Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thurs AWP Night Hopleaf Bar

Event Info Host: BWR/BCR/MN

Time and Place Date: Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm


Hopleaf Bar
5148 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL

Black Warrior Review, Bat City Review, and Mare Nostrum invite you to an evening of drinks, readings, and conversation with recent contributors to each magazine.

Readers include

Matthew Zapruder, Betsy Wheeler, John Gallaher, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Elisabeth Benjamin, Jamey Bradbury, Rebecca Hoogs, Brandon Krieg, Zach Savich, and Kevin Craft.

Conversation and cash bar from 6:00-6:30pm
Readings from 6:30-8:00pm

Directions to Hopleaf from the Loop:

Take the Red Line north towards Howard. Get off at the Berwyn stop. Walk six blocks left on Berwyn, crossing Broadway, to Clark Street. Take a left on Clark and walk a block and a half south. Hopleaf will be on your right. Reading upstairs.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Laurel Review All-Poetry Issue AWP Table 424

The Laurel Review

Come Visit Us at Table 424

For a Special Deal on Our New Issue

[And Super Special on Class Adoption!]

Winter 2009
Edited by David Dodd Lee and John Gallaher

The All-Poetry Issue

Paige Ackerson-Kiely
Carrie Olivia Adams
Ralph Angel
Angela Ball
Nancy Botkin
Mary Lou Buschi
Cynthia Cruz
Jordan Davis
Wayne Dodd
Sharon Dolin
Norman Dubie
Jennifer Edwards
Angie Estes
John Estes
Lisa Fishman
Graham Foust
Christine Garren
Albert Goldbarth
Arielle Greenberg
James Harms
Lola Haskins
Laura Kasischke
Elizabeth Knapp
Susanne Kort
Dorothea Laskey
Matthew Lippman
Dawn Lonsinger
Charlie Malone
Louise Mathias
Gretchen Mattox
Glenn Mott
Sarah O’Brien
Dzvinia Orlowsky
Nate Pritts
Kevin Prufer
Stella Radulascu
Dana Roeser
Deborah Anne Roth
Stan Sanvel Rubin
Roy Seeger
Hugh Seidman
Mary Szybist
Pablo Tanguay
Philip Terman
Chase Twichell
Robert Vandermolen
G.C. Waldrep
David Welch
Jared White
Franz Wright
Gail Wronsky
Arthur Vogelsang
Matthew Zapruder

Thursday, January 29, 2009

American Hybrid - Table of Contents

So anyway, American Hybrid is almost here. It’s just minutes away. Seconds away.

My quibbles with this line-up of poets are so few and small as to be not even worth mentioning. And I’m thinking, from looking at the list below, it might just turn out to be my favorite anthology of contemporary American poetry, unless one ever comes along with poems from me in it. (That was meant as a joke. Trust me.)

This just in from Cole Swensen, about the anthology:

I’m putting the table of contents below as it appears in the book, which is arranged alphabetically, and as you’ll see, almost everyone in it is over 40. And then some. I find the issue of age not only interesting, but crucial; the writers in this anthology were chosen because the depth, intricacy, and power of their poetry is something that can only be attained through years and years of work. David St. John and I started this project because we recognized that what we were seeing as vital and vibrant in the work of people in their 30s, and even late 20s in some cases, was in fact indebted to gestures made one or two generations earlier. General conversation tends to regard the poetry of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s as heavily partisan, which it was, but in retrospect, the aesthetic moves of the most electric writers of those years were, in fact, often not fused to a polemic, but, quite the opposite; these writers were paying attention to various historical and contemporary aesthetic stances and infusing them with their own idiosyncratic inclinations, and are still doing so, taking American poetry in directions that eroded the binary---in short, exactly what John Hayes said in his 12:46 post. And I fully agree with you, John, in your 5:20 post re Poetry magazine: the extremes haven’t gone away, but I do think they’ve been importantly augmented by a much less definable and more dynamic activity that disregards the limits of those extremes. But because it’s less definable, that activity can be discounted, under-theorized and under-discussed. Our point, in part, is to suggest a re-look at some writers who are associated with one or the other of those extremes, to really look at the work, and recognize that they are actually among the writers who’ve broken them down.

Table of Contents for American Hybrid

Adnan Etel

Angel Ralph

Armantrout Rae

Ashbery John

Bang Mary Jo

Beckman Joshua

Bedient Cal

Bendall Molly

Berssenbrugge Mei-mei

Burkard Michael

Clary Killarney

Cole Norma

Conoley Gillian

Corless-Smith Martin

Doris Stacy

Dubie Norman

Emanuel Lynn

Fraser Kathleen

Fulton Alice

Galvin James

Gander Forrest

Giscombe C.S.

Gizzi Peter

Goldbarth Albert

Graham Jorie

Guest Barbara

Hass Robert

Hejinian Lynn

Hillman Brenda

Hoover Paul

Howe Susan

Howe Fanny

Joron Andrew

Keelan Claudia

Kim Myung Mi

Lauterbach Anne

Levine Mark

Mackey Nate

Marlis Stefanie

McMorris Mark

Miller Jane

Moriarty Laura

Moxley Jennifer

Mullen Laura

Mullen Harryette

Notley Alice

Palmer Michael

Powell D. A.

Ramke Bin

Rankine Claudia

Ratcliffe Stephen

Revell Don

Robinson Elizabeth

Ronk Martha

Ruefle Mary

Sikelianos Eleni

Shepherd Reginald

Smith Rod

Snow Carol

Spahr Julianna

Stewart Susan

Taggart John

Vogelsang Arthur

Waldman Anne

Waldrop Rosmarie

Waldrop Keith

Welish Marjorie

Wheeler Susan

Wier Dara

Willis Liz

Wright Charles

Wright CD

Yau John

Young Dean

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

C = F + S1 + S2

I’m thinking again, which is always a bad sign. Number one, it means I’m not writing, as I only think when not writing. And number two, I’m going to post it on the blog.

So bear with me and help me out if you can, as this is something I keep coming back to, and can’t quite get my way around, over, or through, as if maybe if I just kept calling it different things, maybe one of them will do the trick and some secret door will open and I’ll be inside. Inside of what can wait until I’m inside.


In all art there is a placingness—that things must be placed—which is movable—“where should this go”—as a craft issue, yes, but also as more than the pedestrian way we often hear of craft being talked about. Just because something must be composed doesn’t make it objectively decided upon.

Line breaks are like this. Creeley’s Form / Content dance is about this.

Because there is always or there must always be the distance after the plan.

Why “craft” has always bothered me is because it feels to me like some recipe for success one might hear talked about on Oprah. In much the same way that Creative writing classes aften seem conceptualized as a recipe, when of course we know they aren’t.

Is art personal? If it is, then the coming together over craft issues would seem, at the very least, suspect.

Is art impersonal? In some ways yes, knowing a bit about how language works us, but so then why do we keep talking about the importance of “voice”?

Of course it’s a mix of both. It’s as much incantation as communication. More so, in my estimation.

Voice & Craft

And what if one’s voice is arrived at through chance operations? (I do this myself quite a bit when composing)

And also, what if the craft is personal? You know, making up the form as the form unfolds.

The heater just came on as I’m writing this, changing the formal restrictions of my environment. Coffee is ready.


If conceptualizing things as a puzzle assists one in constructing poems, then one should. What matters is not how we conceptualize things, but what we produce in the reader.

But I’ve never believed in the message.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fleet Foxes on SNL

As someone who grew up in the 70s, I find Fleet Foxes a wonderful breath of life in contemporary music. They have the joy behind their arrangements that feels territory, even if their influences can be listed down the line from My Morning Jacket to The Beach Boys on to Fairport Convention and Queen Elizabeth.

Another clip to show how their Sun Giant EP and their full-length, eponymous collection weren’t just studio tricks. Get both. I’m liking them more and more over time (even if the baroque elements might get a little pretentious at times, which kept me at a little distance for awhile).


Go here for some very nice live mp3s:

Friday, January 23, 2009


Wordle: map of the folded world

You toss in a bunch of text and it comes up with a pretty word cloud. Try it for yourself. The above picture was generated from the text of my new book, Map of the Folded World, coming soon (there's a page up on for it!). Try it with your text. What do you have to lose?

And here's another for half of a manuscript titled Your Father on the Train of Ghosts.

Wordle: Your Father on the Train of Ghosts - JG half

Seriously, now go play. And get back to me.

It's also instructive. "One" and "Things" are apparently words I like a lot, as they appear very large in both pictures. Who would have thought?

Here are some of the poems from an early version of David Dodd Lee's upcoming book The Nervous Filaments (from Four Way Books):

Wordle: DDL 1

Here is Justin Evans' manuscript, Springville:

Wordle: Springville By Evans

This is an interesting way to consider big blocks of text. I put in the text of the poems from Ron Silliman that I could snag quickly from the Internet (turned out to be 56 pages). Here's what came out.

Wordle: Silliman Bits

It would be an intersting analysis, I would think, to take full text from several poets from different styles or schools, etc, and place their common language clouds together to see if there are differences, and what sort, between them. One this is obvious from the start, Silliman uses fewer words multiple times than do the other texts that I had to hand (I wish I had more. I'll look around. I realize, for one thing, I don't have any full text from a female, which could also be an interesting analysis).

I just found a little pile of text from Jennifer Militello, from her upcoming book from Tupelo. So here it is.

Wordle: Jennifer Militello

OK, last one for now. Here's one for an unpublished prose poem manuscript of mine titled Guidebook. It has a different footprint here than my others. Interesting. I wonder what I think of that.

Wordle: Guidebook

I can imagine this to be a good revision tool, as well as a writing tool. Revision, as it points to words that one might perhaps use too often. And words one miht wish to use more often. Writing, as it can show you the common words of others, and in that it might allow you to attempt something with those words. Wear some else's obsessions for a while.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Manifest: And Idea with a Writing Prompt

The Manifest: an Idea with a Writing Prompt

So anyway, I’m trying to work up an essay on teaching, one that also has a writing prompt. I’m posting what I have so far, because it’s been very helpful to my thinking in the past to have responses from whomever happens to stumble across this blog, both in the comments stream and thought email. So here goes:

* * *

Since, at the base level, all writers write the same way—they put something down and then have to come up with a strategy to put something else down, all conversations of form and content can be distilled down to a conversation about how one decides to begin and to continue to set things down. One can remember things from one’s past. One can imagine a story unfolding. One can cut things from dictionaries. One can randomize lines from one’s journal.

A lot rides on the moment before one is going to set things down. How one’s imagination is going to work. You see some people on the street approaching. Say you want to write about that. You might think, “why are they coming?” And then it becomes the story of destinations. But what if you imagine them dancing—it could be a question of “why are they dancing,” yes, but it could also be a question of “what is their dance like.” You see them and it’s a question of unity and form and surprise.

So, what if the way one looks at an art object (the dance, the poem) were to be the way one looks at some aspect of the world (two people walking along a street)? It’s a question of stance before the poem. It’s a question of how one sets oneself up to receive language. Rending into art from an art consciousness might be a nice way to conceptualize things. This might also be a good way of approaching the work of art before one, so that when experiencing that work, our questions of who/ what/ where/ when/ why/ how might be replaced by a less clinical and more playful environment of inquiry.

But how might one go about it?

Behind what I’m thinking is my distrust of the New Critical readings and the modes & strategies approach of the usual creative writing workshop method. That we’ve not come up with a better way of going about the workshop does not mean the workshop method as currently practiced is the best way to go about the conversation of the work of art. For one thing, and for me a very large thing, it privileges the object, at least for the time being. The object (the poem, in this case) is not really the point. Much more important is the possible to say around the object, and the possibility of objects in the future.

Perhaps a useful workshop conversation could center on the stance, the place upon which the poem is standing. What does the world look like from that place? What suppositions is the language of the poem revealing about the world?

One cannot enact the world in art. There’s already a world. What one enacts is a human relationship with the world (or with language itself, but that might be a little fussy and lead a conversation in unmanageable circles—but then again maybe not). That relation (or those relations), enacted in a work of art, can be as primary as any other thing in the world, though, as it will also exist in the world.

Description, then, is not the key to art. Nor is realism, as there is nothing inherently real about language. It’s only noises the body makes. Nor are metaphors of form and content in the work of art. It all has to finally simply be something. Human relationships within the world are necessarily abstract and complicated, but they are only visible through specific events and images presented in language. They are composed of description, yes, narration, yes, but also with an awareness of themselves being composed, because to ignore the composed nature of a composition is to betray oneself to the fallacy that one is actually enacting the world (or the past or the authentic story). As the work of art is an event over time, the elements of word art: openings/ endings/ epiphany—are not so much in error as they are arbitrary and chance outcomes of how one is conceptualizing things. In the end they are beside the point (close, but no cigar). The point is the stance itself. The possible to say. The relationship of the world to the world that is us. The conceptualizations of craft are only to gain one access to a kind of forgetting that hopefully brings one into a more elemental position in regards the human relationship with the world, of which we are already always a part (and apart, as per the example of the brain thinking about the brain).

That said, there are stances and conceptualizations about the art act that do not help things along. Or perhaps to say it better, there are some ways of doing art that appear to be helping things, but in actuality bear false witness to the world by reducing the complexity of things and events, leaving the receiver to feel a sort of solace in the way things are, and a feeling that all connections are solid and meaningful. That has not been the case in my experience of the world. Most connections, in my experience, are delivered by chance operations and their meaning is situationally bounded. Therefore the art object itself can’t really say things outside of itself, but it can participate in the reader saying things.

Anyway, the goal of the artist, I hope, is to get oneself to a position where whatever one does next in a work of art belongs. That one’s method of propulsion down a poem equals the poem itself. What matters then, before the writing of the poem, seems to be of as much importance to the poem, as what happens during the writing of the poem. That’s one way of looking at it. There are, of course, others.

A very basic writing class prompt along these lines of inquiry could be a formal poem that uses invisible form. Here’s an example:

1. Visualize a scene for a minute or two without writing anything down (imagined or recalled, though at first it’s better to imagine a recalled scene so that one doesn’t have to work very hard). For a creative writing class (at any level) it’s often good for a scene to be dictated. One I’ve used is camping, as it seems it’s something nearly everyone has done.

2. Title. Dictate the syntax of the title. Something like “The ______ of _____,” where the writers, of course, fill in the blanks. Unless they’re feeling antic and write something like “The Blank of the Blank.” In that case, it’s fine as well. Now they’re just writing an antic poem is all. The point to a prompt is never the rules of the prompt, but the action of distracting oneself from working one’s imagination too hard on the surface of the poem.

3. The first sentence will be centering on an image of the natural world located in space. Something like “There are trees in the distance” or “One of the boys hid behind the others.” It’s important that one doesn’t work on trying to sound poetic.

4. Try an action sentence now. Some movement across the landscape. Maybe a camper. Some birds.

5. “What are some things the people there have brought with them?” Answer this question in proper short-answer exam style, as in, “describe and discuss.”

6. Quote something someone says. Attribute or don’t, depending.

7. More scene. What might be happening that you’re not aware of? Something to do with the engine, maybe, or the types of trees. Or the light through the trees.

8. Write a sentence starting with “All along.”

9. Two sentence fragments. “The world at large.” “We tell each other.” “The spilling waterfall against the snow.”

10. A sentence of desire. Desire something.

End there or repeat any of the above for as long as you feel like it. For number 8, if you’re going to repeat it, you can change the “all along” to “just like” or "let me" or any other snippet from a title of a Bob Dylan song.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 FWB Levis Poetry Prize - Mary Jo Bang

2009 Levis Prize in Poetry
Judge: Mary Jo Bang

Submission Dates: January 1 - March 31, 2009
electronic or mail submissions accepted

Awarding publication of a book-length collection and $1000.00

Open to all poets writing in English

For Complete Guidelines please visit:

Four Way Books
P.O. Box 535 Village Station
New York, New York 10014

NOTE: Four Way Books is one of the best, most committed, presses out there, and Mary Jo Bang is one of my very favorite poets. This is sure to be a great book they’ll come up with. Maybe it’ll be yours?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Map of the Folded World is off to the printer

So here it is:

Cover Art: Amy Casey

Cover Design: Amy Freels

Press: University of Akron

Editor: Mary Biddinger

Author Photo: Darren Whitley (selected by votes on this blog and facebook, etc.)

There will be a pre-press run at AWP!

The actual run will come a bit later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Neil Young Video - Fork in the Road

There’s a bailout coming but it’s not for you…

This is the first official Neil Young video in some time. Sums things up in his own inimitable way.

I see he’s an apple user.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Laurel Review 42.2

The Laurel Review
Summer 2008
Is Very Late
But It’s Available!

Diana Adams / Sally Ball / Erin M. Bertram / Mark Bibbins / Mary Biddinger / Jaswinder Bolina / Laynie Browne / Paula Cisewski / Cynthia Cruz / Brett DeFries / Wayne Dodd / Dobby Gibson / Albert Goldbarth / Jennifer Gravley / Leilani R. Hall / Rebecca Keith / David Dodd Lee / Heller Levinson / Lisa Lewis / Tim Lilburn / Kristi Maxwell / Michael Mclane/ Rusty Morrison / TaraShea Nesbit / Caitlin Newcomer / Eric Pankey / Ethan Paquin /Chad Parmenter/ Allan Peterson / Stephany Prodromides / Kevin Rabas / Brad Richard / Henry Ronan-Daniell / Zachary Schomburg / Lisa Sewell / Glenn Shaheen / Kent Shaw / Will Smiley / Maggie Smith / Sally Smits / Katherine Soniat / Gene Tanta / Bronwen Tate / Catherine Taylor / Dannyka Taylor / Craig Morgan Teicher / Lawrence L. White / Tyrone Williams / Sam Witt / Andrew Zawacki

To subscribe or order:

The Winter 2009 Issue is at the printer right now.
It will be available for AWP.
(More on that next week.)

Rusty Morrison
An Intersection Of Leaves Not Likeness

No corrections can be further sketched, the sapling is already antiqued by sunset’s shadow.

Only the stain of perspective left after nightfall.

Heard the earth inventing gravel.

Never turn your back.

Tonight’s full moon pulls a scythe of light across the grassy field.

Wind, shaking the heads of ragweed, asks for no assent.

I wanted winter to tell me which of its watchings was celibate. Its answer surrounded me
like a globe.

Today, sky alliterates with a sculpted smoothness. Tomorrow, the scraped
rind of oranges.

See morning sometimes disperse rather than condense the shape of things attempting
to reconstitute from darkness.

Catch a certain thinness to the air that brings out its best features.

An Intersection Of Leaves Not Likeness

Shadows, moving across grass, never touch the clouds that make them.

A little damage on both sides of the thought, when a thought is the gathering force.

The dead make thin every surface where I listen for them. Today, the white skin of birch.

To mistake pine cones for beaks and watch each open and caw.

Bright stone after stone on the gravel path. Calamitous collecting, then only clamorous.

Leaned back against pine, as if to brace and then branch. Leafed shut my eyes.

Atmosphere assessed me accurately as yet un-released from my useless acts.

Brazenly I grasp branch after branch, hoping any part of the inevitable might rub off.

The jay lands, cocks his head and stares, louder than any squawk or squall.

An Intersection Of Leaves Not Likeness

Elegantly bare shoulder of pear-colored cloud.

Rocks I pick up to toss into tall grass are already weightless with classical rendering.

The fog filled with a choir-box emptiness.

To walk lighter between the intervals of mortality and keep each step utterly convinced,

On the back of late day, a clabbered shine. I am thick with fussiness, my wasted luck.

Narrative established in each chance attitude of grass. The view was not good, but flecked,
and already redundant of background value.

Walked off the first skin. Its search for the scale of common tree and tried-for silence.

Itchy, the palm picking up each stone.

Not too proud to call it tiresome, this inescapable setting of goals.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome to the Next Project

This is my project today. What’s yours?

Name the Poet!

So who do you think is the author of the two following poems? Please leave a guess. The answer will be found in the comments thread soonish, depending on if anyone feels like guessing.

The Night Cry

Not with my full strength O not yet with my full strength.

Kneeling down to be closer to the water
At night
He had been drawn from his home by the gray fields
To the black water
Whose far runnels sounded distinct

In the dawn of the gray fields
The night
The principles he’d fought for
The dog saving him

Which had comforted him without meaning to

A Vase of Flowers

The vase is white and would be a cylinder
If a cylinder were wider at the top than at the bottom.
The flowers are red, white and blue.

All contact with the flowers is forbidden.

The white flowers strain upward
Into a pallid air of their references,
Pushed slightly by the red and blue flowers.

If you were going to be jealous of the flowers,
Please forget it.
They mean absolutely nothing to me.


Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Portugal. The Man, Censored Colors

Friday, January 09, 2009

Compromise Choices? Write-in Candidates?


A couple write-in candidates. A slight tonal difference.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Photo Vote


OK, so I hate having my picture taken. And now look at me! Staring back at myself like all of life is part of the negative background.
Please take the time to vote for which one of these pictures is better. I completely understand if you vote neither, or make a snarky comment about what it looks like I might be thinking while sitting there. It might even be what I was thinking. Sitting there.

Monday, January 05, 2009

American Hybrid? Coming Soon!

Ok, so does anyone out there know where I can find the table of contents for American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry?

I'm quite fascinated by what Cole Swensen and David St. John might have come up with. I'm worried a bit by the fact that, in the essay in the brand new Writer's Chronicle that reprints Swensen's introduction, that she might be casting most of her attention at writers in their 30s. This age thing has me in knots (tomorrow is my birthday you see, and I'm turning 44), as I'm wondering why it seems important for people to notice. Ron Silliman did a similar thing a few days ago nodding to poets in their 20s and 30s who will be taking poetry someplace . . .

Anyway, more on that after I think about it for a few more days. A few more jealous, soul-searching days as I have to suddenly feel like I'm already boxed into the past. Ouch. I hope poets over 40 still matter. And will continue to do so.

Is all this talk about young poets just shorthand for "the future," or is it a manifestation of the cult of the young? We do so love the young, especially in the abstract. Anyway, the age thing wasn’t really the point of either Silliman’s post the other day or Swensen’s forward to American Hybrid. So, to redirect.

Swensen’s forward ends with a move I’ve always really liked, the “come to meeting” move, where we’re all in this together:

“Poetry is eternally marked by, even determined by, difference, but that very difference changes and moves. At the moment, it is moving inside, into the center of the writing itself, fissuring its smooth faces into fragments that make us reconsider the ethics of language, on the one hand, and redraft our notions of a whole, on the other. Putting less emphasis on external differences, those among poets and their relative positions, leaves us all in a better position to fight a much more important battle for the integrity of language in the face of commercial and political misuse. It’s a battle that brings poetry back to its mandate as articulated by Mallarmé: to give a purer sense to the language of the tribe. It’s something only poetry can do.”

I want this to be true. I really do. And when I look out at a lot of poetry (poetry that I love and poetry that I don’t love but in which I can see worth), I can feel it to be true, but there are a lot of poems out there that I feel misuse language in just the same way that the political and the commercial misuse it. That’s a thorny little caveat to get around, at least for me.

And then Mallarmé. Has that ever really been true? Maybe it was once, when dictionary makers went to literature for examples of usage, but is there any way that the language today bears any vestige of “a purer sense” after all the strong poems that have been written? Perhaps we, the readers of poetry, can claim some benefit from all the subtlety and clarity, but can anyone else?

That said, as a reader of poetry, I’m looking forward to this anthology. I’m sure to like a lot of it.