Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ron Silliman Dream (an old one, but new to this blog)

Ron Silliman approaches me in a bar.

“I like it rough,” he says. “I like it really rough.”

As quickly as we’re talking we’re rubbing up against each other.

“I want you to shit in my mouth,” he says.

At first I was turned on, incredibly so, but now he’s saying things like “I want you to stick a steak fork in my shoulder while we’re fucking” and “baby, you can rub vinegar into my asshole while I’m blowing you——and don’t let my screaming stop you.”

“There must be some sort of mistake,” I tell him. “I’m not interested.”

He looks baffled, then really offended.

“But I heard you were cool,” he says. “Zach Schomburg said you were really cool.”

I’m puzzled.

“Yeah,” he continues. “Zach Schomburg said you were tough. Really tough.”

He’s right in my face now and his breath smells terrible.

“Zach Schomburg,” I mutter, almost incoherently.

“Yeah, Zach Schomburg,” he shoots backs at me, almost spitting through his teeth. “The kid you went to high school with. The kid whose dog threw up over everything.”

“O,” I tell him, remembering a poem I read a long time ago, “You’re talking about David Berman.”

“I am not talking about David Berman,” he growls. “I am talking about Zach Schomburg, and Zach Schomburg’s never steered me wrong.”

(note: this dream first appeared in Blake Butler's Lamination Colony)

to view all Ron Silliman dreams just click on the "Ron Silliman" label below, or more easily, go to the Dreaming Ron Blog

It's been a while since I've had a dream about Ron Silliman. Perhaps they're done. But, I must say: I sure do miss him

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AmericanWay Writing: Adam Pitluk

A few weeks ago I belittled some of the editor’s writing in AmericanWay (American Airline’s in-flight magazine), calling it “retarded” and “piss-poor” because, frankly, it is.

Okay, so now I’ve just read the editor’s note in the latest AmericanWay and I’m pleased to report that none of the writing seems to me to be obviously retarded and/or piss-poor.

Just to give you more flavor, though, of Adam Pitluk’s style and phrase-making, to follow are some quotes from his latest editor’s note (“Tulsa to Tampa”).

------1)) “Have you ever played this game: Pick any three bands that if you had your way, you could see in concert in present day. It’s the old reliable that my buddies and I like to engage in when we get together.”

-------2)) “Moving forward, American Way, which is still the only inflight magazine published every two weeks, will begin featuring destinations . We’re not doing away with celebrities altogether, though. After all, I’m still quite curious about what makes Paula Abdul tick (you and I will both find out in our February 1 issue).”

-------3)) “But we staffers here agree that it’s time to get back to our roots. We do a heck of a job bringing you the stars of stage, screen, and radio, in my humble opinion, but chances are you’re destined for Kansas City today, not for a rendezvous with Charlize Theron. Both will be on future covers, so if I’m wrong and you are heading out to L.A. and Charlize’s house, I’m still covered.”

--------4)) “And you Tampa locals: I don’t want you to think that the only reason we’re kicking off our destination covers with your city is the Super Bowl. We started with you because, quite frankly, I love Tampa -- especially the food. I’ll take the Pepsi challenge and put the Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant on South Howard Street up against any tapas joint the world over.”

--------5)) “For my money, it doesn’t get any better than a foodie weekend in Tampa.”

--------6)) “Okay, for my money, it doesn’t get any better than listening to the Jayhawks while on a plane from Tulsa to Tampa in order to watch the Super Bowl on February 1, after I’ve finished watching Office Space at Charlize Theron’s house. With Paula Abdul. And Jimi Hendrix. Yep, for my money, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The entire editor’s note’s available at

Sunday, January 25, 2009


--The Sistine Chapel. I found more beauty on the undersides of soaring gulls' wings.

--I told my wife I'm the most religious man in the world and I believe it.

--Eating apples and mandarins, listening to Brian Ferry's "Slave to Love."

--Romulus and Remus suckling at the she-wolf (sea-wolf). Her teats like big fat teardops.

--Come to Crete and make a baby!

-- "I didn't want to fall in love with you
didn't want to know the things I know."
(The Sugababes)

-- "Sticks and stones and animal bones"
(Kaiser Chiefs)

--EasyJet says Berlin's "the epicentre of all things cool and modern."

--Crappa Likka - a restaurant in Palermo

--Romans ate fried canaries (thx, again, EasyJet)

--Songs I'm going to buy on iTunes
"This is the life"
"... a creepy little girl in a creepy little house..."
"Miles Away"
"Are we human or are we dancers" (some of the most retarded lyrics, but I'm a big fan of the sound and feel of their songs. The Killers that is.)
"Hot and Cold" (my wife says Katy Perry is going to be a one-hit wonder. maybe.)

--Nice Flight. Gate 5. Goodbye.

--Here in this chasm of quarried rock they herded them in and left them to die and rot in cold darkness

--A white-winged pigeon looks like a man with arms in casts flying

--a striped orange cat

--Boats and a childish nudge (i mean "nude") on a couch with a black cat at her feet. A little black triangle's all filled in between her legs. Also, above them, a smiling pale-blue swordfish. Very friendly looking.

--Big, dark, glaring lips.

--Traipsing back to the boat with three monkeys lashed to my back. The little boy covered with tattoos says "arrivederci"

--I miss you all

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brian Clements Interview

To follow is an interview I've just finished with Brian Clements re his captivating new book of prose poems "And How to End it."

"And How to End it" is from Quale Press and you can order it at Amazon or Small Press Distribution

And here's the Bio that Brian's supplied.

Bio: of half a dozen collections of verse, free verse, and prose poetry; editor of Sentence and its parent press Firewheel Editions, with the anthology An Introduction to the Prose Poem forthcoming from Firewheel this spring; Coordinator of the MFA in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University. Two books in 2008: Disappointed Psalms and And How to End It.

Next interview will be with Shane Jones re his Novel "Light Boxes" (early to mid February)

Brian Clements Interview: An Accumulation of Astonishments

Interview with Brian Clements re his new book "And How to End it."


RK: These days it seems impossible to just take 40 or 50 of one's best poems and slap them together into a book. Readers expect a larger structure and for poems to work together. For today's poet putting together a book this means having to work and think on a much larger scale than what's usually involved in an individual poem. I see in the description of "And how to end it" (on SPD )that you've used the Fibonacci sequence as an organizing principle. For me the relevance here is that the sequence shows, going along with what's happening in "And how to end it," how things accrue, spiraling out, larger and larger. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose this mathematical sequence and how, all in all, you expect it to enhance and/or ground the reader's experience of the book? How also did it then guide your decisions in putting the book together? And while we're at, if you don't mind, could you let us know a few recent books of poetry whose architecture organization has particularly impressed and surprised you?

BC: Thinking on a larger architectural scale hasn't been a program or a result of market pressure so much as a habit for me. I've tended to work in projects since around '94--I think it was a way to organize my thought and energy after grad school, where many things tend to be organized around what someone else wants you to think about. While it may be painfully obvious to most people, I had to learn by negative experience that it's impossible to be genuine or even interested unless one follows one's own obsessions and idiosyncrasies. Working in projects is a way to indulge those obsessions and idiosyncrasies yet feel like you're getting somewhere--not necessarily in the sense of progressing, but in the sense of moving somewhere else. So I worked on nothing but 7-line poems for a while, which resulted in Ions, then I worked on nothing but ritual poems for a while, which resulted in a yet-unpublished manuscript called Burn Whatever Will Burn, and I worked on a few other sequences, then did a bunch of short poem/plays, and somewhere along the way-during a burst of collaboration with a group of poets in Dallas, including Joe Ahearn, Ray Bianchi, and others--I realized that I had been interested in prose poems back in grad school without really knowing or caring that they were "prose poems," and that, having been discouraged from writing them, I, stupidly, abandoned that interest. When I came back to the prose poem, I wrote nothing but those for five or six years. All of the poems in And How to End It as well as the poems in the sequel book, Jargon, which will be out next year from Quale, came from that burst of prose poems.

Gian Lombardo at Quale had asked to see a manuscript, and what I sent him--not quite the 40-or-50-best-recent-poems-of-a-certain-type method, since they were bound by a few threads--included what ended up being the two books. Gian has a very good eye for paring down a book, for cutting out what is not essential. You can see it in his own poems, and you can see it in Quale's books, which have a spare sensibility but also a sense of great space opening up--this has a lot to do with his use of white space, but also with the silences between sentences, stanzas, pages. Gian and I had been talking about the book's use of cosmological terminology, particle physics, how the language of those disciplines suggests something about both the particle/wave nature and the fractal nature of language itself, and I decided that I wanted to reflect that in the book's structure. The Fibonacci sequence was a way to use the language pool of the poems to create a kind of fractal mirror, so that pieces of the book keep coming back at you as you read through it. And it continues into the sequel book.

I'm not sure I ever thought about how my use of the sequence grounds or doesn't ground a reader; primarily I was concerned with finding a way to build into the book my obsessions du jour, which is also a way of making a record for myself of what I used to think about, and with finding a way to hold the book together. But maybe those two things are the same thing-holding a book together and grounding a reader. All of which is to say that I'm not that concerned in this book with marshalling the reader into some emotion, some reaction or another. I'm just interested with puzzling out the problem of the book, which is the problem of placing our fractured, lost, being in a fractured, entropic, beautiful, exploding universe.

Some recent (loosely interpreting "recent") books whose architecture/organization have surprised/impressed/pleased me:

Brenda Hillman's Cascadia
Denise Duhamel's Mille et un sentiments and her book forthcoming from Firewheel next year, Help in 40 Languages
Catherine Imbriglio's Parts of the Mass
Dale Smith's Black Stone
Cecilia Woloch's Tsigan
Brenda Coultas's Handmade Museum
Carolyn Forché's blue hour
I've always admired the architecture of John Yau's sequences and Charles Wright's books and Ron Silliman's oeuvre.
There are a couple of manuscripts I'm reading for the Sentence book award whose architecture I admire, but I have no idea who the authors are (blind reading).

RK: The predominant force in our culture is that of quick and easy gratification. Quick and easy sensory stimulation. And when it comes to Art and Entertainment, it's more, really about superficial Entertainment. Movies, for example, indulge in video-game-like effects, cars and buildings exploding. No thinking really, just blood and burning. Your book's not easy. You take us on a trip out into space, back down into the body (where legends hold the truth is written on bone and on the lining of organs) which ends up in a bog, and into the twisted-spiral dead-fog-land of politics, history and terrorists. And all along this book demands that the reader think. In fact, the tone of the opening, "Beginner's Manual," is quite gruff. The speaker warns the reader that he's in for a strange and difficult time and that the only rule's that "the rules are updated regularly." In fact he/she goes as far as to warn the reader "if you value your quiet life, stop reading now." (this is funny because today's "quiet" uncomplicated life is the superficially hectic sound and fury world of movies, music and video games.) "And how to end it" simply isn't a book for the average Joe. And most books of contemporary poetry aren't. But lots of poets seem to think that most books of poetry are for the average Joe: if only he just tried hard enough! What I admire here, is that right up front you tell the average Joe: this isn't for you, fuck off. So the book, then, seems elitist. Written by a specialist for a niche audience of mostly-specialists (other poets). And it's not "posing." Your thoughts on this, please (direct, indirect, whatever) ?

BC: There's an interview with Jack Gilbert in the current APR, during which Gilbert spends a lot of time and effort, as he has done for years (when you and I visited with him in Dallas years ago, for example), essentially asserting that what he calls "postmodern" work is empty and worthless because it doesn't appeal to him emotionally. He also blames our high quotient of what he considers to be bad poetry on, among other things, what you've called this culture of quick gratification. The interview is full of contradictions and inflated ego masquerading as selflessness that I won't go into here, but what is frustrating about Gilbert is what is frustrating about many "mainstream" poets and readers who are terrified of poetry outside the mainstream (and "mainstream" for me means the poem of emotional expression or transparent communication), in a way that they tend not to be terrified of experimentation in other arts like painting, music, sculpture, architecture, film. They can't see poetry as anything but an emotional expression or an expression of emotion, a solicitation of emotion--not to mention the fact that they can't conceive of the idea of a difficult, experimental poem engaging someone on an emotional level. Why? It's befuddling. Gilbert at least says, "I'm just not interested in it," rather than saying "It's not real poetry," but there's still the implication that the poem that is not grounded in personal expression has no value. Now, why would one assume that everyone would or should be interested in the same things that interest Jack Gilbert or Joseph Epstein or Joan Houlihan, or that everyone shares a core of emotional obsessions? The "universal" experience of humans, or even a common experience of Americans, is a bunch of bunk beyond primal urges. I love most of Gilbert's work, but if everyone tried to write like he does, good God. His contention seems to be that only an emotionally striking poem can change one's life. In fact, that's proven to be untrue. Everything that you read changes your brain architecture. Reading a few "post-avant" poets, and certainly an extended pattern of reading experimental work, will quite literally change you. So the change itself isn't the real issue-having one's interests engaged is the issue.

So that long preamble just to get to the fact that my motivation in And How to End It doesn't come from a desire to solicit emotion or to express emotion or to communicate with the readers of Billy Collins or the viewers of Die Hard movies (though I enjoy Die Hard movies and actually have an explosion in the book--it's a Big Bang!). It wasn't easy to write the book, why should it be easy to read it? I'm not trying to spoon feed anyone. I'm interested in engaging the kind of reader that I am--someone who is interested in being attentive to waves of motion through the book, who is interested in language that doesn't presume a relationship to the reader, who is interested in what's going on in the words themselves rather than simply the meanings the words are carrying. Most readers aren't that; they aren't my readers. Okay, that's settled, so let's go from there. I like to think that the few readers who are interested in this kind of book are enjoying the trip you describe. Is that elitist? Oh, well. I'm not going to write a different kind of book just to avoid being perceived as elitist. If some readers enjoy the book, then I'm not an elitist among them, I'm a peer. Some people, people in my own extended family, would call me an elitist just for writing any poem. [And what would they say when they found out I'm also an Atheist and a Socialist?!? So much for my Presidential campaign.] I don't write poetry in order to be part of a club. I write to find out what I can find out. I publish because I think there might be a few people out there who are also interested in having this conversation.

RK: "I write to find out what I can find out. " Your book, indeed, takes on the form of a quest. But in a way a kind of anti-quest because there is no huge payoff at the end if you succeed. You are trying, as you say, to spiral as well as you can down into the bog. The book, again, begins gruffly, speaking of difficulties and impossibilities. Cautioning the reader. There is no fun, it says. Pleasure, it would seem, impossible. Towards the end of the book, though, it does seem as though you are tempted to indulge in a payoff, in coming to a beautiful, glowing sort of acceptance. "A purple bloom of death," or "a tinge over the cotton fields, violet," or "a vast magic" of "sweet disorder" (before the sun sets) but you immediately contradict these beautiful moments that are kind of like Edward Hopper paintings in which "words begin to shimmer" with ugly real moments like "the summer sun looks like a corpse." Also, the "vast magic" you are experiencing is
just "electrons trapped in a gaze." Can you talk about how a deep sort of yearning and need makes its way into the book in spite of all the severity of the speaker's gaze and intelligence and, in fact, almost claims it? And, any comments on the Quest, in general, or the "Christian hero" you invoke, would be appreciated also.

BC: Jesus, what a complex question. I guess I would dive in at the point of the inception of the finding out, which is desire, and I would point in "Beginner's Manual" to the sentence that immediately follows the question "So where is the fun?": "For some, fun is an internal state." I don't think the poem or the book implies that there is no fun in the world or in the book; desire--the not knowing--is the fun, but it's also the anti-fun. This goes back to the point I was making about selecting one's reader; the kind of reader I'm speaking to (or questing for, if you want to go that far, though I probably wouldn't) finds pleasure in the journey itself and understands that there probably is no ultimate payoff, that any epiphanic moment or neat little gift at the end is probably plated in fool's gold. To coin a cliché, the value of the journey is the journey.

The Christian hero, of course, had a quest--did he complete it? Is he a tragic hero? He certainly found a huge audience. He comes back in Jargon in a poem about Chet Baker, whose music, whose very style of playing, is all about desire. I think questions like "What can I know that I don't know?" "What good will it do me to know?" "How will I know other than by language and thought?" are equivalent for me to the Christian desire for salvation and are probably at the root of these poems. The first poem I wrote among these pieces was "Disappointed Psalm," which, in another version, ended up being the root poem of my book of that title, and "Laboratory Psalm" was the second--in those two short little poems you have the start of everything else in the book: desire, language, physical world, history.

It strikes me that this is all probably very boring for anyone reading this interview--maybe I should introduce a car crash.

I find it interesting that difficulties and impossibilities are what stand out for you in the poems/book. There's certainly a political pessimism that runs through the book (re: both geopolitics and po-biz) alongside a kind of zen nihilism if you can call it that, but my hope is that all of that is countered in the book by wonder at the physical world, by fine attention to detail in places, and by an accumulation of astonishments.

RK: For me what gives "And how to end it" structural integrity (and by this I mean mass and shape) is that it is a universe that is predictable and unpredictable. The beginning, again, talks about how the rules keep changing. But your obsessions and idiosyncrasies serve as constants, forces that determining the spiraling. Things can accrue (seemingly out of control) and things can be surprising and impossible to properly explain (like electrons) but seen from afar (as though in a theatre seat) things HAVE to take on your particular brand of spiraling because the entire field is determined and governed by your particular constants of politics, terrorists, stars, religion, body, bog. The universe is indeed vast, is indeed billions and billions and billions of worlds, huge and tiny, overlapping, a jungle of vines, etc. But it has order. It can and will only go certain places, certain ways. Spiraling. Can you talk about how you are drawn towards order
and at the same time accept disorder and what this means to your work? I'm guessing this has been an obsession of yours-- to deal, in varying degrees of success, with it. Your first book's titled "Essays against Ruin." Your thoughts, please?

BC: Entropy is fascinating, isn't it? It's the trend of the entire universe, yet we have these enduring collections of experience called "selves" and collections of history called "culture" that just go on and on and that seem when we are children to be eternal. Do children have desire? Maybe that's the true (unreal) state of innocence--the state in which there is no need for driving desire because everything seems eternal. When we begin to see that things fall apart, that the center cannot hold, in comes desire.

One of my favorite stories to follow in cosmology is our developing sense of the universe's structure, which really launched with the COBE program's mapping of the background radiation and which has developed quite a bit since then. We gradually come to see that what seems like a random splattering of matter throughout the universe turns out to have structure, evolution, and reasons for being that are related to the early history of the universe, microseconds into its coming into being. [And what was before that--that's what I want to know, which, I'm afraid, may prove to be ultimately a theological question.] This was one of the ideas that I was toying with in the use of the Fibonacci sequence to build that fractal mirror structure that runs through the book.

Your comment about one's particular constants reminds me that in that little group of poets from Dallas I may have mentioned earlier, there is a woman named Meghan Ehrlich, who, regrettably, doesn't write much any more, but she and I used to do a lot of cutups and corpses and other little collaborative things together. She once said to me, "It's funny, no matter where you get the language and how much you cut it up, it always comes out sounding like you."

Dadaists and Anarchists, by the way, were/are agents of entropy. Terrorists are the opposite; they want to destroy in order to replace the current order with a different order, which is destined for the same vat.

RK: In my first two interviews on this blog (with Blake Butler and Johannes Goransson) I've asked for their thoughts on surrealism. Asked them to talk about Silliman's labeling of Simic as "soft surrealism." Goransson seems to advocate a fatter surrealism, a surrealism that comes out of the body's real-ness-- it leaks, squirms, rots and surges. And Goransson's also a fan, i think, of an explosive and excessive soft of Surreal. Butler seems to think there's too much labeling, etc, soft or hard, etc. That we should just get on with reading and writing. Making. I wouldn't call "And How to End it" surreal because I think the book thinks out loud so much, questioning in what feels like a philosophical mode. But pieces of your book can be described as surreal. There are certainly surreal leaps and juxtapositions of image and action. Care to talk a bit about how surreal thinking, writing and strategies play into your work? What surreal writers have influenced
you? (And, if you could, please jump in on the hard-soft-fat Silliman and Goransson discussion.) A messy question, I know, but I'm determined to get the "surreal" into these interviews, damnit!

BC: I haven't read Silliman's comments about Simic in a long time [there are so many blogs, and so little time to read them--I follow your Stupid Drawings blog, of course, for obvious reasons], but I remember Silliman denigrating what he perceived as a brand of domesticated surrealism. Simic and Tate have clearly used surrealist models of tone, absurdity, and humor to their own advantage, but I'm not sure they ever considered themselves Surrealists--I don't recall them ever calling themselves Surrealists. So in that sense, Silliman's little label, "soft surrealists," may be useful in describing some aspects of their work, but doesn't really capture what their work is about. When you get down to the bone, Simic is a lyric poet; would you really expect Silliman to say much nice about him?

Anyway, there haven't been many real surrealists in the US--surrealism was co-opted early and often. True surrealists are usually called anarchists or nihilists--whether political or poetic--around these parts. A poet today could not be a Surrealist by simply doing what Breton and Tzara were doing almost a hundred years, because the Surrealist act or work requires surprise in order to generate "the marvelous." That's been one of the valid criticisms of Surrealism, that it amounts to an endless search for the novel. Not that I personally have a problem with that. This is why later Surrealist movements had to call themselves something other than Surrealists. Kasey Mohammed and his fellow Flarfists might be about as Surrealist as we get these days.

I admire Surrealist and quasi-Surrealist and proto-Surrealist and post-Surrealist work, including Mohammed's, for its ability to change my brain in dramatic ways. Not so interested in the edge where Surrealism falls off into psychoanalysis.

I think you're right, there's a Surrealist influence in many of the leaps and juxtapositions of And How to End It. I used the phrase "an accumulation of astonishments" earlier, I see. I hope some of them produce that spark that Breton talks about--an electron shooting out of orbit--wait, is that Dragon Smoke I see?

RK: You admire (and probably seek out) different sorts of surreal (and other strange) work "for its ability to change (your) brain in dramatic ways." I'm guessing here that you mean, mostly, a fleeting sort of "pleasure"-- the object of the dark-edged desire, beyond children, that you described earlier. Yeats said something or other about how changing his syntax changed his intelligence-- a more permanent sort of brian change than reading surrealism which might be compared to the pleasure that comes from trying new and strange combinations of food (unless that's all you did all day long, or a lot anyways). During (and because of) those 5 years you only wrote prose poems how did your intelligence (brain( change)? (This reminds me of you telling me how you asked Simic--at a Q and A after one of his readings--about the different mindsets he'd employ to write prose and line-broken poems which he seemed to be writing, more or less, concurrently. I think his response was something like this: yes, the approaches are different. Again, yr thoughts, please.)

BC: No, I didn't really mean a fleeting sort of pleasure--though that's part of the equation. The truly novel, the "marvelous," the real innovation is always pleasurable, even though its content may not be. I mean that reading new work, and especially strange work, quite literally changes the way one thinks, the way one's brain works; the neurons chart new connections that have the potential to become not only available but engrained in all future thought. Changing the syntax changes the attack of a particular thought, but following a new path of experience (and reading is experience) changes the possible ways of changing the syntax, changes the person through whom the thought is filtering.

The move from free/verse to the prose poem was a move away from thinking in arbitrary units (the line) and toward a more robust way of moving through language (the sentence), a concentration on syntax itself and the movement, the music of syntax, rather than the relationships among lines (in the best cases: a set of witty but otherwise unnecessary line breaks in worst cases). Aside from the benefit of exploration of new territory, a kind of linguistic or literary vacation that any artist can get in an abrupt switch in direction (I think that has something to do with Picasso's un-at-home-ness, for example, or Ashberry's--they essentially work in projects; one set of questions exhausted (if not completely answered) you move on to the next set of questions), I think the prose poem allowed me to take advantage of some other ways of thinking, more essayistic thought patterns, that I had been trained, or had trained myself, to restrict. So, writing nothing but prose poems for about five years taught me something about structure and form that probably everyone else already knew: choices about structure and form are choices about relationship to language as a whole and therefore choices about ways of thinking, and that the nature of the thought is at least partially determined by the shape or the form or the structure. I guess I knew that already in the abstract but needed to internalize what it really meant. In other words, a prose poem will out a very different kind of thinking than a different structural choice, and what the prose poem "outs" tended for that time to result in more discovery for me than what was happening in free verse.

I remember that Simic quote. It was at a reading that he and Yehuda Amichai did together in New York years ago, not long after Simic's book of prose poems, The World Doesn't End, won the Pulitzer. What interests me about it is two things: first, that Simic thinks the prose poems are of a different nature than his free verse poems, yet I think that many readers would not necessarily say that there is a striking difference between what is going on in the prose poems and what was going on in his free verse at the time. Obviously, they move by the sentence rather than by the line, which results in a different rhythm than his free verse. And perhaps the prose poems had a bit more of a dark edge to them. Most strikingly, the prose poems are certainly shorter and thus require a different kind of attention, which may be their best justification--the book requires a different way of looking, of paying attention, than just about any book out there. But, secondly, I'm interested in the ways that book says "No." In Simic's response to my question, he was really saying "No, they are not the same," which is what the book says: "No, this is not the same as anything else;" "No, this life is not any other life;" "No, what happened during the war should not have happened;" "No, despite all this, it will not end." "No, the world won't get easier." All of which is a kind of contrary position to Simic's other book of prose poems, Dimestore Alchemy, which is all about yes and affirmation, acknowledgment of possibility, the pleasure of objects and the act of collecting objects, both actual objects and objects in the writing: Writing as a way of reconstituting the world, which is fun, and fun in a way that The World Does Not End might not have been for Simic-it's probably pleasurable for the reader in a way that it was not/is not for Simic himself.

RK: I'm a big fan of Sentence. It's introduced to me lots of great work. Its special Features are wonderful and, all in all, it's clearly the best and most comprehensive venue for prose poetry, ideas and reviews. Can you give us a bit of a heads-up of what's in the works from Sentence and it's parent-press, Firewheel, which you also run? And any other thoughts on the journal and on being an editor of prose poetry? Any advice to potential submitters? Other places to send prose poetry, etc?

BC: Thanks. The sixth issue has been HELL to get out, so I apologize to any and all readers, contributors, and subscribers. It's due back from the printer next week, though, and will go out soon.

Working on Sentence has been sheer pleasure, mostly just from being in contact with a lot of excellent poets and reviewers who also happen to be nice people and easy to work with. The features have been a great pleasure, and I've enjoyed turning part of the journal over to the feature editors; I think having that substantial other voice(s) in each issue has probably been invigorating for the journal. The sixth issue has a feature on The Prose Poem in Italy, #7 will have a Native American Prose Poems feature, and #8 will have an as of yet unlabeled feature that will involve bringing the work of slam and performance poets to the page. The contributions of the Contributing Editors (Maxine Chernoff, Russell Edson, Michel Delville, Gian Lombardo, and especially Peter Johnson) obviously have a great deal to do with the journal's success.

Another pleasure of editing the journal has been making connections with the editors of other venues devoted to prose poetry and or flash fiction. I think the little of community of editors that includes Sentence as well as Mark Tursi, Peter Conners (of Double Room), Morgan Lucas Schuldt (of CUE), and Jen and Adam Pieroni (of Quick Fiction) have all been supportive of each other. Quarter After Eight is a good venue, and New American Writing, as is Ray Gonzalez's reconstituted LUNA. So many places publish prose poems now that it's probably harder to find a journal that is averse to them than to find one that prints them.

The press will be expanding in the coming years, doing more books and more chapbooks. Our chapbook series is devoted to publishing work that would otherwise have trouble finding an outlet, either because of format or typography or content or whatever reason; we interpret it loosely. And a new anthology will be out soon that is intended for classroom use, called An Introduction to the Prose Poem. One of the challenges for any independent journal/press is finding good volunteer work. All work on the journal and press is donated time and effort; it wouldn't be alive if we had to pay for that work. I've been blessed with excellent students volunteering as Editorial Assistants, but it's a struggle finding layout/design people who are willing to volunteer their time and work; this is largely the reason why #6 is so delayed. So if anyone out there is good with InDesign.

Questions for the Road:

RK:Tea or Coffee?

BC: Yes

RK: Palm trees or Thorn Trees?

BC: No

RK: Cum, shit, spit or blood?

BC: All present.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Holy Land: 3 Nominations for Cold Front's 2008 Year in Review :)

In the foreshadow (or foreskin) of Obama's inauguration (it's great to see and feel so much excitement around me--the audacity of hope!-- but I hope it's not premature ejaculation. but, o, well, anyways, it's great to hope.) I am very happy and excited to see that Holy Land gets three 3 nodds in Cold Front's 2008 Year in Review Nominations.

Holy Land (or poems therein) are included in

1) Best New Book 2008
Holy Land

2) Best Opening Lines

"There’s a child in a ditch by the side of the road. She’s the source of every drop of blood. Shadows, knives, machetes—angels sharpening the horns of beasts you’ll never see…"

3) Best Thirteenth Poem
(The Artifact itself)

Thanks again to Black Ocean for producing a beautiful little book!

to see all of the nominations go to Cold Front

(sorry, but from this computer i can't seem to link it directly....)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

St. Peter's and the Big-Cock Contest

1-- Black and silver-white paintings of Hercules performing his feats. In one he’s got a lion pushed up against a tree and it looks like he’s about to really give it to him. In all of these panels the artist has organized the poses to show off Hercules’s Herculean physique. In this one in particular he shows us flexed back and butt muscles.

2-- In a pizzeria a picture of a topless woman with orange hair. On her back, with an infant sprawled over her. She is lovely, and it is a kind of paradise, but the whole arrangement of hands, mouths, etc, is a bit too intimate. And there are daisies in her hair but after I’ve looked for a while they look like eyes. And suddenly the whole things filled with eyes and they don’t seem so friendly.

3—“Don’t copy nature, work like her.”

All of the above, though, is just introduction to this “lyric essay” I found on a crumpled-up piece of paper in one of the stalls of the bathroom next to the Vatican Post Office. At the top in simple small script is the word “submission” and at the bottom, of course, the piece is signed “Jack Gilbert, not really.”

----St. Peter’s and the Big-Cock Contest----

After going through the churches, cathedrals and basilicas of Europe one begins to feel as though it’s all, quite simply, a big-cock contest. I told Jasmine, my 18-yr old Thai wife, this and she told me not to be rude in a place of worship.

Churches, cathedrals, basilicas—well, they all give me pleasure. Immense pleasure. And in a world of Christian places of worship St. Peter’s is a porn star. The undisputed champion.

Okay, maybe I’m pushing the analogy. Just having fun. Being a jerk even. But am I? A short ways into St. Peter’s there’s a mark on the ground that indicates where St. Paul’s (London) comes up to it in length. Walk on and you’ll see where other big names, like Notre Dame, measure up.

It’s something like:

St. Peter’s--- 14 inches
St. Paul’s---- 12 inches
Notre Dame---- 10 inches
etc etc

Yes, St. Peter’s is the biggest, longest, thickest cock in the world. But, fact is, the contest’s rigged. After St. Peter’s was finished, anything erected HAD to be less.

Also, St. Peter’s, according to legend, is the exact center of the universe which in a way I guess also makes it the biggest cunt.

Most churches are filled with pews and chairs. St. Peter’s, though, is mostly just open space for you to stand in and gawk at its hugeness.

The “Pieta” in St. Peter’s really impressed me. The Sistine Chapel—not so much. But the Pieta, ahhh. Too bad God told some Aussie nut to smash it with a hammer. I would liked to have touched it.

I can see Michelangelo sneaking into the big Cock—I mean church, cathedral, basilica, whatever—to chisel into his Pieta “I was made by Michelangelo.”

This same man, Michelangelo, who painted God’s ass on the ceiling. God’s ass for a tiny warlord Pope who had dozens of mistresses and syphilis. A Pope who commissioned St. Peter’s determined to win once and for all and forever the big-cock contest.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Interview Coming Soon

Soon I'll be posting up an interview with Brian Clements re his book "And How to End It"

Whenever anyone asks me where they can find good contemporary prose poems I tell them to buy the current issue of Sentence (or one or more of the back issues.) Sentence contains a great variety of prose poetry, essays, etc. Each issue also contains a good Feature. The first issue features Ponge, Follain and Jacob. (French Prose Poets.) This led me to buy "Dreaming the Miracle" which contains selections from those 3 poets and which, also, is one of my favorite books.

Brian is the founder and editor of Sentence and his new book "And How to End It" is an extremely interesting collection of prose poems.

Here's the Bio Brian supplied me

Bio: of half a dozen collections of verse, free verse, and prose poetry; editor of Sentence and its parent press Firewheel Editions, with the anthology An Introduction to the Prose Poem forthcoming from Firewheel this spring; Coordinator of the MFA in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University. Two books in 2008: Disappointed Psalms and And How to End It.

Friday, January 9, 2009



---An expressive and neurotic Dutch girl´s pouring a glass of water (holding the bottle with both hands) and I´m exhilirated by how different people are. And when she trills out "Here we are!" it makes me think "Caviar."

---Some of the leaves in the salad have purple veins.

---A plump Dutch lady´s pouring a glass of fine white wine (German, I think)

---Paulo Coelho is a weasel.

---The people next to us had like 15 bags and many of them were overweight. To reduce extra charges they repacked. My wife was watching and she says she saw a bunch of big yellow plastic ropes.

---We picked up fleas somewhere and we´ve been scratching like dogs.

---Like many others, my wife´s found a soul-mate in Elizabeth, Empress of Austria

---I only made it 50 pages into Ken Sparling´s "dad says he saw you at the mall." It reminded me a bit of Robert Lopez´s "A Part of the World," a novel in which a strange woman plays with a strange man´s cock with her feet. (There´s more to it than that but that´s what I´m remembering now.)

Two Poems at Bent Pin

Two new poems of mine are now up on Bent Pin:

[A plane´s moored in a field...]



A Note from Black Ocean (Special Offer)

wanted to let you know now that "With Deer" is available for pre-order on the Black Ocean website, and if people order a copy now through February 11th (i.e until AWP), they can pick it up for only $10 + free shipping. Orders will ship the week of March 3rd, before it will even be available on Amazon. Here's the direct link:

other new title, "Scape" (Harmon) is being offered at the same deal,

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Dreamed I was on Nate Liederbach's shoulders swigging whiskey and pouring it down on to his face and chest. He was spinning round and we were both screaming "Whiskey! Whiskey! Whiskey! Whiskey! Whiskey!..."

Then we were walking through the veldt with our dogs towards mountains far, far off. Our dogs kept running ahead of us and shitting. One of them didn't even bother to stop: it just raised its tail and the shit floated out as it ran along.

All ahead of us rabbits poked their heads from their holes. And then disappeared.

This went on for a long time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Winds of Change-- Piss-poor, i mean really piss-poor, writing

To follow are some excerpts from the editor's note in the current (January 1, 2009) AmericanWay (American Airline's in-flight magazine).

It's titled "The Winds of Change" and it beings with the sentence "Change is in the air." A few sentences later we get this gem:

" It's as Marcus Aurelius believed in that everything existing 'is already disintegrating and changing.' "

what the fuck?

i mean what the fuck?

(and this can't be explained by a simple "typo." go ahead and try. i did)

ok, now, rewind,...(and continuing forward)

" It's as Marcus Aurelius believed in that everything existing 'is already disintegrating and changing.' True enough, but those who successfully grasp that concept, I believe, will be able to make the inevitable evolutionary course of action changes in their favor. "


And, a bit later in the article the editor introduces us to some members of the AmericanWay team:

" Eric Celeste is our leadoff man...On deck is Cathy Booth Thompson...And batting cleanup is the most chiseled writer I've ever read. "

O, Lord!!-- i was so absolutely astonished by the adjective "chiseled" it took me a while to notice that the clean up hitter's batting 3rd. (most any Baseball fan knows the cleanup hitter bats 4th.)

but again who can even think of baseball, etc, when you're trying to properly savor the phrase
" the most chiseled writer I have every read" !!!!!!!

finally, the Editor's note ends with a call for comments and suggestions (

" let me know if we're moving in the right direction. Until then, let us entertain you. "

well, Adam, i'm not sure what direction you're moving in (though I'm sure it's not a straight line) but you certainly have entertained me!

Friday, January 2, 2009


I just noticed that a couple of my Facebook "friends" were attending the event:

and I wondered what could one do to stop the slaughter.

So, I looked into who created and administer the event.

Action Palestine is a U.K student group, and on their website they list the ways one can stop the slaughter. Writing to your representative, attending events (or as they put it, "demonstrations/vigils/stunts/actions")

I don't like people dying. I don't like people being slaughtered. And I think it's good that certain people take certain kinds of action--- demonstrating, for example

But I'm skeptical of the following phrase in the Facebook Event description:

"It is everyone's duty to do something to stop this"

Violent Deaths: Year in Review (189 Muertos)

At the end of a year, or the beginning of a new one, you can always rely on the various year in reviews. This morning's Meridiano features a review of the year's violent deaths.

Besides the front cover (shown above) 9 pages inside are filled with details of each and every death. Each has a headline like

Atropellado---hit by car
Suicidio--- suicide
A Balatos--- shot
Choque--- car wreck
Infartado--- heart attack
Electracutado--- electrocuted
volcadura---- car accident (where the car rolls over and over)
sepultado--- buried
envenenado--- poisoned
asesinado-- killed/executed
ahogado---- drowned
extrangulado-- strangled

and then a full play by play description of how such-and-such met his demise, was found, etc....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Today The Sky is Blue and White with Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today


as I read the very interesting "pieces" in this book I thought to myself that Tao Lin will probably not be writing poetry much longer,....

you can read this on-line here