Thursday, July 31, 2008

KEXP nitwit can't believe there's a town in France called Brest.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Friedberger Friday (two days early)

Song lyrics don't work as poetry (a screenplay is not a movie), but damn, sometimes they almost do. Here is a song by Matthew Friedberger, one of the Fiery Furnaces. His sister Eleanor is the other Fiery Furnace. She does most of the singing. This is a song she sings.


BORNEO


I was so bored with my old life;
I was so bored with decent odds.

My new roommate left her debit card:
some sort of test for me. It's too hard.
Try to run an errand. Nervous sweat.
I rush back home and if I win I'll give her half. (I bet.)
Online casinos in the Caymans;
Legal disclaimer writ for layman's.

I moved back into New Canaan;
babysit my sister's kids; it's rainin'.
They fuss a bit while I put them to bed,
and grumpy, sitting on the couch, I get it in my head:
take Metro North. A silver candlestick.
To Aquaduct on LIRR. Pick.

I was so bored with my new life.
I felt like I knew all the odds.

I bet 'gainst myself I wouldn't wager
my boyfriend's mother's mansion (nothing major).
I stole the deed one night when she was drunk.
I drove onto the reservation with it in my trunk.
Sensors beep the threshold when I crossed it;
thirty thousand marker soon I lost it.

Baltimore inner harbor (sports) zone:
being courted. He's talking on his cell phone.
"Let me tell you why I think I love her:
She knows you always take the bye week dome home team to cover."
Go up to Pimlico and I choose.
It's no fun if it's fine when you lose.

I was so tired with all the angles;
I was so bored with losin' easy

So I gambled on going further a-field.
So I flew to Sydney and then to Bali and then to Jakarta
and called on my step-father's ex-business partner
Major Timmy Sastrosatomo
and he set me up as a silver smith/batik dabber
in a house once owned by the Princes of Mataran.
And he told me all his troubles.

We bribed a CFO at Semen Cibinong
to get them to buy a 40% stake
and we got a 5 million dollar order from Nieman Marcus,
which we filled about 10%;
but I did sell them my children's book
which I said was a South Sumatran
folk tale—which went like this:

I played cards for seven days straight,
was up $47 dollars late
evening as the sun went down I saw
the ace of diamonds up his sleeve—black velvet on his paw.
I fold, say goodbye politely.
They bark, you don't get off that lightly.

I dreamed of a casino way up in the hills of Borneo
where I lost with the giant flying squirrels and orangutans and great morman
         butterflies all day long.
'Til the bulldozers turned us into Whole Fruit Fruit Bar sticks and china markers.

*****

I saw some music reviewer compare the Friedbergers' lyrics to Kenneth Koch, and that reviewer mentioned another reviewer who compared them to John Ashbery. Maybe, sometimes. I don't know, those reviewers might have just picked those names because they were music reviewers not necessarily acquainted with as many poets as poetry reviewers might be. I don't know who I would compare them to.

Semen Cibinong is a real company by the way. Apparently they are "one of Indonesia’s largest cement manufacturers".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Radio Shack was full of whores. Nevertheless I thought I would stop in and see about a job. I'd just been laid off from the hot-air balloon factory where I'd worked for the last 78 years. By 2032 every seventh citizen was a prostitute, so to see a large group of them in the Radio Shack was nothing out of the ordinary.

*****

Ok, stop right there. See what happens when I try to write fiction? Just four sentences in and already there's an unintended contradiction. The "nevertheless" in the second sentence implies that the narrator finds the presence of whores in a Radio Shack to be something out of the ordinary, something undesirable. But two sentences later the narrator says that whores in a Radio Shack are "nothing out of the ordinary". Argh! Fucking fiction. All these little snags to get hung up on. This doesn't happen with poetry. I don't have to worry about writing myself into a corner, since there are no corners to be written into.

Monday, July 28, 2008

WHAT IS UP WITH ALL THIS BOOMING CANNONFIRE

That is NOT a rhetorical question. I'm sitting here in my room in Harlem, and for more than ten minutes I was listening to what sounded like a mighty barrage of cannonfire. Here's an excerpt of a conversation I was having at the time:

9:03 PM  me: dude what is with all this CANNONFIRE in Harlem right now???
9:04 PM  i swear to god it sounds like cannons
                  big, booming battleship guns
                  i have no idea what it is
9:06 PM  i don't hear screams, so i guess it's nothing to worry about
                  fireworks maybe?
                  i can't see any out the window
9:07 PM   and it's way louder

                  [my friend]: i don't know

                  me: it's like the friggin spanish armada out there!!
9:09 PM  this is insane. it's still going on. it's not even a holiday
                  i swear it sounds exactly like a world war two movie
                  i've never heard such booms before
9:11 PM    it's like the bloody blitz over here

9:12 PM   [my friend]: sounds like s tory to me

                  me: it's like freakin gettysburg, jeez louise

                  ok it stopped
9:13 PM   man that was weird

Johnny Flynn - The Box

Finished the third chapter of Sentimental Education.  Also finished Miss America, by Catherine Wagner, which I started a few years ago.  Went to a reading last night.  Took a walk down Riverside Drive tonight.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Maiden Lane


Perfect weather pisses me off because no matter what I do I feel like I'm wasting it.  The picture above is a picture of perfect weather.  It's too hard to decide what to do, because you feel pressure to get it right.  After taking this picture I used the bathroom at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble (cleanest one in town) and while I was there decided to see if there were any new poetry books that didn't suck and which I didn't know about.  There was.  It's called Rogue Hemlocks, and it's written by a person whose name is Carl Martin.  It's his third book.  It is a book I will buy if and when I see it at a decent bookstore.  Ahem.  So no, I didn't buy it, but I skimmed a couple of poems and felt pretty much like I'd read something I'd never read before, which is something that happens to me only once a month or so.  That's a wild guess, but still.

I'm going to this thing at Unnameable tomorrow that should be fun and interesting.

I'm almost done with the third chapter of Sentimental Education.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The exclamation point after the "Thank you" on a credit card online payment confirmation screen is the least sincere exclamation point I know of.

ATTENTION: I SNEAKILY CHANGED

the last two lines of that poem down there.  It sucks less now.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Me

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tired of IPS's (Internet Poetry Scrooges).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's that you say?  Someone urinated on your front door today?  Join the club.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Impulse Purchase



People.  People.  You are watching these videos I put up, right?  Do you think I do it to amuse myself?  (Well, sure, but...) No!  I do it for YOUR EDIFICATION.  If you haven't watched the Santogold video below, I urge you to do so now.  Why?  Because it's something I think you'll like, if you have anything approaching good taste in music, videos, and/or music videos.  Note especially the contrast between the serious-sounding music and the somewhat-less-than-serious-but-at-the-same-time-very-serious images of people screaming while getting splashed with paint and pretending to be disemboweled.

Like the best poetry, it makes you—but I hate "makes"; let's say "allows you to"—feel something-but-what-but-what!  You're never quite sure where you are, so you keep alert, on your toes, eyes peeled (an old and common phrase that nevertheless will always sound cool).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who says you can't memorize Ashbery?

People who think that poems should always rhyme often cite memorability as the most important criterion for a poem's value.  (Is there a smiley for eye-rolling?  I would like to use it right about now.)  Anyway, these people complain that contemporary poetry is worthless because you can't memorize it.  (More eye-rolling.)  These people often pick on John Ashbery as the prime example of unmemorizability.  (Roll roll roll.)  These people are wrong.  You can memorize any poem if you just put a little effort into it, spend a lot of time with the poem.  Of course I think the whole notion of memorability as a criterion is dumb, but I'll play along for now and offer proof that you can in fact memorize an Ashbery poem.  Look, if I can do it, you can do it.  Here is "The Military Base", typed from memory.  (I haven't read the poem in months.)  (I couldn't remember the correct line breaks, but that hardly matters when you're reciting it out loud.)  (By the way, when I think of memorability in poetry, I place more importance on the memory of the experience of reading than on the memory of the actual poem.)


THE MILITARY BASE


Now, in summer, the handiwork of spring 
is all around us.  What did we think 
those tendrils were for, except to go on
growing some more, and then collapse,
totally disinterested.  Uninterested
is probably what I should say but
they seem to like it here.  At any rate
their secret says so, like a B-flat clarinet
under the arches of some grove.

The house took a direct hit,
but it didn't matter.  The next moment
it was intact, though transparent.
No injuries were reported.
There were no reports of looting
or insane buggery behind altars.


* * *

Now, here it is again, with correct linebreaks.  (I know they're correct because the book is now sitting open on my lap.)


THE MILITARY BASE


Now, in summer, the handiwork of spring
is all around us.  What did we think those
tendrils were for, except to go on growing
some more, and then collapse, totally
disinterested.  "Uninterested" is probably
what I should say, but they seem to like it here.
At any rate, their secret says so,
like a B-flat clarinet under the arches
of some grove.

The house took a direct hit
but it didn't matter; the next moment
it was intact, though transparent.
No injuries were reported.
There were no reports of looting
or insane buggery behind altars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A soothing balm in this our Age of Hypersensitivity

I'm very tempted to delve further into the problem of America's irony shortage so clearly demonstrated by this inane New Yorker controversy (see previous post), but for now, instead of getting hot in the heels I'll defer to my man Bill Maher, whom I can always count on to cut through the bullshit.

From an article on the Times website: “If you can’t do irony on the cover of The New Yorker, where can you do it?”

Then, to illustrate the fact that his show is undeterred by concerns for sensitivity: “'There’s been this question about whether he’s black enough,' Mr. Maher said. 'I have this joke: What does he have to do? Dunk? He bowled a 37 — to me, that’s black enough.'”

(photo: Phil McCarten/Reuters.  I fear no one more than I fear intellectual property lawyers.)

VERY suggested reading

From Gary Kamiya at Salon, concerning this silliness over the New Yorker cover:

"After 9/11, some pious nitwits, suffering from an America-centrism akin to the medieval belief that the Earth was the center of the universe, intoned that "irony was dead." Seven years later, they've been proven right -- but not in the way they intended. Irony may have been killed, but not by sincerity -- it's been killed by cynicism. Vast swaths of the left have apparently been so traumatized by the Big Lie techniques employed by the Bush administration, its media lickspittles like Fox News, and the right-wing attack machine that they have come to regard all images or texts that contain negative stereotypes as too politically dangerous to run. If you satirically depict Obama as an Islamist terrorist, in this view, you are only reinforcing and giving broader currency to right-wing smears."

Monday, July 14, 2008

The other night I was bored and clicked on the GarageBand program on my computer, just to see what it was.  Turns out you can record sound with it.  For a long time I had been longing—I'd even go so far as to say yearning—for a computer program that would allow me to do just that, in order that I might record myself reading poems which I could put on my iPod and then listen to when I'm out and about.  (Right now, sitting here, I'm merely about, not out.  Hence the italicized "and" just now.)

Way too many people, and I mean way too many, are landing on this blog through a search for "bondage dairy".  I suppose I could google it myself and find out what it is the easy way, but though I've seen some weird things on the internet, I'm not sure I can handle bondage dairy.

Yesterday and today I completed the first chapter of Sentimental Education.  Once again I got pissed and frustrated that I was having such a hard time enjoying and understanding a classic book.  Pissed that it always takes me an hour to read four pages.  Not too happy either with the fact that there are people who are smarter than me.

I also gave a few moments thought to wondering when I might wrap up Denis Johnson's Already Dead, which I think I started about a year ago.  I've got around 70-odd pages left I think.

Friday, July 11, 2008


As you've undoubtedly surmised, the severely adumbrated parallelogram above is the famous final page of the twelfth chapter of the first volume of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. Actually, it's the final two pages, back-to-back sides of the same leaf. I should also say that I spent a good half an hour trying to decide if it's appropriate to use the word "adumbrate" in the way I have just now. I couldn't decide; it probably isn't. I also had to look up parallelogram. Although, I really shouldn't say had to, since it's good to look up words if you need to (and even if you don't need to—you still might learn something). I got to look up parallelogram. That's better. As I was saying, or rather was about to say, Tristram Shandy is, unlike many classic novels I have attempted, a book with which I became wholeheartedly and enthusiastically devoted to from the very first page. It has been a constant (okay, intermittent) companion since October 2005, a few months after I commenced my short-lived dishwashing career in Bloomington, and it has followed me to New York, all the way to my desk here at...uh, the place where I work. This morning on the train I finished the ninth chapter of the second volume (out of nine volumes), which puts me about 90 pages into a 600+ page book. My goal is to finish it before the end of the world in December 2012. I might have to pick up the pace. Anyway, this is another book that I think would go over well with high school kids, better at least than The Scarlet Letter, a probably irrational hatred for which I cannot seem to get over. We would do well to keep in mind that when I express certain feelings about The Scarlet Letter, I am expressing the feelings of a 14-year-old, specifically the 14-year-old self of mine who read it. None of my subsequent selves has read The Scarlet Letter. But I still think it would not be a bad thing if someone were to sneak into a high school library late at night and replace every copy of The Scarlet Letter with a copy of Tristram Shandy.

In other news, I have just been informed that Australian composer Percy Grainger, "avowed racist" and "Duke Ellington fan", had a collection of 70 whips. More on that later, perhaps.

Newsflash: Goodreads censors trivia question

Yes, I'm sorry to say that my most recent quiz question was flagged and removed by humorless Goodreads censors.  The question:

          In Pride and Prejudice, which Bennet sister is the first 
          to be eaten by a velociraptor?

          Jane
          Elizabeth
          Mary
          Kitty
          Lydia
          None of the above

Maybe they finally decided there were just too many Jane Austen questions.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This is what I picked up at St. Mark's tonight.  Hand-made, bound with pennies, excellent lineup.  Only 124 other copies in existence.  Can't wait to "dive in".

(It's a journal of poetry and art, for those of you living on Mars, or Florida.)

I'd like to apologize for the above comment suggesting that Florida is a barren, cultural wasteland.  (That honor goes to my beloved Indiana.)  Florida is a happy place, and I wish it no harm.

Mars also has a lot going for it culturally.  Again, no offense was intended.

After receiving a friendly email from David Yezzi, I have added a footnote to my reworking of his poem, "Vigil", my version of which I called "Vigil in My Pants".  Just scroll down or click on the Poems link to your right to find it.

I made the mistake of sleeping in till 1pm on Sunday, which means I didn't get to sleep till 4am Monday, which means I've yet again managed to screw myself over in the sleep department.  It's 12:30 people, what am I still doing here?  Watching Malcom in the Middle and then King of the Hill, that's what.  Why?  Because I have to.  Why?  Because it's a habit bordering on compulsion.  I sleep about five hours a night.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I forgot to say I was thinking about personalities, not just reading styles.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Okay look here's the thing

Poems come from people, right?  (Even when they come from computers, right?)  A poem on the page is one thing, right?  We read it, and the only sound we hear is our own voice reading it either out loud or in our head, right?  And receiving the poem that way is one thing, right?

And hearing the poet read it, or even seeing them read it, or even seeing them live and in person read it—that's another thing, right?  It's a different poem, right?  The poem on the page is one poem, and that same poem coming from out of the actual body of the poet is another poem, right?

Are the two poems, although different, equally "the poem"?  Or!

Is the poem that comes directly out of the actual body of the actual poet more "the poem" than the poem on the page?  Should we defer to the actual poet-body poem?  Is that poem the go-to poem?  Is it?  Isn't it?!  I think I used to think it isn't.  But come on, isn't it?!

Take that, K-Jo

Bill Berkson, from John Latta's blog:

"By the way, to put to rest Kent Johnson’s folderol about who wrote 'A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island,' that poem was salient among the poems Kenneth and I discovered—'Hey, look at this!' I distinctly recall Kenneth saying—as we sorted through Frank’s manuscript files at the copy machine."

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Exquisite Corpse

Alfred Chester's The Exquisite Corpse, which I'm now several chapters into, is the kind of book they should be teaching in high schools instead of The Scarlet Letter.  Of course any teacher who dared to teach this would probably be shot on sight by order of the Righteous League of Moral Enforcers, or whatever the PTA is calling itself these days.

For some reason I felt compelled to use a dollar bill as a bookmark for this, an idea which had never occurred to me before.  I wondered why it did now.  Then tonight I came upon this passage:

          Mary Poorpoor was only a child herself when her son
          was conceived.  She was unmarried and alone in the
          world.  She was homeless, hungry and skinny.  She had
          no idea who the father could be, but it came to pass
          that she hoped more and more it was the kindly fat so-
          cial worker who befriended her a few months after
          she became pregnant.  The social worker was named
          Emily, and she set Mary up in a sunny tenement flat
          that had its own toilet as well as a bathtub in the
          kitchen, heat and hot water.  Emily was a stately-
          looking sober yet playful woman with large breasts
          under either or both of which she was given to hiding
          one-dollar bills.

You can guess where it goes from there....

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Yeah, so I finally watched this tonight, and my basic reaction was: that's it?  Maybe I was expecting too much.  I think I was expecting a comedy.  I think I was expecting Mel Brooks or Terry Gilliam.  I think I was thinking how much better and funnier and wilder this would be if it had been directed by Terry Gilliam instead of a sitcom star.  I suppose there is some "humor" in this movie, but it isn't really funny humor.  It's more like wait, wait, I think he's going to say something funny...oh, maybe not humor.  And it seemed like everyone was mumbling.  Am I the first person to notice this?  Is there wax in my ears?  There is, but let's pretend there isn't so that my point may stand unchallenged.

The movie also reaffirmed my philosophy of B.C.A.S.—Billy Crystal Always Sucks. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Someone recently arrived at this blog through a search for the artist Sigmar Polke.  How, I have no idea.  Anyway, this picture (B-Mode, 1987) is my new desktop.  I think my favorite part of it is the woman.  I like the window, and the gauzy curtain thing, and the color orange...but yeah, my favorite part is almost certainly the woman.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Having opinions is not something I do well. I've always believed grown-ups know best, and I still don't think of myself as a grown-up. It's hard for me to have confidence in any opinion when I look at grown-ups put forth seemingly wise, thought-out opinions, expressed in a confident manner...but which contradict equally wise, thought-out, confidently-expressed opinions of other grown-ups. If they disagree, someone must be wrong, right? But how can someone be wrong when what they are saying is so confidently-expressed? It must be that there are people who believe they are right, but are actually not. How am I supposed to trust the opinions of seemingly wise people when I can't be sure of who is actually right and who is actually wrong? What if everybody is wrong? Because everybody can be wrong, but not everyone can be right. Does anybody really know anything?

Every thought I have is something I stole from a seemingly wise grown-up. (I'll believe anything.) Therefore some of what I "know" must be wrong. I realize this. That's why I'm reluctant to have opinions, much less express them.
According to a TV monitor in the deli where I often lunch (verb), my neighborhood, Hamilton Heights, has the most noise complaints of any New York neighborhood. I believe it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

If you go to the soon-to-be-defunct Strand Annex looking for these books, um, you might be out of luck.

GODDAMIT
Anybody who can tell me where that last title comes from wins a new Dodge.  Not really.

I spilled a Coke on my coins tonight and long story short my coins are now sitting in a colander in the kitchen.  Annoying, yes, but N.I.T.M.O.I.  I took the opportunity to rearrange my "desk".  There's less stuff on it now.  My TV is in the corner, at an angle, rather than centered, forward-facing.  Maybe this means I'll watch it less.  I'm thinking no.

I read a few poetry blog items that pleased me today.  Two examples: