...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Amidst the Deluge

What should (or can) be done?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Silent Night

It's been some time since I've posted any music here, and this is not a new recording, but it's ripe for uncovering--a four-track, apartment-recorded version of the oft (over?) recorded classic. Free. Click here to download. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010


At the beginning of C-Moon, after

some McCartney-clowning, a woman,

presumably Linda, half-laughs easily

at the 5-second mark. This I played

for a girl half my life ago, at sundown,

in the apartment I shared. She heard

what I heard in that laugh, and that was fire,

friends, that felt smokeless, a shaft of light

leading a multitude through the wastes.

You exhort your people for years on end,

you codify the words that come to you

in a finger of smoke smoting stone

at the peaks of mountains, and you die

for a mysterious infraction.

Water from a stone evaporates, joins

its brethren in the wreath around the world,

is breathed in, keeping sky blue, rotting

a body even while giving it life to shake

that tambourine. Linda couldn’t sing,

was the common story, and I, too, laughed

cruelly at the tape going round. But the girl

in the apartment could. She was the promised land

glimpsed in sound slipping away, or dead:

The laugh’s gone as it’s being registered,

cannot here be fixed. Macca loved his wife

to the end, the blessed sentimentalist. There:

There’s a figure walking by the window

doesn’t know me, doesn’t know I’m here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010


No one imagines that we’d wind up with a world that looks like this on the basis of the technology that’s emerged in the last hundred years. Emergent technology is the most powerful single driver of change in the world, and it has been forever. Technology trumps politics. Technology trumps religion. It just does. And that’s why we are where we are now. It seems so self-evident to me that I can never go to that Technology: threat or menace? position. Okay, well, if we don’t do this, what are we going to do? This is not only what we do, it’s literally who we are as a species. We’ve become something other than what our ancestors were.

I’m sitting here at age 52 with almost all of my own teeth. That didn’t used to happen. I’m a cyborg. I’m immune to any number of lethal diseases by virtue of technology. I’m sitting on top of this enormous pyramid of technology that starts with flint hand-axes and finds me in a hotel in Austin, Texas, talking to someone thousands of miles away on a telephone and that’s just what we do. At this point, we don’t have the option of not being technological creatures.

- William Gibson

Monday, November 29, 2010


being confronted by your past work, the work you made
when it was important to be important is a necessary walk
through the fire of humility. it lives on to confront you--
terrible melodies and earnest signs, the stab at currency
in bad clothing and hair that looks like that--and memory,
too, does a good job of it. in 8th grade, when i thought
to play a trick on some girls: i ran toward them
on the blacktop with my plan. i tripped and fell on my knees
and elbows and palms, and their laughter and the are you
all rights. i refuse to forget. i'm telling you this, sonny,
because you keep smirking whenever i tell you anything.
you'll see. you'll see. i'm telling you, sonny: you'll see.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


'The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aesop's Fable #112: The Wolf, the Mother, and Her Child

A hungry wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by, attracted by the cries of a child, he came to a cottage. As he crouched beneath the window, he heard the mother say to the child, "Stop crying, do, or I'll throw you to the wolf!" Thinking she really meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the mother fondling her child and saying, "If the naughty wolf comes, he shan't get my little one. Daddy will kill him." The wolf got up in disgust and walked away. "As for the people in that house," said he to himself, "you can't believe a word they say."

Trans. (?) V.S. Vernon Jones

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Things are rough

Here's something to help out, though getting it in better quality and loud in your house wd be better.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Don't wait. Go.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Me & Binka

Separated in Minsk, lovers since Nice,
we'd met in Bath. The trash Binka combed
through there, looking for earrings,
belonged to the man who arranged
abduction half a continent away.
I had no money. Still don't.
I thought I had wits. My late 20s,
I liked my looks in the mirror, and on paper:
Two degrees, I'd predicted the response
to my report (My lover, I said
[I wince recalling the word], is kidnapped):
They acted like they didn't hear me.
So I looked for her myself, and I looked.
I'm looking for her always. Like the Holy Ghost,
her spirit is the dome under which Europe breathes
for me. I await manifestations.
Despite my faith, they never show.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wright: Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Plath: You're

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools' Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bend-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Plath: Rhyme

I've got a stubborn goose whose gut's
Honeycombed with golden eggs,
Yet won't lay one.
She, addled in her goose-wit, struts
The barnyard like those taloned hags
Who ogle men

And crimp their wrinkles in a grin,
Jangling their great money bags.
While I eat grits
She fattens on the finest grain.
Now, as I hone my knife, she begs
Pardon, and that's

So humbly done, I'd turn this keen
Steel on myself before profit
By such a rogue's
Act, but--how those feather's shine!

Exit from a smoking slit
Her ruby dregs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Media Res

The sword, if a sword,

gleamed beneath breath

of cold morning, exhaled

by the man whose neck

would soon be irrecoverably

gashed. Soon's not soon

enough to convey its

quickness. Movies wrecked

us, revealed us: Image

followed image faster

than words, and mind


Who is this man who is

about to die? Events

have led him here.

The meaty sound

of metal on flesh rings

from speaker to ear.

Crumbling figures vanish

with the cut of the scene,

the credits’ upward scroll,

the car walk, the quiet

in the drive home snapped

at the question you fear

asking but do: So.

What'd you think?

The answer rings in

the cabin, or doesn't—

the voice low or voluble,

depending, but, I speak

here only for me: one

puts forward a word,

helplessly, and one

can't help but not get

what's wanted in return,

when it itself is not

what's wanted.

What is wanted?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review Up

Overwritten review, actually. Here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Poem Up

At Denver Syntax. Here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crazy in Reasonable Language

Or a reminder of why, despite persistently getting bad grades on the tests, I regard astronomy as one of my best undergraduate classes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Fantastic Excitement!

she said, like an old-timey lady of the prairie
visiting a carnival. And she was old-timey,
in the lilt of her voice, was lady-like too,
came in fact from South Dakota and it was
the carnival where she said it, into the air,
as we exited together the Hammerhead, me
feeling a mite woozy. Her dress, which slipped
on my lap as we spun, mightn't have flown
back home in Rapid City among her kin,
but who can say? She was as tender to me
as a teacup, and smooth like one, and brittle,
full--a rush of warmth. I'll win you
a panda, and we'll head out to space.
Conditions demand it. The night does. The day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Something to maybe go to...

....if you're free. I'm reading at this thing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Band T-Shirts

The dude w/ Vampire Weekend on his chest--
his undeveloped chest above his well developed

paunch--looked like he could be
Vampire Weekend in glasses.

Maybe he was, walking around college cause
he missed it, but this was no Columbia,

and that's no reason to cry, unless you want
a promising future. Buck up, man!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Life Has Been Bereft...

...and I didn't know it. Then I heard this on the radio the other night and sat, parked and riveted, till it ended. What have I been doing?

Claudia Rankine

Sometimes I think it is sentimental, or excessive, certainly not intellectual, or perhaps too naive, too self-wounded to value each life like that, to feel loss to the point of being bent over each time. There is no innovating loss. It was never invented, it happened as something physical, something physically experienced. It is not something an "I" discusses socially. Though Myung Mi Kim did say that the poem is really a responsibility to everyone in a social space. She did say it was okay to cramp, to clog, to fold over at the gut, to have to put hand to flesh, to have to hold the pain, and then to translate it here. She did say, in so many words, that what alerts, alters.

Claudia Rankine

In truth I know the answer to her question, but how can I say to her, Understand without effort that man is left, at times thinking, as if trying to weep. I am somewhat rephrasing the poet Cesar Vallejo because Vallejo comes closest to explaining that any kind of knowledge can be a prescription against despair...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The one briefly present

is every breathed-into thing. A person
is no thing, of course, in the way
that word's used, and words read
in volumeless, voluminous waste,
incapable of weakening sad's dominion.

This arrival comes in light of a smile
attached to one whom I expected to,
later and without expectation, send me
a dispatch from a life beyond my ken,
as anybody's is for you, for me, and
who will now not be sending it.
What's the proper tribute? What loss.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Scene in the Movie I Mean

is the scene where the girl hits the landing
when the stairs abruptly turn up to the right
and the window behind her blazes out
a wash of sunshine that in the colorless
film stock washes her out chest to crown
toward the ceiling. Her skirt is an altar
which upon the presence of God rests, He
the author and sustainer of all things we read,
and if interpretation is embodiment, then
the vision seen at home on that screen
has sustained sentences that rise and pause
at a break in the ascension before turning
abruptly away from the power that made them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Repeatedly, the Afternoons

make a body tired. When adopting outdated locutions
be sure to work them seamlessly into a straight face.
The coffee, black natch, in the cup is a constrained sea.
For us here the land is: The "sea grows old in it" we read,
satisfied, mysteriously. A white prow below a white deck
and sails cuts through the dark, unstable mirror,
apparently unframed, fog obscuring the border
where image yields to the receding hills--always
something darting behind the next breast. You may stop
regarding yourself. Look what else there is to see.

I Submitted to Poetry

The venerable (overused word) magazine. It's true. I've done it before and will again. Stay tuned for the inevitable--for whatever happens is inevitable. After it happens, I mean. Right?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

oh man

Your friends are more successful than you.

They don't mean to but don't stop letting you know.

There is a star with a clock in it bursting from the wall.

They all wear swatches that double as weights for their tanned and muscled arms.

We get it: you're great.

Love better be better.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Claims Derived from Recent Listening

McCartney's at his best when he doesn't mean it.

Lou Reed's at his best when he does.

James 5, v. 8

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Yet something else
to do—not said in tones
especially authoritative (unearned,
Stalinistic, like as to those
we read about with untraceable cash
we never have buying
policy)—is learn to wait,
always meaning long.
Set up camp for what you want
and make it what you want, for soon
from around the invisible
intuited screen… —To sum up:
Calm and slow down, it’s happening
fast: you (won’t) know.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Poetry on an E-reader

Poetry points out literature’s ambivalent oscillation between what Craig Mod calls “formless content” and “definite content”—between a discourse conveyed without fixed visual shape and a discourse that relies on specific appearance. Poetry shows that literature, like light, is both wave and particle. - Siobhan Phillips

Saturday, August 28, 2010


HOLY SMOKES! Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Cello Concertos in A Major (Wq. 172), esp. the third movement, and in A Minor (Wq. 170), esp. the first movement, are spectacular. This is music to be alive to. (Currently listening a 1995 recording from Naxos records.)

Also: Television. When I was a college d.j., we had two go-to songs to play when you needed time to leave the studios and get to the restroom across the hall: King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" and Television's "Marquee Moon." I always enjoyed, though I didn't pay close attention to, the Television song, but I recently purchased the album that shares its name, Marquee Moon, and it's terrific. Everyone praises the guitar playing on it, so it's nothing for me to say, Everyone's right. Bach is in tray one of the CD player with Television in number two.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Future

More remarkable photographs here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Song of the Week: Sweet as They Come

Old. Misgivings (re: the recording, not as much the song). But free. (Nice horn breakdown.)

Song of the Week: Worlds Gone

One of my favorite recent pieces of music that we've made. It's the second track down (follow the church, which is an image of a stunning edifice located in the stunning Trona, CA--a place too weird to believe but in person).

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important
beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it,
one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.

Sentence Fragments as Convention

In the preface to the book review I posted below, I wrote that the heavy use of sentence fragments marks the writing as dated. This is probably not a fair claim, since what fragments amount to is a convention, like any poetic convention: slant rhyme, pentameter, sprung rhythm, juxtaposition, synesthesia, etc. It's just that this type of writing feels particularly prevalent at this moment--on Facebook, in blogs, in journalism, as well as in poetry and prose--and it seems to me played out. But that might simply be a matter of taste. There are certain types of singers--or better yet, certain kinds of singing--that I don't like. My disliking it oughtn't be understood as some universal judgment on it, he wrote with great obviousness. But there's also that terrific experience when a convention you don't particularly care for is used in a way that surprises even you. It's then that the work and convention meld in some way I find thrilling. (I like that feeling--in art, at least--of being wrong. It seems to better define the parameters of what I know and don't know.)

If this all sounds unformed, it is. I'm simply trying to understand why I don't buy certain kinds of writing. A sentence fragment, as a thing, is not something I object to. A well-placed fragment can be devastating. In some poetry, all we get are fragments, which in their broken-up quality carry great emotional resonance. And maybe, since I've been reading Ovid in translation and Keats and Melville lately, I'm feeling partial to the "completed" sentence. I still feel, though, that there's an over-reliance on the fragment, that it's an easier way "out" of vexing compositional, or editorial, even aleatory, predicaments, and that somehow it feels like a tic, an unexamined habit, more than anything else.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I was thunderstruck. For an instant I stood like the man who, pipe in mouth, was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia, by summer lightning; at his own warm open window he was killed, and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon, till some one touched him, when he fell.

- "Bartleby"

The French Exit

[The following is a review written for a publication that, b/c of my own laziness, had to reject it—I missed the deadline! Anyway, I’m posting it here for archival purposes, and for the few readers who sometimes wander by. There are two things I didn't put in the review b/c they simply didn't fit: 1) Stylistically, the book relies heavily on a habit in contemporary poetry—the dramatic sentence fragment—that marks, for me anyway, the much of the language in it as dated. 2) The book feels pretty pleased with itself. Having said that, there’s no question Gabbert is a smart and very talented writer, and people much more accomplished than me have praised the book as an excellent collection of poetry. I’m not merely being self-deprecating. I’m saying that any review should be taken w/ a very large grain of salt.]

Look no further than to Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann, or the comments section of an online article, to see that public discourse is coarse and getting coarser, driven by often illogical statements serving larger, often all-too-incoherent agendas. And I’ve had more than one experience—with students, with family, even with strangers at the grocery store—where what seemed to me a harmless utterance of greeting or preference is scanned for ideological bias. The world of poetry is no less fraught. How can you work in this lonely art and not consider the risks of being dismissed as a Quietist on the one hand or as an obscurantist on the other? Even worse is to be labeled with the appellation “Third Way” or “Hybrid,” those poets wanting it both ways and thus having it neither way. It's enough to make you want to simply refuse—to refuse conclusions, arrivals, or any clear allegiance.

Elisa Gabbert, in The French Exit, appears to take this path of refusal. A key method for blazing it is, oddly enough, through making declarations. Sometimes these serve humorous conceits—“You will be woken by the chirping of the birds, which is the sound of their egos escaping their bodies” (“Ornithological Blogpoem”)—and sometimes self-definition: “I don’t want to apprehend the unknown” (“Day Trip with Spires”). To reverse the old writing-class maxim, these poems “tell” instead of “show,” but what they tell remains veiled, to the reader and, quite possibly, to their speaker as well.

Take these lines from “Blogpoem the Litany”: “The people need more opiates, or less. / One way or the other they are not satisfied.” And here’s “Poem with a Threat,” which I quote in full:

Columning storm cloud, natch, dead bird.
My fear of X is worse than X,

more scary. What am I wearing?
The less I recognize myself, the less

I contradict—scratch, feel contrary
to my mirror image in the “pool of grief”

down there. No one would ever say that.
But I may say “puddle of despair.”

Finally, the concluding lines of “Poem with Negation”:

Toward the definition,

untoward the meaning. I run
through the emphases—

It doesn’t mean anything.
It doesn’t mean anything.

It doesn’t mean anything.
It doesn’t mean anything.

“Toward the definition” and “untoward the meaning”: Like the majority of what’s in the book, each of these has the word “poem” in the title, reminding us that what we’re reading are, in fact, poems (as defined at the top of the page), even as the words comprising them, as the lines readily claim, don’t add up to anything.

Early in the book, Gabbert describes the landscape as “supersaturated with meanings. / With meaningness,” and part of what her work embodies is the anxiety of the moment, of being overwhelmed and alienated by a speeded- (and speeding-) up society. Wordsworth described an affliction of an “almost savage torpor,” caused by political upheaval, the growth of cities, and the “craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies.” (What would he have made of the 21st Century?) For him, poetry was to defend and preserve all that’s good in the world, was to carry forward with it “relationship and love,” and it would do this by using the language of common men and the subjects of common life, reminding readers of a shared humanity. Even as his diagnosis remains sapient, his prescription has come to feel quaint, as much of the Romantic project has, in the face of lightning-quick change and rampant ecological destruction. This may explain why poets like Gabbert retreat into their own heads, describing the distorted view of the world perception affords, like the backward, very limited vision provided within a camera obscura (which happens to be the subject of one of her poems): It may not be an accurate picture of things, but it’s mine. A blurb on the back of the book makes this very point, describing the work as “obsessively interior.”

It’s the poet’s interior whim (and whimsy) that leads her in “Blogpoem w/ Ellipses” to contemplate what happens to holes—like the dent in her car—when they “die,” i.e., are fixed: “Their cemetery / sure would seem a waste / of space.” Halfway through, the poem marks the end of this reverie by (you guessed it) ellipses before moving into a description of what could be called morbid torpor:

I’ve started practicing
creative apathy. Can’t
spend all day in transit
among various funerals.
Everybody’s got the
same epitaph anyway:
Was alive. Is Not. Tried
To Save Life Thru Not
Caring. Died Bored.

You read a poem like this and see what Gabbert’s up to. The radically different halves of the poem, lightly connected by death-industry terms, suggest that any move a poem makes—even when it seems meaningful in some “organic” sense—is, in fact, arbitrary. The fact of death makes it so, reducing everyone, and every human act, to a kind of “living” funeral. One way to face that awful situation is to practice “creative apathy,” “not caring” as a means of self-preservation, but the gravestone makes concretely clear that the strategy doesn’t work. What, then, to do? The only vital alternative, the only pathway to life, to waking up, is “desire,” and even that’s circumscribed: “My desire / flaps and beats against the walls / like an idiot bird trapped inside the flue” (“Camera Obscura”).

The image brings to mind Ron Silliman’s recent poem-in-progress, Revelator: “Desire, / Desire is the answer, hunger / never rests.” What gets a person, or what gets Silliman, up every morning to work, is the same thing that gets the geese up “each dawn / now for decades circling lake.” Desire orders a being’s existence and gives it agency, but only if it has an object, and though Gabbert does indicate one now and again—most touchingly in the final poem, when she asks of her brother, “(If he’s mine, / why can’t I keep him?)”—the poems in this book often seem willfully object-less, making a piece like “Poem with Intrinsic Music” stand out by contrast:

Empty tennis courts of autumn,
the landscape wants to appropriate you

like fallow cortex, the brain over-
turning itself: A blind woman has no use

for sports, but the cells could go
to memorizing Bach—the cello suites,

the overtures.

Say those lines out loud. The title of the poem winks at us, its author showing us she knows this is recognizably “musical” writing, but that knowingness attacks its very real beauty and sense, as if Gabbert wants to apologize for giving to people a pleasure they go to poetry for. You want to say, Yes, we’re all masses of mixed motives, and Yes, meaning often feels more a product of the interpreter’s perspective than of any (ugly phrase) “objective reality,” but art this self-consciously, showily aware betrays a lack of faith, if not in the poet then in the reader. Her misgivings are stated more directly at the end of “X”:

I want to lie on the top level
of an empty garage, to be close

to the sky as I lose my mind—
I’m afraid. I’m afraid

I’ll feel pretty

The cleverness of these breaks seems meant to blunt or hide the fear these lines really allude to, which is not of transcendence but of the means of getting there: escaping, or “losing,” one’s own mind. A poet must engage that fear, I think. She’s got to risk looking like a fool.

Monday, July 26, 2010


The home budget is not for foreclosure:
If you’re making a budget, you’re making
A plan, indicating optimism, indicating
You’re planning on sticking with this person
You’re making the budget with, despite
Everything this person is or does that falls short
Of your perfect, flawed ideal. I love you, baby.
Let’s have a baby. We’ll name her Milly: Baby Milly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Not Sure

I'm not sure yet what I'll be doing w/ this blog, now that the poem-a-day project is over. I hope to keep at something here, but we'll see what'll happen. In the meantime, check out my friends Jeff Lytle and Dawn Trook as they work out poems in collaboration at the open poetry project.

The Replacements: Can't Hardly Wait

This is the last song on The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me—a meeting, in hindsight, that proved both disastrous and inevitable. Until this point, the Mats—and Paul Westerberg, the man—were content being a rock ‘n’ roll band in the most careening sense of the term. You sense that why they forgot to take out the trash in the first place is because they were loudly playing guitars or listening to records where Mick Ronson or Greg Ginn loudly played theirs. “God Damn Job” is, by virtue of being the name of a rock ‘n’ roll song, all the indication you need of the band’s professional allegiances. That they weren’t professional is why their fans loved them so. Just look at ‘em chase each other around the set of Saturday Night Live: They’ve got a major-label deal and a national audience and don’t know—or don’t care to learn—how to act. And though they hired outside producers (emphasis on that adjective) for their first two Sire releases, the producers were Westerberg heroes—Tommy Ramone and Jim Dickinson, respectively—who botched the job: Tim’s gotta contend for the most brilliant, bad-sounding record ever; and Pleased is afflicted by ’80s compression-sickness. But that, too, is part of the charm. Not getting it right—whether shambling drunk in front of an audience or locked in sheeny resonance on vinyl or cassette—gave credibility to Westerberg’s lyrics as offhand, unforced poetry. Since the music was raucous, and the words mumbled, we could believe that playing in a band beats “picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten,” or that, for us lonely souls out here looking to connect with somebody, anybody, “somebody’s gonna show up—never fear!”

In this album- and era-capping track, the Replacements are augmented by another hero (Alex Chilton) on guitar, along with horns and strings, all recorded in Memphis! The guitar tone is crisp as Sunday toast, the bass as straightforward and unpretentious as the unpretentious heartthrob playing it, and the drums sprightly and locked-in (to a click track, no doubt). It’s that rhythm section and Westerberg’s voice that connect the song to the rest of the Mats’ catalog, and despite all the sonic addenda, the thing works, strings soaring to accompany the unadorned image, “Lights that flash in the evening, through a hole in the drapes,” guitar and tom fills amens to the voice’s testimony. It’s a recording that flirts with a new way of making music: revised, well rehearsed.

Like early Springsteen, the Replacements wanted out—out of school, out of the house, out of work, out of whatever adolescent imprisonment they felt. “We’re coming out!” they’d sang/shouted, and it felt immediate, like it was happening right now. (In this song, the longing is articulated right there in the title.) The problem is where to go once you escape. In the case of the Mats, they would pass out in bed wanting to rock hard and wake up wanting, even if half-heartedly, to be stars. Their next producer, a real pro, recorded them in Los Angeles—and the words and music became mannered, slick, the kind of thing people expected from a press-proclaimed genius. They lost their edge because outsiders don’t sound authentic when they’re so clearly—to the ear, anyway—inside. The public, apparently, didn’t buy it. But longing is still a sweet sound, the only subject of rock ‘n roll from the beginning: “I’ll be home when I’m sleeping.” What he “can’t hardly wait” for is not love or being understood or fame but the sweet and self-preserving obliteration of desire.

[The demo version of the song, arguably much better, with Bob Stinson on lead guitar, is a truer Replacements song. It also tells a different, less complicated story.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dickinson: 315

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on--
He stuns you by degrees--
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers--further heard--
Then nearer--Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straigten--
Your Brain--to bubble Cool--
That scalps your naked Soul--

When Winds take Forests in their Paws--
The Universe--is still--

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Herbert: Prayer (I)

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marlowe: from Hero and Leander

At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,

Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,

And offered as a dower his burning throne,

Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.

The outside of her garments were of lawn,

The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;

Her wide sleeves green, and bordered with a grove

Where Venus in her naked glory strove

To please the careless and disdainful eyes

Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;

Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,

Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.

Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,

From whence her veil reached to the ground beneath.

Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,

Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives;

Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,

When ‘twas the odor which her breath forth cast;

And there for honey, bees have sought in vain,

And, beat from hence, have lighted there again.

Song of the Week: Peace 2 the World

Older, undercooked: Click-see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anonymous: My Lief is Faren in Londe

My lief is faren in londe--

Allas, why is she so?

And I am so sore bonde

I may nat come her to.

She hath myn herte in holde

Wherever she ride or go--

With trewe love a thousand folde.

Yeats: Down by the Salley Gardens

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;

She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.

She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;

But I being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,

And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.

She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;

But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Anonymous: The Cuckoo Song

Sumer is ycomen in,

Loude sing cuckou!

Groweth seed and bloweth meed,

And springth the wode now.

Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,

Loweth after calve cow,

Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,

Merye sing cuckou!

Cuckou, cuckou,

Wel singest thou cuckou:

Ne swik though never now!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keats: This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again,

And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—

I hold it towards you.

To my vast readership

So, my sabbatical is officially over, and w/ today being the last day my kids are in school till September, events beyond my control--namely, time--have made it necessary to end this poem-a-day business. In the past five months or so, I've drafted about 130 of 'em, several of which I didn't post here. Most are crap, of course, but a few are onto something I think, and those few I'll revise or leave as is and begin to do something with. I was also able to get some critical writing done, of both the academic and popular (I use that word in its loosest sense) variety. All in all, I'm feeling pretty lucky.

I'll still be posting music here each "week" (ha ha), and I think the project of daily discipline I'll embark on next is transcribing a poem a day from other sources, as I did w/ that wonderful Rilke poem, below.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

S.P. Poem # 109: Full Flow

Created from clay the pot that holds our dinner

Made of vegetables and a little meat heated

On the stove with lines of gas buried and running

To the street to the main that remains in full flow

Supplying to all these houses on our block

And beyond out into worlds of ideas meaning

Someone thought of what to eat and how to cook it

And how to live in a way that is easy as pie

Though one hears complaining by and by

For reasons pertaining to freedom of the will,

Edwards’ essay on which I’m half-way through

In hope of learning something about why I am

The way I am and why everyone else is too

Because I’m curious and concerned and in want

Of a drink and a meal and a little space to think

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rilke: Sometimes a Man Stands Up During Supper

Sometimes a man stands up during supper

and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,

because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,

dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,

so that his children have to go far out into the world

toward that same church, which he forgot.

Trans. by Robert Bly

Saturday, June 12, 2010

S.P. Poem # 108: Bright Morning

Bright morning wakes me through
A drapeless window. Away from kids

And wife for the weekend, the bed
Is quiet, the room unpressurized,

The house airy. I miss my life
As it is even for this short time

But this short time is a gift.
On the phone, I love you to each

Of the three. No faces to register.
Words like mortars flying

Toward a target obscured by a ridge
May or may not hit the target.

You must trust the coordinates, trust
Experience and expertise.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Power Pop Hit Parade: Joe Jackson

S.P. Poem # 107: Walks at Night

I get a break when the kids go down

And leave the house onto the path

I’m on each time I leave, with headphones

On, removing the right one when people

Pass by to say hi there, hello.

In fifty minutes or so I feel it

In my knee and sometimes ankle

And look into that bar I never enter

And walk on the pier and the water

When the moon’s full behind me now

By the shore is bright and slick,

Glassed-in and tinted purple.

I talked on the phone telling the person

I talked with about it once.

Fishermen leave so much trash

On the planks—plastic bags and cups,

Paper bags from dinner, styrofoam

Trays from frozen bait. It blows into

The ocean or will. I pick some up.

Someone seeing me will see it’s ok

To pick up trash you didn’t make,

The people who left it shamed by my act.

Nobody changes far as I can tell.

Surfing years before, a man in the water

Yelled at some others You’re not from here

Fuckin’ losers, get the fuck out of the water.

I wanted a gun. I wanted to see him cry.

I have few dreams, but the strongest I feel

Have to do with hurting people

Who should hurt, like you.

How many years I feel wronged,

Wrong myself. I know but what you don’t

I have this sense when you come

To me against me I hunger to unleash

Torrents of feeling true and therefore right,

Light by which comes the vaunted recognition

Of sin. I never will, who would hear it?

I fear it would when meeting air’s catalysis

Turn meaning that can’t be argued into

Banality by sound, by manifestation.

Let’s keep it mystery. Let’s keep quiet

Our misery, slow, decaying. I don’t want to.

I know I’m right. You know you are.

Can’t be helped. The feet each time

Pass over knotted planks, worn bricks

And lift over the aluminum threshold,

The brink of a house, and enter there

And there you are in bed awake of course.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

S.P. Poem # 106: The water runs clockwise

Like lids and screws in our hemisphere.

In yours, you’ve got spiral variety.

And depending on the continent:

Dingo, hyena, or the maned wolf.

Dogs and dog-like creatures are where

My inclinations lean. It’s that pack-ness,

That loyalty to leadership.

This has its problems.

A boy scout in the Ozarks, I let

The leader take us down an unmapped

Path. We found the abandoned cabin

He knew as a kid now used by meth-

Heads. The dog guarding it

Was trained to attack by his master.

That cabin is now long-gone—

Tornadoes. I assume they turn the same

As all else up here, errant tops

Spinning right across the regions

Destroying evidence mindlessly.

Those killers won the lottery,

Burrowed in the earth like foxes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Word of the Day

“If that’s what he means,” says the student to the poetry teacher, “why doesn’t he just say it?” “If God is real,” says the parishioner to the preacher, “why doesn’t he simply storm into our lives and convince us?” The questions are vastly different in scale and relative importance, but their answers are similar. A poem, if it’s a real one, in some fundamental sense means no more and no less than the moment of its singular music and lightning insight; it is its own code to its own absolute and irreducible clarity. A god, if it’s a living one, is not outside of reality but in it, of it (though in ways it takes patience and imagination to perceive). Thus the uses and necessities of metaphor, which can flash us past our plodding resistance and habits into strange new truths. Thus the very practical effects of music, myth, image, which tease us not out of reality but deeper and more completely into it.

- Christian Wiman

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Song of the Week: Girls' Talk

The player remains kaput, so you'll have to click this link to hear the track, which is quite good (if we do say so ourselves).

The song was recorded for the Tower of Song Challenge our friend Todd invited us to contribute to.

Word of the Day

I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that's why it's good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17.


It kind of gives you hope. If you do creative work, there's a sense that inspiration is this fairy dust that gets dropped on you, when in fact you can just manufacture inspiration through sheer brute force. You can simply produce enough material that the thing will arrive that seems inspired.

- Ira Glass [more here]

Monday, June 7, 2010

S.P. Poem # 105: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Fearfully and wonderfully made the tiger

Moves through a fractured landscape

Toward the end it conceives of as

Perhaps unslakeable thirst for sleep

Coming on, a lightless canopy.

His teeth are dulled and fall out, and the leaps

He made toward prey are a memory

Muscles retain when the body will not comply.

This largest of cats starves.

There are 2,000 left in the wild, hunted

For bones used in Chinese Medicine,

Penises for aphrodisiacs. The fact

That people act against their interests

Is evidenced daily, everywhere.

This is not it. The tiger existed and exists.

In the shadow of trees near home is

A faint scraping. Unseen in their branches

Are wings. The word is always whispered,

World without end, though the life has not

Taken the expected form.—Overwritten

And underfunded. Poorly conceived.

A person must reach when learning

It's too late to buy a dog or start a hobby.

Tracey Thorn

Word of the Day

Excellent poem: here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Word of the Day

I've posted from it here before, but this series is so good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

S.P. Poem #104: Four Poems

Modern Life

I used to take the waterslide

to work but now I take

the catapult. Sometimes I skip.


Oh Beloved,

How the stars would be reflected

in the deep pools of your eyes

if not for the air pollution

and your two eye patches!


Still Life

There's a flower

in the blue bottle that once

had Orangina in it. The flowers

are orange but the water

in the bottle only looks blue

because the bottle is blue.

Who thinks to put an orange drink

in a blue bottle? I’d like to meet this person

and interrogate him, tenderly.


Wisdom through Experience

Everybody thinks I’m great

until they marry me.