29 November 2011

What You Will

After approximately two years of waiting, Aaron Cohick (and his Newlights Press) has finally released Kyle Schlesinger's What You Will. It will be immediately clear to readers why it took so long: Aaron wasn't being lazy; he just decided to make the most difficult book he could imagine!

When poet/printer Andrew Rippeon and myself used to make books together in Buffalo, we would joke about how our ideas were often impossible to execute, mostly because we'd think big first before thinking through the consequences of our decisions! Aaron (more than any printer I know, actually) is a conceptual printer. He takes on projects that are often incredibly difficult to execute, and he does so by taking the long road (even if he could simulate similar effects using shotcuts!).

What You Will was printed entirely on the letterpress, and, to make matters worse (for Aaron, that is!), most pages are printed a number of times to create an overlay effect. In total, Aaron completed 202 print runs on this book, which means, given an edition of 100 books, that he pulled the handle 20,200 times to complete this book object! To give some perspective for nonprinters, the most complicated Atticus/Finch cover I ever printed required approximately 5 runs; I don't think I've ever attempted more than that for a given book.

Above and beyond the sheer obsessiveness of this project, however, Aaron's design manages to retain a grace and simplicity that never seems overdesigned (and this is true of all Newlights projects, actually). What You Will is immaculately executed, and the book totally compliments Kyle's compact, tightly wound poems.

Here's Kyle's poem "I'm Always Being" as a sample:

I'm Always Being
Split in half rip-
Ripe film patterns the
Conspiracy normalcy
How to get to bottom

Looking into smeiotics
Really like syntactics
It makes the least sense
I need a job but dont really

Want one I need inspiration
But my stomach keeps this
And why there and how my
Brain says shut up I say

To my brain and the
Whirlwind continues to
Get frozen I care but I
Cant be sure

Sorry for the lack of
Punctuation right now
I do not care Ifeel good
For 7 minutes today

[And, because I can't help myself, here's "Just a Thought" on the recto:]

Just a Thought

Whatever ideas
I used to have
About a counter
Culture got shot
A long time ago
Like in the sixties
Or something

[Okay, one more little one because I hear Kyle's son Alasdair in the last few lines:]
There's Nothing More

To it
Than that

The sky is
Broken and

It's making
A mess

I'm sort of shocked that Aaron is only selling these for 20 bucks (some of his broadsides are going for upwards of $300), so if you have any interest in book arts or if you'd like to see what Kyle's been up to since Hello Helicopter, you need this. Pick it up here, and stay for a while to read through Aaron's meticulous documentation of the printing process.

22 November 2011


Jed Birmingham and Kyle Schlesinger have brilliantly edited Mimeo Mimeo since 2008, "a forum for critical and cultural perspectives on artists' books, typography and the mimeo revolution," and it's fast becoming the forum for research and critical thought around small press activity in the poetry world. Issue #5 is just out and chock-full of all kinds of interesting material, beginning with a "lost and found" essay on mimeo culture by the great Paul Blackburn, followed by an essential interview with Lyn Heijian about her seminal poetry press, Tuumba (Kyle and I conducted this interview at Buffalo back in 2006, though the transcript proves that I simply listened as Kyle carried the conversation!). And then, James D. Sullivan on Edward Budowski's "The Gallery Upstairs" (Budowski was owner of the Student Book Shop, just across the street from SUNY Buffalo's South Campus, and editor of Fubbalo, a critical figure in Buffalo poetry in the late sixties who seemingly disappeared from collective memory after his untimely death in 1971), Steve Clay on Robert Creeley's library (Buzz Spector's cover photograph features "Creeley's Creeleys"!), an interview with Larry Fagin, and much, much more.

My favorite piece in this issue, however, is Stephanie Anderson's comprehensive article on Alice Notley's CHICAGO Magazine, which I knew next to nothing about beforehand. The real revelation for me is George Schneeman's incredible work on the covers:

Future Mimeo's include a special number on Lewis Warsh and "The Curator's Choice Issue," in which special collection curators (including David Abel, Mike Basinski, Nancy Kuhl, and others) write about their favorite items in their collections.

I read all of issue #5 in one sitting the moment I pulled it out of the mailer (no hyperbole, this is the real deal!). Mimeo Mimeo is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of small press poetry. Pick it up here, and take a look at the Mimeo Mimeo blog for additional reading!

09 November 2011

Some lines from The Katechon

I'm slowly crafting some new lines for a long poem I've been writing called The Katechon, and I thought to share the short section I read at the Occupy Oakland reading a few weeks back. The blogger editor will certainly break the lines (most are pretty long), so please read each couplet as a single line! This is the first section of the poem I've made public since I started it last year, and while this is still in draft, I'm eager to show what I've been up to!


This sift bore lard—hist laminar tunc the war way crests fat fast forever
hist laminar, sure, remediates incognizable, primal light, cf. sweating plastic sacks of grease grave

vestments of lesser subtlety a vesture of what comes inside throne ((inside throne) (inside throne))

watch me close up the whole face of the ground with the open side of my body—this weepy

maturating show I know I’d peel flame into febrile antecedents how we manifest according to similitude

alone: our breath line according to capacity—press pearls in the open holes in our cheeks can’t shake

the dust off denim—silted lungs—even two-grade-gateways (mercy/grace) cut me back to the world,

come compass me back to this world, strung phylacteries plant quilting points phat corpus,

compliance (little stars) poigned once the guys at the taqueria were shot in the chest,

plugging compulsory quilting points, arms wrapped unwillingly around the waist of resurrection;

I bundle fibrous glands from your midsection, construals, gnostic recidives, these fucking dogs

underfoot around the house or something the surface peels from resurrection—tumid, insolent—

“men” is not wolves, "man" to men arrant, something sacred: men is man’s wolf or something;

availability is also a kind of work or something: “social gelatin” sacrificed as content to survive as form

(Beuys?): the rule (software) is sense-less (the soldier’s body) sense-less “deodand”

(forgetting and/or inventing sense brings rules into existence?) desuetude, finally, to enervate the social gelatin

if ox gore be stoned flaccid, depending on the adjective to live no meat ever came

to her arms, we are abandoned by the meat we know: all this panting young tender saying short

07 November 2011

More Paul Foster Johnson

Between teaching and occupying, I haven't had a ton of time to read the many poetry books stacking up on my desk, but I wanted to share some of my favorite poems from Paul Foster Johnson's Studies in Pavilions and Safe Rooms, a book I've been carrying around in my bag for weeks.

Folk Education
Their singer suffered breakdowns. In their work
there was a sense of what it was to live there at that time.
One song described the dark around the military
vehicles between them and the cocaine waiting
in Gramercy. It was about the sepsis that followed love
or love repeated as farce, the neck neck neck
damaged by an anonymous hand unstringing guitars.
They got away with it and worked to abolish youth
by knitting and paying half-attention. I thought I was
in love because my sentiments were matched
by a generic, abiding sense of unfreedom. Nothing
survives lovers descrying the red flags of old flames.
Nothing is more relatable than an unreasonable person
operating subtractively, indulgently, out of exasperation.

[and another one]

Monument to the Plough
My head and life lines are invisible
but the plough fills in the blanks.
The plough is a frantic reproduction
in aluminum and I am a clown
tipping it toward oblivion.

In a program of self-study the brain
may suggest a formula for industrial weirdness.
In the tourism of crap jobs a brain
abets bad planning, the hand
grasps a glossy red handle, the brain
an isolated piece at draughts.

My job is to remind everyone
that spontaneous order is not natural
and to bus figures to their habituation.
In transit they stretch under layers
that deform their silhouettes
and smoke.

Undispersed among other gamepieces
the brain in a program of self-study
looks into a series of situations in space
amoral virtual homogeneous
much like garbage dumps.

[and another one]

Palace of Arts
In condemning Mount Parnassus as a joke
I am bad, dissolute, literally dissolved, unwilling
to be seduced by curatorial prowess, by rows
of bushes appearing as ground-glass opacities
in the lungs of the dead space. My bad unblocked
approach overruns it. I thought it was impenetrable
and should have known it was not not not from what
it exuded. I.e., the surrounding sky aflame with truth
receding to invisibility. Once in the booth I look out
through a one-way glass. The space was killed
by the lack of spontaneity of you-know-who.
His hidebound vision could not not not foresee
our being thwacked by hanging wires, our being
scarred for life in disassembled exhibition halls.

Pick the book up at Portable Press at Yo-Yo Lab if you know what's good for you. And watch this awesomely psychedelic video in which Paul chats about the book.

Steve Abbott @ SPT (and become a member!)

Early Sunday evening, Robin Trembly-McGaw and Alyshia Abbott (with the help of Kevin Killian and Bruce Boone) delivered a moving tribute to the late poet Steve Abbott, a crucial and often undersung participant of the San Francisco poetry community throughout the 70's and 80's, whose contribution to New Narrative writing is remembered in half a dozen books of poetry and fiction and his magazine SOUP. The presentation was totally moving, and I wanted to suggest that, if you missed it, you might head over to the Steve Abbott webpage that Alyshia set up to learn more about Abbott and his work (that's where I found the amazing comic above!).

And now that I have your attention, I wanted to remind you that it's time to re-up your Small Press Traffic membership! This season, SPT is focusing on the essential contributions of a variety of local poetry movements in the 1980's, and this sort of programming simply wouldn't happen without venues like SPT. If you generally make it a point to support our organization, it's time to re-up your annual membership. If you've never gotten around to becoming a member, this is your chance to demonstrate that SPT's programming is meaningful to you! And if you don't live in the Bay Area, you can still become an SPT Ambassador! Go here to show your support for one of the west coast's single most important literary resources!

04 November 2011

National Bank Transfer Day...

is TOMORROW, Saturday, November 5th! Please consider closing your bank account and transfering to a local credit union!

03 November 2011


And to celebrate, here's a great video from Democracy Now featuring Boots Riley from The Coup and labor organizer Clarence Thomas. Either of these guys would make a better mayor than Jean Quan...

02 November 2011


I think it's pretty clear to most that today promises to be a big day for Oakland. If you're able to leave work, please head down to Oscar Grant Plaza and join one of the many marches beginning at 14th and Broadway (there are currently four planned at 9 am, 12 noon, 4 pm, and 5 pm respectively). The late afternoon marches promise to draw the most significant police presence as protesters make their way to the Port, so please be careful! In addition, if you feel safer on a bicycle, there's a Critical Mass bike ride leaving the plaza for the Port at 4 pm. If you can't leave work, please show your solidarity in other ways by spreading the word and joining the movement to recall Jean Quan! I'll be dropping in and out of the plaza between classes, so I hope to see some of you there!

Here's my go-to chant of the day: "Shut down OPD! Not the Public Li-brar-y!" Find other chants and a General Strike checklist here.