, listening to the crowds of kids heading for the subway after school. What I've learned, I thought... that poetry is not a thing of mind alone... but action, doing... engagement.  No closed texts... but open... open  ... a permeable membrane to the world

Tomorrow, when I've added my reflections, I'll take this to each location and recite the whole of it. Performance and meditation both private and public.  Violate the borders of the world...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jubilant Thicket Inaugeral Reading

Photo: Lillian Dunn, Apiary Corp
poetry + artways + local spirits

at Molly's Bookstore on second Sundays

A great evening at Molly's Bookstore. Poetry! Wine! Cats! ... and a moving presentation of photos.

Sunday, May 9th
7:00 pm
Molly's Bookstore (1010 S. 9th St. Phila, PA 19147 in the Italian Market)
$4 suggested donation (includes wine)
Open reading to follow


* A gritty Philadelphian lineup featuring: *
the poetry of Ryan Eckes

Jeffrey Stockbridge and Liz Moore's collaborative photo essay on Kensington: While photographing abandoned houses in various neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Stockbridge began to meet and photograph residents of Kensington. His initial focus was on a group of women who struggle with addiction and support their habits through prostitution; since then he has broadened his interest to include other people, places, and features of the neighborhood. In the fall of 2009 he invited writer Liz Moore to accompany him on his visits to Kensington. She is working on a related, long-form piece of creative nonfiction.
....and two lovely springlike wines from Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford, PA: their 2008 Traminette and 2006 White Merlot

RYAN ECKES lives in South Philadelphia. His poetry can be read in Scythe, XConnect, Fanzine, the ixnay reader 4, Elective Affinities, and on his blog, Old News. He's got a chapbook called when i come here (Plan B Press, 2007). He teaches at Temple University and other places.

LIZ MOORE wrote most of her first novel, The Words of Every Song (Broadway, 2007), while an undergrad at Barnard College. The book, which centers on a fictional record company in New York City, draws partly on Liz's own experiences as a musician (Liz released her first album Backyards in 2007 as well). Liz obtained her MFA in Fiction from Hunter College, where she studied with Peter Carey, Colum McCann, and Nathan Englander. In the fall she'll be teaching Creative Writing and Composition at Holy Family University in Philadelphia. She still performs regularly, and has just completed her second novel. You can find her on the web at

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, JEFFREY STOCKBRIDGE is a photographer who explores subject matter pertaining to the urban environment. His recent projects have focused on such subjects as abandoned houses, drugs, and prostitution. Jeffrey’s work has been exhibited at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and the Delaware Art Museum. Jeffrey is a recent recipient of a 2009 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant, an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts Grant and The Center For Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship. Jeffrey is currently working on a new series, tentatively titled No Where But Here, and is
scheduled to have a solo show at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in 2011.

2008 PENNS WOODS TRAMINETTE: "I thought this hybrid white wine was delightful. It is not meant to be deep and ageworthy, but it probably exceeds its initial goals. Fruity and spicy, it is charming, distinctive and easy going. This probably charmed me more than it should have, but it is a pleasure to sip. Drink it young." (Mark Squires, The Wine Advocate)

2006 PENNS WOODS WHITE MERLOT: This unique rosé wine was made by the saignée method, where grape juice is “bled” off from the skins of the red grapes after only a few hours of contact. This wine simply bursts with flavor – although “simply” is inaccurate, as this wine has a complex profile of cassis, black raspberry and hints of mocha and an underlying minerality. It is indeed a serious wine that can make its statement in any surrounding. This wine is meant to be enjoyed now.
Joe Baegent asks a damn good question:

Once outside the furious drek of American political and economic life, and having finished the last book I will ever write, I found myself asking: "Why did the good in the American people not triumph? How can it be that so many progressive, justice-loving citizens failed? Their positions were well reasoned. The facts were indisputably on their side. Obviously, there was, and is, more going on than merely losing battles to demagoguery and meanness. Why do we lose the important fights so consistently? What has kept us from establishing a more just kingdom? Something is missing.

... and tries to answer it

I think it is, in a word, the spiritual. The stuff that sustained Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and gave them the kind of calm deliberate guts we are not seeing today. I am not talking about religion, but the spirit in each of us, that solitary non-material essence, none the less shared by all humans because we are human. When we let our capitalist overlords cast everything in a purely material light -- as material gain or loss for one group or another -- we played the oppressor's game.

It was always a game with no vision. Just good guys, bad guys, pissed off people, or apathetic disenfranchised ones, amid one helluva lot of money changing hands. Mostly the wrong hands. That game drives us to the petty the larcenies we perform against one another in the name employment, and the atrocities abroad to which none of us lay our rightful claim as beneficiaries of the empire's pillage. Our purposeful blindness to such things necessarily eliminates any universal vision. All the best ones are universal.

Yet down inside human beings is a love of justice. Honestly. The psyche seeks balance, and therefore seeks justice. Regardless of the perversion of its definition, and therefore the laws, by those who own nearly all of our country and damned well intend to own the rest, we know.

While those elite forces can own everything around us, and have proven they can make life quite miserable if they care to, they cannot own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone. This is the consciousness that ebbs and flows between all external events. There is nothing mystical about it. Go sit in any quiet place with your eyes closed for a half hour or so, and that self will invariably say hello.

This is also the self that our oppressors can never allow a moment's rest. Because when it finds rest, it finds insight, and can fuse the spiritual, psychological and material worlds into some transcendent vision that can at last seen and sought after.

Read the rest HERE

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Art and Philosophy

Following up on my previous post
Levi Briant has generously responded to my comment with a post on On Art and Philosophy.

Exerts from his post, keeping in mind that he is "still working through these issues, so [...] not committed to these positions in a hard and fast fashion. This is amusing... as--being no philosopher, I am never committed to what I write in a 'hard and fast fashion!"
...philosophy and art engage with being, just in different ways. Good art, I believe, operates in the split between qualitative manifestations and withdrawn being. Indeed, good art, I think, suspends or defamiliarizes the domain of the actual or qualitative beings.


[comparing 1984 and The Trial] Great art, I believe, instead operates at the split between the actual and the virtual, suspending the reign of the actual and alluding to that which is withdrawn at the level of the virtual. Great art alludes to another world rumbling beneath the familiar actualities and thereby defamiliarizes the domain of the qualitative or of sensuous manifestations. Where Orwell gives us determinate answers as to why the distopia is organized as it is, for Kafka the principle of this organization is always withdrawn and in doubt.

Of particular relevance to the fetish of 'realism' as understood by certain critics (think James Wood)...

This calls for both a new concept of mimesis and realism in the domain of the arts. Mimesis here can no longer mean the representation of the world as it actually appears. Rather, mimesis, if we are to insist that it is imitation, is an imitation of being. Ordinarily we think of the mimetic on the model of the photograph, treating it as a likeness of that which it depicts. Yet true mimesis is not likeness, but is instead an imitation of withdrawal. It is precisely that artistic practice that produces effects of withdrawal in the work, thereby enacting the split between real objects and their qualitative manifestations. Such is the difference between art and kitsch. Kitsch is pornographic. It wants to deploy everything before the gaze, restricting beings to the level of qualitative actuality, eradicating any dimension of excess or withdrawal in being. [...] for nowhere have they adequately addressed the status of objects as split between the sensuous and the real, but rather they perpetually treat objects as bundles of fixed and static sensuous qualities.
Likewise, realism here has to be understood in entirely different terms. Just as mimesis is not likeness, realism is not representation or adequation between a sensuous qualitative state-of-affairs out there in the world and a representation. Realism is not mirroring. In this respect

Read all of Bryant's post on LARVAL SUBJECTS

Friday, May 7, 2010

Philosophy (Ontology) & Aesthetics

Artists are no less concerned with the 'real' than philosophers. The moment you concern yourself with artifice... you are ensnared in the problematics of the "real."

From Levi Bryant's post on Larval Subjects:

There is a constitutive difference in love making as it characterizes the one-night stand, prostitution, or pornography, and love-making among lovers. If there is something an-ontological in pornography, then this is because it seeks the reduction of the object of desire to sensuous objects and sensuous qualities. The pornographic seeks to abolish, eradicate, destroy the domain of the real, or the excess of real objects over all of their sensuous manifestations. It dreams of a world fully deployed before the gaze where there is no remainder, excess, or withdrawal beyond any recuperation in sensuous manifestations. The love-making of lovers, by contrast, is a sort of painful suffering of this split between sensuous manifestation and withdrawn real object.

It is not pleasure– the domain of the consumption of sensuous qualities –but rather jouissance, or the enjoyment of this split and the painful futility that senses this beyond of the real beloved yet is never able to grasp it. As the bodies of lovers desperately grasp one another, the desperation of their embrace is borne of this beyond, trying to reach this beyond of the real behind the sensuous, yet without ever being able to do so. This is why the love making of lovers oscillates between aggressivity where it is almost as if there is a desire to rip the other apart to find within them this withdrawn real object and the tender as if the real, due to its fragility, its perpetual precariousness of disappearing behind sensuous qualities and objects, must be delicately cared for to be sustained if only in its glance"

My question in a COMMENT to this post.

Please read the rest of this post--particularly on metaphor--the aesthetic undoing of the sensuous gaze...

Given the centrality of the problematics of mimesis in aesthetic theory going back to Plato –defining that difference would seem to be of more than incidental interest to both. Are not aesthetics and ontology pursuing the same questions... in a different register? Just look at the review that follows this post: The City Real and Imagined!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ron Silliman Reviews A City Real and Imagined

Really pleased to see this great review of CA Conrad and Frank Sherlock's City Real and Imagined

What makes a good poem?

The older you get, the more important to become an heir--not of the dead, but of those younger. An acolyte again.

What's a good poem? Any poem that fizzes in someone's brain so they want to give voice to their own creative impulse.

Great poets don't shut people up in awe with their fucking smarts and greatness... but open new possibilities of expression. After the revolution that matters--we will all be poets.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Aife Murry: Maid as Muse

 Emily Dickinson: Myth of the Solitary Poet
A review of Aife Murry's Maid as Muse on X Poetics.
Emily's language was affected by Mrs. Mack's and certainly by that of other servants with whom she regularly spoke or listened to intently. The queen of mimicry took an improvisational page from her servants' books. Even her genius for ambiguity could have found influence among servants for whom the art of evasion and ambiguity were part survival strategy and, at least in the case of the Irish, part of their legal tradition. Genius is believed to be solitary. What would it mean to rethink a body of work--in this case reread poems for class and race--in light of the way Emily's daily life was shared with the working poor of the town?
I've never quite believed in the myth of the poet as solitary recluse. Emily may have come to shun those of the outside world and all the most intimate acquaintances from her own station in life, but as Murry writes:
What is to be made of the fact that Margaret Maher [ the Dickinson's maid ] preserved the work in her trunk or saved the poems destined for destruction? As people investigating artistic motivation and process look around the writer's room, they are not just communing with the author and the view from the windowpane over the writing table. There was a woman leaning over the grate and some chance remarks that seeded an idea for a poem. All those quotations in the poems suggest engagement, ongoing conversations, and inspiration from the social world around her as much as the written world she inhabited. That 'social text,' that fleshy real world was inhabited by maids, laundry workers, seamstresses, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, basket weavers, laborers, stablemen--all of whom Emily knew by name. 
Suggests a rich social life indeed--of just the sort that class bound memory erases, and when it doesn't erase, discounts as of no importance. A woman of her time could not easily have ventured into a world beneath her class, but might well have found more in common with those who entered and left her domain--tearing the fabric of domesticity and piety and letting in a light too harsh, too unforgiving for the upstairs folk, but fertile for a mind insistent on engaging with a larger universe.
What does it tell us, that this daughter of New England Protestant rectitude selected for her pall bearers, six immigrant Irish Catholics?
 Thanks to Ron Silliman and his archival elves for listing this review!

The Grim Human Reaper

the great human reaper machine grinds away mowing down destroying life... we say, look what the guy up there in the cab so high over us all at the wheel of that terrible machine, look what he's doing! What a bad person! What we need is a GOOD person.. so we elect a good person who climbs up into the cab and takes the wheel and the reaper reaps away bloody awful as it always has ...

When we gonna learn, not enough to blame the person at the wheel, we gotta change the fucking machine!