great day

Reading Perforation: A Lexicon, at the Woodstock Poetry Society, I was worried, because I worry, that it would take too long, with all of its categories: it's written as a series of definitions, in alphabetical order, topically related to the main character's ear injury. I'd never read it out loud before.

I read it fast, emphatically, and it went quickly, like a mercy, but sits in the air--hangs there--really, which was gratifying. After all that's happened this year the last entry has a real grip on me, a weight I didn't count on. And that's all you can ask for: recognizing gravity when you weren't sure it was there. That's gravy, really, after you've taken so many hours to turn so many words. Sometimes I think a good piece has a rubik's cube quality in the process of trying to get it right.

The poet I read with, Iris Litt, is a wise, wise commentator. Her poems have the airy gesture of something written on an occasion, but then they slap you in the face with some hard truth. She's quite direct, her words spoken plainly; she doesn't try to stitch any fancy trim onto anything with high-handed introductories; doesn't refer to some other poet as the source of inspiration (Written after a po-wem by Catullus, intoned the scholar). She instead will say, conversationally, "And this is a mother poem." Or, "This is a mother poem. You know those poems." Her manner conveys the slight impatience of someone used to walking wherever she needs to and trusting that her sure steps will allow her to avoid the maddening and mediocre, and the slightly wistful hope of someone with good politics, and a facile ease with undertone and context. Then, as she reads the line or image that is meant to throw you out of your seat and into the bewildering ether of a Big Leap, she leans on one slim leg a bit and just puts a little more air into what she's about to say. Her poem AOL and Cho does that in the 7th line, then again in the last one--read the whole thing in New Verse News and see what you think.

Earlier, at the Stone Ridge Library Fair, I sat at the local authors booth (and first noticed how Nina Shengold. very smartly avoided that editorial conundrum of where to put the apostrophe by avoiding it altogether, so both authors and booth are nouns of equal weight--and that makes me, I know, a complete four-eyed geek). But the thrill of being there was being in the company of Kim Wozencraft, Shengold and Laura Shaine Cunningham (also Marshall Karp and the adorable Dakota Lane). We have all landed here, for various reasons, some, I think, more domestic than artistic. Yes it is beautiful in the Hudson Valley, and yes it helps to look out on trees and that soft mountain sky and all the birds, birds birds birds. And maybe the fact that there are so many spiders and snakes helps as well. But I think the "local" frame is external to us all: our stories take place everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Texas to Florida to here. We talked about the risk, actually, of writing within your current setting: without the bridge of years' distance, can you really write about a place from inside your imagination?

We decided, optimistically, that you can try. That is all you can ever do.

And today Rags to Riches, a great filly, tried. And though she stumbled in a way that looked like instant tragedy there was no tragedy: she duked it out with big, burly Curlin in the homestretch and won the Belmont by a nose because she just refused to give up. A European trainer dismissed all the fuss over it being such a rare occurence, stating that in Europe, they really don't make such a big difference between the fillies and the colts. She's a strapping, fierce, winning horse that happens to be a filly, he said. Now let's just hope she doesn't get injured.


the solitary thing.

the dog thing.

the pete thing.

fuck forever

(the song, not the sentiment, as in not with pete, but even as a mess p.d. is a majestic mess.)


Possibly Visiting the City of Nostalgia

I've been invited to read at the Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago, in July. And this amazing honor (I did a Sally Fields), made me think more about the early-to-mid 20th century, of which Chicago has always towered as a kind of windy noir city, where nighttime is coffee shops, an apple pie picked at by a distracted woman in a brown pinstripe jacket and trousers, men walking with one hand holding onto their fedoras against the lake gusts. And scotch in a sweaty glass, amber lqiuid kissing down the ice cubes. And a pitcher in knickers, kicking up his leg as he hurls a fastball. Jazz juke joints, the quick swish of bopping skirts. The optimism of the early skyscrapers. 35 East Wacker. Louis Sullivan making every row of windows another lyric. Chicago is a city of survivors. Long history of that. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The riots. Capone. A mass of nerves and glass and concrete rising up like a fist in the middle of the heartland. Or maybe that's not Chicago at all. Maybe that's all that's left in the synapses after watching a bunch of movies which either take place or refer to Chicago. Your Chicago is anything but my Chicago.

Maybe that's what M. Doughty (I mean Mike Doughty) meant
singing--more like intoning-- Is Chicago! Is not Chicago! in that self-same Soul Coughing song, back when everyone was friends and we all lived within about 5 blocks of each other and noone was upset and everyone hung happily on the big record deals they seemed to be handing out and didn't we all turn out to be survivors too. And I loved that song because the hook was repeated and repeated and contradicted itself every other line and we loved it as if it was the key to happiness, at least for a moment in the mid-90s at a pajama party at a loft in the East Village before the rents rose and the rehearsal space place turned into a fancy grocery store.


Might as well come clean about it. Here's the formula:

Here is a photo of Mike McGonigal
who stayed in my apartment in that selfsame east village and at the time sported a nervous tic and a tiny brown leather jacket. Here he is in Portland I think, photographed by M. Doughty at a Yeti event, the selfsame M.Doughty who is also publishing a book with Yeti Books/Verse Chorus Press and the same Yeti who, with Steve Connell from Verse Chorus press, branched into a publishing house that is also publishing me and Luc Sante, who now lives 15 minutes away from me, apparently and who I have as of yet never met.

But due to some circumstances regarding other entanglements which drew all of us closer into the net, at least until the bands broke up and the rents rose and the artisanal bread rack was right about where they used to keep the sticky cables, this 6 degrees of separation diatribe is temporarily suspended for the purposes of walking with one foot in front of the other.
And yes, Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago in July, I would be honored to read.

I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don't know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don't care that we don't.
—Dylan Thomas

Department of Instastories, continued

Picture Number 30
For a while she drove long distances, stopping roadside to take a photograph of her own shadow. It was a way of making sure she was still there. She’d twist herself a little to the right, or crouch, or stand up on her toes, and make sure the shadow was doing the same thing. That was during the season of her escape. There was hardly any snow that winter, except for the night she drove off. Then, the snow had been falling softly over the hollow for hours before she took off, and the tires skid over the pale velvet of 10 pm. That night was the first night she’d drive aimlessly, for hours. Somewhere, about 50 miles north, she’d gotten out and stopped to take a picture. That was picture number 1.


Marcus Leatherdale, Sultana - Khumba