Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've decided for a variety of reasons to put the publication of EXPOSURES on hold. It is, for me, a major long poem (in terms, that is, of my own work)which I am in no way repudiating. The time isn't right. If the work is good enough it will keep.


On the other hand, I seem to be going through a crisis of confidence. Oh, I know, boohoo.


I just preordered two forthcoming titles by Roland Barthes: his Diary of Mourning, a volume of fragments written immediately following his mother's death, and a volume of lectures about preparing to write a novel. I am anxious to read these books.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Histoire(s) de Musique

Seeing meant singing

Singing meant unhinging

Unhinging meant some

Tables need legs

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Perception is an animal
My nipples are hard

I want
You now

What isn’t relatively confusing
What isn’t totally enervating

Poetry’s a sensory system
Language is a dump

My buttocks are exposed
Your thoughts are guarded

I want you to
Know that I’m here

Why not mix things
Up a little bit

Reception is an animal
My cock is parenthetical


This sentence extrudes a ladder.

Every sound wrung an interruption.

Language grids support the inexplicable.

Not many are thought.

Glottal stop restarting things.

Whispers are what.

Intimations of explanations contradicted or understood.

Shadowy theories of dreams.

“…perpetual allegories.”

Boundaries of person and perception.

Production and reproduction of

Improper names. The capacity to register separations.

Lists as grammars. Or syntax. One forges, forgets.

Pronouns always cancel something. When self-consciousness sleeps conscience awakens. Or should that be reversed?

Dislocation is indissoluble. Depth on the surface.

Language as shrinkage. A sentence nearly always a cul-de-sac.

Not about. Booting.

Actuality, at least in part, a series of vocabulary problems.

“The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opake.”

The importance of, gasp, gaps.

Asserting presence between.

Look at that. Look at this. Look at these, too. Always in the middle of things pointing.

Sleep peels everything gauzy or raw.

No concession (or only concessions) to intoxications of mistaken awakenings.
Articles almost always wrong.


Whatever falls away into unreliable narrations.

Try to assimilate a version of oneself through a sieve.

Every body perceives.

Between frames of falling.

What is that I’m watching? What do I know? Questions might well be the substrate of sleep.

Axis of things rising.

Nexus of denial.

Sleep projects its own sovereignity.

Sex sometimes exceeds its denouement.

“Even the corpse has its own beauty.”

A fact is an end, only.

Echoes adumbrate fading points of view.

Amplifications of also and never.

Ramifications of moreover.

What you’d better believe.

What I’d better confess.

Is safety an accident?

Thought must
Come out,

If only
As names.

“Thought constitutes
Personality.” This

Is not
Mine in

Our absence,
Circle or


I am subdivided within.

Can surroundings be

Punctuation too?

All-over allegory.

Do it over.

Oh, baby!

Repetition and ignition.

Repetition and masturbation.

The genital influence.

Perennial concerns.

Sweet confusions and dark bruises.

One wants. One wants more.

Masks. Marks.

An outline.

Multiple signs and symptoms.

Eyes stare back.

I and I and I.

In the broken plane of our mirror.

Images are sensations.

Scenarios, then.

What happened.

Things alleged to have occurred.

In fits.

Torso in a mirror.

Punctured situations.

Rapture and rupture

Are closer

Than near homophones.

When one


In disappearing,

What goes

Without saying?

NB: All quoted material is from the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
All kinds of connectivity problems today, computer kind of whackdoodle, but I think I've finally made a breakthrough in a poem I've been working at, off and on, for months. I've posted versions of it here and then deleted it repeatedly. It took awhile to figure out what I was doing. If, that is, what I have done.

I'll post the poem in question soon.
I've been trying to figure out if I have anything useful to say about Brenda Iijima's If Not Metamorphic--which I keep wanting to call If Not Metaphoric... So I thought, as part of my process, to revisit Thomas Fink's terrific essay of a few years back, "The Poetry of Questions." In the piece Fink explores texts by Ron Silliman, myself, Steve Benson, Brenda Iijima and Eileen Tabios which are comprised entirely of questions. It's an essay worth visiting more than once.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"...noise is metaphysical."
--Michel Serres

I have this week off and yet I'm full of anxiety. Truth is...I've always been anxious. A hundred books I want to read, writing projects I'm thinking about, and--you know--the countless details of everyday existence.

EXPOSURES, my long poem, a sort of excessive sequel to Vanishing Points of Resemblance, is getting closer to publication. I've read and re-read the proofs a couple of times. It's an impossible book, a book which may not win me any friends, but I believe in its unrelieved nakedness. To quote Serres again: "Whoever thinks is naked..."

I think and feel and yearn in halting ways.

Writing, for me, is an onto-epistemological project.

I'm always doing things I'm afraid of because I'm almost always afraid.

The one time I had a gun pointed at my head I went speechless. My boss who stood behind me spoke. I wasn't frightened until after it was all over. I had a similar response after being assaulted--literally thrown against a wall repeatedly-- by someone else years later.

Violence has figured in my life. I've written various fragments about some of the experiences.

I try to keep a sense of humor. I try to tamp my expectations down. I try to be kind. I often fail.

I was in a church yesterday for the first time in a long time. A niece was renewing her vows with her husband. It was a nice event but I am as allergic to religion as I am to right wing ideologues.

As human beings we live inside of all kinds of contradictions.

If I mirror you
you can't see me.

If you mirror me
what a fucking horror.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm feeling at odds with and about a number of things, but I'm also a little amazed that I'm having my first pain free day in at least a year. Started taking an arthritis anti-inflammatory and didn't limp today at all.

The David Bromige Issue of The Difficulties

Looking through some boxes in the attic today I discovered I have a dozen or so pristine copies of the David Bromige Issue of The Difficulties. It's a great issue and a true collector's item. You can have a copy for $20 postpaid, if you're interested. Make checks to Tom Beckett. E-mail me for my address and provide me with yours. I'll ship on receipt of payment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Outsider" Writing

In a recent e-mail John Bloomberg-Rissman told me about being invited by a prominent anthologist to co-edit an anthology of "outsider writing." Then John asked me:

" you know of any outsider writing from your part of the world? By your part I really mean your part, Ohio et environs etc etc--or maybe I don't mean your part, please cast your net as widely as you like - it could be anything: I'm thinking working class writing, dialect writing, local immigrant writing, crazy woman from downtown who tacks xeroxed schizoid rants to telephone poles writing, local psychic (Sister Bertha)'s newspaper ads, etc etc etc. Or something from your library that normally doesn't get canonized. Anything:...."

I posted earlier about this in the vaguest of ways because it is a tenative project. But it is extremely interesting as a possible nexus because of the ways in which it might now be possible to investigate notions of what passes for inside/outside, central and peripheral.

It is, I know, a fraught area of concern. One mustn't exoticize, tread on, etc. But one must learn to speak our whatness, our itness, our thrownness and try,try, try, to make some sense of the beauty and terror of difference (no?).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm bringing forward this note by Jim McCrary from the comment section of an earlier post:

"thanks for noticeing, tom. and i do have this additional beef is with those who CALL for poetry in order to CHANGE the world...i.e. "end the war". and as usual because i am a poet who doesnt 'try harder' i left too much out of the post. "

I'm sorry to disagree with my friend, but my beef is with those who don't call for poetry to change the world (somehow, even a little, but more would be better).

Monday, September 13, 2010

The result of the yearlong interview project with Geof Huth was a document of over 600 pages . We solidified our friendship over the course of that series of exchanges, but we also created--I think--something emblematic of the impasse poetry finds itself in, perhaps it's an eternal dilemma, I don't know.

Geof's style of thought is expansive. He can, at his worst, be gaseous; but he is also a great (and I mean Great!)synthesizer and extender of ideas. There is genius in him. He can take in anything and spit something out and improvise and make, make, make.

I, on the other hand, tend to contract, reduce and intensify. Often, like my mother painting a perfect portrait, I will adjust and readjust in a quest for something exact and wind up with something muddy.

There is no right way to do art. There are the ways that we find we have to do it. And it is, no mistake, hard work across the space of a lifetime. I respect anyone who embarks on the journey and stays the course.

The other day when I took McCrary and Lopez to task for denying the Utopian possibilities of poetry, I shouldn't have ended the post by saying "Suck it up. Do better work." I should have said "Dream harder."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hey, this is a real question for anyone who might be paying some sort of attention to this blog.

I've been asked to help gather work from avant "outsider writers" from my area --Ohio, the greater MidWest--for inclusion in an anthology of writing which has a much larger focus.

When I say outsider writer think of folks outside of the academy, think street people, think outside blogdom, think outside of the mainstreams of consciousness, etc.
Writing is a kind of negotiation with
I guess-
I am alone.
I guess,
I am alone.
Later on in the Serres there is this passage which meshes interestingly with Anne Gorrick's project:

"The tree runs in one direction for the men, where the brush loses, through time, its power. It flows back in the opposite direction for the women where beauty wins, through time, its tranquil presence. Time flows in one direction for the maker, it flows the opposite way for the model."
Am swamped at work and physically and emotionally, mentally exhausted most of the time lately. Looking forward to a staycation in another week. I need some space to think and feel my way through some things.


It's starting to become real to me that, by and by, EXPOSURES will be published and that that two year writing project will see the light of day. I think it represents a turning point. Just as Vanishing Points of Resemblance did. EXPOSURES, I should say, is VPoR continued in a different fleshier register.


I've been savouring philosopher Michel Serres' prose in Genesis (University of Michigan Press, 1995):

"Of old I told the example of the cloud, I told of the concept of a nebulous set. I sketched the fringe of the flame, fluctuating with time; I never attempted to conceive of the multiple as such, directly, without ever allowing unification to come to its aid. I am trying here to raise the brackets and parentheses, syntheses, whereby we shove multiplicities under unities. That is the object of this book: the multiple. Can I possibly speak of multiplicity itself without ever availing myself of the concept? I am attempting to open up certain black boxes where it is hidden away, some of the deep freezes in which it has been frozen, a few of the soundproof rooms where it remains mute. Hopelessly, I am attempting to open up Pandora's little casket.

Whence comes the flood, or pandemonium."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I am
haunted by
questions. Poetry
is questions.
Questions are
holes I
am wanting
to become.
I-Formation, Book 1
By Anne Gorrick
Shearsman Books (, 2010

I-Formation is a book of genesis, a book of the Garden and of torqued archetypes. It is a book of the eternal present, a book of the bleeding moment. I-F is divided into 2 parts: “Her Site of Reversible Destiny” and “The Michelangelo Variations.”

“Her Site of Reversible Destiny” is made up of 9 months of garden poems: “The February Garden,” “The March Garden,” “The April Garden,” “The May Garden,” “The June Garden,” “The July Garden,” “The August Garden,” “The September Garden,” “The October Garden.” Very early on in “The February Garden” Gorrick writes:

A garden’s borders are its thoughts
It should feel like a separating world
and we incompletely still inside that

and at that point, on the first page of the first poem of the first book of a long project, I feel excitement and know that this is a book I need to read.

“The Michelangelo Variations” constitutes a virtual sculpture garden. Its poems are called: “Pietà,” “Creation of Adam,” “Creation of Eve/The Crucifixion of Peter,” and “Night”. “Pietà” right away instills in me an association with Jean Luc Godard’s great film Hail Mary! Especially in passages like this one:

Mary sits in her dull world
(the beginning of turn one)
Dress pulled up
The digestion of driver
God’s whore
Knuckle-rage at humanity’s insectal drive
Blood lifts to the ears first
Cars the sound of torn aluminum and sleep
disappear into dust

I-Formation is an extremely rich book which contains over a thousand lines of flight. I’ve read it a first time and know that I’ve only begun to read it. It is a moving, beautiful and extremely thoughtful work of art. This is one of those books which will change someone’s life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jim McCrary and Richard Lopez have both posted recently about poetry's inability to change the world. I say: screw that. Those posts (by two poets I like) pissed me off.

I'm tired of hearing about what poetry can't do. Poetry changes the world every day in molecular and larger ways that have cumulative impact over time. Poetry effects revolutions in perception every day somewhere in someone. It adds up and it means something, something always yet-to-be-determined. Reality is pretty fucking provisional, after all. But language is a not insignificant aspect of reality, of how reality is processed and determined, no? And poetry is a driver of language and the processing and creation of reality.

So, I say, speak not to me of your inability to imagine anything other than an impotent, unimportant poetry. Suck it up and do better work.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writhing is not
Negotiable. I mean

That, my friend.
One needs to

Get down on
The ground and

Writhe. Listening to
My funeral dirge

Almost forgot I
Hadn’t yet died.

I almost forgot
I’m still alive.

Staring Poetics

Nico Vassilakis performing memorably at the Avant Writing Symposium. Photo: Nancy Huth

The text of his talk on "Staring Poetics" can be found here

Sunday, September 5, 2010

OK. Geof's a genius, too. But I'm not telling him.
This is Nancy Huth's photograph of moi and Geof Huth chatting at a reception during the Avant Writing Symposium. I look tired and old and Geof looks dubious.
I've been listening to a live recording of John Cage's Empty Words and hadn't realized, until I visited Mark Woods' blog, that today is Cage's birthday.

The recording is irritating in that the audience is totally obnoxious--catcalls, curses, continuous interruptions. But Cage is calm, serene. He manifests indifference to the assholes, staying focused on his precise vocalizations.


I've been rather depressed this weekend for a variety of reasons which I won't go into and that I can only hope I emerge from before too long.

One bright spot is Anne Gorrick's I-Formation, Book 1, (Shearsman Books, 2010). I'm reading it very slowly because it is clear that this is a deliberate book which cannot be read too carefully. I plan to write about it in a few days. Whether for this blog or for another context I cannot say.

Saddened to read of Gary Sullivan and Nada Gordon breaking up. I've never "met" either of them in the flesh, but I've interviewed both of them and genuinely like both of them.

Sometimes I wonder about desire and the strange places it takes one. I ache in silence and then I yawp....and what?


Rebecca Loudon's ongoing answers to my question piece continue to amaze. I've met a couple of poets over the years whom I considered to be geniuses. Leslie Scalapino, for example. I met Leslie in person on a couple of occasions. Rebecca is a genius too, a great weaver of universes. I have to meet her before Geof sings his dirge for me for real. It's a goal. I've an open invitation to read in Seattle. Readings always ramp up my anxiety level, but if it's an opportunity to meet Rebecca, I just might be able to choke down my fear and whip out the credit cards for another improbable adventure in poetry. I'm thinking very seriously about this now.


I'm drinking wine and occasionally rubbing my right nipple which is now as hard as a pebble and growing more and more sensitive.

Writing poetry is a lot like worrying a nipple.


Earlier today I was writing in a notebook about sexual desire...


One of the things that most saddens me about the Cage recording I mentioned earlier (I'm on the 2nd disc now) is that the hecklers are Italians. Italian is the language I love most after English. To hear it spoken as ugliness is upsetting. I suppose I have a tendency to idealize things, people and to be disappointed by realities.


It is my hope that my book EXPOSURES, when it eventually appears, will activate some beauty in the world. That someone might become aroused.


Dirge for Beckett

Check out this beautiful video by Geof Huth wherein he sings a funeral dirge for yours truly.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Impulsivity Rubrics


Seizing in
Genital parentheses

Spilling out
Of semblance

Our sentences
Tearing along

Seams, tearing
Up sobbing


Seizing in
Genital spilling

Parentheses out
Of semblance

Our sentences
Tearing along

Seams, tearing
Up sobbing


Seizing in
Spilling out

Genital semblance
Parentheses of

Our sentences
Tearing along

Seams, tearing
Up sobbing