Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 11 (Barbara W. Tuchman)

The March of Folly
Tuchman, Barbara W.
The March of Folly

I think I pilfered this from my brother's shelf. He may have read it in high school. It was the first book of history that I ever read cover to cover. I don't recall exactly when I read it. Probably in my early twenties. For the first time since I started working on this blog, I am finding it difficult to keep going. I have gotten bored before, but I always kept writing. I always made sure to write for a few minutes a day, regardless of the quality or content.Lately, though, I just don't feel like writing as often as I used to. The smallest distraction can keep me from writing. Maybe it's the fact that I am getting close to the end that is weighing on me. Who knows?

from The March of Folly


For all their truths, the Fulbright hearings were not a prelude to action in the only way that could count, a vote against appropriations, so much as an intellectual exercise in examination of American policy. The issue of longest consequence, Executive war, was not formulated until after the hearings, in Fulbright’s preface to a published version. Acquiescence in Executive war, he wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only was this questionable, but major policy decisions turn “not upon available facts but upon judgment,” with which policy-makers are no better endowed than the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge “whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve the overall interests as a nation.”

Though he could bring out the major issues, Fulbright was a teacher, not a leader, unready himself to put his vote where it counted. When a month after the hearings the Senate authorized $4.8 billion in emergency funds for the war in Vietnam, the bill passed against only the two faithful negatives of Morse and Gruening. Fulbright voted with the majority.

The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, “We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against.” This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. “Foreign policy decisions,” concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, “are in general much more influenced by irrational motives” than are domestic ones.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 10 (Marina Tsvetaeva)

Selected Poems
Tsvetaeva, Marina
Selected Poems
Tr. Elaine Feinstein

This came out of the library of Russell Pawlak.

The light in my office is terrible this morning. It's gray and drizzly outside, so I had to make a choice between the harsh artificial light of my desk lamp or the gray morning light, heightened by the artificial flash of the laptop monitor. I chose the latter, which produced this ghostly image in which the author's name and the title of the book disappear behind a spectral haze. I decided to use it anyway.

I remember reading this a couple of winters ago, or part of it anyhow. Looks like I made it to page 14. I feel like a read more than that, so it's possible I just left the bookmark on a random page. We were living in our house on Norwood Avenue, where I started this project. Our bedroom was upstairs in the front of the house. Next to our bed we had converted a closet into a laundry. At the far end of the room an identical closet recessed behind folding doors. We installed a ceiling fan when we moved in.

Over the bed an antique sconce, probably from the thirties or forties, with a little pull chain and a painted glass shade cast upwards a faint light over the grey wall. We rarely used it, preferring instead the little Ikea reading lamps we've been hanging on the wall above our bed for years. Mine finally gave out and had to be replaced when we moved to New Haven. Lori's may go by the time we make our next move. Nothing lasts forever, I guess.

from Selected Poems

There are clouds–about us:
and domes–about us:
over the whole of Moscow
so many hands are needed!
I lift you up like a
sapling, my best burden: for
to me you are           weightless.

In this city of wonder
this peaceful city
 shall be joyful, even
when I am dead. You
shall reign, or grieve
or perhaps receive my crown:
for you are my first born!

When you fast–in Lent

do not blacken your brows
and honour the churches–these
forty times forty–go
aout on foot–stride youthfully
over the whole seven of
these untrammelled hills.

Your turn will come.
You will give Moscow

with tender bitterness
to your daughter also.

As for me–unbroken sleep

and the sound of bells
in the surly dawn of 
the Vangankavo cemetery.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 9 (Dalton Trumbo)

Johnny Got His Gun
Trumbo, Dalton
Johnny Got His Gun

Purchased at a bookstore in Oakton, Virginia. I don't remember the name of the store. It was probably Brentano's or something like that. I bought it in high school during a brief period of active reading. When I tell the story of how I gave up reading beginning in 9th grade, it is only partly true. I didn't read much, but very occasionally I would pick up a book, get excited, and then read a couple of others soon thereafter. This was one of those cases.

I am pretty sure the book that got me excited was a book called .44 by Dick Schaap and Jimmy Breslin. It was a true crime fictionalization of the Son of Sam killings in New York in the 70s. I remember being gripped by it. An image in my mind: walking up a staircase at my high school in between classes, reading the book as a climbed. I couldn't put it down, in other words. I finished it in a day or two and told my mom that I wanted to read another book.

My parents, as well meaning as they were about giving me an education, were equally if not more concerned about the state of my soul. I recall that my mother said she didn't want me reading more books about murder and so forth and so set me free in the literature section instead of the true crime section of the store. I think I chose this book for two reasons: it had "gun" in the title and I liked the cover.

I brought it home and read it. It's a very strange novel. It's told from the point of view of a soldier in a hospital during the first world war. He's fully conscious, but completely paralyzed. At first he doesn't realize this, but as it dawns on him he becomes desperate to communicate with the outside world. If memory serves, he eventually finds a way to communicate without moving his body, but I can't recall how. I think when he finally gets a sentence out he asks the nurse to kill him.

Something along those lines. It was much later that a learned about Trumbo the blacklisted screenwriter who wrote Exodus and Spartacus and Papillon. I think they made a film out of this novel, if I am not mistaken.

It does have a great cover.

from Johnny Got His Gun

Put the guns in our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into reality. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 8 (David Trinidad)

Plasticville
Trinidad, David
Plasticville

I think this was sent by the author, but I am not certain. We brought David to read at Just Buffalo sometime in the late nineties or early aughts. This book was published in 2000. It's possible he sent it to me in anticipation of his reading. It's also possible he sent it afterwards. It's also possible that I bought it separately.

Anyhow, that was one of the most embarrassing readings of my career at Just Buffalo. Not because of David, who was sweet and funny and a pleasure to entertain, but because we so utterly failed to get an audience for his reading. I had read David's work while taking a workshop with Elaine Equi in New York and thought that his campy humor and clever uses of traditional form would please an audience.  Unfortunately, I never got to find out.

At the time, the Just Buffalo reading series was called Writers at Work. It retained the format of my predecessor, which meant that the readings took place on Sunday afternoons, often in the middle of a Buffalo Bills game. I think this format came about as a way to get cheap airfares by having the writer stay over on a Saturday night. They'd fly in, have dinner, read on Sunday, visit schools on Monday, then fly out Monday afternoon. The format had run its course. Fewer and fewer people were coming out to these Sunday afternoon affairs, but we hadn't changed the format.

Not a single person showed up. The only people there were myself, Mary van Voorst, who recorded the readings for her radio program, and Ed Taylor, then the director of JB. It was truly embarrassing. We asked David to read for us and he obliged and gave a lovely reading, but we all felt terrible afterwards.

I have presided over readings with say, one, two or three audience members, but that was the only time in my 14 years of putting together readings that no one showed up. I cringe just thinking about it. Sorry, David!

from Plasticville

Chatty Cathy Villanelle

When you grow up, what will you do?
Please come to my tea party.

I'm Chatty Cathy. Who are you?

Let's take a trip to the zoo.
Tee-hee, tee-hee, tee-hee. You're silly!
When you grow up, what will you do?

Pme plus one equals two.

It's fun to learn ABC's.
I'm Chatty Cathy. Who are you?

Please help me tie my shoe.

Can you come and play with me?
When you grow up, wat will you do?

The rooster says, cock-a-doodle-doo.
Please read me a bedtime story.
I'm Chatty Cathy. Who are you?

Our flag is red, white and blue.

Let's makebelieve you're Mommy.
When you grow up, what will you do?
I'm Chatty Cathy. Who are you?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 7 (Edwin Torres)

Fractured Humorous
Torres, Edwin
Fractured Humorous


I am pretty sure I acquired this when Edwin came to Buffalo in the early 2000s.

He stayed with Jonathan Skinner. On the last day of his visit we put together a little impromptu poetry anthology called, "Sugar in the Raw." It contained work by Edwin, Jonathan, Linda Russo, Doug Manson, Chris Alexander and myself. I think that was all. We photocopied the whole thing in Jonathan's dining room. The cover was an image of a box of raw sugar, hence the title. I always liked the title and the cover. I still have a copy of it somewhere, no doubt in a box among all my other ephemera.

The other time I met Edwin we were sitting on a grant panel for the New York Foundation for the Arts. The other panelists were Patricia Spears Jones, M.J. Iuppa, and Tina Chang. We sat in a room for two days discussing the hundred or so manuscripts we'd selected from an original group of 600. Our job was to give out 25 grants of about $7000 apiece. I remember on the first day Edwin led us all down to a little Mexican place in Soho. I think it was called Lupe's. It was pretty darn good. I have returned many times since. After that, Patricia, Tina, M.J. and I went purse shopping on Prince St. I bought a pretty spiffy one for Lori, which she still uses.

from Fracture Humorous

Jibber

When little kids
in foreign lands jibber,
they jibber in foreign tongues.
The little fipps
they ask for as little kids will do,
become jibbering jibbs with accents–my
how fippery-foo!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 6 (Tsvetan Todorov)

The Conquest of America
Todorov, Tsvetan
The Conquest of America


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books. I am pretty sure this was on the same orals list as Thucydides. It was called the Prose of History or the History of History or something along those lines. The other two were the poetics of history and the philosophy of history. I have described these lists before. Hmm...where is it...ah...here.

Is adding more and more links to previous posts a sign that I am running out of steam? Have I nothing left to say about the past as it relates to the books on my shelves. Have I moved so many times now that I am too much "in the present" to reflect upon the pace? Have the enormous changes in my life over the past year unsettled my consciousness to such an extent that I can no longer give this blog the attention it deserves? Does one's writing become self-reflexive at the moment it is dying out ? or is self-reflexivity a sign that a transformation is at hand? Am I about to take this project in a new direction as we plunge headlong towards the Z's.

One thing that concerns me going forward is that I haven't a single book whose author's last name begins with 'X'. I need one. Feel free to make suggestions in the comment box.

Ok, off to work. No excerpt today.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Aimless Reading, The T's, Part 5.1 (Leo Tolstoy)

War and Peace
Tolstoy, Leo
War and Peace

Not sure where I bought this. I seem to remember buying it in a chain store. Brentano's or Border's or barnes and Noble or something along those lines. Possibly in Virginia, where my parents lived, possibly during college. It still has a price tag on it: $5.95. The tag does not include the name of the store. I have had it for a long time now.

I have read half of it twice. Unfortunately, it was the same half, so I can't claim to have read the whole thing. I barely remember what I did read. Not sure why that is, but it is.

I feel like I have been having a hard time feeling settled enough to write interesting blog posts lately. I get to the end of my description of the book and then stare off into space. Maybe Kevin Killian's prophecy that I would run out of good stories to tell before the end of the alphabet is true. Or maybe I am just a little bored with myself at the moment.

I can remember a little bit of the last time I tried to read this. We were still living in Black Rock. I read it at night. In bed. Under the covers. I read about 600 pages or maybe 800. Not sure why I stopped.. Boredom? Perhaps. I may have started this at the beginning of my current novel reading period. It took me a little while to get warmed up.

Another novel I started and never finished was Musil's The Man Without Qualities. I still intend to go back to that some day. Working my way up to reading a full novel after so many years took practice. I had forgotten how to identify with characters and become absorbed in the narrative. I was so used to analyzing texts that I'd forgotten about all the fun parts of reading novels.

Alas, maybe I'll read all of this someday. I might even remember some of it, too.

from War and Peace

"Eh bien, mon Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now no more than family estates of the Bonaprtes. No, I warn you, if you don't say that this means war, if you still permit yourself to condone all the infamies, all the atrocities of this Antichrist–and that's what I really believe he is–I will have nothing more to do with you, you are no longer my friends, my faithful slave, as you say. But how do you do, how do you do? I see that I am frightening you. Sit down and tell me all about it."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 5 (Leo Tolstoy)

Anna Karenina
Tolstoy, Leo
Anna Karenina


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

From the time I graduated college to the time I finished graduate school, roughly a twelve year period, I more or less stopped reading fiction. When I finished graduate school, I rediscovered the pleasure of reading for pleasure, and I also rediscovered the pleasure of reading fiction. I have since read many, many novels. I try to read about one long Russian novel every year. A few years ago I read Anna Karenina.

I got the idea after Orhan Pamuk visited Buffalo. During his talk, he very confidently declared that the two greatest novels ever written were Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. I read them both soon thereafter.Then of course I watched the film version starring Greta Garbo. I will never be able to read this novel again without thinking of her.

There was a brief biopic about Garbo on TCM last night. I caught the end, where they talked about the last 50 years of her life, during which time she lived as an opulent recluse in Manhattan. Her last film was in 1941 and she died in 1990.

Apparently she spent most of that time walking and shopping. She called herself a "Mollusk." She told her friend, "I'm sorry for a lot of things, for quitting things.... Actually, I've been out of order for years. It takes forever for me ... to make a move. How can I do anything when I can't even move from my living room to my other room? A friend told me, ‘You are like a mollusk!' I didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up – it's an animal that doesn't move,. It just sits there.”

from Anna Karenina

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 4 (Thucydides)

History of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides
The History of the Peloponnesian War


Purchased either at Talking Leaves Books or online. I can't remember which. I bought for my oral exam list on the history of history. Mostly I read it because Olson marked this book as a turning point in western civilization away from history as myth, ritual, magic, and towards a objectivity, science, and war. A disastrous turn, in his eyes, that could be corrected by returning to Herodotus, for whom history was less about objectivity and more about the process of discovery, of finding out for oneself and report the facts as discovered, regardless of their supposedly objective basis in fact.

Well, little Emily has decided I can't write anymore today, so...until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 3 (Lorenzo Thomas)

Dancing on Main St.
Thomas, Lorenzo
Dancing on Main St.

I am not sure where I got this. I seem to have a memory of it sitting on the shelf at Just Buffalo, which could mean that I got it off the shelf there. But it doesn't have the "Property of Just Buffalo Literary Center" stamp on the inside cover that most of the others that fit into that category.

I remember becoming aware of Lorenzo Thomas around the time that he died. I think it may have been Patricia Spears Jones who told me I should read him.

Now another memory is floating of having bought this online, perhaps on her recommendation.

Hmmm...

Anyhow, today is my daughter's first birthday. That didn't take long! We have three parents in town for the weekend and Lori and I are sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags.

Thus, I take my leave.

from Dancing on Main St.

The Kite and the Hawk



Man is no longer alone in the universe!

The day I found the hieroglyphic formula
For happiness for all mankind
I had to promise to give it away.

It is we have to find a way
For everyone to have
one more of something
Than your neighbor has

For you--here is a dollar!

And for you,
I feel warm brotherhood
And love intense
Beyond what anyone has ever felt before.

You didn't think I'm going around
And giving everybody money?

For me
The syllable of antique power
To shift the Light above
Enough to cast the second or third shadow
The Grand Prize
In the lottery of loneliness.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 2 (Alfred Lord Tennyson)"

Selected Poems
Tennyson, Alfred Lord
Selected Poems


Purchased at the Niagara Falls outlet mall discount bookstore for $3.50.

This was another of those titles that I just figured I'd like to have on my shelf. I don't think I have ever opened it. I've never been all that big on Tennyson. I bought it more as a reference.

I guess if I ever make the switch to an e-reader this is the kind of book I'd just download for free if I felt like reading it. I don't see that happening any time soon. Lori bought an iPad recently and I don't really enjoy using it. I find it hard to believe that I could ever enjoy reading on one of those things.

I have a memory of a friend putting the line, "Tennyson, anyone?" in a musical he wrote in college.

from Selected Poems

A Dedication


Dear, near and true--no truer Time himself
Can prove you, tho' he make you evermore
Dearer and nearer, as the rapid of life
Shoots to the fall--take this, and pray that he,
Who wrote it, honoring your sweet faith in him,
May trust himself; and spite of praise and scorn,
As one who feels the immeasurable world,
Attain the wise indifference of the wise;
And after Autumn past--if left to pass
His autumn into seeming-leafless days--
Draw toward the long frost and longest night,
Wearing his wisdom lightly, like the fruit
Which in our winter woodland looks a flower.*


*The fruit of the Spindle-tree (Euonymus Europaeus).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 1 (Andrei Tarkovsky)

Sculpting in Time
Tarkovsky, Andrei
Sculpting in Time


I think I bought this online.

The first Tarkovsky film I saw was "Ivan's Childhood." At the time, the older translation of the title, "My Name is Ivan," still appeared on the box of the VHS version I rented from Kim's video in NYC. I think Dan Machlin had recommended it to me.

A couple of years later, a British poet, the late Alaric Sumner, visited Buffalo. I spent a day and a night hanging out with he and his partner, a dancer whose name I can't recall. We got to talking about movies and he asked if I had seen "Stalker." I had not, and I did not for another little while. Then one day I ran into it at Mondo Video and rented the VHS tape.

I watched it on the couch in my apartment with my classmate, Yunte Huang. I remember at the end of it feeling like I had just been through a major intellectual workout. I was tired. My head ached. At the same time, I felt like I had just seen something incredibly powerful, something I wasn't sure I understood.

The next film I watched was "Solars," which I didn't really get the first time through. It felt more like an essay than a film. I watched "Andrei Rublev" after that, which made Tarkovsky my favorite director almost instantly.

I think a few years passed before I saw "The Mirror" and "Sacrifice," and then a few more before I saw "Nostalghia," which I had to buy in order to see. I eventually saw everything he released. He's one of the few filmmakers I return to again and  again without ever feeling disappointed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's: Stats

The S's
The S's

This was the largest section of the library, inching out the M's by nine volumes.

62 Authors
141 volumes
141 Titles

Monday, September 10, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 62 (Stacy Szymaszek)

Emptied of All Ships
Szymaszek, Stacy
Emptied of All Ships

The final book in the 'S' section. Stacy being the only "Sz" writer in my collection. I think she sent this to me before she came to read in Buffalo a few years back. Actually it was probably five or six years ago, now that I think of it.

I have this faint memory of a black and white photo of her in the snow in front of Barbara Cole's house. Or maybe the photo was taken by Stacy of Barbara. I am sure all three– Stacy, Barbara, Snow–were involved.

I have another memory of Kyle Schlesinger handing me a copy of this great little magazine called Gam, which he said was published by a poet living in Wisconsin. But this was long before the photo of the snow....

24 hours have passed since I wrote the previous sentence. I suddenly feel like I did when I used to write letters. Each sitting was something I noted down in the letter. I'd sit, write a paragraph, get distracted, and write another paragraph a week letter. I don't think I was being deliberately cheeky by making mention of this fact as much as I felt a kind of guilt (Catholic, no doubt) about pretending I wrote the letter in one sitting. In my mind, creating the illusion of continuity would be tantamount to lying. Eventually, this did become ironic, but at first it was simply a desire to confess.

I kind of miss the slowness of letter writing. There was never an expectation that you would respond the day you received the letter, so it was actually okay to write a paragraph today and then another three days later before sending it off. Now, the expectations in terms of response time are much greater. People want to see that little read notification sign pop up in their email or on facebook. It's like a drug.

Anyhow, you should read Stacy's poetry. She's one of my faves. She also has my collegial admiration for being a poet who can also run an organization. A rare skill set, indeed.

from Emptied of All Ships

                                                  sequent of waves albumen ferment
                                                  white cap floats hum syllables of elegy

                                                  veer anchor train to sea bottom–pendulums
                                                  Darwins of sound gull song obscure

                                                 in wide air–tintinnabular–sympathetic
                                                 under tonnage of flora ocean of phantom brain

                                                 grieve with me–Slavic    Indic    Arabic

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 61 (J.M. Synge)

Playboy of the Western World
Synge, J.M.
The Playboy of the Western World & Riders to the Sea


Purchased at the Fordham University Book Store for a an undergraduate course called, "Modern Anglo-Irish Literature." The course was taught by Gail Schricker, one of a handful of professors I respected and admired as an undergrad. Before taking the class, many had warned me away from her, saying that she never gave "A's" to anyone. I took it as a kind of challenge.

The syllabus began with Yeats and I wrote my first paper on, crap, which poem was it? Hmmm...I'll have to look. I think it may have been about "To Ireland In the Coming Times." I remember we were supposed to do a close reading. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing. I read the shit out of that poem. After a while, I began to see that there was a kind of structure to the stanzas. There were three. The first had a lot of birth imagery and the third had a lot of death imagery, so I surmised that there was a kind of three part life-cycle structure to the poem.

I remember struggling to write in an authoritative voice. I really had no idea what I was talking about and no models upon which to base a close reading. Anyhow, she gave me an A- and included a note telling me that she almost never gave out A's on the first paper and would I come visit her during office hours. Of course, I did, and I was beaming when I arrived.

I fully expected she would want to talk about my paper, but instead she told me she had read a poem of mine in the student magazine and that she thought it was good. Well, I was just about beside myself by that point. She told me that she, too, was a poet. I only ever saw one of her poems. I remember an image of a dagger and someone hanging from a cliff. Later she started a poetry group for grad students, but that was after I'd left.

I think I ended up with an A for the course. I took at least one, if not two more classes with her, including a graduate course in Modernist American Poetry, which was also very important to me. I think she later remarried and changed her name to Swintkowski. Last I checked, she had moved on from Fordham also, though I can't quite recall where, possibly Connecticut.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 60 (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

Selected Poems
Swinburne, Algernon Charles
Selected Poems

Given to me by Stephen Mounkhall on February 17, 1999, according to the following inscription:

2/17/99

For Mike

"being bird and god in one"

Algernon

P.S. Thanks for being such a good friend and host.

I drove Steve up from New York to give a reading that winter at Cornershop, one of my all-tim favorite reading and art venues. I can't remember who he read with. I do remember that I had given my own reading in NYC the weekend before and that he had driven with me back to Buffalo from the city.

I think I picked him up at his house outside Nyack, which he and his family had just moved into. I may even have stayed the night. In fact, I am pretty sure I did and they we stayed up late playing chess and listening to Gillian Welch, who I had then recently discovered.

He bought this at Talking Leaves Books and gave it to me after I told him that I had been reading writers like Swinburne and Hopkins, both sort of poetry oddball geniuses their contemporaries had often accused of being more interested in music than in meaning. I learned a lot from both.

I may have had another book of Swinburne's poems that I traded in at some point in favor of this one.

Here's a poem of his you can read over at the Poetry Foundation:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174561

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 59 (Cole Swensen)

Numen
Swensen, Cole
Numen

Not sure where I acquired this book. Possibly at Rust Belt Books.

I saw Cole last year in Denver at the AWP conference. She was sitting with her husband at the bar at a restaurant where many offsite readings were taking place. They were talking with Jonathan Skinner. Cole was wearing a stylish black leather jacket with a diagonal zipper that went all the way up to her neck.

They were discussing a problem she was having with said diagonal zipper: it was stuck. The three of them were having a hard time figuring out just where the zipper was catching. They were about to give up when I happened along. I think I may have been with Dan Machlin, or possibly Suzanne Stein, both of whom I hung out with quite a bit during the conference.

Anyhow, all three of them looked at me and asked if I could help them solve the problem. I took hold of the zipper and tried to examine it, but the light was dim and I couldn't really see anything. A pack of wooden matches sat before them in an ashtray on the bar. I took two matches out of the box and asked Cole to hold still.

I lit them both, then held them close to the the neck of her jacket. There, beneath the flicker of the match, I could see that the zipper had caught on a piece of fabric from the lining. I blew the matches out, took hold of the zipper, removed the offending fabric from its path, and unzipped Cole Swensen's leather jacket.

All in a day's work.

from Numen



11

There in the 
photograph of your 
perfect body 
unsealed rooms 
and the walker at the edge 
of the highway a person 
you don't 
recognize 
all the blinking lights 
Things meant 
to be seen from a distance 
other cities 
such a frame 
around the believing 
fractured body 
flames and refuses 
an envelope of water 
or water counted and 
exact

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 58.1 (Gary Sullivan)

Everyone Has A Mouth
Herbeck, Ernst
Everyone Has A Mouth
Tr. Gary Sullivan

I bought this impeccably produced, letterpress chaperoo at a reading by Nancy Kuhl and Gregg Biglieri at the Ugly Duckling Presse world headquarters in Brooklyn back in June.

This one should obviously be filed under "H." It is also a chapbook, which means I shouldn't write about it at all. Nonetheless, here I am. Here it is. Here we all are. I am writing about it and filing it under "Gary Sullivan," who translated it. So there.

As I mentioned the other day, Gary was one of the most enthusiastic early readers of this blog. When I first got it going, Gary had two blogs, Elsewhere and Ernst Herbeck. In the latter he posted translations of Herbeck's poems as he completed them, or rather as they were nearing completion. Often he would publish two, three, even four variations of the same poem and solicit preferences from readers, explaining his thought process and some of the decisions he was confronting as he worked on them. Readers would post comments and start discussions of their own ideas. It was an incredibly innovative way to translate and to lay bare the process. I miss it now that he's done.

You should buy a copy of it here. Only $8.

I saw Gary for the first time since 2008 last month.  I'd had a work lunch in Manhattan. Afterwards, I went to a couple of galleries in Chelsea. I met Gary at Kinokuniya Books in Midtown. It's an incredible Japanese bookstore loaded with everything from Manga to Luck Cats to books on film theory. Afterwards, we ate dinner at a ramen place near Grand Central.

I had intended to meet up with him when I came to New York for a conference in May of 2011. However, the day before I was to leave was the first nice day of the spring, so I decided to ride my bike to work. I cut through the parking lot of an apartment complex near our home on Norwood Ave. in Buffalo. I had cut through it many times before and was well aware of the three speed bumps that extended across the drive.

My usual routine was to go around them in a space about three feet wide between the end of each bump and the building. However, on this day, I noticed a man talking through a first floor window and started wondering what he was up to. Was it a drug deal? A friendly chat? Something more sinister? By the time I saw the speed bump, it was almost too late to avoid it. I should have just gone right over it. Instead, I cut hard to my left, then just as quickly to my right.

Before I knew it I was on the ground, the handlebars jabbing me in the stomach, the palm of my hand bloodied, a familiar pain in my left elbow. Three years earlier, I had broken the radial head in my right elbow going over the handlebars. This felt exactly the same way. And so it was. Only this time I had to have surgery. They put a pin in my elbow.

So I didn't get to see Gary.

Speaking of surgery. I am having gum surgery in 35 minutes. Blech.

from Everyone Has A Mouth

The Mouth.

Not everyone has a mouth
some mouth is disqualified
or operated on. So it is with me
the doctor says everyone has 
a mouth. the mouth is
especially for eating. The mouth
consists of the upper lip and the
lower lip, the throat and the flapper. 
Of the teeth in the upper jaw
and also in the lower jaw. Half of the 
nose also belongs to the mouth. As well as
both of the earflaps and the index fin-
ger when one has stuck it into the mouth one
has.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 58 (Gary Sullivan)

PPL in a Depot
Sullivan, Gary
PPL in  a Depot

Given to me by the author during the first Buffalo Small Press Book Fair. Gary came to Buffalo on the eve of the fair to give a reading with Flarfists Nada Gordon, Rod Smith, and Mel Nichols. The reading took place at Big Orbit Gallery. It was organized by Kevin Thurston. This must have been 2008. I can't quite remember. They all read individually and then as a group. It was a lot of fun.

I remember talking to Gary and Rod and Steve Zultanski at the fair the next day. For some reason we were talking about my hair. It had grown longer than I usually wore it, especially in the front. I was still using a lot of hair gel, so the front, which normally stood up just a little, was standing up pretty high. I explained to the three of them that I had two hairdos: "dippety-doo down" and "dippety-doo up." This was dippety-doo up.

At the end of the day, Gary gave me this book, as well as a set of his comic book, Elsewhere. Later that evening we all ate at India Gate on Elmwood Avenue. We had a table that sat something like twenty people. I sat at one end with Lori and Gary and Nada. I remember that Rod and Mel sat at the other end of the table. I have a photo of the whole table somewhere. I think it might be on Lori's flickr page or in my flickr favorites.

Gary and Nada stayed an extra day and we took them up to the falls for a fun-filled outing wandering through all the kitsch on the Canadian side. On his way out of Buffalo, or maybe just after he left, Gary sent me a list of his top ten all-time favorite Bollywood movies. Lori and I watched about half of them. They were great, though the common three- to four-hour format made watching them somewhat difficult. Our two favorited from the list were Awaara & Amar, Akbar, Antony.

The former is from the "classic" period, is shot in black and white, and is more of a melodrama slash musical. I remember the copy we watched on Netflix lost its subtitles with about twenty minutes left, so we weren't really sure how it ended. I told Gary this and he bought me a copy on the street in NYC and sent it up.

Amar, Akbar, Antony, on the other hand, is from the mid-seventies and is an insane mash-up of popular film genres and trends of that era. It covers everything from car chase films to Saturday Night Fever in a delirious four hour romp. It's kind of unforgettable.


It was later that year that I started this blog. Gary was one of my early readers. He used to stop in now and again and comment on my posts. I remember he had to stop because his boss caught him blogging at work.

It was a strange moment, because just as I started blogging, things like twitter were starting to take over the internet and it seemed like blogging was officially over. Leave it to me to come to the party late.

from PPL in a Depot

Mozart: [Opening the notebook] "Son thinker's recollection
Methought tatter marketplaces sullying
Vasectomy hygiene lore's SOS weaves cardiacs
Sot woverine's authoritarianism breathlessness's
Fractals topsoils disabled Iowa Va's
Restrictively austerest VAT irreproachable
Loading's deity's misconducting disables
Aridity's overqualified Tod spy refurbishing
Lothario inveigles soapiest ambitions
Cantonese shoddiness hogsheads pungent procurement
Congratulating confounding cowhide gunslinger
Suuplement's pulpits henpecks galvanometers
Companied terms Rx's architectural SST Gujranwala
Cushions leotard's reformatory's sierras
Genres obeys bloodsheds St.'s approval clanged."