Thursday, October 30, 2008

San Francisco Halloween

I’ll be reading/performing in the events below in San Francisco over Halloween weekend. Friday gets you a vampire afterparty; Saturday, super nonstop Bollywood. If the Bay’s your haunt, hope you’ll come.
earthworm reading series & HALLOWEEN PARTY!
899 Oak Street (@ Pierce), Apt. 7, San Francisco

RODNEY KOENEKE is the author of Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, will appear as a Cy Press chapbook this fall. He lives in Portland, OR where he curates the Tangent Reading Series with Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand.

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), has lived in California since 1995. He received his MFA in Poetry from the University of San Francisco and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. He is co-founder of Achiote Press and author of several chapbooks. His first book, from Unincorporated Territory, is now available from Tinfish Press.
kino21 presents THE NEW TALKIES: Bollywood Night
curated by Summi Kaipa and Konrad Steiner
Bollyhood Cafe, 3372 19th Street (@ Mission), San Francisco

Gunga Din/Lives of a Bengal Lancer) is a writer and artist, alternately residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where she curates the Moles Not Molar Reading Series). Recent work of hers can be found in Encyclopedia, Pocket Myths: The Odyssey Edition, horse less review, eco-poetics, Digital Artifact, and Cut & Paste. Her chapbook, Toward Eadward Forward, will be published by horse less press (November 2008). A chunky excerpt from her book-length work-in-progress, Muzzle Blast Dander, can be found in Edition 3 of the Chain Links book series.

Silsila) is a writer and editor in San Francisco. By day, she helps young people tell their own stories at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, and by night, she sleeps and dreams of edible typewriters. Somewhere in-between that, she is the managing editor of Hyphen magazine and is working on a short story collection entitled Misbehaving.

Navrang) is the author of four poetry books: Folly, V. Imp, Are Not Our Lowing Heifers Sleeker than Night-Swollen Mushrooms?, and foriegnn bodie - and, with Gary Sullivan, an e-pistolary techno-romantic non-fiction novel, Swoon. She practices poetry as deep entertainment and is a proud member of the Flarf Collective. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her blog at ULULATIONS

Hare Rama Hare Krishna) is the author of several chapbooks, including The Epics and, most recently, The Language Parable. Kaipa performed her first benshi to the Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia hit, Bobby. She is currently making excruciatingly slow progress on a first full-length manuscript, Was.Or.Am.

Pyaasa) is the author of two poetry books, Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, will appear as a Cy Press chapbook this fall. In addition to tonight's scene from Pyaasa, he's written and performed neo-benshi pieces to scenes from Mary Poppins and German silent classic The Golem. He lives in Portland, OR where he curates the Tangent Reading Series with poets Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand.

ANUJ VAIDYA (Purab Aur Paschim) works in the cusp between film and performance. His previous video works, Chingari Chumma ('00) and Bad Girl with a Heart of Gold ('05), have screened both national and international venues including the Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley), the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Tokyo), Sarai (New Delhi) and the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane). His performance work with the Chicago-based collective Mrs. Rao's Growl, has taken him from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Singapore. Anuj currently lives in Oakland, and works at the Pacific Film Archive and with the 3rd I SF International South Asian Film Festival.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"SCARY": Koeneke, Spanbauer, Yuknavitch

I’ll be reading with fictioneers Tom Spanbauer and Lidia Yuknavitch this Wednesday for Loggernaut. The theme is “Scary,” and I'm sticking to it.
Loggernaut Reading Series
Urban Grind, 2214 NE Oregon Street
(a few blocks north of Sandy at NE 22nd)

RODNEY KOENEKE is the author of the poetry collections Musee Mechanique and Rouge State, as well as a chapbook, Rules for Drinking Forties, due out from Cy Press this fall. His work is included in Bay Poetics and in the Flarf anthology forthcoming in 2009. He lives in Portland, where he helps curate The Tangent Reading Series.

TOM SPANBAUER was raised in Idaho, spent two years in the Peace Corps in Kenya, and for the past fifteen years has lived in Portland, where he teaches Dangerous Writing workshops. He's the author of the novels Now Is the Hour, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, In the City of Shy Hunters, and Faraway Places.

LIDIA YUKNAVITCH is the author of three books of short stories: Her Other Mouths, Liberty's Excess, and Real to Reel. Her work has appeared numerous journals and anthologies. She teaches writing, literature, film and women's studies at Mt. Hood Community College.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Names of the Hits

Names of the Hits of Diane Warren

I Am

I Belong To Me
I Bow Out
I Can’t Change The Way You Don’t Feel
I Could Be Good For You
I Could Not Ask For More
I Couldn’t Say Goodbye
I Count The Minutes
I Cried My Last Tear Last Night
I Decide
I Did It For You
I Don’t Know How I Got By
I Didn’t Want To Need You
I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love
I Don’t Wanna Smile
I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend
I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
I Feel Beautiful
I Get Weak
I Hear Your Voice
I Just Wanna Cry
I Keep Hoping
I Know You Too Well
I Learned From The Best
I Love You, Goodbye
I Miss You Like Mad
I Promise
I See You In A Different Light
I Tried
I Turn To You
I Wanna Be The Rain (Quisera Ser)
(I Wanna) Feel Too Much
I Wanna Get Back With You
I Wanna Touch U There
I Want It To Be Me
I Want Some Of That
I Want You To Need Me
I Will Be Here For You
I Will Be Right Here
I Will Get There
I Will Learn To Love Again
I Will Remember Your Smile
I Would Find A Way
I’d Lie For You (And That's The Truth)
I’ll Be
I’ll Be Your Shelter
I’ll Come Runnin’
I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me)
I’ll Never Not Need You
I’ll Say Good-Bye For The Two Of Us
I’ll Still Love You More
I’m By Your Side
I’m Getting Used To You
I’m Not Made Of Steel
I’m Not The Only One

You Can’t Break a Broken Heart
You Can’t Fight Fate
You Can’t Lose Me
You Didn’t Have To Hurt Me
(You Make Me) Rock Hard
You Pulled Me Through
You Stay With Me
You Were Loved
You Wouldn’t Know Love
You’ll Never Stand Alone
Your Baby Never Looked Good In Blue
Your Heart Is Safe With Me
Your Heart’s In Good Hands
Your Letter
Your Obsession
You’re The Story Of My Life
You’re Where I Belong
You’re Right, I Was Wrong
You’ve Learned To Live Without Me

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Heart Will Go On


Hercules, “Go the Distance”: Alan Menken & David Zippel
Con Air, “How Do I Live”: Diane Warren
Anastasia, “Journey to the Past”: Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens
Good Will Hunting, “Miss Misery
”: Elliott Smith
Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On”: James Horner & Will Jennings

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Miss Misery

Elliott Smith died five years ago yesterday, according to the local NPR affiliate, which devoted an hour-long program to his life and its meaning for Portland.

This reminded me of first hearing about his death in an Alameda, CA office park, a dot-bomb necropolis where, as one company wag put it, if they still had softball games like in the boom, and a ball sailed through a window, now there’d be silence.

Which reminded me we moved here two years ago last week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Silent World

We’ve been working to wean the housemate from torpedoes and death at sea with Jacques Cousteau. I remembered his show as gentle and slightly goofy: barechested men in Speedos and colored caps languidly prizing open the secrets of the deep. What I’d forgotten, or never noticed for the sideburns, is the existential melancholy that drives even the sleepiest episodes. Cousteau’s “psychic landscape of the deep” dwarfs every human pretension. Great ships sink, artworks rot, whole civilizations end in “shattered splendor … a somber reminder that we, too, are vulnerable.” The scores (mostly Elmer Berstein’s) are dreamy and various, and the scripts, just a shade away from deep purple, turn seas into “stormy cradles” and darkness to “Stygian gloom” without batting a thesaurus.

The center of each episode is Cousteau’s own narration, delivered in a sort of slurred, aquatic English, where an old saw from Latin or a line from Paul Valéry is more likely to surface than any information about the deep. Cousteau’s brother was a notorious French Fascist, and while Jacques distanced himself from his sibling early and firmly, there’s a kind of anti-humanist fascination with the monumental that must have been a family trait.*

More than any politics, there’s a peculiarly Gallic version of heroics that weaves through the shows. Precise and womanless, but also collective and jokey, the crew pursue their opaque specialties and sub-specialties with lots of shouts and whistles but few visible signs of labor. Ages and body types range yet the tans are all even, and Cousteau, standing gauntly among them, primus inter pares, appears grateful for their warmth against “the chill that invades our wet suits—and our souls.”

Technophilia thrums in the background, but the machines are just whimsical enough—an undersea saucer, a tube that vacuums dust from the ocean floor—to recall the balloons and gleaming roadsters of Cousteau’s purpose-driven compatriot, Babar.

Measured against the whiz-bang science and swooshing graphics of today’s infotainment, it’s hard to believe these arty sleepers ever found funding. You come away from 55 minutes of “man’s brief adventure” and ponder, like Cousteau confronting one of his ruined finds, if “History has made a mistake.”

*Questions about Cousteau’s own alleged anti-Semitism still dog his early career. Is it coincidence that Hitler’s most celebrated director, Leni Riefenstahl, ended her life making undersea films?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vitiello & Heuving in Portland, 10/11/08

I keep thinking of Jeanne Heuving and Chris Vitiello’s reading in Portland on Saturday in terms of Kasey’s recent post on poetry and stupidity. Kasey’s idea turns on the comparison between a poet and a stage magician, performing tricks only the “stupid” would want to keep watching once they figure out how the coin’s produced from behind the ear.

Vitiello and Heuving both worried stupidity of a different kind: the sleight of hand involved in language itself as it produces meaning in the fraught and fragile loop from writer to reader. Heuving opened with a poem called “Translation,” fashioned from two different English language versions of Artaud’s famous correspondence with Jacques Rivière, the editor who’d rejected the poet’s green work. Over the course of his letters, Artaud gives a fantastically detailed apologia for stupidity, insisting that his inability to write is interesting in itself as a mental, even metaphysical, phenomenon. For Artaud, the poetry is in the things that don’t work in the poem, those moments where the coin falls from the hand for the whole crowd to see. Stretching Kasey’s analogy a little, poetry in this sense might be like that old gag where the rube pats the magician and feathers float out of his jacket, the birds dead before you even saw the trick.

Heuving’s poem, which created a nifty stereo effect (and emphasized the stuttering, circular effect of Artaud’s argument) by repeating the same quotation from the letters in its competing translations, was part of a new manuscript called Abeyance. She explained her recent work as a return to the fascination with “negativity” that fueled her first book, Incapacity, while the recent Transducer, just out from Chax, stands between them as an assertion of the power of poetry to transfer energy from poet to reader. The poems she read from Transducer seemed to emphasize those materials whose forms are temporary stops between states: water as it moves from solid to liquid to gas; fragrance; seeds in their suggestion of future trees. Persephone put in an appearance in a section headed by an epigraph from H.D. about the Eleusinian mysteries, where the tug between winter and spring finds expression in the goddess’s suspended state between death and fertility. Fragments of the Gospels, with their assertion of Christ as a transducer of sorts between the human and divine, surfaced near the end, but the most engaging transfers for my money were the ear-driven ones that turned on near-mirror words like “drowse” and “douse,” with the poem spun out from the semantic distance between them. You have to be a little stupid in the good way, I think, to want to stop and stare at those teensy warps in words where meaning slips, then turn them into poems.

Chris Vitiello read the 15 poems in the “Blowing Rock, NC” section of his new book, Irresponsibility, from Ahsahta, a word I was too stupid to pronounce right until Saturday. The hypothesis of the book, he told us, is that poetry, by default, is a form of irresponsibility, a quality that’s kissing-cousins I guess to stupidity but touches too on the ways we use an apparently useless activity to evade the crappy pressures of the everyday (as in, “can’t get to it now, dear, I’m writing poetry.”) In everything Vitiello read, from Irresponsibility to a new manuscript called Obedience to a short play about “One” and “Other,” ran an insistent feeling for language as game, not Wittgenstein’s so much as one of those simple Milton-Bradley jobs that are easy to get out of the box and play, but a few moves in and you’re finding holes in the rules that send you crying to the folks to adjudicate.

Vitiello’s métier is the syntactically direct but semantically rich puzzler, somewhere between an SAT thought problem and a Steven Wright zinger, that accumulate into weirdly resonant conjunctions (“Ice is less dense than liquid water”; “pronouns are doppelgangers”; “fish can’t blink”) without ever quite letting on whether the right bubble to color was “True” or “False,” or maybe you overslept and got the wrong ScanTron altogether.

The different registers of language and observation (“read geologically,” a poem instructed at one point) included signage, pop science, childspeak, standardized fill-in-the-blankery, war news, conversational addresses to family and friends, and sharply descriptive passages of weather, nature and road conditions, all of which worked to connect the surface banality of daily existence with the surprising beauties and quiddities latent in the process of writing it down. I felt stupid for not knowing what “nicitating” was, but scored a win at One-Letter Hangman and earned a poem blacked out from a NY Times article (“Whiplash on Wall Street Ends a Roller Coaster Week in Which the Dow Fell 18%”). The words Vitiello extracted from the “responsible,” businessy-markety section of the paper was a welcome reminder that for now anyway, we still have our choice of stupidities.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dept. of Nobel Prizewinners

“With Lane H discussed the things that were on his mind, such as the news that Iseult had written him about W.B. Yeats being awarded the Nobel Prize.

‘I don’t know much about the fucker,’ Lane said, ‘but to me it sounds like a sell-out, letting them hang the ribbon with the bloody medal on it round his neck. If he wrote the sort of poetry that told the truth he’d be more likely to have the other kind of noose slipped over it.’”

Francis Stuart, Black List Section H

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Old Enough to Know Debrot

This was the first literary hoax I followed in real-time. It unfolded in online journals, emails, and on the then red-hot Buffalo Poetics list, so I guess it was an early instance of how the Internet would change the discourse around poetry. Big as it flared, I’d forgotten about it until Gary’s post, and never knew Ashbery had intervened.

Whatever happened to Jacques Debrot? He appeared as a musketeer in Kevin Killian’s What I Saw at the Orono Conference 2000 report, then I’d heard he’d made a grand renunciation of poetry and vanished. Seems like there was a “Debrot is dead” rumor at one point—like those reports of Jerry “The Beaver” Mathers having died in Viet Nam—but it turned out he was just teaching somewhere in the Midwest, I think. Odd to be nostalgic for a hoax not ten years gone: maybe Ashbery’s right to yoke modernity to elegy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


One remarkable feature of the Internet prank that is Issue 1 is the effort among poets I’ve talked with or read on the blogs this weekend to make the generated text somehow fit them. Was the source text grabbed from their web pages? Did the writing under their name use characteristic words or images from their poems? If not, were the algorithms still somehow keyed to them—this figure or that line a comment on the particularizing tics of the poet whose name was attached?

The poems, it turns out, were produced by a high-end word generator hosted by U Penn that may use Emily Dickinson or Heart of Darkness as source text. They had nothing to say to us as individuals at all; only in the mass as 3,164 names.

Many have said they like the poems that appear under their names (though I haven’t heard anyone say they like them better than their “regular” work). A few who’ve bothered to read the work attributed to others say they like it better than the authors’ “real” poetry. Others have mentioned how, despite the sophisticated range of tonal variations the software produces, it sounds like “all one poem” distributed across different names, a comment on the sameness of real world, non-punked poetry.

What I like about the stunt is the way it exaggerates the features of writing in the Internet age, like a caricature exaggerates a politician’s brow or nose. That 3,164 poets could appear in the same collection but silo themselves off from the other contributors so completely—that they could find the site via Google Alerts, ‘Control-F’ search for their own piece and, sniffing out the writing as computer generated, scan their own blogs and poems for source text—seems like something that could happen only now, online, where the author functions largely as a search term. I don’t think “ego” is as relevant here as the structural features of Internet presence, which offers at the same time the possibility of total inclusion—why not 30,164 poets? 301,640?—and the power to weed out anything not relevant to us. The special anxiety of the Internet is in that contradiction, I think: that we might be simultaneously included and utterly ignored, like a poet name-checked in Issue 1.

Clifford Geertz believed cockfighting was so popular on Bali because in all its structured horror, it enacts what it feels like to live within Balinese village society. How much of our American lives, online and off, feel like being included—or not—with a list of 3,163 others in a project like for godot?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Del Ray Cross Intro, Portland, 10/4/08

For Del’s Tangent reading in Portland on Saturday:
I am slowly learning there are persons for whom poetry has no glamour. One reason the news seems so fantastical to me is Del Ray Cross. I met Del in 2001, at a reading he’d organized in a Financial District pizza shop to celebrate 2 years and 10 issues of SHAMPOO, one of the earliest online poetry journals—online anythings—I was ever aware of. The magazine calls its contributors SHAMPOO Stars, and that night there was a summer skyfull of them lined up to take the mike. Somewhere in the mystical process of watching names turn into persons, and books into voices, and poems into windows on a flesh-and-blood social world of friendships and parties and pizza and gossipy hazards, I resolved to be lurker no longer and step into the light. I introduced myself to Del, bought a copy of Cinema Yosemite, and promptly discovered inside another fresh world where streetlamps resemble lit ants and “Eating spinach makes my teeth squeak.”

The adventure’s continued with books like Lub Luffly—best title for a book of poems, ever—and Ein frishes Trugbild (A Fresh Mirage), which lets the Germans in on the fun of Del’s poetics of ludicrous constructs, where the pleasure of being a recording mind moving through sexy urban time is glamour enough for us all. Lubs and Lufflies, please welcome Del Ray Cross.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Saturday at Tangent: Cross, Ides & Putnam

The Tangent Reading Series is proud to present

Clinton Corner Café, 2633 SE 21st Avenue (@ Clinton), Portland, OR

DEL RAY CROSS lives in San Francisco, where he edits SHAMPOO, an online poetry magazine he founded in May 2000. Since then, SHAMPOO has published more than four hundred poets, the famous with the first-time-in-print, in its thirty-three issue run. His poetry books include Lub Luffly (2006) and Cinema Yosemite (2002), both from Pressed Wafer. Just out from Luxbooks in Germany, in English with German translations, is Ein frisches Trugbild/A Fresh Mirage.

BETHANY IDES’s work has been shown at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, PS 122, Zieher-Smith Gallery, and the Bowery Poetry Club in New York. Locally, she has collaborated with several Portland-based artists on projects across media, and is currently staging a large-scale piece—“Approximate L”—involving participants all named Lindsay. Her poetry chapbooks include 2005’s “Indeed, Insist (a mystery)” from Ugly Duckling Presse, and the forthcoming “Approximate L” from Cosa Nostra Editions. Ides teaches time arts, art theory, and writing at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR.

Seattle-based artist and writer C.E. PUTNAM maintains the Putnam Institute for Space Opera Research (P.I.S.O.R.). His chapbooks include “Communal Bebop Canto” (1997), “Manic Box” (2001), “Did you ever hear of a thing like that?” (2001), and “Crawlspace” (2007), the world’s first collaborative book of poetry with an anaglyphic 3-D cover. He will be reading from a manuscript in progress titled “This Bunny is Making Me Happy.”