Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A quick & appreciative read of DEED by Rod Smith

Peter Gizzi says that Rod Smiths’s work is “all risk all the time.”

“tears never house us, maybe they
cleanse, maybe they don’t, the word
intend doesn’t seem to fit


from “The Good House”

What we like here is how speech nuances a sort of letterist approach to the lines which resonate nicely around in our heads and then bounces back to a meaning so delicate as to be almost disallowed.

Reviewed in a DC paper, Rod is quoted as saying he figures not to be able to own a house and so has written one instead and I know what he means because I have read The Good House --one of my top 5 favorite chapbooks.

And then I think

Have I not also written that house?

Taken that chance?

“Sacred & infinite, the wipped, stunned spurts pop the placated junk-spider, stoving. Watch yon spider yawn. Watch the furling will can the rasps of spider will. Each foretold tin is a lint spider rioting. Each foretold tin injures the basket. Stand back in the spider. They would not have known injustice if it were not for those things.”

from “The Spider Poems”

At first I think DEED is so good I can barely read it and then I do & it is.

Makes me ridiculously happy or maybe that’s the drugs. Just kidding. Syrup?

About pain. Don’t get me started.

“the worst is not good, it’s alone & not nourish”

from “The Good House”

One of those cases where seeing the work in a new context means reading it as if for the first time, almost.

Not trying to prove anything.

“tunable, coherent,

from “the love that is truly a refuse for all living beings

Or not the usual things.

It comes to me that Kasey was right all along and that A Tonalist and Flarf are subsets of each other. A Tonalists -- I call you to support your Flarfist comrades!

Movie tie-ins

Dead Man, Zatoichi, Pat Garret & the Coward Jesse James, Ghost World, Invitation to a Gunfighter:

“You’re standing between me and the road out of town.”

Jerry Estrin’s last letter was to Rod Smith. It came back a few days after his death. Jerry’s handwriting on the envelope startled me. I remember now only how it ended.

Rock and roll

“& an accordance
abutts transcendence
& crushes us, internal”

Fom “XCVII ('she knows who she is')"

Jerry would’ve liked this book.

“…the wicked mice of plus signs apparent to the mashed open retreads pulp-listed parental softenings cut apart by the paste & parrots, we crux, we are shared like lettuce, like merits, like the brains in the skulls beside the airs of the grounds above the goings, that, there, those, then, thick awake refascinated leapings in a letter, or something vague, something almost not there, a something garish contracted from contact with fragments, & so we are in the dark alone, like everything else, & maybe there is some light. Maybe we can see it?”

Is this not enlightenment?

Laura Moriarty

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


“And I will have more to say about these books, Patrick's tie … and this whole idea of readership, audience, the scene and poetics, Bay and otherwise, anon.”

So I said a while back and while I am still not ready to deal with the full implications of Patrick Durgin’s tie, I find myself wanting enthusiastically to recommend Jesse Seldess’ magazine ANTENNAE. He calls it a journal of experimental writing, music, and performance, and so, excellently, it is. Being happily home with an honorable but not too severe sore throat on this almost holiday, I have enjoyed reading through the issue I have which is #9. I presume you could own it yourself by contacting Jesse at j_seldess@hotmail.com.

I wish I could include a scan of the beautiful cover. Picture an off-white linen tablecloth, a field of snow or a watercolor painting just before the water or the color have hit the paper and you will have an image of it. Inside and out the paper is thick. The 11 by 17 format with generous margins is lavish. It is stapled and so falls open on the lap like an infinite picnic. ANTENNAE may be the perfect magazine.

The magazine opens with Tenny Nathanson’s meditation on zen, the war, poetics and daily life from a book-length poem he is writing called ghost snow falls through the void. This discursive poem is incredibly readable and completely plays my tune. In fact, several pieces in this issue are poetic essays or discursively inflected poetry or critical epic, as I might call Barrett Watten’s engagement with Williams' PattersonCorrelation of Patterson, Book 1. I like the way the critical vocabulary -- the teacherly & scholarly breath of thinking about Williams -- is deployed in a procedural way (there is a chance element in the presentation of the text) which naturally reflects the writer’s poetics, his life, Williams' thinking and life and inevitably your own. It’s a case where to read is to to argue. Carla Harryman’s piece, “anachronistic doggedness (noise at the graveside lecture notes)”, takes the form of what might be called a theatrical lecture. The liveliness of the enacted thinking will be familiar to readers of Carla’s work and both satisfying and surprising of their expectations. The sense of death in it is scary and considered and somehow more visceral than that in Tenny Nathanson’s evocation of deaths in Iraq which have the distanced journalistic feel appropriate to his discussion. David Pavelich’s “Brevity’s Lure, or A Poetics of the Small” brings up Wall Mart (the not small) along with Whitman, Dickinson, Niedecker, Hejinian, Poe,and himself, and others, in this particularly persuasive example of the essay poem genre.

The collaboration by Jen Hofer and Patrick Durgin, “four parables from The Route” -- bits of which I have now heard and seen variously -- is convincing in its artfully dissonant yet almost lyric diction. Actually, I have just forsworn that word -- lyric -- because I have admitted to myself that there really is a lyric mafia and I don’t want to encourage them. I have in the past used the phrase ‘highly prosodized formal unit’ and so they are – although there is properly no “they” – but an overlapping network of units that communicates a lot of mutual thinking about sense, syntax, sensibility, politics, friendship and form, to name a few of its (their) themes. It is a consideration of this way of writing -- that many of us do these days – this finely contrived anti-syntactical yet tactical morphemics that connote and denote while playing around with sound – that would encourage a person profitably to think through the resonances of the two lines below, presumably arrived at independently. The first is by Jen and Patrick, the second by Bill Luoma, recently quoted here:

of of of from of

of the head of of of of of

One could have a lot of fun examing the nuances of meaning and difference between these phrases. And the dream class about collaboration that would include Snow Sensitve Skin along with The Route (out soonish from Atelos) will be one I will want to take if I don’t end up teaching it myself.

Two pieces in the magazine come from the theatrical realm and include scores and diagrams which could presumbly be used to actually perform the works. These are “from ‘The folks who sell the food sell the cars on the street’” by Travis Just and “90 degrees” by Carol Genetti. They give you the feeling that you could take ANTENNAE to an island and survive performatively off it for a long time. I am chainwatching dvds of Lost lately so the idea appeals to me.

There is, finally, a connection between the broken-line highly prosodized units of John Tipton’s "Eight Tokens" which take wild advantage of the generous ANTENNAE page --

gauze resembles winter resembles light
waver the distance the sole syllable remote
speak & you speak again

-- and the effete yet elegantly simple poems of Donna Stonecipher (from Into the Hands Of) (very much after my own heart) which gloriously invoke centuries of European culture with stanzas like

At about that time, the gist of the sublime
was located in the hieratic
parcel of air held
by the wings of an imported

Take that, lyric mafia!

Laura Moriarty

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Aesthetics of Resistance

Atticus/Finch will be releasing SNOW SENSITIVE SKIN by Taylor Brady & Rob Halpern next Wednesday. Once it is posted it will be available from the Atticus/ Finch site and at the reading below. The book is dedicated to “Lebanon’s war dead, Summer 2006, and to the promise of demilitarized time.” The work asserts an emotional and politically resonant musicality. It is self-critical yet celebratory, even optimistic, at least about the usefulness of making each next line. For me it evokes Peter Weiss' Aesthetics of Resistance because it is an antiwar book about working and living in a world of war. And, as a collaboration, it is about the intensity of the relationships that exist among "comrades" in this resistance.

Weiss uses visual art, the Pergamon Frieze in Berlin, as a way to frame his investigation and story of war but Brady and Halpern use music, specifically the music of Mazen Kerbaj, which they note as having "motivated and informed" their project both in his playing of the trumpet and in his blogging (and drawing) during the 2006 war in Lebanon. (mazenkerblog.blogspot.com) Making becomes the central action in the book. "The musicians play/ This allegory of making." The work details and drills down into the words and phrases, the "endless reasons" to resist the endless wars that are being fought for, in spite of, around and before us. Kerbaj: "now i feel bad to draw or play music while people are burning. i convince myself by saying it is my only way to resist."

Rob Halpern & Taylor Brady will read from
at the launch at
New Yipes
Sunday, Nov. 11
21 Grand
416 25th St., Oakland @ 7pm.



White rhythm, it’s basically militant.
-- Joni Mitchell

Interruption reads us. All the shells, cast up on the beach.

Signs of grace, they don’t ‘develop.’

No more themes, a full stop in the moving wind, a vacant mass dead center on the screen.

Having canceled the old notion of ‘shipwreck,’ too familiar now to mean.

True development might begin when development as such comes to an end.

Once they had been real on the horizon, these airs.

The sounds of interrogation pure duration coming from the other room.

Patience and fatigue, some absolute passivity, whatever won’t reduce to measure.

Low-level radiation, amphetamines, great leaps forward on whose prosthetic limbs.

Rehabilitative technologies all listed under current assets, positive externalities, unanticipated casualties affect costs.

Turning now to use, we wonder what it means ‘to produce new unoccupied places,’ and the dissident designs to live there.

Other sounds inside the clotted air, breeding species out of stem cells.

Out on the field the pep squad achieves this terrible generality.

Under the bleachers other billions hold our dirt and dust not land increasingly in common.

Shared tongues lick unspoken language against the other’s teeth.

We did it — limbs twine in blackout, signs abrade our skin, blown into the body.

Useful guts, an erose void eating space for the sibilant pact to couple, triple, multiply.

Small twitches of sinew make a move on time. Twenty-eight days.

Flesh absorbing and absorbed in reconstruction of groundwork.

‘May the road rise with you,’ means climb my heap of rubble into extraction’s rarefied airs. Parched. Thirty days.

‘No one has yet determined the power of the body,’ or what his meat might do, making time.

You notice the upper partials only in their absence, warning signals not to be heard.

One fucking billion people saying NO — can’t imagine what that would sound like, and there you have the problem.