Thursday, August 24, 2006


August 24, 2006

[N.B. You can scroll down for all articles or click on highlighted names or titles to go directly to referenced article. Since this is a large issue, if it takes too long to upload the entire issue, you also can click on the individual links below to more quickly get to a review that interests you.]



From Eileen Tabios

David Goldstein reviews SYMBIOSIS by Barbara Guest and Laurie Reid


Crag Hill reviews EYE AGAINST EYE by Forrest Gander

Abigail Licad reviews HERE, BULLET by Brian Turner

David Baptiste-Chirot reviews LYRIC POETRY AFTER AUSCHWITZ by Kent Johnson

Anna Eyre reviews CORNSTARCH FIGURINE by Elizabeth Treadwell

Eileen Tabios reviews INSECT COUNTRY (A) by Sawako Nakayasu

Allen Bramhall reviews BOXD TRANSISTOR by Jon Leon

Allen Bramhall reviews NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego

Craig Perez reviews PACIFIC POSTMODERN by Rob Wilson

Mary Jo Malo reviews SING ME ONE SONG OF EVOLUTION by Vernon Frazer

Phil Primeau reviews PIECES OF THE SKY by Greg Fuchs

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews EROSION'S PULL by Maureen Owen

J. Csida reviews EROSION'S PULL by Maureen Owen

Andrew McCarron reviews WHERE X MARKS THE SPOT by Bill Zavatsky

Eileen Tabios reviews SLIP by Chris Stackhouse

Ivy Alvarez reviews chaps: LEARNING THE LANGUAGE by Kate Greenstreet; GROUNDED by George Held; AMERICAN MASTER by Raymond L. Bianchi; SCENES FROM THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT by Micah Ballard; 9th & OCEAN by Kevin Opsteda; and LAST WE SPOKE by Sunnlyn Thibodeaux

Susana Gardner reviews 20/20 YIELDING by Sunnlyn Thibodeaux

Allen Bramhall reviews OPENING AND CLOSING NUMBERS by Anny Ballardini

Carlos Hiraldo reviews WATERMARK by Jacquelyn Pope

Janet Hamill reviews FEMME DU MONDE by Patricia Spears Jones

Ernesto Priego reviews THE ACHING VICINITIES by Jean Vengua

Allen Bramhall reviews FILM POEMS by Mark Lamoreaux

Ann E. Michaels reviews TEN DEGREES ABOVE ZERO by Elizabeth Raby and MORNING ON CANAL STREET by Paul Martin

Craig Perez reviews UNRAVELLING WORDS & THE WEAVING OF WATER by Cecilia Vicuna, Trans. by Eliot Winberger and Suzanne Jill Levine

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright reviews ING GRISH by John Yau and Thomas Nozkowski

Eileen Tabios reviews IN THE WEAVER’S VALLEY by William Allegrezza

Melissa Weinstein reviews AFTER THE SINEWS by Patrick Dunagan

Fionna Doney Simmonds reviews THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA (A BIOGRAPHY OF JUAN FRANCISCO MANZANO) by Margarita Engle

Julie R. Enszer reviews THE COUNTESS OF FLATBROKE by Mary Meriam

Jon Leon reviews chaps: GUITAR SMASH by Brian Howe; LYRIC POETRY AFTER AUSCHWITZ by Kent Johnson; and THRENODY by Tom Clark

Julie R. Enszer reviews BEGGARS AT THE WALL by Rochelle Ratner

Cynthia Arrieu-King reviews SECRET ASIAN MAN by Nick Carbo

Thomas Fink reviews I LOVE ARTISTS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Reme Grefalda reviews PUTI/WHITE by Patria Rivera

Fionna Doney Simmonds reviews RUMMY PARK by Rebecca Lu Kiernan

Allen Bramhall reviews A NATURAL HISTORY OF SUCHNESS by Stephen Ellis

Laurel Johnson reviews OFFICIAL VERSIONS by Mark Pawlak

William Allegrezza reviews KLANG by Andrew Lundwall

Laura Stamps reviews ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME by Lyn Lifshin

Corinne Robins reviews A PANIC THAT CAN STILL COME UPON ME by Peter Gizzi

Eileen Tabios presents David Baptiste-Chirot

Sandy McIntosh offers a memoir with reviews of LIVING IS WHAT I WANTED by David Ignatow as well as SELECTED SHORTER POEMS and THE TABLETS, both by Armand Schwerner

Mark Lamoreaux reviews STEAM by Sandra Simonds

Allen Gaborro reviews NOLI ME TANGERE by Jose Rizal

Timothy Yu reviews ANTHROPY by Ray Hsu

Dana Teen Lomax reviews A READING SPICER AND 18 SONNET by Beverly Dahlen

Steve Potter reviews OXBOW KAZOO by John Olson

Allen Gaborro reviews the 8TH WONDER poetry performance troupe

Sandy McIntosh "reviews" OTIOSE WARTS by Argol Karvarkian

An example of the Underlying Sensibility to Galatea Resurrects



A reviewer had to bail at the last minute on sending over a couple of reviews. Why? Because, he said, in looking over the review copies I'd sent him, he ended up questioning much of his assumptions about poetry, and had to deal with such first. I'll belabor the obvious: such a result is as significant as writing a review -- I was happy to hear how reading poems so affected him. Poetry should (if it must do anything) affect...

Looking over this issue's Table of Contents makes me wanna croon some statistics atcha! This is the third issue of Galatea Resurrects and here are numbers (on top of other features and e-reprints):

Issue 1: new reviews of 27 publications & other poetry projects

Issue 2: new reviews of 38 publications & other poetry projects (one of which was reviewed twice by different reviewers)

Issue 3: new reviews of 48 publications & other poetry projects (of which two are reviewed more than once by different reviewers)

As someone who had launched this project with prayers to get a minimum of five reviews an issue, I'm amazed. But, of course, pleased. Thanks to ye volunteer-writers for spreading the word about the Word to the world.

The deadline for sending reviews for the fourth issue will be November 5, 2006. Review information, including available review copies, are here. Note that the list of available review copies can change daily, depending on what the mail brings.

Here are more stats: Of new reviews, this number of reviewed publications were derived from review copies sent to Galatea Resurrects:

Issue 1: 9 out of 27 new reviewees
Issue 2: 25 out of 38 new reviewees
Issue 3: 27 out of 48 new reviewees

Obviously, people are checking Galatea Resurrects' review copy list. Authors and publishers should note those stats. And in response to some expressed concerns out there that review copies just arrive here to form unread stacks, please note that every review copy you send will be read by me (not to say it will be reviewed by me, but your lovely poetry publication won't just arrive at Galatea's mountain to be eaten by its little insect critters as it lies ignored in some corner).

I am pleased to present multiple (re)views of the same project--as is the case, this issue, for two publications--if that project affects more than one writer who feels compelled to write about it. Note that most of the books reviewed are chosen by the reviewers themselves--not proscribed by me.

A housekeeping detail: this being a blog, posts can be edited for errors so please feel free to let me know. Feel free to use the Comments sections to add ordering or other relevant information, too. This being a one-person operation, I might get sketchy on some details.

Another housekeeping detail -- I would have thought this point obvious but based on something that occurred behind-the-scenes regarding one of the reviews in Issue 2 (and perhaps as something that may be relevant for this and future issues, too), I hereby note: ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN ARE THEIR AUTHOR'S, NOT NECESSARILY THE EDITOR'S. I may agree or disagree with various assessments but please don't assume that my publishing of a review means I agree with the opinions therein. This project, after all, ain't just about my opinions -- I just want to do my bit in encouraging engagements with poetry, such as through this forum.

(Hmmm. That second "housekeeping detail" (I am a lousy housekeeper and so it's fitting Moi digresses) reminds me of a criticism lobbed at this project when Issue 1 came out -- that I, as editor, apparently don't have some editorial standard because I don't seem to discriminate among poetic styles. (Style? Yawn...) Anyway, ye critic, ye presume too much. Maybe I don't want to keep preaching to the that, maybe, I find it advantageous to present a forum where, say, the reader of Brian Turner might discover the poems of, say, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge AND vice versa. Consider the implications of that possibility, why dontcha? Anyway, end of boring digression. Moving on...)

Last but not least, this issue was put together during the Dog Days of Summer here in St. Helena. Yes, that is a gratuitous note to post this photo of my babies: Achilles (left) and Gabriela (right):

With much love, fur and poetry,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
August 24, 2006



(Dusi/e chap, 2006; Available gratis at

Prose Poetry is suffering a bit these days. Is it the perceived ease of its composition? The formal latitude that it allows its practitioners is notoriously intoxicating. And not merely by its spacial availabilities, or the multitude of ways that incongruent participles and fragmentary structures can be stitched together into that almost preverbal construct--the prose block--to create "new" meanings, "transgressive" narrative structures, or "post gender" arcs of telling...

And I too, am one of them. I was seduced by prose poems, back in the day. It hurts so bad to say it. But writing prose poetry set off all these thunderstorms of insight. I could collapse narrative space! I could wreak havoc as dialogue and idea and process and story structure all fought it out on the same flat, muddy field. No more grammatical heirarchy! It pissed of my MFA workshop teachers alot, and made the pantoumists fume.

But it really just seems too easy sometimes, this prose poetry, doesn't it? These shifts of tone, the start-stop rhythm of sight and summary, the harrowing-ness of it all. Prose poetry often suffers because it is perceived as 'undeserved'. Many poets I know don't like reading it, either. It can be a physically constricting form: the smoothing-over qualities that prose forms produce don't always sit well with us. We want our full-stops and deep breaths to be earned, to be intrinsically within the lines, and not dictated to us by those fools from the University of Chicago.

Sometimes, flipping through the journals--and their frequently copious helpings of 'paragraphic' work--I get a sick and smarmy thought running through me. That most, if not all, the prose poetry that I read is not written, but generated. That an engine exists, downloadable perhaps, that can take a few pertinent details--dramatic weather, inner turmoil, shock dialogue, some operatic ellipses--and, with a smear of personality, any personality, can spit out 60 lines in the manner of William S. Burroughs' "The Western Lands", fragmentary, radical, full of mock gravity, and eerily punctuated.

Well, I'm late to the party obviously, because the form is changing. Prose forms, and I was kidding when I slammed them a minute ago, remain ripe for foraging, pillaging, and all spectra of experimentation. New book artists are ripping apart old standards of printing, presentation, and assumption; traditional letter-systems lie lifelessly along the map of a new, graphic poetics. And even 'traditional' prose poetry has been the beneficiary of some recent experimental examples, which, for my taste, are almost more remarkable when they fail (if only because the template for a 'successful' prose poetry remains so easily within the grasp).

One of these strong failures that has recently come to my attention is the (pseudonymous) Boyd Spahr's recent Dusie chapbook, CAN ARBOREAL KNOTWORK HELP BLACKBURN OUT OF FREGE'S ABYSS? Don't even ask me about that title, by the way–but I think that this is a direction in prose poetry that I can truly handle. The Spahr persona (full disclosure: I am not Boyd Spahr) has previously been involved more as impresario than author (he/she produced the politically flavored ORDER & DECORUM site that so willfully impaled the US House of Representatives with verse commissions last year) but, it seems, has all along been formulating some ideas about how all this is supposed to come together:

A combination backbone, crew soul, all waterlogged,
and it screws up your view, reason you put your foot down;
play ball or play whatever, and she was sort of into
about his being my place in heaven for systems.
They had clean thoughts, as a serpent and as harm,
enough to fondle changes, a car was running away,
and all kinds of aspirin. Make a great many cute offers.

Okay, so it carries many prose poetry tics: voice shifts, pronoun shifts, gratuitous cut-ups. But the poem's images are clipped before they can be fully struck, or are so stranded from their linking participles as to be floating. Yet much of the sentence structure's still pretty compelling, especially at the heart of the piece ("and she was sort of into about his being my place for systems"). And, far from using the dislocation of shifting pronouns to make me plainly not care, the 'she to me to his to they' seems more calculated here, more scientific, more of a digested tree of relationships. Symmetrically fractal? Oh, perhaps. The unbalance seems positive, though, and while some of the volition can seem pat ("They had clean thoughts, as a serpent and as harm") and the struggles for voice are overdetermined at times (why 'all kinds' of aspirin?) the tone- and tense-shifts act to expand, rather than dull, the forward movement.

Here's another one:

Hypnotizing Buck to take out of bankruptcy. And the
carrying a torch, and yo! we hauled down rugs and
sported with delight. And he takes the lid off the
capability in those days, to that sick white man,
gimmick on a camera or a treatment to such and such.

Now, the soft-focus failings of its last line notwithstanding, this is a work with some velocity, and a narrative foreground that leans more towards tantalizing and away from obfuscating. And while a little less all-over-ness might benefit the poetry here, I think it could also be detrimental to its science. And I think it might be the science of this work that attracts me to it:

Their children being you, Sparks. But too man
fuck this jealousy. She was to him? Or how can he be
anybody if he were so? I figure out some way to
have the crew take him about what he's done.
And they made a Siberian know in Arabic, they call it
it was different, APPLE to move out of the hotel.
Most of it was inspirin' Jew. Right away she, she––
that is no very astute about that. No drugs, nothin'.
And didn't have any prob. But almost every device
and did have, and having go all efficient stenograph.

This gets me curious about the compositional methods, while reinforcing this concept of a 'scientific' approach. Yes, with the thicker occurrences of dialogism, this work also has an 'antenna' modality--akin to faulty transcriptions of taped/received conversations--that reminds me of previous attempts at prose poetry as transmission, one successful model being Noah Eli Gordon's THE FREQUENCIES. But I think this work also succeeds because it may be less molded than it seems (the first poem in this collection ends with " the sun make acres of me which is studded with antenna elements"). Musicians, and I'm a terrible one, often talk about the relevance of shifting 'time signatures' within modes as diverse as bebop and ambient post-rock: CAN ARBOREAL KNOTWORK HELP BLACKBURN OUT OF FREGE'S ABYSS? feels, in the character of its 'time signatures', like a succesful EP of "math rock", a style whose radical shifts in tempo and pitch are less motivated by theme/harmony/volume than by a more arbitrary notion of 'switching it up before it gets good'. As poetry, it can be frustratingly, thrillingly atonal.

This atonality often appears in these poems like too many tiny bones in a tasty fish, and, as a whole, I did not, and you probably will not, leave off your reading of this work a changed person. But the charged spaces hit within feel frequently new. There is more of an urge toward spoken dialogue in its full theatricality, but divorced from setting; an earnest 'fuck it' air to the experimental combinations ("...only partially through the Mormon webs / and the theory of its Kelly style", "a respect sociologist", "he for the alkaline batter", "Juan sees apples and golden horses", "& man can he laugh cute, / infrared man". &etc.) and reverence for the the disarray of results. Let's just say that I like the fuck-ups, too.

I'm becoming re-convinced, in short, that the prose poem--that tiresome and unwieldy, dang thing--is on its way forward again. While these poems haven't reached the destination yet--alot of the themes wielded, names dropped, hesitancies noted, and actions undergone will need to circle back and be incorporated into each other with much greater weapons before a real SYSTEM can be attained--I think, written pseudonymously, and available as a free download no less, that these works might be part of what's pointing the way out of the mud.


Brandon Downing is a filmmaker, visual artist, and writer, originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2000, he has lived in New York City. His books of poetry include LAZIO (Blue Books, 2000), THE SHIRT WEAPON (Germ, 2002), and DARK BRANDON (Faux, 2005). Some of his photographic work can be seen at A new DVD Collection, DARK BRANDON // THE FILMI, is forthcoming in late 2006. He is currently finishing a monograph of his literary collages under the title LAKE ANTIQUITY.



Symbiosis by Barbara Guest (poet) and Laurie Reid (artist)
(Kelsey St Press, Berkeley, 2000)

In her essay “The Shadow of Surrealism,” Barbara Guest writes:

I confess that often when looking at art I do not ask what it means, or how was the paint applied, the color chosen, but what has led the artist into this particular situation, what permits this particular piece of work, and how it is solved. (Forces of Imagination, Kelsey St, 2003, p. 53)

I love many things about this passage and will work my way into a few of them, starting with the disappearance of the word “problem” from the construction “how it is solved.” For Guest, at issue in writing is not the solving of problems but the solving of situations and permissions. The writer locates herself somewhere out in the open, perhaps frighteningly so, and then begins to solve that openness. Robert Duncan also speaks of this vulnerability when he calls the point of poetic origin “the place of first permission.”

Guest’s genius as a poet is her ability to solve openness without resorting to closure. Both on the page and in the mind, her poems remain airy, stretched, full of spaces, while still offering the reader densely layered structures. It is like observing the movements of a spider suspended on her barely visible web or watching a snake in the grass: what appears as emptiness or wandering reveals itself to be focused, crucial. Like snakes, Guest’s poems move in order to stay alive.

The particular permission of Symbiosis is collaboration: between poet and artist, word and image, language and print, imagination and stillness. The book opens with an italicized fragment, as if a dedication: “A writer and an artist working together establish a Symbiosis, as in Nature, where dissimilar organisms productively live together.” Productivity in dissimilarity is the hallmark of this collaborative venture. Guest, who as a young poet was heavily influenced by abstract painting, has always asked what art can teach her about poetry. Here she learns from Laurie Reid, an accomplished artist whose work shares the spidery-snaky quality of Guest’s prose (Reid’s work also appears in Guest’s book of essays, Forces of Imagination). Reid’s activity in the book consists of long, draped lines that look like washed-out watercolor or Chinese calligraphic ink, an ambiguity that becomes one incarnation of the border between painting and writing. The lines divide the page into ghostlier demarcations, keener spaces. Guest’s text perches delicately upon Reid’s weaving shapes, noticing and conversing with them. The text is exquisitely letterpressed in soil-brown ink (the book’s other essential collaborators are the printer, Peter Koch Printers, and the designer, Robert Rosenwasser), giving the book an auratic, artifactual quality that belies its price.

To discuss the book as the sum only of its words, rather than as the interaction of figures in a space, would do the book a disservice. On every page, the words and images act in concert, changing our understanding of each. (In the passage quoted above, for example, an ink splotch occurs over the phrase “as in Nature,” preparing the reader for the book’s interest in organic shapes and colors, elemental structures). The book unfolds in beautiful difficulty, with Guest’s lines darting and pulling against themselves while Reid’s lines weave a layered understory. Here’s a scan of the first page of the poem:

The poem tosses questions at us. What is this “wool fable”? Is “hiss” an admonition to the reader? If so, why should we hiss? How does wool turn? What are we to do with the sudden tense and voice shift from the imperative to the active past of “envied”? Working what in layers? Meanwhile the art both explicates and directs us toward the negative space of experiencing without interpreting. “Wool” connects with Reid’s lines both in color and shape (in the sense that these lines weave the page); Reid’s lines too “work in layers,” envying the circle by gesturing toward circles but never completing them; her lines both hold volume and negate it, fading away on the lower left while thickening on the top and lower right. The ink splotch on “fable” emphasizes the space between Guest’s lines, which become both “close and away” by virtue of our newfound attention to the space that separates them.

As the work unfolds, a meditation emerges regarding the nature of collaboration or symbiosis. Like most of Guest’s work, the book enacts its own subject matter: it “is” what it is “about.” Using the unit of the incomplete arc—phrases, questions, quotations, lines that extend past the page—the poet and artist feel their way into a grammar of collaboration. “Is symbiosis aflame”? “Will it belong”? There is fear in these questions, yet the book finds its steady assertions too: “each day autumn. Day wakens, no break in the/ thread.” On a page marked by two painted asymptotes that almost but do not quite touch, Guest writes, “This is the point where the strophes meet,// one line interweaves with another,” although precisely the opposite is happening on the page. Her assertions offer themselves to us more as figures than as certainties. They are true in some sense but lightly so; they are true elsewhere, just beyond the page we currently inhabit.

The reader looking for answers in Symbiosis will get none, exactly. The book does not build to a series of propositions, but rather keeps shifting sidewise, coming at the issue of collaboration from various perspectives: structural (“Positioning the strophes/ ended in calm”), analogical (“Knitting or singing a song”), metaphorical (“Remarkable basins,/ you give me ten years”), natural (“the blue// magnolia nestled; the wild berry, also”), etc. Alongside these explorations, the poem in its second half enters a more defined narrative space. A character emerges, a “she” who both seems to personify symbiosis and can move through it, evaluate it. “She is not so silly/ as they thought in her mantle,// coming from outside,” we are told. The outsideness of this figure allows for greater flexibility: “She is more fluid,” “She can read the image in the overlapping/ even from outside,/ those parts that overlap.” Through this female realization of movement and observation, the poem takes on a body, or rather explores the way language and image already partake of bodies, how they are outside of the body yet a part of it. This originary symbiosis—of the body that creates and the art object that is created—is where the music of poem, in a moment of gentle surprise, comes to rest: “Pushed her leg through the rippling// image changes.” The figure enters, at least for a moment, the creative act itself. Writing changes the image (“the rippling image changes” when writing moves into it) and the image changes writing (“image changes” what it touches). Meanwhile Reid’s lines swirl around and under the text in the unusual freedom of a disturbed pond. With Guest’s death this year, the image of her work has indeed changed. Yet still it ripples.


David B. Goldstein is a poet, critic, translator, and journalist, and is the author of the poetry chapbook Been Raw Diction (Dusi/e, 2006), online at His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Jubilat, Typo, Epoch, Alice Blue, Zeek, and The Paris Review. He currently teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at The University of Tulsa.



Eye Against Eye by Forrest Gander
(New Directions, New York, 2005)

A Book That Grows: Forrest Gander’s Eye Against Eye

Has a book been so compelling that when you’re done you don’t want to put it down? Then when you finally do, you pick it right back up to sift the pages, stopping to read a poem here and there, or, if you can’t resist, reading the book again in its entirety? Or, if you pried the book out of your hands/eyes/mind, is it one of those books you leave on your reading table rather than shelving it with the other “finished” poetry books?

Forrest Gander’s Eye Against Eye has been one of those books for me this year. However, it didn’t start out that way. The first section, “Burning Towers, Standing Wall,” was unengaging; I didn’t gain anything from re-reading it (first read it in The Blue Rock Collection). An evocative poem of a visit to Mayan ruins in Tabasco Province, Mexico, it also didn’t seem to fit in stylistically with Gander’s work in the remainder of Eye Against Eye. The poem, enriched by the vocabulary we’ve come to know in all Gander’s work, develops as a conventional lyric poem. It moves through descriptions of the ancient, almost mythic wall, its makers and destroyers, its visitors, insect and birdlife, image to image interspersed with commentary:

Some of the sounds bouncing from the stones are
nearly the same sounds they heard—resonant
human voices and the perwicka perwicka
of a quetzal in flight at a distance—
and give us access to them almost
through grinding cicadas and crickets
thrumming serrated thighs
through their domestic acoustics...

The appealing self-awareness of the poetry–poem knowing it’s a poem–in the later poems in this volume is absent, and the radical fissures, crevasses, sudden chasms that underscore the other poems, have not yet evolved.

Spread throughout the book, binding the other sections together, the four “Ligature” poems create attention through the disjointed transitions between sentences and groups of sentences in a way that “Burning Towers, Standing Wall” did not. A narrative and a metanarrative at once, the first “Ligature,” in a “sequence of dark non sequiturs,” constructs a turbulent relationship between a father, mother, and an adolescent boy. It’s a jarring poem to inhabit, a ligament stretching, straining to make a transition from the aching ambience, the angry nostalgia, of the Mayan ruins to the quick turning, traveling, of “Present Tense.”

The eleven poems in “Present Tense” jostle the reader from Fire Island, Lake Ontario, Narragansett Bay, Mississippi, San Francisco, Laguna Beach, to unnamed places, personal and universal, the reader must map. Many of the phrases of the poems, whose lines have no end punctuation, accelerating the already rapid pace, stand alone–“quartz and alkali feldspars, an intimate graphic intergrowth”–while many skip down the page in tight partnership:

Dribbling down our steep street
mulberry stains resemble a meteor shower
a wrinkle of gravitational waves passes through
our inquiry is given to us whether we can speak it
in the world’s terms by the world

to finally fuse in the last seven lines:

should you fall
should you hollow inward
wake from dreams worn out and dull as a horse
should you crack and spill the yoke of yourself
you will find in me a stay
and this the promissory note of indebtedness
a proximity that cannot be unhooped

“Ligature 2” is a sinewy walk, perhaps in a narrow street in Mexico, traveler struggling with communication with passerby and with his son who, later, flails back: “At the hotel, sunburned and disconsolado, the boy immelmanning across the pool for an hour.” Still struggling, the man arrives at what he needs, if only in his dreams: “I remember dreaming last night that he loved me.”

In my first reading, the book took off starting with the series of poems, "Late Summer Entry: the Landscapes of Sally Mann," poems accompanied by photographs (albeit poorly reproduced). These poems work on several levels: as description of key elements in the black and white photographs:

                                         --the ditch
gaping like a grave for the tower,
catfish heads scattered in the dirt, and
                                                    ditchwater dull as resin.
("The Broken Tower," p. 57);

as meditation on how technically the photo moves the viewer:

Enmeshed in a field of concentric force, the spectator is drawn toward a wormhole of brightness, not depth but another dimension entire. A light which is life source.
("Ivy Brick Wall," p. 51);

as description of a transaction between poet, reader, and photographer:

At the same time, the blemish
joins together the realms
of seer and swimmer
in our experience of plunging
into and out of the image.
("Bridge & Swimmer," p. 55);

as surface from which the poet sees the unseeable:

and shadows
               condense into a living blackness
where non-being stirs, where the swirl
of unborn things,
                                             like a nursery of spiders,
stirs beyond our senses.
("Photo Canto," p. 41);

and as celebration of how object in concert with audience perception becomes a creative force in itself:

It is this originary force that transforms the ordinary into the exultant. Here, where light authors act and meaning, where whelming ivy overwrites brick wall.
("Ivy Brick Wall," continued from above).

Three of the poems have yet another dimension. Printed in two columns (left column left justified, right column winding down the page), "Road and Tree," "Collodion," and "Argosy for Rock and Grass" can be read across columns or down each column, left then right, creating some startling juxtapositions, tightening connections within the poem:

But to fault                the image for its lack
of correlative, we would                miss its fullness
coming to be.                The river is named
The Holy Ghost. We believe                what we do not know.
(the end of "Argosy for Rock and Grass," p. 53)

Unfolding in San Francisco’s Mission District, “Mission Thief” is an intense narrative. It begins slowly, deliberately, with the poem’s speaker strolling with a partner down the streets. Then a man veering near on a stolen bicycle cuts into the poem, racing up the street past the couple. The poem’s action multiplies, fractures, hand against stucco, neck, dance of spectators, the man who has lost his bike trying to keep up running, desire/doubt to intervene, a panoply of emotional responses. The swirl of activity crystallizes near the end, a looking back:

the rest of us unrescued
stopped in time transfixed
to this stark spectacle of our separateness
making its stand
hammering its horizons home
behind which
each of us says I don’t know
who you are
you never broke through me

“Ligature 4” ties up the volume. All four poems speak of a young boy, one who has perhaps grown up by the end of this poem, grown up and into himself and away from his parents, a tightening or a loosening of the ligature:

Throwing himself into the back seat after wrestling practice, mat burns on
his cheek and forehead.

His muteness an onomatopoeia of the rising moon.

As it stands now several readings later: this is one of those few books I can't put on the shelf (Tom Beckett’s Vanishing Points is still one of those unshelved books, over a year after its publication; it's on the table behind me as I type, ready for perusal at moment's notice). Minus "Burning Tower, Standing Wall," Eye Against Eye is an astounding collection.

Gander is a master of the multiple, of the manifold. Though he may point to something in a phrase, he diverts–yet includes, not excludes, creates not destroys–attention by the next phrase. Read the book through, then re-read and re-read the later poems, then re-read the first half. Then re-read the whole thing. Then browse, gaze and graze....The book grows!


Crag Hill edited SCORE, one of the premier visual poetry magazines in the United States & SPORE for nearly twenty-five years. Poems have recently appeared in Aught, Generator, Eratio, Shampoo, & Sleeping Fish.



Here, Bullet by Brian Turner
(Alice James Books, 2005)

Those inclined to believe Auden’s often quoted view that “poetry makes nothing happen” should read Brian Turner’s book. One would be hard pressed to think of a contemporary volume of poetry more relevant to our political times, and which grasps so lucidly, so compassionately, the types of responsibilities we face.

Here, Bullet is remarkable not only for the experience which compelled it, but also for the honesty and cultural sensitivity which underlies its poems. Turner, who wrote the volume while serving as a solider in Iraq, approaches his writing with no other agenda than to remain faithful to his experiences. With so many ways for war poetry to go wrong, it’s amazing what Turner accomplishes. No moralizing here. No apocalyptic prophesizing. No rants or diatribes or gratuitous descriptions. And perhaps best of all, no esoteric over-allegorizing of the postmodern, gimmicky bent. With lyric simplicity and most admirable restraint, Turner approaches each subject matter from a learner’s standpoint. In fact, two main features lend the volume with the instructive impetus of a travel narrative.

First, Turner introduces the reader to the cornerstones of the Arabic language: references from the Qu’ran and various Arabic texts emphasize structural and thematic breaks, proverbs or quotes introduce poems, and everyday words become incorporated into Turner’s language. The opening poem called “A Soldier’s Arabic” tells us that habib is the word for love and maut for death. In “What Every Soldier Should Know” the speaker instructs that Sabir el khair means “Good Morning” and Inshallah means “Allah be willing.” In “Two Stories Down,” the use of Arabic is reserved for the emotional climax of the poem, quoted in full below:

When he jumped from the balcony, Hasan swam
in the air over the Ashur Street Market,
arms and legs suspended in a blur
above palm hearts and crates of lemons,
not realizing just how hard life fights
sometimes, how an American solider
would run to his aid there on the sidewalk,
trying to make sense of Hasan’s broken legs,
with words in an awkward music
of stress and care, a soldier he’d startle
by stealing the knife from its sheath,
the two of them struggling for the blade
until the bloodgroove sunk deep
and Hasan whispered to him,

Shukran, sadiq, shukran;
Thank you, friend, thank you.

In drawing from Arabic sources to frame and punctuate his work, Turner takes the first and most essential step to cross-cultural understanding, which is, to view as much as possible from the other culture’s frameworks and assumptions rather than imposing one’s own.

Second, the recurrent tableau-like quality of each poem – the move or series of moves to focus upon a particular subject within its particular setting – gives the reader a sense of the everyday lives of people in Iraq, of their everyday habits, of their everyday sights and sounds as they are interrupted by the ongoing war. In “The Al Harishma Weapons Market,” the poem’s speaker surveys the surroundings before focusing upon Akbar, a father who comforts a son frightened by gunfire; in “Eulogy,” prisoners of war and their captors are suddenly and momentarily distracted by the sound of Private Miller’s gun as he commits suicide; in “Autopsy,” descriptions of the medical procedure being performed blends with procedures of memory.

Each time, there is a concreteness and definite sense of place to Turner’s writing, as well as a continuity between internal and external landscapes. These series of tableaus are not isolated, however, and part of the political import of Turner’s work takes effect when these tableaus interconnect and comment upon each other, reflecting ultimately the changes and transformations resulting from the war. Perhaps the most brilliant enactment of this can be found in “2000 lbs.” in which the poem’s movement along the circumference of an exploding bomb demonstrates, most likely with deliberate ironic intent, that violence is, indeed, a democratizing force, as desires and sufferings of Iraqis and Americans echo, reflect, overlap and in the end, become indistinguishable. These culminate in the description below, which rejects the us-against-them dynamic of war in favor of overwhelming oneness:

And the man who triggered the button,
who may have invoked the Prophet’s name,
or not – he is obliterated at the epicenter,
he is everywhere, he is of all things,
his touch is the air taken in, the blast
and the wave, the electricity of shock,
his is the sound the heart makes quick
in the panic’s rush, the surge of blood
searching for light and color, that sound
the martyr cries filled with the word
his soul is made of,

Discussion in the poetry workshop where I first encountered Here, Bullet most contentiously revolved around Turner’s vaguely rendered stance on the war in Iraq. The attending restraint in Turner’s desire to maintain the utmost respect for the sufferings of all those involved in the war by way of resisting direct commentary is often too easily confused for political indeterminacy. The following lines from “Caravan” make clear enough, I think, his opposition to the war:

Today, in Baghdad, a bomb
kills forty-seven and wounds over one hundred,
leaving a crated ten feet deep. The stunned
gather body parts from the roadway
to collect in cardboard boxes
which will not be taped and shipped
to the White House lawn…

The implication that the White House be visually tied with coffins, that people both inside and outside the White House physically confront and also be confronted alongside actual human casualties from the war, signals an opposition to destruction and violence, and by extension, to the political decisions that have led to them. Although this is as far as Turner gets in voicing an anti-war stance, the eerie imagery of the White House as war mausoleum speaks to the intensity of his convictions. The fact that Turner waits until this penultimate entry in his volume to deliver his harshest criticism against the war only heightens its effectiveness, as he allows readers to derive their own conclusions from descriptions in prior poems. Wisely opting against closing his volume with political criticism and choosing connection over rupture, Turner shifts the focus back toward humanity’s binding mortality in the final poem to follow called “To Sand”:

To sand go tracers and ball ammunition.
To sand the green smoke goes.
Each finned mortar, spinning in light.
Each star cluster, bursting above…

What Turner effectively “makes happen,” to return to Auden’s quote, is to instill an awareness of the totality of war and to promote a responsible manner of conducting oneself amidst enormous uncertainty. By “totality of war” I mean most of all the sameness that exists at the core of perceived differences – this I think is the point that Turner repeatedly returns to. When confronted by strangeness, newness, violence, or cruelty, Turner shows that first we should look, then we study, then we try to understand, but always, we connect. Here, Bullet is a moving, marvelous read, and a very important lesson.


Abigail Licad grew up in Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines and immigrated with her family to California at age fourteen. She received a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.Phil from Pembroke College at Oxford University, both in literature.



Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War by Kent Johnson
(effing press, Austin, TX 2005)


An Afterword Engaging Charles Bernstein’s “Enough”

for Jaroslav Hasek & his Good Soldier, Schweik

Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! Let meanings be freely criminal, as well as results!
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of drudgery!

Let the theory of America still be management, caste, comparison!
(Say! What other theory would you?) . . .
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! Let the few
seize on what they choose! Let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds! . . .
--Walt Whitman, “Respondez!”

No one can say what will be “real” for people when the wars which are now beginning come to an end.
--Werner Heisenberg

Someone has said it that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think. The widespread mental indolence so prevalent in society proves this to be only too true. Rather than get to the bottom of any given idea, to examine into its origin and meaning, most people will either condemn it altogether or rely on some superficial or prejudicial definition of non-essentials.
--Emma Goldman

I first offered to review Kent Johnson’s Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz a few months ago because the two or three poems from it I knew were refreshingly disturbing. In them, smooth skinned American surfaces slid seamlessly into obscene scenes of horror, with poets among the participants. They reminded me of various lines from “Respondez!” one of the “Rejected Poems” Whitman chose to exclude from LEAVES OF GRASS, among them:

Respondez! Respondez!

Let every one answer! Let those who sleep be waked! Let none evade!
Must we still go on with our evasions and sneaking?

Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz appeared a year ago, the poems themselves having first appeared in various magazines, blogs, presses and anthologies. Events since, especially those this summer, have meant the book’s relevance is very much alive and its scenes and interrogations even more disturbing.

The original poems are bookended by two additions: “By Way of Preface” and “By Way of Afterword”. The Preface is a letter addressed to Campus Watch, to whom the proceeds of the book, unless declined, are to be donated. After reading “a diatribe on the poet and activist Ammiel Alcalay, published in the The America Thinker on March 4 (2005), Johnson asks to be added to the list of poets under surveillance, and provides his credentials for this honor. The offer of royalties is made because the poet believes the organization’s “proto-fascist activities are an excellent stimulant to the defense of American values, like civil liberties and other stuff.”

On the surface this seems like light hearted nose tweaking of a ponderous guard dog. It’s just below the surface that things get unsettling. Why is the poet in such a dog gone “me, too, me, too!” rush to get on this list--and to the extent that he’ll pay for the group to spy on himself and his friends? A make-believe game, a dangerous game--or a completely cynical one? What if he’s taken seriously? Or, to punish his outrageous behavior, what if Campus Watch refuses both to list him and accept his money? Or takes the money and doesn’t list him? Or, satirically, self-mockingly, yet also seriously, consider this scenario: Pity the poor poet deprived of yet another form of recognition! And after such service in Left Wing causes! And even with the new anti-war poems! How can one be denied such “street cred” as a radical? Ah!--(light bulb goes on in balloon above the cartoon poet’s head)--why not help fund the persecuting organization and ensure that its activities draw attention to oneself as a “standup guy” staring into the faces of oppression, a poet who “speaks out” for civil liberties in their time of distress. Didn’t Lee Harvey Oswald distribute “Hands Off Cuba” literature with the same address as an anti-Castro organization? Cannot poets also be involved in some strange double dealings to advance not the cause but the career? Or both at the same time? Be double agents or multiple agents in the grand tradition of Christopher Marlowe?

On the other hand, the Preface may just be a prank, which conveniently contains the poet’s CV of radical activities over the decades, mixing facts and fantasy, horror and humor in an unbalancing mode of address. (“Forgive me for being a bit disorganized in my thinking and for using the come-sap of ideology like the ants do.”)

“And if not why not”, as Gertrude Stein would say.

“Why not” I think is that faced with many by-ways of reading the Preface, the reader is alerted to the instability of the surfaces of language, which can be used in all sorts of ways as maskings, camouflaging, and coverings up, mirrorings, costuming and the Emperor’s New Clothes. What makes Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz “news that stays news” (a Pound criterion) is that the examination of the surfaces of language and its capabilities of being manipulated as maskings and mirrorings isn’t directed at others only, but at the poet himself primarily. A Yeats criteria: “Out of the quarrel with others we make politics, out of the quarrel with ourselves poetry.” Trying to confront what’s behind the surfaces and look into the area of overlap of the two quarrels is the work of interrogating going on in these poems “submitted to the war”.

“Times of quickening crisis famously clarify things previously obscured by cultural inertia,” Johnson writes in the “Afterword”. This originally appeared as a web piece, linked to the talk to which it refers and was later printed in a journal. The web address of the original talk is included in the Afterword here. “Bernstein’s ‘Enough’” takes to account the talk of that name by Charles Bernstein in which the poet implicitly attacks the “righteous monologue” and “digestible messages” of the Sam Hamill-edited immensely popular Poets Against the War. For Johnson this is a “moral decree . . . astonishingly blind to the ironies of its own arrogance”. Bernstein’s argument is that in opposing the language of Bush and Co. poets should “eschew the language of social and linguistic norms” and instead employ “ambiguity”, “complexity”, and “skepticism” in exploring the ways such “norms” “are used to discipline and contain dissent”.

For Johnson, this is a thinly veiled response to a previous talk by Eliot Weinberger, in which that writer had pointed out that the anti-war poetry that is great and remembered, is almost always written in the “norm”. Johnson finds Bernstein’s position to be “exclusivist and fundamentalist” and its “righteous ideological dispensations” to be “an ironic after-echo of the intolerant leaders he would oppose”. Bernstein and his “avant-garde” circle, for all their insistence on a radical theory and practice, are seen as being left behind, sniping at “poets speaking out with courage and force”. The “post-avant” poets formerly accused by Bernstein and Co. of a lack of activism, Johnson sees now among poets speaking out and leaving the old guard behind.

This is one of the hopeful moments in the book: that poets will speak out regardless of surveillance by Campus Watch and Big Brother, and regardless of policing by the Guards of the “avant-garde”. Yet that there should even be a question about this indicates a disturbing “State of the Union”: when both Big Brother and “radical, oppositional poetics” come down on poets speaking out against a war, there’s something deeper rooted in a society that is showing its face. And it ain’t pretty.

The nine bookended poems appear in various forms, forms of address, and forms of authorship. “Mission” is “after Archilochus”, “Baghdad” is based on the sound patterns of the children’s poem “Goodnight Moon”, “Forwarded Message Follows” is an email from “Osama Husein”, “The New York School (or: I Grew Ever More Intense)” is in “a new poetic form . . . I have christened the Mandrake”, “Green Zone Renshi-Renga” is a collaboration with Jack Kimball, and “Poem Upon a Typo Found in an Interview of Kenneth Koch Conducted by David Shapiro” is a numbered series of lines done in a variety of styles and stages of the English language. The remaining pieces include a prose poem, an irregularly structured poem/prose poem and one straight forwardly structured poem. Each one is a discrete piece and at the same time interrelated with all the others, like beads on a string made of a few continually intertwined threads.

“Mission”, “after Archilochus”, which opens the series, immediately introduces the theme of poetry and war, here waged by “civilized” poet-warriors in a foreign land. The pen and the sword march together, sharing the same hands--

. . . We gathered strength for a fortnight, writing poems and sharpening our swords by the sea . . . At a small waterfall we stopped to rest on some moss and gazed at our golden helmets and shields in the reflecting pool.
We spoke in low voices of the beauty around us . . . We spoke of time,
and friendship, and truth. Then each of us drank deeply from the pool.

Aided by the gods, we stormed Smyrna, and burned its profane temples
to the ground.

Archilochus’ soldiers are the “blond beasts” of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals –-gazing into the pool the only reflection they see is the golden glory of their helmets and shields, not their own individual faces. There is no questioning of self or the contingencies of the moment. Everything is seen in the glow of a heroic gods-blessed eternity: "time, friendship, and truth” situated in a place of beauty. Storming and burning profane temples is all in a day’s work, a blitz among many along the conquering way. All the detail of the piece is concentrated in the heroic, “civilized” moments of preparation, of life in the camp--“writing poems and sharpening swords”, contemplating glory in the reflecting pool, “the beauty around us, the dark, darting trout, and the strange, haunting songs in towering trees”. The battle (“stormed . . . and burned”) and place destroyed (“Smyrna . . . its profane temples”) get one sentence and one adjective, to mark their incidental character in the over arching narrative of glory. “We came, we saw, we conquered.”

“Writing poems and sharpening our swords by the sea”--“our golden helmets and shields in the reflecting pool.” O, idyllic, halcyon days! Small wonder that poetry’s first modernist movement, Italian Futurism Marinetti-style isn’t so much a “progressive” acceleration as an apocalyptic nostalgia, a “science-fiction film set in the past” as Fellini said of his Satyricon. “ We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness . . . We will glorify war . . .” Marinetti announces in The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (1909). No Apollonian, Archilochian Classicism for the former Symbolist--Marinetti chooses the Dionysian--a “radical, innovative poetics” (to use the current term) of the intoxications of speed to forge his avant-garde. “(We were) like proud beacons or forward sentries against an army of hostile stars glaring down at us from their hostile encampments . . . We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.”

It’s speed that brings about Marinetti’s formal innovations in poetry--“parole in liberta”--words, syllables, letters, numbers, scattered in freedom, spatially, visually and sonically across the page and bellowed forth from megaphones. These formal elements come from the effects of speed on the warrior-poet’s body, nervous system and consciousness: “We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.”

Militarism and patriotism are an integral part of Marinetti’s poetic manifesto, as well as the destruction of libraries and museums--a rather paradoxical desire in the light of patriotism until one recalls that libraries and museums are endlessly made anew from the destruction and looting of the old ones, both in “reality” and symbolically, by “taking over” or “securing”, “hi-jacking” a tradition, style, form, technique, and not simply its objects. In Marinetti’s Futurism, with its hyper techno-speeds and formal innovations, the relationship with war as “the world’s hygiene” and glorification is a nostalgia for the sort of Classical purity Archilochus’ poet warriors have. A nostalgia of comparisons nurtured, after all, by museums and libraries: “A racing car . . . is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”

In a very forceful way Marinetti set a standard by which poets have been judged and judged each other since--how to be formally avant-garde in poetry, ideologically avant-garde in politics, and ethically correct in relation to patriotism and war. And--both avant-garde and ethically/politically correct in relation to the speeds of technologies which themselves are deeply implicated in everything from experimental poetries to experimental cyber bombs and systems of control.

Marinetti fought in World War 1, became a Fascist and part of Mussolini’s inner circle. He was joined in Italy by the great American poetic innovator, Ezra Pound, of whom Charles Olson observed, “Pound was a Lenin in poetry, a Czar in politics.” Bernstein and the Language Poets have been determined to avoid this Modernist split, and be radical in both form and ideology/theory. A contemporary Marxist critic noted of Marinetti’s introductory Futurist tour of Russia that radical ruptures of syntax, transgressions of grammar, wild displacements of typographies, techniques also used by Language Poetry, may change language relations on the page but not property relations on the ground. Using a variety of Postmodern theoretical approaches, Language Poetry claims that by changing the structures of power relations in language, those in the world off the page may be changed. The questions of speed and control within real global time as examined in the work of Paul Virilio have opened areas for investigating language which are just beginning to be developed, reopening many of the issues Marinetti raised.

Paradoxically it is also via the “absolute” of speed that Archilochus’s Classical warrior poets reverse the “science fiction film set in the past” and camp out here & now, among the avant-garde, the post-avant, the postmodern poets who inhabit the disturbing landscapes of Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz.

And just what are these Archilochian warriors doing here in the post Auschwitz landscapes? They speak like “civilized” people--of “Pylos, barbarian town” and “lovely Asia” and burning “profane” temples--they write poems and have gods. Are they here as foils to the post-Auschwitz poets’ interrogations, self-reflexive interrogations and interrogations of each other on the subject of writing poetry during war times, or, are they in the Nietzschean sense warrior poets from a period further away both historically and metaphysically than such interrogations will accept? That is--they exist outside the Jewish, Christian and Moslem traditions involved in the wars in the book, pagans, without rassentiment. Looking into the reflecting pool they don’t see a self, an ego, a “subject” in the post-modern conception of this. All they see is the golden glory of armor--helmets and shields, which in turn their poetry will reflect. Archilochus on his métier:

I am a servant of the kingly wargod Enyalios {Ares}
               And am also skilled in the lovely arts.

Archilochus is credited with developing the swift speeds of the iambic, the better to deliver his messages than the slow speeds of epic hexameter. The bastard son of a nobleman and a slave, a career soldier who died in battle, a poet who had statues erected alongside and celebrated on the same day as Homer’s and his verses read for victors at the Olympics games, Archilochus and his “Mission” via the absolute of speed are pagan warrior poets calmly overlooking the tortured and torturing persons, scenes and language of the following poems. The calm eye in the storm, “Mission” presents everything that supposedly no politically--and formally--correct “avant-garde” poet today would write.

Yet isn’t it also a desire of many “radical innovative” poets to be writing both for a good cause in times of war and writing formally on the good side in a war of words? Isn’t there a secret desire to be the poet warrior of poet warriors, and not make the mistakes of those of the past? (Become a Fascist as Marinetti and Ezra Pound did for example.) To be politically and formally correct, to be perfect?! And by poet warrior I mean also the poet warrioring against war, fighting for the best cause, Peace, and finding the best formal ways to do so. (Language poetry, for Bernstein.)

In short—to be the anti-Archilochus?!

(One shouldn’t overlook the fact that for his time Archilochus was “avant-garde” in his development of the iambic, and in “Mission” he’s part of a small advance group--“avant-garde”--of ten soldiers sent out on their own. Hard to beat this guy at his own game! As a poem of his puts it: “The fox knows many tricks/the hedgehog only one. /A good one.”)

What makes Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz disturbing, powerful and rawly fascinating is that it’s a book of interrogations of interrogations, and of pronouncements which purport to be interrogations. Subtitled “eleven submissions to the war”, the book has these words printed on the cover within Scott Pierce’s stylized version of the famous image of Private Englund holding on a leash the naked curled-in-a-fetus body of an Iraqi POW in the Abu-Ghraib prison. Little winged Cupids fly abut the image, their bows merrily loosened from having shot their arrows. If anything, the Hallmark card Cupids make the image and the words “Auschwitz”, “submissions” and “war” even more sickening. Still, “submissions” are what poets do give of themselves as poems, to be interrogated and determined if they are “news that’s fit to print”.

I noted that Johnson isn’t restricting his interrogating to others, but very much includes himself as well. By using both parts of the Yeatsian dictum that the quarrel with others is politics, and the quarrel with oneself poetry, Johnson opens up his poems to a rawness and vulnerability that’s at brutal and black humor odds with the smooth surfaces of “radical artifice” Bernstein advocates. While advocating the use of “skepticism”, Bernstein’s interrogations are restricted to language and aesthetics and attempt to close themselves off from being questioned by either himself or others. Johnson on the other hand submits himself to his own self-interrogations and those of the reader’s. After all, if you’re going to invite Campus Watch, that’s one thing and inviting the surveillance of “the war” is another, but a further far more rigorous one is that of your fellow poets. So as they say, you better take a good look at yourself and “get your story straight”, “get yourself right with God” as you hear people say as they disappear between the guards, down the corridors of merciless eyes, brutal words of hate to the obscenity of torture by “good people”.

Two poems foreground the poet’s situating himself in scenes shifting back and forth between poets and poetry, war and horror: “When I First Read Ange Mlinko” and “The New York School (or: I Grew Ever More Intense)”.

“When I First Read” opens with a scene that’s straight out of the New Yorker with a weird anti-dash of Poe’s “Raven” tossed in to heighten the cocktail hour effect. Here the anti-Raven is a flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks: “truly extraordinary, what I saw and heard inside that sudden gift--luxuriant spring efflorescing into a drug-like aureole, as if
which I know
it wasn’t.”

The poet is reading Ange Mlinko in The Poker (though no Poe fireplace in the room) and has “started to bat my eyes, seductively” when his wife calls him for “your date with the grill”. But it isn’t this that interrupts his visionary moments with the Grosbeaks, it’s instead:

. . . for no reason at all, totally unbidden, in all that flocked music and gilded light, I remembered reading, as a passing mention in a buried article somewhere, of four little girls incinerated in a mud compound by a missile fired from a pilotless drone, a compound in a dry and lonely place, where fine carpets were made by orphans for the foreign trade. I know it’s possible that I’m just writing that I thought this then so to suggest my moral sensibilities to you, using a tragedy that is not mine to give some moral pressure to a poem
about much at all. I admit
I am not sure myself! And I admit that my having
written it means nothing, anyway, in the end. But the girls did
die, “were evaporated,” at least that’s what the little article said, and no matter how self-reflexive I get, or
how suspicious you become of my quaint
and insecure prosody,
those dirty-haired,
and never thought about again, by you or anyone.

This section of the poem uneasily tries to make its unsteady way through its own self reflexiveness, self doubts, self-interrogations and past the eyes of the interrogating reader. The initially passive forms of self doubt (“It’s possible that I’m just writing that I thought this then to suggest my moral sensibilities . . . “) shift to guilt (“I admit I am not sure myself! And I admit that my having written it means nothing, anyway, in the end.”) and into self-defensiveness. “But the girls did die . . . no matter how self-reflexive I get, or how suspicious you become of my quaint and insecure prosody, those . . . kids will still be dead and never thought about again, by you or anyone.” The final line is the kicker, a doubling of death—the kids will stay dead, and neither you nor I think of them again. They will have a negative permanence, and a permanent negation. A nasty little brew of spite and contempt proclaimed with a certain triumph!

There’s a brief interlude, in which the Grosbeaks sing and fly away, and the poet sighs theatrically, “just one of those campy outburst things you’d never do in public, I suppose, lest you lose a portion of your cultural capital irremediably.” Even in this small private moment, the uneasy poet is haunted by the sense of surveillance and judgment. Supposedly “safe at home” he’s literally and figuratively interiorized a form of “homeland insecurity”. “I admit I not sure of myself!” he’s told the imagined interrogating reader, and campy theatricality might be interpreted as a further sign of deep seated guilts, hidden secrets, fugitive desires. The War on Terror has allowed the forces of Homeland Security to be turned into a form of interior terrorism that can enter at any moment any home in the homeland and interpret any sigh as a confession to just about anything the interrogators want it to be. And Homeland Security can be anyone in these strange times. Campus Watch, Charles Bernstein--your own wife! It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers revisited!

Snapping out of it, the poet says--“Anyway, there you have it. That’s ‘my story.’” “My story” in quotes making it clear that yes, he has gotten his story straight now to tell the interrogators. “I slapped The Poker shut, waddled downstairs, and
a match
on the fuel-soaked
               Let the grilling begin!

“The New York School (or: I Grew Ever More Intense)” is preceded, as it is supposed to be in this new poetic form, by an author’s note, which in this case explains what the Mandrake is. The Mandrake is made up of fourteen stanzas, seven of them “flower” and seven “fruit”, alternating with each other. The flower stanzas may be written in any meter, rhymed or not, and of any length, and may include prose. The stanzas must refer to one or two poets of a preceding poetic generation, who must be contemporaries of each other, and “each stanza in the flower must exhibit some sense of parallelism in theme and syntactic logic to its companion flower stanzas.”

There are no guidelines for the fruit stanzas other than that they be totally dissimilar as a whole from the flower stanzas in themes and tone, be written in prose and most of them be quoted material. The fourteenth stanza has one further stricture, that it must have some reference to the morel mushroom, seasonal companion of the Mandrake aka May apple as it was known by various English poets of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The first flower stanza:

I turned over the bottle of shampoo, and Frank O’Hara came out. I rubbed him all into my head, letting the foam rise, knowing I was just warming myself up, excited by the excess of what was to come. Soon, I began to make noisy climax sounds. The scent of oranges and oil paint from a general store in the outlaw town of Shishido (with all its exotic wares) filled the stormy air.

The first fruit stanza:

I couldn’t help it, I thought of this: “One day, a fortnight or so after my mother’s death in Shishido, I was up in the hills playing with some friends. Suddenly one of them said, ‘Look, the baby’s hands are all swollen.’ I touched the baby, which was still strapped to my back, and screamed—it was stone cold. My friends began to panic and jump up and down, shouting ‘It’s dead, it’s dead.’ It felt awful having something dead tied to me, so ripped off my jacket and dropped the baby, before joining the others as they ran back down the hill as fast as their legs would take them, shrieking.”

All subsequent flower stanzas begin “I grew ever more intense” as the poet uses shaving cream (Barbara Guest), after shave (Ted Berrigan), toothpaste (James Schuyler), deodorant stick (Joseph Ceravolo), mouthwash (Kenneth Koch) and hand soap (John Ashberry) to clean up. Between each of these, the fruit stanzas begin “I couldn’t help myself, I thought of this.” And horrific visions of war in cities and landscapes with Asian and Middle Eastern names will appear before the poet’s eyes, obscuring his visage in the mirror, which is sometimes explicitly named and most times implied.

The flower stanzas grow out of combined roots of “Mission” and “When I First Read Ange Mlinko”. The warrior poet in “Mission” gazes into the pool and sees the gold reflections of shields and helmets which in turn are reflected in his poems. In “New York School” Kent Johnson watches himself squeezing poets out of the various toiletries items, like genies or geniuses from a bottle. Or as we now know, the various ingredients for making a bomb aboard air liners. Scrubbing, tooth brushing, shampooing, lathering, splattering on aftershave, he’s practicing another version of Marinetti’s “war, the world’s hygiene”. The processes of all this cleaning, all this hygiene induces in him a shocking series of visions of war’s disasters and horrors.

In “When I First Read Ange Mlinko” the poet also had visions, but without the certainty and vividness he now has. I think the difference is the combination of the warrior poet’s mirror and Marinetti’s war as the world’s hygiene. As the poem moves to its final resolution, with the poet using the toiletries to clean up himself and his image in the mirror, it brought to mind the famous trope: “For now we see, as through a glass darkly.”

Small wonder “Mr. Kent” as he’s called in the “Forwarded Message Follows” poem, feels “ever more intense”! It’s no longer a simple household cleaning agents high, or NY Poets buzz, but a sure fire chemical “bomb head” he’s feeling.)

As in so many of the poems and the “Preface” and Afterword”, some “postmodern” poets appear among the far-scattered landscapes of the globalized War on Terror. Here it’s via memory in one of the flower stanzas:

. . . an overdetermined smell (for these are the smells which the pleasures of peace provide) the smell I smelled in Leningrad in 1989, when, wedged between Barret Watten and Ron Silliman, I entered the closet-sized cloister of a Shinto temple to look at the mummified middle finger of the Russian saint Nishiwaki Junzaburo under glass. We looked at each other sidelong, like fish, each hatching our private plots, pretending we weren’t looking at the other.

Ah! . . . The overdetermined smell of the former Marxist city and American language poets . . . and each poet under the surveillance of the others . . . a morphing of the Cold War into new forms of covert agents as the old spies come in from the cold. Smells play a large part in each of the fruit stanzas, evoking different parts of the world, different time periods, and bizarre beings such as the Great Leader and his Four Eternal Qualities and the evil Lord of Quietude. (The dread Nemesis of Ron Silliman, Lord of Languagitude)

In “When I First Read Ange Mlinko” the poet “remembers reading” the article about the four dead girls yet has to admit he isn’t sure if he is acting in good faith in putting them in the poem. Is he manipulating them simply to apply “moral pressure” to make up for the poem not having “been about much at all”? He can’t confront the question other than to peevishly reassert that the girls are dead. There really isn’t any connection to them except as bodies to be exploited.

In “The New York School” fruit stanzas the scenes thought of have none of this abstract, self reflexive, unsure, bad faith quality to them. They are raw, direct and brutal. Child warriors, cannibalism, an entire city on fire, mummified bodies from which blood has poured out at every orifice, drugged America soldiers raping, killing and partially eating a young boy and selling the rest of the meat to a merchant in the market, a girl emerging from a burning car in which her dead family lies, walking in circles in shock while she bleeds to death. . . and in between, during the flower stanzas, the personal hygiene going on, echoing “war, the world’s hygiene” as the poet is visited by the genius of one NY poet after another, by all sorts of evocative odors and shifting scenes of memory and imagination.

With its fourteen stanzas instead of lines, the Mandrake may be thought of as a form of sonnet, and a Shakespearean one, with its turn and resolution coming in the final couplet.

In the final stanza of “New York School” the poet for the first time doesn’t think of a scene of horror. Instead he recalls a recent day of morel hunting with his son, in his last spring at home before leaving for the university. The poet looks at the son and recalls, echoing the first fruit stanza, how “he once (was) swathed and strapped to my back”. He watches and listens as his son happily gathers huge amounts of morels. Sentimental thoughts come to him and he shields his tears from his son. Where have the years gone, how is the world so filled with suffering? The poet begins his self interrogation--and to his own surprise finds this:

I guess when you think about it, I thought . . . I guess I’ve been pretty lucky after all, enjoying the pleasures of calligraphy and sake in all the surplus time the labor of others has more or less made for me. Some of us are like rain, and others of are like the thirsty ground, and others of us are like parasitical mushrooms, especially poets, and that’s just the way things have come to be. The truth is that I felt like running down the hill as fast as my legs would take me, shrieking, seeking I do not know what. But I gathered my composure and turning toward him said, in a deep fatherly voice, Ah, that is wonderful son! {The son has been finding one mushroom after another} The gods of the forest are smiling upon us today.

“For now we see, as through a glass, darkly/But then, face to face/For now I know in part/But then shall I know in full/Fully as also I am known.”

The best known poem in the book is one of the few I had read previously. “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, or: “Get the Hood Back On’” is made up of six sections spoken by American soldiers, three male, three female, introducing themselves to an Iraqi prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison. In bland friendly terms they list their accomplishments and interests and belief in and love for the truth, before launching into vile descriptions of the tortures they will inflict to soften the prisoner up for interrogation by Military Intelligence.

The final speaker is a poet--“I’ve had poems on the Poets Against the War website and in American Poetry Review and Chain . . . have a blog . . . dig Arab music . . . I’m really progressive . . . “ --and his method is unique in its instruments and ends. Unlike the others, he is not interested in softening up his prisoner. Instead, he is going to murder him--by beating him to death with two hardbound academic poetry volumes bookending his head. One volume will be

“experimental and the other more speech-like . . . and I’m going to do it until your brain swells to the size of a basketball and you die like the fucking lion for real. You’ll never make it to MI because that’s the breaks; poetry is hard and people go up in flames for lack of it everyday. By the time any investigation gets to you, your grandchildren will have been dead over one thousand years, and poetry will be inhabiting regions you can’t even imagine. Well, we did our best; sorry we couldn’t have done better . . . I want you to take this self-righteous poem, soak it in this bedpan full of crude oil, and shove it down your pleading, screaming throat.

Now, get the hood back on.

The book Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz bookends the poems between Campus Watch and its supposed opposite “Bernstein’s ‘Enough’”; the poem “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz” pairs Language style poetry with its supposed opposite, “speech-like” verse in bookending the prisoner’s condemned head. In the book, supposed opposites are seen as united against popular protest. In the poem, supposed opposites are seen wielded as matching arms in illegally murdering a prisoner of war.

Both book and poem take their titles from the famous quote by Theodor Adorno, quoted in full by Johnson, an important distinction, as usually only the first part is cited.

“I have no wish to soften the saying that to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric . . . {But} literature must resist this verdict.”

For Adorno it is not “simply” the event of Auschwitz which makes lyric poetry impossible, it is that the event happened in the language in which lyric poetry was written. Once this has happened, the language is contaminated with the event, poisoning and corroding language so that writing lyric poetry becomes a barbaric act. Literature must resist this—but how?

In his Bremen Prize speech the great lyric poet and camp survivor Paul Celan said of language’s and his own lyric poetry’s resistance:

It, the language, remained, not lost, yes, in spite of everything. But it had to pass through its own answerlessness, pass through frightful muting, pass through a thousand darknesses of deathbringing speech. It passed through and gave back no words for that which happened, yet it passed through this happening. Passed through and could come to light again, “enriched” by all this.

In Kent Johnson’s Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, both book and poem present many forms of current language passing through the happenings of the Iraq War at home and abroad. Johnson can’t say, as Celan did, that he and language have “passed through this happening” for it is still very much going on. What he does offer is a powerful sense that resistance, like language, is not lost. If one chooses this--resistance and what language that remains--there will be all the horrors Celan speaks of, and much of it happens unseen, to oneself, and “(gives) back no words for that which happened.” What does pass through and remain and comes to light, will be “enriched”--and in this way lyric poetry resists and finds its way free of the contaminations and corrosions of the “deathbringing” happenings. By using the ancient trope of a journey through darkness to light, Celan links the language of his lyric poetry with that of Orpheus’ journey through the underworld and his return to light. Orpheus also remains--his remains remain--embodied in the 14 stanzas of “The New York School (or, I Grew Ever More Intense)," the Maenads having torn him into fourteen pieces. And even in pieces, it is said, the poet went on singing his lyrics.

When the pieces in Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, and then the book itself, first appeared, they were parts of the early and evolving discussions on how contemporary American poets might find ways in their writing to protest the War in Iraq and the Bush administration. With the events of this summer in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Iraq, these questions have been resurfacing on poetry e-lists and blogs again. When the online journal Big Bridge announced that it was going offline for a month as a protest of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the predominant response was one of ridicule. Only a few poets announced their support. The journal’s editor was accused of self promotion and disguising a summer break as a conveniently timed protest, an act of bad faith. The surrounding discourse was on a par between Jay Leno and Rush Limbaugh. The dark side of being caught between the edicts of the Bush government on the one hand and the “radical innovative alternatives” of which Bernstein speaks on the other can, it seems, be like being the Iraqi POW being beaten with opposing volumes of poetry by an American poet. The discussions have moved on to focus on more abstract questions of poetry and politics, with its being taken for granted that Bernstein’s positions, like Bush’s, can seemingly be counted on to “hold the course.” I think that with the continuing intensifications of the situations and events in the Middle East and the coming American elections, reading Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz in the contexts of these events and continued discussions will go on being a very powerful and thought provoking experience for quite some time to come and most highly recommend it. You may need to read it more than you know. I’ve showed the book to a lot of people, especially young people, and the most common response has been why aren’t there more poetry books like this about the war--raw, graphic, disturbing, and talking about poetry and the war--like it really is a matter of life and death--what they can have to do with each other--

I would also add that everybody finds many sections of it absolutely hilarious.
And that’s a natural born fact Jack.

Respondez! Respondez!


By Way of An Afterword: An Appendix

“By Way of Afterword Bernstein’s ‘Enough’” has that statement’s web site link attached so the reader can hear Bernstein’s story as it were and find out for oneself what it is all about. As a responsible reader I did this and include as an appendix to my review this review of what is an appendix to the book Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz. Reading “Enough” I found very useful in better understanding not only Kent Johnson’s response to it, but many scattered aspects come across through time in statements, attitudes and arguments put forward by various writers influenced by or aligned with Bernstein’s poetics.

“Enough” was presented on 9 March 2003 at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the Launch for the O Books anthology Enough: poetry and writings against the war, edited by Rick London and Leslie Scalapino. It was published the next day to the Poetics list and has circulated on various blogs and web sites since.

Interestingly, “Enough” begins with a standard George Bush message: “Stay the course”. “In these difficult times, let us not draw away from our poetics in an attempt to redress the ominous possibilities of future U.S. government policies or the onerous effects of current government policies.” Bernstein also invokes another tactic Bush has pushed to the maximum, the use of “our” in setting up a dichotomy of “us” against “them”. One learns pretty early in life to pay attention when people begin using the word “our”. How inclusive or exclusive is “our” particular “ourness”? In this case, one takes it “our poetics” refers to the people in the room and the anthology and by extension people sympathetic to Bernstein’s poetics. This is an exclusive “our”.

Bernstein quotes Bush’s “State of the Union Speech”, “America’s purpose is more than to follow a process; it is to achieve a result.” For Bernstein, “This statement alone provides sufficient evidence to oppose his policies. What our America stands on, its foundation, is a commitment to process over results, to finding by doing, to thinking by responding. Solutions made outside of an open-ended process compound whatever problems we face.”

Bush says, “America’s purpose” and Bernstein opposing him says, “what our America stands on”. Again--how in--or exclusive is this “our” and the “we” that follows? Do these still refer only to the poets who share Bernstein’s poetics? Where does Bush’s America end and Bernstein’s begin? And what if one doesn’t feel included in either of these “our Americas”?

Bernstein continues: “If we are to talk of ‘poets’ against the war, then what is it in our poems—as opposed to our positions as citizens—that does the opposing? Perhaps it might be an approach to politics, as much as to poetry, that doesn’t feel compelled to repress ambiguity or complexity nor to substitute the righteous monologue for the skeptic’s dialogue.” Is this saying that the poet’s approach to politics is already in place in approaching the poem? So that whatever it may look or sound like, the poem is always already oppositional when done with this approach of “ours”? And in this way, there is no need to say anything so simple and unambiguous or monological as “stop the war” or “no blood for oil” or “Bush the Butcher of Baghdad”. An advantage of this approach to a “radical, innovative poetics” is that since it posits as a given of its existence its oppositional character, it doesn’t need to articulate anything directly oppositional in words. To be blunt, it doesn’t leave a paper trail. As the saying often seen as a chilling reminder on institutional walls has it: “if it’s not in writing, it never happened.” If the opposition is in the approach, but not expressed in a directly recognizable way, it didn’t happen. (A perfect defense lawyer’s argument, if needed.)

The political approach dispensed with, Bernstein takes on the moral question. “At this trying time, we keep being hectored toward moral discourse, toward turning our work into digestible messages. This too is a casualty of the war machine, the undermining of the value of the projects of art, of the aesthetic.” Who exactly is doing this hectoring? And how is the war machine undermining the value of the aesthetic? Johnson suggests that this is Bernstein’s attack on the Poets Against the War website with its monological, digestible messages to which Bernstein refuses to conform, in the name of preserving the aesthetic in the face of a moral onslaught. No righteous monologue will quell the voice of art’s skeptical dialogue!

Yet in his next line Bernstein states with immense monologic righteousness that “Art is never secondary to moral discourse but its teacher.” One takes it that he means “our” art, the art of his circle, and not the art of the Poets Against the War rabble. As with politics, Bernstein can eschew “monologic righteousness” in poetry, because in his Art he is teaching moral discourse, it is already always there in his work. His morality is the highest, purist form of all. It is Art.

A further value of Art is that it is “unregulated by a predetermined message”. (Isn’t this the dream come true of corporations under the Bush administration?) For Bernstein this means that in times of crisis art can “explore deeper the roots of our alienation and offer alternative ways not only to think, but also to imagine and indeed to resist.” This is disingenuous, because the only alternative ways that one is being offered are those which one is allowed to see, think and imagine within the grid set up by the approaches, statements, directives, rules, set down by Bernstein. The actual small message itself may not be predetermined but the Language within which it is being delivered is. This is the language of Bernstein’s “our”. “Our poetics, our America, our poems, our own forms of ethical aesthetic response.” An alternative yes, but an unregulated one free of predetermined messages, no.

Having claimed Art as the teacher of morality, Bernstein next announces that “Poetry offers not a moral compass but an aesthetic probe.” (What an unfortunate analogy! Sounds like a colonoscopy.) This will “provide a radical alternative to the outcome-driven thinking that has made the Official Morality of the State a mockery of ethical thinking and of international democratic values.” Again, Bernstein is asserting that Art--“an aesthetic probe”--is a morality higher--“a radical alternative”--than any other. “Our art” to be sure. He next devotes a lot of high minded outrage to the outcome- driven evils of the Bush seizure of power via the right wing courts. This is all fine and good, but that was then and this is now, and the reason for the evening’s gathering is the impending war.

In his attack on the Supreme Court, Bernstein once again returns to the word “our”--only now he has suddenly greatly expanded its inclusiveness. He is writing of the contempt the Justices have “for the shared meaning of our common language, shared meanings that are the foundation for the system of laws to which we have given consent through the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.” There’s something a bit jarring in Bernstein’s shifting of the word “our” here. All his previous “ours” have been exclusive, and he has been championing an exclusive language, an exclusive poetics, an exclusive Art and morality. All of a sudden he is speaking of “our common language” and “shared meanings” as though he is “one of us.” Spoken like a true politician! First, go after the base, hammer away at what makes your side special, strong, beautiful, right, and impervious to outside pressures. Then throw the doors open to all the little saps and tell them see, I’m like you, I’m against those rotten crooks in high offices. See, we speak the same language, we share the same values. We’re all in the same boat. Don’t listen to those dull, conventional one-note harping Poets Against the War, come join me in the open-ended process of ambiguity!

I’ve only come up with one explanation so far for a rather puzzling aspect of Bernstein’s conclusion:

“Unilateralism” is not just the course the Executive Branch is pursuing, with disastrous consequences, in foreign policy, but also the policy it pursues domestically, in its assault on our liberties, on the poor, and indeed on our aspirations for a democratic society.

“Unilateralism” actually would seem to describe Bernstein’s own “go it alone” approach, being neither with the government, nor with the Poets Against the War, staying the course of “our” poetics in the face of whatever is to come. To suddenly conflate the unilateralism of “our poetics” with “our common language, our liberties”, “our aspiration for a democratic society” while still rejecting the Poets against the War shows how exclusive the interpretation of “our common language” is. What is puzzling at first and then offensive, is the inclusion out of nowhere of the poor in this equation. In a moment of sound byte political nostalgia for “shared meanings” and sentimentality over “our common language” which he has spent his whole speech distancing himself from, Bernstein out of the blue suddenly seizes on every elitist’s favorite Dickensian image--the poor. The good old generic poor. Always there when you need them! And millions of them, too! Sandwiched between the “assault on our liberties” and “our aspirations for a democratic society” humbly lined up for their fifteen minutes of charity!

At a time of crisis, Bernstein, like Bush, is asking his listeners to make a choice--you’re either with us or against us. Rather than allying himself with fellow poets against the war, he chooses and dictates to others to choose, a unilateral placing of “our poetics” above the lesser forms practiced by other poets in their expressions of protest. Every poet believes his or her poetics is better than others’, but in moments of crisis, if poets want their protests to have an effect, they unite in struggle. Perhaps the problem here for Bernstein is that this is “outcome driven thinking.” That is, it wants the protests to have an effect, to have a certain amount of impact and success. For Bernstein, this goes against his claim to believe in process as being primary. Does this mean that Bernstein does not want protests to succeed, or at least make an impact? Or simply not succeed or matter unless accomplished on “our” terms? How long are poets supposed to stay divided, with some not even believing in results, while those who believe in results steam roller over them, bringing ever more silencing laws, insane domestic and foreign policies? It’s not a matter of changing how you write, to work alongside a fellow poet, write any way that you want, but take some action.

The crisis continues in ever new forms, elections are approaching, Iraq is exploding, the invasion of Lebanon may begin again at any moment, the killing and destruction in Palestine goes on unabated, poverty is growing steadily, gas prices are going up . . . winter will be coming . . . the poor getting colder and colder . . .

“And if there is one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” --Antonin Artaud, Preface to The Theater and Its Double


david-baptiste chirot was born in lafayette, indiana, grew up in vermont. lived in gottingen, germany, arles & paris, france, hastveda, sweden, wroclaw, poland, boston and milwaukee. since 1997 essays, poetry, visual poety, performance/event scores, sound poetry, prose poetry have appeared in 90+ print journals, dozens of web journals and sites, 300 mail art calls. several books: found rubBEings (Xerolage 32) ANARKEYOLOGY (runaway spoon) REVERBERATIONS (Lulu) ZERO POEM (Traverse) tearerISm (singlepress) HUNG ER (neotrope) and chapbooks, work in many anthologies in USA and UK. google search david baptiste chirot / blog: