Venerable are Letters, infinitely brave, forlorn, and lost.

As one year ends and another begins, there are letters to consider, lives to examine, the uses of time about which to inquire. In Jacob's Room Virginia Woolf does this magnificently. The technology of letter writing has changed radically; are emails and tweets and blog entries forms of letter writing? are all letter forms equal? Woolf plumbs ontology via the letter. There's so much to dwell upon here. What an interesting entrée into the next year.

Let us consider letters--how they come at breakfast, and at night, with their yellow stamps and their green stamps, immortalized by the postmark--for to see one's own envelope on another's table is to realize how soon deeds sever and become alien. Then at last the power of the mind to quit the body is manifest, and perhaps we fear or hate or wish annihilated this phantom of ourselves, lying on the table. Still, there are letters that merely say how dinner's at seven; others ordering coal; making appointments. The hand in them is scarcely perceptible, let alone the voice or the scowl. Ah, but when the post knocks and the letter comes always the miracle seems repeated--speech attempted. Venerable are letters, infinitely brave, forlorn, and lost.

Life would split asunder without them. 'Come to tea, come to dinner, what's the truth of the story? have you heard the news? life in the capital is gay; the Russian dancers...' These are our stays and props. These lace our days together and make of life a perfect globe. And yet, and yet...when we go to dinner, when pressing finger-tips we hope to meet somewhere soon, a doubt insinuates itself; is this the way to spend our days? the rare, the limited, so soon dealt out to us--drinking tea? dining out? And the notes accumulate. And the telephones ring. And everywhere we go wires and tubes surround us to carry the voices that try to penetrate before the last card is dealt and the days are over. 'Try to penetrate,' for as we lift the cup, shake the hand, express the hope, something whispers, Is this all? Can I never know, share, be certain? Am I doomed all my days to write letters, send voices, which fall upon the tea-table, fade upon the passage, making appointments, while life dwindles, to come and dine? yet letters are venerable; and the telephone valiant, for the journey is a lonely one, and if bound together by notes and telephones we went in company, perhaps--who knows?--we might talk by the way.

Well, people have tried. Byron wrote letters. So did Cowper. For centuries the writing-desk has contained sheets fit precisely for the communications of friends. Masters of language, poets of long ages, have turned from the sheet that endures to the sheet that perishes, pushing aside the tea-tray, drawing close to the fire (for letters are written when the dark presses round a bright red cave), and addressed themselves to the task of reaching, touching, penetrating the individual heart. Were it possible! But words have been used too often; touched and turned, and left exposed to the dust of the street. The words we seek hang close to the tree. We come at dawn and find them sweet beneath the leaf (90-91).

Emily Dickinson: "A letter always feels to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend." written to Thomas Wentworth Higginson June 1869 (L33)


The Practice of Art

Poinsettias in Watercolor by Flora (Clay's Mom)
Acton, Massachusetts 2008 & 2009


Waldrop on Oppen: the Distrust of Language

Saturday, December 12, 2009 Rosmarie Waldrop delivered the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University's George Oppen Memorial Lecture held at the Unitarian Center in San Francisco.

Despite the fact that is was a dark and stormy night, Poetry Center Director Steve Dickison and Elise Ficarra had to dig up extra chairs because the room at the Unitarian Center was packed to capacity with eager audience members. Waldrop's talk--Words, There are Words--pulled from Oppen's Daybooks, Letters, and Poems, made excursions into Agamben, Heidegger, Blanchot, Stein, Rilke, St. John of the Cross, and then returned to Oppen. Some of the poems Waldrop rested upon included "Parousia," "To Make Much," and particularly, "Psalm."


Veritas sequitur...

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down --
That they are there!

Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass

The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.

Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun

The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

Waldrop's talk included a nuanced reading of the myriad and disparate ways Oppen wrestles with the vexing problems and possibilities of language and the relationship of words to experience, being, and perception. In Daybook IV, Oppen writes: "relevant thought begins with the distrust of language" (181). Does language enact a kind of separation--"with the word we see from outside" or are words also a mode of being? In Of Being Numerous, thinking and writing seem to be one. Do things exist because the word exists? Must we keep singing to keep the world existing? Waldrop's talk was expansive and my notes on it are, well, notational. Here are some of the lines jotted down in my notebook:

Oppen's valuation of thought over words.

Pregnant with the holy word will come the virgin walking down the road if you take her in (See Poems of St. John of the Cross)

all that was to be thought comes down the road.

words are a mode of being
words come down the road

See the poem "To Make Much" from Primitive

right word and music of the poem

the fatal rock that is the world

Oppen's struggle with everyday speech and the struggle for the "right" word

Things don't know their name

words bring things/beings into linguistic "being" out of the material

Drawing attention to Oppen's use of rhyme in "there," "there," "stare," Waldrop's reading of the poem "Psalm" closed with the observation that the indented first lines of each stanza--

Their eyes

The roots of it

Their paths

The small nouns

--enact Aquinas's proposition that truth follows the existence of things.

Waldrop's talk performed a rich reading of Oppen that wasn't focused on producing a radically new reading of his preoccupations but rather stopped and luxuriated in the work's complexities and ambiguities.

You might want to check out Jacket Magazine's Special Section on Oppen. Thomas Devaney edited this and you can find it HERE. Stephen Cope's article also includes a discussion of "Psalm."


A Selection of Work from Emily Abendroth

Emily Abendroth's work gives the mouth and mind a workout. Hers is a poetry that puts language through its paces, puncturing the prosaic and splitting the crags. Language knows itself as shutter and flash. Lavish luster, agitated froths.

Two from Toward Eadward Forward

The Prickly Fix of the Hoary Puccoon

Emily Abendroth currently lives and works in Philadelphia, where she co-curates the Moles not Molar Reading Series with fellow poet Justin Audia. Recent work of hers can be found or is forthcoming in Digital Artifact, Encyclopedia, How2, Pocket Myths, Horseless Review, Eco-poetics, and Cut & Paint.Her chapbook, Toward Eadward Forward was published by Horse less Press last year and a lengthy excerpt from her book-length work in progress "Muzzle Blast Dander" can be found in Refuge/Refugee (Volume 3 of the Chain Link book series). She is currently and ever-so-slowly piecing her way through some writings and thinking on solitary confinement practices in U.S. prisons.

The Prickly Fix of the Hoary Puccoon by Emily Abendroth

: The Prickly Fix of the Hoary Puccoon :

Antsy, and visited by ants, the five-lobed calyx balances. With an easy glub, the plant secretes its chub, loosing by dewy cue the flubber of its moist substance. It glances upon stranger neighbors with four hard nutlets, cutting a route – by stout taproot – into the shoal of loam. Handily, it combs from the domed soil a home that first bemoans and minerally resists the fisty entry of its narrow-boring tendrils, their formidable brood of surface-intruding botanical mandibles.

An able and unshorn form – both hirsute and hungry – the hoary puccoon’s uppersides provide for all allies an eye supper of the ciliate; its nelly underbelly a jellied crestlog of white pubescence. Of no particular menace, today, a pair of squat coots is afoot at its footings. Scooting there, restlessly.

In messier times, the pestilent and grimy molars of equally hoary children would grind the red puccoon’s root – mutely – with a thick lick of pitch gum, determined to plumb and color their own mouths to a gooey, lewd maroon. Switching at noon, as they always did, to a masticating bid for ochre. Raucously soaking their teeth anew; placing the great sunbelt stew of the pelt of puccoon flowers into their sour and chomp-sore orifices in order to inch the very same oral pitchwad into an auroral catchgob of golden-yellow. Impressing their gawking and limber fellows with the fetching visual roar of amber organ décor.

For any living body, however regal its vestments, the need to wiggle and pigment oneself is still prolonged and strong; indeed, it smells so. Glowing with an uncouth exuberance, the youth chew and chew and chew. Moving the tubular pompon of bloom into their own roomy, unpruned summer intestines. Therein, with no lessening of desire, to toil in the coy company of bastard toadflax and the white-eyed grasses. Until lastly, upon leaving, the puccoon leaves in their slender toothlessness, in their tender serrate-absence, incensed, bend down to frisk and tickle all.

click here to learn about the Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens
(Borage family)

to gallop to skip to turn and run: some poems by Emily Abendroth

Eadweard Muybridge
Galloping Horse

The Walk & The Amble

clocked at midlope, every mare facilely unropes
any strict predictions of flight, unleashing
locomotion like a prestorm hushponcho
the full gipper of precipitation still on the lamb

arching a clipped hoof skyward, it clops down
impounding in puddle a cloud bank, a cone of error
or leaps a brick niche in furclad furor driving
its own warm hide by slack over rocketing strides

the slow open gammed gait of an aggregate body
unabated gives birth to a warren of rabbits, a boon
whose exiting bushels of sallying tushes
usher a second degree prickliness in the orfice
each shuttlecock forthing undocked as if by schooner
a knotted shock of downy assets leaaving the bloomers

the suckel-sated nestmates bivouaking nightly shore
up a shelter girded by their own interlocking appendages
an ecstatic but nodding combobulation, a quixoddity
dressing this thick mess of drowsy possibility
they are sedge-browsers as well as perambulators
ample in coniferous intake, sampling by mud-flanked rudding

and here the pathway to the scissoring extremities
begins at the shammy lapped hindquarters
begins taking stock of what one notices
searoar wordspoor umlautdrum
an amble as twice sprung maelstrom
whose sound is abscounded but movement
lashing, four flyway wind currents concurrently

thrashing a field of addled cattle, their surefooted
and peculiar brattlings riding the hammerdressed dare
the earth you miss while the foot bobs in air

The Canter & The Transverse Gallop

a dank hunk meets one damp hump
and jubilant they schmooze, warp apart
artfully outstrip any gleaning eyes only
to reconnoiter via adroit canticles
fiercely groping each others crops
gamboling off, adducing across the sluices
a soppy course of reciprocal limb action

while elsewhere and solo a route-spurned
racking pony urgently performs its willed
wiliness, totters at half stride in a quicksilver
instant of cliffside bafflement, favoring
the shore forefoot to rehook its course
although consequent hoovefallings find
the unabashed poles of another felt hunger
hunkering in

here amidst the peat-sweating eskers of bog ash
it takes a couple diggers, skids its tracks
tries not to be fearless but recognizably seared
nicked about and yet still leaning forward, as if
sensation were volition itself and imagination
not for the stinting, but sprinting rather

until into panting speed, it oftens the thinking
underlain and most swollen within, tickling
the leonine termperament of our peculiar
a hot minion of still belching waters
a lateral spread, a surfeit of seeing's clinamen
its subjects already and inevitably exceeded
even as in the process of being constituted

such a picture lacks certain necessary uneasinesses
the proposed deoccupation of effluvium itself
an apogee of lavishly collapsed containment
strategies, its objects exuberantly
overlapping one another as a dog laps
rapturously slurping at the agitated froths
couthlessly tapping their propulsive forces
sources via wild budtongued nudgings

Emily's chapbook includes several epigraphs. I thought I would reproduce them here:

"If it is impressed on our minds in infancy that a certain arbitrary symbol indicates an existing fact, if this same association of emblem and reality is reiterated at the prepatory school, insisted upon at college, and pronounced correct at the university, symbol and fact-- or supposed fact-- become so intimately blended that it is extremely difficult to dissociate them, even when a reasoned and personal observation teaches us they have no relationship.

So it is with the galloping horse."---Eadweard Muybridge, Animals in Motion

"all that goes before--the words, the rain's small pellets
small fountains that live, the face of the water, dilations
the heart of the republic--are the subject of the
verb skips..."---George Oppen, Selected Letters

"In the vicinity of Mt. Saint Helens, a Bigfoot beckoned to a person who responded by turning and running." --Oldest known West Coast Bigfoot Record, dating from the 1850s, as recorded on a Posted Chronology of the Willow Creek Bigfoot Museum, CA

to gallop to skip to turn and run


"The Plenty Hurt Me:" An Experiment with Emily Dickinson, Elena Rivera & Me

Last Saturday at Bard College I was in a room with Elena Rivera and eleven others. Elena had given us an alphabetized list of words from an unnamed poem by an unnamed poet. We were to cut up this list and make a poem using all of the words. Outside the second story window, the first snow of the season fell. There was silence. Scissors slicing, people gluing, sometimes sighs. I entered the moment. No anxiety. Moving language for 20 or 30 minutes. This is what I came up with. Some words are capitalized as they were in the list and in the original poem which turned out to be Emily Dickinson's poem #579 from the Johnson edition. You'll find that poem right below mine.

Working with Dickinson's bits of language is meditative, underscores the making in poiesis and how much the activating subjectivity of the person moving words enters the language via arrangement.

Come Home


Nature’s in Noon–- takes away Wine

ample Myself Entering

so seen did hurt near me



a shared Mountain–- of felt hope

And found Bush Crumb

Mine Plenty trembling Room



turning outside Bread

odd, could My Hunger know Birds Persons

unlike the way Years

touched as

drew Road nor That new berry

not Transplanted

Tables Windows

When all was


often looked on-- to--

had been hungry-- for this-- Dining

Written Using the vocabulary of Emily Dickinson’s poem #579
Robin Tremblay-McGaw
December 5, 2009

Emily Dickinson's Poem # 579

I had been hungry, all the Years---
My Noon had Come --to dine--
I trembling drew the Table near--
And touched the Curious Wine--

'Twas this on Tables I had seen--
When turning, hungry, Home
I looked in Windows, for Wealth
I could not hope --for Mine--

I did not know the ample Bread--
'Twas so unlike the Crumb
The Birds and I, had often shared
In Nature's--Dining Room--

The Plenty hurt me--'twas so new--
Myself felt ill--and odd--
As Berry--of a Mountain Bush--
Transplanted--to a Road--

Nor was I hungry--so I found
That Hunger--was a way
Of Persons outside Windows--
The Entering--takes away


A Poem from Camille Roy


'To write is to kill.' ---Blanchot

The chase is on as I imitate gestures,

this time I’m following a large & perfect man.

Dear Succulent:

meat in kindly stripes.

With the excitement of being among men but inside the women

my history floats down the avenue

in blobs / atomic

landfill --- that

purse & its abstraction,

the empty suit.

Revenge is a character who suffered

& became chronic.

I call her

Hotel Paranoia: “Get to bed

on time!

If you want to have sex

Now that I’m so close to the street,

being on the street,

purple in the street,

fried street,

I can delete embarrassment at the level of structure.

(oh fluttering fans!)

I love the cloud

around speech

we call the body...

House of sensation.

Built crud wrapper.

“But what about those Russians, they’re not slouched

in the bed of fake trauma...

Not yet.

...Not in the pleasure sense – No.”

….from 'Sherwood Forest'
…..camille roy 2009


Century of Clouds by Bruce Boone

Get your copy of Bruce Boone's Century of Clouds with a foreword by Rob Halpern and published by NightBoat Books here.


Bruce Boone & Gail Scott Reading at Small Press Traffic November 20, 2009

photo: RTM

photo © Angela Carr

Friday Night: a crowd, including Norma Cole, Bob Glück, Leslie Scalapino, Beverly Dahlen, Erika Staiti, Rob Halpern, Lee Azus, Tonya Hollis, Taylor Brady, Camille Roy, Miranda Mellis, Angie Romagnoli, John Norton, David Buuck, Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, Alli Warren, Brandon Brown and many others, all presided over by the ebullient Samantha Giles--turned out to hear Bruce Boone and Gail Scott. Bruce read from his 1984 Exempli Gratia Press chapbook, The Truth About Ted. This piece will find its way here on xpoetics sometime in the near future.

Bruce Boone’s published work includes– Karate Flower (1973), My Walk With Bob (1979 & reissued by Ithuriel's Spear in 2006), Century of Clouds (1980 & reissued by Nightboat Books 2009), and with Robert Glück, La Fontaine (1981), The Truth About Ted (1984), and a variety of essays in small press journals. In addition, Boone has translated the work of Georges Bataille, including Guilty (1988) and On Nietzsche (1994), several works by Pascal Quignard, including On Wooden Tablets: Apronenia Avitia (1984) and Albucius (1992) and Jean Francois Lyotard’s Pacific Wall (1989).

The Truth About Ted: An excerpt from Carmen is a story about storytelling, desire, interpretation, reading and misreading. The narrator, “Bruce” tells a retrospective series of stories about a community of gay men who encounter Ted, a young man who is “straight, but [whose] brand of sociability really suggested something more like camp” (1 [unpaginated]). After cataloging a series of readings of Ted’s life–“He hung out with gays almost exclusively. He looked gay and acted gay. He talked gay even” – the narrator asks “So why wasn’t he gay?” (1). Ted becomes an object of gossip for the community as they try to interpret his conflicting messages and their conflicted readings of his sexuality.

The reader is strung along in this text as are the community members. Is Ted gay? Straight? The relationship of epistemophilia to erotics, seduction, reading and interpretation is literalized in the text. The Truth About Ted ends up being about the truth about Bruce, or the truth about stories and their relationship to life, or the truth of the self’s continual misrecognition of its own specular image, or the ways in which the subject is caught up in the cogs of narrative, language and desire. Here, the mirror of the story suddenly turns on its author and readers. It reveals a reflection that isn’t so much Ted’s story, but is the community’s, Bruce’s, and the readers’. If at the close of the story’s first paragraph we read: “It’s his life, after all, not yours” (1), by the end of the piece, we discover that perhaps it is not Ted’s life, but Bruce’s and maybe not Bruce’s but ours.

Gail Scott read next from a new yet-to-be-published-manuscript titled The Obituary. This text traces the repressed native in her family history--something that is intriguing to me as I am working with this repressed and erased (for generations)native history in my own family via a writing-through George Oppen's Of Being Numerous. Gail's piece complexly flays and sutures language as it traverses various characters--an old gendarme in a stairwell and his young apprentice who watch a woman, Rosine. Rosine is mostly a face in a window and sometimes a (male) fly. There are also shale pit workers and a politically correct lesbian historian. French, Cree, English and various discursive registers soar, collide, and re-form. There are the Métis (Fr. "person of mixed ancestry"), footnotes and voyeurism. Stairwells. A linguistic kaleidoscope.

Some lines I jotted down in the half-dark include:

"She's a fly when she's feeling sexy"

"a hybrid rising out of her dichotomies"

"his youth still uncoiffed"

But the pen can't keep up with the ear and the desire to hear the way Scott orchestrates language--both tensile and capable of astonishing and dangerous leaps and turns--led me to abandon myself to the thrill, to the pleasure of it--arabesques, near crashes, tender glissades.

Here's what Kate Eichorn writes about Scott's The Obituary in her preface to Belladonna's Elder Series Number 6 (She also references M. NourbeSe Philip's work here):

Writing from a different geography, but one also profoundly shaped by histories of colonization, Scott’s writing reflects a preoccupation with cusps and peculiar fusions. Her new novel, The Obituary, investigates the necessity and impossibility of dwelling in such sites. Varied and repeated rituals of contact reverberate at the level of the sentence as French expressions seep into English and English dialogue is delivered carrying traces of an Algonquin language. There are many layers and forms of contamination here; Scott has no investment in purities of grammar or genre.

To be clear, neither Philip nor Scott are exclusively interested in recovering histories that have been placed under erasure or crafting narratives that seek to reify fixed identitary positions. Rather, both writers recognize that colonization naturally gives rise to all sorts of fractured subjects, hybrid forms and polyvalent linguistic registers. By coincidence, their contributions to this volume even share some notable similarities. In their new novels, both writers appropriate popular cinematic and literary genres (Philip adopts the mystery novel and Scott uses film noir as a template). These popular genres are brought into contact with linguistic practices and forms filtered through oral traditions and with discourses pilfered from the ubiquitous canon (Philip’s novel is framed by an epigraph from The Tempest; the section of Scott’s novel included in this volume recasts lines from Macbeth). In the way that contact zones often foster narratives marked of interruption, collision and perverse confluences, these texts raise essential considerations about the overlaps between avant-garde writing and some of the other places where fragmentation, parataxis and disjunction are commonplace, and linear narrative and singularity of voice are difficult, if not impossible, to sustain. Perhaps, these surprising parallels reflect the fact that both Philip and Scott write from places where it is more difficult than it is here to ignore the prevalence of such overlaps, reminding us that the centre of Empire has never offered the most critical vantage point. I welcome them to the Elders Series as fellow travellers, and as writers whose work has consistently demonstrated to me the immense possibilities pried open when familiar forms and rehearsed paths through the sentence are ruptured. --Kate Eichhorn March 2009, New York City

All in all, an evening to remember. Two amazing and distinctly different writers.

Gail Scott's bio (from Belladonna):
Gail Scott is the author of 7 books, including an anthology, Biting The Error, co-edited with Bob Gluck et al, My Paris (Dalkey Archive), Spare Parts Plus Two (Coach House), the novels Main Brides and Heroine, and the essay collections Spaces Like Stairs and la théorie, un dimanche (with Nicole Brossard et al). She is co-founder of the critical journal Spirale (Montréal) and Tessera (new writing by women), teaches Creative Writing at Université de Montréal and has recently finished a radio play, “Werther Lives”, and a new novel, The Obituary.

Some photos from the night:
John Norton and Dodie Bellamy

Photo: courtesy of John Norton. Rob Halpern, Bruce Boone, Bob Gluck, Camille Roy, et moi.

Gail Scott, Angie Romagnoli, Asta, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Alli Warren, Brandon Brown, Bruce Boone.


Beverly Dahlen Interview: Part Two

Dahlen reading in New York. Photo by Erica Kaufman.

"Thrilling to Throw One's Voice Out There"
Part Two: An Interview With Beverly Dahlen Conducted in October 2009 via email.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Beverly Dahlen has lived in San Francisco for many years. Her first book, Out of the Third, was published by Momo’s Press in 1974. Two chapbooks, A Letter at Easter (Effie’s Press, 1976) and The Egyptian Poems (Hipparchia Press, 1983) were followed by the publication of the first volume of A Reading in 1985 (A Reading 1—7, Momo’s Press). Since then, three more volumes of A Reading have appeared. Chax Press published A Reading 8—10 (1992); Potes and Poets Press: A Reading 11—17 (1989); Instance Press: A Reading 18—20 (2006). Chax Press also published the chapbook A-reading Spicer & Eighteen Sonnets in 2004. Ms. Dahlen has published work in numerous periodicals and anthologies. Her essay on beauty and her poem called “A Reading…. the Beautiful” were published in Crayon 5.

RTM: What about writing and its address,the address to the other. You write: "the reading of the writing goes on, this is for you because you are not here. you are always not here. you are never here. I make you up, I wonder how you look. and now it is so much easier to write than to speak. an other is so much an hallucination it's scary. I don't know what I speak to." (A Reading 1-7 78) In A Reading 11-17 you write: “ a dead ear, who might be out there listening to this. whoever you are. Foiled” (51). I’m interested in your conception of address in your writing Beverly. What is your work’s relation to its possible or imagined readers?
BD: That first passage is addressed to Rachel Blau duPlessis. We are friends but we rarely see one another. Our friendship is carried on by correspondence and sharing of poetry. It's a kind of lament because the other is absent. And we do invent images of absent others---they become a kind of "hallucination." The other passage is just imagining an audience, or a reader, that unknown other, someone who might be there----or perhaps there is no one listening, nothing, then one is "foiled."
RTM: In 1988 the Socialist Review published Ron Silliman’s “Poetry and the Politics of the Subject.” In it, Silliman introduces a selection of work by various poets. The poets introduced are: Aaron Shurin, Juan Felipe Herrera, Lisa Bernstein, Leslie Scalapino, Bob Perelman, Beverly Dahlen, Nathaniel Mackey, and Carol Dorf. About these eight poets, Silliman wrote: “These poets are different precisely because their audiences are not identical and thus have different needs” (68). Silliman situates these writers as having different audiences and readers while also positing that for some, their relationship to literary experimentation particularly vis-à-vis formal innovations and the construction or deconstruction of the subject is “more conventional.” He does this by setting up a dichotomy between the “subjects of history” who are largely white, heterosexual males and others who have been history’s objects–women, people of color, sexual minorities, etc. You were one of the poets Silliman presented in this selection. What was your response to this presentation of your work at the time and what are your thoughts about this construction of various poetries and modes of investigation now?
BD: I think you've asked me about this before. It's a long time since I've read the article and I can't now find my copy of it. I do think it's one way to proceed with an investigation, surely, though of course there are others. But I can't comment further. Speaking of Silliman, I don't think I've made clear how much I like and admire his work. He did an absolutely heroic reading of Ketjak at the corner of Powell and Market---his throat was bleeding by the end---and Tjanting was read by a group of us standing on a bridge above the trains in the Muni underground at the Church Street station. It was thrilling to throw one's voice out there into that roaring site. The idea of poetry against all that raw noise was somehow exhilarating. It was a wonderful defiant demonstration.

RTM: Beverly---Note: here is your response from an email to me from 5-21-08. I attach it here in case you want to work with this as well.

Note: Beverly agreed to include this May 21, 2008 response here in this interview. It follows.
BD: I suppose I read the Silliman article you quote from, but that was a long time ago and I can't remember much about it now. The particular passage you select for my comment seems familiar, as I re-read it, and problematic because the bias against narrative, lyric, etc. among certain language poets was well-known. I don't mean to generalize here, as I think Ron was doing to an extent that makes the statement inaccurate and misleading. And I frankly don't see that it has much to do with my work, since I have been identified as a woman, as a feminist, but certainly not as a writer of narrative. (I sometimes wish I could write a straight narrative.)

The way the statement is framed clearly privileges some poets as "progressive"--that is, those who explode the literary conventions--and some as those not quite progressive? who are obliged to tell their stories. So story-telling is denigrated as a kind of lower level of development. I thought then (as I do now) that this dismisses the brilliant re-inventions of self in the work of the "new narrative" writers I knew, but beyond the local scene, I felt that we were just beginning to discover the work of writers like HD and Dorothy Richardson, and many others of a previous generation. HD (as novelist) hardly wrote simplistic "stories." Of the novels I remember reading at the time (HD's of course, but also Richardson, Woolf, Mary Butts) "story" seems the least important element.

These works, of course, have been marginalized, and the more relevant question is why?

I note, maybe not so incidentally, that Ron refers to something called "the narrative of history." It's a peculiar choice of metaphor in this context, reifying history (History?) as one long ongoing story. It seems awfully conventional: the sort of thing you saw in old movies where the pages of the book (history?) would appear on screen as the events progressed. And progress. What is that?

This is all I can write today. I'll keep thinking about it.

RTM: I've just been reading a really interesting article by Ben Friedlander on Emily Dickinson called "Emily Dickinson and the Battle of Ball's Bluff" in the recent issue of PMLA.

Ben explores the complex exploration of war that Dickinson's poetry reveals. He writes,

"Scholars must begin to take account of the fact that Dickinson's wartime writing encompasses multiple, contradictory forms of response, a diversity of representational strategies and of the attitudes expressed that strongly suggests a project of coming to terms with war, a project in which the war provided both a constraining pressure on the imagination and an opportunity for exercising it. This alternative account assumes that Dickinson expressed in her poems what she was willing and able to say about the war but not necessarily what she believed; it assumes that her poems are rhetorical performances in which stances are tried out for reasons that cannot be taken for granted at the outset....Dickinson's war poetry is referentially indeterminate. Its subject matter is rarely set forth in terms that are so explicit, so unmistakable, that an alternative reading is precluded" (1583-1584).

This same referential indeterminacy that Ben locates in Dickinson's work seems active in your own work. Many young writers are still wrestling with the question of how one's writing can engage with the present, with the political. These questions certainly engaged many Bay Area writers in the 70s and 80s and continue to do so. In fact, it seems to me, that there is a kind of implicit demand right now that poetry somehow, in some recognizable way, engage with the political. Sometimes this demand seems to include a clear representational relation--thematically or formally--between poetry and politics.

I'm wondering Beverly what your thoughts are on how poetry engages with the present, with politics and history.
BD: This is a huge question, hugely vexed. There's not much overtly political poetry that's not propagandistic rhetoric. Speaking for myself, I see that these concerns enter A Reading but do so obliquely. And I guess there's a good deal of indeterminacy there. However, in A-reading Spicer & Eighteen Sonnets, particularly in the sonnets, there are political subjects---addressed mostly ironically. Nevertheless, the sonnets are breathless, jagged because they are dealing with catastrophic subjects for the most part. The irony is Beckettian.
RTM: One of the things I'm interested in is your participation or not in the poetry scene here in San Francisco. When and why you were involved and when not and why. Part of this is related to my interest in the reception and life of a person's work and how it relates to their participation in the scene. Kathleen Fraser, as a teacher and Director of the Poetry Center, had a very public role and continues to do so. Many people studied with her and then went on to do critical work on her writing. So, there's an economy there for any writer in such a situation that helps to keep her or his work in the public eye. You've taken up a less public role; your day job was one that didn't necessarily put you always in the poetry world. I'm curious how this impacted you and what you think about this.
BD: My "less public role" is illusory. I've given countless readings and my work has been the subject of many critical articles. Most recently, Paul Jaussen, at the University of Washington, is writing a chapter of his PhD thesis on A Reading. However, I am by temperament reclusive and I do not seek publicity. I have never had any ambition to make "poetry" my "career." For these and other reasons I did not seek work at the college level, and I early on gave up the chance to teach in public schools. (I failed student teaching.) After I left the Poetry Center (I had been Mark's secretary) I supported myself working in programs like Poets in the Schools. I worked with Julia Vose later at Mt. Zion Hospital doing workshops with folks in the Senior Day Center. Later, I worked with young students incarcerated in the Alameda County Juvenile Hall. Our program brought workshops in both writing and photography to them. When Reagan was elected and funding for the arts dried up, I found by chance work with City College's Adult Learning Center. Here were students who, for whatever reasons, had not learned to read. It was and is a literacy program. I think I was always meant to be a poet and a literacy worker. I used to refer to my life then as being divided between "high lit and low lit." And yes, my students fed my writing. There are certainly references to them and even quotations from them in A Reading.

In thinking it over, I realize I should say more about my work at the center. It's probably that I've been drawn to "marginal" populations, and I certainly identify with folks who have trouble reading. I was a slow reader myself, backward. School frightened me and I learned how to be invisible in a classroom. My teachers never noticed that I couldn't read until I was in third grade. (How could this happen? It happens all the time.) My mother, who also thought I was reading at grade level, was informed that I couldn't read at all. Part of the trouble was that I was trying to read backward because no one had bothered to point out that reading goes from left to right. I would never have learned to read in school.

My mother taught me to read. In the safety of my own home, my mother became my tutor. I wanted to read, I was ready to read. But the school, the teachers had all failed me. Thank god for my mom. It seems to me now that after only a little bit of instruction I was actually reading very well, and have always had my nose in a book since then.
RTM: What are you reading these days? What excites you?
BD: I'm just beginning Lewis-Williams' The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art. Before that I was reading Vitebsky's study of shamanism and his book about the reindeer people of northeastern Siberia, a tribe called the Even or Eveny. Poetry: I love Jeanne Heuving's work, especially her book called Incapacity. I have to credit Jack Spicer, whose work I've returned to over the years, and my friend George Stanley who, in many ways, was my mentor when I was beginning to write poetry. And, like everyone else, I've been reading Roberto Bolano.


An Unending Reading: Part 1 of an Interview with Beverly Dahlen

Beverly Dahlen, Fall 2009
Candlestick Point State Park
Photo by Jackie Link

This interview with Beverly Dahlen was conducted via email in October 2009. It will appear here in several installments. Enjoy!

Click HERE to read some of Dahlen's poetry and HERE to read tributes to her from various contemporary writers.

RTM: Your A Reading 1-7 begins with a quote from George Steiner that references Wittgenstein and psychoanalysis. Can you talk about how you came to the idea of an “unending reading”? Life and writing as "the interminable reading. the infinite analysis." What got you interested in psychoanalysis? How did you come to be reading Freud and Lacan? And how was your interest in it perceived by others in your immediate community?
BD: It's difficult to untangle all the threads that lead to the source. I think the immediate idea came from Steiner, the book cited in the epigraph, but also from the method proposed in the first creative writing class I ever attended (right out of high school). My teacher suggested writing in a freely associative way, and I found that worked for me. I had been reading Freud already in high school. I was baby-sitting for some people, and one night I searched their bookshelves looking for something to read. They had a copy of that old Modern Library Edition of the works of Freud, and I dipped into it. After I read for a while, I realized it was forbidden knowledge, and so of course I kept reading that book whenever I was there. Later, Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death would be an enormous influence. And I suppose I started reading Lacan when everyone else did sometime in the late 70's. A book I credit highly was Juliet Mitchell's Woman's Estate which was a clear defense of Freud in opposition to the attacks on him from the women's movement at the time. Freud was the enemy. Mitchell's book uses Freudian analysis as well as every sort of other political analysis to illuminate, as she calls it, "woman's estate."

I forgot to mention Freud's essay: Analysis Terminable and Interminable.

RTM: Can you tell me a bit about how you and Kathleen Fraser and Frances Jaffer met and how you came to found the groundbreaking journal, HOW(ever)?
BD: Kathleen and Frances and I had been meeting for some time as a reading group. We exchanged our work with one and another and critiqued it. Kathleen had the idea to begin a small journal, something manageable, that the three of us could do together. We were interested in what other women were writing---women whose work we hadn't seen before. And we did make some wonderful discoveries----Diane Glancy, for example, the native American poet.
RTM: Your books, particularly A Reading 1-7 engage with, among other things, the work of Lyn Hejinian-- "writing is an aid to memory” and "a thought is the bride of what thinking," (75) and Ron Silliman--"Ron says what 'is brilliant but all wrong.' Phallus the first division, woman atomized, what is that to him, to me not that, but that also” (85). What is your relation to Language Poetry? And the New Sentence? Has that relation changed since the writing in A Reading 1-7?
BD: In the late 70's the language poets' star was rising. I was sharing a flat on Connecticut St. with Kathleen Frumkin and Erica Hunt--two persons who were at the time very involved with the LP movement. Barrett Watten lived right across the street. It was a very exciting time. I went to the lectures, to the readings, and sat up many nights talking about "language theory." I subscribed to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and read Saussure. But I was never quite convinced, because my bias ran toward psychology and, on the whole, there wasn't a great deal of interest in that. I don't know if "the unconscious is structured like a language" as Lacan claims. But I was pretty certain that theories of language that left out psychology were too limited for me. But of course I read their work---I liked Lyn's work, and Ron's and I argued with it in my own writing. I liked a number of the poets who had associated themselves with the movement---Kit Robinson and Alan Bernheimer come to mind. They were all very intelligent and witty poets, given to punning and irony and non sequiturs---really amusing stuff, like the 18th century. But I'm not a language poet. In these days I'm reading The Grand Piano, I check Silliman's blog, but I don't read language poetry more than (maybe less than) other kinds of poetry, or other kinds of writing.

I should add that it isn't quite accurate to say no one in the movement was very interested in psychology. Steve Benson has become a therapist and I believe Nick Piombino is either a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst. There may be others I don't know about.
RTM: What if any engagement does your work have with the Beat writers? In A Reading 11-17 you write: “what is it I wanted to tell myself, who is it, another, some, Kerouac, unlike him I use the commas a lot “ (68).
BD: This is just a brief allusion to Kerouac's style. I liked reading that flowing prose, I loved On the Road. In the mid-50's, when I was still living in Arcata, a friend came up and played a tape of a reading that may even have been the first reading of "Howl" at the 6 Gallery. (Oct. 7, 1955). I was stunned by that poem. It seemed to me to have been a testimony, a prophecy, a vision of the horror of life in the US. I was already determined to go to SF, but I was more determined than ever when I heard Ginsberg. I did come to SF the following year, and guess what, the first reading I attended here was Allen Ginsberg's at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood House. He didn't read "Howl" that night but he read lots of wonderful poems, probably the one about Walt Whitman in the supermarket, among others. I don't know how much my own work is influenced by the Beats---that would be for others to decide. But I am on good terms with the people at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics!


Why don't you come up sometime--Saturday November 7th at 3:15

Why don't you come up sometime--Saturday November 7th at 3:15 to be exact--and hear Linda Russo and me at the Poetry Center.

Saturday November 7 PAMLA Conference Reading
Linda Russo and Robin Tremblay-McGaw

3:15 pm @ the Poetry Center, HUM 512, SFSU, free

co-sponsored by Pacific Ancient & Modern Languages Association

Join us for this rare Saturday afternoon reading at the Poetry Center, in conjunction with the annual PAMLA Conference, hosted this Fall, November 6 and 7, by San Francisco State University. Poet-scholars Linda Russo and Robin Tremblay-McGaw, both participants in a panel the previous day (Bay Area Writers: Beyond the "Beat Thing," chaired by Steve Dickison, Poetry Center Director), will be reading their own poems this afternoon.

Linda Russo

Linda Russo is the author of Mirth (Chax Press, 2007) and o going out (Potes & Poets, 1999). Her essay “Precious, Rare, and Mundane” serves as preface to Joanne Kyger’s About Now: Collected Poems (National Poetry Foundation, 2007). A graduate of the Poetics Program, at SUNY Buffalo, she lives and teaches in Pullman, Washington.

Robin Tremblay-McGaw
Robin Tremblay-McGaw’s poetry and other writings have appeared in numerous magazines, and in the anthology Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (Coach House Press, 2004). Her chapbooks include: after a grand collage, and making mARKs, and a full-length collection is forthcoming from Ithuriel’s Spear. She edits the poetry blog xpoetics.blogspot.com, and lives in San Francisco.


The Mass of People & Letters for Poets

Just borrowed from the library a copy of The Selected Letters of George Oppen, edited by Rachel Blau DuPlessis and randomly opened upon this:

"I should imagine that in any really terrible economic emergency we would pretty much start where the New Deal left off--managers, administrators, social workers, engineers being called to Washington--even drafted--something like a war emergency. Disregard of private ownership of big industry where necessary---an enforced assumption that the welfare of the mass of the people was the primary concern of government, though probably with no theorizing about 'Working Class rule'----and no such thing in actuality, either.

And yet this isn't too realistic a picture either. Or at least is far from a terminal point in the 'class struggle.' Because there would still be many opposing alternatives--including war as an alternative to economic breakdown. I am more or less assuming the increasing obvious impossibility of war because of the newly discovered perishability of the planet.

I don't mean that it would all be arranged so smoothly and calmly and by the powers that be. But I cannot imagine anything even remotely like the Russian model in the U.S. Neither can I imagine that history will just sort of end with the present best of all possible worlds (17)."

--excerpt from a Letter from George Oppen to Linda Oppen Mourelatos (Oppen's daughter)
[November 1958]

Oppen's analysis and fantasy strangely still relevant.


DuPlessis underscores the importance of letters with regard to Oppen's poetry. What she says is worth excerpting and noting here not only in reference to Oppen but as a way to consider the letter as form generally, and especially for writers, particularly poets.

"Because many of the issues, stances, locutions, feelings raised in Oppen's poetry occur in the interactive arena of letters, Oppen's correspondence is an important part of his oeuvre. Letters are both intimate and declarative--a curious mixture of semiprivate and semipublic utterance; letters come from need, and there is an immediacy of provocation and response to them which helps dramatize ideas and personalize social and moral trends. The controlled dialogue which letters provide--a forum for hearing oneself, as well as for conversation with others--was crucial to the composition process of a number of Oppen's works. Letters offer both a mirror of what thought one did not see until it was written and an arena for self-explanation and gloss, important because Oppen's writing hinged on self-knowledge: 'in my life to know// what I have said to myself' (CP 242). Letters also provide a place for authority and judgement made less pontifical, more 'essaying,' by virtue of the possibilities of debate and response. Oppen's delight at 'the pleasure of being heard,/ the pleasure / of companionship (CP 142) was announced first in a letter; the recipient, Charles Tomlinson, set that statement as a poem, which Oppen then took back (UCSC 16, 11, 12). While not repeated in such a graphic form again, this collaborative interaction whose subject is precisely the ideal interaction of speaker and listener summarizes the dual functions for Oppen's correspondence: at once to create a dialogue and audience (vii-viii).

For another sweet photo of the Oppens, click here.


Next Lit Generation Lit Crawl

Laura Moriarty, accompanied by fan and an array of bracelets in various hues of blue, hosted the evening's events.

The House was Full and Hot and the Audience Vibrated with Energy at the Marsh Theater last night when Kaila Wilkey, a student at Berkeley Technology Academy,

Ashley Redfield, a student at Oakland School of the Arts,

and Alex Tremblay-McGaw, an 8th grader at James Lick Middle School in the Spanish Immersion Program,

all read their poems.

The young people were followed up by not-quite-so-young writers:

Kiala Givehand who lives in Oakland and is working on her MFA at Mills College;

Kaya Oakes, author of Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, and a poetry collection, Telegraph;

Cedar Sigo, whose book Selected Writings we took home, (having received it in exchange for a poem written on the spot). Sigo also has a book called Expensive Magic. Alex liked his work a lot.

Barbara Jane Reyes, author of Poeta en San Francisco, a book that is large and expansive in its reach and poetics. Her third book, Diwata, is due out next year.


Small Press Distribution & Litquake Event

Barbara Jane Reyes
Cedar Sigo
Kaya Oakes
Kiala Givehand
Alex Tremblay-McGAw
Ashley Redfield
Kaila Wilkey

at the Marsh Cafe
1070 Valencia Street
San Francisco


Pliny the Elder & Melmoth

I have been revising a series of poem/letters called The Melmoth Letters. This project was inspired by Jim Brashear's intertextual loving and lashing of Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, an 1820 Gothic novel, often considered to be the last of the Gothic novels. It is not taught very often, even in Gothic Fiction courses. It is a sprawling and inconsistent fabulous text. Jim's San Francisco State University MFA thesis is a book called go little book--one that needs to be published! One section of it is entitled "Three Gothic Novels." Part 1 of this series is entitled "The Proportion between Offenses," and contains letters interspersed with prose blocks. The letters are from Melmoth and addressed to Maturin. It is headed by an epigraph from Pliny:

Apparebat eidolon senex, macie et senie confectus.
A phantom appeared in the form of an old man, consumed by thinness and age" from Letters (VII. xxvii. 5)

When I ran into Rainbow Grocery yesterday as I was making my way past one of the coolers (headed, I confess, to the cheese counter where there are often tasty exquisite cheese samples--though not yesterday!)my eye fell upon this bottle of Russian River beer called Pliny the Elder. How could I not buy it?

The bottle explains itself:

Pliny the Elder, born in 23 A.D. was a Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer. Pliny and his contemporaries created the original botanical name for hops, Lupus Salictarius meaning wolf among scrubs. Hop vines, at that time, grew wild among willows,likened to wolves roaming wild in the forest. Pliny the Elder died in 79 A.D. while saving people during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He was immortalized by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, who continued his uncle's legacy by documenting much of what his uncle experienced during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This beer is an homage to the man who discovered hops and perished while being a humanitarian.

I can't wait to taste it.

But what might all of this have to do with Melmoth? Or Maturin (see this portrait of him stolen from Wikipedia...)?

Maturin's book opens with the death of an old miser who feels he's being robbed at every turn. So, there is a thematic connection to Pliny's old man emaciated by age. While doing a search in JSTOR, a really useful historical full text database of scholarly articles, I discovered an article in The Classical Review from 1916 that reviews William Melmoth's translation of Pliny, which had just been revised by a (Miss!)W.M.L. Hutchinson, for publication as part of The Loeb Classical Library. So, here is a connection between another Melmoth and Pliny. The review notes the excessive wordiness of Melmoth's translation, lamenting that the "present age sets up different standards of translation from the eighteenth century and dislikes to find little words and little phrases of an original swollen to mammothlike proportions..." (200)

How delicious! Jim's project and my own play with these swelling and mammothlike proportions. And it would seem that Brandon Brown's Catullus translations have their own deliciously swollen nature.

Here is a little taste of a section from Jim's "The Proportion between Offenses":

That mingled sensation of awe quitted him to attend a dying uncle on whom his hopes for independence chiefly rested. Nurse, domestic, and parent snapped themselves when he pleased. The means to conciliate was the orphan son of a younger brother, whose small property holds the very threads of existence in his hands-- it may prolong his infancy in the blue chamber of the dwelling. The uncle was rich, unmarried, and old.

The beauty of the country fell like blows, fast and heavy on his mind. He roused himself from dwelling on many painful thoughts and sat up in the mail. It was the county Wicklow through which he consulted his watch, as the future looked out on the malignant prospect. Then he thought that the strange reports, concerning the cause of the secluded life his uncle had led for so many years, receded into his own dependent state. Some borrowed from the past his uncle's caprice and moroseness.

Though he was striking against the piles of books, globes, old newspapers, wig blocks, tobacco pipes, and snuff canisters, not to mention certain hidden rat-traps and moldy books beneath the chairs, he was never permitted to approach them, when the mind is thus active in calling over invaders, and no wonder the conquest is soon completed (66).

How well it all swells. I'll let you know, Readers, how it swills.


Parting the Nightgown of the Poem

Recently Harryette Mullen was awarded the
Academy of American Poets Fellowship 2009. Hooray for Harryette.

In mini-celebration, I am posting these two slender but full lines from Mullen's 1991 Tender Buttons book, Trimmings.

Night moon star sun down gown.
Night moan stir sin dawn gown.

Below is a brief description of these lines from writing I've done on Mullen's work:

The two lines contain the same number of words, retain the consonants within each, and change only vowels in particular words. In this regard, they suggest a kind of stasis. Mullen has set up a field of restriction, something akin to a parsimony principle in which there is a great deal of constraint and limited mobility.

In Mullen’s two lines above, the only textual difference or movement occurring consists in changes of vowels. Yet, so much else is generated out of so seemingly an insignificant change. Each line begins and ends with the same words : “night” and “gown.” Together these two separate words make one word: nightgown. Mullen opens up or parts the nightgown of this poem. The lines reveal what happens in the space between “night” and “gown.” In the first line night is linked to its coming into being (“sun down”) and its emblems–“moon,” and “star.” In the second line night and the activities that occur in or during it are eroticized as “moon” is transmuted into “moan,” “star” into “stir,” and “sun” into “sin.” Furthermore, the lines document the passage of time, though the first might be said to chart a disordered movement of time as the line begins with “night” and then moves into dusk. The second line is occupied with the passage from night to “dawn” as the ‘o” of “down” in the first line is translated in the second into the “a” of “dawn.” It is not insignificant that the movement of the lines occurs undercover of not only linguistic restriction, but also night and its darkness. Out of extreme restriction and delimitation, the lines instantiate the passage of time both formally and in their content (in the time it takes to read them as well as the way they register or figure a movement from dusk to dawn) while they also generate an erotic and transgressive excess from “sun” to “sin” and in the strangeness of the movement from “night” to “dusk.”


A Selection of Work from David Wolach

Xpoetics is pleased to present a selection of work from the writer David Wolach.

**from Hospitalogy

**excerpt of "your nerve center taxonomy," from Occultations

**{eulogy for lyric} from Prefab Eulogies

**from Prefab Eulogies

David (Michael) Wolach is professor of text arts, poetics, & new media at The Evergreen State College, and visiting professor in Bard College’s Workshop In Language & Thinking. Prior to teaching, for seven years Wolach was a union organizer with the United Auto Workers, and served as consultant for the AFL-CIO. His most recent books are Prefab Eulogies Volume 1: Nothings Houses (BlazeVOX, forth. 2009), Occultations (Black Radish Books, forth. 2010), Hospitalogy (Scantily Clad Press, forth. 2009), Acts of Art/Works of Violence (SSLA/Univ. of Sydney, forth. 2010), The Cutting Room: Recovery Project Fairy Tales (Differentia Press, forth. 2010), and book alter (ed) (Ungovernable Press, 2009). Wolach’s poetry has appeared most recently in Dusie, 5_Trope, No Tell Motel, Ekleksographia: An Imprint of Ahadada Books (Amy King ed.), Little Red Leaves, Venereal Kittens, and Bird Dog. Often performative & employing multiple media, Wolach’s work has been performed or will be performed soon at venues such as Buffalo Poetics Series, The American Cybernetics Conference, The Stain of Poetry Series, The Tangent Reading Series (The Econovergence Conference), The Spare Room Reading Series, and PRESS Literary Conference. Wolach is also the editor of the journal and press, Wheelhouse. http://www.wheelhousemagazine.com

Poetics Statement (power point)

· Most of the poems in Prefab Eulogies: Nothings Houses are improvisations recorded into a microphone while performing some other activity. The work was then shaped onto the page thereafter. All improvisations are inter-poetical responses to work, sometimes individual lines, sometimes whole books, that, just prior to improvising, I’d worked through.

· Where, here, poetry is assumed to have use value beyond itself.

· Where the poems I’m in conversation with share the common assumption that artistic practices are contiguous with sociopolitical intervention.

· At some point I began to think of poetic practice as divorced from “poetry” often construed. I began thinking of most contemporary poetry as a power point presentation.

· Of, on the one hand, derivative structures left wanting, where de Certeau’s “poaching” has been stripped of its politics & become eulogy of the spectacle, forms empty

· Of faith in their impetus, dissensus (some “flarf” e.g.). And on the other hand

· Of occulted poetic practices.

· Of militant sound & site investigations (CA Conrad’s PACE comes to mind, as does work that’s come out of NONSITE COLECTIVE).

· The power point presentation 1) implies but does not ultimately signify (it admits of, and revels in, its emptiness, or hopes to con us into a system of belief external to the subject) and 2) is the evidence of prior activity.

· Prefab Eulogies is presented as poaching in the extreme, evidence of a prior integrated activity, some spontaneous movement between the poem and. So it manufactures its own target of critique.

· As I become less mobile thru systemic illness, the written becomes means & necessity: how can I “perform” the written text in ways that re-claim or re-locate this mobility (having in my work thought of the written as means—“score” or “shaped data”—rather than ends in an artistic practice, one that’s involved site-specific movement & gesture)? Occultations preoccupies itself with this question, a question that ultimately widens into how to matter.

· Hospitalogy is a book of poems written in hospitals or hotels (switching between the two when traveling long distances). Voice as sublation, the multiple subject in this setting in constant constrained mode of confession becomes my fixation. It occurs to me that the doctor-patient discourse is not diagnostic, nor can it be in our current healthcare system—it is confessional. Of what, & who is confessing turns into the exploration that are these poems. The letter-form as evidence of a wandering thru (derive of sorts) the hospital complex make up the rest of the book.

· And wandering, poaching, confessing, statistically fonding - all these procedures born of the urge for the page to move (in both senses), to be a form of protest, to re-narrate & witness occulted structures. This narrative comes under inter-textual, polyvocal scrutiny in Occultations. This book is a sustained conversation with the poetics of the body, with disablement, with the graven in relation to catastrophe. So, it’s the most optimistic, or maybe the fullest, of the three.


from Prefab Eulogies

--David Wolach


filters in binary C++
slowed by
confessional poetry
guided by

1) historical precedent or
2) armchair muhajadeen


enter the kidney deeply & pick
title at random
how no inside, whole no
outside no hole
home-a-rama makeshift other
clutter & chances are

historical precedent
will fortify the walls of our living


enter orbital
or if thresh-
old keeps
questions & visions
make do
& like-
wise find no-
thing approxi-
mating barthian
bliss why is it that poetry is
at best

{eulogy for lyric}

from Prefab Eulogies
David Wolach

after kristin prevallet

As the hard aclines the limp-
Ness forgo act this once are
You and if then backspace

Me he went to the toilet
To gag on the volume of it
The sliver in throat to lung

From lung to hand me I
Want naked a bare skin-
Less being stripped of re-

Course and the wetness
His fingers way down
Into that other expanse

Of fullness rain cease-
Less and I-beams jammed
Calling up the words can-
Not now spill or mute

"your nerve center taxonomy"

Excerpt of “your nerve center taxonomy,” from Occultations
David Wolach


we: repeat the jumping things. urge for avalanche. won't you let us fall away in / your gathering question mark. who will summon you to death question mark. if you are music, then kettle drum this slow burn so we can drown in a pile of dusty words.

[ while a bladder gives
out in
front of a tank & some
body laughs ]


we after life a flip 'n' fray, ink slash ash, a book. an old fashioned e book. a street. an after. image. just as we are the street

(in so far as we construct it) so are we the buildings. to walk to walk for days, we said. is to picket our own. bodies. le petit mort suffers

coup at the hands of the hands of. peu de mort. jaw to hand you asked which first hand to jaw whose pain is whose, someone

said, it's. hose the paper mache locked out shouts. print some $ for road renewal. physiology's bff is kNOW for know.

[ some
pixel reverb
says what […]
do […] now ?!? pre-
tend to the deprive –
ate wants
but in what
[…] language?!? what want?!?
so […] strained […] tonite ]


we're mistaken backspace hand slash led: parasite for a still so called life. sometimes we're a. still so called born. it's about time. no, it's about many things. or. it's like this: we have more lives than you can upload a virus question mark.

[ detritus needs an i note to self
slash this thick dash ness as it un-nerves puts
feelers outsourced and everything is

works referenced (bold)

1. from charles alexander & sheila murphy, “prayer, rupture, dwelling,” jacket magazine
2. first bracket in response rob halpern, disaster suites – pg 71., “--not knowing what our flesh can do”
3. from Charles Baudelaire, “Tristesses de la lune”
4. from kristin prevallet, “a catalog of lost glimpses”
5. “eighteen die at sea while immigration crisis mounts,” expactica news,

from Hospitalogy

by David Wolach

/ / /

--The mirror makes faces at me, one of them

Door length leaning left-like just enough to be

Fixed in the present tense, of a me some years

Back before all this rx detritus gathering in

Crouched between two row houses listening

To their sick heaves and flesh slapping wide

Flesh, my penis I rub feels different out side

Maybe it’s the real air, or was it the common

Sense of this, fucking a thing good in itself

Things have use value as long as they don’t exist

As long as long as it’s private how a child, I was

Rehearsing Rilke’s Seven Phallic Poems I Was

Not thinking of trees, the folds and veins

And the melanin spots I still why when alone

Connect them with a felt pen like dots with

Coded mystery, as more arrive each year

The shape changes never says something

I don’t know, now I cum without warning

/ / /

Aspartame or black mold let’s trace causes

Rumors of traincars moved us from gulags

I want to lullaby what adulterates you

How do you vaccinate a small h his-

Story when from our ember chamber

The timbre of my want song alibies?

Translocamotive of some velocity

Your arm's under heavy scrutiny let's

Abdicate they're reality show hosts

---lullaby as amplitude


Translation in Performance--Brandon Brown & David Larsen

The Scene: Small Press Traffic's Reading at Timken Hall, Friday Night, September 18, 2009. A hot day turned cool.

Friday night: Brandon Brown in a coffee jacket with a complimentary, maybe silk (?), flower in in his pocket. Summer peach t-shirt beneath. Stage right: the large screen on which there was an image of the following Catullus couplet scrawled on the wall of a bar, Brandon said, the night before.

Odi et amo. Quare id facium, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Where to begin? Perhaps (read this as a pause, an anchoring doubt, a question that recurred throughout the reading.) Everything is complicated, conflicted, riven. Loving and hating. contiguously. Brandon explained that he is translating Catullus because it is both impossible and redundant. There are so many translations of Catullus, not the least of which is the Zukofskys'.

Perhaps it is the excruciating pleasure: the translator is torn apart--reading and writing. Strong feelings divide a subject--the reader remarks upon this while the translator repeats.

a fiery syntax lights up my feelings

Brandon, a shirtless David Brazil, Catullus, and later, the voice of Bernadette Mayer, haunted the stage with a conversation between Catullus and The Door from poem #67. Brandon reading along with and slightly off of Mayer's reading.

What can I say? This was an amazing performance, an embodied enactment of the difficulties, ambiguities, complexities, the excruciating pleasures and torments of translating, of being both reader and writer. This tangled nexus of the excesses of reading, writing, parsing and pleasuring, incised and excised incertitude, lascivious linguistic lilt and stutter....

Perhaps, perhaps.

The reader asks a question of Catullus. Where are the adjectives?

I hate your asks. I love your tusks. I love hats...

David Larsen was warmly welcomed back to San Francisco, taking the stage after Brandon, and after himself. What I mean is that first, David showed a video piece of him reading and riding MUNI, hanging out at the waterfront, the Ramp and on Third Street in San Francisco. David read from a variety of books and included a translation of a poem from al Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion, and a brief translation from Nietzsche's The Gay Science. There was a lovely piece about a bookworm.

There were two blonde women directly in front of me (mostly i saw the backs of their heads) with amazing manes and one seductively massaged the neck and head of her partner. Kevin Killian sat at the end of the same row. Rob Halpern and Michael Cross were to my side. Susan Gevirtz, Bob Gluck, Wendy Kramer, Kathleen Fraser, Jocelyn Saidenberg, Suzanne Stein, Sarah Larsen, Stephen Vincent, Bill Luoma and many others filled Timken.

A pleasurable evening. Hard to let oneself go and to track it all simultaneously. a divided subject.

Bios from Small Press Traffic blog here.

Brandon Brown is a poet. In 2008, TAXT press published Camels! In 2009, Mitzvah Chaps will publish Wondrous Things I Have Seen. He co-curated the Performance Writing series at New Langton Arts, The (New) Reading Series at 21 Grand gallery, and publishes small press books under the imprint OMG!

David Larsen returns for his first Bay Area reading since leaving San Francisco last summer. For a time, he was a co-curator of the New Yipes poetry and video series at Oakland's 21 Grand. He now lives in New Haven, where he is writing a book on historical semiotics. His translation of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh's treatise on the Names of the Lion appeared this year from Atticus/Finch (Seattle).