Monday, April 30, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 19 (William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare, William

Purchased on eBay as part of a set. I thought I had purchased the whole shebang, but it turned out the set was missing a play or two. I can't remember which ones at the moment. If you want to have a handy, readable set of Shakespeare's plays around, there are some great deals to be had on the Yale Shakespeare. It sure beats trying to read the plays out of some gargantuan fifty-pound omnibus, and these tend to keep a bit better than the cheap paperbacks you use in college courses. I think I got my set for thirty dollars or so.

I have a memory of a visit by Matvei Yankelevich, Genya Turovskaya and Anna Moschovakis to our house in the Black Rock neighborhood in Buffalo that I associate with these books. I had brought the three of them, all members of the editorial collective at Ugly Duckling Presse, to read at Just Buffalo and to give a talk at Buffalo State College. One evening, I was in the kitchen with Matvei when he noticed that our two cats, Baby and Mama, had shoved themselves into a small box on kitchen floor.

Both were rather large cats, especially Baby, and they barely fit. Normally, we'd set out two boxes leftover from our coffee shipments. They were each about the right size for one cat. On this occasion, however, I had just received my Yale Shakespeare set in the mail. It came in a box slightly large than the coffee boxes the cats were used to, and I think they both wanted to try out the new thing.

When Matvei noticed the two of them snoozing in the box, I pointed out to him that it was my Shakespeare box. He seemed pleased by this.

from Sonnets


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
             This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
             To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 18 (Lynda Norene Shaffer)

Native Americans Before 1492
Shaffer, Lynda Norene
Native Americans Before 1492: The Moundbuilding Centers of the Eastern Woodlands

Purchased online.

This could be filed under "Olson." I bought after reading something by Olson where he mentioned the moundbuilders, probably an essay. I can't recall which one.

A few years ago, Lori and I visited the famous Serpent Mound in Ohio. We had built up our excitement so that we planned on finding a hotel and staying overnight. However, as much as we did enjoy exploring the site, we were done in a couple of hours. We ended up staying the night in Louisville, the second stop on our cross-country trek. Louisville was kind of dull.

For the next few weeks I will be showing off my nearly complete Yale Shakespeare collection. It could take over a month to get through it. I'll have to figure out some creative ways to photograph the volumes, as most of the spine and cover text is faded and the covers are all identical.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 17 (Anne Sexton)

The Complete Poems
Sexton, Anne
The Complete Poems

This book belongs to Lori.

It has been said that one way to judge an artist is by the quality of her imitators, in which case Anne Sexton might be one of the worst poets I've ever read.

from The Complete Poems

Knee Song

Being kissed on the back

of the knee is a moth
at the windowscreen and
yes my darling a dot

on the fathometer is
tinkerbelle with her cough
and twice I will give up my
honor and stars will stick
like tacks in the night
yes oh yes oh yes two
little snails at the back
of the knee building bon-
fires something like eye-
lashes something two zippos
striking yes yes yes small
and me maker.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16.4 (W.G. Sebald)

The Rings of Saturn
Sebald, W.G.
The Rings of Saturn

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

This was the first book of Sebald's that I read. I can't recall who it was that introduced me to his work. I have a memory of seeing this on Gregg Biglieri's bookshelf, but I don't recall us talking about it until much later.

Anyhow, to finish yesterday's tale...

I think I had been having minor attacks of vertigo for a couple of years before I had a major one. I can remember on several occasions getting dizzy suddenly, then recovering immediatelgy. At first I thought I had just stood up too quickly or something, but then it started happening while I was seated or even lying down and with increasing frequency.

The first big attack occurred in December of 2001. I remember the date because we had just finished the fall season of events at Just Buffalo with a visit from legendary sportswriter Frank Deford. I believe the attack occurred on the same day he left. I was sitting in the living room of our apartment on Ashland Avenue watching a movie when I heard a click, like a light switch being flipped, sound in my head.

The room started spinning violently. I tried to walk down the long, narrow hallway, but could not make it because I kept falling into the walls. I basically crawled back to the couch, where I lay for the next two weeks, unable to do much more than sleep or watch short bits of TV. I couldn't read even a line.

So began one of those lovely medical odysseys in which a group of "specialists" performs a battery of tests and arrives at the beginning once again. I took eye tests, ear tests, had my ear canal flooded with hot water to induce nausea, etc. At the end of the day, they basically told me that I was dizzy and that I'd better get used to it.

I was told there were two forms of labyrinthitis, one viral, the other caused by a dislocation of inner ear crystals. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had the viral form and that it was untreatable. They said that eventually I would regain a new equilibrium and suffer less. The attacks continued for another two or three years, occurring less intensely but with increasing regularity.

I hurt my neck sometime in 2003 or 4. Not sure how, but I did something to get it out of whack. Lori suggested I see her chiropractor. I did. I told him about the vertigo during our visit and he told me that he had an adjustment that sometimes helped.

After adjusting my back and neck, he cradled my head in his hands and lightly shook it. He did this from three separate angles. I went back two more times in the following weeks. I didn't have an attack for almost a year. When I did, I went back again and the next time I went two years without an attack. It's now been five years or so without a major attack. I can still feel it lurking now and again, but it never overwhelms me like it once did.

So began my distrust of the medical profession...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16.3 (W.G. Sebald)

Sebald, W.G.

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I have suffered for about ten years with a kind of vertigo known by the disturbingly Borgesian designation of "Labyrinthitis." Reportedly, this condition arises by way of a virus to the inner ear. Neither the source nor the cause of this mysterious virus is currently known. What is known is that it exists and that it attacks the inner ear, which is responsible for maintaining equilibrium.

When an attack occurs, it feels like being on a ship being tossed about on a stormy sea or, less romantically, like being dead drunk, without the pleasing effect of inebriation. My worst attacks signal themselves by a single click sound in my head, almost like a light switch being turned on. Right after the click, the room begins to spin, sometimes so violently I can't even see. Walking even a few feet becomes impossible because I am unable to stand up. In short, I can do nothing but take a dramamine (or meclezine, which is the prescription version they give you), and wait for the storm to die down.

It usually passes in a few seconds, but can last hours, days, or even weeks. I once had lie on the couch in our apartment, the same one I described yesterday, for more than two weeks. Thankfully, I have never had an attack while driving.

Ok, off to work -- I'll finish this story tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16.2 (W.G. Sebald)

The Emigrants
Sebald, W.G
The Emigrants

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I discovered Sebald about a decade ago, I guess. It was towards the end of my grad school years. Lori and I had just bought our first house together. Actually, it might have been before that. We may still have been living at our first shared apartment on Ashland Ave. in Buffalo. That was a great apartment. It took up the entire second floor of a gigantic forest green house.

The owner, a pot-smoking, motorcross racing sixty year-old named Mike, lived in back in what was once the carriage house. He had turned it into a swinging seventies bachelor pad, with a circular picture window looking out from the sunken living room on the second floor. Whenever I went there to pay the rent, I noticed that his computer had a pornographic screensaver preserving his monitor.

Our apartment had three bedrooms, a formal dining room, two living rooms, a sunporch, a fireplace, stained and leaded glass windows. Ah, it was lovely. I think the rent was $650 a month! The only bother was the parking. It was especially bad in winter. When it snowed I had a lot of difficulty distinguishing driveways. I always seemed to be parking my car in front of other people's driveways. I got a lot of tickets.

I don't have any specific memory of reading this book in that apartment, but something tells me I did. If not, then I read it shortly after we moved into our first house, which was in 2003.

from The Emigrants

Every walk full of surprises, and indeed of alarm. The prospects change like the scenes in a play. One street lined with palatial buildings ends at a ravine. You go to a theatre and a door in the foyer opens into a copse; another time, you turn down a gloomy back street that narrows and narrows till you think you are trapped, whereupon you take one last desperate turn round a corner and find yourself suddenly gazing from a vantage point across the vastest of panoramas. You climb a bare hillside forever and find yourself once more in a shady valley, enter a house gate and are in the street, drift with the bustle in the bazaar and are suddenly amidst gravestones. For, like Death itself, the cemeteries of Constantinople are in the midst of life. For every one who departs this life, they say, a cypress is planted. In their dense branches the turtle doves nest. When night falls they stop cooing and partake of the silence of the dead. Once the silence descends, the bats come out and flit along their ways. Cosmo claims he can hear every one of their cries.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16.1 (W.G. Sebald)

On the Natural History of Destruction
Sebald, W.G.
On the Natural History of Destruction

I am pretty sure this, like yesterday's title, was also a gift, possibly, again, from Jonathon Welch. But I could be wrong.

I was about to write that it was the only one of my Sebald titles that I've yet to read, but opening it up I realized that I have read it. The first paragraph, anyhow, but likely the whole thing. I have a hard time remembering Sebald's books.

Perhaps it has to do with their digressive nature.

Just as I start to form a mental image of what I am reading, the narrative moves off in another, often unexpected, direction. I enjoy the fluidity of movement between history and fiction and autobiography, the photos interspersed in the text, the way my mind feels as it tries to integrate them into the images I am forming in my mind, wondering always if the stories came first or if the author constructed the narrative around the photos, but I when I am done, that is what I remember, the experience of reading rather than the content.

Anyone else experience Sebald this way?

from On the Natural History of Destruction

Today it is hard to form an even partly adequate idea of the extent of the devastation suffered by the cities of Germany in the last years of the Second World War, still harder to think about the horrors involved in the devastation. It is true that the strategic bombing surveys published by the Allies, together with the records of the Federal German Statistics Office and other official sources, show that the Royal Air Force alone dropped a million bombs on enemy territory; it is true that of the 131 towns and cities attacked, some only once and some repeatedly, many were almost entirely flattened, that about 600,000 German civilians fell victim to the air raids, and that three and a half million homes were destroyed, while at the end of the war seven and a half million people were left homeless, and there 31.1 cubic meters of rubble for every person in Cologne and 42.8 cubic meters for every inhabitant of Dresden–but we do not grasp what it all actually meant. The destruction, on a scale without historical precedent, entered the annals of the nation, as it set about rebuilding itself, only in the form of vague generalizations. It seems to have left barely a trace of pain behind in the collective consciousness, it has been largely obliterated from the retrospective understanding of those affected, and it never played any appreciable part in the discussion of the internal constitution of our country.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 16 (W.G. Sebald)

Sebald, W.G.

Given to me by Jonathon Welch, proprietor of Talking Leaves Books. I hope having made public the fact he gave away an Advance Reader's Copy does not bring him any trouble from the publishing industry. Apologies if it does..

When I first read Sebald, I got so excited that I immediately wrote his name on a list of writers I was submitting for an NEA grant for "If All Of Buffalo Read The Same Book." I was able to add his name to the list just in time to send the grant in before the deadline. It took about a month for me to realize that he was already dead, and had been for two years. Oops. Thankfully, no one at the NEA paid much attention to my mistake.

I am tempted here to make a comment about the Blazevox controversy. I'll refrain.

from Austerlitz

In the second half of the 1960s I traveled repeatedly from England to Belgium, partly for study purposes, partly for other reasons which were never entirely clear to me, staying sometimes for just one or two days, sometimes for several weeks. On one of these Belgian excursions which, as it seemed to me, always took me further and further abroad, I came on a glorious early summer's day to the city of Antwerp, known to me previously only by name. Even on my arrival, as the train rolled slowly over the viaduct with its curious pointed turrets on both sides and into the dark station concourse, I had begun to feel unwell, and this sense of indisposition persisted for the whole of my visit to Belgium on that occasion.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 15 (Peter Seaton)

The Son Master
Seaton, Peter
The Son Master

Given to me by Charles Bernstein. I think I have mentioned before that Charles used to have stacks upon stacks of books in his office at the University at Buffalo. Stacks upon stacks of boxes of books, too. Every once in a while, he'd need to clean things up a bit. On such occasions, he would hand out copies of books of which he had multiple copies to students as they came into class. Or he would just leave them on the seminar table and tell to take one as they pleased. I remember this was one of them. There was also a book by Ted Greenwald.

from The Son Master

I saw John writing the metaphysical poets today. It's an up to date way to read, so it consists less of the terminal part than the sound of a voice over the long haul gauge, the trial of sensation and dissection, counting the pages in rhyme so that the metaphysical names of the poets become possessed of a key to divided work as the blood in her veins through her knee. To keep this I can't have any pre-existing conditions. So I give them up in exchange for peace of mind. For my right hand, Charles Ives. For the rest of my life, Wallace Stevens. Walt Whitman and the men in his life for the men in my life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 14 (Peter Dale Scott)

Two Poems
Scott, Peter Dale
Two Poems

This is the chapbook I spoke about the other day. It came from the same series as the ones by James Schuyler & Alice Notley. Published by the DIA foundation. I think they used to print these for each of their readings. When I used to go to those readings in the early nineties, they had reduced the print output to a modest, yet beautiful, letter-pressed broadside for each reader. I still have a couple tucked away in a box somewhere.

The title isn't really "Two Poems," I don't think. It's just that the two poems in it each have long titles that would take up two much space in the index line above and would besides be nearly as inaccurate as the one I made up. The two titles are:

Coming to Jakarta: A Poem About Terror
Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse

I have never read this chapbook, and outside of owning it -- I think I acquired it through the Segue Foundation in NYC -- I have never heard of Peter Dale Scott. His titles give me pause. They seem to want to over-specify something about the work. I'll type a little out and see if my suspicions are warranted.

(Post script to the preceding sentence: Not bad, I'll have to read more.)

from Coming to Jakarta: A Poem About Terror


There are three desks in my office
               at one I read Virgil's
       descent into the underworld

at one I try to sort out
               clippings of failed swiss banks
       or of slow killings on meat-hooks

in a well-guarded Chicago garage
               but the third desk this one
       is where the typewriter

stares at me with only
               a sheet of white paper
       from which my blank mind

is averted with an
               unmistakable almost
       diamagnetic force

as the page blurs
               to the size of a movie screen
       watched by a captive amphitheater

of all the letters there are
               containing among them every poem
       the mean vaults at the back of my head

would rather kill me than let go of
               so I turn back now
       to mock them: Mosaic darkness

constellations of the gulf's floor
              naked half-limbs swift
        alpine cloudburst hail and you

wind-driven ghost of snow
               down the side of the dark
       oak outside my childhood window

with the bling flapping all night
               Why are you here?
       Have you something to tell me?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 13 (Delmore Schwartz)

"Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge
Schwartz, Delmore
Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge

Purchased at St. Mark's Books.

I first heard of Delmore Schwartz in a song by Brenda Kahn. Brenda was part of the East Village anti-folk movement in the early nineties. She sang lots of cleverly desperate and romantic and fatalistic songs about living among the junkies and squatters and artists in the East Village of the time. I and some of my friends were infatuated with her. She had a line in a song that read, "Delmore and Edie/would have made bad lovers too/Just like me and you." There must have been a liner note or something that cured me into to the fact that this referred to Delmore Schwartz.

Later I learned that Schwartz had been a kind of mentor to the young Lou Reed, who, as an undergraduate used to meet up with the then dissipated poet to talk about his work. Eventually, I bought this volume. I never much liked the work, truth be told. I bought a bio once, too, which did little to excite me about the man, either.

I did always like the first poem in the book, though, "The Ballad of the Children of the Czar." I don't think I like it as much as I once did though. It feels a bit too, how shall we say? overdetermined?


The children of the Czar   
Played with a bouncing ball

In the May morning, in the Czar’s garden,   
Tossing it back and forth.

It fell among the flowerbeds   
Or fled to the north gate.

A daylight moon hung up
In the Western sky, bald white.

Like Papa’s face, said Sister,   
Hurling the white ball forth.


While I ate a baked potato   
Six thousand miles apart,

In Brooklyn, in 1916,   
Aged two, irrational.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt   
Was an Arrow Collar ad.

O Nicholas! Alas! Alas!
My grandfather coughed in your army,

Hid in a wine-stinking barrel,   
For three days in Bucharest

Then left for America
To become a king himself.


I am my father’s father,
You are your children’s guilt.

In history’s pity and terror   
The child is Aeneas again;

Troy is in the nursery,
The rocking horse is on fire.

Child labor! The child must carry   
His fathers on his back.

But seeing that so much is past   
And that history has no ruth

For the individual,
Who drinks tea, who catches cold,

Let anger be general:
I hate an abstract thing.


Brother and sister bounced   
The bounding, unbroken ball,

The shattering sun fell down   
Like swords upon their play,

Moving eastward among the stars   
Toward February and October.

But the Maywind brushed their cheeks   
Like a mother watching sleep,

And if for a moment they fight   
Over the bouncing ball

And sister pinches brother   
And brother kicks her shins,

Well! The heart of man is known:   
It is a cactus bloom.


The ground on which the ball bounces   
Is another bouncing ball.

The wheeling, whirling world   
Makes no will glad.

Spinning in its spotlight darkness,   
It is too big for their hands.

A pitiless, purposeless Thing,   
Arbitrary and unspent,

Made for no play, for no children,   
But chasing only itself.

The innocent are overtaken,   
They are not innocent.

They are their father’s fathers,
The past is inevitable.


Now, in another October   
Of this tragic star,

I see my second year,   
I eat my baked potato.

It is my buttered world,
But, poked by my unlearned hand,

It falls from the highchair down   
And I begin to howl.

And I see the ball roll under   
The iron gate which is locked.

Sister is screaming, brother is howling,   
The ball has evaded their will.

Even a bouncing ball   
Is uncontrollable,

And is under the garden wall.   
I am overtaken by terror

Thinking of my father’s fathers,   
And of my own will.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 12.1 (James Schuyler)

For Joe Brainard
Schuyler, James
For Joe Brainard

I am not sure that that is the actual title of this chapbook, but it's the closest thing to a title I could find. And it is written on the title page under the author's name, so let's say it is the title. But it could be a dedication to an untitled something or other. It looks like it comes from "The Home Book," which is, I take it, some kind of journal. I'll have to ask my friend Simon Pettet to clarify this for me.

I think I got this when I worked at the Segue Foundation in New York. I have another perfect bound chapbook from the same series by Alice Notley. I have or had a third one somewhere, too, but I can't recall by whom. Peter somebody or other?

Opening it up this morning I realized I had never read it before. I will do so presently.

You may have noticed the tie in this morning's photo. The answer is yes, I have started my new job. I wear a tie to work. I bought two new ones just last week. Calvin Klein, in case you were wondering.

from For Joe Brainard (or whatever it is or isn't called)

August 25, 1968     Fog.

September 24, 1968     The common trumpet vine has vigor. There is little else to be said for it.

I feel vaguely disloyal,
Campsis radicans.

October 10, 1968/Vermont     A light first frost last night and at 7 the grass was crystalized crunch. The sun came up slowly, mist revolved on the pond and the light hit the western slope and lit up the rhapsodic and enflamed trees. "October's bright blue weather" day after day of it–incredible.

November 25 1968     The hateful street with the handsome houses.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 12 (James Schuyler)

Collected Poems
Schuyler, James
Collected Poems

I think I bought this at St. Mark's Books back in the mid-nineties, but I am not one hundred percent certain. I may have bought it when I moved to Buffalo. Definitely one of my favorite poetry book covers of all time, with its lovely portrait of the author by Darragh Park wrapping around the spine (though it stops at the back cover, I should note).

Eileen Myles first told me about James Schuyler when I took a workshop with her at the New School. I'd been reading O'Hara and Ashbery and Ted Berrigan pretty religiously at that point, but I hadn't yet delved into Schuyler's work. Eileen worked as his personal assistant for a couple of years when she was younger. I remember her saying that some anthologist once refused to let her include this info in her bio.

Anyhow, I did not like Schuyler's work for a long time. I couldn't exactly say why, but I think it had something to do with trying to read his longer work, like "The Morning of the Poem." It just seemed, well, too long! Over the years, though, I have gone back to it and have found it especially useful as I have made the transition in my own poetry from short poems with short lines to longer poems with longer lines.

Maybe he's one of those poets you save for adulthood. O'Hara, who I love, is in many ways a younger person's poet. The emotions are immediate, on the surface, very intense and direct. They are concerned with interpersonal relationships, with heartbreak and disappointment and sex and love. Schuyler's poems are more layered, slow, meditative. Even though he, too, is concerned with a kind of immediacy, he holds his gaze on things quite a bit longer than O'Hara does, giving you time to take in more details.


Well, no time to type a poem exemplifies what I just said. Here's a shorty but a goodie.

From Collected Poems


Past is past, and if one

remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
enough? Like gather-
ing of one of each I
planned, to gather one
of each kind of clover,
daisy, paintbrush that
grew in that field
the cabin stood in and
study them one afternoon
before they wilted. Past
is past. I salute
that various field.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 11 (Gershom Scholem)

Scholem, Gershom

Purchased online. This, like many of the books on my shelves, could be filed under Paul Celan. It was one of so many that I read under the influence of his poetry and thought.

I can picture myself reading it in bed at night at our old house in the Black Rock section of Buffalo The word "seraphim" keeps popping into my head, but when I look into the book I realize that the word I am probably remembering is "sefirot." I recall that the sefirot are some kind of emanation or some such.

While my catholic upbringing definitely formed in my consciousness a melancholy disposition constantly searching for a god that will never return, I have to say that mysticism is pretty much lost on me.

I recall this book getting very blurry in my imagination at some point as I tried to visualize all these "emanations" and so forth. The same thing occurred when I read Dante. The first two books made perfect sense to me, but when I got to all the seraphic visions of the Paradiso, I began to doze off.

So, let me say here and now that I am not a mystic. I know. Shocking!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 10.1 (Kyle Schlesinger)

Hello Helicopter
Schlesinger, Kyle
Hello Helicopter

Given to me by the author on the occasion of our double book launch at Rust Belt Books in Buffalo in November 2007. Inscribed:

For Mike,

"Living ink saunters"
with love and admiration,


We read together after I had just returned from a month's worth of readings out west. I remember there was an indigent man sitting in the back row, quite drunk. He heckled me throughout the reading. After a while, the banter between the two of us became a part of the show. Kevin Thurston, as I recall, sat next to the man, writing down everything he said, turning the words into something of a found poem. I wrote about it here. You can also view photos of the event here. While I am linking, I should also post this article about me in today's Buffalo news. I hate the picture, but I guess the rest is okay. Although I should state for the record that I did NOT teach Howl to "schoolchildren." None of them were under 16!

from Hello Helicopter

from BIG FOOT: An Essay on Abjection

Yellow ribbons tied around trees and fingers. Ceases to remember.
Clear-cut. Mustn't make a mark in the clearing lest it connote superstition.

The pedometer drops on the windshield. I forget that oblivion is constant.

It is almost dawn and Jerry has left the camp. Not there.

The heel, the ball of the foot, five toes. And how is that?

Is is banished. Is it daylight? Is Jerry crew?

Standing near a bulldozer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 10 (Kyle Schlesinger)

Schablone Berlin
Koebel, Caroline
Schlesinger, Kyle

Schablone Berlin

Given to me by the authors. Inscribed:

To Mike:

With Love


This book contains photos of stencil graffiti art taken by Caroline in Berlin in 2004 as well as a theoretical essay by Kyle. I remember the two of them left for Berlin and then returned parents. I think they stayed in Buffalo another year or two after that, then moved on to Brooklyn and eventually to Austin, TX, where they now reside.

I saw Kyle just before I left Buffalo at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair. We didn't get much of a chance to talk, as we were furiously packing every free moment we had. It was nice to see him, though. I think of Kyle and Caroline every time I see stencil art on a wall, in much the same way I think of my friend, artist Julian Montague, every time I see a stray shopping cart.

There's a piece of stencil art in Buffalo I used to encounter on my morning walk around the block with the dog that used to always make me think of them. Painted onto the lower righthand corner of a beige-green postal relay box, it depicted a "blue-skinned gypsy sipping soda from a straw." I put that in quotes because it ended up in part of series of prose poems I wrote about my late autumn walks with Zelda in 2010.

from Schablone Berlin

A makeshift light box fashioned from an old desk drawer in the sunroom. Patterns traced on onionskin paper. Graphite inscribed leaves set upon sheets of transparent mylar and incised precisely. Doves, hearts and other emblematic glimpses of colonial Americana interwoven with vegetative borders appearing on the kitchen table, stools, stairs, bathroom walls, and on various headboards about the premises. Fated, faded, haggard. Colloquial, familiar, settling into. Place this locating quality, or the particular scent of these paints becoming the resin of an irrevocable impressions. The freeze frame comes in mid-air--but in writing this, I have yet to scratch the surface.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 9.3 (Leslie Scalapino)

The Front Matter, Dead Souls
Scalapino, Leslie
The Front Matter, Dead Souls

Note sure how I acquired this one. Like Considering how exaggerated music is, it may also have come from the Just Buffalo archive. I think it is more likely that this one did than the other.

I am getting lots of extra hits today thanks to an interview with Geoffrey Gatza by Anis Shivani in the Huffington Post about the latest incident in the ongoing Blazevox Controversy.

If you aren't aware, the NEA has banned authors like me from counting our Blazevox books as publications on our applications for grants, suggesting that because some authors were asked to contribute to the publication of their book, all of us should be tarred as vanity poets, whether we contributed financially or not. Not that I planned on applying for a grant, but still, wake up NEA, we're in the 21st Century! Gatekeepers are irrelevant.

You can read the interview it here:

The interview links to my two previous statements on the controversy. Hence, the extra traffic.

Robert Archambeau tries this morning to put the concept of self-publishing and so-called vanity publishing within the context of modernist innovative poetry in a brief blog entry here:

While I am posting links, I should post this one, which is from a few weeks ago on the Buffalo News blog. It's about my work in Buffalo, mostly, but it also includes a snapshot review of Aimless Reading:

All for now!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 9.2 (Leslie Scalapino)

Scalapino, Leslie

Purchased online for $4.98. At least that is what the sticker says. This is one I keep meaning to read and don't. I will, I will.

I was enjoying reading the poems in Considering how exaggerated music is so much yesterday morning that I decided to put the book on my bedside table, next to the novel I am currently reading, 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami. Miraculously, I am actually one hundred or so pages into the Murakami, the furthest I have ever gotten into one of his books. Figures it would happen with the one that gets the most tepid reviews.

Anyhow, I read a few of the poems from a sequence called "The Woman Who Could Read The Minds of Dogs." They all tend to deal with sex and power and language and...animals. Animals of one sort or another appear in most of the individual poems. One features a seal, or rather it compares the movements and sounds and shapes of men having sex to the those of seals barking and shuffling around on their oddly shaped oblong bodies.

It's a pretty funny poem.

I bring it up, though, because it brought back an obscure memory from college. Before I tell you about it, I want also to note that when this memory appeared, my first thought was to write it down. I thought maybe it was a story (I don't know why. I never write fiction.) Then I thought it would make a good blog entry. I said to myself that I should write it down so I don't forget it in the morning. I did not write it down.

When I sat down at my desk this morning, I remembered that I had had an idea for today's blog entry. Predictably, I could not remember what it was, only that it had to do with Leslie Scalapino. I scolded myself for having been too lazy to write it down before going to sleep, then retrieved the book from the bedroom to see if scanning its pages might bring my idea back to the fore. Thankfully, the last word of the poem is "Seal." I found it almost immediately and remembered the following story.

I went to college at Fordham University in the Bronx from 1989 to 1992. During that time I stopped drinking, et al, but I still chain-smoked and I ate like a truck driver. One of my favorite places to sit and eat and smoke and drink coffee (milk and three-four sugars, I might add), was a diner on Fordham Road called Pete's Cafe.

Pete was a swarthy, burly Greek man who often wore a thick black mustache. They gave out free books of matches at the cash register with a sketch of Pete's face on the cover. Once, Pete shaved his mustache off. Within a couple of days, the image on the matchbooks had changed to reflect this new reality: Pete with a big smile & no mustache.

I used to sit in Pete's by myself, smoking, eating, reading, writing, drinking coffee, etc. I would sit in the same booth, next to the window and facing the door, every day. This was my last semester in college. I had finished my course work and was taking graduate classes to see if I had a taste for graduate school. Most of the grad students were smug, arrogant, distant. None of them talked to me.

One of these was a tall, pale woman with thin, straight, brown hair that hung down just below the shoulders. Like many of the graduate students, she refused to make eye contact with me unless it occurred by accident. I presumed this had to do with the fact that I was an undergraduate invading their sacred realm.

Anyhow, this tall, pale, thin woman would come to the diner nearly every day to meet her boyfriend. She would walk through the front door, glance around the restaurant, sometimes looking right at me, yet making me feel as if I weren't even there, then take a seat two booths closer to the door with her back to me. She was always early. He was alway late. I began to observe her. She was interesting to me only because I wondered what it was that made her so distant.

She would sit calmly for a few minutes, reading a book, ordering a cup of coffee, staring out the window. At a certain point the boyfriend would become noticeably late. Even from two botths away I could feel her anxiety. She would shuffle her body from side to side, fix condiments and silverware on the table, crane her neck to see out the various windows beside her and before her, trying to catch a glimpse of him.

This is where Leslie Scalapino's seal comes in. There was something about the shape of her head and the way it bobbed above the back of the booth that reminded me of a seal. Her head was thin and rose to point the reminded me of the way a seal's head rises to a point when it cranes. In my head this woman, to whom I never spoke a word, became know as The Seal.

For a time, this made me feel very superior. I would imagine her barking as she opened up her mouth to catch a fish thrown by her always-late boyfriend, also an arrogant grad student. But then I began to feel sorry for her. The boyfriend arrived later and later and each time she grew more and moretense. Often it felt like she was on the verge of tears.

And then one day he didn't show up at all. She waited for over an hour. I had nothing better to do, so I watched to see if he eventually did come. After a time, her head stopped bobbing above the booth and she let it rest in her hands, which were propped up by her elbows on the edge of the table. I could tell she was crying.

Eventually, she paid her check and got up to leave. I remember she turned toward the back of the restaurant and scanned the restroom area to make sure she hadn't missed him. She had not. For the briefest of moments she looked me in the eye, almost as if she knew not only that I knew what was going on but that I was secretly enjoying her suffering.

It lasted only a second, not really even long enough to call it "contact," but it made me feel a kind of sympathy for her. And then out he went. I think I had been there alone for two hours at that point, nibbling at the ends of my grilled bacon and cheese and nursing a fourth cup of coffee. I was probably smoking and pretending to read a book or to write something in my notebook.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 9.1 (Leslie Scalapino)

Considering how exaggerated music is
Scalapino, Leslie
Considering how exaggerated music is

Greetings from New Haven, Connecticut. You can see in the photo today that I am writing from my lovely new home office, a slightly cold but light-drenched former sun porch at the front of the apartment. The apartment itself is on the first floor of a five apartment house that faces out on Humphrey St.

You can see in the background that most of my books are in boxes. Since we may be moving again in a year, I decided to keep most of them packed up. In the other room, I have all the books from S-Z on a few shelves, ready and waiting to bring this project to its close.

The end doesn't look as far away as it once did. Just a few long shelves to go and then, just like that, it will be done. I'll have to figure out a new way to keep myself writing blog posts everyday. But that's still a ways off. I think we'll make it to the end of the year.

I am not sure how I acquired this one. My instinct is to say that I got from the Just Buffalo library prior to its sale, but I don't see a stamp on the inside cover. That doesn't mean I didn't get it from there, just that I am once again unsure.

from Considering how exaggerated music is

As Rimbaud said,     I thought today sitting in the library
absentmindedly leafing through a book on the habits of birds,

As Rimbaud said,     I thought today sitting in the library

absentmindedly leafing through a book on the habits of birds,
isn't the way we find happiness precisely by losing our senses
(oversimplified, of course. I was being     facetious.) But still

I can see imitating a bird's call such as that of the fledgling
of a goose or a swan (here I referred to the book) by forcing
myself into a swoon. And,      by way of finishing the thought, I,
for sake of appearances, since there were people sitting
in the chairs around me, merely sagged forward in my seat and
whistled as if I were asleep. Ssss, it came out, sort of a hiss,
like the noise of a goose. So, almost before I knew it,
I followed this by a low and guttural cough
and leaned forward simply to expel some phlegm. Then quickly
I took a glance around before I wiped my mouth. Feeling weary.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 9 (Leslie Scalapino)

Scalapino, Leslie

I think I acquired this when I volunteered at the Segue foundation. I remember there being a whole bunch of extra copies there. I remember picking it up and reading it there. I don't exactly remember acquiring it there, but it seems likely I did.

Well, this is our last full day in Buffalo before we move to New Haven. The movers arrive tomorrow and we'll be on the road by evening. We should be fully moved into our new pad by Sunday. Lori's in the shower. Emily's sitting on my lap. Blue is sitting on a stool looking through the window down at the street. Zelda is asleep on the sofa downstairs. Sumi is no doubt looking for trouble somewhere. I...

14 hours later, I realize I got distracted and forgot all about this. I have to  get to bed, but I wanted to say stay tuned, we'll be back before you know it!