Vincent Katz: I realize it’s not easy for me to pin down your influences — I came up with Frank O’Hara meets Sir Walter Raleigh in the mosh pit at a James Chance gig. Then I thought probably comedians have been influential — Lenny Bruce, maybe — and popular fiction — Hammett, Chandler — and TV and the movies. Does any of these strike a chord? Are there things I’m missing completely that have influenced you? Painting?
Jerome Sala: You’re totally right about Frank O’Hara and punk. Maybe not Sir Walter specifically, but I have read widely in the English tradition — so I’m sure it’s rubbed off. Here are some other things that have had an effect. Wild declamatory writing, as in the Futurism of Mayakovsky and the Manifestoes of Marinetti. Roman Satire — especially Juvenal.
Comedians — Lenny Bruce, yes, but also Jerry Lewis. Later: Jack Benny deadpan.
1950s teenage Sci Fi atom-bomb apocalypse flicks; bargain basement horror and Sci Fi in general. Schlocky crooners: I was a stagehand at Chicago’s Empire Room when I was younger and caught a lot of Vegas acts “on the way down.” Influences in my later years were William Carlos Williams and the more philosophical objectivists (like George Oppen). My poem, “Scenes from the Dick Van Dyke Show,” is a re-do of WCW’s “Pictures from Breughel.” TV of any era.
VK: Turning to the writing of poetry, how do you usually write? Do you tend to write poems in one blast or over protracted periods? Do you edit a lot after the initial writing?
JS: My usual method is to do lots and lots of automatic writing in notebooks and ignore what I’ve written for a couple of months. Then I skim through what I’ve got and things jump out — sometimes whole, sometimes in pieces. I finish those. At other times, I’ll write something and it will excite and scare me at the same time. This can be a sign that that the piece is ready as is. My editing process usually goes one of two ways: either minor tweaking or I find what I’ve got is just a stanza or section of something longer that gets expanded on.
VK: A lot of your poems seem to me quite formal, not in the sense of meter but in the sense of rhetoric. How do your ideas for the themes or riffs of your poems come to you?
JS: I’m usually improvising with concepts that come from my reading of philosophy, or social and political theory. As I mentioned, I’m not doing this very methodically. It seems I keep fishing around until I discover some sort of associative logic. The formal quality you notice might have to do with the fact that I want to see how the logic of the rhetoric plays out when you take it to its “end.”
Jerome Sala Corporations Are People, Too!
‘As is well known, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution en- ables a corporation to be considered a person—with many of the rights granted to (human) individuals. But has anyone considered how this person might talk, or, for that matter, write poems? Corporations Are People, Too! is the first to explore such an idea. It begins with thirty “Corporate Sonnets,” many constructed out of the corporate speak we hear and use ourselves every day. Then it goes on to examine how this language becomes part of who we are—from the products we consume, and their meanings, to the ways we think and speculate. The result is something new—both elevated and crass at the same time. The great American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey urged thinkers of his own time to “acknowledge the signi cance of economic factors in life, rather than evading the issue.” In a witty, satirical and entertaining manner—that employs both traditional and innovative forms—this collection takes up that challenge for today.’ — NYQ Books
“What is a corporation?
What does it do?
To whom is it responsible?”
Does it care about you?
Is it buildings, companies,
Is it a subject, object, aggregate,
A function, a movement, a place?
Is it an agent we create
To explain what we do?
Is it shorthand for a process
That does things to you?
Does it generate wealth?
Is it good for your health?
— After Ted Berrigan, Sonnets, 37
It is light. I am awake. And horrible fears
form a st in my chest. Steve Jobs is dead.
The wild gray night surrenders to the boldly iterative day.
I worry that I need vastly better analytic tools
to monetize my idiosyncrasies
and enhance my progress toward career optimization.
My career is my poem. It is light. I
am awake. I need vastly better analytic tools
to optimize my career. I pin my favorite motivational quotes to the cubicle wall. I school myself with vast
analytic tools. It is light. Motivational quotes
punctuate the boldly iterative day. I
am awake. A horrible fear forms a st
in my career, in my poem, in the thought “Steve Jobs is dead.”
Corporations are people, too!
They worry about death, taxes, healthcare, outsourcing, all that stuff,
And sometimes they’ve got it tough,
Just like you. Corporations are people too!
Monsanto, IBM, Microsoft, Nike and PepsiCo,
Are no different from Eunice, Harvey, or Mary Jo.
It’s just that one tries to “make money,” while the other “accrues,”
’Cause corporations are people, too!
One looks like a big old building stuck in the street;
The other pounds the pavement with tiny feet.
One can break an economy, but the other can get pretty damn rude:
And now both talk like hipsters, just to seem cool.
’Cause corporations are people, too!
Jerome Sala at the BPC 3/7/09
Poet Jerome Sala reads his poem “Urban Warrior”
Readings in Contemporary Poetry – Elaine Equi and Jerome Sala
I write mostly out of compulsion, returning again and again to that well, attempting to source some truth from the ontological confusion I was raised with, knowing full-well that no such truth resides there.
When I was a child, my mother constantly compared me to my uncle, a relative stranger who (for me) only existed in phone calls and irregular visits. You’re just like your uncle, she’d accuse me, always in some state of peculiar, untraceable anguish. You’re just like you’re uncle, or you’re going to turn out just like him. She’d approach me in tears when I spent the day reading in my room: I was turning out just like my uncle, detaching from everyone. She’d confront me with weirdly personal anger if I turned down a date with some boy at my high school: I was going to be all alone, disconnected from life, just like this mythic uncle.
I still don’t understand why she fashioned this fictive connection between us. As a small, self-conscious young girl, I couldn’t fathom my relation to a six-foot-four, physically and emotionally domineering man. I certainly felt no affinity with him. She was clearly projecting some dynamic that had nothing to do with me, but this dynamic was never clearly articulated. Thus, I was left to wander the strange, in-between spaces of this imagined connection, wonder over this unfathomable longing to connect.
I have written a number of stories exploring this character of my uncle—or rather, this fiction, this foggy outline of an unknowable absence. I have tried to relate some sensation of me through him, him through me, lacking the knowledge of who he is, to that end, who I am, how this strange figure connects to me.
Sensation is the word I want to draw attention to. With my writing, I try to instill a bodily sensation of a space, insinuate the ways an object or a physical experience contains entire legacies of tension.
Between my years of 3rd and 6th grade, my uncle would often call the house phone in the early afternoon, before my parents came home. I remember very little of his voice and his specific words, but I remember the sensation of dread, building. I didn’t know that he was drunk or what that meant, but I knew that I didn’t want to listen to him or be listened to by him.
My mind blurred the words of the phone conversation into a light gauze. Blocking out these details brought other sensations and objects into focus.
I focused on the lines of light along the carpet, pacing, and the texture of it under my bare feet. I brushed my teeth, repeatedly, and focused on the movement of the brush, the bristled edges scraping, silently. — Meghan Lamb
Meghan Lamb Silk Flowers
Birds of Lace
‘A poetry of the body these words—a meticulous meditation. With a full control of voice and tone, Meghan Lamb captures the complexities of illness, on relationships, on memory, on the disappearing self, the lonely isolation of an altered state. A serious and elegant book.’ — Sean Lovelace
‘Silk Flowers is incisive, intimate, ethereal yet physical, capturing the disconnect between lovers, a disconnect that appears to travel deep into each one of them and then manifest in mysterious, unbidden ways. Sharply written, structured in an almost unsettling his/hers dichotomy, this is a novel that will make the reader ponder the distances between and within.’ — Dao Strom
‘The seemingly affectless language of this short, serrated novel hides rages and terrors just looking for the chance to do in a nice reader like you. Silk Flowers is the sort of novel a better mother would’ve warned you about.’ — James Tadd Adcox
His parents send him upstairs after dinner. He goes to bed earlier and earlier each week. He isn’t bad or anything, that’s just the way they do it. He says, I’m not tired. They tell him, that’s ok, just go play in your room. Go cool off before you go to sleep.
It doesn’t take too long to learn that cooling off means being quiet. As long as they can’t hear him, he can do whatever he wants.
He likes to poke around the planter by his bedroom window, pulling out the wilted vines and braiding rope with them. He hides the ropes under his bed. He is plotting a way to get up on the roof. The houses in his neighborhood are set so close together, he could probably jump off from one to the next. He wants to look in other people’s windows. He wants to investigate.
He lines his plastic army men along his unmade bedspread. All the rolls of fabric look like hills or dunes. The pinkish sunlight blooms through the shutters like toxic gas, or bombs.
Sometimes he watches war films with his father. The best parts are always the explosions. He can watch the sounds. That’s what he likes. He likes to watch the color of the sky change. He knows that even the most beautiful land is more beautiful being destroyed.
He plays the story of a third world war, not just to play it, but to practice how he’ll tell it when it happens. He sees the shadows cast on sand at dusk; the moonlight barely shining through suggests this. He sees the straining of the soldiers as they crouch for hours, barricading themselves in the folds of his own bent knees.
He buries himself in the covers, crowned with handmade ropes and hand-plucked leaves. He even takes sips from a flask that he found in the back of the closet. It was empty, but he can imagine what the liquor tastes like from the rusty smell that rises up. It tastes dirty, old, and burning. That sounds about right.
Someday he wants to document a war. He’ll be a writer or a photographer or something. Just as long as you can open up a magazine, see pictures of explosions, and then see his name right next to them. He wants his name to be on a photograph of bodies. He, the boy who goes to bed before the sun goes down. He will be named by nameless things.
When a stranger shakes his hand, he’ll see the image of a mushroom cloud reflected in his gaze. He thinks the writers must be braver than the soldiers. It’s their job to know what’s going on at all times. They can’t close their eyes when bombs are raining overhead, when sand is pouring from the sky. They have to keep them open. They can’t miss a moment of the action. Or at least they have to know enough to make it up.
He fills his head with headline words like axis, launch, attack. Surprise, attrition, loss. Suffer, struggles. Strengthen, stand, regain. The forces, overrun, declare, collapse, defeat, surrender. Soldiers can’t call each other by names because they’d give away their hiding spots. They know what’s going on, but they must speak it in their far-off sounding voices, codes and hints jabbing desperately into a curtain of static.
When he plays, he doesn’t play with plots or characters. He just lines the soldiers up and lets the scene play in his mind. He hears the bass of bullets growing as they drum into the earth, as bodies catch, flesh hisses, and absorbs them. Most of all, he hears the shrieking. He imagines based on what he’s seen in movies, but he knows that there are things the movies aren’t allowed to show. His father told him. He can hear the screams and shaking through the floor, the howls reverberating through the walls. Glass breaking, things shoving, hitting things. He’s been told he has an active imagination.
One night the crying of the soldiers overwhelms him. He can’t control the feeling that it’s just a movie, something waiting for the future, or the magnitude of his imagination. He can’t take responsibility. He hears specific words now. Lush, whore. Liar. How? Don’t tell me that. I trusted you. No. I don’t trust you. Bastard. Don’t you think about it. I don’t care. No. That won’t help now. God, it smells in here. Just one more time and then. I swear. Christ. Woman. I don’t think I even know you.
He doesn’t want to cry. He squints at the nuclear power plant off in the distance, the dark pipes of a pure white smoke. They plume into the bright sky, slowly changing shades. He opens the window. The smell of his mother’s lilac bush clings thickly to the sunset. He thinks about the H-bomb. Wouldn’t it be perfect if a bomb fell on his house, right now? The chandelier chimes in the hallway below. He’ll use the noise to his advantage.
He ties one end of the rope vine to the radiator and he wraps the other end around his waist. He feels the heat from the pipes running out through the vines, building up in his veins. He eases over the edge of the planter, careful not to catch his shorts on the metal clutch. He’s clinging to the windowsill. He feels steady. There’s an overhang 4 feet away. He tries to swing himself, but suddenly the rope vine feels too hot. The radiator heat unravels through his veins. The liquid in his stomach turns to steam. He breaks his hold. He dangles for a moment, then he falls.
At first he doesn’t realize he’s falling. It feels like the ground moves up to meet him. Then it seems to happen very slowly, and in waves, like swinging back and forth. He only falls in one direction, but a roaring rushes up into his ears, then pushes down. By the time he hits the ground, he’s in a trance that makes the blow feel soft. He barely even hears the thud, which rings through the dark of his head like a swarm of mosquitoes.
He wakes up in a bright room in a cast. His mom leans over him and smiles. Her lips look blue and ugly in the light. Her voice is still panicky, training her words into one long shaky sentence. She says, it’s okay, you fell, but on your arm. You were trying to climb out the window, which you knew you shouldn’t do, you know that, but you were alone. I love you. Don’t you know I love you? Do we have an understanding? We were wrong. We thought you were a big boy now. Are you a big boy now? We thought you knew these things. I told you to play quietly until you fell asleep. You were supposed to fall asleep. You weren’t supposed to fall out the window. She gathers her face in her hands.
His cast is green just like his army men. He asks his mom, where’s Dad?
She wonders if he really is a big boy, if he’s big enough to hear her tell the truth. She doesn’t know the truth is filled with bombs and hissing streams of smoke, with shrieking sounds and actions like the silencing of bodies and her son, who does know better, is supposed to tell it all. But he can’t even tell her. She says, sweetheart, just in case he isn’t big enough. Sweetheart. Daddy had to go.
He’s coming back though, right? Not for awhile. He says, when. She says, I don’t know. How could she not know, though. His mother is a bad mom.
She tries to stroke his hair. Her hands are wet from crying. They just make the strands of hair stick to his forehead. He wishes he could roll away onto his side, but his good arm is pressed up against the guardrail. He is trapped there in his bed, without the soldiers, soaking up the salt inside his mother’s tears.
He hears the whispering of his mother’s skirt as she moves throughout the kitchen. There are other sounds, of course, the clicking of her shoes, the hissing of the tap, the shuffling and throwing out of certain envelopes. When his mother comes to mind, he always hears the swishing of her skirt. He knows that every movement of the skirt, however gentle, could cling, catch, and snag, could kill his mother’s nylons.
She’s still getting used to making dinner for two people. Most of the time, she makes too much. Their serving bowls are white along the outside, trimmed around the inside. In the middle of each bowl, there is a pattern of delicate silver dashes. Most nights, between the two of them, they only finish half the food. The bowls sit in the fridge with bits of beef, creamed corn, and runny lines of beet broth, dirty food splashed up around the silver circle. Collecting in the sink, all the dishes are violently stained. To him, the dark stained lines look like slit throats.
His mother tries her best to make nice dinners. She makes things with cheerful names like Sunshine Salad, Buttermilk Chicken, and Angel Food Cake. She makes too much food because she wants to fill the table. She wants to place a bunch of different colored bowls between them. She wants to fill his belly, fill his face with thoughts that maybe she can speak to.
He eats quietly. He tries to be polite. The food always looks better than it tastes. The chicken is soggy. The noodles are slimy. His mom doesn’t make them from scratch anymore.
‘Ron Padgett’s writing strikes me as essentially without an identifiable style. Of course, this is absolutely false. He does have a style; it is just that it is neither literary nor a form of branding. His writing isn’t traditionalist, surrealist, avant-gardist, minimalist, metaphysical, pataphysical, philosophical, scientific, conceptual, extravagant, obscure, metaphorical, or riddled with puns. While he has a huge bag of tricks, particularly in the early books, In Advance of the Broken Arm (1964) and Great Balls of Fire (1969), he seems never to rely on a particular device — collage, for example — to generate work over a long period. He does not try to be profound, which is not to say his poems are modest — as that can become, and often is, a pose. They are not about a favorite pet, though animals do run and even somersault in at least one poem. The writing doesn’t seem to be driven by any cause or trauma. They are not political or claiming to be agents of social change. Finally, the poetry is not autobiographical in any overt, attention- getting way (The “look what happened to me school” that continues to be prevalent).
‘Despite all the many things that Padgett’s poems are not — and I have only touched the tip of the iceberg — there are a few things about the poems, prose poems, lists and gatherings that you can count on. They are apt to be occasional, funny, and about something quotidian or underfoot — such as reading a French-English dictionary, drinking chocolate milk or having a fantasy about seeing his father sitting on the front porch as it rains. But for all the humor and air of innocence that dances through the poems — as nimble, succinct and gracefully elegant as Fred Astaire — other feelings, at once dark and possibly unfathomable, are hinted at, without Padgett stepping in and spelling them out.
‘It seems to me that Padgett recognizes that certain events exist in the domain of the unspeakable, and they don’t necessarily have to be devastating and traumatic to become something not written about. To write about them is to cheapen them as well as turn them into a commodity. It is to go into the comfort and encouragement business.’ — John Yau
Ron Padgett Site
Ron Padgett discusses’MMAtC’ on Bookworm
Jim Jarmusch, Ron Padgett and the sublime poetry of ‘Paterson’
How the Poet Ron Padgett Spends His Sundays
Buy ‘Motor Maids across the Continent’
Ron Padgett Motor Maids across the Continent
‘When the spinster Miss Helen Campbell sets off in a motorcar called “The Comet” with four high school girls, their cross-country car ride promises to fulfill their singular dreams of grand vistas.
‘Unprepared for the ensuing plane crash, stolen car, a trip to The Singing Ranch, and encounters with cryptic individuals, a painting by Henri Rousseau, a train robber on the lam, an Italian village located in California, and a talking door, and with the assistance of cowboys, Blaise Cendrars, Indians, and mountain outlaws who turn into statues, the redoubtable Motor Maids are compelled to dream even larger.
‘There are works of literature like War and Peace. And then there’s another kind of book – light, nonsensical, funny, illogical. Poet Ron Padgett reveals that in the 1960s, while a senior at Columbia, he found a dusty novel in a Manhattan bookstore. Originally written for teenage girls during World War I, Padgett has been playfully rewriting the cross-country adventure story ever since he stumbled across it. More than 50 years in the making, the result — Motor Maids across the Continent — can be called a doctored novel, a white-out novel or an erasure novel. Padgett calls it the literature of the fantastic.’ — Song Cave
“At my age, too,” began Miss Helen Campbell, leaning back in her seat and folding her hands as if they were a letter of resignation.
“At your age what, dear cousin?” asked Wilhelmina “Billie” Campbell, supervising the loading of five huge suitcases and other paraphernalia for a long trip by motorcar.
“At my age to turn emigrant, emigrant, emigrant!” exclaimed the little lady. “At my age to become a gypsy vagabond. Emigrant! Vagabond! What would grandpa have said?”
“He would have been delighted, I am certain, Cousin Helen,” answered her young relative.
“And,” added Nancy, “such an up-to-date gypsy vagabond, one who rides in a motorcar and wears a chiffon veil.”
“And has four ladies-in-waiting. But now when we are, at the last moment, about to start on this amazing journey, I cannot help but think that it is a wild adventure. Do I use the correct word?” asked Mary.
Elinor said nothing.
With a happy laugh the four girls jumped into their seats. One of the attendants from the hotel gave the crank a dexterous throbbing sound of machinery, and up shot the horsepower, eager to be on the road.
Miss Campbell’s rose still had dew on it when she and the Motor Maids began their journey across the continent from Chicago to San Francisco. It was a glorious morning toward the last of May, the air just frosty enough to make the blood tingleacross the cheeks. The red car sped through the sunshine with all the beauty of machinery in perfect order, and the polished plate glass of the windguard reflected the four happy faces of the Motor Maids and the inscrutable face of their aunt off on a lark, which, when all is said and done, will have carried them through many an adventure along the way.
Through Chicago they whirled, past fine homes where sleepy maids and blinking butlers were raising the blinds to let in the morning light, through business streets already humming with energy, and at last out through the interesting suburbs.
Billie the motorist knew it all like a book because she had written it for the past week. Every day she had taken pencil and paper along some fifty maps and guide books until her mind reflected now only a great bird, through the center of which was drawn a bright red line—the road The Comet was to take straight to the Pacific Ocean.
There was nothing now, however, in these flat, monotonous wheat fields to pique even a paranoid’s interest. But there was much to talk about.
“Was it only last week that we were schoolgirls at West Haven High slaving over examinations?” cried Mary joyfully. “And now, behold us, free as birds on the wing!”
“School! School!” said Nancy Brown, her face dimpling with mathematics and history and physics and Latin as a black cake is dimpled with plums.
“Plums!” echoed Billie. “I’m stuffed with another variety of fruit. It’s dates.”
The girls laughed at the word dates, for memorizing dates was the bête noire of Billie’s school days, and the teacher of history was very unpopular because she had made her students have six dates a day.
“But the class is even with Miss Hawkes now,” put in Nancy. “We gave her a present.”
“Why did you give her a present?” asked Miss Campbell, suddenly curious.
“Well, you see, at the end of school we reckoned we had earned about 800 date credits, not that we could remember anything, but Elinor, who thought of it more than anyone else in the class—”
“Indeed!” protested Elinor, breaking her silence.
“—and because she was never afraid even of things that are terrifying, she was chosen to make the speech and give the present from the class.”
Miss Campbell smiled. She was never tired. “What did you say, dear?”
“I said, ‘Indeed!’” replied Elinor. “Oh, you mean in my speech. I said that representing the class, I wanted to thank her for the splendid lessons she had given us last winter, and we wished to show our appreciation by giving her a little membrane.”
“Membrane was a good word, Elinor!” cried Billie.
“If she hadn’t been so pleased and made that oration of thanks, it wouldn’t have mattered so much,” said Elinor. “But I felt ashamed when. . . .”
“What was in the package, my child?” asked Miss Campbell.
“Dates,” blushed Billie, “dozens of dates packed in as tightly as dates can be packed, just as she had been packing them into our brains for nine months.”
“Oh! Oh!” exclaimed Miss Campbell, trying to be a person laughing in spite of herself. “The poor soul! How embarrassed she must have felt! Was she angry?”
“We couldn’t tell whether she was angry or temporarily insane. She drew herself stiffer and straighter than a frozen broom and swept across the floor.”
“And left us feeling very West Haven,” added Nancy.
Billie drew an envelope from her pocket and handed it to the others.
“Read it,” she said to herself. “I didn’t mention it before because I was so preoccupied in getting away that I had forgotten it. I suppose Miss Hawkes is just a little bit queer in her upper story.”
Miss Campbell read the missive aloud: “I understand you are going west in your automobile. If, on your journey, you should by chance hear the name of Hawkes, do not treat it as lightly as you did in West Haven. Somewhere in the West that name is powerful. Signed, Anna Hawkes.”
“Eek!” exclaimed Elinor sarcastically.
“Anyway,” pursued Billie, now unsure of the girls’ prank, “I suppose it must have hurt her awfully.”
“Not more than she hurt us when she scolded us for forgetting those awful dates. 1066, 1776, 1789, 1812, 1865!” said Nancy relentlessly. The topic grew incredible.
Ron Padgett, “Nothing in That Drawer”
Ron Padgett: Poetic Beginnings
Ron Padgett intro – Paterson
Matt L. Rohrer: Can you talk a bit about your relationship to form?
Kevin Killian: In my lifetime I’ve witnessed the collapse of genre, so that one feels free to move back and forth between fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry, drama and image (at an informal talk I heard her give once, NY-based poet Eileen Myles startled me by arguing that all such categories were marketing devices invented by marketers of the 17th century, the third century BC, whenever). And yet, I sometimes feel, if genre has collapsed why does it still today seem to rule supreme? Anyone who has dipped even a tiny toe into the MFA system of creative writing knows what I’m talking about.
MLR: How do the ideas of New Narrative play out in your poetry?
KK: The ideas of New Narrative weren’t solely formal ones; as I understood what I was learning, we were trying to meld together a poetry ot witness with a poetics of excess, so people like John Wieners and, um, Pierre Guyotat and Jean Rhys and Samuel Delany were our heroes because they admitted so much—so much that ordinary narrative left out of what I hate to call “the conversation,” but there it is. I guess when you’re desperate to find ways to totally embarrass yourself in writing, you literally have no time to remember if you started your confession in prose or poetry—you must continue at all costs.
MLR: In your poem “Tightrope” you ask “In Japan or Israel are the poets into genre collapse, the way I keep my heart on the mattress like a tin can of nothing?” It’s almost like it pains you, this openendedness of form.
KK: It’s me complaining about the sameness of poetry—for the most part—the drive to make the line start at the left and head towards the right, then doubling back to the left to begin again, like an inchworm, depending on–what? The exigencies of the poem? The style of the couturier—the seamstress, snip, snip, slash? It’s not form’s openendedness that pains me, it’s what I consider its inevitabilities. It’s like complaining that one word follows another in a sentence. Straightforward, yes, tediously so, but what’s the alternative? Yet there must be one, perhaps in Hebrew or Japanese or languages that unroll in different directions than English, right?
MLR: That’s a great question… I grew up in a home without television. I lose always at Trivial Pursuit and am rarely able to remember the names of even the most famous actors. I read TWEAKY VILLAGE with the internet by my side, looking up many of the names you reference. I felt little spurts of pride and LOLed when I knew the characters without having to ask Jeeves: “(I) made a pass at David Johansen,– and Chris Johanson–and Hanson.” Yay! I know some things! Can you talk a bit about the function of naming, from pop superstars to more the obscure poetry personalities in your work?
KK: While writing his life of Frank O’Hara (City Poet, 1993), one of my favorite writers, Brad Gooch made a remarkable discovery, and was able to trace O’Hara’s predilection for naming his friends in his poems to a particular, and by 1993 long forgotten, essay by the novelist/poet/pedagogue Paul Goodman (1911-1972) in which he argued for the personal and domestic and the named as a way of pushing out of Cold War stodginess and grandiosity and the trap of the “universal,” and one way or another, I haven’t worked out how exactly, I came to believe that Spicer might have read the same essay, or at any rate heard Goodman and/or O’Hara argue the same points en passant—for he knew them both, a little.
MLR: I read an interview with you where you spoke about your photography of artists/poets/etc. as a response to the AIDS crisis. Do you feel like the act of naming is an attempt to preserve people you love?
KK: Did you ever, perhaps when you were a teenager, write down a list of girls with whom you’d made out or had sex with or whatever? I came across this notebook I had when I was in college and it went on and on with the names of guys (two girls, three hundred guys), like a poem, and even now years later some of them bounce back out of memory in response to reading their names. (And many nameless ones, Freckles, Combover, Army Underwear, Double-Jointed, etc.) Yes, naming preserves, at least it does for me. I’m uncomfortable with people unless I know their first and last names and how to spell them properly.
Kevin Killian Tony Greene Era
‘Tony Greene Era is a new collection of poems by artist, poet, and photographer Kevin Killian, a founding member of the New Narrative movement. Doomed and dizzied by memory of lovers, cities, troubles, stray phrases still audible over a radioed past, these new poems seeks a sandcastle San Francisco only to find it slowly dissolving into its past. “How’s that going for you,” Killian asks in this sharp new book, “racing your destiny, being alone?”’ — Wonder
hides not in the minute but rather glories in the hour,
in the space of reformation.
It takes its sweet time in this tumble dry bed, which thou shall work as
the water of the spheres,
Wet mattress, wild thyme, coriander, damp, mum.
Shakespeare said there are “sermons in stones, books in
the running brooks,” just get out more, he seemed to be urging us,
blow the stink off—
like JFK with his war for fitness, for youth.
A single look at the packed parking lot of the average high school will
tell us what has happened
to the traditional hike to school that helped to build young bodies …
The Soft American
His own back broken needed to have sex six times a day to relieve it.
It says here that suspended
animation’s come a long
way since bygone Lazarus/
Passover Plot times
It says Walt Disney never
really died he’s lying
on a bed of chilled cubes
somewhere in Anaheim
taking what his associates
laughingly call a
holiday on ice.
If I only had life to live
I would live it with a blond like you.
Frozen roses are frozen red,
frozen violets are frozen blue.
Poems 3: Kevin Killian
Kevin Killian reads The Chocolate War at City Lights
Kevin Killian « Literary Death Match
p.s. Hey. ** New Juche, Hi. I interviewed him for a magazine in the early 90s when he wasn’t a big star yet, and it was one of those rare things where we just hit it off and started hanging out and became good friends. That extra work does sound rough. Even on the lower level of Zac’s and my film, I couldn’t figure out why people would want — much less agree — to spend hours and hours lingering meaningfully in the background doing the exact same minor action over and over. They weren’t paid or anything. Curious. The new GIF work is just a short piece, more sort of a fun one than a serious one. Ha, thanks, yeah, Ed and I were unbelievably coked up in that photo, as anyone over the age of 2 or 3 could obviously surmise. Best, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Nice work, Ben. You’ve done it all. Yeah, I couldn’t quite understand how the galleries and museums and so on referenced in the post were okay with showing artworks involving actual cocaine. ** Kyler, Oh, cool, my pleasure, man. ** Steevee, Hi. Well, artists and others have been using cocaine for ages and ages. Bret’s depiction is just a blip. And cocaine is an attractive material to work with and has something of a shelf life as opposed to, say, mushrooms, which instantly decompose. I did quite a fair amount of cocaine at a certain point. I think if you’re an artist, any drug/thing that alters your thinking/perception, even on a minor level a la cocaine, can be instructive about thinking about art and art making. Cocaine is not a profound drug, but I enjoyed its effects and learned things as a writer from writing and thinking about writing while being on it. It’s really just about you use a drug and how you pay attention to what it’s doing to you while you’re on it, I guess. ** Brendan, Brendan old buddy! I did see the photos of your new works on FB, and I thought/think they look fantastic, and I’ve been thinking about you and wishing I could see the show and stuff. Photo documentation would be most welcome, thank you. I’m good, busy, but what else is new. Zac and I just finished shooting our new film, and we’re in a short break before we start editing it, which will occupy my entire summer. I had actually hoped to come to LA now during the break, but our producer didn’t give us enough of one. If I can get away from editing for a spate in the summer, I’ll come then, and otherwise as soon as we finish, probably in September. I’m not going to miss LA Halloween this year if nothing else, that’s for sure. I haven’t seen any baseball coverage yet. Sorry about the Giants. No surprise at all about the Dodgers. Great to see you, B! Take good care! ** David Ehrenstein, Ha! ‘Novel With Cocaine’ is an excellent novel. I remember when it was first published in English there were rumors that it was written by Nabokov under a pseudonym, but I think the rumors came to nothing. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Glad you liked it, pal. I haven’t yet given a definitive no to that devil, and I might even risk a total collapse of my resolve by going to FNAC today and window shopping the Switches. Great about the reading, and thank you a lot for the link to an excerpt from her work. I’ll hit that as soon as I vacate the p.s. The Golden Fur collaboration is still being figured out. It’s roughly based around the idea of hunting, and I think the instrumentation will party involve those ‘musical’ instruments hunters use that mimic the voices of the ducks and animals they’re hunting. I’ve written a text that will be spoken or something as part of it. And Zac is making video projections. It’s still a bit vague, but I think it will be very interesting. Happy (early?) birthday to your brother! What a cool, generous gift! And nice about the q&a with the journalist. Not a bad day you had there at all. My day … it was super nice outside so I walked a bunch. I was going to walk to the Palais de Tokyo because they opened a new bookstore that they claim is the best in Paris, but it was just a little too far, and I got tired of walking after a while. Zac is heading away to visit his dad in California on Saturday, coming back the day before we start editing, so we organized some editing-related stuff that we need to fix before we start. I worked on the GIF thing and other stuff. I bought tickets to a gig (Puce Mary + Keiji Haino/Merzbouw + Afrirampo) at the upcoming Villette Sonique Festival here. Not much else really. And your Thursday was … ? ** S., Long hair is God’s or Satan’s way of saying, ‘You’re special’. Oh, right, of course, it’s the fount of Death Metal royalty. In my experience, cocaine is good for the converser but not so much for the conversee. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. There are good reasons to hate cocaine. I don’t, but I’m a nice guy. Huh, I get why you saw Gisele in her, but, yeah, nah. Gisele never speaks as emphatically as that woman seems to be doing. ** Alistair, Hey, A! You’re in the post-proofs phase. Cool. That’s always a good time to start working on something new if you can so the publication experience has a nice, tinily comforting ‘old news’ feel. Thanks a lot about ‘Wrong’, buddy. Yes, yes, I will excitedly wait for July! Wow, I’m really, really looking forward to your book, man! I hope LA sparkles for you today! ** Chris dankland, Hi, Chris! I’m very happy that my thing turned you on to the Blanck Mass album. Yeah, excellent, right? I’ve never taken Adderall. I have friends who’ve sworn by it, although I think they’ve all ended up swearing at it at some point. I think you have to like how cocaine’s thing is a quickie and get into the constantly restarting thing. I remember liking that part, although I don’t know why. I’m well, and I super trust you are as well. Big up! ** Okay. Up there are four books I managed to not only find the time to read but love doing so during this very busy phase I’ve been in. I recommend them all to you. Please check them out and see what happens. See you tomorrow.