Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jake Adam York

If you didn’t know Jake Adam York, you missed knowing a good guy. 

There will be a memorial at UC Denver January 30th.  Here’s a link:



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Most Listened to Albums of 2012

Father John Misty - Fear Fun: The Best Album of an Uneven Year

Here are the albums I thought about a bit this year.  A lot of good-sounding stuff, but not much thrilling stuff.  Father John Misty's Fear Fun was the only album that, for me, could compete with some of the best albums from the last few years.  Looking to 2013, though, I’m excited about the new album from Thom Yorke (Atoms for Peace) and the new album from Junip ( I LOVED their first one), and hopeful about the new album from Eels . . .

TOP 10 (or top-whatever) lists are odd creatures.  As I was trying to put a list together, I found that my list of top albums, albums I thought were “the best” was a different list than the list of albums I listened to the most.  First, here are some of the albums that I listened to that are making a lot of top then lists:

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Tame Impala – Lonerism

El-P – Cancer For Cure

And of course, there was an album from The Boss, too.  But I didn’t like any of them, not even a little bit.  Actually, I enjoyed Taylor Swift’s Red more than any of these albums.  Taylor Swift came out with a pretty good album, for what it is.  When I went to make a top ten list, I found that some of the albums I was trying to put there were albums I really didn’t listen to all that much, but instead were albums that I thought were good, even as I didn’t really like them all that much.  So, instead, here’s a different kind of list.  These were the ten albums from 2012 I listened to the most, and that I’m still listening to:

Father John Misty, Fear Fun

Angus Stone, Broken Brights

Amy Cook, Summer Skin

Hospitality, Hospitality

The Lumineers, The Lumineers

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill

Ian Hunter, When I’m President

Aimee Mann, Charmer

Beach House, Bloom

David Byrne & St. Vincent, Love This Giant

Rounding out the top twenty or so of albums I listened to, here are some albums fro 2012 I liked, or even liked a lot, but didn’t go back to as much as I thought I was going to (though some of them, I’d say were “better” than some of the ones I went back to more often [for instance, I know intellectually that the Leonard Cohen album is better than the Neil Young & Crazy Horse album, but I don’t listen to it as often]).  Anyway, these are some good albums, well worth checking out:

Bob Dylan, Tempest

Dinosaur Jr., I Bet On Sky

Elephant Micah, Louder Than Thou

Glen Hansard, Rhythm & Repose

Jason Lytle, Dept. of Disappearance

Jay Farrar, et al, New Multitudes

Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur

Kopecky Family Band, Kids Raising Kids

Lambchop, Mr. M

Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas

Moonface, With Siinai

Of Monsters and Men, My Head Is an Animal

[I just realized that I forgot to put David Wax Museum on there. Put them on there somewhere.] Rounding out the recap of my listening habits of 2012, were some albums I thought at first I was going to like, I even thought I was liking them a lot, but that I never really could get myself all the way through without turning to something else. 

Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself

Beth Orton, Sugaring Season

Calexico, Algiers

Cat Power, Sun

Damien Jurado, Maraqopa

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Here

First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar

Fort Atlantic, Fort Atlantic

Great Lake Swimmers, New Wild Everywhere

Lee Renaldo, Between the Times & the Tides

Memoryhouse, The Slideshow Effect

MV & EE, Space Homestead

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana

Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts

Perfume Genius, Put Your Back N 2 It

Porcelain Raft, Strange Weekend

Sarah Jaffe, The Body Wins

Sharon Van Etten, Tramp

Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Trampled By Turtles, Stars and Satellites

Monday, December 10, 2012

Time Is a Toy

The Benedikt Suitcase Project continues!  The title is Time Is a Toy, and I’ve just now finished my first through edit.  There are a lot of issues still to work out, but we’ve decided a couple.  Normalizing Benedikt’s use of “&” for “and,” for one.  I’m still finding, though, variant versions of poems as I’m looking (and thanks to those such as, most recently, David Young, who have sent me things!).  Benedikt had an obsessive habit of revising.  Usually his revisions were to add, but then he’d take some things away as well.  So, there are CHOICES to make.  Laura Boss, my co-editor, is a great help! 
Just to give you an example, today I took half a page out of one of his poems from the late 1980s, early 1990s.  And, as Laura and I were talking about on the phone the other night, there are something like four versions of his "Fourth of July & Laura & Me" poem out there.
Time is indeed a toy. Just saying.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

It’s US vs. Us once again.

Who doesn't heart binaries?

And we win! 

The Boston Review (again, one of the best places for thinking—though the thinking itself, as thinking must—can sometimes drive me up a wall) got some poets and critics together to respond to Marjorie Perloff’s riff from last spring. 

The Boston Review (Timothy Donnelly, B.K. Fischer, and David Johnson) asked: what is the most significant, troubling, relevant, recalcitrant, misunderstood, or egregious set of opposing terms in discussions about poetics today, and, by extension, what are the limits of binary thinking about poetry?

“Their responses range from whimsy to diatribe, with meditation, appraisal, tangent, touchstone, anecdote, drollery, confection, wit, and argument in between” follow:

Robert Archambeau, a perennial favorite of mine, has a quickie synopsis on his blog, if you feel like skimming:

[Side comment: I’m not much for spelling, and above, when I misspelled “perennial” my spell-check thought I meant “prenatal.” That gave me a nice, possible binary that I’m resolving not to reduce myself to.]

Here's my reaction to the original Perloff essay:


And my reaction to the second Perloff essay, which was in reaction to an essay by Matvei Yankelevich that was in reaction to her essay:


Binaries stumble over us in the dark.  It’s why we love vampires, right?  The half dead, the undead, the Other that troubles (completes) the unnecessary on/off switches in our brains.  Or (to make this a binary within a binary) is it that we love zombies for this reason?  One romantic, one will eat our brains.  As if romance itself doesn’t do a good enough job of eating our brains. 

And what do these troubled and constantly outdated binaries do for us?  What do Bella and Edward do to overcome the functionally necessary is/isn’t?  They have an American Hybrid (is this offspring a salvation or apocalypse?)! 

Value, artistic or otherwise, will always set up a binary, at the very least a personal binary: the binary of “did I put this on my good bookshelf” or “did I put this on the give-away table.”  But is that true?  Not really, I’m thinking.  Look at any “good” book or whatever, and that book, that object, is filled with the arc of value, All Things fall on an arc (how grand).  Likewise artistic standards fall on an arc, and then I see critics or whomever endorsing things that I can point to and say there’s no way, given what that critic has said in the past, that the critic should like this thing.  Value is as messy as who is or isn’t in some school or movement.  Or, more bothersome even, a critic (or a friend or something) will NOT like something that, according to everything that person has said, that person SHOULD like.  Particle or wave? Sure. Binaries raise in me the desire to speak in universals, which is a version of “two wrongs don’t make a right.” So maybe ALL binaries aren’t wrong.  (Cue the theme to The Walking Dead.)

Is the universe digital or analogue? Shaken or stirred?  And what would happen if was asked if it is digital or stirred?  If someone is a Formalist or Ecologist? Binaries work when we narrow a context to a pinpoint.  And pinpoints, though interesting, are woefully inadequate, incomplete, and antiseptic. 

So the cats are sleeping with the dogs and time marches on.  Marjorie Perloff’s essay has its points.  We MUST assign value to what we read, yes, yes, of course, but we must keep in mind the broad brushes we use (that Perloff seems untroubled by, which troubles me) when making pronouncements about “Poetry.” 

Examples spoil binaries.  So, in the spirit of spoiled binaries, I will endeavor to keep this conversation somewhere in the black & white halls of my memory for future angst-filled nights where I might find myself being remorselessly reductive in my thinking about what the kids are doing on my lawn.

We love strong statements and straight thinking.  Stop this wishy-washy, namby-pamby bullshit, and say what you mean.  Or: you people are nothing but ironic dilettantes, with your hipster lack of depth and coterie references.  Or something like that.  Sure, some stuff is just crap.  Absolutely, the crap we will always have with us.  But, also, mistakes can be made when wearing war-paint that a more nuanced and sympathetic approach might balance.  When dealing with a foreign power, it’s a good idea to learn the language.  And, one mistake that is made by people who have been around the art scene for more than 25 years, is the mistake that their history is enough to know what the young are saying, when, the truth is, the young constantly revise the old.  The old shout BLANK IRONY and the young respond with NECESSARY AMBIVALENCE.  (A false binary, of course, but binaries are what fits on bumper stickers, and bumper stickers are the coin of the realm.)

All projects in art are failed projects.  And the young do little better in understanding the old. 

I think of this as a good thing, for, if we understood each other, and if there was final authority, then art would cease to exist.  Or better, we’d all freeze into place, turn silver, and hover six inches above everything.  And, though it would be nice to have the lions speak and all that, I’d not want to give up breathing and all that. Aware, of course, that I’ve set up another binary with a chaser of universal. Weeeeeeeeee. Without a safety net:

Down Is the New Up!

Pour yourself a drink . . .

Sunday, December 02, 2012

From the "Dumbest Joke Ever" file

The poem is everything else except the lines on the page
By Brian Doyle
from The Oregonian
I have a friend who calls himself a poet because he published a poem in a magazine once, but then for fun he published the exact same poem in another magazine, just to see if he could, and ever since it's been the deluge. By his count he has published the exact same poem in 11 little magazines and journals and reviews and webzines so far. He has published no other poem in his poetic career than that poem, which I have to say is a pretty good poem, although reading it 11 times, as I have, dilutes the salt and song of it a little -- I know where the surprises are, the twists of phrase, the way he cracks his lines so they have a little extra pop and swerve in them. Still, though, as he likes to say, it's a pretty good poem, serviceable, sturdy, not too self-absorbed and self-obsessed and self-indulgent like so many poems are, and as there are no sudden phrases in French or Greek, which happens sometimes in arty poems, and when that linguistic crime occurs, as he says, you want to get a serious baseball bat and have at the ankles of the arty poet for being such a pretentious doofus, although cracking poets on the ankles for being such narcissistic dolts is frowned upon, even by editors, some of whom actually do have baseball bats in their offices, in case of emergencies. 
[So unpack this with me.  Or maybe not.  Maybe we should just make jokes.  Jokes are probably the best course of action at this point.  But, be careful, this next bit gets pretty existential.]
I have asked my friend why he is so intent on publishing this one poem over and over again and he pretty much has a different answer every time I ask the question. Sometimes he says he thinks it is a fine poem and the more times it appears the better, on principle. Sometimes he says it's an indictment of our culture that so few people read poems that no one yet has noticed that he publishes the same poem over and over again. Sometimes, on dark days, he says I guess I am not much of a poet, because it looks like all I have is the one poem in me and I am wedded to it until death do us part. Sometimes he says he is playing a shell game with poetry magazine editors, and he does not feel bad about that because it's not like he is getting paid anyway. Sometimes he says his calculus is that poetry magazines are read by so few people that each time the poem is published it is read by a maximum of seven people and therefore the poem has been read by 77 people to date, excluding him and me, and he will quit when he gets more than 100 readers total, including him and me. Sometimes he says that the poem is actually different each time it appears because it is printed in a different typeface or on a different weight of paper or different electric screen, and context is everything in poetry, and therefore the poem is by definition a new poem, given its new context. Sometimes he says that the poem is actually different every time because we are wrong to think that we know anything certain about something we have read before; for one thing we immediately forget most of what we read, and for another the whole point of a poem is to have layers and hints and intimations and subtexts and shimmers and suggestions of other meanings and depths, so each time you read the same poem it is not the same poem because you are reading it a different way, on a different day, and of course you are not the same person you were when you read it before either, so how could the poem be the same if you are different when you read it?
Which is a pretty good point, actually.
Obviously a fan.
[Or not. As the joke goes, why not cut to the chase and just publish the same poem over and over because isn’t that what most poets do anyway.  And then, yes, of course, it is an indictment of the poetry-reading world that one could publish the same poem in 11 different journals and no one would notice.  But really, it’s mostly just kind of a sad morning.]
My friend also says look, the whole point of a poem is to jazz your perceptions, to send you sideways mentally and emotionally for a moment, to stimulate you to see things in a slightly different and ideally refreshing way, so really he is doing readers and editors a subtle service in presenting a poem that you can read in lots of different ways depending on what sort of paper or screen it is appearing on, and the typeface, and the time of day, and who you are when you read it. If you think about this carefully for a moment, he says, I am turning the whole dynamic around, so that the poem is the same but everything else is different; in a sense the poem is no longer the lines on the page or screen, but the whole panoply of things that are different each time the poem appears in a new magazine or journal or review or webzine. The poem is everything else except the lines on the page, get it?
This is a pretty interesting point, actually, but every time he explains this slowly and carefully to me with that glint in his eye I am not sure if he is making a brilliant and subtle point about poetry and art and perception and metaphysical existence or if he has gone over the edge altogether and I am being sold a pile of nuts. So, in classic editorial fashion, I will leave this question to you, the reader, and tiptoe gently out of the end of this essay, leaving only my byline below as evidence that I was here.
[I don’t find it all that interesting a point, but good taste and interesting points aside, there still are issues about our culture on display here, none of which please me.  And, even as I point, I’m passing over in silence.]
 Cheers from Joe!