- ANTENYM (#8, Sun In Sagittarius 1995)--106 Fair Oaks St. #3, San Francisco CA, 94110. 50 pp., $4.50.
Steve Carll, editor; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An excellent collection of poetry that seems to come out of the Language school, yet follows no approach absolutely. The poet's names are given in the table of contents yet not on the page, which encourages the reader to see the work for what it is rather than who it is by. In that spirit, this sample:
Dead attention is where I hang my hat,
but for us to change seats you'd have
to make the first motion. the book is
a brick. these ripped oranged stuffed with hurry.
drunk and lolling in the pools of shinning yellow paint.
The work here is rarely so far out as to defy logical approach, rather it illuminates that approach, and expands the possibilities of analysis. Besides that, its simply a joy to read.--Jake Berry
Back issues of ANTENYM on the Web: http://epc.buffalo.edu/ezines/antenym.
- AVEC (#10)--PO Box 1059, Penngrove CA, 94951. 169 pp., $8.50.
Editor: Cydney Chadwick. AVEC is intelligently edited, highly integrated and beautifully produced. Naturally, it attracts the best modern writers. This issue has a cover of the ghostly, electric photographs of Ben E. Watkins: the front suggests urban currency with the pedestrians, cars and window frames, but the slippery freedom of the magazine is suggested by the child playing in and out of the window reflections--the 'back' of a 'self' is similarly reflected quicksilver on the back of the magazine. Inside, Susan Smith Nash opens with bold visions from her "Channel-Surfing the Apocalypse," Peter Gizzi reinvents the lyric concrete, and Cole Swenson shimmers in "Water, Water" and, in other poems such as "To November", melts together humor, sadness and surrealism. Laura Moriarty unites disparate syntactical elements and ideas: "ordinary red precedes! imaginary yellow follows." Laura Feldman appears in thoughtful, surprising prose; Michael Gizzi, in surreal, syntactic fractals. David Bromige's trickster presence leaps out of the pages, sneaky, brilliant and insightful: "The Brake Principal warns about scraping. Makes a drag of itself." Charles Bernstein embodies mental and language processes in vivid leaps and subtle emergences; "Power Walking" seems to suggest mental movement in the cadences of speech/thought/roller-blading! Rosmarie Waldrop's stanzas of "In a Flash" are subtle, developed in selected words and line breaks: "Milk weeds my sleep." These are only a few selections from a fine issue of a fine magazine.--Ann Erickson
AVEC on the WWW: http://www.crl.com/~creiner/syntax/avec.html.
- DADA TENNIS (#6, Spring 1995)--PO Box 210010, Woodhaven NY, 11421. $3.50. Dream State Press.
This issue of DDT features the writing only of the editor Bill Paulauskas. His work is titled: "Polaroid Riot Journal." True to its title there are 32 days worth of entries. Any connection with the world as you might understand it ends there. A form of automatic and intuitive writing, the journal is composed or spouted by a character that has facets of Dostoyevski's underground man, Gertrude Stein, Bukowski, and thrown in for good measure a good healthy heaping helping utter of surreality. And so the text examines everything in frames of distorted written Polaroid shots. One looks at a photograph after its fact has gone by, which is a journal--a recording of the day that just happened. Of course photographs are in fact distorted reality because they are reality out of context and this text explodes, exists, examines and explores this idea. And of course then you get to the riot...--Mike Basinski
Polaroid Riot Journal on the WWW: http://www.panix.com/~wmpaul/polaroid.html.
- THE EXPERIODDICIST (#14, July 1995)--9th St. Laboratories, PO Box 3112, Florence AL, 35630. $1.00.
This is an all-Guy R. Beining issue of Jake Berry's 4-page broadside series. It opens with a mixed-font typewriter piece, and is followed by visual and verbo-visual collages. Beining is a master at creating extremely haunting and resonant works with an apparently crude and random combining of disparate elements, and this sample strongly demonstrates his skill. As he himself says here, "he moves inside the principle of uncertainty. golden sap."--John M. Bennett
* * *
This zine continues its championing of poets two beyonds or more to the fore of the latest Norton, this time focusing on Guy Beining. On one page is a poem that jumps in and out of typographies and subjects, one passage being especially pertinent: "an island of pebbles clicked in her head../ quotes night./ he/ moves inside the/ principle of uncertainty." The same mindset splashes out of 3 pages of collages, which include a drawn-into/labeled copy of the famous fluxus (I think) picture of a man swan-diving out or off of a building, and a pop/surreal/near-porn sequence called "Art in 4 Acts" that, among other things, does a nifty turn on "OdOR/unDer/Ode--heR/shOulderRs."--Bob Grumman
Subscriptions via E-mail to EXPERIODDICIST are available from: ninthlab@AOL.com. Back-issues are archived at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/zines/experio/; also at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/ezines/exper/.
- A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES (#6, Winter/Spring 1995/96)--PO Box 20693, New York NY, 10009. 160 pp., $10.00.
More than a magazine, the Tribes project is one of community, building, and trans-formation. Nicely laid out but edited by ear, the poetry is a voicing, both call & response. Poets range from eminent voices like Jayne Cortez and Victor Hernendez Cruz, to a host of younger writers (many of them committed oralists, and many associated with the Nuyorican Cafe), to an entirely too brief selection of new Brazilian poetry. Not just cross-cultural but cross-genre, features include an interview with Winton Marsalis, Butch Morris on conducted improvisation, film-makers Shu Lea Cheang & Jessica Hagedorn, and Asian American cultural activist Susan L. Yung. A review of the National Black Arts Festival turns into an examination of the Black Arts Movement and the Umbra poets, and in particular Amiri Baraka's place/contribution--important cultural history, still being written. Likewise, in a workshop/forum with Ishmael Reed (kind of a group discussion), important issues of gender/race relations are raised without coming any to easy conclusions--the process laid out, & work still to be done. Committed to language as an instrument of community, and change.--luigi-bob drake
TRIBES on the WWW: http://www.users.interport.net/~tribes/.
- GLOBAL MAIL (#13, January-April 1996)--PO Box 410837, San Francisco CA, 94141. 32 pp., $3.00.
A new address, a new slogan ("The Hole to the Underground"), but the same incredible resource for mailart, networked artists, & community. Over 800 entries from 45 countries, mostly mailart shows but also penpals, BBSs, zines, audio compilations, and any manner of open & empowering creative activity. News & discussion of networking issues (such as harassment, and prisoner rights), mainly in the form of letters from networkers themselves. Editor Ashley Parker Owens calls herself a "mailart evangelist," and her faith & fervor is evident--in lesser hands, one might see inconsistency in such a centralized resource for such decentralized movement(s). But she practices what she preaches, gives voice to divergent opinion, and generally provides not only information but a good example. I'd like to nominate her to head the NEA.--luigi-bob drake
GLOBAL MAIL on the WWW: http://www.well.com/user/soapbox/eglob96a.html.
- JUXTA (#3, 1995)--977 Seminole Trail, #331, Charlottesville VA, 22901. 84 pp., $6.00.
Editors: Ken Harris and Jim Leftwich. JUXTA continues to excite and stimulate me as a reader and writer. This issue moves forward like a freight train. Initially, Sheila E. Murphy exercises her full genius, laying into gender issues, individual responsibility and perception with sentences and inference, dense as imploding stars: "Parentheses collapse their morphisms around a coupling within sleep". John Perlman's icon/poem is thoughtful, and Allyson Shaw strikes her bold, corporeal, surreal slash through the earlier progression of the issue, along with the blended minds of Jeffrey Little and jake berry, the fractured irony of Mark DuCharme, and John M. Bennett's brilliant hacks and traduciones, Marcia Arrieta's characteristic lyricism, John Noto's reasoned awareness, and John High's and Dennis Barone's broken prose evocations. Andrew Joron opens a new door in the middle of the issue with his intense exploration of logicimathilanguage which leaps beyond itself, projects beyond its own system into undecidability--the essay becomes Spinoza-rapture-poem which faces Stephen Paul Martin's text, icon, negated text of sentence/surface. At this point the issue roars into reproduction of poems surfaces, untrammeled wild poems by John Perlman, Duane Locke, Heather Thomas, Cynthia Kimball, Celestine Frost--culminating in Jack Foley's incantation/vision.--Ann Erickson
* * *
The editors once again prove their mettle by making Sheila E. Murphy the unannounced feature poet of this issue. Murphy's, "A Wrist of Power," a long scatological poem of mixed line that provokes the consciousness of the reader/hearer to reorganize the apparatus of consciousness, begins the issue--and sets the tone for much that follows. Also strong new work here by Hank Lazer, Harry Polkinhorn, Jeffrey Little and Celestine Frost, and many others. Concludes with Jack Foley's transformative "House of Desire" and a classic Malok collage. Not a slack spot anywhere. JUXTA is establishing the new poetry with great courage and devotion. Essential.--Jake Berry
Subscriptions to the email version of JUXTA are available from: JUXTA43781@ aol.com. Back-issues are archived at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/zines/juxta/; and at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/ezines/juxta/.
- LEFT HAND BOOKS CATALOG (1995)--Station Hill Rd., Barrytown NY, 12507. 20 pp., free.
I'm reviewing this because (1) it lists a number of first-rate books by people like Dick Higgins, Susan Smith Nash and Alison Knowles; (2) it informatively reviews rather than hypes its products and therefore (3) serves as a model of what a good small press catalog should be. It also has an enchanting cat-picture on the front.--Bob Grumman
LEFT HAND BOOKS CATALOG on the Web: http://csbh.mhv.net/~lefthandb/color/catalog.html.
- SILENT TREATMENT (#7, Spring 1995)--PO Box 30103, Gahanna OH, 43230. 46 pp.
Art by Terry Everton, Jeff Gaither, Blair Wilson; poetry by Cheryl Townsend ("He expected love in return/ for his earnest deposit/ but I told him I wasn't/ even thirsty I just like to/ hold the bottles"), John Jenkinson ("I drive all over town, red eyes/ obsessed, searching/ for a man who looks like me"), Dan Nielsen ("i found a ransom note in the park/ a real one/ the kind with glued-on cut-out letters/ obviously the work of a pro/ this could be worth/ a lot of money/ all i got to do now/ is snatch some little kid/ named Timmy"), Gregory N. Courson ("her doctor said/ we couldn't/ drink or screw for/ three weeks while/ taking the medication"), Christa C. Williams ("Raindrops pelt your ivory cheeks/ And linger in your nest of hair/ As you suck gray breaths/ like venom from a vein")--that's just the beginning. There's viciousness, sex, love, emotional turmoil, and true-life deep- gut feelings in these pages...--oberc
SILENT TREATMENT home page: http://www.hway.net/butter/roballan/.
- SITUATION (#10, Fall 1995)--10402 Ewell Ave., Kensington MD, 20895. 24 pp., $3.00.
Edited by Mark Wallace. Nick Piombino has some surprisingly straight-forward (and lyrico/entertaining) essays here on silence; reality and hope (I think); undifferentiated ambiguity versus differentiated clarity; and Orpheus's demonstration that we can't have both light and love. Then comes some effective jump-cut poetry by Heather Fuller (sentences or sentence-fragments without transitions between them); and similar poetry and prose by people like Sheila Murphy and Dan Featherstone.--Bob Grumman
SITUATION (#11, Fall 1995)--10402 Ewell Ave., Kensington MD, 20895. 24 pp., $3.00.
Mark Wallace, ed. Poetry and prose of alienation starting with Cydney Chadwick's portrait of a businesswoman undergoing a nervous breakdown, which is written as though its subject were a machine--e.g., "She becomes involved with one of the men" and, later, "The woman (never named, by the way) stops having relations with the man, as she does not want to leave herself open to caring for someone who is only interested in handcuffs and objectification"--but brings her wrenchingly alive nevertheless (or therefore). Later Cheryl Burket provides three deft pieces of grey evocature (my word for prose poetry), one of them ending, "No one knows that a month ago, in the front yard you had, the dogwoods were in full bloom. Including you." John Havelda contributes a poem in which the words in the line, "I don't know what poems are for" are rearranged ten times, ending with, "I know what poems are for. Don't."--Bob Grumman
SITUATION on the WWW: http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~mdw/.
- TINFISH (#1, Oct. 1995)--1422A Dominis St., Honolulu HI, 96822. $3.00.
Susan M. Schultz, ed. Innovative, visual, and LANGUAGE-style writing with an "emphasis on work from the Pacific region." That's a wide area, and this issue includes work by well-knowns such as Spencer Selby, John Kinsella, and Lyn Hejinian. But there is also work by people rarely seen, such as Joe Balaz, Barry K.K. Masuda, and Kathy Dee Kaleokealoha Kaloloahilani Banggo (her name is a poem itself perhaps!), all from Hawaii, who have first-rate and stimulating pieces here. There is also excellent work from Australia and China. I highly recommend this journal; it provides proof that truly innovative writing is an international phenomenon.--John M. Bennett
TINFISH on the WWW: http://epc.buffalo.edu/ezines/tinfish/.
- TOMORROW MAGAZINE (#13, 1995)--PO Box 148486, Chicago IL, 60614. 28 pp., $5.00.
Tim Brown, editor. In this issue Wayne Hogan (an illustrator of lit mags from way back when) puts me into a state of confusion, then Jim Ferris takes this disorientation a few steps down the road ("I was working in the ER/ late one night, when this guy came in, mighty/ messed up from a gunshot wound to the head./ blood everywhere, of course. some of his skull/ had been blasted away, and we could see/ right down to his brain. But he was calm/ and lucid--in fact, he made more sense than/ some of my professors."). Then, Ralph Dranow spins me around toward the grave ("I wonder why I often feel/ Eighty-six or 15,/ Anything but my real age./ I wonder when death will dawdle/ Finally kissing me/ Full on the mouth") and I wonder what kind of madman would send me such a package in the mail. Strange dangerous territory to wander through, on the verge of hysteria.--oberc
TOMORROW on the WWW: http://www.tezcat.com/~audrelv/tmrw14.html.
- WITZ (Vol. 3 #3, Fall 1995)--12071 Woodbridge St., Studio City CA, 91604. 18 pp., $3.50.
Edited by Christopher Reiner. A newsletter of poetics and theory, via essays and reviews, in the post-Language vein. Susan Smith Nash gives an extended reading of Leslie Scalapino's work as it critiques our habits of reading & constructing meaning (consciousness); while Mark DuCharme puts forth "tensity" (tension) as a useful concept for dealing critically with texts. Also reviews of books by Clayton Eshleman, Ed Foster, and John Perelman, plus a short list of books received. Closer readings than you'll find in TRR, but basically descriptive and sympathetic.--luigi-bob drake
Back issues of WITZ (to vol. 3 #2) on the WWW: http://epc.buffalo.edu/ezines/witz/.
- ZYX (#10)--58-09 205th St., Bayside NY, 11364. 5 pp.
Arnold Skemer's personal & opinionated newsletter, with continued attention to the position of the practice of poetry and publishing in the real world. Practical consideration of advertising for the micropress publisher, and an extended discussion of "Literary Darwinism" (emphasis on survival of the fittest), as well as a handful of reviews--one of the few places that innovative novels and longer forms get addressed. Next issue promises to expand the format to include submits of original work--one hopes that the editor's quarky vision is reinforced by "outsiders", not diluted.--luigi-bob drake
ZYX on the WWW: http://www.serve.com/krell/ZYX/zyx.html.
- Michael Basinski: ODALISQUE--Word Outa Buffalo, 264 Summer St., Buffalo NY, 14222. 16 pp., $4.00.
Though ODALISQUE does not feature raised letters on a "transparent" field like sleVep (instead, it is impressed on glossy-opaque stock), it glows and sings of the forms and experience(s) of eros through Basinski's gnostic "glossolalia." The first text, "O Paning Spell" (opening? Pan?) could be a transcription and translation of a late-Assyrian fragment where no words are identifiable, but could be construed and rebuilt as some pleasurable (mis)reading: "A O Ous/ an rui ort." The letter O (the number zero? Odalisque? the "oddess"? ) is central to the book as a whole as are the references to Cupid, temples, breasts, April, the letter V (delta? Venus? eVe?) and other (herm)aphroditic (im)pulses. Among these hermetic signs (planted throughout the sequence) lie straight-forward phrases that bring the reverie of word fragments and their sounds back into a vernacular of earth-bound language; one can almost hear an imagist murmur a la Creeley:
was way with who where
ways with wore wedding scented
act of love
Only multiple readings of ODALISQUE can unearth the rich layers which reveal AND hide the secrets of the births and little deaths of Venus. Eve. Aphrodite.
"wreathing Ouranos rhodon..."
A unique, ambient homage to a universal archetype.--A. di Michele
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These microherent poems (poems with key words rendered both near-incoherent and multi-coherent) strike me as respectfully and tenderly cunt-worshipping, as when in a poem about Aphrodite's myrtle (and all the poems here are about Aphrodite/Venus/Eve), Basinski parallels "wives, girls and tarts/ Venus all over," with "oem ong ortune," a wonderfully expressive string of just-right words opened to their O's. In an earlier poem appears the near-word, "gestive," exactly indicating the suggestive/birthful way Basinki's poems of this kind work. He is, among other things, one of our best microherent poets.--Bob Grumman
Other work by Mike Basinski available on the WWW at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/basinski.
- John M. Bennett: EDDY--Luna Bisonte Prods, 137 Leland Ave., Columbus OH, 43214. 20 pp.
A very intriguing sequence of eddies within an EDDY. Those familiar with Bennett's motif-vortices will again recognize the water imagery (as in Blanksmanship). It all begins with a "(spout)" that creates or be-comes a polystream of highly related and unrelated word-images and weird quasi-assonance triangulations... EDDY exhibits or rather camouflages an interestingly intricate pattern for structur-ing the poems; final lines of each poem are reborn again as the first line of the next poem, albeit, transformed into a completely different image/sound. For example, "my phosphorescent dung and axle" becomes "dung castle ants"--the last word of every first stanza is simply repeated in the second stanza as the first word (ditto for the third and fourth stanza, but NOT the second TO third). I'm sure there are others. And yet there is another aspect... Riding the surf of the abstract structure of the text is a lively poem, a "glance confounded book I" and "stool narration bark" (which goes well beyond any "barbaric yawp" and "howl"). The tale begins with a "cream corn trail" that crosses a belly and reappears in other context as "manure's heavy corn" or a "corn swell flame" or a "corn approval slowing." Though a reader can extract themes and identify distorted uses of speech etc., there is nothing normal about EDDY. It is the narrative of no-narrative. The precise surrealistic (de)structure flowing along under the critical radar of the reader is perhaps important only for giving the poem an invisible form whose content is a loud erotic language mardi gras that exhibits everything except restraint:
cattle slicked babbling in your surf
This is hard raw high octane avant-garde-ism. And it's still new.--A. di Michele
John M. Bennett: FISH, MAN, CONTROL, ROOM--semiquasi press, PO Box 55892, Fondren Station, Jackson MS, 39296. book and tape. Beginning as a list of convoluted events that seem to take shape as individual creatures in a parallel spacetime, FISH, MAN, CONTROL, ROOM gives us another perspective on that vast flickering beast that is the work of John M. Bennett. These poems with their ellipsis within swirling ellipsis, grammar's sideways inversions, give us the very image of what is possible when the paradigms are shattered and the mind/soul/body is free to swarm the universe of its own accord: "Breath leaks through the hanger collarbone where's/ neck hooks out toward her shirt dangled, she who/ buttons backward arms around 'im so 'e's//stands." At first glance one gets the impression that nothing is as it seems, but with further attention one learns that things are exactly as they seem and that this is Bennett's point of departure. He discovers what lies behind this condition with great verve, wit, and a brilliant sculpting of the interior predilections of the human mind. A tape is also available, and Bennett heard is every bit as powerful as on the page.--Jake Berry
John M. Bennett: SPINAL SPEECH--Runaway Spoon Press, PO Box 3621, Port Charlotte FL, 33949. $5.00.
The title could well be descriptive of all of Bennett's work. He seems to reach to the very core of physical presence to reveal the electric writhing mass we each are, and goes further to reveal the soul in the viscera. In SPINAL SPEECH, these conditions are illuminated, with an integration often between the personal body and alien body's such as these lines from "Rubbing Out": "Ah I sandpapered she, so skin'd stick 'n (biting kinda/ high my) lips in her headly sink I (mean "biting's cheek")/ gargaled her, exfoliate in a tape (recorder so her voice'd/ free) across the swollen mouth." What initially might sound quite gruesome transforms cumulatively into a poetry that drives toward the foundation of the paradigms we resign ourselves to without thought. SPINAL SPEECH calls these predispositions to task, nothing is taken for granted, each event is a mutating paroxysm of wonder rich with meaning. Bennett is easily one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary poetry, but we should look deeper and realize that the consequence of that voice is equally original, and desperately moving.--Jake Berry
Additional work by John M. Bennett available on the WWW at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/golpub/bennett/gjbenne8.htm.
- Janet Bernichon: PART OF THE SCENERY--God's Bar Press, 112 Dover Parkway, Stewart Manor NY, 11530. 20 pp., $3.00.
These poems are incredibly strong powerful bursts of insight. Most of the poems are about Bernichon's life as a nurse: "I place an arm, encased in a plastic bag/ next to the John Doe/ unconscious on stretcher number 4."; "tubes neatly arranged/ and mourned by no one/ except his wife"; "I want the roundness/ of my arms/ to flesh out/ your bones"; "Even though her hair has since grown back/ and she no longer fears/ mirrored dressing room stalls,/ her self exam becomes adolescent fumbling." I swear I've never seen anyone write about emergency room terrorization in such an understanding way. These are well crafted gems that capture life, living, and dying as a true part of the process, and give an appreciation to the internal workings of medicine that get lost in all the pain.--oberc
Poems from PART OF THE SCENERY available on the WWW at: http://gate.cruzio.com/~zerocity/janetb/.
- Charles Bernstein: THE SUBJECT--Meow Press, 151 Park St., Buffalo NY, 44201. 35 pp., $6.00. A libretto of an opera originally performed in 1992. Three characters: the Subject (mezzo-soprano); the Psychoanalyst (baritone); and the Director of Social Correction at the Center for Normalcy (tenor). For the most part, the scenes take place in an office. The Subject, patient, begins with the recounting of a dream, then moves to somewhat usual relations 'tween doctor/patient. There is an entertaining exchange with the doctor trying to schedule the patient's next visit. Part One ends with doctor and patient dancing "The Introjection Tango." In Part Two, we encounter the pushy dept. head of oppressive orderly right-mindedness. He grills the patient til she becomes distraught. The director and doctor converse on their own, and then patient recites a cathartic aside, leading finally at the end of Part Two to her saying "Now I just keep quiet." As a physical/visual feature of the text, THE SUBJECT is typified by Bernstein's left-margined columnar essay/poem style. Even though the book is an enjoyable read, there is a video of THE SUBJECT available as well. You can get it at: Ben Yar Productions, 300 West 108th Street #14, NYC, 10025.--Nico Vassilakis
Other work by Charles Bernstein available on the WWW at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bernstein/.
- Michael Estabrook: OHIO--Silent Treatment, PO Box 30103, Gahanna OH, 43230. Broadside.
After a bad run in with the cops recently, myself, I have to identify with Estabrook's poem about an Ohio State Trooper who rapes an innocent motorist because SHE is THE LAW. It's actually one of the best poetic politic porn pieces I've read in a long time; it reminds me of those short comic sex books they used to sell in the 1940's.--oberc
Other work by Michael Estabrook available on the WWW at: http://www.cruzio.com/~zerocity/estabr2.htm.
- Jessica Freeman: BOLT BLEU--Anabasis, Oysterville WA, 98641. 49 pp., $8.00.
This chapbook is actually a collaboration between three people: Jessica Freeman supplies text; Thomas Lowe Taylor's black and white photographs are included; and as an afterword, a three-page essay by Susan Smith Nash entitled "The Dismemberment of Perception."
Freeman's text is wide open, violent and sensual. She creates new words that always relate to something in the drift of the matter. Odd capitalization and a lack of much punctuation further skew this wild and exciting text.
Taylor's photos of nature and furniture in its interaction with nature (the shadow of a lamp lit by the sun on what must be a beautiful afternoon) are wonderful in themselves. Some books of poetry shouldn't have photos that accompany the poems, this is not true here. They serve as an anchor in reality to contrast the freely-associative text.
Susan Smith Nash's essay at the end of the chapbook situates the work for those less familiar with this sort of writing, and, as an essay, reveals the wide field of reference that characterizes Nash's critical writing.
As a unit of awareness, BOLT BLEU shakes up the reader's expectation like a "bolt out of the blue."--Peter Ganick
* * *
At first read this 'Bolt Bleu' was a chore to enter. So I put it down, but not for long. You must read as you write--when you're ready, when appropriate and prepared of energy. My first surprise, no doubt my own dim wit, was that what I was reading as tired, was, in fact, humor. The kind of humor specific to urban living, particularly good cities like New Orleans. New York is heard from as well. It's humor wrapped in political/social awareness. Clever jazz is here, good cadence with substance, challenging word-play not lost to sheer entertainment--with no meaningless syntactic c/h/a/r/m. Also there are photos interspersed throughout the book that, unfortunately, don't do much to enhance. There is an afterword as well, which added to my feeling of dread opening this book, but ultimately shined light on an item or two. I'm happy I changed my mind bout this one.--Nico Vassilakis
The text of BOLT BLEU is available on the WWW at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/anabasis/chapbk1/chapbk1.htm.
- Robert W. Howington: ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY STORY--4405 Bellaire Drive S. #220, Fort Worth TX, 76109. 68 pp.
This a "best of" collection combined with new material. Howington, wildman that he is, goes for the testicles with pliers, then reaches for your guts next. When he writes about sex it is always a forced extravaganza without the soft touches of love, when he writes about killing it is always a swift burst of action without the bitter aspects of torture, and when he talks about letters he got from this guy in prison who really did some of the things Howington likes to write about, there is a strange silence around the edges coming close to real life fear. His poetry still stays lean and mean and wretched ("The pill is/ the other/ thing a/ woman puts/ in her/ mouth to/ keep from / getting/pregnant"), and his honesty about not fucking a chick until he was 30 years old took more strength than any other confession I'd ever read. It's shit like that that makes me think this guy is going to rip the small presses apart a few years down the road.--oberc
Robert W. Howington: JOEY AUTO MATIC--4405 Bellaire Drive S #220, Fort Worth TX, 76109. 16 pp., $2.00.
A lot of folks would call Howington, a Texas wildman if I ever saw one, a Bukowski imitator. And while there is certainly an element of truth to that, this old boy does have enough of a style to occasionally kick out on his own turf, while still ruffling the feathers of feminists and god fearing fools all over the literary world. In this collection we get poetry ("Armstrong sat/ there with sweat/ pouring off his brow. Are you/ going to break/ my legs?", and "Joey, his .45/ semi-automatic/ pointed at the/ Weasel's head,/ said, Look, man,/ dying is easy./ A lot of people/ have done it./ All you do is/ fall down after/ I shoot you.") and fiction which reads a lot like the poetry, capturing a blood 'n guts that rings true enough to make me want more. While I see Bukowski, Todd Moore, and a lot of noir fiction influencing this guy's act, he's combining it in a way that works.--oberc
Other work by Robert W. Howington available on the WWW at: http://www.justnet.com.sg/KY/zines/kill14.html#c.
- Jim Leftwich: KHAWATIR--Runaway Spoon Press, PO Box 3621, Port Charlotte FL, 33949. $3.00.
This book feels much like intuitive writing. Feels like because within the structure of the texts are scattered bits of manipulated historic poetic maxims from William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson for instance. "Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust." These poems combine a form of chance with forms of premeditated writing. This is writing by phrase as well as single word paratactic development. From the poem "Isnowthe": "Along a mobius strip in which all depths are brought to the surface, all surfaces fall to depths." So, within the context of this book flesh and nature, words as a medium of the imagination, literary philosophy, parrot fish, poetic wondering and wanderings surface and sink and rise like schools of sea beasts on the horizon, like a dance for the reader's mind eye.--Mike Basinski
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"Stolen scripts, no replicas of context, residue of content." "Bury the tongue ice cycle, circular zeal and silent trap, flame destroyed by appetite, swimming in the art, beast of these lies, limp animal road." "Hidden in the helix of the map." One of the most remarkable books to appear recently, KHAWATIR is an essentially ambiguous, or omnisignificant text that creates itself and analyzes (or destroys) itself simultaneously, and does so with an all-encompassing reach and relentlessness (some 46 pages of full text). The reader's first impression might be of random words and phrases, but very quickly a metapoetic dynamic asserts itself and one is caught in a work whose theme and creation is creating itself while knowing nothing about its knowing everything. The work is surprisingly clear as it spirals around through kinds of consciousness, which creates a sensation of intense attention and discipline on the part of the writer (an attention that compels the reader's attention, as well). This is especially remarkable in a non-discursive text such as this: each phrase is a simple declaration naming, or imperative, not simplistically following from or leading into its neighbors. (The phrases are connected of course, but elliptically, or by resonance.) This is a book to keep on hand and consult, especially for anyone involved with language as a writer or reader: consult to keep one's perspective clear, consult as a kind of linguistic alchemical handbook, as an I Ching of consciousness. And do not, I insist, do not deprive yourself of the experience of reading the whole thing cover to cover in one sitting. An essential work.--John M. Bennett
Additional work by Jim Leftwich is available on the Web: six visual poems from Virgule at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/cyano/gloss4ht/glo4c.htm; and Mandala Damages, an electronic chapbook: http://www.thing.net/~grist/zines/chapbks/left1.htm.
- Sheila Murphy: A CLOVE OF GENDER--Stride Publications, 11 Sylvan Rd., Exeter, Devon England, EX4 6EW. 158 pp., £7.95.
A major collection of Murphy's recent poetry which includes generous selections of her prose-structured haibun-type texts and of her more openly structured verse forms. Throughout all this work there is a balancing back and forth between a clear meditative movement, often quite sensual, that heads toward, and is contained within, a luminous sense of being in a particular place and moment, often with a particular person. (Murphy is one of the most empathic poets writing today.) The other pole of this balancing is a kind of luminous abstraction as her language opens out to include more than the surface meanings of the words:
literal ponds (littoral ponds (lit
ponds soak Ia nuit with machinations till I'm
drowsy as a left looks in the latter moments of the harvest
when a crooning lifts the shade awhile (some
Often this dual perceiving is neatly contained in the haiku-like phrases at the ends of many of her "prose" passages:
Shatter distinct from rust, the right word, figures seen through fog
Murphy is an extraordinary poet and this is an essential collection of some of her best work.--John M. Bennett
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Taken poem by poem, A CLOVE OF GENDER represents the vast range, subtlety, and emotional power of Murphy's writing. These poems are syntactically complex meditations on matters of personal, political, sensual and poetic immediacy. Murphy is one of those rare writers who can combine experimental structures with personal openness without any loss of sophistication in either direction. As a collection, A CLOVE OF GENDER feels unfocused; despite being divided into various sections, the poems still seem thrown together as much as arranged. The presentation of the book (all the poems are forced too close to the top margin) also seems a little haphazard. A looseness verging on chaos is central to Murphy's aesthetic, though, and the wide-ranging perceptions of the poems often incorporate haphazardness to stunning effect.--Mark Wallace
Sheila E. Murphy: VIRGULE--Burning Llama press, 100 Courtland Dr., Columbus SC, 29223. $3.00.
Drawings by Walt Phillips. A selection of 18 poems in which Murphy's thoughtful mode is especially brilliant, as in "Hungry for Something I Can Taste" which is a meditation on the motions of thought and desire between opposite poles which arrives at a compelling (and convincing) sense of synthesis. Another of the numerous striking pieces here is "Abandon", in which a woman is walking in a context of material and social restrictions ("yellow hat", "patriarchy"), all of which "blows away" in a surprising process of thought and attention, the content of which is only hinted at. This is an extremely rewarding book, complex and clear, amazingly effective.--John M. Bennett
Other work by Sheila Murphy available on the WWW at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/murphy/, and at: http://www.thing.net/~grist/zines/chapbks/murphy1.htm.
- Jerome Rothenberg: AN ORACLE FOR DELFI--Light and Dust Books, 7112 27th Ave., Kenosha WI, 53143. 50 pp.
On the cover of this book is a marvelous photograph by Lizzie Calligas of the stone fragments of (apparently) some ancient building. Above these is a circular black shape that is either painted or a hole in a wall; either way, as an obviously fabricated sun, it speaks deeply of the imagination, history and art. The poems within say strange wonderful things about the same, or similar, stones and suns--as when Rothenberg enjoins us to "plant stones and watch them/ grow," at the same time, with a brilliantly-placed line-break, asking us to grow by watching stones. Demosthenes Agrafiotis contributes abstract-expressionist scribbles that seem to have come off of pre-historic cave-walls, and thus beautifully extend this fine book.--Bob Grumman
Additional work by Jerome Rothenberg can be found at the Light & Dust Website: http://www.thing.net/~grist/l&d/lighthom.htm; also at the EPC: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/rothenberg/.
- Bill Shields/Tony Bledsoe: TYPING OUT THE DEAD/MURDER HABIT--4405 Bellaire Drive S. #220, Fort Worth TX, 76109. 12 pp., $2.00.
After a rough workout in Vietnam, Shields has been kicking up dust and anger all over the small and medium sized presses for the past 20-odd years. In this collection his frustrations focus on relationships ("by the time she woke up/ I'd be in another state filling up the tank for hell's run/ the devil's seen me nine times"), the past ("my memory is treated with spit & soiled underwear"), separations ("every goddamn woman, every goddamn time/ my relationships begin with a divorce attorney reading my will"), death ("it'll be a heart attack that will kill me/ or a senseless car wreck"), and a hundred other demons gnawing at his soul. Bledsoe, on the other hand, is a vicious psychopath still balancing on his toes. One of his stories captures hundred-dollar whores who've been around the block too many times, in another, the murder of a crying baby caught even me off guard, although I should have seen it coming. One might be quick to write off these two tales of senseless violence, but this kind of shit happens every day. If you like blood in your coffee, these two guys got plenty to give away.--oberc
Other work by Bill Shields available on the WWW at: http://www.two1361.com/people/shields.html (samples from his 2.13.61 publications)]
- Cheryl Townsend: MACHO SEX--Hyacinth House Publications, PO Box 120, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 72702-0120.
MACHO SEX is a small collection of poems that begins, for it does not simply open, with several punch-in-the-face portrait poems about sexual violence perpetrated against a girl, a teenage girl and a young wife. From these repulsive and violent portraits the collection develops and discovered are the Cheryl A. Townsend (CAT) hot peanut butter poems spread on pages or sheets and familiar to all (or so all would hot wet wish). Pleasure to read CAT's larger scope. And the poems are then about pleasure albeit some (males) make violence out of passion gestures. So, then, if you are more inclined towards the goo buffet and spurt and underwear picnic Townsend do: Fallatio Blues--same press and address--red cover and then words: dripping, eagerness, melted, chew, fills, Bah Dump.--Mike Baskinski
Cheryl Townsend: MEANDERINGS--Proper PH Publications, 1659 23rd St., Cuyahoga Falls OH, 44223-1001.
A slow dance. Alone. At night. In nature. Observations of the common. Lots of hair and angels. More hair. Thoughts on suicide. The coldness of humanity. Lostness at times and lostness at other times of the self and others. So. me nights are alone. Moon only. In the midst of the usual CAT on a hot tin bed poems I seem to see through the veil of nylon stockings a sadness and a grief and here in these contemplative beyond passion poems is not a cat but a Cheryl. The poet is alone writing the poems about hot and happy orgies.. And her other side which watches the world move, and that often means leave, one way or another. She writes in "Etc.": "There is no end/ There are only miles... " and "And the poems hide his name/ And my life feels his past." Or in her poem "Coffee House In Chicago" Townsend writes: "This poem is writing itself. The people keep walking by." These poems are bed posts which are trees that root Cheryl Townsend's poetry in the fecund, therefore disturbing, loam of her life.--Mike Basinski
Cheryl Townsend: PAUSE--Undulating Bedsheets Productions, Box 25760, Los Angeles CA, 90025. 24 pp., $2.25.
Mike Basinski and I are trying to find a non-demeaning name for poetry like Townsend's, which is straightforward technically (despite run-on sentences) but pushes the thematic envelope, especially in the sexual arena (in one poem she speaks of "cannibalizing his flesh into the/ slap of the day after when bruises/ and the smell of fuck were (her) only/ memories"; in another she wants to shock "these society women" by getting up on the table with this guy sitting across from her and "suck(ing) him hard to/ their sipping of tea." "Neo-Bukowski" and "street-level" poetry seem to mb and me too condescending. My best candidate is "collisional poetry," but that seems over-stiff. Any suggestions?--Bob Grumman
Additional work by Cheryl Townsend available on the WWW at: http://www.cruzio.com/~zerocity/cat2.htm.
- Mark Wallace: EMERGING AVANT-GARDE POETRIES AND THE "POST-LANGUAGE" CRISIS--special supplement to Poetic Briefs #19, 2510 Highway 100 South, St. Louise Park MN, 55416. 12 pp., $2.00.
Excellent overview of the problems poets between 20 and 40 are having establishing themselves in a field now ruled by language-poets (and language-critics). Wallace is especially pertinent on the success of the language poets' publishing network, which won them the high ground in American Poetry, and now protects them from younger competitors, and from non-language poets. There's a lot to agree and disagree with here--such as whether language poets have really, as Wallace claims, explained "in precise critical terms the value of their practice." Not for me, they haven't. But little that Wallace says is not worth serious thought, and he covers just about the entire range of current poetry, which is rare in criticism today. This is a key text for anyone who cares about what's going on in contemporary poetry.--Bob Grumman
This essay, & other work by Mark Wallace, available on the WWW at: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/wallace/.
Richard Brautigan has a story someplace about a library where anyone can walk in and put a book s/he wrote on the shelf... a whole collection of handmade treasures, open to anybody--kind of a sweet metaphor for the micropress world. Jorge Borges' "Library of Babel" holds a considerably darker vision: a near-endless collection of books containing every possible permutation of letters, the ultimate monkey-at-a-typewriter. Of course, someplace in all that randomness is a complete set of Shakespeare's sonnet's, somewhere else is a cure for cancer... and somewhere else is that same cure, with arsenic substituted for one key ingredient.
As the World Wide Web continues to expand, the promise of Brautigan's earlier optimistic vision sometimes seems to shift towards Borges' pessimism--especially if you've spent fruitless hours searching for some bit of information that has to be out there in cyberspace somewhere. The antidote to that impersonal technologic nightmare is of course a sense of community among individuals--the same sense of community that is the necessary underpinning of the utopian open library. Hardware can facilitate communication, but community still happens only among "meatware." As users find friends & colleagues online, exchange resources & URLs, point to material they've found and post their own work, this mass of data begins to become humanely useful, more than just an infoglut of bytes & sites.
That vision of community and connection is, at its core, what the micropress world (and TapRoot) is all about. Our goal is to facilitate the growth and interconnectedness of those communities, by any means necessary. We continue to be committed to broad access to a wide variety of materials in any available media, and we'll be interested to see what kinds of effects the medium has on the message. Keep us posted about your latest online work, and keep on connecting with people, not just machines.--lbd