Thursday, May 28, 2009

80's One-Hit Wonders, etc, - Or - Why I'm a Loser

Last night a cinnamon hummingbird blundered into our house. We helped it out. This morning we saw a dead black cat. On its back. Teeth bared.

What do these things mean? I don't give a fuck.

I've been watching VH1's 100 Top One-Hit Wonders of the 80's. And tonight, finally, I got to see the hour that contains the top 20.

When they unveiled "Come on Eileen" as Number One I was nearly crying.

For many years I've been saying that song is the essential 80's song. (how brave and unique of me, yawn). And now I felt ratified. Like a president. Or a king.

No, a priest.

No, a god.

Like my team had won the Super Bowl.

I cleaned up some bird shit and smiled. And smiled. And smiled.

I was glowing.

It felt, honestly, like I was going to live forever. Like ---- O Christ Rauan stop
just stop

How pathetic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Henry Miller's Vicious Personality: A Sory about a Grackle

Grackles land on the edge (in Spanish the word is "ear") of our pool and drink. I suppose they don't live long enough for the chlorine or other chemicals to hurt. Or so I'd like to think. Sometimes the Grackle's only got one leg. There are many one-legged Grackles.

Grackles are tough birds. And they are vicious. And they thrive around people. Lots of people. This is where the action's at. Grackles are like Henry Miller. In Paris he was a genius. Delirium-Genius. In quiet places he pulled his hair out-- and sliced his throat with it. It was hard you see. His hair. Like a white sword.

Anyways. Last night my wife went swimming. It was 8 o'clock but still plenty of light. Taking a break, she looked into the channel that runs around the pool's edge (around its "ear") and there was a Grackle. It was exhausted. Soaked-heavy.

I fished it out with the pool net. And then my wife and I indulged in some bravery. IE: we talked. And talked. Like two monkeys. (This reminds me of how we handled the crisis of an injured bat on our bedroom patio. They kill people you know? Foaming, veins corroded with acid. I wrote a poem about this brave experience. At the end I tell the reader to go down into the plaza and look up "at the girl with long gold hair playing the violin. I used to think that was me." Or some garbage like that. Stuffed with bravery, you know. Like pus.)

Anyways, the grackle was beat. Too weak to fly away. In shock. And we discussed the options. Generals up on a mountain top. Ice-cold thinking. Pure reason. The world stretched out all around us. Blah, blah.

My wife thinks a grackle in the house is bad luck. Maybe she's right.

Finally I wrapped it in a towel. It felt dead. And took it down to my office and placed it in the cage that used to house our two gray cockatiels. I left the towel in there and put the cage nearly under the light. It slumped against the towel.

A half hour later it was still slumped. A bit later it looked alert. And ate some bread. But it was having trouble moving around the cage. One leg trailed behind it. Probably broken. And since it wasn't flapping around I figure maybe a wing was damaged. But maybe it was just in shock still.

So I called my Bird Vet. It was bad timing. A relative had died and he was in the middle of the 9 days flowers and visiting stage. A long wake. But he was friendly. If its leg was broken it'll be okay he said. But if it's a wing or something else then isn't much hope. Who wants a maimed Grackle? (I did see into the future though. A grouchy grackle in my office with me. Maybe perched on my shoulder. Helping me write. Better than dying, right?) But, they're not exactly good pets. And then there's the matter of my wife.

Then Victor (the Bird Vet) brought up Ivan who trains hawks. I know Ivan: he's a nice guy. He stuck some oil up one of the cockatiels when it was sick. Ivan, Victor tells me, likes to use live birds as bait. Even if they're injured. Hmmmmmmmm. This was exciting and disgusting to me. Two hours ago I was looking deep into my wife's eyes and spouting out for the billionth fucking time my staple little truisms like "I don't like it when anything dies" and "It's just another creature trying to make its way" (just before I toted off the bird in towel). But now Ivan and his hawks seem very appealing.

This is how we left things: if the Grackle looked strong in the morning I'd release it and see if it could fly. If it was badly hurt I'd called my Bird Vet and he'd take it to the hawks. (how many of them are there? what color are their eyes? do they cuddle up to Ivan? Do they have names? What are their names? Do they whistle? Do they dream? Blah, blah, blah)

This morning the Grackle was strong. And alert. His right leg, though, dragged behind him. I opened the cage and he flew out over the river. I missed him already. And then I was mad at myself. I should have cut the bad leg off. It was going to be a burden.

Walking down to the Plaza (where 6 days a week I work on my Holocaust poems) I couldn't stop thinking about the Grackle. When I took a break from my poems I wrote the following in my every day journal:

And now the Grackle is so in me. Its bright color. Its beautiful beak. Its vicious personality. It has no mercy. For the world or anything in it. Including itself. It reminds me of Henry Miller when the light (cunt or other) shines into him and revolves a dried up cow-carcass.

I am in some of my best moments this blackbird. It sings in me ruthlessly. It rules my love. Sits on my blood. And rides it hard. Swallows the stars. And smashes the moon to bits. It rolls in churches. And governments. It doesn't want to die. But it doesn't even bother to think about it.

Its shadow's going to lurk and sparkle on every page of my 2nd book.

And, that's that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three Losers - A Night at the Movies

1) First Loser -

"Righteous Kill" starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and 50 cents. We left after 30 minutes. But, what the hell. We walk out of a lot of movies. O, well

2) 2nd Loser -

Christian Bale in the trailer for the new Terminator movie. His charred corpse-voice is bad enough inside a cape and mask in Batman. But now it's just absolutely retarded. And those looks he gives. This is a movie I simply have to see (Don't be jealous, though, Nicolas Cage. You're still my Number 1, baby.)

3) 3rd Loser -

- A Coca Cola commercial called "A Celebration of Life"

This is what happens: An old man (102 years old) drinks a coke. A baby's born. Everyone celebrates. Everyone drinks coke. Christ!!!

This commercial sent chills through me. Made me stuff my head between my legs and bite into my thighs. Made me throw up all over the fat lady sitting in front of us. The one with the big red hat. The one with the seething-red fuck-me pumps.

When the old man guzzles the coke (from a bottle so you can see the swirling red liquid: the exilir of life) I started to lose it. Really lose it. And then the newborn taken out from between a woman's raised spread legs. O, Lord!

And then everyone (all age groups) gathered together. And toasting with glasses full of that red fucking poison. And downing, everyone downing, that red fucking poison.

I nearly passed out. Honestly.

And then I had to suffer Christian Bale.

Like salt and lemon and salt and salt and lemon and salt poured and squeezed and poured and squeezed on and on and on and on to a gaping fucking wound.

And then Righteous Kill. Like I said we only saw 30 minutes of this absolute piece of garbage. I can't say one good thing about it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kawabata's "Beauty and Sadness"

This is a quick, easy read. Maybe. Well, it was for me. Reading it, into sleep, three afternoons in a row. And, waking up, later, covered in sweat. And ditto those same three nights. The chair I read in, you see, makes me sweat.

This is a beautiful book. And it's haunting. Especially Keiko who is the lotus in the flames. And the book for me is all Lotus in Flames. All the characters are ruled (or defined anyways) by passion.

And they are, again and again, wrong about the other characters. They are constantly selfish. Making assumptions. Being wrong.

It's fascinating, really. And haunting, like I said.

Kawabata is such a clever writer.

But, often, as I read this book I was reminded (and have been since also. that comes with the haunting) of what I remember to be superior: his Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. That really glows in me.

Maybe when I go back to those stories they'll disappoint. Hell, that's almost definitely what's going to happen. Maybe I won't go back to them.

A dead newborn in a pool of water.

The image of a premature baby...It flickered in the wintry groves of trees, and in the depths of the green pool.

The Year of the Bible

The Year of the Bible

No, this is not the title of an Onion article.

But the Yahoo News piece I just glanced at sure reads like one.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, 2009, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) hopes you’ll be ringing in “the Year of the Bible.”

It’s probably just wishful thinking.

Broun’s simple congressional resolution aimed at honoring the Good Book has produced a push-back of biblical proportion in the blogosphere, with critics dismissing it as either unconstitutional or a waste of time. Jews in Congress and atheist activists are dismissing the resolution, while none of the many Democrats in Congress who are Christian have bothered to sign on as co-sponsors.

According to, the resolution is among the most-blogged-about pieces of legislation, with most posts less than complimentary in nature.

“Does that mean 2009 is not the year of the Bible?” mocked Rep. Barney Frank ­(D-Mass.), who is Jewish. “What is 2012 the year of? The Quran?”

and here's how the article ends:

Whether he’s successful or not — the same measure didn’t go anywhere last year — at least Broun and his fellow supporters can take heart in one fact: They already had a “year of the Bible.”

Ronald Reagan designated 1983 as one, with Congress’ blessing.

To read entire Onion-esque article click here.

(p.s. the picture of the "rat" above is me composing the Ringing Chapbook's "I want to fuck you" poem. It may look like but it is definitely not Moses about to receive the 10 commandments. And it may also look like but it is definitely not God about to hand down the 10 commandments. But, O, those were the days!)

Night Train Submissions Re-Open

a note from Night Train:

"Submissions Re-open

So give us the good stuff, especially poetry.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rat's Ass Review - Taking Submissions Now

Rat's Ass Review is taking submissions now. To see full guidelines go here.

I'm excited!
Damned excited!
My tail is fucking twitching!
I'm definitely submitting!

Here are some of the highlights (my highlights) of the Rat's Ass Review Guidelines

-- if you don’t like my taste, I don’t give a rat’s ass

-- I’m not even sure I’m looking for good poems. I’m looking for my kind of poems.

-- I need that surface pleasure. I’m not a great thinker about poetry, and I need my immediate gratification.

-- We have three levels of form rejection letters: insulting, regular, and encouraging. You’ll be able to tell which one you get

-- If you aren’t rejected, you’ll get the glory of having your work posted on this site, and nothing else

I repeat:

I'm excited!
Damned excited!
My tail is fucking twitching!
I'm definitely submitting!

Sadly, though, I don't think my poems are going to get published in Rat's Ass Review. (the editor, David M. Harris, says his favorite poets are Richard Wilbur and Elizabeth Bishop and W. H. Auden and Edna St. Vincent Millay and W. B. Yeats and Robert Hayden and a bunch of others who don’t have much in common. Sigh.)

(David M. Harris also says "I am not much interested in poetry about God." Sniff. Sniff.)

I'll give it a shot, though, and, if not, maybe I'll be lucky enough to get the insulting rejection letter.

(p.s. the "rat" pictured above is me going down into my office to peruse what poems I currently have available. It may look like but it is definitely not Jesus rising up into heaven.)

On the Hood of a Cutlass Tour - Holy Land Stop

In support of her debut book "A Brief History of Time" Shaindel Beers has been doing a blog-interview tour. This is her Holy Land Stop.

And (in case you'd like a chance at a free copy of her book) Shaindel's doing a book giveaway (6 copies) on Goodreads. To enter click here.

Here's Shaindel's Bio:

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. She hosts the talk radio poetry show Translated By

RK: The Acknowledgements to “A Brief History of Time” includes, among others, a nod to your students: “To my students who teach me far more than I teach them.” Can you talk a bit about yr experience with the relationship between writing and teaching? I’m guessing for you the one richly informs the other, and vice versa.

SB: For all the complaining I do about the amount of grading my job entails, I love teaching. I think that, as a writer, it keeps me on my toes. Every ten weeks, I get a new group of intellectually curious students, usually about a hundred of them. They ask questions, and it’s my job to have answers for them. If they ask why a certain poet is considered good or how a certain poet accomplishes something, I have to get back to them if I don’t already have an idea about whatever it is. I know that I wouldn’t have that sort of curiosity on my own. Sometimes it’s like I have all of these brains thinking for me. Sometimes I’ll stand at the head of a silent classroom and say something like, “Come on, you have twenty-five brains; I only have one. What do you guys think about this?” and I really look at it that way. Of course, there are those frustrating teaching moments where you think half the class is asleep or comatose, but there are those days when the whole class is intellectually on fire, and nothing can beat that.

Students also have amazing lives and experiences, and those things give me material to write about. Teaching (at the college level, at least) is like having the world’s biggest extended family. I’ve never run the numbers, but I know I’ve had at least a few thousand students so far in my teaching career, and those students are people I care about and write about and write for. Teaching broadens my world the way that most careers wouldn’t just because of the numbers of new people in my life each year.

RK: “A Brief History of Time” could also be “A Brief History of Love.” Of relationships. Of how people need and treat each other. And “Time,” of course, doesn’t really exist without men and women. “Adam and Eve” and everything after. And the voice in yr book looks again and again at how people interact. Love and do not love. All the way to the end: you imagine yourself the “dying man’s wife.” Your thoughts on Love and relationships as a center of the book’s gravity?

SB: I hadn’t really thought about the book as having a center like that, but if readers see love and relationships as the “center of the book’s gravity,” I’d be pleased. I think life would be pretty empty without love. In “The Calypso Diaries,” I have a passage in which Calypso says that Zeus:

can’t understand the curse
of being alone
and immortal
in paradise.

Obviously, you can be happy by yourself, but I think that an important part of happiness is having someone to share it with. I think that it’s human nature to want to share experiences with others. When you see a beautiful sunset, if you’re by yourself, isn’t it almost instinctive to want to turn to someone and say, “Hey, look at that!” until you remember that you’re alone. And I think that we look at other people’s experiences and imagine them as our own. When we see someone going through a personal tragedy—losing a spouse, losing a child—it’s only natural to wonder how we would handle that, how we would cope.

RK: “A Brief History of Time” champions, again and again, the different, estranged, deformed. The underdog. The “benchwarmer.” The woman dying of cancer. The gnat. The still born child. And, yet, wonderfully, you’re able to keep a sense of humour (a complicated bittersweet sense of humour. I am thinking of the joke like setup of “A Man Walks into a Bar” which leads to more serious reflections. I am thinking also of the lines “Every day around the world, 120 million people make love./ Today is not my day.”) Your book is, in a way, a dark book. But it is filled with hope. With striving. Can you please respond to this generally and/or specifically. As you wish.

SB: For all the atrocities in the world that are caused by people, compassion is a fundamentally human emotion. There are animals that show compassion, but it usually isn’t a smart choice in nature. When we watch shows on Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel, and there is the one wolf that doesn’t fit into the pack, humans automatically root for the animal. That isn’t how nature works. That’s the wolf who is chased away from the pack or is relegated to omega status and spends his or her life being picked on by the rest of the pack, eating alone, sleeping separately. Yet, we, as humans, continually root for the omega wolf, the white tiger, all of the ones who wouldn’t normally make it on their own.

As far as this being a dark book with a “complicated bittersweet sense of humor,” I guess that’s me. I’ve had one of those lives that you could make about a dozen “movies of the week” about. Something has to get you through it. I think that art and humor has gotten me through, and I’m grateful for that. I easily could have turned to other things that would have been more destructive.

RK: A note on the back cover of the book says the “poems span a wide range of styles” and indeed they do. One might think that this is the experimenting of a young poet. A finding of a way. Digging around, looking. But, just as much and probably even more accurately, I think this is a sign of your need and restlessness. Your curiosity and passion. To try new things. To keep seeking. Keep plugging away at the elusive shadows of life and poetic form. So, please, tell us about yr fascination with different forms.

SB: I think it’s important to always keep growing, to keep trying new things. And I think it’s important to take part in traditions that a lot of people have given up—so trying old things as well. In the case of poetry, this would include writing in form. I just know that I don’t want to be someone who keeps writing the same poems over and over or the same book over and over. I always want to be new and exciting and innovative. I think that’s important.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Female Grotesque and Female Pleasure: An Interview with Lara Glenum re her book of poems "Maximum Gaga"

To follow is the transcript of an email interview I’ve just concluded with Lara Glenum regarding her wild, monstrous and terrific “Maximum Gaga.”

Here’s the Bio that Lara provided:

Lara Glenum is the author of The Hounds of No (2005) and Maximum Gaga (2008), both from Action Books. She is the co-editor, with Arielle Greenberg, of Gurlesque, an anthology of women's poetry and visual art (Saturnalia Books, 2010). Her translations of Czech poetry with Josef Horacek have received an NEA Translation Fellowship. She is currently collaborating with sound, digital, and visual artists on Meat Out of the Eater, a multi-media installation piece.

RK: It’s no secret that you’ve sucked some of the marrow (and swallowed some of the bone even) out of Aase Berg’s work. But, quoting Maximum Gaga here, “there are a variety of ways to become a monster.” And there are a variety of monsters too. And the ways to become a monster are complicated and intertwined sometimes. Your work, though it owes something of a debt to Berg, is clearly a different monster from Aase’s. When I read Aase Berg (especially With Deer, her only fully translated book available in English) I get a similar feel to when I’m reading Sylvia Plath. I feel as though at any moment the “voice” of the poem (the “person” behind, around, and inside it) is about to jump up and cut my head off. Or, perhaps more accurately, cut its own head off. I feel as though I’m always about to open a door and find this “voice” stretched out, pale, in a bathtub, bled to death. With Maximum Gaga I feel as though the “voice” is going to grab me, blindfold me, tie my hands behind my back, spin me round and round and drop me into a never-ending strobe-lit decadence of linguistic and erotic excess. Of course I’m not saying anything real clever here because in a way this is what the poems are: Berg’s a kind of Ecstasy of Dismemberment (Goransson’s term) and yours an orgy of empowering Eros. Can you talk a bit about your experience with Berg? What you’ve taken from her work? Differences, etc? A pretty open question. Take it where you want. Or don’t want.

LG: I came to know Berg’s work through Johannes Goransson several years ago, and by the time I came across her, I was already, more or less, my own variety of monster. I think the difference in our work that you’re pointing to is really a difference I have (more noticeably) with Plath, to whom I owe a great debt. I read Plath not as a Confessional poet but as a practitioner of the female grotesque, which places her closer to poets and artists of the historical avant-garde.

In “Lady Lazarus,” for example, the speaker is performing a female burlesque, a “strip tease,” that ultimately “unwraps” the female body not as an erotic object but the site of grotesque mortality and non-compliant subjectivity. In this poem, the speaker ironically wields her body as a souvenir of her own death-drive, both performing and mocking the idea of souvenir as a trace of authentic experience. Authentic experience, after all, always involves a myth of origin, and every time Plath goes back to access origins, she finds herself trapped inside a performance of Romantic Sublime, which spells the death of the female subject. Thus by the end of the poem, as in so many of Plath’s poems, the speaker feels compelled to disembody herself. I, on the other hand, insist on embodiment, and on getting a specifically female pleasure into the text.

Berg doesn’t disembody herself either, she dismembers bodies, fuses them anarchically with all order of animal bodies, with the landscape. There is a very palpable source of ecstasy in this melee. Berg is somewhere between Plath and me with respect to pleasure and embodiment. In the end, we are all attempting to inject a mortal, non-erotic female subjectivity into the poem, and it’s an almost impossible task—a task, according to Plath (in “Lady Lazarus”), nearly as impossible as reversing history or raising the dead. Thus Plath’s extensive use of grotesque figuration (i.e. there’s a female body/subject here, but it’s anarchic, diseased, covered in worms, houses a mechanical heart, etc.). Thus mine.

RK: “Maximum Gaga” is a world of its own. The language, images, characters. It takes a bit to get tuned in. You have to learn to read it. Have to learn to breathe in a very different atmosphere. But then, for me at least, the rewards are great. Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” come to my mind as works in which I also felt, with great excitement, that I was in a strange, wondrous place. A real world of its own. (For some reason, here, I feel like bringing up Coleridge’s quote about Shakespeare that goes something like this: Shakespeare’s greatness is that in reading him——in the act of reading—— you become a poet.) Can you respond to what I’ve said and tell us, if you like, what other works of this sort are important to you and/or were a real influence on you (and of course I’m not talking about how no two snowflakes, or people, are exactly alike)? If you want also, make this more of a generic tastes-and-influences question and talk about other sorts of work (other arts even) that have been and/or still are important to you.

LG: Octavio Paz claims that poetry is an act of magical intervention that redeems us out of the constraints and delusions of linear time. For him, the poem does not stop time but “contradicts and disfigures it,” producing what Paz calls “anti-history.” “The poet,” he says, “is the geographer of heaven and hell.” Each new poem is a code for a reality that is being unraveled as the poem proceeds. The poem is what he calls “the universe’s double: a space covered in hieroglyphics.” It is an act of deciphering the universe that produces a new cipher, the poem itself (which is, as you say, a world of its own).

In terms of structurally totalizing works, I’m an enormous fan of William Blake and all his world-germinating apocalyptica. Ditto for Rimbaud. Alice Notley’s Descent of Alette is another such work that’s important to me, as is Stein’s Tender Buttons, which rattles along nervewrackingly between cute, cloying domesticities and toothed monsters. And then there are poets like Paul Celan—though he writes shorts lyrics, the sum total of his oeuvre exists entirely in its own aether. One has to, as you say, learn to read it entirely on its own terms.

I’m generally under the spell of the historical avant-garde, especially the work of Blaise Cendrars, Mina Loy, and Vladimir Maykovsky, but I’m also heavily influenced by the visual arts as well: Hannah Hoch’s gender-bending Dada collages, Hans Bellmer’s ball-jointed creepfest dolls, Duchamp in drag, Baroness Else von Freytag’s proto-punk performance art, etc. And then there’s film: I’m a massive Hitchcock fan, and I love Goddard. Their wry, exceedingly dark humor is simply invaluable to me. Silent horror films (and only the silent ones) have a huge place in my aesthetic, especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with its rad German Expressionist sets.

And yes, absolutely, Joyce, and really, so much fiction in general. I eat fiction like cake. Right now I’m reading Can Xue’s Five Spice Street and nearly breaking my ribs, I’m absolutely rolling with laughter. I wish I’d written it!

RK: Help from editors (publishers). A lot of presses (contests, etc) give pretty much a yes or no on a manuscript. Or perhaps a yes with small edit requests/suggestions. Blake Butler, in my first interview on this blog, talked about how Derek White at Calamari worked really closely with him and was instrumental in bringing his book to its final form and structure. Because of Blake's help the book, according to Blake, changed radically. And for the good. Can you talk about how and to what extent your editors helped you in small and large detail (In the back of the book Johannes and Joyelle of Action Books are two of the four people you thank “for their invaluable feedback and support”)? And if you want any other thoughts on publishing in the small press world?

LG: It’s no great secret that I’m quite close to Joyelle and Johannes. I’ve been friends with them for a number of years (long before they became my publishers), and our aesthetic affinities run very deep. Their role as editors is augmented by their role as compatriots, vandals, and fellow rabblerousers. Their influence on my work is quite osmatic in that I am in near-constant conversation with them, even when I’m not writing.

I don’t give Joyelle and Johannes my books until I have a near-final draft (as they can tell you, I am an obsessive reviser), but by that point, their imprint is already all over the book, not from any overt discussion or editing but because of our ongoing conversation about poetics, aesthetics, and art in general. And then, yes, they’re fantastic editors of my work. They have a sort blinding clarity about cuts, edits, and what Baudelaire calls the secret architectonics of the book, that I find really invaluable. They don’t want to publish anything that resembles anything they’ve ever read before, which is a fantastic challenge and invitation to a writer. For example, I gave them a totally half-baked manuscript (a proto-version of Maximum Gaga) some time ago, and their immediate response was, “Why are you wanting to publish another collection of discreet lyrics? You’ve already done this.” This lit an all-consuming fire in me to forge the longer, interlocking sections that comprise Maximum Gaga. This kind of clarity, the clarity to question not only the work itself but also my conceptual moves, is a real gift.

RK: Decadence. Maximum Gaga is a call to decadence. “Run headlong into Maximum Gaga!” “Ferocious states in which your brain would luxuriate in fields of wiggity-wack.” Many authors lament the fact that one can’t say exactly what one feels or thinks (Neruda, famously, “between the lips and the voice something goes dying”) but that’s nothing to cry about in Maximum Gaga. The linguistic decadence (not to mention the erotic decadence) at play here is “the glorious cage of language from which we never hope to escape.” Some of my favorite parts of Maximum Gaga are where it seems the speaker is completely caught up in the rush of erotic and linguistic excess. “Minkycore” (pages 23, 24, 25) is poetry I’ve read over several times just for the sheer pleasure of it. Just to roll in it. Here the speaker is “riding the rat out,” “eye flaking” into, again and again, “rococo spasm.” These bits, in a way, feel like a woman on a mechanical bull waving her hat around, screaming. But, at the same time, these Minkycore decadences feel very organized. Feel very much like set pieces. And “Maximum Gaga” as a whole, for all its indulgences and excesses, is very organized and structured. Presented in dramatic form. Characters and all. Maximum Gaga is dancing wildly but dancing still on a dance floor in a dance room in a dance house. The structures you use (small scale and larger) are ways, it seems, to keep energies contained and to direct them. It is also, of course, very helpful to the reader. Gives him/her footholds. Railings to hold on to. Can you talk about the interplay of structure and decadence? Of organization and wildness? And, again, of course, take this in whatever direction you want or do not want.

LG: Decadence, in many ways, begins with Baudelaire. Baudelaire is the first to say that modern art has an essentially demonic character because it aims to negate the fatuous delusions and working values of the bourgeoisie (i.e. the doctrine of universal progress, claims of rationality, humanism, etc.). He describes what he calls the new modern subjectivity: in a perpetual nervous state, the modern subject’s nerves are stretched wide to take in a near-constant cavalcade of sensory input. Intensely sensitized, and totally disoriented. Baudelaire links this new subjectivity with the impulse to discard art as the traditional arbiter of moral truths; modern subjects don’t seek moral elevation, they seek only intensification of their perceptual capacity.

My writing is often labeled decadent because of the shocking nature of its contents, but that’s not really the decadence I’m interested in. I’m interested in formal decadence, which in my work surfaces in my use of characters and a kind of hyper-stylized staging that occurs across my books. While lots of narratives that drive contemporary culture have been discredited by critical theory (narratives about sex and gender, for instance), they are still massively afloat in popular culture. Like it or not, they still shape who we are. I don’t try to critique these narratives directly. I try to engage them in a way that reveals them as already crumbling structures, as monstrous in what they presume, what they dictate, what they ask of us.

Decadence, of course, is always linked to the unnatural, and I am all for railing against the cannons of the natural and realism. To be decadent is to announce a disobedience to classical aesthetics, to refuse to enter into a contract with mimesis. Lyotard wonderfully says, “Those who do not examine the rules of art [handed to them by their predecessors] pursue successful careers in mass conformism by communicating by means of the ‘correct rules,’ the endemic desire for reality with objects and situations capable of gratifying it.” For Lyotard, realist art is simply the name for art that refuses to examine the rules of its own construction, its own artifice. He goes on to say, “If they do not want to become supporters of that which exists, the painter and novelist must refuse to lend themselves to therapeutic uses.” Exactly.

Lastly, I would say that my work is an instantiation of yet another turn in the long history of decadence, the post-human turn. The post-human is essentially anti-humanist (the human subject is no longer the center of things) and puts forward a new paradigm of subjectivity in which the human body and mind are totally permeated by any number of technologies. In other words, Baudelaire on speed. The body is no longer a sensitive organ with which to perceive modernity but is the site of modernity. In the world of my poems, our bodies our not only permeated by technology but by other bodies as well. Thus the post-human automatically evokes a vision of the monstrous body, a monstrous subjectivity, which is so central to my work.

RK: Maximum Gaga is a call to decadence (a call to rush headlong into maximum gaga) but it is also a call to (or enactment or engagement of) “Gurlesque” action. There are, of course, many kinds of Gurlesque writing and the type that interests you (according to what you say on Delirious Hem) is the grotesque sort (violence and cuteness). Can you talk a bit about your interest and involvement in “Gurlesque”?

LG: To start off, I should say that the Gurlesque is an entirely descriptive project, not prescriptive. Arielle and I are not spearheading a movement or branding a product. The Gurlesque describes female poets and artists who draw on burlesque performance, kitsch, and the female grotesque to perform femininity in a campy or overtly mocking way. Their work assaults the norms of acceptable female behavior by irreverently deploying gender stereotypes to subversive ends.

Several years ago, I read a transcript of Arielle’s original talk on the Gurlesque, which she gave at Small Press Traffic in 2002. At the time, I was totally intrigued by Arielle’s take on the Gurlesque, but I was leery of the whole burlesque trope. There’s a branch of feminism that posits self-initiated female exhibitionism as empowering, and it makes me want to throw up in my boots. It’s freaking appalling. I knew that was not what Arielle was getting at, but still the whole burlesque trope made me wary.

All this to say, I thought Arielle brought up a number of fantastic things, particularly the way she linked the Gurlesque to Bahktin’s carnivalesque, and I began to study the history of burlesque theater, which was far more intriguing and radical than I’d suspected. For a long time, I’d been steeping myself in theories of kitsch, camp, the gothic, and the female grotesque—all of which are so important to my work—and I started to see my interests and Arielle’s as complimentary halves of the same line of inquiry. And while Arielle describes the Gurlesque in terms of female empowerment, I provide a (seemingly contradictory) reading of the Gurlesque that embraces the grotesque and the abject. Despite this, our readings of the Gurlesque really do overlap in many places—much more than they diverge—and I’m so happy that, via our multiple readings, the anthology has become a many-headed hydra.

For me, the Gurlesque has its roots in the women of the historical avant-garde—Mina Loy, Baroness Elsa, Djuna Barnes, Hanna Hoch, Gertrude Stein, Sophie Tauber, etc.—who first used their heightened sense of gender as performance to deconstruct gender binaries in their work. This tendency can be traced down the 20th C. through the work of Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath, Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Alice Notley, Bjork—the list goes on and on. And of course, there’s Emily Dickinson, the original Goth girl.

And while I do enjoy tracing out a Gurlesque genealogy, the Gurlesque is a set of descriptive terms, it’s not a club. The poets in the anthology happen to be salient examples of Gurlesque poetics, but we’re not trying to corral them into a herd or an exclusive group. Each poet’s work can (and should) be read totally independent of the Gurlesque framework, and there are scores of poets and poems that can be read as Gurlesque and that aren’t in the anthology.

As to whether or not men can be Gurlesque (a question I am often asked), I tend to say yes. Look at Vladimir Mayakovsky or Matthew Barney or Johannes Gorannson or Marilyn Manson. As to whether or not it means something different for a man to queer heterosexuality, I don’t know. The question itself is perhaps more productive than any actual answer.

For my drive-by take on the Gurlesque, you can go here:

For ruminations on the Gurlesque and kitsch, look here:

RK: Something on Delirious Hem really stuck out for me: the title of the interview/conversation between Danielle Pafunda and Arielle Greenberg. “Disarming, Destabilizing and Creeping out the Patriarchy.” This could be a subtitle or description of Maximum Gaga in which the central feminine voice and pleasure force refuses to be “manicured” (a rich and wonderful word, by the way) by the Normopaths who believe “A central component of maintaining and reproducing social order/is the management of woman.” In Maximum Gaga the King is “impregnated... with ’coochie sight’” and “18 breasts” are “surgically implanted on his torso.” (reminds me of a 3 or 4 thousand year old pre-Greek statue I saw in the Louvre recently.) Etc, Etc. Can you talk a bit about how you think the Gurlesque is present (or engaged) in Maximum Gaga?

LG: The first section of Maximum Gaga, “The Normopath,” is a dialogue between a female character and her lover, Mino, who happens to be a monster. It’s Minky Momo’s defense of why she prefers Mino to the Normopath, a male character who is “pathologically normal” (and thus the really freakish monster).

Minky Momo imagines desire as the locus of a haunting peculiarity, a necessary engagement with deformity and the grotesque (the material of real bodies, in all their glorious asymmetry), rather than external glamour. She privileges “kink,” where “kink” is not what is done to the body but an alternate state of mind that privileges the quirky, unsightly detail above concern for the whole. As Naomi Schor has argued, the aesthetic of the detail is an explicitly feminine aesthetic that subverts neo-classical ideology. Classical aesthetics always marks the detail (i.e. blemish, protuberance, aberration, etc.) as a feminine threat to the masculine aesthetic of a perfected, unified whole. Minky Momo’s love is a love of excess over formal symmetry or restraint. Via her desire, she’s overturning entire cannons of classical aesthetics.

Ditto for Queen Pasiphae, a figure out of Greek mythology, who’s at the center of “Meat Out of the Eater,” the second half of Maximum Gaga. In the myth, the Queen lusts after an enormous white bull and has Daedalus build her a machine so she can copulate with it. Out of this union comes the Minotaur (the same Mino that’s in the first section of Maximum Gaga).

The Queen’s preference for an animal over her husband, the most powerful man around, is an act of abjection like no other. To human thinking, the bull comically embodies male virility, so she’s fucking a caricature. It’s an intensely performative act. It’s fascinating to me that she chooses to fuck something that can’t judge her in human terms, that can’t judge her as a woman, that doesn’t care what it’s fucking. Hers is an abject desire, no doubt, but it’s also liberatory. It’s very strange to imagine the Queen strapped inside this machine, as though she’s being subjugated and humiliated, while all the while, she’s the one calling the shots. The poor animal is totally prey to human caprice, to the Queen’s compulsory need for pleasure and provisional obliteration. It’s also an image of the post-human body in which human and machine and animal merge into one monstrous circuit of desire.

RK: In your answer to the first question of this interview you said that the attempt to “inject a mortal, non-erotic female subjectivity into the poem” was “an almost impossible task.” The fight that Gurlesque has on its hands seems also to be “almost impossible.” I’d be interested to know if you feel these near impossibilities weigh on how you’ve chosen to end Maximum Gaga. The second last poem ends with the speaker growing into “a girly empire” where “soldiers (are) “buried in acres of burnt-out flesh.” But the end of the last poem goes back on that (I think): “I said Dahling Shut your cuntbox / I was still veering/to obey/ my not-owned form.” This ending made me think of the ending of Aase Berg’s “With Deer” where things seem to veer back on themselves a bit, strangely: “Now it is time for the cutting to slowly start to heal.” Your thoughts, please.

LG: I more or less think that impossible tasks are the only ones worth taking on. Besides, I’m tantalized by the prospect of reversing or overthrowing orders in a totally naïve and childish way!

As to the “not-owned form,” it’s a challenge, isn’t it, not to be owned by something? And I’m not engaging in liberalspeak here, I don’t mean being owned by corporate interests or the media, etc. (though, that too) but by people and ideas, particularly our own ideas about ourselves and about our relationship(s) to power.

In the end, I don’t believe in a stable or coherent self; I think we all harbor conflicting multitudes. I think we’re all grotesque monsters. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s pretty freaking joyful.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cowboy Party

For hours we walked to the front of the line and then on back. All he's doing is playing the classics. B and B. We can do this shit.

It was kind of like a religious get-together. So much Love. Everyone tipping their hats. And the music, just on and on. I had no idea what was going on.

It made me think of watching a movie with a high school friend (back in high school that is) and he said "we could make one better" and I said "sure" (thinking WTF).

I smoked a lot that summer and the words burned out of me, visions of streams and a woman leaning down to sharpen her knife, all in the shape of a heart-leaf, wandering to the front and then back down.

There was so much to learn. Leaves blowing about me in a thousand rooms. And there was gold somewhere. Singing in shadows.

And we could do it. I knew we could.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Prima Vera Trees are Blooming

In the center of our plaza's a Prima Vera tree, gnarled and tall. And it's in full bloom. Bright yellow. Like bits of flowering sun. And pigeons sit in it. In spaces between the yellow sprays. The sea goes on forever. Today it's a medium blue. And our church is beautiful. All the tourists gawk.

Today, also, there are four Federal Policeman (Policia Federal). Two have handguns and two have (what appears to me to be) AK-47s. They're all dressed in black. The two with handguns have collared shirts. The other two are wearing t-shirts. One's scratching his cheek. One smiles at an old lady.

It's going to be a hot day. And humid. And I'm going to sweat. A lot. But now it's cool. Pigeons are splashing in the fountains. And the poems of my "Holocaust" keep coming: bits of bone and blood-- and light.

Here's the cover of today's newspaper:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Emily Dickinson's Breasts (Eating Kafka II)-- talking with CAConrad

Well, I lived through the first interview with CAConrad

And, so after all the dust had settled and all the fluids dried (blood, cum, sweat, disgust and hate, etc, etc) we went at it again.

Emily Dickinson's Breasts (Eating Kafka II) is posted up at HTMLGIANT now.

In this 2nd interview CAConrad talks about

--sex with a Coca Cola bottle

--nerve endings in the male anus

--Emily Dickinson's breasts

--Charles Simic pissing on the Liberty Bell

--Covering his body with blood

--Sperm trying to gnaw their way into his 3rd eye



To read it all go here

Pilot Books: Open Reading Period, May,...

a note from Pilot Books:

Pilot Books will hold our first open reading period in May of 2009 to select a manuscript to be published in our new Meddling Kids Series. Please submit 2 printed copies of your original poetry manuscript (10-25 pages of verse) postmarked between May 1st -May 31st , 2009. Include two cover pages--one with manuscript title, your name, address, email and phone; another with manuscript title only. Manuscripts will be logged in by an impartial third party, read anonymously by the editors and a panel of outside readers. A selection of finalists may be asked to submit their manuscript electronically. No SASE necessary, we will communicate via email. Post your entries, along with a $10 reading fee to the address below. (All entry $$ will fund the production of the selected manuscript.)

Pilot Books
39 Lilly Street
Florence, MA 01020

Please help us spread the word...

The Holocaust - The Yom Kippur War - A Banquet or Wedding - Embracing

Last night as I listened to Keane's Killeresque "The Lovers are Losing" I had visions of what the cover of my 2nd book ("The Holocaust") might look like. It was vivid. It was ascendant. And it was charged with light.

And then I remembered back to when I was a little boy. Six years old. At Aunt Muriel and Uncle Hymie for Friday Night dinner. The Yom Kippur War was raging. Everyone was serious. Shocked. Kind of numb.

I remember a photograph on the cover of the newspaper. An Israeli soldier, head bandaged, sitting on top of a tank. This made me feel good in a way. And tender. I think he was smiling. Perhaps waving. This was a long time ago but I do remember that, also, I was afraid. Afraid like when, staring out my bedroom window at night, I thought I saw tsotis climbing over our fence.

(A similar kind of fear or unease that I felt, suddenly and for no good reason at all, when, in a dream, I was playing backgammon with Matthew Zapruder, drenched in beautiful, gold sunlight...

Months ago I dreamed that I was at a banquet. Like a Jewish wedding. Everybody dancing and singing. And suddenly Matthew Zapruder's got the mic and he's announcing that I've just won some big prize and he's holding up a trophy and he's beaming. And we're embracing. Matthew Zapruder. And I. Embracing.)

The "Vacant-Eyed Heads" of Killers

Jean Genet in jail, writing Our Lady of the Flowers, cuts out pictures of young, handsome murderers. They excite him both physically and spiritually.

Here's an excerpt from early on in this strange and beautiful book:

“I cut those handsome, vacant-eyed heads out of the magazines. I say vacant, for all the eyes are clear and must be sky-blue, like the razor’s edge to which clings a star of transparent light, blue and vacant like the windows of buildings under construction, through which you can see the sky from the windows of the opposite wall. Like those barracks which in the morning are open to all the winds, which you think are empty and pure when they are swarming with dangerous males, sprawled promiscuously on their beds. I say empty, but if they close their eyes they become more disturbing to me than are huge prisons to the nubile maiden who passes by the high barred windows, prisons behind which sleeps, dreams, swears, and spits a race of murderers, which makes of each cell the hissing nest of a tangle of snakes, but also a kind of confessional with a curtain of dusty serge.”

One of the three men picture above (perhaps the one below) cut off a 30 year old policeman's head. And all through the plaza, and on buses (blue and white and very dangerous), and on the steps of the church, etc, people are staring at the dead man's head. And into the eyes, opened or closed, of his three killers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Prayer Cross

While watching and listening to CMT with my birds this afternoon I saw this commercial for The Prayer Cross and I just can't get it out of my head. To watch the commercial go to The Prayer Cross Website and wait for it to load. (I wish it was available on Itunes!)

---"This one of a kind cross features a secret center stone which when held up to the light reveals the entire Lord's prayer."

---"A one of a kind spiritual accessory."

---"The entire Lord's prayer becomes instantly and almost miraculously visible."

"My Veins are Filled with Milk"

Here's another poem from my chapbook "Ringing" (on-line here):

Like ships leaning together licking each other’s shoulders, we fall down and dig at the earth. Fervently. Like jackals. Fire’s leaping from hill to hill, and my nerves are swaying like seaweed. I have learned to die. And not to. My veins are filled with milk.

(note: this poem originally appeared in the on-line journal Eleven Eleven)

Silliman's Female Voice (?)

I don't know what Ron Silliman sounds like but my dreaming self (this morning's at least) seems to think he's got a woman's voice. Like my wife's.

It was (and is) a hot, muggy morning. and, my wife was trying to rouse me:


And so, (you know how dreams work) I was in a dream with Ron Silliman. In a kind of smoking lounge. Old books everywhere. Tattered spines. A feeling of absolute and mildewed truth. And Ron's slapping his fist in his hand.


(A strong but decidedly feminine and familiar voice. No shit!)

A feeling like watching the ocean, fierce and outraged, slamming against rocks all covered with pelican shit. But, we've made eye contact now. And things must be okay because Ron's calmed down.

And it takes me a while but from what he's ranting on about it seems we've been called together on some sort of secret Ron Silliman mission.

" you can see," Ron says, proudly, almost tearing up "I have gathered around me today some of the greatest and brightest minds in the business."

Wow! I'm flattered and tingly. And, so, I look around, and the only person I recognize's Seth Abramson. My blood's really surging. This is like a first date.

"..I need you guys to be honest on this one, guys," Ron says, a twisted, anguished look on his face (a butcher's face, really). "What do you guys think of Matthew Zapruder?"

I'm not sure. I mean he seems like a nice guy. But who can tell?

So, I'm sitting there perplexed as cotton, but Seth perks up right away.

"I think he's soft" he says, shaking his head like a tired executioner. "I think he's soft."

I'm remembering a time I played backgammon (that's Shesh-Pesh in the old country) with Matthew Zapruder. We were bathed in sunlight. Gwen Stefani's "Cool" was playing for what seemed like an eternity. But suddenly I felt uneasy. Like bodies were clogging up my throat. And now, remembering, I'm starting to feel uneasy. I mean I can feel the sunlight again and it feels good. And Gwen's voice is such a lullaby. But I just feel antsy....


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Respiro (Grazia)

Saw the 2nd half of Respiro last night. With Spanish subtitles. But I didn't need the subtitles to appreciate the rawness and the beauty. Or maybe it's the humidity here. The sweat pouring off my body. (am I male or female now?) Everything feels like a poem trying to climax. (on a different day I would have written "cum")

When Grazia releases all the stray dogs the men of the town stand on their rooftops and fire down with their rifles. The women mop the blood off the stone streets and sidewalks. She is crazy. She is crazy. And, yet, she seemed so normal.

This movie had me rattled. And then excited. And then worried and excited that Grazia might have sex with her son in the cave he hides her away in.

Maybe it's just the mood I'm in (and was in) but the ending was beautiful. Really beautiful. (James Iredell, I too, am a total "sentimentalist.")

A mass of legs kicking underwater. (shot from under).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gorannson's Still Putting it to Hoagland, etc

Over at Exoskeleton Goransson continues to clarify and hammer away at Hoagland, etc:

here's one of the highlights

Hoagland give me a break nobody reads your poetry for wisdom! Don't make me laugh!

Black Ocean's Spring Cleaning

a note from Black Ocean:

Beginning at 12:00 AM on Monday (5/11), through 11:59 PM on Sunday (5/17), any purchase of one of With Deer by Aase Berg (trans. by Johannes Göransson) will get a FREE COPY of Upon Arrival by Paula Cisewski. Paula’s second book, Ghost Fargo, was just chosen by Franz Wright for the 2008 Nightboat Poetry Prize and we thought this would be a good opportunity for those of you unfamiliar with her work to get better acquainted. Also, if you haven't checked out With Deer yet, then you're simply missing out on the best nightmare you never had. Think of this sale as a way for us to pair the grotesque with the unusual, and stick them both in your beach bag for summer reading. It's worth mentioning that, as always,all our orders automatically come with free shipping!

Beginning the week of 5/18 we’ll be pairing Joshua Harmon’s fantastic debut collection, Scape, with Carrie Olivia Adams’ A Useless Window.

Worst Time of the Year

Now it's hot. and damned fucking humid. but not raining. worst time of the year. we hang our heads. defeated. and then shower. and sing. and then do it all over again. it's really a rough time of year. the rainy season's no walk in the park. no glistening milkshake you can just walk away from. but it's exciting and generous and cool for a bit after a big rain. and then the rivers go all gaga....

"I've written beautifully about May, tenderness"--- O, how I love your letters!. and, this, here also, is the month of suicide. I've been writing 4 and 5 and 6 hours every day. My back is creaking. My throat's a gallows.

This is weather I’d like Henry Miller or Dylan Thomas to write me about. Letters all stuffed and dripping with whores and sperm-steaming gutters. Dogs in rut. Dogs glued together, smiling sheepishly, all the way down to the sea's seething bones. Its rusting death. Its old men writhing and twisting around a Johnny Cash song. A dog dying of poison. Foaming. Sputtering. All filled with dung beetles.

This weather sucks. And, yet, in it I am thriving.

Paulina Rubio: fill me with your perfect voice!

Friday, May 8, 2009


if you haven't already checked out Ringing (my e-chapbook) I'd like to invite you to do so. Free on-line here.

Here's one of the poems:

I entered as a God, and now I’m a stranger——all this love in filthy puddles, in jungles, chained together, crumbling. You’re coming towards me. The sun’s behind you. You are tall and dark. I am crying. I want you to fuck me crying.

The site now has audio too.

The Holocaust - No Joke

The title of my 2nd book's going to be "The Holocaust."

When I told my friend Dean Gorman this he emailed me the following:

"i can't tell if you are joking or not. you know the holocaust is no joking matter, ron...unless you are a denier..."

Well, I am not joking. And I am not a denier. (those pricks really fucking piss me off.) And I'm not just going for shock or hype value. This book is going to live up to its title. Many of the poems are like dynamite in my blood.

"The Holocaust" is going to be made of "imperfect erasures" of Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer), Genet (Our Lady of the Flowers) and Joyce (Finnegan's Wake).

Imperfect erasures in that I'm tweaking some words (for example "pass" can become "passed" or "passing" and "he" can become "she" or "me" etc.....)

and i'm also adding, as needed, small words like "and" or "but" or "through" or "in" etc etc

I've got nearly a 100 drafts of individual poems so far, and I have a rough and evolving sense of an overall shape and sequence. Lots of work ahead. Yeah. But I can feel the book. I can feel it. And it is fire in me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Goransson Goes after Hoagland (and Wojahn)

Goransson goes after Hoagland for his comments about younger poets.

And doesn't like what Wojahn has to say either.

check it out. and check out the Comments Stream for both posts. Some good back and forth.

I saw that hack (Hoagland) at an Austin AWP Panel where he talked about the sort of poetry many young poets are writing. Poetry he's not so excited about. All I remember's him being so damned fucking smug. O, yeah, I remember him reading a poem and then saying something like:

I admire the total contempt this poem has for me
I admire the complete disregard blah blah
I admire blah blah blah

Most of the audience were lapping it up.
I was throwing up.
(chunks of Donkey Gospel, etc, etc)

My 2nd Book

I know what the title of my 2nd book's going to be!
(and I am so damned excited)

Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years

a note from Snow Vigate

"Pre-launch Reading for Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years

Readings by Carol Novack, Susan Henderson, Holly Tavel, Christine Boyka Kluge, Anthony Tognazzini and Kim Chinquee

Date: Friday, May 22, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: KGB Bar
Street: 85 E 4th St
City/Town: East New York, NY"

I'm proud to have a poem featured in this anthology. The poem's Las Vegas 305 and, if you're interested, it's at MiPoesias

Head Sold (i mean Found) Separately

Thirty year old policeman's body found in front of the church in Ixtapa (about 30 minutes from PV. this is not the big resort town Ixtapa). The head was found separately. In a trash bag.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Eating Kafka, etc - Interview with CAConrad re "The Book of Frank"

To follow is the transcript of an email interview I conducted with CAConrad re his book of poems, "The Book of Frank"

Here's the Bio CAConrad provided to me:

CAConrad is the recipient of THE GIL OTT BOOK AWARD for The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2009). He is also the author of Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press, 2009), (Soma)tic Midge (Faux Press, 2008), Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), and a forthcoming collaboration with poet Frank Sherlock titled THE CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems (Factory School Books, 2010). CAConrad is the son of white trash asphyxiation whose childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift. He invites you to visit him online here and also with his friends at Philly Sound

Scroll down to the bottom of this interview to see a picture CAConrad provided.

RK: Please tell us about the history and making of "The Book of Frank." I read somewhere on the internet (and by the way I really like your network of blogs) that the book (or a version of it) was ready in the early to mid 90's. Can you talk about this delay? Did you continue to work on the manuscript or did it just sit? How early on, also, did you know that the poems you were writing were going to be part of a full-length collection? How much co-opting of other poems took place as you organized and edited? etc, etc. Anything you'd like to share here would be much appreciated.

CAC: Thanks so much for this interview, I really appreciate it. The truth is I've been writing these poems all along, and the book contains 75 percent of poems written in the past 5 years. But 25 percent from the past 15. There are about a thousand of these poems now.

It's important to just COME OUT AND SAY that they are past life poems. Little levers from the corrupt miles of travel. HOW TO TRICK THE UNIVERSE when we die though, to KEEP the information for when we reincarnate, THAT'S THE TRICK. I mean, HOW do we REMEMBER we were poets, and pick up where we left off, that's the real thing. Some would say, "Well maybe you'll come back as something more useful." NO WAY! Until WAR and GREED are explained to be useful I will write my poems, and have NO GUILT in their construction, hovering over them with some of the love that war and greed intend to destroy.

THE BOOK OF FRANK is a piss in the holy water. And while it IS from the past lives, it's not an explanatory set of poems, it just IS the levers. My book coming out in June from Soft Skull Press, ADVANCED ELVIS COURSE is the explanatory note. The reincarnated Souls of Atlantis have a larder of special psychedelic snacks in store before the horrors being faced seem totally unanswerable. Elvis, He is He and dripping with unrepentant, unapologetic LOVE!

RK: Much can be said (and some of it has already been said) about the book's wildness, bible-throat-cramming, violence, sex, etc. But one thing that really struck me is the magical quietness that rests at the book's core, and which radiates through all of it, really. This Zen-like quality I'm talking about is present not only in what you say but how you say it. The book's last poem is, to me, pretty much a Death Poem (though in the 3rd person) and the next to last poem shows Frank as "a/young boy/asleep in/ancient/Tibet" and the reader's life is "really his/dream." Early on in the book (pg. 24) Frank eats around the "sleeping worm/of the apple" which is "magic." And when I say "not only in what you say but how you say it" I am referring to the clean, clear spring-water and willow-tree form of the poems themselves. The Japanese-like brush stroke phrases. Many of the poems, to me, have the feel and movement of Haiku. Could very easily be reworked into Haiku. The poem on page 88 is perhaps the most prominent of the many poems that struck me as Haikuesque (quoted here in entirety)


Frank shuts
his legs





Your thoughts on this, please.

CAC: Thank you so much for your thoughtful, close reading. Yes, it's surreal haiku-esque. But surreal in the best sense, meaning Super Real. Too often people understand surreal to be fantasy. It's NOT. But back to you asking me to respond to what you say. Editing is my passion, second to the original writing of a poem. Editing, preening, pruning, often pruning deeply, even if it draws blood. This particular example of May flowers was so bloated at first when the IDEA of the poem originally smote me, and smote me hard. At the time it was May and I had just had FANTASTIC sex with a boyfriend, and he went back to work, and I was sitting near a patch of flowers outside when Frank entered my consciousness the way he always did. But it was bloated, I mean a runny sloppy coil of verbosity at first, the poem. Chipping away, after hacking into it, was this, this lithe magic waiting to come out. Sex had everything to do with it.

Magic has more to do with it. As you point out Frank pointing out. Yes, the worm, letting the worm live, eating AROUND the worm. Humans must more than ever RISE UP and surprise ourselves with our many possible generous gestures, and we MUST, must must must. We need to let music seep through. Magic is real and magic is more apt to designate us for stillness when faced with a choice to kill.

RK: More on the surreal (Super Real). When I heard you read in Philadelphia a couple of months ago some of the Frank poems made me think of Russel Edson's poems. I mentioned this to you afterwards and you gave me a puzzled look and said something like "O, no. Kafka's much more of an influence." In preparing for this interview I've read through the Book of Frank 4 or 5 times (a pleasure, a real pleasure) but I can't really see the Kafka link (or shadow, ghost, etc) but many of the poems still seem to be quite Edson-like. Can you talk a bit about the Kafka influence? And Edson (or No-Edson)?

CAC: HEHEHEHEHE! Puzzled, I looked puzzled? OK, that's quite possible. Edson's great, yes. I don't know what else to say, except that, when Jonathan Williams first contacted me about publishing THE BOOK OF FRANK he turned me onto Edson. He was surprised that I had never heard of him, said I MUST read him. But my work was already well underway before every hearing about Edson. Jonathan Williams also liked to equate THE BOOK OF FRANK with the Carl Sandburg masterpiece ROOTABAGA TALES, which, is nothing short of A TRUE HONOR! I mean HOLY SHIT, really? Because those stories are classics!

Kafka was my first love. There is no other writer I would go back in time to rescue. The rest of them would just have to suffer. Kafka's bones, where are they kept? Who keeps them? These relics. More than most things on this planet I would like to be with Kafka's bones when the chill descends on our communities. I'm NOT usually a cannibal, but Kafka is one man I would have loved to have eaten after he died. Just a little morsel, just a teeny bit of him. Like, oh, I don't know, the tip of an earlobe dipped in soy sauce and sugar. MMmmmmmmm! MAKES ME WANT TO FRY A POTATO AND PRETEND IT'S KAFKA'S EARLOBE!

YES, YES, I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW, cannibalism is a NO-NO! But I'm unable to help myself. Powder his dry bones for a bit of magic snuff? MAYBE have the doctor replace my shin bone with HIS shin bone? Oh dear, it doesn't end in me, the many possible excitements of Kafka's body. He's so HOT! NO OTHER writer ever turned me on as much! And that's a little sad maybe. ALTHOUGH let me tell you I dated a man who looked EXACTLY like Kafka once. And dated him because of that, of course. That was such an awful experience, probably as awful as dating the real Kafka would have been.

It's a HORRIBLE situation, knowing FULL WELL that I was born decades too late to see him, feel him, court him, FUCK HIM. He's probably glad too, if his spirit could ever read this. I'm not sure I wouldn't scare him off, but that's the risk I guess. But it kind of irritates me that my parents were SO STUPID to have me too late in time for me to meet Kafka. I think about suing them every now and then for this RECKLESS, selfish act of neglect! OH, but what's the use!? Judges always side with the parents, right? Even when it's PERFECTLY CLEAR AS IN MY CASE THAT THEY WERE EVIL AND WRONG!

RK: I'm not very familiar with Berryman and his Dream Songs (I've only read a handful of them and listened to a couple on Poetry Speaks- God, he's an interesting reader!) but I was intrigued by a couple of poems in the first section of Frank (pg 29-30) where Frank engages with "Huffy Henry sulking in a dream song." Here are the two poems in their entirety:

Frank met Huffy Henry sulking in a dream song
and zapped him
with the miniaturizing gun

Henry was kind of small anyway

Frank decapitated the
old boy with a pinch

tied his body on a
stick for a slingshot
and sent the little fucker's
screaming head up to
the great knee of Orion

(page 29)


"come any closer" Frank
warns Huffy Henry
"I'll pull you in
my sleeve!

anyone wants to know

the lump is just a
meal I'm digesting."

(page 30)

As I said, I've read very little of the Dream Songs so I can't venture a guess as to why Frank (a part of you) would treat Henry (Berryman) with such disdain and violence. Or am I off base and Frank's just being playful/mischievous? Your thoughts, please.

CAC: Huffy Henry deserves it alright! Well, I'm just not happy with Berryman as a human. Suicides make me nothing but angry. Experience in despair for the loss of these lovely people can do that, and has done that to me. This planet is the BIG GAME BOARD and those chickens who check out too early are a gargantuan nightmare that complicates the rest of us trying to keep steady feet. Berryman was a fucking idiot, he and his mobster CONFESSIONAL POET friends, all of them suicides! Ah, fuck their cliche-ridden extortionist tactics of fake praise for life! I hope he comes back in his next life as a figure skater. Give him a little pizzazz, something to give him balance and JOY. Sloppy drunk, suicidal, suicided poets give the BIG GAME BOARD a tip in the stupidest direction. IF EVERY sloppy drunk were a poet, MAN OH MAN would this world be a basket of TNT! What we need from suicides is for them to find their strength, because I'm tired of feeling the guilt frankly. None of us deserve that from them. Love is no good answer, you can love them with all you've got and it still goes down.

RK: Over a 1,000 Frank poems! Wow! Getting that down to a 100-odd must been quite a task ("Editing, preening, pruning, often pruning deeply, even if it draws blood.") It's quite useful to the reader that the Book of Frank is organized, by and large, chronologically. (I- Young Frank. II- married, sad and "emerging" Frank. III- Like a God, suicide Frank.) But what I really enjoyed, and what really impressed me, is the richness and variety of tone in the poems you've selected and sequenced. An example of this is the beautiful and achingly sad poem on page 31 (first half of poem quoted here):

Frank's sister grew long blue feathers

she said it was worse than cutting teeth

she spent a month screaming in the cave
pushing them out

Frank would lie in bed at night
touching his own back


This poem comes just after the altogether different Henry poems. And a few pages later there's a kind of off-hand dreamy Far-Side type snapshot:

into the

a pair of dice

Frank climbed the ladder
to find a five
and a two

he never saw the hand that threw them
swinging down to swoop them up

(page 35)

Can you talk about the sequencing, variety of poems selected, and any details of the whittling down of the book that you'd like to share (I am sure that on a manic day, Frank, the book, could be every bit of the 1000 poems)?

CAC: It makes me happy you like the book. Makes me very happy indeed. Many of these poems CAME TO ME in different ways. Recently I did a conversation with poet Brenda Iijima on DIRT (first published in ON, now online with The Wild Mag), and I talked about eating dirt with my boyfriend Robin, and how eating that dirt literally created one of the Frank poems. I woke up rather violently with the poem in total.

There were just too many of the Frank poems, and many of them no good. There were some though that I wish I had added when I think back on the choosing process. Here's one left out of the book:

at night
the fern
the chive
the philodendron
kiss Frank's brow in
green conspiracy

This is one that Jonathan Williams didn't like, and I guess I listened to him too closely about it. The truth is though it's born out of a rejuvenation of the spirit of being here, loving this planet. Allowing the dirt and it's plants to say HELLO with their quiet loving manners.

This is one that got away. But now it can live on your website, so that's nice. But you can see at the same time it doesn't have the impact of the ones in the book. It's good for poets to write all the time, write write write, write every single day. And to STAY AWAY from novel writing. Poets and novelists should be mortal enemies in my opinion. Novelists who try their hand at writing poems always IMPROVE their novels. But generally speaking, poets who take to writing novels probably wind up writing good novels, but it often ruins their poems forever. There are only a few poets who write novels whose poems are as amazing as their poems are, and who continue to write beautiful, strong poems. Prose destroys the world.

RK: The Book of Frank is indeed a piss in the holy water (by the way I love the poem on page 33. "every churchtop crucifix" etc. maybe my favorite.). Yes, definitely, a piss in Holy Church Water. But Frank is also a piss in the holy water of all large and almost (sadly) inevitably xenophobic grouops. Lynch-mobs lurk in all nice quiet communities. When Frank's house burns down

his neighbors circled around him

"you will lose everything
and everyone
you love today

and you
deserve it!"

(page 102)

But in spite of this all, and his outbursts of violence, Frank still manages to fill with love: "'they're waiting/ for me' he said/tears filled his eyes. 'good people/waiting/just for me.'" And here I can sort of see the Kafka comparison in that Frank is helpless against the large, cold machinery of humanity. Your thoughts on Holy Water,etc, please?

CAC: The circling mob and Holy Water have many links. Not that pagan cultures were peaceful (they invented war), but there were places in those cultures for us that have not existed in our Christian, Jewish, Moslem world where we CONSTANTLY seek fresh air to keep the lungs working. These modern and increasingly academic explanations of gender and sexuality for instance are attempts to build general acceptance, but by intellectualizing instead of actualizing. Most pagan cultures didn't need Queer Theory PhD programs, they already understood the value of multi-gendered, mixed-gendered beings. As a child Frank had crows for hands, crows being THE SOURCE for weighing the divine and human laws, always opting for the divine. Divine not as in Holy Water. Holy Water has as much lurid splash to the palate as a toilet drained into a jewel-encrusted goblet. Mother HATED Frank's crow hands. Mother was a Christian, his crow hands were nothing but dirty, and she was never sure if they were clean or not, and assumed the worst. Our TOTAL intolerance campaign against our bodies has controlled us with precise church and governmental enforced measure FOR CENTURIES! We have been working hard on our extinction plan.

RK: Gay-Drag-Frank emerges sometimes and somewhat in this The Book of Frank. But poems like pg 109 do not take over the book. Fyi, that's one of my favorite poems in the collection. Maybe I like it more than page 33. I've read it over three times while i've been phrasing up this slowly emerging question. Damn it's good. Okay, now it is my favorite. And here it is.

Frank added milk to the
instant Cowboy Mix and
herded himself into
the living room

the cowboy rode him slowly
around the TV playing a
lonesome guitar

when this was finally too
sad and boring
Frank ignored the warning label
and stirred a few more cowboys

his wife came home
to find him snoring
tied naked to the ceiling
bleeding from the rump
with a smile on his face and
a fresh brand upon his thigh

So, can you talk a bit about the overtly and brightly-feathered Gay-Drag Frank poems and why, in a way, they're a bit of a minority in the book? I'm guessing you didn't want too much spice in the broth. Didn't want those poems to take over. But didn't shy away from them either. Respond as you wish. Of course.

CAC: Frank sublimates and achieves desire through his own progression of anxious, personal napalm. To be honest I didn't choose Frank to be mostly straight, he chose that. And that is not my life. I've never been near a vagina, not even at birth as I was a C-section baby. But at the same time I LOVE vaginas and have seen many of them in person in many capacities. I'm just not interested in having sex with one, or in having one of my own. If I could replace my cock with an ice cream cone I'd be perfectly content. But Frank is Frank's own Real Fiction, to answer Bernadette Mayer's question on the back of the book. My past lives as a straight man, a fag, a thief, hermaphrodite, mother of twelve, none of it can be denied, and none of us should deny who we've been. When the courts finally get a grasp of past lives and past life regression techniques we will sure enough see lawyers lined up to make us pay for all we've done. Karma is a quagmire of opportunity in a REAL modern sense just waiting to be exploited. Frank reincarnated as a goldfish his wife fed to her piranhas named after my own childhood bullies.

But Frank getting fucked by the cowboys, yeah, sure, why not? His ass was bleeding because he's not a pro, and he didn't seem to mind, in fact he was more than pleased with the whole affair. They branded him, and that shit never goes away. The branding iron gives you something to touch and remember when you need a little pick-me-up.

RK: So, you want to eat and fuck Kafka. Interesting. What other writers and artists and great or not-so-great men or women would you like to get a hold of (in bed and/or at the dinner table, or kitchen floor, or phone-booth or bathroom stall, or boardwalk, or alley, or flower bed, or field of corn, wherever, wherever, wherever)? Madonna, Faulkner, Genet, The Bee Gees, Prince, Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher, Pink Floyd, Ryan Eckes, Angelina Jolie, Catullus, Dan Quale, The Moody Blues, Van Gogh, Renoir, Hitchcock, Will Smith, Mozart, Ron Silliman, Ron Silliman's father, etc, etc? (I'd like here to remind you that in the lead-up to this interview, the foreplay if you will, you said you planned on answering questions with "the most insane part of (your) brain." Well, I think you've been holding out on us. I think you've been circling towards that most insane part. Made some runs at it. But, ultimately, have kind of shied away. Ha, Ha. Could you try now, please, to break with almost, almost, almost all of reality's strings and hinges and really engage the core, slop and all, of that "most insane"
part of your brain?)

CAC: The Moody Blues? I'm feeling vomitty. Prince, I mean who wouldn't?

Kafka is my only true love. My dance card is full. I mean being a fag has its advantages. Straight people think we're pigs, and they're right, I mean, fags are men after all, right? If women would fuck straight men as easily as men fuck men no one would question it. The straight men who call us pigs are just Haters. Lesbians are the coolest bunch in my opinion. Lesbians are the only ones OUTSIDE the consumption of men and don't give a fuck. Lesbians are a universe straight men think about but have no real clue. Well, it's all generalizations here of course, right? But I've had more lesbian friends than any other group, and working class lesbians mostly, and I can tell you from watching them punch one another in the face at the bars that they're not perfect.

Have I really been holding back? Ryan Eckes is in your list, and he's a good friend, and straight. I don't like fucking men I like, I prefer fucking men I don't like, it's far more fun. Fucking is our way back to pagan relief after all, right? Fucking and sex are the things boring poets like Louise Gluck snarl at. SEX is our best point of making it right again. SEX is how we get to enjoy ourselves if we give it a go. SEX is the absolute reigning champion of all we have at sharing instances of light. I've had "serious" relationships, but they were always open, which was the best way. I mean shouldn't you have sex with someone if you both want to have sex with one another? We spend SO MUCH TIME on this Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah crusade of WHO IS CHEATING, and WHY are they cheating? Cheating? I think the person being cheated is the person who DOESN'T have sex with someone they want to have sex with at any given time frankly. THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING IN THE PRESENT TIME is this bullshit of queer people wanting to give respectability a shot. AH! NO! HOW degrading! I came back to Earth this time to HAVE FUN having sex and taking it all the way and now I have friends saying that I have a fear of commitment. I'm now in the mood to just say Yes, I have a fear of being miserable like you, OK? Eliminate the whispers, just shut the fuck up and have fun. Why is fun so hard? We're all going to die. It's a terrible TERRIBLE fact. I LOVE being American because although queers are murdered everyday here, we have places we can live and not have our heads chopped off in public through the wishes of religious-governmental decree. Being queer in Saudi Arabia must be the worst thing. Or Amish in America for that matter, as I've met queer Amish who were shunned because they wouldn't conform to straight Amish ways. It must be awful being a dyke or a fag if you're Amish. And JUST IMAGINE being Amish and being transgendered, wow, that's just too much horror to put up with to even imagine! I'm so glad my white trash family was too busy with their selfish addictions to care to make me conform. There is NO freedom like the freedom of NOT being asked to be someone you have no desire to be.

Autonomy is possible in poetry. Novelists are slaves.

(photo by Janet Mason)