The blog of author Dennis Cooper

5 poetry books I read recently & loved: Joyelle McSweeney Toxicon and Arachne, Lonely Christopher In a January Would, Elaine Equi The Intangibles, Ted Rees Thanksgiving: A Poem, Laura Theobald KOKOMO


Every poet should want to be knocked off course by some incredible new-to-them poem, whether it’s contemporary, ancient, or from any of the several hundred misery-infused centuries humankind has inflicted on the earth. Nobody should need to know whether a poem is important or permanent before allowing him or herself to get renovated by it.

Yet panel after panel shows our poet-critics back at it, trying to prognosticate what-comes-next, which is really (paradoxically) a diagnostic tool for determining “what will be permanent.”

The Future of Poetry, it would seem, is an eternal question.

The Future of Poetry will be an eternal chain of panels discussing the Future of Poetry.

The Future of Poetry begins to look like the panelists. I’m talking to myself again.

The Future of Poetry will be a decision made by textbook editors and syllabus-designers and prize-hander-outers and best-of-list-makers (Will there be poetry textbooks in the Future of Poetry? Will there be anything else? Is the Future-of-Poetry anything but a pedagogic mode?).

But Poetry will keep on swarming incompatibly in the valley of its own making, a way of happening, a mouth. That valley is a cave, that cave is full of guinea pigs: here in the gorge, here in the stack, here in the heart of the guinea pig darkness.

It looks like Mommy is having another litter.

And Hell has many mouths. — Joyelle McSweeney


Joyelle McSweeney Site
‘Seeing Voices’, by Joyelle McSweeney
Acts I, II and IV from Pierrot le Feu an Epithalamium
Buy ‘Toxicon and Arachne’



Joyelle McSweeney Toxicon and Arachne
Nightboat Books

‘In Toxicon & Arachne, McSweeney allows the lyric to course through her like a toxin, producing a quiver of lyrics like poisoned arrows. Toxicon was written in anticipation of the birth of McSweeney’s daughter, Arachne. But when Arachne was born sick, lived briefly, and then died, McSweeney unexpectedly endured a second inundation of lyricism, which would become the poems in Arachne, this time spun with grief. Toxicon & Arachne is the culmination of eight years of engagement with lyric under a regime of global and personal catastrophes.’ — Nightboat Books

‘Grief and anger, too, spiral here, with snarl and venom that may stun none who know this searing, delirious, furious poet’s work. Yet, in the seething Toxicon & Arachne, McSweeney wields her wildest knife while making public her arcing, her aching cuts of deep and private mourning without blinking. It’s stupefying.’ — Douglas Kearney

‘Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon and Arachne is a very remarkable book. She deals with a vast array of the physical and spiritual, without ever succumbing to the tired cliches of our current stale poetry scene. The book beggars all description but its own incredible inventions, both lyric and tragic (and much else). All otherhow and otherwho…’ — Mac Wellman


from Toxic Sonnets: A Crown for John Keats

I read about the tubercle at night
and I went under. As a crime scene can excite
a drop of lumen to exude its hit of light, I shed wet
light. I wrap the motel room in light. I carry knives
bladed with sputum, and an instinct for spite
like a tree that reaches upward for the heat and wants to burn
or lay down in the slurry for the churn
to paper. Write me
down, chum me, make me into chyme,
spit me out to lay in sawdust like a germ
then burn me. I release a noxious smell.
Dose me with aminoglycocides
till I give in, then lay me in your litter.
I’m a threat to life.


I’m a threat to life, a violent butter.
I spread my toxic inklings like a cloud
-seeding-drone, & drop on crops my shake
of violet water. As the clotted vena cava
sucks dye for the camera, a violent thought
turns all my justs to anger. A fist of cloud
breaks the crowny crater, which vomits up
its own grand cru, palpates the sternum
of the sky for ulcerations. O fish in flume, resting
on your mutagenic breasts, who do you give
your milk to. O mouth that cannot close, oh planet cleft
what cache of weapons do you lean on as you dream
in your pleural cavity, desertified, depressed.
Bad host, you clutch your guest.


Bad host, you clutch your guest. Green seam
fluoresces in night vision, signature of
heat and flesh. Green ghost
lifts headline to the camera, proof of life
washed white by sudden flash. From satellite,
Earth turns on spit like a gut infloresced
with bad intentions. A god descends
with gifts of poetry and plague, he lights up
factory hens, a baffling intervention. They tote
their viral load on wheel, on wing, on breast,
transmigrate the globe and upload
souls to Heaven. O victor-bird, o vector,
I am like you, a non-state actor,
Death-fletched, alive, immune to all elixirs.


Death-fletched, alive, immune to all elixirs,
I sit like a drone pilot at a dock of screens.
My attention is a fang that sinks through plasma
like a toxic arrow or a tooth in Coke. I’m fine.
I’m sick. I grip a joy-stick. Outside, a pink
crust announces evening, buzzards ride
heat signatures at dusk. Inside, plasmodium
reshapes itself, now a slipper, now a gauntlet
tossed down in the gut, and now a Glock, a mouse,
a Mauser, the lucky cloud that mounts the hill
to breaks its blessing on the forehead of the bride
or the wedding guest who’s dead
yet cocks his eye
at any light now breaking in the sky



Poetry Lecture by Joyelle McSweeney, 11.13.15

Joyelle McSweeney—Dark Sonics




‘The queer poet Lonely Christopher, 33, came of age in the Great Recession, wherein the postwar promise of homeownership was gouged out by neoliberal austerity measures. A house in the suburbs could no longer justify capitalism, yet it appeared that capitalism needed no further justification — an entire generation could be displaced, saddled with debt, derided as lazy and entitled. For queers, the material deprivation was accompanied by the advent of marriage equality, wherein lobbyists and media pundits instrumentalized the promise of homeownership for political maneuvers. Audrey’s daydream of “a matchbox of our own / a fence of real chain link,” once an expression of genuine queer longing, now pointed to the daydream’s ultimate emptiness. “I had to build a wall / around the pain,” writes Christopher, “but walls don’t work / the very concept of a wall / is insane.”

‘Of course, walls work great for straight people. This might be why Christopher devotes much of his latest collection, In a January Would, to the act of demolition: “Gallons of two percent milk mixed with Ballantine Ale / the adamantine smell of calamitous blood / rushing skyward from the gutters through the floor / rats, millions of them, and forgiveness.” If an image is conjured, the reader can expect the poet to immediately deface it; a serene autumn visit to beautiful Fire Island features “a vial of poppers leaking / into the red wine stain / on the red carpeted floor” and “the strains of a boy’s cum floating in a champagne flute.”

‘Never does the vandalism register as gratuitous or geared for shock value, nor does it eschew affect or emotion altogether. Rather, In a January Would suggests that under capitalism, vandalism is inherent to the queer experience. It’s wicked and inscrutable, sure, but to ignore it is to reject a crucial aspect of identity. For Lonely Christopher, to leave our world intact is the true act of violence.’ — Quinn Roberts, LARB


Lonely Christopher Site
Walls Don’t Work: On Lonely Christopher’s In a January Would
Lonely Christopher on Kevin Killian
Five Poems by Lonely Christopher
Buy ‘In a January Would’



Lonely Christopher In a January Would
Roof Books

‘Lonely Christopher broke up with his boyfriend in Père Lachaise Cemetery on Christmas Day and subsequently produced this intense and trenchant verse series written from one January to the next, using poetry as durational art to track a heartbreak and the ensuing attempt at recovery over the course of a rough year, half of which spent homeless. Abandoned in an indolent postcollegiate haze, searching for meaning but more often finding trouble, Christopher explicates the perverse beauty of a brutal world—from the rooftops of Paris, to the gutters of Brooklyn, and even through the snowy Protestant woods of Connecticut, the poet navigates harsh social realities with style and rigor. The melodrama of time’s passage is on full display as Christopher parses themes of alienation, oppression, and cynicism in a journey through the four seasons. This is a unique break up book that uses the grief of lost love to develop complex and implicating emotional thematics in a refreshing rococo style.’ — Roof Books

‘The title In a January Would feels like a medieval or Swinburnian delicacy, but what follows is rather full of contemporary vigor. The poem titles read as songs on an endless album. A legacy of modernism—the rigorous and angular attention to language that is also a queer inheritance—or rather the reckoning with it, persists through the texts. Always thinking of Duncan and H.D. and Wieners, Rimbaud and his boyfriend. These obdurate and opulent poems are as indestructible as the carvings on a tomb yet as transient as cloud writing. Lonely, ‘you make me feel like a picked zit that just won the Nobel Prize’ and that’s a good thing. Thanks for being so brave for all of us who walk this funny path.’ — Ana Božičević



I pissed on a church the blameless ships and the bough

twisted aways; I kissed you in the narthex for sandy

seconds, cruised into the ocher culpability of summery

tributes there is a lingering government in this fade

out for pixels may sting they may wake you nightly

“trust” blisters, dematerializes, the magic of your brain

roasting under a long prospect of crystal stars, as if

a dawn was made for us or surrendering, fettered gulls

given into the sea, the sweat on a can of diet soda

that sort of thing, your coarse tongue enjoying the ridges

of the roof of my mouth and the hustle the ride to

the edge of the island in a stolen moving van, slaves

producers, poetasters, and the emergence of a new

vernacular, what the all-seeing eye cannot capture

and the fictional data crowding my view from this

time share pull the strings your sunglasses dip

down the bridge of your nose, sweat mixed with

sunscreen and dried come splashes into your eye

and from a nostalgic and forlorn vantage I watch

the endless slideshow, ersatz vacations, pictures of

you turning somersaults, turning gold in the comely

glow of another yet another fucking impossible beach

the fantasy of a finch with a potato chip in her mouth

the day that I know I need to meet you at the end of



Does a diamond desire itself?

The eagle we know is better than not

escaped in a frigate, preparing to live

vibrancy and rise, just to say and try it out.

While we might as well, might not

it does not seem that you learned from your own example

men and woman and a stroll through the morass

small counties, piteous churches, lurching

you’re not going to be able to stand up to this.

What is the thing that we need, what is it

is it what I take from you when I touch your cheek

or what disappears before me in the dank cave?

Put your hand inside me and become political

caress a hapless farmhand in the outhouse

at the edge of the formal property, attain

or arrive on the bus every day like the rest of them

we all come on the bus we all bow down to masters

of how we do, how we work it out, windows.

I don’t know about you but I was born

to burn the land up

chock full of sin and wonderment

and right now all I want to do is walk down the street

with you and cogitate my small rebellions

I was alone until I met this guy on the Down Low

asked his HIV status, he said, “I don’t know none of that shit.”

His grandma was in the living room, he cried

as he fucked me, I used it as cruel fuel, I dreamt

that my mother took me to the cinema to see Snow White

when I was a little child, buckled up in the back seat

bellowing for alternative monies and preparation

savage as it is, it is the stand, it is where it is going

desire, desire, desire, give me the Supreme Court

give my dad a simpler time when men were men

and a boy could fend off comestible hegemony

by one wave of his magic wand in the parking lot

the eagle opens and clutches, we make the relationship.

We go away, let a formidability pass and spread

put you on the floor girl you are good, you’re dead.

I will make a hundred mistakes and fuck grace

before it is gone away, before it is generated and mad.

We are your unqualified parents, motion for the speaker

on the previous question to table the appeal

on the outstanding parliamentary procedure

to foreclose the following vote for

the approaching amendment for procedure

forecloses and proceeds to the ground

and gets made to be a worse species of your unconscious love.


Lonely Christopher, “In a January Would”

Lonely Christopher, “Brooklyn”

Double Take 29: Lonely Christopher




How long did it take you to write The Intangibles?
Elaine Equi: It took about four years. It’s ninety-six pages long, so that comes to about two pages per month. I usually write more than that, but a lot gets thrown away.

What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
EE: About three-quarters of the way through the book, there was a fire in my apartment building. I was home at the time and one of the few things I grabbed before running out to the street was the manuscript. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it was incredibly disruptive. I had to put everything in storage and wasn’t able to return to my place for a whole year while repairs were being done. I finished the first draft of the book while sitting in a hotel lounge drinking iced tea. I was glad to have a project to focus on that made me feel more in control. I didn’t write about the fire directly, but the whole experience took me out of my comfort zone in what was ultimately a good way. Rather than knowing exactly how the book should unfold, organizing it became a way for me to respond creatively to the unexpected.

What is the biggest impediment to your writing life?
EE: My nerves. I’m a moody person and sometimes I just can’t access the clarity and objectivity—the equanimity—I need in order to write. I have a line in one piece that says: “My poem that still suffers in the twenty-first century from neurasthenia.” Life often moves too fast for me.


Elaine Equi @ Poetry Foundation
American, Me?
Bent Orbit
Elaine Equi @ Twitter
Buy ‘The Intangibles’



Elaine Equi The Intangibles
Coffee House Press

‘Always count on Elaine Equi’s nimble gymnastics to flip the ordinary around and create something rich and strange . . . These poems do not wear their brooding hearts on their sleeves but rather flirt and banter, drawing us close before revealing their ruminative complexities.’ — Albert Mobilio, Hyperallergic

‘Elaine Equi is curious about where we’re headed. What do we have in common after all—a brand, a mini-series? It’s the intangibles that fascinate, whether morphing through robotics, noticing the new ‘featurelessness of things’ with citizens staring into their palms, or finding ourselves stalked by a hologram. It’s the mystery of our ever-weirder world where the machines dream us. Amusement was the beneficent state Frank O’Hara recommended and in a post-post-reality it’s what Equi has in quantum leaps, in her Zen-ish DNA. This is a book for now and for the future, a panacea and antidote to the fear of the inane unknown. Equi’s elegant control of line, image, percolating observation is always a taut surprise. I feel better already. Inside these subtle poems, complete little universes, there’s never a dull moment.’ — Anne Waldman

‘Elaine Equi’s perfect pitch sends her wry voice in directions no other contemporary poet knows how to visit. She trims a narrative to its mad essence; she winnows lyric into a shape more giddy than aphorism, more delirious than koan. Reality, in Equi’s eyes, is pleasantly disrupted by words—her words, which are regular citizens of their sentences but also strangers to all normative modes of behavior. Read The Intangibles for the tangible joy these generous epistles give.’ — Wayne Koestenbaum


The Thing Is

What is the difference between objects and things?

Things, I think, have less personality.

These days, all objects are antiques—hearken back to an era of hands handling them.

Playing cards, wooden matches, buttons, plush stuffed bears—we recognize them from the still lifes where they once quivered.

They were—are—tools, curios, refugees from the modernist era.

Of course, we still have these things. But now they are like us, just things.

They no longer celebrate their secret identity—the inner life once bequeathed upon even objects.

They are a bit featureless. One thing not so different from another.


This Is Not a Poem

the poem exists
always and only
in the mind
of the reader

and these words
can never be more than
arrows, breadcrumbs

a map of abbreviations
however crude or elaborate

the poem comes into being
as the writer reads
and the reader anticipates

one can fill every inch
with writing and still
be no closer to the poem

as it lies there
a liar with a beautiful voice
that is often mistaken for silence



Like a window
open in winter

I look to the edge of
hair, teeth, nails

Too busy to be internal
libido calmly rushes

in one orchard
and out another

Its knotted weather
spreads brightly.

Its peach thread melody
is squandered away.


Earth, You Have Returned to Me by Elaine Equi

Readings in Contemporary Poetry – Elaine Equi and Jerome Sala

Poet Elaine Equi reads from Ripple Effect




The evening after they discovered the tumor growing inside of me, I found myself sitting in my small home office, completing the last bits of the semester’s grading. Seemingly out of the ether, the lyrics of a song came to me: And I know it, I can’t see it / But I know it enough to believe it. I put my pen down, rested my head against the window next to my desk, and closed my eyes. From where did Hole’s “Jennifer’s Body” arrive? Why this song, now? My thoughts were plangent, and as the melody and lyrics continued to run through me, I was transported to the smazy memory of my younger self staring out a car window at a yellowing beach town, mouthing the words, “Sleeping with my enemy myself.”

It was in the spring of 1995 that my mother was diagnosed with stage IV invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, and it was late in the summer of that year that I was taken on vacation by my friend D’s parents. I don’t remember much about the vacation itself—a snapshot of bodysurfing, a faint recollection of falling asleep at a late-night screening of Waterworld—but I do recall the car ride from Philadelphia, particularly the music piping through my cheap headphones: Hole’s Live Through This, Rancid’s Let’s Go!, a sample CD from the College Music Journal featuring songs by Teenage Fanclub and the Circle Jerks that fascinated me. The interstate became clogged and dusty, two-lane, and as I sat in my office, I could recall the intermittent view of a wave rolling toward shore interrupted by rows of stilted clapboard vacation homes, all while Courtney Love wailed, “Make me real, fuck you.”

It was a rasping demand that I appreciated back then. My mother spent most of her time in bed or on the couch, gray and vomiting and suddenly hyper-religious, while my father worked in the day and spent sleepless nights caring for her. His parents lived with us for a while. Besides games of Scrabble and gin rummy, we all found few ways to bridge the gaps between us. I had friends, of course, and their well-meaning parents who carted us around to various activities or allowed us free reign to run around, but none of it mattered to me. It all seemed like a prefab distraction to which I was supposed to resign myself. Because I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a well-meaning ruse, I also couldn’t slough the inkling that there was something deeply wrong with me, that I was an unreal target of an immense plot.

In my head, the vacation with D and his family remains at the center of this plot, of this whole time period, even though many specifics of the time near the seaside have slipped away. Other than the music that obsessed me, my sharpest memory of the trip is when, during the last slog in the family sedan, I proclaimed that Courtney Love was a genius. For a moment, C’s mom and dad looked at each other. Then one of them dismissed my enthusiasm by denigrating Love as “crazy” or something similarly pejorative.

The contemptuous tone of their reaction solidified what had already been congealing: that my dim view of my circumstances as a being in this world would never be recognized as legitimate, and that the conspiracy of distraction was not imagined. I was not presumed to feel anger, pain, or bitterness, and when the extraordinarily vivid reality of those emotions came to the fore, they could be discarded by others as easily as my expressions of joy and exuberance, of identification. I put my headphones back on: No one cares, my friends. — Ted Rees


Ted Rees Site
Ted Rees @ timelesslightinfinite
Podcast: Ted Rees with Ariel Resnikoff
Buy ‘Thanksgiving: A Poem’



Ted Rees Thanksgiving: A Poem
Golias Books

‘Named for a fast-food sandwich and written during rounds of chemo, Ted Rees’s second book is a poem comprising 498 linked haiku and sent coursing through the “cemetery / Of repressed anguish” that is America. The haiku form, which should dilate into bowers of momentous stillness, succumbs in Rees’s narrative extrusion to a torrential historicity: the poem moves at the relentless pace of a police scanner, dream-fed on Cinnabon and petroleum byproducts, a stream of consciousness that is at once revenue stream, live stream, blood stream, click stream, stream dammed to flood and tapped for bottled water. The old transparent eyeball and anaphoric “I” of the pioneer imaginary, profligate as Johnny Appleseed sowing virgin lands with exclamation points, are bounced as trappings of colonial venturing. Rees’s “wild mad” song counters the barbarism of the imperial yawp, burrowing underneath the remote-investment realtyscape of payday loan franchises, strip-mall churches, and detention centers doubling as urgent care clinics. If not precisely hopeful, the poem hints at the isolated prospect of relations running counter to accumulation, of affect eluding capture, of guarded solidarity among those sheltering in the crooks and crannies of blasted overburden: preteen pyros torching lilacs in the dooryard, dropouts lighting out for the backcountry, and militant recusants disappearing into abandoned office parks. THANKSGIVING is a queer and delirious poem of making do in the long tail of empire.’ — Golias Books


The proposal came:
noisome ideology
of cities plopped down

in cities. How cool,
let me lay here in the sun
until my dream’s done

feeling mellow and
the hills are on fire, focus
grouped epilation

crawling toddler-like
AC-chilled purgatory
a drive-thru order.

I listened to way
too much punk rock as a kid
and reside there still

in part, so easy
a tell: this poem’s rough attempt
at starting a pit,

a crazed whirl masking
highly ordered behaviors
of intimacy,

a critique of dominance
while sucking it off,

the far harbor of
tongue both an imposition
and imposed upon.

My Awesome Wishlist:
a color without a logo–
tattooed guillotine–

the dancing flambeaux–
naked pesto slip-n-slide–
these are normal things.

What’s abnormal is
the taste is gonna move you
whether you like it

or no. He slipped and
fell right down on his little
fat newsflash, stretching

the canvas to shreds.
They’re us, that’s all. Bugs in drag
and I run away

together, evening
turned rain. Never recover
from all of the lights–

that’s discomposure,
brassy triumphal tunage
a cavern of false.

I’m looking into
the moistest superlative
availed us today–

it needs be squishy
by def housed in conventions
and double yellows.

Yes, I like to dive
’round in it like a porpoise,
shining divider

collection. Focus:
a regional brewpub chain’s
dirty taps exposed,

Toyota outrage
on the new Bluetooth headsets,
blood on seat covers.

Toss the garbage, kid–
roll the window back up, this
is it boys, it’s war.

Where’d you grab your voice?
It’s as if a myth rang up.
The rich man sprang in

the dirt carriageway,
tipping the cart and killing
the hack ‘ere this morn.

The trouble with lauds:
our wounds are foul and fester.
There is no healing.

There’s no shortening
of the commute, peons to
forthright dream cloture

and broadened embeds
of a gouged mess of supposed
entry requirements.

We’re talking class, sure,
and we’re all trying to eat
and it’s difficult,

but pause the game, bro,
and kill your uncle, you know,
the one with HD

teevees on all walls–
a rust-covered disused grill–
a trip to Vegas

every quarter now,
silent cousins and your aunt’s
downcast eyes, he laughs

and slurps and sings songs
regarding a liberty
he can’t really want

since his breath remains.
The Rousseauian koan reeks
more each year in bloom.

My lenses altered.
I think of how hilarious
the temporal fold

we inhabit here:
I’m injected with poison
that murdered four friends

in this year’s vapor,
villain in this mass crisis,
and I moan awake

to what? More bad news.
Under the bridges shaking
north and east of then

someone you know coughs.
Hold a mirror to the nose.
Its sense is a rake

or nails on the skull:
ancient tobacco–
unwashed and warm ass–

leaf pulp usual–
butane leak and melty plastic–
I carved some names in

the fresh concrete slab,
lifting my shirt to my face
and repulsed, let go

an abstract throttle
toward an acid bath sunset–
years from now collapse.

I hope bog bodies
continue to fascinate
in that so far place

just to sit around
in the evening’s conjecture
and squelch, collected

and with sunglasses.
Everyone’s now on these drugs,
factor in wood grain

then it reads okay–
oh my god we created
an approximate

cut-out of raggy
yet slick shambolicism,
a desperate cheap glue

that manages, sure,
but its persistence burbles
mostly harrowed down

a development
with some good tree’s common name
then Euro suffix

of sorts, like villa.
I have a garage plain stacked
with unused hard drives,

bulged tubs of paper,
dry shrubs, scythes, alum shovels,
webs fibrous, gooey.

So do you feel that
or do you hear what I hear,
the beating of lambs?

Wrong poem or lyric.
It’s like medical strobing
or unnerving asks:

What if we’re pen names?
What is the space between horns?
Press hand to temple–

plug one ear canal–
repeat for the other side–
cry out with what’s stored

in the lifelong glimpse
into strange windows at dusk–
the unbecoming

variegated shades
of ill yellow, an orange
corporate in its gnaw–

kick the shit outta
me, a mistake, too many
syllables. Wrong poem

or way on one way–
it’s a car, it’s a mountain,
I’m spewing on both

and forgetting
my purpose here: to envy
these fabulous blinds.




Paul Semel: The poems in What My Hair Says About You are all free verse. What is it about free verse that you like so much?

Laura Theobald: It’s the best kind of verse. Fight me.

PS: What My Hair Says About You comes with the dedication “for women.” What do you hope that I, as a man, will get out of reading it?

LS: I don’t care.

PS: Okay then. Now, aside from What My Hair Says About You, you have another poetry collection coming soon called Kokomo. First, when will that be out?

LS: Next year some time. Whenever we can manage to finish putting it together — just some edits and a cover, I guess.

PS: When were the poems in Kokomo written in relation to those of What My Hair Says About You?

LS: What My Hair Says About You was written from like 2009 to 2016; Kokomowas written between 2016 and 2018.

PS: And is there a theme to Kokomo?

LS: I’d love someone else to answer this question for me because it’s hard for me to say much besides that they just feel different. They’re about two different relationships. Kokomo is also set in New Orleans, where I was living, and kind of obliquely references the Florida Keys, where I grew up.


Laura Theobald @ Twitter
Book: What My Hair Says About You


Laura Theobald KOKOMO
Disorder Press

‘Theobald’s poems unabashedly invite us to escape with her to the private island of her mind. On these invisible beaches, loneliness and desperation reign, and comfort is found in the companionship of a cat or in holding your favorite stuffed animal, in baking cakes and stuffing butterflies into jars. These poems don’t shy away from bodily functions or how difficult it is to be a poet if you don’t leave your house. This book is for anyone who has ever drowned in their own heartbreak and enjoyed it. This book is for anyone. This book is for no one. This book is for you.’ — Disorder Press


I love the word cunt

I said cunt at the bar

and my friend’s mom said

it was a fighting word where she was from

I said I love the word cunt

the mom looked pissed

I think she might have wanted to fight me

I said I call my friends cunts all the time

I didn’t mention

that my friends don’t actually like that

and that actually those friends don’t even talk to me anymore

miserable cunt

but I didn’t like this woman telling me what to do

I didn’t care if she was in remission

and down from Michigan for her daughter’s birthday

and that I was acting like a cunt

I said cunt is a beautiful word

cunt is a word for my pussy

and for when I’m acting like a cunt

she said that’s the worst thing you can say about a person

I said that is just your opinion

I could tell she thought I was trash

sometimes people will think you’re trash

when you’re trying to make a point

later she saw me playing pool and said

she wanted to get along

but that I shouldn’t say that word

I said I was sorry she didn’t like it but

I was going to keep saying it

she said I shouldn’t say it again

I said I would

she said she liked Blondie

I put a quarter in the jukebox and played Blondie

and she went away


for my first eight years

I didn’t know I was alive

then my grandma put some butterflies in a jar

and their wings stopped

and we placed their bodies behind glass

sometimes when I’m alive now

I can’t remember what I’ve said

but when I feel love

I feel like my heart could stop


maybe my Aunt will think

that poem is macabre

what I have to say about that word

is that it is true

I’m sorry Aunt Dolores

I’m not a Christian

I’m sorry all of my family

who fell out of love with me


why is my heart sad now

I got beamed into a sad book

for two days reading it

I had a terrible secret

and when I finished

no one could understand me

the world had changed


I dreamt about slapping your face again

when I woke up

you were rummaging through my purse for drugs

what are we gonna do about the cops

(let’s kill them)

there is nothing going on

on the internet

people feel the urge to say shitty things to me

and I supposedly love it

I saw you sitting

on the floor drunk

and I just thought

fight or fuck


VOLUME 2 P 172

What’s New in Poetry

The Best Thing Ever



p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Give Paris a few more days of this and I suspect I’ll start to get the panic thing first hand although, this being France, I think pissed off is more likely. Our tastes just can’t seem to coincide lately, ha ha. Everyone, Mr. E riffs on gaslighting over on his legendary FaBlog which is located here. ** Sypha, I was already too old for the Muppets or too ironic or something. Yes, I think you should prepare yourself for probable work stoppage of a most unpleasant variety. ** alex rose, Alex, maestro! So good to see you in my brightly lit, isolated cave here. You guys are lucky to have work to go back to that quickly. I don’t think there’ll be work, or at least non-art making work, to return to here for ages yet. I’m not in the bickering phase yet. Oh, wait, I did get a little bickery for a minute or two last night. Oh, shit. No, I’m just trying to construct a world that has my apartment as its control center like everybody else here, I guess. Please come back and keep me company at a hat’s drop. Big love from me. ** Armando, Hi. Oh, I’m fine, I suppose, given the vexing circumstances. This morning Zac and I have an online/virtual Skype-like meeting with a grant committee to plead our new film’s case that we are not looking forward to at all. And my new Switch is supposed to arrive. And I need to fill out a form and go to the supermarket. That’s my day. No, I haven’t finished reading your thing, but I’ll let you know when I have. Great about the review! The post about your book is getting very strong traffic, so people out there are interested and discovering it. Take care and later. ** Bill, Hi. Thanks! I did see the online evidence of her chapbook and was similarly drawn in. After I get through the virtual grant pleading deal this morning and its related planning and stressing, Henke talking to your class is priority #1. Thank you for the bandcamp tip and link!!! How did you get through your current batch of slightly less stringent lockdown? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. That ‘SS’ thing looks to have been interesting. Enjoy your luck that you can actually venture out without a prove-ably essential reason for doing so. Thank you for the mix link! ** schlix, Hey, Uli. I keep thinking every country will be as locked up like France and Italy and Spain soon, but that might be doomsaying. Enjoy the relative freedom. Amazing how much a quick, meaningless little stroll can mean when it’s off limits. Facebook is more hell on earth every second. Yeah, stay positive, man. This will end, but fuck, it’s scary how long that might take. Or not? Love, me. ** Jeff J, Hi. Thanks about the post. This site’s need to swallow visible evidence of comments alive is just the most irritating mystery. I’ve never actually seen that doc on Kathy. I forgot that I was in it. How is it? I should watch it, obviously. It must be out there somewhere. Got your email and your proposed time is good, and I’ll write you back to confirm officially today. ** Misanthrope, The inevitable has arrived. Meaning you working from home. Glad you’re enjoying it. Enjoy being able to go outside whenever you want, and don’t take it for granted, whatever that involves. People are still acting civilised here, but I can’t imagine they will for too much longer. Keep on, yes. That’s my (only) plan too. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Nice of everyone to be entertaining everybody for free right now, or attempting to a least. My blog was ahead of its time, ha ha. Sounds like a plan and good way to kill home time: revising your earlier script/work. I’m basically uninterested in Beyonce in general, so there’s not really a reason to watch that thing of hers, I suspect. Well, I spend a lot of time at home in the best of circumstances working, so the adjustment is not as hard for me as it is for more extroverted types. But I’m working. Gisele has a project for me to start on. Will start playing games on my Switch today. I think I’ll stay sane enough, although I do think I’m going to start sneakily breaking the rules and seeing friends somehow pretty quickly because that’s the hardest part. ** Thomas Moore, Hi, T! Thanks a lot, pal, and I agree. I think I had Steven Shearer in another related thematic post past or forthcoming, which is why I skipped him this time out. Can’t wait for your book. That Philip Best is such a fucking hero, no? What a great guy. ** Barkley, Hey there, Barkley! Very nice to see you! The first game that I’m starting with on my new Switch is ‘Luigi’s Mansion 3’. I thought that might be a good one to use to learn the new controller as I’ve never played on a Switch before. Then there’s catching up to do, like the last ‘Zelda’, etc. There’s this weird game where you play as a goose that looks kind of nuts, and I might score that? Recommendations? I could definitely use them? You doing good, I hope, I hope? ** Okay. Today I give you five poetry books that come with my strong recommendation. That’s the story. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    The Watchword for everyone, be you in Paris or anywhere else is Don’t Panic. Fear is exhausting counterproductive. I’d advise n staying way from “The News” as much as possible as it’s a machine designed to produce fear and panic in order to sell product.

    Meanwhile <A HREF=""today reminds me of how much I miss Frank O'Hara

  2. Tosh Berman

    I love the recommendations above. Thanks. In a funny manner, I really feel part of the world. I feel totally the opposite of being isolated. I even lost my part-part-time job, and I know there must be more people on my block that has a similar situation. People are cranky, but I’m going to go in the opposite direction. I’m going to be cheerful, and even shave every day. I’m not going to hoard on food, paper goods, and so forth. I’m going to read poetry!

  3. Bill

    Funny, a few days ago I was just wondering what happened to Ted Rees. Sounds like he was dealing with some major health issues, wow. Will check out the new book.

    Schlix and Alex Rose, good to see you guys!

    I’m doing ok with the soft lockdown. The governor has imposed it on the whole state; at least we won’t be envious that people in LA can still wander around freely, haha. Usually I make several short shopping trips, take a longer walk in the afternoon, check in on friends via email and video. Too much time online though! I’m not on Facebook, my main social media are goodreads and letterboxd. I think the focus on books and movies is very helpful to avoid the madness.

    I picked up a couple DVDs of early Tsai Ming-liang films in Taipei back in January. (Funny, I tried to find his DVDs in Taipei almost 20 years ago, before he was an international art star, and there was absolutely nothing. Now you can pick them up at Taipei’s arthouse theater shop.) Revisited Vive l’Amour, then The River, two of my favorites. I think I promised you a Tsai post years ago, but never delivered. Maybe I should work on that soon? After all, I’m having trouble getting started on a big project here! (Ok, I bought some card stock to make postcards, but that doesn’t count… yet.)

    Hope the online call with the grant committee went well…


  4. Quinn R

    Dennis! What a lovely surprise. I’m so excited to see my work quoted on your blog; it’s an honor truly. And I’m so happy to hear you loved Lonely’s collection. Wasn’t it excellent? I feel bad for him that his book promotion has been compromised by the pandemic, but alas…
    How are you doing? Earlier today I spoke with my German friend Leonie who is studying in Paris atm; she is already going a little crazy with the hyper surveillance and everything. My ex who works for France Culture has been going on a bunch of TV shows & discussing things. I suppose we’re living in a Don Delillo novel or something. It makes me want to write a postmodernist novel of my own. Anyway, hope you are healthy and safe. Has the pandemic put a wrench in your film plans? Are you keeping your head above water?
    Somehow I’ve managed to stay in control despite the panic everywhere. I thought Slavoj Zizek’s recent piece about the pandemic was sort of tone deaf, but Anne Boyer had a really nice response online. I’m hoping there will be more compassion and solidarity as opposed to grandstanding.
    I’ve got a new piece coming out in LARB soon, about Madonna. Edmund White was really enthusiastic about, for which I’m grateful. He says hello as he always does. Next I’m hoping to get more work done on my fiction. I got a job offer in Manhattan to work at a law office, which is nice, but it’s putting my May trip to Europe in jeopardy. I’ll keep you updated on that of course, I hope it happens…
    Warm regards from the states!

  5. Corey Heiferman

    Great timing as I’ve been focusing on poetry lately. Mostly contemporary Hebrew poetry, reading it and writing it. Now English poetry sounds English-y to me, weird. So many sounds, especially vowel sounds. Lots of time and energy freed up by quitting film school and, you know, being under house arrest. At least I don’t yet have to fill out forms to justify my presence outdoors. Not very comforting , however, since Netanyahu is a dictator at this point. There’s no other word for it.

    My parents just told me and my sister that my dad was in the hospital with kidney issues. Still no official diagnosis but cancer looks likely. He’s home now and seems like himself, at least as far as could be told via video chat. I was already quite worried about him and my mom. It’s not even a viable option for me to visit them in Western Massachusetts. Just to add insult to injury he’s due to retire in two weeks and this mess is what greets him after a long diligent career.

    Meanwhile, my sister and her boyfriend just moved in together in Chicago and are both having corona scares. He had a fever last week, still has a cough, and it’s up in the air whether he’ll get tested. She just returned from a wedding where the groom tested positive.

    Staying up super late tonight to join a virtual party my friend in Austin is throwing. Should lift my spirits.

    How did your meeting go? It makes me glad to hear that the art funding process hasn’t come to a total standstill. I’m not a gamer but I’m all for geese. On the last day I was allowed in the park I saw a young family of Egyptian geese. Might be the happiest thing I see for a long time.

  6. alex rose


    keep sane, stay spaced

    i read 2 of these poems and i liked them

    oooh denis have you seen this ?

    im utterly in love with him

    my pig skin beater

    love you, alex,x

  7. Misanthrope

    Dennis, This is top of the line stuff here. I’m not blowing smoke. Really, really great selection today. Kudos to the poets and to you for selecting them. Really exciting.

    Totally agree with DavidE re: watching the news, any news, and the fear factor. It’s like a whole different world.

    Example: We’ve been told for a while that once testing starts becoming more widespread here, expect the numbers of infected people to go up. Well, it’s starting to become more widespread and the numbers are going up, and now there are suddenly headlines like OMG! THE NUMBERS ARE GOING UP! WHAT THE HELL? APOCALYPSE! (I’m interpreting, but you know what I mean.)

    Yes, like I said, I hope this teleworking -the official term, don’t cha know- translates into our getting to do it regularly once we get normal again. However, I doubt it. Probably be like, “Hey, that’s why you were made telework-ready, for times like that. Now back to your cube, fucker!” But we’ll see. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, as well as the kind of guy who doesn’t fret over what I can’t control.

    Keeping on indeed. We got this, Big D!

    LPS is taking advantage of going outside. He and his friends have been hitting local parks every day to get out and get some air.

    Grocery store tomorrow. I hope it’s not still Armageddon in there.

    Otherwise, back to the novel. Yikes. Eep. 😀

  8. Jeff J

    Hey Dennis,
    All these collections looks fantastic. Particularly excited about Joyelle’s book which I didn’t realize was already out. Lonely Christopher and Elaine Equi, too. Damn.

    Have you read Johannes Goransson’s new book ‘Poetry Against All’? Suspect you’d like it.

    Haven’t finished the Acker doc yet — it’s on Kanopy if you can access that? Halfway through and it’s very eccentric, mixed bag of random students reacting to her work alongside insightful folks like you, Avital Ronnell, Gary Indiana, Ira Silverberg. Oddly prim animations that dramatize scenes from her novels, then explicit clips of her performing various sex acts from the video(s) she made in the 70s. Unclear who is the intended audience. Will see if I can finish it before we talk tomorrow.

  9. Steve Erickson

    I’ve had a fever and slight cough all day. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think I’ve caught COVID. I am waiting to hear back from my doctor, whose office I called more than 2 hours ago, but from what I’ve read, I should just try to isolate myself, rest and get fluids and hope it gets no worse than the flu (which is what it feels like now.) But my dr.’s receptionist said that he had been getting a lot of calls with these same symptoms. Writing a new script is now the last thing on my mind.

  10. Barkley

    Some great authors today! I really enjoyed Laura Theobald’s KOKOMO. Luigi’s Mansion sounds like it would be the perfect starting point! Untitled Goose Game is surprisingly chaotic and creative, I would totally recommend that. My personal favorite by far is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you’re a fan of Mario games, Super Mario Odyssey reminded me a bit of older RARE games such as Banjo Kazooie and was pretty fun as well. And I’m currently waiting for my copy of the newest Animal Crossing game to arrive, haha. I’m doing well, thank you. Like everyone else here in America and elsewhere I’ve been staying cooped up. I’m currently reading Bresson on Bresson, which collects interviews with him from 1943 to 1983 and covers all his films. I know you’re a fan of his work, have you read it? It’s been such an enthralling read. Hope things are alright on your end as well.

  11. Armando


    I wish you the very best of luck with the Film thing. Fingers crossed, my dear friend.

    What’s a Switch?

    Thank you very much for the post. ‘In A January Would’ looks mighty interesting and good.

    What metrics or whatever you use when writing poetry?

    “Great about the review!

    ^ Thank You So Much.

    “The post about your book is getting very strong traffic, so people out there are interested and discovering it.”

    ^ Really???!!! WHOA… I do hope they do buy it… Lol… Uh…

    Take care good care, please,

    Good day, good luck,

    Your friend,


  12. Armando

    Poem I just wrote:


    Written on the forehead of all
    I lay waiting for the fall.

    I search for you,
    I summon thee too.

    I call for you.
    I call for you.

    Have thee forsaken me?
    Know I will never forsake thee.

    I call out for you.
    I call out for you.

    O Death.

  13. Armando

    Revisited version:


    Written on the forehead of all
    I lay waiting for the fall.

    I search for you.
    I summon thee too.

    I call for you.
    I call for you.

    Have thee forsaken me?
    I will never forsake thee.

    I call out for you.
    I call out for you.

    O Death.

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