Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sabrina Orah Mark - Tsim Tsum

Sabrina Orah Mark
Tsim Tsum

Where Babies Come From

“Where,” asked Beatrice, “do babies come from?” Walter B. was hanging a painting in the crawl space. It was a painting of the babies. “Basically,” said Walter B., “babies come from rubbing babies together. They rub and they rub. Once, I heard them rubbing.” “Are you sure those are the babies where babies come from?” asked Beatrice. She was staring at the painting. It was a painting of the babies. Walter B. stepped back. “They seem,” said Beatrice, “to be different babies.” Walter B. tilted his head. A door slammed. They stood for a long time and examined the painting. Beatrice was right. These were not the same babies. These were different babies. Some of these babies carried twine. There were not the babies where babies came from. Some of these babies were not rubbing. Some of these babies had books about babies tucked under their arms. These were not the same babies. These babies would never be the babies where babies came from. These babies were different. And Beatrice was the first to call their bluff.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monsters of Folk - Yes!

I adore this album. I really, really adore this album. I’ve been disappointed by most things from Bright Eyes, and the new album from M. Ward isn’t much good at all, and the recent work from My Morning Jacket has seemed uninspired to me . . . so hearing that these guys were teaming up for Monsters of Folk, I was not marking my calendar.

Boy was I ever wrong. Monsters of Folk manages to collect the best tendencies of the individual members, while curbing most of their excesses (Conor Oberst’s tendency to pretension, Jim James’s tendency to being simply dumb, and M. Ward’s tendency to listlessness).

It’s an excellent album. And how could it be any other way, as this review from All Things Considered shows, by name-dropping Neil Young?

Indie Stars Become 'Monsters Of Folk'
All Things Considered
by Will Hermes

September 25, 2009 - Supergroups have a long tradition in popular music. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson once joined forces as The Highwaymen. There were the Fania All-Stars, The Four Tenors and Audioslave. Recently, a group of established indie-rock musicians decided to partake in this tradition. They cheekily call themselves Monsters of Folk, and they've just released their debut album.

As a rule, I'm not a fan of supergroups; they usually water down individual visions without nailing down a collective one, and most pop stars aren't so good at sharing the spotlight. But when I heard that Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket and solo artist M. Ward were teaming up, I thought, "OK, I love their work separately. With any luck it'll be, maybe, a Traveling Wilburys." To my surprise, these guys are in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young territory.

OK, maybe Monsters of Folk's members are more disaffected than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and perhaps a little less polished. But like many of the year's outstanding indie-rock records — by Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors — the warmth and power of vocal harmonies are central to the Monsters of Folk record. And not in any single way: The men are folkies on one song, rockers on another. In "Dear God," they even do a halfway decent impression of The Impressions.

Beyond the singing, the group has three of rock's best songwriters working at the top of their game. Some songs have one man's imprint, like "Sandman, the Brakeman and Me" with lead vocals by M. Ward. Other songs seem like real collaborative efforts, and they work a few thematic threads. One is the idea of God, and another related theme is war.

Monsters of Folk might be addressing big themes, but there's little certainty in the band's lyrics. In that way, it feels less like a supergroup and more like, I don't know, a therapy group — although far more musical than any of the ones I've been in.

Monday, September 21, 2009

With Waldrep in Colorado & The Poem of Our Age

I’m hitting the road this week. Picking G.C. Waldrep up at the Kansas City airport, then heading west down I-70 to Denver, and then on to Ft. Collins for these events:

Tuesday September 22th
Denver hosted by Jake Adam York
G.C. Waldrep & John Gallaher

Thursday September 24th
Ft. Collins hosted by CSU
G.C. Waldrep & John Gallaher

As I will be away from the blog awhile, I will leave you with what I consider the emblematic poem of our age:

Notes for Echo Lake 4
Michael Palmer

Who did he talk to

Did she trust what she saw

Who does the talking

Whose words formed awkward curves

Did the lion finally talk

Did the sleeping lion talk

Did you trust a north window

What made the dog bark

What causes a grey dog to bark

What does the juggler tell us

What does the juggler’s redness tell us

Is she standing in an image

Were they lost in the forest

Were they walking through a forest

Has anything been forgotten

Did you find it in the dark

Is that one of them new atomic-powered wristwatches

Was it called a talking song

Is that an oblong poem

Was poetry the object

Was there once a road here ending at a door

Thus from bridge to bridge we came along

Did the machine seem to talk

Did he read from an empty book

Did the book grow empty in the dark, grey felt hat blowing down the street, arms pumping back and forth, legs slightly bowed

Are there fewer ears than songs

Did he trust a broken window

Did he wake beneath a tree in the recent snow

Whose words formed difficult curves

Have the exaggerations quieted down

The light is lovely on trees which are not large

My logic is all in the melting-pot

My life now is very economical

I can say nothing of my feeling about space

Nothing could be clearer that what you see on this wall

Must we give each one a name

Is it true they all have names

Would it not have been simpler

Would it not have been simpler to begin

Were there ever such buildings

I must remember to mention the trees

I must remember to invent some trees

Who told you these things

Who taught you how to speak

Who taught you not to speak

Whose is the voice that empties

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the Making of Art Objects

So, don’t really be thinking of Guston’s work when reading this, that will reduce it too much, I think. Also, don’t be thinking of painting either, at least not specifically. I mean, you can and all, but if you think of the making of art in general, I think it works best. Or think about yourself. Think about what you do. How you approach things. How you approach the museum or the page. The stance of the artist, maybe. That might be best. Or maybe just life in general. Driving a car across Kansas. Counting buildings in Chicago. And always be nice to the people you meet there.

Faith, Hope, and Impossibility
Philip Guston
Originally published in Art News Annual XXXI, 1966.
Adapted from notes for a lecture at the New York Studio School in May 1965.

There are so many things in the world—in the cities—so much to see. Does art need to represent this variety and contribute to its proliferation? Can art be that free? The difficulties begin when you understand what it is that the soul will not permit the hand to make.

To paint is always to start at the beginning again, yet being unable to avoid the familiar arguments about what you see yourself painting. The canvas you are working on modifies the previous ones in an unending, baffling chain which never seems to finish. (What a sympathy is demanded of the viewer! He is asked to “see” the future links.)

For me the most relevant question and perhaps the only one is, “When are you finished?” When do you stop? Or rather, why stop at all? But you have to rest somewhere. Of course you can stay on one surface all your life, like Balzac’s Frenhofer. And all your life’s work can be seen as one picture—but that is merely “true.” There are places where you pause.

Thus it might be argued that when a painting is “finished,” it is a compromise. But the conditions under which the compromise is made are what matters. Decisions to settle anywhere are intolerable. But you feel as you go on working that unless painting proves its right to exist by being critical and self-judging, it has no reason to exist at all—or is not even possible.

The canvas is a court where the artist is prosecutor, defendant, jury, and judge. Art without a trial disappears at a glance: it is too primitive or hopeful, or mere notions, or simply startling, or just another means to make life bearable.

You cannot settle out of court. You are faced with what seems like an impossibility—fixing an image which you can tolerate. What can be Where? Erasures and destructions, criticisms and judgments of one’s acts, even as they force change in oneself, are still preparations merely reflecting the mind’s will and movement. There is a burden here, and it is the weight of the familiar. Yet this is the material of a working which from time to time needs to see itself; even though it is reluctant to appear.

To will a new form is inacceptable, because will builds distortion. Desire, too, is incomplete and arbitrary. These strategies, however intimate they might become, must especially be removed to clear the way for something else—a condition somewhat unclear, but which in retrospect becomes a very precise act. This “thing” is recognized only as it comes into existence. It resists analysis—and probably this is as it should be. Possibly the moral is that art cannot and should not be made.

All these troubles revolve around the irritable mutual dependence of life and art—with their need and contempt for one another. Of necessity, to create is a temporary state and cannot be possessed, because you learn and relearn that it is the lie and mask of Art and, too, its mortification, which promise a continuity.


There are twenty crucial minutes in the evolution of each of my paintings. The closer I get to that time—those twenty minutes—the more intensely subjective I become—but the more objective, too. Your eye gets sharper; you become continuously more and more critical.

There is no measure I can hold on to except this scant half-hour of making.

One of the great mysteries about the past is that such masters as Mantegna were able to sustain this emotion for a year.

The problem, of course, is far more complex that mere duration of “inspiration.” There were pre-images in the fifteenth century, foreknowledge of what was going to be brought into existence. Maybe my pre-image is unknown to me, but today it is impossible to act as if pre-imaging is possible.

Many works of the past (and of the present) complete what they announce they are going to do, to our increasing boredom. Certain others plague me because I cannot follow their intentions. I can tell at a glance what Fabritius is doing, but I am spending my life trying to find out what Rembrandt was up to.

I have a studio in the country—in the woods—but my paintings look more real to me than what is outdoors. You walk outside; the rocks are inert; even the clouds are inert. It makes me feel a little better. But I do have faith that it is possible to make a living thing, not a diagram of what I have been thinking: to posit with paint something living, something that changes each day.


Everyone destroys marvelous paintings. Five years ago you wiped out what you are about to start tomorrow.

Where do you put a form? It will move all around, bellow out and shrink, and sometimes it winds up where it was in the first place. But at the end it feels different, and it had to make the voyage. I am a moralist and cannot accept what has not been paid for, or a form that has not been lived through.

Frustration is one of the great things in art; satisfaction is nothing.


Two artists always fascinate me—Piero della Francesca and Rembrandt. I am fixed on those two and their insoluble opposition. Piero is the ideal painter: he pursued abstraction, some kind of fantastic, metaphysical , perfect organism. In Rembrandt, the plane of art is removed. It is not a painting, but a real person—a substitute, a golem. He is really the only painter in the world!

Certain artists do something and new emotion is brought into the world; its real meaning lies outside of history and the chains of causality.

Human consciousness moves, but it is not a leap: it is one inch. One inch is a small jump, but that jump is everything. You go way out and then you have to come back—to see if you can move that inch.


I do not think of modern art as Modern Art. The problem started long ago, and the question is: Can there be any art at all?

Maybe this is the content of modern art.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

John Ashbery at the NBCC

John Ashbery addressing the NBCC

What a perfect moment. It reminds me of why I adore his poetry as I do. He’s able to inhabit a moment in all of its contradictions and complexities. Completely rich. Here’s a snip:

“So once again thanks, national book critics, for letting me come full circle—that is to be here beaming my gratitude at you, both for what you’ve done for me personally, not just as regards poetry, but for all the things you write about. It seems inevitable that the more books there are, the less time one will have to keep up with them, which is why so many of us gorge on reviews. They give us the delicious feeling of having read something without spending the thousands of hours we need to really learn about it. They’re one of the essentials of daily life, along with naps, those much-maligned lattes, and Bill Moyers. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.”

Find the full texthere.

Ha! Anyway, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the cover of his new book, Planisphere. It’s due out on December first. It’ll be 160 pages long.

Map of the Folded World Q&A

A poem from Map of the Folded World is featured today at Pages Rustle.

There’s a short essay on the poem and a Q & A. Here’s the first question:

Q: I’m very much always looking for a poem’s “significance,” and this is a poem that is in some ways resistant to a single way of understanding. As the poet, do you subscribe to McLeish’s idea that “a poem should Be/ not mean”?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zachary Schomburg - Falling Life

From Scary, No Scary
Zachary Schomburg

Falling Life

You are in a very high tree.

If you jump
you will live a full life
while falling.

You will get married
to a hummingbird

and raise beautiful part-

You will die of cancer
in mid-air.

I will not lie.
It will be painful.

You are a brave little boy
or girl.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Flaming Lips & Caffeine Destiny & More!

New things that I’m getting to this week:

The Flaming Lips’s new album, out next month, is streaming for the weekend here (in the upper left corner):


There's also a video of "Convinced of the Hex" up!


The Bookshelf (in no particular order):

Zachary Schomburg, Scary, No Scary (Black Ocean)
Brigitte Byrd, Song of a Living Room (Ahsahta)
Kate Greenstreet, The Last 4 Things [with DVD] (Ahsahta)
Claudia Keelan, Missing Her (New Issues)
Mary Ann Samyn, Beauty Breaks In (New Issues)
Ed Skoog, Mister Skylight (Copper Canyon)
Mark Bibbins, The Dance of No Hard Feelings (Copper Canyon)
Jennifer Militello, Flinch of Song (Tupelo)
Kristi Maxwell, Hush Sessions (saturnalia)
Sabrina Orah Mark, Tsim Tsum (saturnalia)

Of these, I’ve only read the two by Sabrina Orah Mark and Zachary Schomburg so far, and they’re both excellent in similar ways. My guess is if you like either of these two, you’ll like the other. I did.

Next up, Brigitte Byrd. I enjoyed Fence Above the Sea. I’m looking forward.

And also, the new issue of Caffeine Destiny is up:


Robert BohmLaton CarterShannon CarsonAndrei CodrescuJohn GallaherRachel GruskinCecelia HagenJay RobinsonZach SavichPeter ShippyLee SternMathias SvalinaJR WalshFranz Wright

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Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard - Big Sur


Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard will perform songs from their collaborative album One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur, along with other surprise material, at four concerts in October, underscoring the influential author's enduring legacy 40 years after his death on October 21, 1969.


10/23 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA (on sale now)
10/24 – Bimbo’s 365 Club – San Francisco, CA (on sale now)
10/26 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
10/28 – Webster Hall – New York, NY (on sale 9/18)

The band features Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service), Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie), Mark Spencer (Son Volt) and Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould, The Mountain Goats).


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tomas Tranströmer and Big R Reality

Tomas Tranströmer is the only Swedish poet I know much about (from the Robin Fulton translations), so here’s a poem from him in reaction to a report I just got from a friend who is in a creative writing program where someone recently said, “A house can only do in a poem what a house can do in real life.”

Oh my. Such assumptions about houses and about real life . . . . Such assumptions about art and the workshop . . .

So anyway, rather than go on a tirade about what “real life” might mean, and what “houses” might mean, I thought to turn to Tranströmer, to let him do the talking:

Summer Plain

We have seen so much.
Reality has used us up so much,
but here is a summer at last:

a large airfield—the flight controller is bringing down
load after load of frozen
people from space.

The grass and the flowers—here we land.
The grass has a green manager.
I report myself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Step right up! Step right up! This Weekend!

Step right up! Step right up! This Weekend!

Friday, September 11th
Illinois Wesleyan University
Wayne Miller and John Gallaher
Bloomington, 4 p.m.
hosted by Michael Theune

Saturday, September 12th
Poets in Print at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center
Wayne Miller, Michael Robins and John Gallaher
326 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Suite 103A (Park Trades Center)
7 p.m.

Sunday, September 13th
Myopic Books
Wayne Miller and John Gallaher
7 p.m.
1564 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More Swedes!

After reading Robert Archambeau’s piece in The Boston Review on these Swedish poets:

A Time in Xanadu
Lars Gustafsson, translated by John Irons
Copper Canyon Press, $16 (paper)

A Different Practice
Fredrik Nyberg, translated by Jennifer Hayashida
Ugly Duckling Presse, $14 (paper)

I’ve gotten really interested in Swedish poetry. Of course, not enough to actually read any of it yet, but interested enough to know I want to. So here’s a question for anyone who might be in the know: Can someone please direct me to some more recent Swedish poets (besides the above, and, of course, Tomas Tranströmer)? I want to put together a little (or big) “to buy” list, just in case some money I’ve applied for comes through.

Much obliged.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Hitler's First Springsteen Show

Hitler's First Springsteen Show

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Reading Workshop

From The New York Times last week:

I came across this and thought it interesting. It’s a quick read. I just became aware of this trend last week, when my daughter’s second-grade teacher sent home a flyer about the “Reading Workshop” that my daughter’s class is going to be starting soon. My daughter was thrilled. She gets to bring her favorite book to class. She’s recently discovered chapter books, and really likes to read to us at night.

* *

. . . last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.

Among their choices: James Patterson‘s adrenaline-fueled “Maximum Ride” books, plenty of young-adult chick-lit novels and even the “Captain Underpants” series of comic-book-style novels.

But then there were students like Jennae Arnold, a soft-spoken eighth grader who picked challenging titles like “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, of which she wrote, partly in text-message speak: “I would have N3V3R thought of or about something like that on my own.”

The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools. While there is no clear consensus among English teachers, variations on the approach, known as reading workshop, are catching on.

In New York City many public and private elementary schools and some middle schools already employ versions of reading workshop. Starting this fall, the school district in Chappaqua, N.Y., is setting aside 40 minutes every other day for all sixth, seventh and eighth graders to read books of their own choosing.

In September students in Seattle’s public middle schools will also begin choosing most of their own books. And in Chicago the public school district has had a pilot program in place since 2006 in 31 of its 483 elementary schools to give students in grades 6, 7 and 8 more control over what they read. Chicago officials will consider whether to expand the program once they review its results.

None of those places, however, are going as far as Ms. McNeill.

In the method familiar to generations of students, an entire class reads a novel — often a classic — together to draw out the themes and study literary craft. That tradition, proponents say, builds a shared literary culture among students, exposes all readers to works of quality and complexity and is the best way to prepare students for standardized tests.

But fans of the reading workshop say that assigning books leaves many children bored or unable to understand the texts. Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading.

“I feel like almost every kid in my classroom is engaged in a novel that they’re actually interacting with,” Ms. McNeill said, several months into her experiment. “Whereas when I do ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” I know that I have some kids that just don’t get into it.”

Critics of the approach say that reading as a group generally leads to more meaningful insights, and they question whether teachers can really keep up with a roomful of children reading different books. Even more important, they say, is the loss of a common body of knowledge based on the literary classics — often difficult books that children are unlikely to choose for themselves.

“What child is going to pick up ‘Moby-Dick’?” said Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University who was assistant education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. “Kids will pick things that are trendy and popular. But that’s what you should do in your free time.”

Indeed, some school districts are moving in the opposite direction. Boston is developing a core curriculum that will designate specific books for sixth grade and is considering assigned texts for each grade through the 12th.

Joan Dabrowski, director of literacy for Boston’s public schools, said teachers would still be urged to give students some choices. Many schools in fact take that combination approach, dictating some titles while letting students select others.

Even some previously staunch advocates of a rigid core curriculum have moderated their views. “I actually used to be a real hard-line, great-books, high-culture kind of person who would want to stick to Dickens,” said Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.” But now, in the age of Game Boys and Facebook, “I think if they read a lot of Conan novels or Hardy Boys or Harry Potter or whatever, that’s good,” he said. “We just need to preserve book habits among the kids as much as we possibly can.”

As a teenager growing up just a few miles from Jonesboro, Ms. McNeill loved the novels of Judy Blume and Danielle Steel. But in school she was forced to read the classics. She remembers vividly disliking “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Still, she went on to teach it to her own students.

* *

Well, that’s a novel idea. And then the question: on which side do you fall? Or do you fall into the well of the third term (a combination of free choice and uniform curriculum)?

I think I’d fall into that third category, but with a heavy emphasis on the Reading Workshop. I like the idea of free choice, and then peeking over the shoulder of what others are reading. Perhaps getting interested . . .

Great literature rarely excites kids. Great literature wasn’t written for them, so why should it excite them? I mostly hated all those classes when I was young. And then I ran home and read Sherlock Holmes, and the Tolkien books (which I was introduced to by my fourth-grade teacher in end of the day reading time, so there's still a role in my mind for teacher-directed learning - but she didn't do it as part of the curriculum . . . this was how she finished out the day, when we had some extra time to fill [so my love of reading was born not of a curriculum, but from how to fill extra time - I like that idea]), and Louis L’Amour westerns. By the time I reached High School I moved on to poetry, being curious. And there I found my first anthology of poetry at a book-sale: The Caterpillar Anthology, edited by Clayton Eshleman.

My story would certainly not be the norm of what would happen under a reading workshop formula, but I still think some version of it is a great idea.

And then comes the second point, this one about how Ms. McNeill disliked The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and then went on to teach it to her own students. This is exactly what I think is wrong with the education system when it comes to poetry. We shove antique and fusty poems at students and demand they fill in the blank with the proper answer as to theme or whatever, and they mostly grow up to hate poetry, thinking there’s always a blank to be filled in properly . . . and what do they do with this stuff they never liked when they become teachers? Indeed. The circle keeps circling. I think a love of reading is killed in most people by their being waterboarded by the classics.

So I’ll toss my vote with the reading workshop, flawed as it probably is.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

G.C. Waldrep and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts

Matthew Thorburn asked me awhile back about G.C. Waldrep’s poems:

“I'd love to hear what you like about the Waldrep book, John. I know everybody's crazy about his poems, but I can't figure my way into them.”

Good question. At the time, I didn’t want to reply, because I have a close relationship with a lot of Waldrep’s poems, as we’ve written a (or two, depending on how you look at it, but more on that below) manuscript together, and I wanted to be able to talk about that, but at the time he and I were in conversations about publishing it, and I wanted to wait until there was a resolution. So, anyway, there is now a resolution, and the book, titled (probably) Your Father on the Train of Ghosts will be coming out from BOA Editions in the Spring of 2011, and it’ll be around 140 pages long.

Needless to say, I’m not an unbiased reader of G.C. Waldrep’s work. So here’s what I want to say, first off, about Archicembalo. It’s written in the “manner of a musical primer” as Rosmarie Waldrop writes on the jacket, and all the titles are forms of the question Who or What is something: “Who is Thelonious Monk,” “What is Counterpoint.” These are jumping off places, not places for direct investigation, in my reading.

I read these poems in prose as a sort of intellectual autobiography, or maybe in the way of “Everyone’s Autobiography.” That sort of thing. The book incorporates a panoply of tones, and a possibility of tones, where the reader is given a kind of ethics of involvement with the world (or in the world). Take, for instance, this little bit, from page 16:

Stage direction: wires and harness. (See What is Roman Catholicism.)

First off; of, course, there is no entry in Archicembalo for “What is Roman Catholicism.” Just as there are no entries for the numerous parenthetical notes that readers are directed to. But what does this line do then? It finds itself in a poem titled, “What is Opera.” It’s a stage direction bringing to mind the omnipresent deus ex machine, and then a nod (and editorial comment) toward its place in Roman Catholic belief and practice. It’s a very small moment, and easy enough to track. But then the poem moves directly to this:

The first touches of grace and unresolved games are being prepared here.

The poem doesn’t let itself resolve. It won’t, and Archicembalo in general won’t, allow for the reductions of final thoughts. It won’t be just a little joke on Roman Catholicism, any more than it’s an endorsement of any one thing other than further contact. It’s an investigation of our interior complexity where “grace” and “unresolved games” can be placed together as a unity. Anyway, that’s how I read it.

And then, moving on to this “accidental book” (as G.C. called it). I can’t remember why we had an email exchange. But I do remember that I affixed a poem that I had just written to the bottom of an email to him, as I often do. His response was something along the lines of “I like to respond to such things with poems of my own, so sending a poem to me is a dangerous thing.” I could look it up, as it’s still there somewhere in my email, but that’s the gist of it. My response was something along the lines of “bring it on.” And so we started sending poems back and forth at a rather furious pace, lifting things from each other, riffing off things from each other, and speaking back to something, some tone or subject or maneuver, from each other, to the tune of something like 200 poems.

Undaunted, a year or so later, which was this last winter/ spring, as we were finishing up putting the manuscript together, which we were now calling Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (which came out of a mash-up of images we were finding recurring in the poems), we started writing poems back and forth again in the same way, this time, to the tune of 140 or so poems. Many of these poems (the fist run and the second) are now being published in journals (I’m reading some of his right now in the new Quarterly West, for instance) with his or my name on them, but when the book comes out, the individual poems won’t be attributed. It’s much cleaner just to put both names on the cover, and let that be it.

Writing that many poems with someone does not leave one unchanged. I feel very lucky right now to have had this experience, and I look forward to the experiences to come (reading together this fall in Colorado, and then going through the production process, and then, of course, the question of what to do with the hundreds of poems that don’t make it into the book. I’ve suggested a designer line of wallpaper, just so you know.)

Jonathan Demme and Neil Young are at it again

Another Neil Young / Jonathan Demme concert movie coming soon: Trunk Show.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dean Young Responds to Tony Hoagland

To catch up on what Dean Young is talking about, you can go here.

So anyway, Tony Hoagland has been writing a lot of things lately in which he throws a lot of rocks with his eyes closed. And now it seems even his friends agree, if in rather elliptical and flighty ways. Here’ s a letter from Dean Young that’s been printed in the current issue of APR:

Dear Editors,

After years of being a defect, it is a pleasant surprise to be upgraded to an effect in Tony Hoagland’s characteristically insightful and cogently hectoring essay (“The Dean Young Effect,” July/August 2009). Equally flattering is to be blamed for so much that he perceives as being wrong with contemporary poetry as particularly evidenced in a group of younger writers, who I am sure are deeply influenced by my work regardless if they have read it or not. Before I quaff the proffered drams of hemlock for my corrupting crimes (apparently to the chagrin of my poor comrades doing the reading for admission into creative writing programs across our fair land), I wish to humbly suggest a flaw in Mr. Hoagland’s essay, a flaw shared by much writing about contemporary poetry. It is a lack of, to use T.S. Eliot’s phrase, historical sense, to acknowledge that poetry has been around a long time before Apollinaire. Far beyond my misguiding of younger poets, I feel as a matter of pride that I must point out the awful effect my work has had on poetry in general. Surely I am as least in part to blame for John Donne’s willful obscurities and distortions; and what about those stylistic fripperies of Gerard Manley Hopkins? Not to mention the obviously inflated self-mythologizing of Whitman, and, even, the smarmy ironies of Chaucer. The list, as any delicate reader knows, goes on and on.

Dean Young

You Never Know with Neil Young, Now Do Ya?

Apparently they (or HE or SOMEBODY) know what all the Neil Young Archives Performance Series releases are going to be, as they’ve just skipped all the way to number 12:



DREAMIN' MAN, Neil Young Archives Performance Series #12, will be released
on or about Nov. 2nd, 17 years after the original release of Harvest Moon.

A closer look at Harvest Moon songs, all performed solo acoustic before the release of Harvest Moon, DREAMIN' MAN contains intimate live performances recorded in concert halls during 1992.

Track Listing:

1. Dreamin’ Man
2. Such a Woman
3. Old King Rap
4. Old King
5. One of These Days
6. Harvest Moon
7. You and Me
8. From Hank to Hendrix
9. Unknown Legend
10. Natural Beauty
11. War of Man