28 July 2011

Frances Kruk

I don't know a ton about Frances Kruk besides that she's British (well, Polish-Canadian living in London, according to wikipedia) and she sometimes edits books with Sean Bonney under the yt communication imprint, and I guess I must have seen her read in Buffalo back in '07 during the British Invasion at the Adam Mickiewicz Polish Library, when Damn the Caesars and P-Queue and Pilot brought a gaggle of Brits to the states for a short tour. I don't remember getting super excited about anything I heard that night, but when her new chapbook Down You Go or Negation de Bruit arrived in the mail, my curiosity got the better of me; sure, I love everything Rich Owens does at Punch Press, really everything, so I knew I'd read it with relish, but it was the tag "apres Danielle Collobert" in small print that piqued my interest.

Before Leslie Scalapino passed last year, she prioritized a reprint of Norma Cole's brilliant translation of Collobert's It Then (a testament, I think, to the value of this particular book). As such, it's available again at SPD if you missed it the first time (along with Norma's translation of Collobert's notebooks, published by Litmus). I'm interested to learn whether Collobert's writing factored into Down You Go as source material (something about the abundance of capital letters in mid-line-caesurae suggests it did), though I'm reading these short stanzas (for now!) as reading notes, or maybe fragments of attempted translations.

They're visceral, SUPER FAST, and turbulent, and the energy holds throughout, no question. Here are a few:


we will bang
into the sun Blinded



Looking through the mirror there's that inner circle
the hands, heads, faces
frozen & even when the air moves Crystal
flakes they look ready. Ready.


The final duct & its shards of condensation
ringing Metal My chest
judder I
want the aerofoils for this last

wait, Exile! I have no
eyes, I feel no

I'm hoping to get in touch with Kruk to chat a bit about her process, but in the meantime, pick up a copy at Punch Press before they're all gone so we can read it and talk about it together! Owens is selling these beautifully produced pamphlets for only 5 bucks, so making the purchase is a pretty sound investment! More soon...

26 July 2011

The Return of Both Both

I was pleased to learn that John Sakkis's venerable local rag Both Both is up and running and back in action, now featuring the super-clean design chops of local wunderkind Andrew Kenower. Sakkis's editorial vision is worth your attention: here you'll find large swathes of work, read front-to-back or back-to-front, featuring chaplet length selections from just two authors. In one direction we're treated to 10 hefty prose blocks from Evan Kennedy's "The Dandy Xth" and in the other "Some Notes and Some Poems" from Allyssa Wolf. My single favorite page (reproduced above) is culled from Wolf's "Owl's Bible," though it's not especially clear whether this is a snippet from a larger design (or deeper breath?) called "Owl's Bible," or a discrete-unit-among-others collected under the title "Owl's Bible" (click above to get a closer look). Either way, it stands alone, no doubt. "Assemble all the flowers of grease," indeed!

I'm not sure how Sakkis distributes these, but I'm pretty certain you can obtain one if you stop by SPD, or cruise by his blog, or send him an email. Oh, and this issue features classic skateboarding paraphernalia on the cover, detritus from our shared Easy Bay childhoods! Do it... 


25 July 2011

Joan Retallack's The Reinvention of Truth

While you're visiting Compline, don't forget to pick up a copy of the limited edition accordion broadside I printed for Joan Retallack. Each one is totally different, and we're selling them for a mere $5 to raise money for the press! Support yr. local small press!

22 July 2011


I am very pleased to announce that my new press, COMPLINE, is up and running and will henceforth serve as homebase for all my sundry printing activities (books, chapbooks, and broadsides). Atticus/Finch is dead; long live COMPLINE!

To celebrate, I am very excited to announce our first publication: CJ Martin's debut collection, Two Books. Some of you might remember Martin's first chapbook, Lo, Bittern, which I published with Atticus/Finch back in 2008. Since then, I've been waiting with bated breath for Martin's longplayer, and when it didn't materialize, I decided to print it myself. As luck would have it, Martin offered me not one but TWO books, so I printed them both in one volume. If you're not familiar with his work, Two Books is the perfect introduction!

Read all about it at our new website, where you can order a copy of Two Books alongside an accordion broadside I recently made for Joan Retallack. And check back for news about the long-awaited collaboration between Leslie Scalapino and Kiki Smith, The Animal is in the World Like Water in Water, which I hope to print later this year.

And here's a sample from Two Books for those unfamiliar with Martin's project:


20 July 2011

News From Displaced Press

Our friends at Displaced Press are making BIG MOVES this season, printing five new books over the next few months, all of them absolutely essential: Samantha Giles' first long-player, hurdis addo, and Brandon Brown's translation of The Persians are supposedly already out (though I've yet to see them), and the reissue of Taylor Brady and Rob Halpern's Snow Sensitive Skin (originally published by my Atticus/Finch) is due to arrive any day. Shortly thereafter we expect to see first books from Suzanne Stein and Thom Donovan. Here's a note from editor Brian Whitener about the impending blitz:

"Displaced Press would like to announce the publication of Samantha Giles’ first book, hurdis addo. As many of you know, Samantha is currently the Executive Director of Small Press Traffic and is a long-time resident of the East Bay.

In hurdis addo, Giles confronts head on the question of “what is to be done?” through a brilliant mediation on urban space and our place(s) within it. “Start with a circle or something like it. Fear maybe. Circle as a symbol for the whole.” Through a shifting, multi-layered account structured around the 148 murders that occurred in Oakland in 2006, Giles takes us deep into the core of a set of urban contradictions and the subjectivities produced by them and begins the necessary work of asking where we might start to find a somewhere else. “A gall is a symbol. A tricky agreement with allegory. The gall operates as a symbol to the plant. Is this text a plant or a gall?”

Please join us in congratulating Samantha on this amazing work!

You can purchase hurdis addo directly from SPD here.

As well, we would like to take this opportunity to extend a very special offer. For the very low price of $50 USD (shipping included) Displaced will send you hurdis addo and our 4 forthcoming titles: Snow Sensitive Skin by Taylor Brady and Rob Halpern (an expanded edition of the original chapbook published by Atticus/Finch), Tout Va Bien by Suzanne Stein, The Persians by Aeschylus by Brandon Brown, and The Hole by Thom Donovan. You can paypal us at iwaslike@hotmail.com. Your books will ship as one package (with some special surprises of course!) once all the titles are printed (mid-October-ish).

And as always, please feel free to join us on FB here."

Support the crucial work of Displaced Press by taking advantage of this amazing deal!

18 July 2011

Yellow Field #3

Yellow Field is a large-format journal providing "an unprogrammatic gallery of Anglophone poetries" expertly curated by Buffalo townie Edric Mesmer. Besides consistently featuring a handful of new-to-me Rust Belt poets I'm always glad I've read, Mesmer's doing a great job reporting on scene politics and activities, regularly soliciting "informal notes from readings, conferences, performances, and archival footage."

This issue features Jeremy Lessard's "On Hearing Charles Bernstein Read," Susan Sturm's "On the Art Collection of Robert Duncan and Jess," and Mesmer's own "On Book Launches for The H.D. Book" (see below) alongside poetry by Jane Rice, Matthew Hall, Lance Phillips, Lizz Switzer, Jasmine Rosenbloom, Ben Perrone, and Tim McPeek.

In some ways, Yellow Field is filling the void left by Stacy Szymaszek's crucial intervention Gam ("a survey of Great Lakes writing"). Track down a copy here, and take a look at Mesmer's charming "On Book Launches for The H.D. Book" below:

14 July 2011

The Animal

Sarah Rosenthal and visual artist Amy Fung-yi Lee collaborated on this incredible book object for the Dusie Kollectiv, published in a modest edition back in February. The Animal folds out in all kinds of directions and features a handful of Rosenthal bangers framed by Fung-yi Lee's images. Here are two of my favorites: 


elicits giggles.
Takes place
whatever is thought.

Dead animal on street,
blood on tires.

Animal arm I bit,
nuzzled. Some
have arms
some bear them
procreate etc.

Higher order dreams.
Even aliens are handed
animals. Wear
them, complaining.

Whimper, muscle,
elegy animal.

Thinking break forms. Scribbles found
in code manual.

Animals must remember
eye exercises
back stretches.

A sad lot. Meant
to say sand.
Picking nits, some say.
Give examples say others.

When locations are wrong
they shut down.


Some go on dates,
eat them, cross
them out etc.

In vehicles they
listen to lectures
reducing sense
pleasures. Enough
is enough is

Segments of time
are renewed like

Risk is paid for,
signed off

Schools inhabit
the great barrier.
It clouds


13 July 2011

Charles Olson // "On History"

"I mean, I think the 'completeness' is completed. And the completeness that we really are opening up here is the only thing which matters, which is that you damn well have something to say and/or do that is of such effect that it is complete in its occurrence, and it just bombs—to use the verb the way we use it—it bombs the thing right then and there, and frees it for any person that isn't yet themselves complete."


"There is this angel who's coming towards you as you are coming towards him. And there's a moment when you pass through your angel and become the creature, not of the two, but of the fact that you are without any chance involved with another figure who is you, who is coming towards you in time as you proceed forward in time. And at the moment that you pass, you then are something that that angel was, and you're no longer that thing that you were."

11 July 2011


I was very pleased to find Tyrone Williams's Pink Tie in the mailbox a few weeks back, recently published by Brent Cunningham and Neil Alger's inimitable Hooke Press. An elegiac prose rumination on friendship, calcified figures of masculinity, and the complexity of loss, Pink Tie acts as a timely investigation into the tragic afterlife of largely heterosexual figures of friendship. A eulogy of sorts for his friend Peter Ross (who sadly committed suicide in 2002, shortly before the release of Williams's first book of poetry, the massively influential c.c.), Williams's investigation of friendship is fittingly as much a study of race and class and gender and the ways loss informs our understanding of joy.

Here's a taste near the beginning:

"I did not know...how Peter's former life had been one that had played out a kind of masculinity which had surfaced in this country in the 1940s and 1950s, one associated in part with the re-masculinization of art, immortalized in literary figures, before the period, in Ernest Hemingway, and after the period, in Norman Mailer. But it was the Beat poets and fiction writers that fascinated Peter. The Beats recast the concept of American masculinity even as their in-fighting and disputes betrayed their anxieties, displaced in their work and lives, over their own self-images as men. The Beats' notion of masculinity was inextricable from what they perceived as a different mode of masculinity among black musicians in particular and black culture in general. Black male musicians seemed to have 'solved' the problem that was itself, as a Western phenomenon, only a couple of centuries old. This generally meant that art had to be made masculine, virile, and blues and jazz seemed to encapsulate these values in their bluster, in their aggressiveness, in their winner-take-all ambiance. Most important, this was a masculinity of the art that could feel equally at home among factory workers and museum patrons. Of course, as it turned out, the museum patrons and academics were the ones who would turn these young rebels into the Beats, which is not to undermine or minimize the liberating effect their collective work had, and still has, on working class stiffs.

Like so many young people at the time, like the Beats themselves, Peter had a certain romanticized perception of the 'real' black culture of blues and remained, for a long time, indifferent to the middlebrow pop tenor of Motown. Needless to add, Peter's disdain for rap and hip-hop was predictable. Like so many then--and even now--he saw black pop as a sellout to white values and hip-hop and rap as the thuggerization of black musicianship. It took me many years, many drinking bouts, and more than a few letters and emails, but I think I finally managed to convince him of the validity of these other musical genres even if I knew he would never be a fan. For what Peter could not abide in hip-hop music was the return of a naked brutality that echoed a more stereotypical, more convert, masculinity he, no doubt, associated with the world of 'business'that is, the world of his older brother and father.

Thus, for Peter the Beats represented a chaotic escape from the "straight" world of commerce and money, the world as it 'really' was. And Peter, like the Beats, like all Romantics, could never accept the world for what it was. His defense was to adopt the world-weary cynicism of a European raconteur straight out of a Henry James novel, one too wise, too experienced, to accept the possibility of a different world. Hence he could never be persuaded to 'political' solutionshe lacked that kind of faith or desperation. Thus the parable and allegory of the 'road,' immortalized in Kerouac's novel but also lived out in the hippie life the Beats inspired, mesmerized a troubled young teenaged Peter, and he hitchhiked his way across America. The road, for the Beats, for many hippies, for so many of the film noir heroes-qua-deadbeats that Peter loved, was the only true 'home' of Baudelaire's flaneur, a man (and this peculiar mode of alienation is male through and through) out of time, out of place, a man searching for Erewhon, for a literal utopia. And of course the road was a path to, and a figure or, a culture the Beats, misreading the desperation that drove underappreciated jazz artists to marijuana and heroin, made of legal and illegal drugs. Drugs, like the road, became for the 'new' man what martinis and grey flannel suits had been for an earlier 'kind' of mantools to accentuate and buffer a masculinity rapidly mutating under the pressures of an increasingly stalled industrialism (the Rust Belt in formation) and revved-up consumerism. Peter, haunted his entire adolescent and adult years by his inability or unwillingness to accede to these new modes of masculinity, found refuge, as did so many others, in drugs (he could no more accept the Midwestern apotheosis of sports than he could that European anachronism called aristocracy). Still, he was an American guy even if he was never as Americas as the next guy..."

Pink Tie is a beautiful illustration of how one might approach autobiographical writing through the investigation of one's fidelity to others. Essential reading...

07 July 2011

More Cy Twombly

Many of the poems in my recent book Haecceities directly take Twombly as their subject. Here are two stanzas from the poem called "Cede":

whiteness can one add to white but white course proffer at the skirt of cause

it was Twombly and wholly in some other reference to how a lake we know in common

yields the business of a mark by four pendulant inflections

a boxy vent as to air the swan its ebullient row of grace no more

nothing of the shaled discs, unfettered ware's ledgers of the rout, volumes of

yet dregs deterred in throes of vulgar matting so a sense serves mercy: unwelt

by its compass, proffered frame by which each prey to each each mouth to each to hand


to be rendered sans stock of crux and wont, logged above the demos and the stage

like Pound on Mencius on Confucius, (later) Olson on Twombly

what whiteness can one add to white, what candor in the face of the ring of address

in Pisa say, for Twombly, the frame maintains its course of shape

the frame-abyss, Apollo in the woods, lake-red for sacrifice and use

06 July 2011

Cy Twombly

Here's Charles Olson on Cy Twombly, in full, from 1952. Twombly's art has been super important to me over the years, and each time I read this short article I find something new and alive...

Here's Olson:

There came a man who dealt with whiteness. And with space. He was an American. And perhaps his genius lay most in innocence rather than in the candor now necessary. In any case, he was not understood.

What seems clear is, that two dimensions as surface for plastic attack is once more prime. And with all perspective as aid gone, the whole Renaissance. Even line gone. And maybe color as too easy.

The allure—the light—had better be in any painted, drawn, cut or carved thing without use or reference of any object. Any narrative too, for that matter. And that one it has not been our habit to regard as one, as either an object or a narrative. Say it is not one. But is is surely the way—the tao—that two dimensions is now being given back the job.

Take it flatly, a plane. On it, how can a man throw his shadow, make this the illumination of his experience, how put his weight exactly—there? (In my business it comes out how, by alphabetic letters, such signs and their syllables, how to make them not sounds but my sounds, my—what are not any more sounds than is a painter's objects or a dancer's movements—my "voice"; to say what I got to say, if it says anything; and it can only to the degree that, like a plane, it is not plane at all.) How make that place, the two dimensions, be all—from a point to any dimension?

It was Twombly, and wholly in some other reference, in fact to how a lake we know in common afforded him about what Tao Yuan-Ming's east hedge was, who gave me suddenly, as he talked of contemplation, the sense of what architecture now had to do with. 

That is, I knew sculpture was buried, was become the art underneath us all, had gone down to be our sign—by a sort of inverted archeology—that each of us had now to come up live, like those stone images scholars are digging up in so many places; that only by ourselves can we find out—by no outside medium or means whatsoever—the round all men have been rifled of. And I knew this was, to put it quickly, traction in dance, was Pierre Boulez in music, was a like combination of a man's own documentation and his conjecture in the art of narrative. But I didn't know, until that instant, as the two of us were looking at a new large black-and-white canvas of Twombly's, what use architecture had now to be.

I was taking exception to this particular painting. I thought that here Twombly had been tempted, that he had slipped off the wire any of us in all of the arts walk over space on these days, that he had gone into the whiteness as that other man had—as an American stands especially in danger of, candor is still such a ruthless reality on the other side of despair, or still seems ruthless in the face of humanism and confronted by the will of that reality with which artists can have nothing to do, the will despair breeds and which is, god save us, the will by which most of our fellow men manage to get through. An artist has to cross over.

I knew what Twombly was fighting for, even in this canvas. It is what he is always trying to get down, what he so often does so succeed in getting in to what he is confronted by—into that rectangle—that honor & elegance are here once more present in the act of paint.

I was just then, just when in this particular canvas I didn't see it—or saw more that I needed to see, saw what is death to see, the innocence of it is such a dissolve—when Twombly himself had, by going too far not gone far enough (that is, as a painter, so confined, had not gone far enough) had, in fact, gone outside himself, had, as so many most able men have gone outside the canvas gone to technique—when, in this one case, Twombly had tried to solve it outside the place where he almost every time does battle it out (he is that pure), look at his canvases...

or for that matter his sculptures, which are properly made up from what wire, bone, stone, iron, wood he picks up, and so do respect facts, the accidents of same

(this is the twin methodology, this is documentation, these sculptures of his also show how accurate his penetration of the reality bearing on us is: these are the artifacts he finds surrounding himself in the same diggings out of which he is digging himself

what I live about Twombly is this sense of gets that his apprehension—his tien is buried to the hips, to the neck, if you like

the dug up stone figures, the thrown down glyphs, the old sorells in sheep dirt in caves, the flaking iron—these are his paintings

I underline his paintings to distinguish them from the objects picked up, the sculptures, simply, that all document is not the equal of a man's life, what he bears inside himself and makes speak directly: this is only—it needs now to be underlined—what he is inside himself and nothing outside, no facts, only his own acts make it

Suddenly I understood, as the two of us were there inside that too small room in that too modern building jutting out over that lake which we both had bent our art around, that architecture had no reason any longer at all to confine space, that it was we who were confined, that architecture, like sculpture, had gone elsewhere. And it occurred to me, that a billboard made more sense, That here, too, man had given back his oldest job, that if he was buried, he was also all that came between the light. 

And so, if Twombly does make canvases boldly behave as two dimensions and yet makes forces present which at least have been absent since the mural of the death of Adam was painted at Arezzo, look for cause

look for it in yourself,
in what you have lost

and let this man tell you,
there is nothing to fear, you put your hand up, and by this

other sort of will, you take away any sword that hangs by a hair over you, or any rotted apple

you can do it, because you are the only
round thing left, whatever the dirt
squeezing you, or horses hooves

The writing here reads: we are never as thin as the yellow flower because of the sun.

And the fable? The seed plated with that Adam in his mouth. 

And the wood of the tree which grew? how would you carve it otherwise than in like dimensions, and like candor? 

04 July 2011

Kyle Schlesinger's "Business Casual"

I'm reading Jacques Le Goff's study of the history of usury, Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, on a day when many wage labors have a break from working off their debt. As I'm currently studying Latin with a handful of poets/laborers, I was delighted to find the following citation in the first few pages: "nummus vincit, nummus regnat, nummus imperat" (Money conquers, money reigns, money is sovereign!). Word is bond.

Anyway, I was thinking about labor and debt when I came across this little poem by Kyle Schlesinger, "Business Casual," which I've been meaning to post since February. This little number was "manufactured" in an edition of 50 by No Press in Canada (published by Derek Beaulieu, I think?). Enjoy your day off (if you get a day off!) and do something without "value": read a poem! Here's Kyle:

Everyone stands around
Asking which way they
Went was the car black
or brown was the top

Up or down afternoon
Aglow twilight returns
With a twist what goes
Around I know a Judy

Mechanical arm reaches
For the cigarette
Machine clearing the
Room so what's love

Got to do with it
What's a euphemism
For forever GOP or
Get off the pot

01 July 2011

Fresh to Death Fridays: ORPHICA

I posted a few pages from David Brazil's ORPHICA last week but thought to share the chapbook in full as it's some of the smartest lyric poetry I've read this year. Micah Ballard and Sunnylyn Thibodeaux printed this little gem in an edition of 50 with their Lew Gallery imprint, but given the short run, I offered to post it here for those who missed it. Click on the arrow for full-screen, and READ SLOWLY...