Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 18 (Miles Champion)

Three Bell Zero
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Champion, Miles
Three Bell Zero

Given that I have only met Miles Champion three or four times, I seem to have an inordinately large number of memories about him. So, I'll list them.

1. Back in the late nineties, I used to either begin or end my readings with a prose poem called "Democracy in America." I had it memorized and would read it very quickly. Whenever I performed it, people would ask me if I knew Tom Raworth or MIles Champion. The answer was always no, though I had read Tom's work.

2. I used to confuse Miles Champion with a local New York City sports news anchor named Sam Champion. Sam Champion and Miles Champion are not, as far as I know, related. I like Miles better.

3. Miles read in Buffalo with Brian Stefans in, I think 2000 or 2001, which was when he gave me this copy of Three Bell Zero. He did so after I told him I was so broke I couldn't afford books. I thought that was very kind of him. Brian gave me a copy of his book, too. I thought that was also very kind. I should try that line at Barnes and Noble.

4. During that same visit, we drove to Niagara Falls with Jonathan Skinner, Isabelle Pellissier, and Brian. It must have been 2000 because Lori wasn't yet in the picture. We got pulled over crossing the border into Canada after Jonathan responded to the question, "Where do you live?" with "We are just going to Niagara Falls." They searched Isabelle's Volvo while we stood around outside. We were not allowed to go to the bathroom until they finished. Eventually, one of the border guards emerged from the car with a little drawstring linen bag full of white powder. "What's this?" he asked. "Soap." They let us go.

5. On the way to the Falls, we drove along the shore of the NIagara River listening to one of Isabelle's french electronica CD's. Miles asked if she could put something else on. "You don't like it?" asked Isabelle. "No." "Why, because it's electronica?" "No. Because it's insipid."

6. I remember hearing that Miles had gotten married and moved to New York.

7. I remember hearing that Miles had gotten a job at the Poetry Project.

8. I remember hearing that Miles was applying for a green card.

9. I remember hearing Miles had gotten his green card.

10. I saw Miles after a star-studded event at the Poetry Project in, I think, 2005. It was one of those events where everyone is so busy trying to be important, or to look important, or to be seen standing next to an important person, that you don't really get to talk to anyone about anything. Miles was tending bar. I talked to MIles and he talked to me. I like Miles. I also talked to Ed Sanders and Anselm Berrigan. I like them, too.

11. I remember hearing Miles wasn't married anymore.

12. I remember hearing Miles didn't work at the Poetry Project anymore.

13. Miles came to Buffalo again in, I think, 2007 or 8. I saw him read at Rust Belt Books. He was staying with Steve McCaffery and Karen Mac Cormack, who wanted to go home after the reading instead of going to a bar. I offered to give him a ride home after we went out. We went to the Founding Fathers Pub. There was a young poet there who had many questions for Miles about writing. I was impressed with how Miles was able to give the kid encouragement without compromising his own aesthetics. He didn't say anything he thought the kid wanted to hear, only told him the truth about his own writing. Later, we sat in my car outside Steve and Karen's house gossiping about every poet on the planet. That was a lot of fun.

14. I should also say that both times that I saw him read, my first thought was that Miles didn't read THAT fast. This was because I was still able to understand every single word he said. Then I listened and listened and thought, "Holy shit, this guy reads fast AND I can understand every word." I was impressed by that.

15. Lastly, I remember Miles telling me about his writing process, which was very different from my own. He told me he writes very slowly, literally a line at a time. Once he writes a line, he sits on it for a while until the next line comes to him. This might not happen for a week, during which time he writes nothing at all. I was impressed by that, too.

Here's one from this book:


Cramped about



admits happy


beyond what

air of

solitude lies

under this


blanket of

flat regard

wasting by


morning float

standard reductions

safe bets

buckled or

sewn across




from fanned

tenderness to

my place


get up

breeze through


out the


again these

border mists

thoughts pass

my body


gives directions

molts lightly


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