Saturday, June 30, 2007

Four Way Books - June Reading Period

Four Way Books June Reading Period

I see by the calendar that today is the last day to submit to the Four Way Books June reading period. An amazingly good press to be a part of, I look forward to hearing what they’re going to be doing next . . . there’s a new book by Kevin Prufer on the way, as well as books by Joel Brouwer and April Ossmann . . .

Four Way Books invites you to submit Poetry and Fiction manuscripts during their June Reading Period.
In recent years Four Way has accepted Sarah Manguso's Siste Viator (2006) and C.S. Carrier's forthcoming After Dayton (2008).

Please click on the link above for full details about what and how to submit, and for more information on how the reading period works.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ian Hunter - Mott the Hoople

Ian Hunter, “Big Mouth”

What to say about Ian Hunter? He was the main singer and songwriter for Mott the Hoople, which had several hit songs in the first half of the 1970s (the David Bowie penned “All the Young Dudes,” as well as Hunter’s “All the Way from Memphis,” etc.). His solo career since then has included “Cleveland Rocks,” “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” “Just Another Night,” and “Ships.” The lead guitar player from Mott, Mick Ralphs (who also sang and wrote songs, including “Ready for Love”), went on to form Bad Company with Paul Rogers after Mott broke up.

For a time in my life I listened to Hunter and Mott more than just about anything else. But beyond that, his (and Mott’s) influence has been broad. Go back and listen to the original Mott the Hoople songs and you can hear bits of what would become Queen, The Replacements, and a host of other bands, including Wilco (trust me, go back and listen to Being There), R.E.M., and on and on (think of bands like Camper Van Beethoven and Sparklehorse). The way they, musically and lyrically, were able to go from thoughtful to stupid, from ironic to sentimental (often within the same song) was one-of-a-kind. Go to YouTube and listen to “Crash Street Kids” or “One of the Boys” and you’ll see what I mean. For sheer influence alone, Hunter and Mott deserve a special corner at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And here he is, at 65 or so years, still cranking solid rock and roll. “Big Mouth” is from his new one, Shrunken Heads, which I just found out about. I’m going to pick it up next week when I head down to Austin.

Here’s a link to a recent live show previewing several tracks, including the very good “When the World was Round.” Live Fridays from XPN:

And here he is doing “Rest in Peace,” back in 2004, one of my favorite Mott songs.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Call Me Marty

Tagged by Sam: “reveal Eight Things about yourself.”

I’m not much for revealing things about myself. Personal masking, for whatever reason, is important to me.

So, that said, or revealed, here goes:

1.I’m adopted. When I was born my name was Martin Lynn Enquist.

2.I have a deep antipathy toward movies. Too many people see them. There’s too much money involved. It makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way.

3.For some reason I have a hard time explaining to myself, I’m proud I was never an English major as an undergrad. My degree is in Broadcast Journalism.

4.I started college when I was 21, after an ill-fated marriage at 19.

5.My current obsession is with Wolfgang Puck tomato pesto frozen pizzas. I like to add calamata olives.

6.I used to like to stay up very late. Now I like to wake up very early. The morning world is beautiful.

7.Whatever happens to me, I always have the secondary thought that I might be able to steal a sentence from it for a poem. It makes me feel like a vampire, but I’m ok with that.

8. My favorite High School story: In the gym locker room, a guy had my arm behind my back and my face into the locker. He said, “Tell them you’re an ass hole.” “OK,” I said, “you’re an ass hole.” It was delicious.

8a. Bonus round. In the above picture, I'm the one in the middle, in High School, as George Gibbs. Now why would someone want to mess with him, and get that hair all messed up?

I'm supposed to tag some others now. I'll go do some research and get back to you.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Frank Sinatra - That's Life

Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life”

Talk about classic. No one could belt out a song while caressing it the way Frankie could. And this is one for the ages. In my humble opinion, of course.

Witness away . . .

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues

The Waterboys, “Fisherman’s Blues”

I first heard of the Watherboys when “Church Not Made with Hands” came out on Pagan Place. What a wonderful moment. I think I was still in High School at the time, and to hear Mike Scott’s take on things was a revelation.

Several years later, out comes Fisherman’s Blues, which is one of the best albums of the 80s. If you don’t know the Waterboys, check out Fisherman’s Blues, Room to Roam, and Pagan Place, and then everything else.

They can be a bit uneven, but then again, can’t we all?

“Fisherman’s Blues” is perfect. This is a solid live version. Look for the studio version as well.

The Beatles - I Am the Walrus

The Beatles, “I Am the Walrus”

OK, well, we all agree it’s a classic, and that The Beatles are the 20th Century Beethoven and all that, but even with all the hype, “I Am the Walrus” rocks the house down.

“Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye.”

I mean, who could make THAT into one of the biggest songs in rock and roll?

This is a great example of the sort of song I adore. The base moves, which is, there’s a groove to it, and over the top, lyrics that don’t pop us right back to where we already were. We’ve been someplace by the end.

Where, though, is a whole other question . . .

Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

Despite the fact that I can NEVER spell this word correctly, and that everyone in the world has done a cover of it, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of the best songs of the modern age.

That’s a large claim, but come on, it’s an amazing song, and I think Cohen’s original version is still definitive, apologies to the dozen or so covers of it on YouTube.

Kristen Hersh - Your Ghost

Kristen Hersh, “Your Ghost”

Call it a Saturday favorite songs project, if you will. Or if you’re interested in calling things things.

I have my lists of favorite songs, mostly by Neil Young, the Beatles, etc., but there’s a whole second list of songs I love that I never get to say I love because people say what’s your favorite song, and I think “Like a Hurricane,” by Neil Young, and miss Frank Sinatra . . .

So consider the next few posts as me making amends.

Hersh’s “Your Ghost” is wonderful on many levels: evocative lyrics, a guest appearance by Michael Stipe, and a chord sequence of three chords done in a revolving four chord sequence (if you’re a guitar player you’ll understand, it’s wonderfully difficult to keep up with while remaining totally simple).

Sparklehorse - Comfort Me

Sparklehorse, “Comfort Me”

Raise a toast for YouTube, which is something we all can agree on. So anyway, it’s summer, and, as what seems to happen every summer, I pick up my guitar and play, as they say. I’m certain one of these days, someone fancy is going to drive down my street and discover me.

I’ve had this fantasy a long time. We’re old friends.

And since I’m playing my own songs (if you’re interested, you can go to and download a CD worth: long live The Renos, just right click and “save as.”), I’m also trying to work up (or just mess around along with) the songs of others. Songs I’ve loved.

So today I’m thinking about Sparklehorse. They (well, he) have (has) a new one out that I haven’t heard yet, but I have the others and I like them very much. Sparklehorse, like a lot of bands I like follow in some ways the Neil Young model: mellow, friendly songs, and in your face loud songs. Sparklehorse also boasts some of the most interesting lyrics out there. Really lovely and weird and just, well far out: “I dreamed I had a daughter magnificent as a horse.”

Tomorrow, I’m heading camping for a few days, gotta get those calluses ready.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - "Time (The Revelator)"

“Time (The Revelator)” is my favorite Gillian Welch & David Rawlings song, and one of the most haunting songs I’ve heard. It's the perfect empty house, dark night song, but it has plenty of competition from other Welch & Rawlings songs . . . they’ve found a difficult way into simplicity that’s simply magnificent.

Can I get a witness?


I’m still reading Littlefoot, by Charles Wright. I’m taking my time, as it’s a wonderful book. He’s weaving all his favorite moves into one sprawling, glorious mess. If you’ve ever liked his work, you’ll be happy to read it.

It’s also a great read with Welch and Rawlings playing . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cracker - Euro-trash Girl!

Cracker, “Euro-trash Girl”

Cracker has been one of my favorite bands for some time, well, ever since Camper Van Beethoven, really, which was David Lowery’s previous (and sometimes since) band.

The combination, in Cracker, of straight on rock and roll, mixed with equal heavy doses of irony and sympathy, is often nearly perfect. I’ve always wondered why they never got as popular with others as they have with me.

Anyway, the full version (this video is the radio edit) of “Euro-trash Girl” is on the wonderful Kerosene Hat, as well as a second version, also very good, on their redone greatest hits, called Greatest Hits Redux. The story behind that is their record company dropped them, and then put together a greatest hits, so Cracker, on their new, smaller label, re-recorded a set of greatest hits and put that out to compete. Te re-recorded one is better. And it’s a nice finger to Virgin Records.

Cracker has a song about the whole thing, called “Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself.” Enough said.

If you’re interested in checking them out, I suggest these albums:

Kerosene Hat (the one with “Low,” their biggest hit)

Cracker (their first one, and the one where their country-rock vibe was strongest)

Greenland (their newest one, and something of a come back)

Greatest Hits Redux (a good mix of redone songs from everything but Greenland)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pilot Poetry 2

Pilot #2 features poems from Julie Doxsee, Noah Falck, John Gallaher, Heather Green, Anne Heide, Nathan Hoks, Noelle Kocot, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Clay Matthews, Jennifer Tolo Pierce, Nate Pritts, Brandon Shimoda, and Justin Taylor; collaborative work from Mathias Svalina & Julia Cohen, Matt Hart, and the Typing Explosion; translations of Paul Dermee by Kim Lohse; an interview with Sierra K. Nelson; as well as a number of chapbook reviews.


Charles Wright, Littlefoot.

It's simply a wonderful long poem. Just beautiful. I really can't say enough about how much Charles Wright has meant to me. I bought Country Music: Selected Early Poems back in 1986, and I've been on board ever since.

Littlefoot is a book-length poem meditating on what Wright's been meditating on for some time: memory, language, and their continuing presence. I'm adoring it.

John Koethe - Sally's Hair

I just found out that John Koethe came out with a new book this year. So now I have another book to buy.
Here's a poem from his New & Selected from several years ago, to get us in the mood.
In the Park
for Susan Koethe

This is the life I wanted, and could never see.
For almost twenty years I thought that it was enough:
That real happiness was either unreal, or lost, or endless,
And that remembrance was as close to it as I could ever come.
And I believed that deep in the past, buried in my heart
Beyond the depth of sight, there was a kingdom of peace.
And so I never imagined that when peace would finally come
It would be on a summer evening, a few blocks away from home
In a small suburban park, with some children playing aimlessly
In an endless light, and a lake shining in the distance.

Eventually, sometime around the middle of your life,
There’s a moment when the first imagination begins to wane.
The future that had always seemed so limitless dissolves,
And the dreams that used to seem so real float up and fade.
The years accumulate; but they start to take on a mild,
Human tone beyond imagination, like the sound the heart makes
Pouring into the past its hymns of adoration and regret.
And then gradually the moments quicken into life,
Vibrant with possibility, sovereign, dense, serene;
And then the park is empty and the years are still.

I think the saddest memory is of a kind of light,
A kind of twilight, that seemed to permeate the air
For a few years after I’d grown up and gone away from home.
It was limitless and free. And of course I was going to change,
But freedom means that only aspects ever really change,
And that as the past recedes and the future floats away
You turn into what you are. And so I stayed basically the same
As what I’d always been, while the blond light in the trees
Became part of my memory, and my voice took on the accents
Of a mind infatuated with the rhetoric of farewell.

And now that disembodied grief has gone away.
It was a flickering, literary kind of sadness,
The suspension of a life between two other lives
Of continual remembrance, between two worlds
In which there’s too much solitude, too much disdain.
But the sadness that I felt was real sadness,
And this elation now a real tremor as the deepening
Shadows lengthen upon the lake. This calm is real,
But how much of the real past can it absorb?
How far into the future can this peace extend?

I love the way the light falls over the suburbs
Late on these summer evenings, as the buried minds
Stir in their graves, the hearts swell in the warm earth
And the soul settles from the air into its human home.
This is where the prodigal began, and now his day is ending
In a great dream of contentment, where all night long
The children sleep within tomorrow’s peaceful arms
And the past is still, and suddenly we turn around and smile
At the memory of a vast, inchoate dream of happiness,
Now that we know that none of it is ever going to be.

Don’t you remember how free the future seemed
When it was all imagination? It was a beautiful park
Where the sky was a page of water, and when we looked up,
There were our own faces, shimmering in the clear air.
And I know that this life is the only real form of happiness,
But sometimes in its midst I can hear the dense, stifled sob
Of the unreal one we might have known, and when that ends
And my eyes are filled with tears, time seems to have stopped
And we are alone in the park where it is almost twenty years ago
And the future is still an immense, open dream.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What Kind of Lover Are You?

I’m thinking about writing again, imagine that. For some reason lately I’m wanting to work with metaphors for the act of writing, or the space of writing, or the writing stance. And then I’m turning on myself and wondering why I’m wondering.

I’m trying to figure out why I write so much, perhaps. And then, what really worries me, will I stop writing at some point . . . perhaps I’m revealing too much about myself here, talking about my anxiety, but I’m also interested in the larger story behind my own manic poetry writing story.

And to add to that, just because I write a lot doesn’t mean the quality is high. Writing a lot just means I have piles and piles of poems surrounding me.

This is my greatest personal fear, as described by Christian Wiman, from a link I got through C. Dale Young’s blog (thank you C. Dale):

* * *

. . . four years ago, after making poetry the central purpose of my life for almost two decades, I stopped writing. Partly this was a conscious decision. I told myself that I had exhausted one way of writing, and I do think there was truth in that. The deeper truth, though, is that I myself was exhausted. To believe that being conscious means primarily being conscious of loss, to find life authentic only in the apprehension of death, is to pitch your tent at the edge of an abyss, “and when you gaze long into the abyss,” Nietzsche says, “the abyss also gazes into you.” I blinked.

* * *

Wiman seems to have passed by that with a nod, but for me, I have no idea what I would do with myself in this situation. It would be like forgetting to breathe. Perhaps it’s something in his formulation. I don’t see why he has to equate writing poetry as being conscious of loss, though it is, of course. I equate living itself as being primarily conscious of loss anyway, why not make art out of it? Why not generate something? Why not perform it?

In my thinking, there is a way that writing poems is performative, like sex. I was about to write “like sports,” but the truth is, I do think of writing poetry much like sex. And besides, thinking of it this way allows me to mention sex, which is, of course, a wonderful thing to mention.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking with a person I know while waiting for a plane, and she was talking to me about reading a book recently that suggested the writer get in touch with the “coyote within.” Now, I have no problem with getting in touch with one’s inner coyote, but I really felt, once she explained to me what was specifically being suggested, that “coyote” was something of a cop out to what the writer really meant: getting in touch with your inner fearlessness, or more specifically, your inner nymphomaniac. That realm of desire. Of need.

A nymphomaniac always has the switch in the ON position, and is always looking with full imagination at the world, and specifically, the other people that inhabit it. But there’s also a formula to it. The way the imagination sets scenarios into every situation.

Of course, artists have a long tradition of being over-sexed, literally, and while I say more power to them (green lights are always going to be more generative than red lights), I’m actually thinking of it metaphorically first. Although I suppose I could think of it literally, as all that artists owe us is art, not genteel behavior, and as artists work best when investigating out there in the open field, I heartily endorse going in search of as large and varied an image hoard through personal experience as one can (keeping within the limits of, well, some sort of common sense I suppose).

I read an essay several years ago by Mark Halliday, and in it he was talking about the poet’s arrogance, he writes:

* * *

<<< If you do take a poem casually, you feel slothful, shallow, flippant — a feeling that is very different from thinking hard about a poem and deciding it is itself slothful, shallow, flippant. Fortunately, persons don't often have the gall to say, “If you don't love me, the problem is yours.” Poems say this every time.

Poems keep stroking their own hair.

I want to ponder the essential arrogance of poetry — not simply the annoyingness of weak poems, of pallid or muddled or fakey or coy or tricky or jabbery or cowardly or false poems wherein "arrogance" becomes repellent, or the tiringness of difficult or obscure poems. Such repulsion or annoyance or fatigue is only a reminder of the essential arrogance of any poem.

Emily Dickinson was fabulously arrogant about her vocation.

I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer house than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Superior—for Doors—

When Dickinson informed Colonel Higginson that her business was Circumference, he did not reply, “Oh, come off it!” — he was sharp enough to know he had encountered some sort of genius.>>>

* * *

It’s an interesting article, more so to me, because I’ve never thought of poetry that way, as a form of arrogance. But somehow this does tie into what I’m thinking this morning, at least in my conceptualization, of the inherent, needful sexual nature of the art act. And perhaps there’s an arrogance to sharing art, even in my conceptualization, a “you like to watch, don’t you?” aspect to public art. But doesn’t everybody like to watch, even a little bit? Isn’t voyeurism an important aspect of encountering the world?

“Make love to the camera,” the old photography cliché goes . . . and why not? Isn’t “making love” the fundamental human behavior? Isn’t that Whitman’s dark desire? To be everything? To be everyone? To be in sexual engagement with all?

Perhaps I’m projecting, as I’ve always had a difficulty with decisions. The way any decision is predicated upon loss. The loss of all the possible decisions one did not decide. (Which road do you choose in the wood, right? And what does one lose when the road chosen makes “all the difference”?) The winnowing of the open field of possibility. And the art act, the writing of way too many poems, might be a way for me to reclaim some of that field, even though each poem, individually, loses more than it claims.

So maybe it’s experimental sex, then.

This conceptualization of the engagement of art sounds more sensational (pun!) than I intended, but, well, maybe not. To equate the art act with sexual activity, opens up (yikes) a readily conceptualizable way to talk about what it means to experiment, and the value one might find there, as far as your imagination will take you. And tossing out all mores and normative cultural expectations.

I probably should think in tamer terms in public discourse, but oh well. And maybe art is more like accounting . . . but then again, isn’t accounting just like sex?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I've decided I Want a Tattoo

I must get a tattoo this summer. I want something on my left shoulder. Something like this.

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Charles Wright - Littlefoot

Charles Wright has a new book-length poem out. Littlefoot, it's called. just informed me that my copy has shipped.

We had the good fortune to publish a few of the sections from it in The Laurel Review last summer.

There are a lot of books of poetry coming out in 2007 . . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

Four Way Books Open Reading Period

Four Way Books, with Jacket and Rainbow Bag
Four Way Books Open Reading Season — Poetry and Short Fiction Manuscripts submitted between June 1-June 30. Please visit the Four Way Books website for guidelines.

Books I’m ordering today:

My Soviet Union: Poems, by Michael Dumanis, winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry.
Creature, Creature, by Rebecca Aronson, winner of the Main-Traveled Roads Poetry Prize.