Friday, December 31, 2010

Artist Statement #5

These trees are merely a fence around discovery. As a woodsman, I am constantly searching within my own heart to understand the wolves around me. The forest is a metaphor for the union of time, and the earth and the sky. The girl wearing the red cap appears ageless, and serves as the visual equivalent of an apple. It is the overwhelming presence of grandmothers which first drew me to the practice of the ax.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quoting Mr. Joshua Marie Wilkinson

"Nothing reeks of maintaining the status quo as much as this call for poets to be 'accessible.' I don't blame you for not wanting to get into poetry. It's a murky, strange set of practices. For some, that work's a great pleasure. For a few, it's synonymous with life. But why denigrate poetry just because you don't care to do the work to enjoy it? Baseball, continental philosophy, and flamenco have their own difficulties—and pleasures, no doubt—too."   (I took this from his statement here.)

I agree with Joshua. In every art form there are critics (and lazy audiences) who cry out for accessabilty--why not paint a still life of flowers?  Why not dance The Nutcracker again?  Why not write a novel about suburban angst? Let's just keep things nice and easy and familiar, shall we?

The reverse of this, the danger, (and I fall into this trap myself) is this-- Watch me be arty by painting these paintings that are utterly white except for one green dot.  If you don't "get" this, you are shallow. Read this poem: it's murky, uses unclear diction, and messes with the rules of normal grammar. So it is new and good, and revolutionary.

I'm not faulting Joshua.  I admire his work greatly.  I just bought his latest book,  Selenography, and am eager to delve into it. I am just saying that I myself veer back and forth between a desire to write poetry as clear and plain as Amish furniture, and as beautiful.  And then I want to write murky hard poems, poems that take a reader a lot of desire and committment to deal with.

Do writers need to worry about an audience?  About writing poems that the untrained, non-poet reader can "get?" Is it worrisome that the only people reading contemporary poetry are contemporary poets? Baseball has it statistics and acrane rules, yet non-players watch it. Flamenco has devotees who do not dance a step.  But poetry?  I am not sure who is out there paying attention to it but people writing poetry.  And I do not know if this is a problem or not.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Artistic Statement # 4

Our pies are inherently connected to physical and spiritual spaces. Berries transform a pie--it's no longer a passive setting for a bear. A picnic basket generates myth. What interests me is my next transformation: while I sing, the oven becomes a physical space once again. It flickers and somehow, in  my kitchen, hides more than it heats.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Artistic Statement #3

(The artistic statements are collaged from and draw in part on artist statements from New American Painting No. 69.)

My work is an aggressive attempt to redeem corrupted youth by rebuilding our lost mechanical wings. Through this process, I hope to reconnect to the primary experience of giddy flight, as I experienced it with my prom date, Darlene. It is, in great part, a search for the dregs of vodka cocktails, the cultural icons of my father's generation.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Artistic Statement # 2

I was born and raised at the bottom of the sea, but have lived in a coastal town for the last 14 years. My life has been shaped and informed by shoreline scenery and ocean culture: reflective water, angry surf, seagulls, beach gear, board walks, mudflats, and the arias of seal wives basking on rocks.

I'm a man, mostly, a swimmer first and foremost. I change strokes and depth at will to suit my needs and hungers, eschewing a narrowly defined distinction between land and sea, and life and death. When I breathe I reference the work of any other breather, in a spirit of earnest exploration, thereby acknowledging my affinity with birds. I am never strictly romantic or drowned.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Artistic Statement #1

There also exists for me the formal madness, a uniformity of screaming and the relationships within the spheres. The simplicity of the clown image allows for an investigation of knives, color, and unseemly couplings between red-faced old men. I try to imbue my large-scale, multiple-ring circus with the drama I find in cities like Vienna and St. Petersburg, where the fear of meeting a gang of shave-headed toughs (one holds a length of rusted chain in his hands) in an alleyway is one's natural experience.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Post Recycled from an Old Myspace (remember them?) Blog

Joseph Ceravolo--check out the little-known New York School poet

Hey, if you have not yet read this guy, check him out: Joseph Ceravolo--so far, it seems,  known mostly to other poets--he studied with Kenneth Koch and has some of that guy's humor, but he's a lot more nature-oriented than most of the New York School folk, and his wordplay and syntax disruptions recall Tender Buttons by Big Mama Stein. Here's one sample from the posthumous collection The Green Lake is Awake.


All I will amount to: knowing
your sound, small bees,
the winter wind
is green

See? simple, odd, beautiful and way cool!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Death of Snow

I have a poem just published at elimae, a very cool literary journal. This is from a long series of 13 sentence poems, with the individual sentences collaged and collected and then altered from art journals and my own notebooks. Then the sentences are put into a room together to see if they have a conversation. It's a fiendish experiment.

Lots of other good stuff in this issue.  On a first reading I am particularly struck and pleased by this poem by Feng Chen, and this one by Jon Cone.

In other news, I am already looking forward to the death of snow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

About Dang Time for a Spider's Appearance

A Spider Came To Me In The Night

     She tickled my neck, she tickled my sleep, in my loose cotton blanket I felt in my sleep that stroke on my neck, the soft feathered poke, the slim wavered frond, the hand of the spider—in my sleep, in dream, I knew her, and smiled. But waking I vaulted straight up on the bed, waking I switched on every light in the room. I shook my shirt, my hands whisked like brooms, I pummeled the blanket, slapped and pulled the sad sheets of the bed. Awake I searched for the intruding spider. And in the bed? Nothing. In the mess of my hair, the spare fur of my skin, nothing. I left the lights to blaze. In the morning, in the mirror, there was a bite on my neck. A red patch, a raspberry, a fresh birth mark.

I’ve been calling it a love bite.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An interview with me that one could read should one chose to do so

You can read an interview with me about a recent publication in the fine online (and print) journal Pank here. There's also a link to the poem itself. Many thanks to editor Tim Jones-Yelvington for asking for work and then accepting this piece.  It was wrenching and necessary to write.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Moth Wing Postcard

Claim this cloak
of moth wings and damp
fallen leaves.

I’m the man
become suddenly old, the man
who shivers

and stands at the curb.
I have cast aside
all cloaks. Finger by finger

I have taken off
my gloves.
Tell me what

to ask
of the harsh realm
of winter.

I give my checkered wool cap to the wind.

(I wrote the first version of this a few years back.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Stanley J. Nippersten Award*

For the best words in the latest issue of Southern Poetry Review:

nothing   horizon   eyelids   expectancy   gravel

factor   knives   scuppernongs   unseen   steep   gorilla   skittles

moustache   cannonballing   bankrupted   repetition  

counterpane   granted   childhood blossoms   hoist   oxblood  

skyward   garden  pinwheels   dust   spoilsport   pitchy   dough  

portion   ladder   cottage   dunes   loneliness   scritches   exhalation  

black-eyed   gasoline   rescue   hidden   canary   flaring   untucked  

alfalfa   gnashed   thorn   stumped   mesmerist   bequeathed  

windward   marmalade   tasks   hazard   futile   review

*This Award is a one-time award with no monetary value whatsoever. It is awarded by Lives Of the Spiders.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Day in October

A series of photos from the Chicago lakefront.

The last of the berries on the tree.

It could almost be the ocean.

The city always is so beautiful from a distance, and shadowed in blue.

Diane Wakoski has a poem, "When the Moon Explodes in Autumn as a Milkweed Pod."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Japanese Poetry on the Evening Train

The poems in the Japanese poetry anthology (see previous post) made me remember the late poems from Denise Levertov in Evening Train. The shorter poems here often have the succinct nature imagery and the "aha!" moments  (no, not the swedish band A-Ha) that the Japanese poetry favors.  Here, for example is "Idyll."

The neighbor's Black Labrador, his owners
out at work, unconscious anyone
is watching him, rises again and again
on hind legs to bend with his paws
the figtree's curving branches
and reach the sweet figs with his black lips.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Don't Know about Japanese Poetry Could Fill a Book

For instance, there's this work of classic Japanese literature that everyone who knows about these things knows, the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a compilation a Japanese poems from the seventh through twelth centuries. I was given a contemporary translation (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each, translated by Peter McMillian) from the very nice gent at the Columbia University Press booth at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers conference last weekend.  (one thing that is so pleasant about the book business is all the free books.) Since then I have opened the book time and again, just letting the page pick itself at random:

How the night deepens.
As lovers part
a white ribbon of frost
is stretched along
the Bridge of Magpie Wings
                                                  --Otomo No Yakamochi


I can only pluck at random
for I cannot tell apart
in all this whiteness--
white chrysantemums
from the first frost
                                                        --Minamoto No Muneyuki

Both the forward and afterward are valuable in giving the ignorant reader like myself some context and history. This book makes me want to write nothing but short and sad nature poems, containing the moon, and frost, and fallen leaves. I want to walk along the Bridge of Magpie Wings.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mr. Allan Gurganus

I found his collection of novellas. The Practical Heart in a thrift store.  It cost a dollar. Here's the paragraph on page 45 that made me decide it was a dollar well-spent:

" Someone should eventually write the truth: there is always something embarrassing about love. All of it. That's because there's always something wrong with the beloved. Because one's motives for loving are never as pure as love itself. It's too good for us. That's why our hearts stay broken."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I wear them, mostly, I always have. Although I still remember my foray into a skirt. I was four years old, and more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a witch for Halloween. My parents, bless their hearts, did not try to stop me; my mother paid for my costume from Kresges Five and Dime. My Aunt Dorothy, who took care of me during the day, did tell me, mildly, “witches are girls,” but I was adamant in my conviction, witches were witches. If I’d had the vocabulary to articulate what I meant, I would have said that witches were beyond gender, perhaps pre-gender, a witch was not a girl, a witch was not a boy, the witch mask was so frightening I could barely stay in the same room with it, and at night I had to put it in my closet and close the door. I knew it gathered the shadows of winter coats unto itself and became something more, a thing of rustle, of teeth, and bony hands talking to themselves in the dark.

It’s a wonder I ever slept. The mask, wart-nosed, green. When I wore it, the elasticized string cut into the tender skin behind my ears. The accompanying skirt was snappy, short, and lemon yellow; I liked the way the waistband grabbed my waist and left blue indentations in my skin. I felt secure: my mask in place, I could look out from inside the witch, I could be the witch myself, and not have to see it. I inhaled the scent of plastic, and paste, my breath heavy and loud, wet around the mouth hole. And I was wearing a short yellow skirt, my cape patterned with crescent moons, and stars. I remember a wand, or was it a miniature broom? With my mask, and my wand, and my lemon yellow skirt, I had the power to summon every piece of candy in town.

I never had any interest in becoming a fairy princess, all pink and crepe, with sparkles. I wanted to be old, as old as tree roots, as old as stories. As old as the dark. In my little yellow skirt I was bright as the sun, my thin legs scabby with mosquito bites—I loved to test myself, to see how long I could be still, on the back porch in the evening, I’d watch a mosquito settle and prospect her spot. She’d inject me, and then, thrillingly, she swallowed, ingested. If I could stand the itch she’d become a red balloon. On wings the size of an eyelash she rose, and with no pause, no goodbyes, my blood in her belly, she took me away and she left me behind. Witchcraft.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Edith Wharton Sentences

I am back to working on a project I'd stalled out on, or at least stopped working on: The Edith Wharton Sentences.  After I read the New York Review of Books edition of New York Stories of Edith Wharton I went back through the volume and highlighted one sentence from each story  (sometimes from every page) that jumped out at me for some reason. Then I copied these sentences into a notebook, one at the top of every page. A couple years later, after I'd forgotten, on the whole, the context of the story of origin, I'd go to the notebook every few days, read one of the sentences, pick up my pen, take a breath and go, writing wherever my mind went and hoping to surprise myself. I liked the results enough that I told myself this would become an entire collection of short prose pieces, already grandly named "The Edith Wharton Sentences" (Now I think maybe I should make "sentence" singular.)  But as with many of my grand schemes I petered out along the way, even while thinking some of the results were quite good.  I always seem to let a new enthusiasm overtake an older one. Now I am going back, to polish these pieces, to make some new ones, and gosh darn it finish a whole project for once. I am even proclaiming this in a blog to make it more public. You all have my permission to hound me about it in a month. (:Hey McDonald, how's the Wharton thing coming?  You didn't quit again, did you? Quitter.) One of the first selections, after the jump.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An interview with me that one could listen to if one chose to do so

Thanks to Richard Fox for pointing out the link, and for Michael and Shelly for having me as a guest on Wordslingers in the first place.  It was a fun evening. I didn't even feel exposed and naked like this lady in the window. You can listen to the 2008 interview by clicking here and then paging down just a tad.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Parakeet

It was in a large bush in a park next to Navy Pier downtown. Darren pointed it out and I moved closer to it.  The whole flock of sparrows that had been in the bush also, all hopsome and chirping, flew away, leaving the parakeet behind. I moved closer, and though it hopped another few inches deeper into the bush, it did not fly away.  I spoke to it, the way I'd heard bird owners speak to their pets, and it tilted its head, listening.  I held out my hand, finger outstretched, imagining that it would come to me and I would save it.  But the parakeet did not jump onto my outstretched finger. It called, a call that seemed so familiar.  I realized it was the sound a sparrow makes, the parakeet had learned a new language. I hoped it would survive the winter. I hoped the sparrows continued to keep company with the yellow and lime green little guy. I thought about fitting in. I thought about adoption.  I thought about captivity, and escape, and the prices of freedom. I thought about how beautiful the small bird was, and also too the hundred sparrows around it, and I got on my bike and rode away.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Book Reports are Overdue

Books on the stack, waiting:

Selected Poems, by Mary Ruefle

Nox. by Anne Carson

Tuned Droves, by Eric Baus

Other Flowers, by James Schuyler

10 Mississippi, by Steve Healy

Oneiromance (an epithalamion) by Kathleen Rooney

Undersleep, by Julie Doxsee

I have looked at all of these except Nox. I am avoiding Nox because I suspect a book about a troubled and missing sibling will consume and obsess me, and I am not in the mood to be consumed and obsessed. Maybe not brave enough, just yet. But I will be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amid the Chaos of Churn and Foam

One more nod to the humpback whales off the coast of Provincetown, MA, via Michael Cunningham's elegant, succinct book, Land's End.  A fine guide to the town, or, a wonderful look back if you have been there  Thanks to Darwyn J., traveling companion, for loaning me his copy.

"The whales don't jump often, at least not for the benefit of whale-watching boats. They are more prone to breaching, therir heads underwater, showing their scarred, glistening backs as they take in owygen through their blowholes. After a minute or teo they dive again. Their backs disappear underwater, and a moment later, as they angle themselves to dive, they dip their two-pronged black tails up from amid the chaos of churn and foam they've created."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Home again, home again

I got back from Provincetown, MA on Monday night, and since then the regular workday world has succeeded in pulling me back into its orbit. But I can still summon images of the whale watch, of the huge dark bodies suddenly there, right next to the boat, and how frail the boat suddenly appeared, and how vast the ocean. It was not my element, it was theirs, and so was the sky. As the captain turned us back to the direction of land (I had no idea what direction that might be) I heard someone next to me shout for joy, and saw, where he pointed, a whale leaping clear of the water, that rising, and the white spray of return.  And then another whale, also leaping up and out. That stupendous and distant delight.

I have been hardly able to do anything else since but re-read Mark Doty's moving and intense memoir, Heaven's Coast.  I picked it up again because I knew Doty described the landscape and feel of Provincetown so aptly.  I had forgotten how darkly joyful and full of grief the book is.  It's a memoir of Doty's partnership with his lover Wally, and an account of Wally's death, and an account of living with and through grief, and sorrow. It's the kind of book that makes me want to try and love this world as much as I possibly can.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Add This to Your List

Things To Do

1. Look for animal tracks.
2. Look for animal homes.
3. Look for animals.
Watch them eat.
4. Look for animals in the zoo.
Watch them eat.
5. Bring animals into the classroom.
     A. Put wire over a box.
          Put a rabbit in a box.
          Feed him.
          Give him water.
          Keep his pen clean.
     B. Put a bat in a cage.
         Give him a little raw meat on a stick.
          Watch him eat for a little while.
          Then let him go.
6. Put out food in winter for squirrels and rabbits.
7. Collect pictures of animals.
8. Ask someone to read to you stories about animals.

--From What Animals Eat, Little Wonder Book #315 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something I wrote with the kids in the writing workshop this summer

We had 2 minutes to use the words wind, river, spring, flowers, passion, blue, and eyes in a poem.  Ready, Go.

The wind blinked
its blue eyes at the river. The ice
was breaking, spring
had come, with
its water laughing in streams,
with its sudden rising
of flowers. The poor snow
wept, as the sun
and the wind
mingled, like guests
at a party where the snow
was not invited.  "I have
a passion for
this time of year,"
always said.

We sure had fun.  Thanks kids. Let's do it again next summer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Looking Out of the Train Window Makes Me Think

of campfires of swamp treks of hide and seek, of tree forts, and hidden spots under bushes where one could look out and see and not be seen, of pine smells and barn smells and the romance of homestead houses made of sod, of weeding of shovels of hoes and trowels, of the chill of evening of the way chaff sticks to the sweat on one's arms, of dusk and the mystery, the fear of the unknown that tramps and crackles in the woods, ogre, father, stranger, of feeding deer of feeding geese, of cows, of cowbells, of the goats on Boblo island and how you could buy a handful of pellets to feed them for a quarter, of a dead calf thrown on a pile of trash out behind the barn, of stepping softly on a trail paved with sawdust, or bark, of the train engineer blinded by the snowball some bad boy threw at the train as it crossed Church Street in January, that was the schoolyard legend, of being in the backseat, the radio is on, the car is blue, a train crosses forever in front of you ahead and the red lights (they look like robot eyes) blink and blink, of orchards, of cherry trees, of tent caterpillars and their little crunching mouths, of backlots, of old man bars, of can after can after can of lukewarm beer, of small town museums of general stores of penny candy of maple sugar candy in the shape of a maple leaf, of a night time high school football game, of red barns of shady highways, of unloading boxes from the truck at the back dock of the store, of crickets or grasshoppers of jam jar insect zoos, of magnifying glasses and the focused light burning sticks, of setting ants on fire, the intense miniature torches powered by the sun, of the smell of bacon, of monarch butterfly caterpillars, of milkweed plants, of the white sap of milkweeds, of the fresh smell of twisted handfuls of dry grass, of feeding grass to the horses (the quiet terror of their yellow teeth) of waiting rooms, of machinery that fails, of the fear of a bombing, of throwing a rock into a small pond, of bullfrogs, of new toads, their bodies smaller than the first joint of your thumb, of wolf spiders, of bonsai trees, how you thought you might grow one in a coffee can, of foxes, of a raccoon, of the novel Rascal and the scene where the whipporwills called over the field just after dusk, of my sister who is gone, who is gone by her own hand, of guns, of desperation, of the train, how it pulls me forward and i do not resist and do not know if resistance is something to desire.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Remember

As a nod to recently re-reading Joe Brainard's book I Remember:

I remember sparklers, and how we wouldn't be able to wait until dark to light them.

I remember how much better it was to have sparklers in the full dark, the dazzle of twirling them in circles.

I remember not liking firecrackers.  (I still don't)

I remember stories of boys who would put a firecracker in a toad's mouth, so it hung out like the taod was smoking a cigar, and then they'd light it.

I remember how this horrified me, I liked toads so much, their absurd little hands.

I remember that I never actually saw any boys do that to toads.

I remember hearing about people that put firecrackers in a cat's butt, or a string of them tied to a cat's tail.

I remember fireworks.

I remember fireworks at Metro Beach, viewed from the bed of a pickup truck.

I remember fireworks at Shadyside Park.

I remember Fireworks at the riverside, and how the boom would echo against the skyscrapers downtown and I'd feel the explosion like a thud in my stomach.

I remember that the skyscapers downtown seemed very very tall.

I remember they were 12 whole stories.

I remember camping on the fourth, and Uncle Martin crept off into the woods and lit off an M-80 firecracker when everything was quiet, that time when everyone is half-dozing and staring into the campfire, and how we jumped.

I remember the cousin who had been in Vietnam leapt off his chair and landed on his stomach in the dirt.
I remember he was sobbing, or gasping. I remember that he told Uncle Martin he was going to shove an M-8o up Uncle Martin's ass and light it, and how would he like that?

I remember an aunt saying "Vietnam" quietly to Uncle Martin, she was trying to calm him down.

I remember lighting sparklers from a campfire.  I remember poking a stick in the fire to make the end glow, and then twirling it like a sparkler after all the sparklers were gone.

I remember potato salad with big chunks of hard-boiled egg.  I remember baked beans, how they came from a can but my mom would "doctor" them and bake them in a covered dish.

I remember campfires. And the pop of an ember, like a firecracker but much more sedate.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We counted the books and this meant touching the books.  My hands dried out from the sponge of the covers.  Beep and then beep, the red laser eye utters its satisifaction when it registers one more book.  Only thirty thousand more to count.  Beep, and then beep, we gave the books over to the steady red eye and it liked the books, registered and tallied, book after book, one by one by one.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Every year in my neighborhood summer begins with Midsommarfest, a street fair with a Swedish name, a nod to the immigrants who made up the bulk of the neighborhood population long ago.  I always go to the fair, even though it is at the beginning anf not the "mid" summer, and I always enjoy it.  At some point, the 80's cover band "Sixteen Candles" takes the stage  (one of the stages, as there are several) and the crowd sways, and sings along.  In all that crowd I find familiar faces, and friends I'd not been looking to find.  (Hi Ianni!  Hi Dane!  Hi Jennifer!) Dusk arrives, and night comes, I remember words to silly 1980's songs that I did not know the words to in the 1980's. I find my capacity to dance, and sing along, and here's a portion of the beautiful truth: for every crowd that can turn into something harsh and violent, there is also, and again, and ever a crowd with a talent and potential for mass joy, a democracy of happiness, where the hipster girl and the prep school boy, the toddler and the granny, the insane and toothless old man can clap their hands, some of them not quite in time with the beat. Clap your hands and grin and be part of this group of people brought together by a street fair, by circumstance, by Joe's friend Melanie who totally lives, like right around the corner so we should go and check this out. Witth the summer air, with good humor, with the scent of cooked meats and cotton candy and spilled beer, with music and a crowd of like-minded revelers surrounding us, the joy continues until the rain falls, and then in the downpur for a moment increases: all this happiness and a waterfall, too. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I want to win the Blondie tickets

Hey Y'all--I am participating in a reading/benefit to celebrate the one year anniversary of Adam Hart's online lit mag Apparatus.  It would be great to see some people I know there, or meet some that I don't.

Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: Winston's Internet Cafe (in Andersonville)
Street: 5001 N. Clark
City/Town: Chicago, IL

A reading/benefit to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Apparatus Magazine, a monthly online literary journal publishing poetry and short fiction from around the world. Admission is free. Donations are accepted, and raffle tickets will be available for various prizes throughout the evening. There will also be a silent auction.
A portion of all donations/raffle ticket/silent auction sales will be donated to the Gerber/Hart Library in remembrance of former contributor Rane Arroyo.

Readers for the evening include:
* Amy David
* Charlotte Hart
* Christopher Gallinari
* Cynthia Gallaher
* Daniel Godston
* Divya Rajan
* Donna Vorreyer
* Ellen Placey Wadey
* Gregg Shapiro
* Jacob Saenz
* John Paul Davis
* Laura Dixon
* Mojdeh Stoakley
* Richard Fox
* Robert McDonald

Raffle items include various prizes, including books and gift certificates.

Silent auction includes the following packages (so far):

Literary Inspiration Package:
Blank bound journal
$25 gift certificate to Women & Children First Bookstore
Autographed copy of Thom Gunn’s “Boss Cupid”
Autographed copy of Robert Pinksy’s “Jersey Rain”

Dinner, Drinks, a Show & ? Package
(limited to winners who are 21+)
$25 gift certificate to Geja’s CafĂ©
2 tickets for a Koval Distillery tour (1-hour tour of facility and tasting)
Bottle of liqueur from the Koval Distillery line
2 orchestra section tickets on August 18th to see Blondie in concert at The Venue/Horseshoe Casino
Gift bag of adult novelties from Tulip
Winston's Internet Cafe serves sandwiches, soups, pizza, teas and coffee/espresso drinks, all of which will be available for purchase during the show.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A snippet of poetry from Peter Orlovsky

I look out the window and see nobody, I go down to the street,
          look up at my window and see nobody.

So I talk to the fire hydrant, asking "Do you have bigger tears
         then I do?"

from "Frist Poem"
              Let's all chat with fire hydrants and fences and perhaps an aging automobile in his honor.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Amen, D.A. Powell. Amen.

From an interview on the website

" Desire? That's just a fancy way of talking about what we hold dear and what disappears."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Useful Hints from "Our Health and Safety: Little Wonder Book #305"

The floor is a good place to play, but a bad place to leave things.

Going upstairs may be as dangerous as climbing a mountain on stilts.

One bad habit causes falls on stairs.

Every day, people are hurt by falling from chairs, stools, boxes, and tables.

When a knife blade or point meets you, it may keep on coming.

Danny found out that the space near swings is no place to play.

Swingers sometimes get hurt by being in too much of a hurry.

A tummy-ache is always a sign that something is wrong.

Your teeth are more than a cage to keep your tongue from running away.

Maybe you haven't been treating your feet like friends.

Getting ready for bed means more than just undressing and washing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another letter poem written quickly on the train

Dear Fallen Angel,

Was it such a falling, coming down from the heights, was it cold
in the citadel: spires of ice and ceaseless
light, the chorus
of seraphim as enthusiastic
as birds in the hedges
once upon a spring morning, but a thousand
times as beautiful--was it such a falling, dwelling
as you do, an exile in a city that embraces shadow
as well as the sun. In the corner bar, you have not
slept and you have not
shaved, and you remain the most handsome
person in the room. Bourbon sings
like a sparrow, it tastes in a diluted way
faintly of heaven, but here it has temptation,
amber tones, and fire. This is a place
where you can look straight ahead
and see your reflection and likewise the image
of your fellow
barfly, who regards you with his earthly hunger, really
for you it is all about the ledge, and the leap, and after,
listen, he is about to offer to buy you a drink,
we know what he means: it was cold
in the citadel, and he wants
you, and we're falling.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big Mac Attack

I got an email from an editor at Softblow who said he had seen my work on line and wanted to feature me in the journal in July. I wrote back.  Where had he heard of me?  It was the poems in No Tell Motel, he replied. I was pretty sure my work had never appeared in No Tell Motel.  A quick trip to Google-land showed me the poet in question was Rob MacDonald.  Rob, I like your poems too. And Cyril Wong at Softblow would like a word with you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dorothea Lasky

I found this link to a Lasky poem on Ron Silliman's blog. I think the main thing I learn from Dorothea Lasky is the importance and prominence of voice--she sounds like no one else I have ever read or heard, a poetic voice that is distinct, hilarious, heart-breaking, and contains an ocean of sentiment without any false cheer or easy weepiness. Here's a taste from her latest book, Black Life. Check out Youtube for some great videos of Dorothea and her friends reading tour around her house.

Owen Pallett, my new music boyfriend

I liked him even more when I saw him live a couple weeks back.  Today, a rainy Sunday, the new leaves are that intense lime green, the sky is white, and this is the perfect album for right now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Diamond Dog

I have been reading Diane Wakoski's new book, The Diamond Dog.  Here is a review.

I think the book contains poems that are among her best work, including "Black Ships Drawn Up on a White Beach," "Blue Ice Wolf," and "Things That Make Her Weep." Some critics seem to feel that Wakoski spends too much time working through and reworking failed relationships.  As someone who still aches with hurt over a break-up that is years gone by, and as someone who (like Wakoski herself) is currently in a stable and happy relationship but can still spend long minutes obsessing about what could have been, or what was not said, I tend to think in her poems she is just more honest about the lasting emotional reality of  lost lovers and old betrayals and failures than most of us find comfortable.

The new work, however, while certainly made up in part of poems addressed to old lovers, and poems that examine the hurt of love lost, and fathers figures who disappoint, encompasses that hurt and moves beyond it.  The Diamond Dog, a figure that through its permutations becomes as weighted and tangled with meaning as the most potent dream image, is the faithful dog, the dog that remains at its mistress's heel, or, at her bidding, runs forward, a scout, sniffing out the way to a place where the hurts of the past are burned to ash. And that place may be the realm that Whitman says is "different from what any one supposed, and luckier."

Here is the final stanza of "Blue Ice Wolf":

even in the blast from the icy polish
and shine off my father's military shoe,
transformed into the shimmer of the dog's diamond print,
then the Ice Wolf's blue paw,
finally the King of Spain's luscious royal foot
gloved, glinting gold; and I know
that at last he/they've come back,
and are waiting till it's time for me to follow them.
Any morning, if I glance up quickly,
when facing the wood of a Norwegian Maple
across the street,
I can make out their shadows.

Next up: brief remarks on other new books I am reading, including Other Flowers by James Schuyler and Black Life by Dorthea Lasky.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Boxcar Poetry Review

It was a Facebook surprise--I found out today via that online institution that Neil Aitken, the hard-working poet and editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, included me in the 2nd anthology, a sort of "best of."  I was very pleased to have work in two issues of Boxcar, I think Neil does an excellent job of selecting work and designing the site, so I am really happy to be included in the print anthology.  The most excellent poet and blogger Sarah J. Sloat has work in it, too.  You could get a copy here if you wanted.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fourth Draft

See previous entries for the earlier versions.  Maybe it needs a title now.
This one even had intentional line breaks:

I never ride the train without thinking about you and how you died—
the lonely parking lot, your mouth on the gun, it’s something about
repeating the journey, the long trip back, after I had to identify
your body in the morgue, a journey with hours for sorrow, a window,
and regret: the golden light of dried grasses in the empty lots of Detroit,
a kind of resurrection, the return of a city to wild lands, to meadow.
At the top of a bare tree, a Cooper's hawk stares at military attention.
Later, a dozen, two dozen deer bound across a field
of last year's corn, flashing the arrows of their white tails,
maidens fearful of the monster on the tracks,
but swans seen from the window of this train, the swans
don't care, in inlets, in silvery pools at dusk, they are illegitimate sons
of the nearly-full moon, come down to this world to sip
from our waters, not the waters
of forgetfulness, no these cold waters are opposite of that.
I remember a movie I saw in high school, maybe
it was a movie I saw with you—the girl in the movie weeps,
she is talking to a nurse, she says, “I want to dance Juliet,
I wanted to dance the role of the swan.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

And a Third Re-Working

I never ride the train back from Michigan without thinking of you and how you died—the lonely parking lot, your mouth, the gun, it’s something about repeating the journey, about the long trip back, after I had to identify your body in the morgue, a journey with hours for sorrow and regret: the golden light of dried grasses in the empty lots of Detroit, a kind of resurrection, the return of a city to wildlands, to meadow. At the top of a bare tree, a Cooper's hawk stares at military attention--a meal might yet be revealed. A bit later a dozen, two dozen deer bound across a field of last year's mown corn, flashing the arrows of their white tails, maidens fearful of the monstrosity on the tracks, but swans seen from the window of this train, the swans don't care, In inlets, in silvery pools at dusk, they are illegitimate sons of the nearly-full moon, come down to this world to sip from our waters, not the waters of forgetfulness, no these cold waters are opposite of that, and I remember a movie I saw in high school, maybe it was a movie I saw with you—the girl in the movie weeps as she says, I want to dance Juliet, I wanted to dance the role of the swan.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another Try at This

I fiddled with this piece of writing a bit more.  I may end up reading it at one of this month's readings:

I never ride the train back from Michigan without thinking of you and how you died—the lonely parking lot, your mouth, the gun, it’s something about repeating the journey, about the long trip back, after I had to identify your body in the morgue, a journey with hours for sorrow and regret: the golden light of dried grasses in the empty lots of Detroit, it's a kind of resurrection, the return of a city to wildlands, to meadow. At the top of a bare tree, a Cooper's hawk stares at military attention--a meal might yet reveal itself. A bit later a dozen, two dozen deer bound across a field of last year's mown corn, flashing the arrows of their white tails, maidens fearful of the monstrosity on the tracks, but swans seen from the window of this train, the swans don't care, In inlets, in silvery pools at dusk, they are illegitimate sons of the nearly-full moon, come down to this world to sip from our cold waters, not the waters of forgetfulness, no these waters are opposite of that.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Two Readings in April

I am not really a fan of National Poetry Month.  It seems to me to be (like so many other Months--Gay History Month, Black History Month, Lemon Curd Bar Appreciation Month) to be a way to corral something, make it neat and tame and easy to ignore the rest of the year.  "I mean, come on, we just gave a whole month to you. Do we really need to worry about you now?  It's May for Pete Squeaks!"  But all that being said, a whole lot of poetry stuff goes on in April, and I am not going to say no to reading when I am nicely invited.  So please do come hear me read.  I'll be reading mostly new work, and reading different stuff at each reading, for the benefit of the one or two persons who might be at both.

Wednesday April 14. 7:00 pm. To celebrate NATIONAL POETRY MONTH Gerber Hart Library will be hosting a reading by local poets including Richard Fox, Adam Hart, Gregg Shapiro, Robert McDonald, Kurt Heintz, and Joe Eldridge at Gerber Hart Library (1127 West Granville Ave. Chicago IL. 773-381-8030.) Join Gerber Hart's fanpage on Facebook to be informed of future events or check out their website.

Thursday, April 15. 7 pm at The Book Cellar. 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.
The readers are:

Kathleen Rooney, poet, essayist, author of Live Nude Girl and the book of essays For You, For You, I am Trilling these Songs
Kate Dougherty's writing is published or forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review; Court Green; Action, Yes; and If Poetry Journal.
Robert McDonald's writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Stagebill, and the Chicago Reader, along with several very highbrow-type literary journals. (Note--this was not my description, I am cutting and pasting from their website.)
Richard Fox has contributed work to many literary journals. In 2000, he was the recipient of a full fellowship for poetry from the Illinois Arts Council. Swagger & Remorse, his first book of poetry, was published in December, 2007
Laura Van Prooyen’s poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Cimarron Review, and 32 Poems among others. Her first book of poetry, Inkblot and Altar, is forthcoming from Pecan Grove Press.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It Was Only Two Years Ago

I will never ride this train back from Michigan without thinking of you and how you died--something about the long trip back after identifying your body in the morgue, something about repeating the journey, and all the hours for such sorrow and regret: the golden light of dried grasses in the empty lots of Detriot, how it's a kind of resurrection, the return to meadow.  At the top of a bare tree, a Cooper's hawk stares at military attention--a meal might yet reveal itself. A little later a dozen, two dozen deer bound across a field of last year's mown corn, the white arrows of their tails, maidens fearful of the monstrosity on the tracks, but the swans don't care, each one by itself, swans seen from the window of this train, I am on the way home. In inlets, in silvery pools at dusk they are the illegitimate sons of the moon, come down to this world to sip from our cold waters, which are not the waters of forgetfulness, in fact just the opposite of that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Exciting news if you are a fan of dogs, and diamonds, and myth.

Cover: tintype by Robert Turney

Diane Wakoski has a new book out from Anhinga Press.  You can read about it, and read some poems here. I'll report back in more detail after I get my copy.  I studied with Diane in the late 1980s, and she has a huge and wonderfully varied imagery collections in her bag of tricks. With some poets you say, "Oh, he's a nature poet---trees again," or "Oh, I get it, she does the gritty urban punk kid thing."  Or, "Ah, yes, those stately images of Iowa farms, that must be the work of Gerhardt Dipthong."  With Wakoski, you might encounter mythic beasts, or kitchen implements, or birds, or flowers, all in one poem.  I will be interested to read this new collection, her first comprised of all new work in over ten years. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

A very very short story...

Okay, this used to be a poem, (and yes it has a dragon in it) but I took out all the linebreaks and submitted it as a short-short to the journal Weirdyear, and the editor there accepted this piece for Weirdyear's sister site Yesteryear.  It's an older bit that I have always liked. I find that as some of my writing ages, I am more apt to be open to radical changes: cutting all the linebreaks, deleting the first seven stanzas, giving a whole series new titles.  I guess it's a lesson for myself, I am always re-learning it: allow writings to sit and age a good long time. Be open to thinking about them in new ways.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear MapMaker's Son

Please show me the charts kept
in the secret desk compartment
in your father's study,
I promise that if they show the road
to an imaginary city or
the lover's cottage that nearly
exists in the woods we'll
depart at once,
wearing only our skin
and the clothes that rest
upon it. Show me the way
to the land of frank rabbits
or the country of cats or the place
where flocks of birds are born. Saddle
up the horses. I shall loosen
the drawstrings
of the feedbag which once had been my heart.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Scent of Paste in a Midwest Schoolroom

It is not nostalgia, this feeling you evoke, it is surety, with you I know every letter in my name, written under a hook in the coat room, the teacher calls it our "cloakroom," my name is there above my blue sweater, and also in the classroom, above a yellow cubby next to a picture of a duck. Scissors here are rounded, boxes of crayons are new, and filled with regiments of primary soldiers, I love their tin woodsman hats, and you, scent of paste in a midwest schoolroom, I hardly know whether to breath you in and then gunk up my finger and lick at your sugarless creamy appeal, or take up my blunt scissors and cut out a brown stick and cut out a green circle and so glue together my first portrait of a tree.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dear Russia,

Frank O'Hara always did love
you best, and one of my
great loves
has been Frank O'Hara,
but why should we
share you? I like snow,
and I like the early darkness,
and I think I could come

to appreciate a skylight
half-open on the top floor
of a six story walk-up, dark
bread, hard cheese, and a bowl
of borscht for supper, and I'd
look up
and hope for a glimpse of a star, but
Russia frankly
your distances frighten me and Russia
I am not fond
of vodka, or tears, oh Russia
Frank O'Hara
is one of the icons, his eyes
smudged with candle smoke,
his laughter a gang of cossacks
on vacation, three sheets
a madras bedspread and an army
blanket to the wind, they attempt to cross
the half-frozen river.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

a flame is kindling in the robin’s throat.

I have been following the work of poet Sarah Sloat for a while now.  Actually, I have been aware of her work ever since I was idly googling myself one afternoon and found she'd added one of my poems to a list of some of the best things she'd read online recently.  So she is a woman of taste and sensitivity.  But also a interesting poet herself, writing work in a voice that is quirky, adroit, charming, with a dash of earned bitterness, and heaps of smarts. She has a chapbook, In The Voice of a Minor Saint.  You can get it here.  My favorite work of hers I've read this year is a collection of prose pieces called "Attending the Tasting."  And I am not alone in my admiration, it won a Best of the Web 2010 Award. The title of this blog post is a quote from "Attending." Attend, friends.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lately I keep noticing wrought iron benches

Oh you black iron
park bench empty
and waiting
for something beautiful as snow,

oh you black park bench
by sunlight
and the invisible

of one hundred
urban ghosts,

iron bench I
will scratch my name
on your arm

before the bus arrives
and takes me in
chains to
the castle of the day

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dear Night,

Thank you for the crows, the day
has borrowed them
for a very long time, and I

want you to know (as the crows certainly
know) that their calls to each other
from the ledges

of buildings and the wet branches
of sidestreet maples, the way they
rejoice at the opened envelope

of a deer by the side of the road,
their flight, whether silent
or harpied, all flurry and rasp,

all of these things should be
at night, dear night, your

time, your place, and so dear night
I have arrived to broker
a deal: we will give you back

the crows.  We will include the sawbox
containing their voices, and slide everything
into the drawer of underbrush rustle,

a coyote's bark, an argument
in the beastly dark.  All we need
in exchange are your bonfires,

those midnight bursts of morning, and later
we can discuss the true
home range of the moon--despite

your best efforts it has been seen
in the firmament one late
July morning.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dear Chihuahua Who at One Time Belonged to Gertrude Stein

You belonged because we knew
you, you barked because
barking is something that a small dog might
do, you
as if to say that you were not
all that
small, in the basket
in the basket in which
they carried you. When the ladies
made love you were locked
outside the door because you barked.
When the ladies wove a basket you dad-gummed
the knotted handle. You were Gertrude's dog
and you did not know me. I am I
I say because of that one
to their house in the country; sometimes
a little dog
can be a view

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Ferocity Even From the Remove of the Kitchen Window.

Yesterday my dad woke me up, calling to me to say there was a hawk in the backyard. The hawk had a pigeon in its talons.  A few feet away from the bird feeder, on top of fresh snow, the hawk plucked the feathers from the pigeon, and the hawk's curved beak probed and pulled strips of flesh from the carcass of the pigeon.  It was beautiful and hypnotic to watch: a ferocity we could sense even from the remove of the kitchen window. The hawk looked like she was dressed for a military action, black bands on her slate grey tail, reddish bars, the color of a female robin's breast, across her chest and belly, and the startling white fluff of her rump. The pull, the tug, the task of plucking a meal. She (later an expert looked at the photos we took and said that a Cooper's Hawk who was large enough to catch a pigeon was surely a female) she was such a harsh and lovely representative of nature "red in tooth and claw." I wonder if I'd feel so kindly toward her if she'd caught a cardinal, or a woodpecker, some bird I see as a "real" bird and not some urban trash.  Pigeons, after all, have their own flocking beauty, silver and startling against a grey winter sky. This makes twice in the past couple of months that I've seen a Cooper's Hawk, that baroness, crouched over her kill near a birdfeeder.  The first time was in Chicago--Darren and I leaving for breakfast disturbed a hawk at her own meal in the courtyard. She grabbed it and fled. Circle of soft down whirling a bit in the wind over larger feathers, speckled red droplets in the snow.  This hawk had killed a pigeon in suburban Michigan. The backyard feeders were silent and deserted the rest of the day, not even the plump squirrels nuzzled the ground below for the peanuts Dad puts out for them--somehow word got out that this was a crime scene. "Somehow" being the feathered circle, the red dots, mournful in the snow. But I had not thought the little brains of feeder birds capable of making these deductions and associations. Does every bird have a bird who would make of it a meal?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The art of Doug Stapleton

For Christmas this year Darren and I decided to get a piece of art together--and there was no question of where to look--we both have been fans and friends of collage artist, curator, performance artist and all around great guy Doug Stapleton for some time, and we knew we wanted to get one of his evocative, disturbing, beautiful works.  We were a tad worried that we might not agree on which piece to get, but a during a late December studio visit with Doug, where we got to see works in progress and older pieces, and talk with Doug about his process, his materials, and his art, "Harbinger" was the work that called to us the most. It looks great on the wall.  I want to sit my notebook and look up at "Harbinger" and write and look and write and look.  It's a project that'll happen soon.  Also in early 2010, an interview with Doug here at "Lives of the Spiders."