Monday, March 30, 2009

Into the Wild or Why I'm a Jerk

I have mixed feelings about giving up on this movie half way through and going downstairs to sit with my birds.

Actually, I don't have mixed feelings.

It was driving me crazy.

Most of the blame probably lies with the sister's voice overs. O, Lord!

And maybe those voice overs are why I felt myself being pulled inevitably into the garbage you hear when a young person dies, for example, skydiving:

......."He died the way he would have wanted".....blah blah blah
......."Doing what he wanted to do"........blah blah blah

Or maybe it's more than just the voice overs.

But, anyways, I got to thinking of what my friend Nate thinks of my birds. He thinks a few days of "freedom" (and then starving to death or getting ripped to shreds by a hawk or a green heron) would be better than a long, happy lifetime of chirping and squawking and hopping around in a big ol' cage with lots of toys to play with and destroy and all sorts of foods (and water) available and other birds within just a few meters.

So, I gave up on it.

Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe the movie became complicated and interesting.

O, Who cares?

I don't, at least. When you become so alienated from something it's best to walk away. And, besides, I really enjoy sitting with my birds. They seem so damned happy.

New Drawing

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Dried up the death" etc-- excerpts from Eckes, Lundwall, Iredell

One of the great things about doing readings is the people you meet. And another great thing (sometimes) is the new work that you're exposed to through these people. The books they recommend. Sometimes their own work. To follow are excerpts from 3 writers I met at readings in Philadelphia, Atlanta and St. Louis.

1) Ryan Eckes.
Ryan curates (I love the word "curate") the Chapter and Verse Reading Series in Philadelphia. Here are some excerpts from his unpublished manuscript of prose and line-broken poems:

"i raise my arms in glory and lockheed martin, the world's largest weapons manufacturer, donates a computer to one of philadelphia's under-resourced schools. it's like doing the wave. i've been doing it for years."

"the customer is white, the clouds are white, my cap is white, my shoes are black, the tires of the car are black, abbas is black, he's from guinea--i ask him about it, he says its very very far away. way up high across the street a woman waves down from a window as if her building's on fire"

"it's better perhaps to hold
your breath, let the shadow stretch

out, cold and dry, moon
sucking at earth,

oceans rolling over
and over in its ditches."


"....the sky
was a dime and it

blew into me and dried
up the death and i

fell into sleep fifty feet
deep and woke up as air

with you..."

2) Andrew Lundwall
I read with Andrew in St. Louis last summer. Andrew, among other things, publishes e-chapbooks through his Scantily Clad Press

Here are some excerpts from his manuscript "forget the swan"

"finders. keepers. losers. weepers. fist in mouth again. the shopping bag's in the mirror sad. it rains. paralytic song on the radio. i'm a warrior. where's the pyramid thing? the blowdryer? the signal? umbrella overhead everyone's playing cards in america."

"trembling egg sockets. pull cigarettes from pack from pocket the wind instead. the wind instead of it's outside. she's parked her car in the look in her eyes. she's already there back to heineken bottle big green glass shards."

"carcinogen is a. morbid-flavoured. almost flowered overwhelming. volley."

"losers flowered to the america. anything forecaster says is beautiful secret. big rains overwhelming. poem is beautiful like a blowdryer. like so many here. sing each look like a keeper. or a weeper the cigarette radio says. maybe that's all?"

3)James (Jamie) Iredell
I first met Jamie when I read in Atlanta last fall. Here are some excerpts from his chapbook "Atlanta" which was published in 2008 from DOGZPLOT

"I inhabited the inside of a mouth, the space between ass cheeks. The cat wailed to go outside, forever and ever."

"Nights we sucked swill at the Highlander. One night we ended up with a gram of coke. We got too high to talk, which was good, since the next day the bus started, and they left."

"When he called, I was thrusting on top of a girl from the Highlander, a woman with more piercings than skin. It was like fucking the inside of a gumball machine."

"and the sunlight speared in whenever someone opened the door, like God peeking in and not liking what He found: Kevin's giant beak agape, and rows of stark white teeth."

Knowing: 3 Good Minutes (a movie review- ?)

I went into the movie "Knowing" with some expectation. Bangkok Dangerous had made such an incredible impression on me but I was doubtful that Cage's inept acting could be as "expertly" showcased here. And, unfortunately, this turned out to be true.

Cage's acting was pathetic but there weren't too many laugh-out-loud moments. Though my wife did have to nudge me a few times.

In the middle of the movie I had to go to the bathroom. But the urinals looked so far away so I pissed on the floor. This was the highlight of the movie.

"Knowing" (here in Mexico they call this movie "Presagio") contains about 3 minutes of decent footage.

A plane crashing into a field.

A train derailing.

A wave of fire (form a solar flare) sweeping through NYC destroying everything including Nick Cage and his screen family embracing.

A little boy's alien-induced vision through his bedroom porthole-window: the woods on fire and a huge moose crashing through and exploding in fire.

Otherwise this movie (the rest of its 2 hours), is pretty much worthless. And it's not one of those "it's so bad it's good" movies. This movie just pretty much plain sucks.

(note: I did not actually piss on the bathroom floor.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Temptations----Move Past the Sex Stuff (?)

Everyone gets tempted. For me it's

a) to write sweeter. To be less violent, sexual. Monstrous. Shocking.
---fyi, I don't feel so monstrous. And I don't think I'm trying to shock. But people do keep accusing me of being a serial killer :) ---

b) to write the gore-and-sex crowd. easy to just shock. to be gratuitous.

Anyways, here's what my good friend Dean Gorman (poet, editor, songwriter, band frontman, etc) had to say to me (in emails) about violence and sex in my work

(speaking mainly of my e-chap Ringing)

"I think its an important part/component of your makeup, but i would just hate for it to be perceived as your "thing," as it were, by those not familiar with the entire breadth of your work. and, from reading through your new chapbook, you seem to be amping it up more than you did in Holy Land, which i think is a really good balance of beauty/insight/wonder and the darker side of humanity (sex, violence, humiliation, etc.).

that is my two cents. i would like to see you move past the sex stuff, or at least look at it from a different angle (which i think you have done at times). but maybe its just not for me, and that's fine. i'm sure there are many people who enjoy it (obviously there are). i guess it just can come off as pretty agressive at times. aggressive in the way it leaves you as a reader with your back to the wall, forced to listen, but not to engage or experience."

the above is Dean expanding on his original note to me that he had "less of a stomach for (the violent sex stuff) in (his) middle age."

My next chapbook is Dreaming and it comes out this summer from Scantily Clad Press.

Some of the poems in it are published at Coconut. If interested check them out here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Yesterday's cover story.

A finger and a tongue found in an OXXO ice box.
(OXXO's the dominant convenience store chain here. Like 7-Eleven.)

Authorities believe the subject (no body found yet) was alive when the "amputación" occurred.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Why God Permits Evil?" or "What about my Dog?"

In the bathroom of a seaside restaurant in Seaside, Oregon I found this flyer.

It doesn't give you the answer (I want to know, damnit, I want to know.) but it does tell you how you can get a free copy of a 24-page booklet that should "bring you much comfort and joy," and where, it says, "you will learn that God loves and cares for his human family."


What about my dog? and my birds? and my turtles?

Does God hate animals?

Are animals evil?

Maybe I do need to get this booklet!

here's the link


What really has me puzzled and scratching my head is that I found this right after I'd been engrossed and inspired by the Angry Cock Lover in "Exotic"

Perhaps I am ripe for the taking !!!

Take me, O Lord,
Take me!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lara Glenum: Next Interview

The next interview on this blog will be with Lara Glenum re "Maximum Gaga" which is indeed Maximum Maximum Maximum

Once you get tuned into these poems they are a drug delivering (and delivering and delivering.....) enormous amounts of pleasure....

Stay tuned. Coming soon.

Angry Cock Lover (for "mature" audiences only)

On Saturday we went to the Oregon Coast.

My wife's sister and her husband picked us up. In the car was a copy of "Exotic," a publication 99% filled with ads for strip clubs and escorts. Portland is something of a Strip Club Mecca.

In the "Adventures in Singlehood" by Dirt Star (page 30) I found "Angry Cock Lover"

I'd love to quote the entire "adventure" but you'll have to make do with excerpts unless you go here


"I was taking a piss the other night, as I often do, in the bathroom, on the toilet."

My sort of first line!

"But I needed a body guard this time. Jamie was his name...He was hot and so were all of his friends. I liked them and wanted to bang all four of them actually. So anyway, I'm taking a piss in front of this angry cock. No, literally there was an angry cock locked in the bathroom. Apparently these people are hardcore vegan animal lovers. This rooster was roaming the streets of SE 50th and harassing people at the Planned Parenthood..."

"I'm an open person, but having a guy you just met from the strip club protecting you from a wild animal made me a little nervous and uncomfortable. OK, who I am kidding? It was hot and awesome! To be honest I just wanted to fuck Jamie, in the bathroom, with the angry cock watching."

"The rooster was strutting back and forth, its golden feathers bouncing with each step, staring at me with its beady little eyes."

"What if it went crazy and pecked my pussy?"

"No one wants to see a red swollen pussy that some angry cock tore up. Or maybe they do?"

(a question for the ages).

The Geatest Dynasty ??? (Adam Pitluk, no contest),...

Adam Pitluk, my God and my Muse, has come through again over at AmericanWay

Here Adam sinks his philosophical teeth into "Dynasty."

And Adan starts off in fine form:

"I love a good dynasty. There’s something romantic about a long, extended, lingering stay at the top. A dynasty represents the voice of a certain time and place. Similarly, a time and place can be easily cited in the annals of history vis-à-vis a particular dynasty."

And then Adam talks about the following Dynasties:

1) The Zhou (1046 BC to 256 BC)

2) Full Tilt Poker
"Led by poker great Howard Lederer, Full Tilt has won 34 WSOP championships."

3) Stevie Wonder
in the '70s he was a "dynasty of Grammys"

4) The Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the University of Missouri
(a "local level" dynasty)

good stuff so far. damned good stuff. But then, sadly, Adam gets predictable on us.
(Sports Dynasties: Cowboys, Lakers, Yankees, etc,... yawn....)

But then it hit me. This is all kind of irrelevant. When Adam Pitluk talks "Dynasty" the real elephant in the room is Adam Pitluk himself. The real Dynasty. My God and My Muse! My Dynasty!

Let's talk a walk down memory lane (Adam at his best):

"The memory is a fascinating instrument -- especially when coupled with the elements of time and space." (in his note about Paula Abdul)


"It's as Marcus Aurelius believed in that everything existing 'is already disintegrating and changing.'" (The Winds of Change)

I am tingling!
Yes, in the presence of my god, my muse, and my "Dynasty"
I am tingling!

(click Adam Pitluk "label" to see all posts or visit AmericanWay)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sampson Starkweather Interview: The Land of Magic

To follow is an email interview with Sampson Starkweather re his wonderful chapbook of poetry "City of Moths" (Rope-a-Dope)

Sampson Starkweather was born in Pittsboro, North Carolina. He is the author of The Photograph from horse less press. His work can be found in Typo, Octopus, jubilat, Absent, Tarpaulin Sky, RealPoetik, and Sink Review. He lives in the woods alone.

RK: I see City of Moths as a series of temptations. Dreams, for one, are a strong temptation. They are pure and, as you point out, everything in a dream (all its parts, characters, etc) is "you." Some of the most beautiful moments in City of Moths are dreams but they lead, you say (and when I say "you" I mean the speaker in the poems), to an island like Lord of the Flies. So much for dreams then. God/Religion?-- some moments you lean towards a religious-like submission. And an inclination to (zen-like) enjoy it. But this isn't enough either. And neither is the similar temptation of the normal life. To be simple, like cows and pigeons. Love is the biggest temptation. Two-ness. You go back to it and back to it but it's always, at bottom, broken. In a similar realm to Love is the temptation of the body. Your "poetry" as "mountain" as "woman," leaning back--ready to commune (submission, again). But, this again is not enough. So, again and again, and always, it's you in the zoo of language and self. Like a panther pacing back and forth in its cage, trying to fill with light, and sometimes doing it. But, as you say, late in the book, "this is one of those stories where no one survives." You are tempted. You indulge in the temptations. They seem, at points, to have a real hold on you. But, ultimately, they are (and you know it) just temptations. Your thoughts on this, please?



Dreams are important and a kind of actualization of our temptations; I never understood when people said as soon as they read/hear “dream” in a poem they turn off, or feel like everything that follows is fake, that’s like saying as soon as I read/hear words in a poem that I turn off, or that “language” is fake. Language is artifice, a layer between us and experience, at least as it’s presented in a poem. Words are symbolic, you can’t stub your toe on them. Even though that’s the goal of any poem, or at least my poetry, to transform language into experience or things (thing-language), something to stub your toe on, maybe a kind of third experience between the poet, the poem and the reader. What I’m getting at is that dreams are real, we experience them, they are experience (especially nightmares); dreams teach us, warn us, shape who we are, how we act, and reveal more than our ego/consciousness allow us when we’re “awake.” Almost the way a gland or organ in the body functions, I think dreams provide us, our spirit (for lack of a better word), with beauty (imagination) even terror, which helps us survive in a world decreasingly devoid of imagination and where we grow immune to terror, where “it’s hard to pretend the shrieks are not happening, but most people are trained by now to drown out the sounds.”

I got my first idea of the book (the seeds) at a time when I had grown skeptical, apathetic, frustrated, and unmoved by reading so much contemporary poetry, which seemed more interested in its own mechanics than as a transfer of energy or provoking a reader to feel or think. I was losing faith in poetry, the system, and questioning why I was investing so much of my energy, time and hopes into poetry. At the time, I was on an email list with four or five of my favorite poets and now best friends, where we talked about everything, but mainly argued, complained and theorized about poetry. Even this seemed to be exhausting or futile after awhile, when, for some reason we started telling each other our dreams and nightmares. I realized reading each others dreams/nightmares was more interesting, moving, frightening and beautiful than the poetry I’d been reading (or writing). They were full of terror, insight, psychological complexity, and most importantly, a method of “telling” that felt real and honest, that I could trust, striping away the artifice or layer/distance between the thing and the person experiencing it, while magically freeing me to be unaware of it as language. It felt more like the way we experience a movie or an event, as if it was happening to us. More like a phenomenon than a poem. I wanted to capture that sense of situational metaphor that dreams create and that sensation of hyperreality in a direct trust-worthy manner, so when I talk about dreams, the poems break into a letter from me to the reader. Fellow citizens.


There is a passage early on that encapsulates the idea of temptation, as both pure and the way it transforms once it has been indulged in: “Pain is to have seen and tasted one’s desire, and to live with that apple in front of one’s face, forever, with no way to touch it. But that part of the story comes later.” Love and pain are poles in the book, but paradoxically, also become interchangeable and fuse as a kind of necessary degree for the other to exist, “The boy spent his first 12 years with his ear pressed to his parent’s door. Love and pain still sound the same.” There is a temptation to turn love into the longing for love. A sad condition, but one of necessity when one feels perpetually heartbroken and alone. But ironically, a good condition in which to write out of or from; meaning the same way love is the longing for love, poetry is a kind of ouroboros or grail search, an impossible searching for itself, what Spicer calls “the perfect poem…which is, of course, impossible.”

More Seeds

When I wrote City of Moths I was “in a dark time” as Roethke would say, of sadness and heartache, where I alienated myself from my loved ones and found myself often angry and resentful and stewing in all this. So I wrote. I wanted to create a poetry that had an effect (Action poetry) and I knew the poetry that I had written up to then wouldn’t do, wouldn’t have power. Power that, for example, could hurt or heal someone, perhaps myself. I wanted to create a poetry with consequences, the way our decisions in life have consequences. I also wanted to implicate the reader. I happened to stumble onto an astonishing Henri Michaux poem written out of a similar set of frustrations and circumstances and new immediately this would be my inspiration. Mixchaux explains that the key was to transform one’s enemy, pain or frustration into energy, and not to waste one’s anger, but to float inside it, to take pleasure in it and intensify in it. I found by isolating myself I was able to do this, but it wasn’t enough.

The letter form was perfect in that it allowed me to “aim” and while it was good to have something to aim at, the source of my heartache was not a good enough target to measure up to my emotions or allow me to create the kind of poetry I wanted, so I’d modify it into a kind of superheartache, every heartache I’d ever had (or imagined). And occasionally, in my delusion, I was literally scared I might succeed and hurt someone or effect them, make them feel this loneliness and longing that I had become a ball of. All of which sounds absurd, and of course is, which was sort of the brilliance of it, grand delusion and ego of a shattered self.

RK: I mentioned already the temptation of the normal life. You quickly, though, dismiss this in favor(glaringly but momentarily) of being a kind of superman artist. Isolated. Higher-tasked. Looking for the "deepest freshness deep down things." There's a kind of righteousness or arrogance at play here. While the other is in his/her "room, looking up the word thirst" you are working "the night" communing with the "river of moths" that's moving "beneath the city, rustling." Here it seems as though an ego is ready to rise up like a Whitman or a Neruda or a Nietzche (we get a flash of it, like a fish jumping out of water, but just a flash.) This prospect (a huge flaunting ego with Starkweather cleverness and eloquence) is quite exciting. I'd certainly like to see it more. Do you have other work more in that vein? Forthcoming work we might see? Or is that transcendent god-like ego (I contain multitudes! I am a city of stars myself!) just another facet (or temptation) that glints from time to time, and then sinks back down in the pacing panther's eyes?

SS: It’s funny, because any act of writing is an act of the ego, right? Humility and gall. Ecstasy and doubt. Writing is a negotiation of these, a kind of equation, or recipe. A magic act. For City of Moths, some of that ego that flashes was less a conscious decision or default mode of writing than a product of personal injury, bitterness, and frustration which made it more of a monster than I could control. However, one I had to learn to submit to or trust as true an emotion as any other that fueled my writing before it (the more normal kind, glory, validation, love, admiration, etc..) Unlike most of my writing, I think I didn’t write Moths to be loved (how’s that for ego). If pressed, I might say more to be feared, or even more accurately, simply because “I just wanted you to hear the sound of being alone..”

But paradoxically, there is also a kind of killing of the ego at work, or at least the part that separates what’s real from fantasy. It accepts the world of the unreal as real and vice versa, so the two become blurred beyond recognition. The book bounces back and forth from common sense and a consciousness of the external world and situations “Tell me, what do you think, when you talk freely, without reservation, without fear, with your heart wide open, theoretically speaking, obviously” to a hyperreality, a land of Magic or unreality “…and POOF – you were beside me, naked and trembling in my arms.”

The ego is your friend and your enemy, the trick is to learn to harness it’s ability, let it work, transform Hulklike and do it’s thing in the poem, and once it’s reverted to human size, go back get rid of it’s traces where it’s interfering with the poem. For City of Moths this was done by writing to prove something, to prove I was worthy of love, a ridiculous premise, but a trick/lie I sold to myself to create something better than I could on my own.

RK: Many times I've been asked a question that's a version of something like this: Do artists/writers need to be unstable, drink, do drugs, etc, in order to do what they do? I tell them that's bullshit. But? I don't drink anymore, do drugs, smoke, etc. But I'm always eager to find myself (or set myself) on edge. Traveling. Reading. Meeting new people. Whatever. It's nice to fill with light. One feeling I get from City of Moths (a shadow message I guess) is the championing of solitude and a kind of self-torture. Of wanting to be in the cage and relishing the "agony, agony" that comes from this constant self-cage consciousness. (While, at the same time, making sure the world through the window "can see me naked and new.") A subjection to solitude and suffusion of pain-- a drug to light up the ocean and river. An extreme kind of artistic no-pain-no-gain ascetism. Your thoughts?

SS: This is hard to answer, but my personal experience was that I didn’t need to manufacture any instability or edge, that was simply where I already was in my life, crushed. I just wanted to make a poetry that would make people feel (if not what I was feeling, something). I wanted to cause a visceral reaction in the reader, whether it was to gasp, run out of the room, leave a poetry reading, cry or laugh. But the truth is when I’m writing I fall into a sort of prolonged trance, and it doesn’t matter if my life is on some edge or “fucked up” or if I’m completely stable/secure in my life, because everything melts away, time doesn’t happen, even my emotions become more of a weather to work in, a fog. I tap into some energy which is generated by my thoughts and language, and I try to ride that energy (I like to think it of as magic) until it disappears or exhausts itself.

I do think solitude is essential to write poetry though. It’s a kind of slowing down. To be alone is to think. Thinking begets thinking. Personally, I can never turn off my thinking, but only when I’m alone am I able to follow through with my thinking to where it takes me over. It takes intense concentration and focus to get to that place where the poems are inside me. In this case it was painful, but being so isolated allowed me to create another world, and a poetry that was bigger than me. Big enough to contain a city and a woods. What Mixchaux calls the land of magic. A city where wolves wander around with nothing to do, where clouds are seen for the first time, where scarecrows have made a mistake and become real, where you wake up and realize you’re living in a little girl’s doll house, where everything trembles, always, always.

RK: I know you're at work on a full book-length manuscript, and I also know that in your writing and thinking you don't shy away from difficulties. You don't give in to easy, comfortable and conventional "outs." When I saw you in Chicago (AWP) you told me that City of Moths is one of 4 or 5 sections of your manuscript. This makes, then, for a pretty long first book (for a poet, these days, at least.) Can you talk about the manuscript a bit? Its parts. How they fit together? Don't give away too much, of course. Heck, whatever you want. And, again, touch on a bit about yr tendency (which I'm really digging) not to give in to temptations. Not to go the easy way. I for one I am really looking forward to your first book and I am sure many others are too. So, anything you can share would be much appreciated.

SS: Yeah, it’s kind of scary. I realize it’ll probably scare most publishers away, but that’s what I like about it, its gall. There are 5 sections (almost all are prose), each section (which I think of as books because they are able to function that way as a unit) is ambitious in its own way, in both scope and in methodology. Each attempts to find a new way (of writing and of trying to make something happen). The way its parts function to inform or contextualize each other is sort of like of a combination of Anne Carson’s Plainwater or Jack Spicer’s Heads of Town Up to the Aether. The way they try to get at some thing that no one way of writing can achieve on its own, but collectively can (or at least come close). What I find exciting about it is each section is its own community with its own laws and rules and strange little shops, but also part of a bigger city, a city more interesting and beautiful than its infrastructure, because it’s populated by these strange neighborhoods that are a product of their environment. I realize how silly and arrogant it is trying to describe it, so instead to get a taste of the book, I’ll list the Contents, which act as a kind of strange makeshift poem that tells as much about the book as I ever could.

I. The Photograph

Ask the photograph. It says science. It says spoon…
There is a process called burning in photography,…
There is no feeling like fiddling with a camera...
You believe in words. Their power. Weight...
When I say “you,” I don’t mean you. The poem…
It almost always has to do with light...
The photograph is proof of time. This has to…
The poet must pay for making a private language…
The photograph attempts to create a “flowing boundary”…
The photograph does not fade away ala Back to the Future…
A famous photographer went to India and…
The “you” is boring. The actual you. But your calf…
Love or a Polaroid: the suspension of disbelief...
The photograph is a life/or has a life?...
A girl’s leg is not a girl’s leg. The dress, presently…
The “you” wants to know what the poem knows…
Old-fashioned cameras had a lens that showed…
A photograph is a symbol. Of status or an incantation…
The poem is no match for the feel of human breath…
In chemistry, there is a saying: like dissolves like...

II. Famous American Lighthouses

A Limitation of Birds
A Meditation of Frost

III. Music at the End of the World

I am walking without moving, a kind of floating…
There is an anchor, rising. Some kind of flood has happened…
I am sitting in a white wicker chair, in the middle…
We were rehearsing a school play based on my friend’s life…
I’m driving to the house where I was born…
My sister lifts her veil of bees to kiss…
I must be on a boat out in the ocean…
Based on the way the light splays…
I’m alone in a desert. Traveling for a lifetime…
I am at a wedding. The woman I love is there…
Everything happens a little bit too fast…
I’m driving to work wondering whether Monica…
I’m being chased through the mall by this big kid…
I’m teaching again. It’s the end…
I could tell by the way the quiet became a kind of coat…
All around town, through sound-bites, overheard…
It occurs to me that I need to scream,…
The signs all said I existed outside of time…
I’m underwater again. Above me, a family…
There is simply color. A chromatic block…

IV. When One Has Shoulder Blades Who Needs Reason

Review of a Review of Thomas Bernhard’s Frost
Review of Sampson Starkweather’s Review of a Review of Thomas Bernhard’s Frost…
Review of Chris Tonelli's Wide Tree
Review of Ben Lerner’s Angle of Yaw
Review of a Review of Mark Danielewski’s Only Revolutions
A Review of a Review of Robert Olen Butler’s Severance
Review of the First Two Pages of a Six Page Review of Two New books of Charles Darwin
Prussian Dance Steps are Making a Comeback, Or a Review of a Review of Zoli
Review of a Visit by the Suburban Propane Gas-Man, After 68 Hours without Heat in 9° Weather
Review of the Reviewer’s Placated and Mid-thawed Soul …
A Review of Ms. Pac-Man
A Review of a Fleeting Meditation of Incomprehensibility While Sitting in Seat 24F…
A Review of Shoulder Blades and its Discontents

V. City of Moths

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some Thoughts on Michael Schiavo's Review of Matthew Dickman

Michael Schiavo has written a very passionate and very negative review of Matthew Dickman and his poetry.

For the past several days I've been thinking about Schiavo's review and have just posted a response to it on HTMLGIANT

If you're interested then check it out here

“Elephant Shit and Flowers” or “Everyone is a Great Poet”

Harry Owen, in “Five Books of Marriage,” tells the reader to pick up some dried elephant dung, roll it into a ball, and squeeze out on to you “flowers, pink, red, white.”

Elsewhere he conjures a “sudden hot/ seizure, a two-stroke scream.”

But, most of the book’s more like the following:


I love you he says
words trembling like moonlight
on the surface of the sea
his heart so deep
so dense, so clean
it knows everything

nothing at all

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bangkok Dangerous (a review?)

My brother and I pay-per-viewed Nicolas Cage in Bangkok Dangerous because we figured it would be bad enough to be good and because it was listed as only 100 minutes long.

The movie, for the most part, kept our attention. Although we spent much of our time trying to figure out what exactly Cage looked like.

Here are some things we came up with:
"vagrant," "creepy," "retarded," "a druggie," and, probably the most accurate of the bunch, "a Frankenstein."

Cage has a knack for all sorts of subtle expression and nuance and here at his best he looked as bewildered as a caveman suspended in ice for 10,000 years and just now thawed out and squinting into the 21st century.

I absolutely cherished the bizarre and moody closeups of Cage (and I don't mean "cherish" in the way I enjoyed watching Madonna with short hair frolicking in the sea in her "Cherish" video. and, damnit, remembering that's bringing a sad damp cloth down over my little nostalgic soul right now).

Overall, Bangkok Dangerous was worth watching. Fantastically bad sometimes. Especially Cage's broody husky voice-over monologues which took me all the way back into the darkest corners of Apocalypse Now.

And whoever decided to make the local pharmacist love interest girl deaf was inspired. This stroke of genius led to one particularly surreal and ridiculous scene but overall, sadly, it was underexploited.

The movie, for all its spark, lagged in a way that, for example, "Taken" (a modern classic of this sort) did not.

So, I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Atlanta, Atlanta, Atlanta

Just spent two days in Atlanta and it was a great time. Last night I read along side Justin Taylor (who read a great story about killing a cat, sexual tension, etc, etc) in the Solar Anus Reading Series run by Jamie, Blake and Amy.

Afterwards we had dinner and drinks at Amy's (though I don't drink anymore.)
The food was great. thanks, Amy. For a moment it looked like we were going to hold hands and say Grace. But it didn't happen.

Everyone was really friendly, warm, welcoming.
There were lots of nice blossoming trees.
For two nights we talked late, smart and stupid.
And then I left.

Jamie (Iredell) gave me a copy of his Chapbook "Atlanta" which takes up where the flash fiction (prose poems) of "When I Moved to Nevada" left off.

I know some of Jamie's work has taken some flak for supposedly glorifying drugs and alcohol but, for me, in all the bars, booze, ass-cracks, blighted strippers, etc, etc, there is an emerging wisdom I really appreciate and sometimes envy.

And the work's filled with beautifully rendered moments. Sooner or later (and hopefully sooner) Jamie's going to find a home for this (Atlanta, When I Moved to Nevada, and more), or his other manuscript, and I am looking forward to it.

When my brother's showered we're going to have lunch. (and this is what Blogging's all about!)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Name that Scourge! (cont)

some excerpts from the same "Name that Scourge" novel I posted about earlier:


"Gardeners always recognize each other, because they know that in the history of each plant lies the growth of the whole World."


"I learned about the Dark Night," she said to the now silent forest. "I learned that the search for God is a Dark Night, that Faith is a Dark Night. And that's hardly a surprise really, because for us each day is a dark night. None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, and yet we still go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith."


"....'Above all, though, we are responsible for re-encountering, at least once in every incarnation, the Soul Mate who is sure to cross our path. Even if it only for a matter of moments, because those moments bring with them a Love so intense that it justifies the rest of our days.'
The dog barked in the kitchen..."


"The driver gave them a strange look and drove off. They were standing before a grove of trees that extended as far as the foot of the nearest mountain.
'Ask permission to enter,' she said. 'The spirits of the forests always appreciate good manners.'
She asked permission. The wood, which had, up until then, been just an ordinary wood, seemed suddenly to come to life."


(these are excerpts from the Scourge's novel which is, supposedly, a true story of a woman he met during some pilgrimage.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Like many people I've read Schiavo's review of Dickman's prizewinning book.

My feelings on this are mixed and I plan to post more soon.

Reading in Atlanta and Portland

My next two readings:

Solar Anus
March 13, 2009 07:00PM
Beep Beep Gallery, 696 Charles Allen Drive, Atlanta, GA

reading with Justin Taylor

March 19, 2009 07:00PM
Worksound Gallery, 820 SE Alder, Portland, OR

reading with Ariana Reines

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reasons I'm Back in Mexico

Reasons I'm back in Mexico:

1) Edith

2) I can buy shrimp, tomatoes and virgins off the backs of pickup trucks. They drive up and down the streets with loudspeakers. I am listening to a shrimp truck now. (just kidding about the virgins. they're not available in this area)

3) All these trees. This warmth. Red flowers burning.

4) Church bells, like dogs. They have no shame. I dance around in their piss and shit.

5) Atlanta seems more beautiful.

6) Crow's eyes. Really bright.

7) I can listen to Spanish Music and not feel like it's Chips and Salsa.

8) Death's a long-tailed iguana. No, not really. It's my mother. Singing me into sleep.

9) Giants throbbing with fire. Walking in their eyes. (huh?)

Name that Scourge!

Okay, let's play a new game:

-----"Name that Scourge!"-----

Here are some quotes from the back of one of this clown's books. The game, as you've probably already guessed, is quite simple. All you have to do is name the Scourge!

"It's time for American readers to set out on a journey of discovery that will lead them to the works of this [Scourge]"
-----(USA Today)

"This enthralling novel incorporates themes that fans of [Scourge] will recognize and treasure. It is a tale of love, passion, mystery and spirituality from the master [Scourge]"
----The Times (London)

"In 2007, Mr. [Scourge] was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace by UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon."

So, Name that Scourge!

A Public Service Announcement

We regret to inform you that Sam Pink and all his clones have been eaten alive (kicking, screaming, moaning and sighing) by me, Rauan Klassnik.

Things that happened to me in Israel

1) When I was 17 I worked on a Kibbutz for a month. I worked in the onion factory. In the metal factory. Garbage duty. Street cleaning. A fishery---where for what seems like hours you stand knee deep in mud, hauling in nets, arms burning. Etc. Etc.

All in all 9 or 10 different jobs.

Why so many jobs?

Well, they kept reassigning me because, basically, I was incompetent.

On the Kibbutz there was a beautiful young girl whose name was Revital. She was interested in me.

But then, when it came to girls I was also, basically, incompetent.

2) When I was 17, also, I trudged up Masada in darkness with other members of a Teen Tour. Kids from all over America.

When we got to the top we watched the sun rise. And "oooooo"'d and "aaaaaaa"'d.
Damn, it was good to be young and Jewish!

Three years ago I went back up to the top in a cable car. In the middle of the day. And I went around taking pictures of crows with yellow beaks.

Then we stopped at the dead sea. Covered ourselves in mud. Floated around. "oooooo"'d and "aaaaaaa"'d. But, then, in the changing rooms, after showering, I found that someone had made off with my shoes...

Back in Jerusalem that evening I bought a new pair in a mall that could have been anywhere in the world...

3) On my most recent trip to Israel we took a city tour of Jerusalem. (The kind of tour where at the end they take you to a special certified trustworthy store where you can buy-quality trinkets that you’ve seen everywhere else for $2 or $3 for $10 to $15.) Part of it was on bus, part of it on foot.

Suddenly three or four policeman pushed past us with a man between them. They were beating him as they went and his head was bleeding.

Our tour guide who’d been grumpy all morning looked quite happy now and when someone, a lady from Kansas I think, asked what was happening he said

“O, they’re just dealing with some terrorist.”

“But how do you know he’s a terrorist?” she asked.

“If they have him,” he answered, with completely certainty. “Then he must be a terrorist.”

4) In Jerusalem, to get to the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, the holiest place in the Jewish World, you can go down, if you want, through the Arab Market.

Everyone there tries to get you into their store to drink tea with them. “Friendship only,” they say. “Friendship only.”

One man, in the back of his store, started to talk to us about sex. Westerners are much more easy-going about sex, he said. If you even mention sex to young Arab men, he said, they will not be able to control themselves. They will have to rush to be alone and relieve themselves--

“They will stand up,” he said, demonstrating quite energetically with his hands.

“They will stand up," he said, (again, his hands) "and they will throw.”

And as he said "throw" his whole body thrust forward

in the back of his store,
over our friendship tea.


“It’s better with a woman,” he said, as we were leaving.

“You get something from a woman’s body,” he said.
“You get something from her.”


And so we went down to the wailing wall.

Past the teenage soldiers with their guns.

I went to the left.

My wife to the right.

Where's Abraham Lincoln? (Obama poster)

I bought this poster in a French Restaurant the other night in D.C. because, well, I wanted to.

The guy sitting across from me asked why Abraham Lincoln wasn't in it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Million in Prizes

Coming soon from New Issues:

"A Million in Prizes" by Justin Marks

click here for more info (including sample poems...
good, strong poems...)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Next Interview: Sampson Starkweather, re "City of Moths"

The next interview on this blog will be with Sampson Starkweather re his exciting new chapbook, "City of Moths" (Rope-a-Dope)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Interview with Rebecca Loudon re "Cadaver Dogs" (a wonderful, wonderful book of poems)

This is the transcript of an email interview I conducted with Rebecca Loudon re her book of poetry "Cadaver Dogs."

This is the author's note that Rebecca provided:

"Rebecca Loudon lives and writes in Seattle . She is the author of Tarantella and Radish King from Ravenna Press, and Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home and Cadaver Dogs, from No Tell Books. She teaches violin lessons to children."

You can find reviews, blurbs, etc at No Tell's site

RK: In the bio of Cadaver Dogs I see that you're a violinist and that you teach the violin to children. Your writing is then of course (to some extent or other) going to be influenced by your violin mind-life. And the titles of some of the poems in Cadaver Dogs might well be descriptions of pieces of music: "Romance #1 in G Major" for example. Also, I'm no musician and I'm probably tone deaf but sometimes your lines or phrases come to like violin strokes. I am thinking most specifically here of the short crisp bow-like strokes of "Dear Extinguished Individual." Am I full of shit? And, yes or no, can you talk a bit about the interplay of your poetry and your playing and teaching the violin? Some of the interplay must be unconscious. But sometimes I'd imagine you'd want, consciously, to bring the two together. Or consciously have to work to keep them apart. Your thoughts, please.

RL: Everything I do is influenced by music - the music in my head, my love of teaching music to children, my study of early music history, my daily practice and my absolute belief that mastery of practice should be the ultimate goal of every artist whether a musician, a poet, a dancer or a painter. I have been told that my poetry is full of music. I'm asked how I go about achieving that. Honestly, I have no answer for that, and I'm not even sure what it means, except that I have a natural and easy sense of sound and rhythm that I don’t have to work for. Perhaps it's something as obvious as my dedication to practice (writing/music/drawing), perhaps a sense of musicality has leaked into my poetry from studying unaccompanied Bach partitas and sonatas for practically my entire life. Maybe it is more subtle - a kind tissue memory, the way I rehearse Mozart, and I rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, and finally Mozart is out of my head and resides in my fingers and I can play the concerto by just getting out of the way and allowing tissue memory to do the work for me. Like divining whether a pregnant woman is going to give birth to a boy or a girl by holding a crystal on a thread and letting it twirl clockwise or counterclockwise over her belly. Tissue memory. Writing poetry is like that for me. I practice every day by writing in my notebook or working on poems or writing my blog, and when time comes to put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard, tissue memory takes over and my head can get out of the way. But practice remains an absolute for me, as far as art is concerned. This is not to say I don’t use the language of music consciously in some of my poems. Romance #1 in G Major is a piece by Beethoven for violin and orchestra. That specific poem also invokes the great singer Wanda Coleman. L’Orchestra du Roi Soleil, Raymond Scott, Sibelius, Mozart, The Beach Boys’ song In My Room, and the gravicèmbalo col piano e forte all make appearances in Cadaver Dogs, as well musical terms like hemiola and tactus. These words were the foundation of my first language, and it is no surprise they appear again and again in my poetry. As far as creating poetry that often looks like music on the page, this is sometimes intentional and sometimes unconscious, so you are by no means full of shit, but perceptive in asking your question.

I began writing poetry at an early age and I also began playing the violin while very young. Both the language of music and the English language felt the same to me, and I was lucky to be young enough to live inside my magical self, the self that doesn’t create boundaries where art is concerned. As I grew as a musician, I was told by teachers that if I wanted to be a great violinist I had to eat and breathe music, and nothing else. I ignored this advice and kept writing. As an adult I attended art school and learned how to paint and this too added itself to the landmass of art in my head. I still refuse to believe there are divisions in the fine arts. All creative energy comes from the same place. Only academia insists on separating the arts into individual countries.

RK: God. Your author photo (yes, I’m one of those dorks who pays too much attention to Bios and photos) shows your face half hidden by a copy of a book titled “The Messiah.” The voice of Cadaver Dogs leans towards God and sometimes this feels almost religious or spiritual. But more so, bleakly and blatantly, cold-stone, fire and fur, the narrator is a “talking dog” leashed to (and looking for) God who is also an animal—the “lap-red tongue of Christ.” Can you talk about the Cadaver Dogs God-View? The tension of concurrently yearning toward it (“oh lamb of God, I come, I come) and seeing it in such a plainly and basic feral light? (“it” being God).

RL: My author photo was taken by my son, Page Loudon, who is a professional photographer (Hepcat Photography). Reb Livingston (the editor of No Tell Books) wanted an author photo, while I resisted the idea. I am, by nature, a recluse, and after many years of pulling away from people, I have come to believe that being reclusive is not part of my pathology, it’s just who I am. At first my son took several photos of me standing looking terrified, angry, growly, scowly, rabid or like a badly stuffed (as in taxidermy) Miss America. Finally he came busting into my bedroom right after I had showered one lazy Saturday afternoon and was reading in my bed, and snapped the photo. I tried hiding my face behind Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah, and the photo turned out to be the only photo in the bunch that made us both happy.

I’m glad you caught the God/Messiah reference which I have never really written about or talked about, even though its presence snake dances through every single one of my books. In a review for my previous collection, Radish King, the reviewer called the presence of Jesus in my book a whiny bother. In Cadaver Dogs, the idea of god comes through as the animal in us, the protector, the giver of unconditional love, as well as the beast with teeth, horns and a long jagged tail. God as animal shows up in the book’s first poem, Double-plush Wolf in a Hungry Age, where the reader is told to go to hell. Later in the poem, the reader finds transformation (salvation) in

Lemon juice
Breast milk

In the poem Dear Extinguished Individual, the narrator becomes god by transforming dogs into talking beasts

I replaced the dogs’ throats
with radios
my most lovely artifice.

My poem The Greenest Body, claims a genuine piece of THE TRUE CROSS as a portal. Other portals that appear throughout the book include Glenn Gould’s chair, and a list of things the narrator would take through such a portal, which may or may not be a way to reach god. Christ is invoked in Victorville Carnivàle, and The Reptile Monarchies. In Arthur Murray’s Dance Dictionary in Common Time, the narrator visits god’s house in a variety of disguises

A wolf’s head sewn to my head
beetle-rich moss.

There are baptisms in this book, one of the narrators talks shop with Jesus, and the fork-ed tongue beast and goaty head man are engaged.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic, baptized into the Catholic church, but later took a severe left turn and ended up in a Bible thumping holy roller version of a 4 Square Gospel Church that believed in spirit filled congregations, lots of singing, lots of swaying and fainting and thumping about on the floor in a way that looked eerily like people having seizures while white suited preachers shouted from their pulpits about a girl just my age (this would have been 11 or 12) who was wearing her nightgown one night, and was good and pure and loved the Lord with all her might but never accepted Him for her PERSONAL SAVIOR and of course that very night, that poor girl sure enough walked away from the church (or tent in the summer), and got hit by a train and went to ETERNAL HELL for her mistake in timing. All these sermons, it was always young girls, they were always wearing nightgowns and the deadly train was always only a few feet away. They were good girls but they still went to Hell. I never could figure out the nightgown thing unless the preacher thought it made the girls seem more like pre-angels or there were so young they were super close to their bedtime and the sermons were like late night TV, and I never did figure out how so many of them could be so stupid as to get hit by the very same train over and over. I didn’t buy into any of it. But it was great theater, and I got myself baptized yet again in the Spokane river, just to hedge my bets.

Being raised Catholic all we did was lower our heads when the priest said Jesus or the nuns snapped the rubber bands wrapped around their prayer books, stood, knelt, stood, knelt, etc., and made out with the boys at Gonzaga Prep. But the theater of the evangelical church stayed with me. And the music. At the end of each sermon the congregation and choir all sang Just As I Am, a song sure to bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened Catholic or thief or prostitute or runaway girl or just a regulation girl in a nightgown inching toward a train, or any other type of sinner. The song ended with the words Oh Lamb of God, I Come, I Come, always used as an alter call, and people would come streaming up the center aisle to give their hearts and wallets to Jesus, night after night, tissues flying, old ladies squatting on the floor, their pantyhose cutting off circulation to their upper bodies, their helmet stiff hair never moving as they sobbed and thrust tiny bibles and Chick tracts and plastic crosses and mustard seeds in hermetically sealed packets in the sinners’ direction. Some of my friends got saved night after night, enough for a baker’s dozen of eternities at least. I remained unconvinced but I did enjoy the show. As I shortly made my way into the world at the age of 14 (the age I was thrown out of my house), I realized that animals were my true comfort, my true joy, my honest confessors and my best friends. They didn’t judge, they didn’t condemn, they didn’t ask for prayers or sobbing or hysteria or faith, they were just there warm and breathing next to me in the dark allies back seats of cars and rank hotel rooms I called home. They protected me and have ever since. The titular poem of Cadaver Dogs is central to the book, and central to my life as well. It is the most personal poem I have ever let romp out into the world, and it is the poem around which the rest of the book came into being. In that poem, Dog is indeed a feral god who keeps watch over the narrator, and sings when the missing girl’s voice is silenced.

RK: I'm suffering, these days, from a strange kind of disease. Most everybody I see reminds me to some extent of someone else (famous or just famous to me or not famous at all). Sometimes a "new" face (body, gesture, eye-glint, etc) suggests several others: church bells ringing in several churches. A mind-sky disfigured and excited by bells. Reading Cadaver Dogs I was nudged and thrust variously and sometimes concurrently into lots of other voices, images, feelings, memories, etc. The pure figures of pain (body in woods imagery, kneeling, on all fours, etc) brought to me Jack Gilbert (going down to cry among the trees after Michiko died) as well as Anne Carson (the visions of nudes in Glass, Irony and God). The stitched wolf's head, Clayton Eshleman's Juniper Fuse (separating the human, painfully, out from the animal, or vice versa i guess. but, thank God, without the childish tit-whining he's often guilty of). The bright fierce light of desire and high-strung disjointed voice-narratives-- Beckian Goldberg Fritz's "The Badlands of Desire." And the animal horror-world and sometimes rough language and end-poem gestures of an early to mid-career Ted Hughes. Is this all coincidental or have any of the above been anything of an influence on you? All of the above is probably, then, just a lead up to me asking you to talk about your influences: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, movies, t.v., paintings, cartoons, whatever, as you wish.

RL: None of the poets you listed above have influenced me and I am not familiar with their work, My poetic influences have been poets whose music climbs out of their poems and shakes me; e.e Cummings, Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sharon Olds, Brenda Hillman, Robert Lowell, Linda Bierds, Wallace Stevens, Amy Gerstler, Cal Bedient, Lara Glenum, Maxine Kumin, Charles Bukowski. I am as strongly influenced by novels as I am by poetry. Charles Dickens, Jeanette Winterson, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy. I was spoon fed on Robert Heinlein and I reread his books over and over every year. I love Toni Morrison’s work, Margaret Atwood, the Brontë sisters, JG Ballard, Rick Bass, the list of novelists I love is pretty much endless. I read like my life depends on it. Magazines, cookbooks, bus advertisements, pamphlets, chapbooks, road maps. I read them all with my mind open to the poetry inside them. I don’t watch much TV but I’m strongly influenced by movies, especially David Lynch, John Waters, Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Greenaway. Photography is probably my favorite visual art form. Diane Arbus of course, she who molded my brain when I saw her retrospective show in New York in 1971, and about whom I’m writing a fictional novel. Other photographers who move me are Sally Mann, Gregory Crewdson, Francesca Woodman. The painters Kandinsky for color, Larry Rivers for New York the way I remember it, Basquiat for his incorporation of text into color, Balthus for his cats, Camille Claudel for standing up to that bastard Auguste Rodin, and for sculpting many of his hands and feet and never getting credit for it. And last but not least, Bach, Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven, Raymond Scott, Fats Waller. The endless list of music and musicians who fill my every waking and most of my sleeping hours.

Along with poetry, music and film, I take a great interest in what goes on around me every day. The conversations exchanged at my job, the movements of the tides, playing in the dirt, baking bread, watching clouds, knitting, dancing. I love to watch people though I rarely interact with them. This is probably my greatest pleasure in life, the simple things that happen in my city under my nose. I find the more attention I pay to them the richer my life, and therefore my poetry, becomes. I really don’t think poetry has much to do with poetics or writing. It has to do with how a poet sees.

RK: Revision. You say that you like to write with your head "out of the way." By instinct, gut, feel. Through your body, through "tissue memory." Can you talk a bit about your revision process a bit? Revising it would seem should bring more critical and engaged faculties to bear. Or do you revise also with your head out of the way (or kind of at least), sounding-out as it were by feel. Or is some sort of combination of tissue memory and critical application? (Some writers at a certain point in their careers say that they don't revise at all even. Some I think are telling the truth)

RL: Once I draft a poem, (with a pen in a crappy beat up notebook, this is important), I post it to a private (non-public) blog and let it stew. I am not overly fond of word-drunk poems, though that’s how I create rough drafts. I use the private blog for revision because I am terrible at document management. I used to revise my poems in Word™ documents, but I ended up having 40 revisions on my home computer and 15 revisions on my work computer, all in different folders, and I’d lose things and be looking at one poem while a completely different revision was waving its flag at me from some forgotten electronic corner of the universe. Now I revise on the blog and transfer my revisions to 1 Word document at home. I am a severe reviser and I believe that art and craft are different beasties. Art is what I get what I find what I create, and craft is how I make a poem viable, livable, a dynamic thing as opposed to a static bunch of words on a page.

This is how I revise. Does the poem have a galley? A loo? A comfortable place to sleep? Does it leak? Is it seaworthy? I revise a poem anywhere from twenty to seventy times. Often I revise poems after they’ve been published. I write long drafts and cut and cut and cut. It’s much easier to cut than trying to build a keel after the fact. My knives are sharp. I slap a piece of duct tape over the internal blasted critic/editor’s voice in my head when I write my drafts, but the tape comes off with a loud and painful riiiiip! during the revision process. This is why I always have to give my drafts some room, some time. Walk away from them while we’re still on honeymoon. I don’t believe that every word that falls from my pen is a diamond. I dislike the saying kill your darlings. They’re not my darlings. Not in that form. Not until I clean them up, strip them down, sand their edges, test their sea-worthiness and send them out on open waters. It is a tricky process and a difficult one. There is always the danger of revising the spark out of a poem. I think revision is the hardest part of writing but also the heart. It’s when my head moves back into the boat and starts cleaning up. There are a lot of metaphors in this paragraph and I apologize for them.

I used to go to poetry workshops. I brought my poems and the groups read them and responded. I did this for years. I lasted 4 years in one workshop and 2 years in another. As I grew as a poet, I became less dependent on outside feedback. The feedback in fact, became a negative thing when I found myself bringing more and more accessible poems to workshops so they would be easy for my readers to understand. I was dumbing or, according to Word™ spell check, dooming down for my readers. Once I realized that my revision process was intact, I realized I no longer needed the workshops or the feedback, though I miss the wine and cheese. But seriously, I think a poet has to learn to craft his or her own work eventually. And I had heard some pretty inane things over the years. Don’t ask a question if you don’t answer it at the end of the poem. Don’t ask a question if you answer it at the end of a poem. Don’t use italics unless you use italics somewhere else in the poem. NEVER USE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! Who the hell thought up all these stupid rules? And that’s exactly what I would ask the critic. Who the hell thought up all these stupid rules? The answer was, that’s just the way it’s done.

Artistic communities are good for some people, but they are no good for me. I’m not a social creature. I am never comfortable in groups unless I’m playing music and even then, I am in my own world inside my head. In complete disclosure, I’d like to add that I presently teach 2 poetry workshops, The Wallingford Irregulars and The Foundry. The Wallingford Irregulars workshop is 11 years old, The Foundry is 2. The difference between the workshops I teach and the workshops I attended, is that when I feel a poet has the tools she needs to revise thoroughly, when she brings poems that are consistently strong, I tell her that perhaps it’s time for her to fly the nest. My workshops are not social gatherings. They’re classes where we learn craft together. You can’t teach anyone to write poetry. You can ask them to read and teach them the basics of craft, but you can never teach them to have an interesting world view. You can’t teach them a sense of humor. Nurturing is about all you can do. Most poets need to be nurtured. And read. That’s what makes poets happy. I give my poets food and tea and I build big dangerous fires and I invite them to take their shoes off and I tell the truth and I encourage them to send their poems out into the world. And we laugh like hyenas because an artist who takes herself too seriously will sink. We are not ARTISTS. We are artists. The work is ongoing.

RK: You've talked about God in your life and God in your poems. Can you talk about enchantment now? Of the sort of magic (white magic that seems to be an important part of your world--you and your poetry.) You are as you say, "by nature, a recluse," and that animals are your true "comfort" and "joy." Your "honest confessors" and your "best friends." This all brings to mind the image of a witch out in the woods, stitching heads and performing other strange operations. You also talk, here in this interview, about "divining whether a pregnant woman is going to give birth to a boy or a girl by holding a crystal on a thread..." The enchantments though seem all to be natural ("different-natural" perhaps, rather than supernatural, in the way I understand that to be.) In "Thank You Dr. Grafenberg" you even suggest "maybe" that you ARE an "enchantment." (as well as a "criminal" and "a talking dog.") Some of this is overlap to what you've said already in response to my God question but can you please talk about enchantment here: how you are enchanter and enchanter (like you are in a way both master, wolf and dog), etc,...

RL: Enchantment is a large part of my life but maybe not your typical garden variety Leprechaun or even fairy tale types of enchantment. I did not come from a happy suburban family, but I don’t write about my upbringing, my family of origin. My enchantment, my idea of enchantment, my ability to be carried away to other worlds through enchantment (animals, books, music) was a gift I was born with. As a child I would collect bees in Mason jars and carry them to my bedroom or under the porch and I would pet their delicate fur and speak to them and I truly believed they understood me. I always set them free and I learned that once you have captured a bee in a jar, you can remove the lid, but the bee won’t fly away for an entire day after that lid is removed. I learned how to view and absorb the natural world by collecting bees and frogs and tadpoles and stray cats and vicious dogs who came to me and jumped on me in joy. My grandfather had two horses and I rode them from the highest hill in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, rode them every weekend down into the forest where I spent hours playing in the creek or simply talking to the horses or brushing them or singing to them. I found bears and wolves and cougars in that forest, but they never frightened me. I didn’t do so well with humans. Humans in my young world were dangerous. Animals were magic, yes. They brought comfort. They spoke a language I understood. I recognized their souls. Am I an enchanter? That’s what my birth name means in Hebrew; Rebecca, captivating, knotted cord. But I think there is something more complicated here. Pat Conroy once said that it is a great gift for a writer to be born into a horrible family. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps this forces the writer to see things differently, through different lenses. Perhaps an unhappy child can indeed find her way through the forest, fearless and alone, and come out the other side as a changed thing. After all, the key to being a great poet is to be able to see a world no one else can see and then tell that story. Can we become poets if our feet are never held to the fire? Maybe. But not me. I had to take an unknown route. I had to carve my name into the top of the tallest damned tree even if I fell out and broke my wrist and lay shivering in the ferns, until my horse came to find me.

As I get older I care less and less about my human nature and more and more about the land around me, the secrets the sea screes into my salty mouth, the dance between water and oil, the beauty of the unloved, the hungry, the ignored holy. I have become entangled with a homeless man, a spitfire of a guy who gets in lots of fights and has many knife scars and sells newspapers for a dollar a piece outside of a fancy grocery store. We have long intense conversations. I have told him that I am bipolar, an embarrassing disease for a poet these days since it is so popular, and every single poet who has a downlow day seems to lay claim to being bipolar. My homeless friend understands that it is a terrifying world and yes, enchanted sometimes. I tell him how difficult it is to trade my natural creativity, my burny little fire, for calm days and being able to function in the adult world. He has days where he is so high he can’t open his eyes, but he stands in front of the store selling his papers. If he sees me he asks if I’m still on my meds. I tell him the truth. We have found that in each other. Is this part of an enchantment? I can’t see from here. Not yet. But he has entered my dreams and now he has entered my poems. He is yet another wolf in disguise from whom I have nothing to fear. There is always something brand new to see every day every minute, if we just open our eyes.

RK: Okay, this is the trickiest question I've asked. And by "trickiest" I mean I've struggled most in figuring out how to ask it. In fact I've struggled most in making this question clear to myself. You say that "Cadaver Dogs" (the title poem) is the most "personal poem" you've ever "let romp out into the world." It's interesting that you use the word "romp." I just looked it up on Merriam Webster on line and "high-spirited, carefree, and boisterous play" is the clause that I think seems to fit (though other parts of the definition are not irrelevant either.) "Romp" suggests, too, for me an animal and it's the "animality" of your poetry that I'd like you to talk about. "Animality" versus "personality." Even when your poems are "personal" they seem to have a personality (voice, character, etc) that seems to be to more "of animal" than "of person." (Of course people are animals. I least I think so, and I believe you agree.) Okay, again, your poetry, carried along by music, its shifts (image, perspective, etc) seems more animal than human. And this for me, and others I'm guessing, is very strange and exciting. Again there's overlap here (with respect to your wanting, when writing, to get your head "out of the way") but can you please respond to this directly, indirectly, whatever. (And sorry for the fuzziness of how I've laid out my sketchy thought-feeling here.)

RL: Once upon a time, a 14 year old girl was forced out of her house to live on the streets of a deeply enchanted icy city. Her only companion was Brown Dog, a large terrier who never left her side. Brown Dog provided warmth, protection, conversation, love, acceptance, and a magical kind of healing when he licked the girl’s hands with his rough tongue. Brown Dog and the girl ventured to the city’s heart where they slept in abandoned cars, empty churches, and dangerous hotels with dangerous men. Brown Dog never left the girl’s side. They ate when they could, sometimes finding food in dumpsters or behind restaurants, sometimes stealing it from grocery stores, sometimes being given meals by kind strangers. Eventually Brown Dog and the girl banded together with other lost children, and they broke into a boarded-up house in the heart of the city’s industrial area. The house had no electricity, but it had a wood stove, so every morning the children took turns chopping wood and feeding the fire for warmth, and the occasional bath. Brown Dog slept by the fire and guarded the door in case the children were discovered by police or other thieves. The girl easily made friends with criminals, the insane, librarians, animals and outlaws. She was not comfortable around normal people and they mostly would not have her even though she had a gentle spirit, and all she ever wanted was to make music and write poems. Eventually Brown Dog and the girl made their way out of the enchanted icy city, and found a home near the ocean and the mountains. Brown Dog grew old and ill, and his fur started falling out. He died in a park in the deep heat of summer with his head in the girl’s lap. The girl grieved mightily, because she knew she would never again find such a loyal friend, but she made music and she pushed words together and discovered that moments of joy and moments of sorrow aren’t all that much different.


The 2nd issue of Brian Foley's SIR! is on-line now

check it out here

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pink Klassnik (an interview on HTMLGIANT)

Sam Pink has just posted an interview with me on HTMLGIANT

This is a very serious interview in which I discuss, among other things,

--Fan Mail
--Attilah the Hun
--Adam Pitluk
--Ron Silliman
--Pink Eye (wink, wink.....blink, blink)
--that wily southern-atheist Flannery O'Connor
--everyone's favorite centerfold, Blake Butler