Saturday, December 31, 2011

"*If you have just one project, such as a dissertation, it can feel like a scary monolith rising in the desert. If you don’t feel like dealing with it, you’ll waste time watching TV, web-surfing, getting drunk with friends, whatever. Even in a good mood, when the Muse makes you courageous enough to approach the monolith, you’ll have a good day or two with it and then become intimidated by it again.

That’s why you need to get away from the “lonely desert monolith” conception of projects. You should have several of them simultaneously, like an ecosystem of projects. When you’re sick of one, you can turn to one of the others."

--Graham Harman

Harman's advice is worth repeating: develop an "ecosystem of projects." It's something very much on my mind.

Having retired from my wage-earning activities of the last 34 years, my job now is to write. I've embarked on what's being conceptualized as a year-long project -- a "novel" tentatively entitled APPEARANCES. I don't know if I'm going to be able to carry it off, but I'm giving it my all. I do know that I'm going to keep Graham's advice in mind and continue with other projects also -- poetry and interviews, blog posts, etc.

I'm also reading and re-reading a number of interesting things. Notably:

The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell,

Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology by Jussi Parikka,

Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking by Tim Dean,

Portraits & Repetition by Stephen Ratcliffe,

Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life by Kenneth Gross,

Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon by Michael Fried,

Art and Ventriloquism by David Goldblatt,

The Sluts by Dennis Cooper,

Being and Event by Alain Badiou,

Fanged Noumena by Nick Land,

Ecology Without Nature by Tim Morton.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

This is the first time I've been truly alone with myself since my last day at the Hellth Dept. on December 15. What that means, right now, is that I'm seated at the kitchen table. The dishwasher is running behind me. (Sometimes it sounds like it is talking.) I'm feeling hyperalert.

I've been reading back and forth between Nick Land's Fanged Noumena, Michael Fried's Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon, and Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending. I've also been flipping back and forth between 3 works-in-progress of my own.


The de Kooning retrospective at MOMA was fabulous: 7 galleries of his work arranged chronologically. I particularly enjoyed the serial work--observing how images morphed and mutated over time.

The Gertrude Stein exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was terrific too. It made for a great multi-faceted look at Stein and her oeuvre. It made me want to revisit an early ambition to write about Stein. Particularly in comparison with Marcel Duchamp.


During some alone time with my father, as he was driving me to an Amtrak station in Stamford, CT, he confided unbidden that the three people who have most influenced him in life are my mother, me, and a pastor. He explained the influence of mom and the minister in some depth and then said that perhaps I hadn't heard when he mentioned my influence. I told him I'd heard but didn't know how to respond or whether I should. He then explained what he felt my influence on his life to have been. It was something of a tortured monlogue. Well intentioned, but painful, nonetheless. I'm going to need to try and write about it soon. Even if only so that I can process the occasion.


Wow. I don't have to go back to the Hellth Dept. Except, eventually, to pick up a final check. The reality is slowly dawning on me. Unless I decide, at some point, to do some consulting or volunteer work, I will never do public health work again.

I'm a little nervous about retirement. I'm 58 point something years old and have spent the last 34 and a half years earning a living doing something I didn't particularly like to do but had learned to do pretty well. Now, all kinds of possibilities beckon. I hope that I don't fuck too much up.


Stay tuned.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Back from six days on the East Coast. Caught the de Kooning retrospective at MOMA in NYC and the Gertrude Stein photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in DC. Both were fantastic exhibitions. When some holiday fervor fades I'll try to write a bit about my impressions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who owns the concepts of space and time?
One falls
of a template

into an actual


Sunday, December 11, 2011


This Friday just past was my last Friday at the Hellth Dept.

Tomorrow will be my last Monday.

Then there will be my last Tuesday.

The day after will be my last Wednesday there.

The Thursday which follows will be my last day there ever.

Strange to contemplate leaving. I'm excited and frightened at the same time.
Much to the spouse's irritation I spent a considerable amount of time today listening to John Zorn's music (which I unabashedly love). It is a bit too dissonant for her.

Aesthetic "taste" is a funny thing. When I encounter something, some sort of art--say-- that I don't on first blush like , I explore it more. There's so much that I don't know, don't understand, that I kind of assume that I'm probably not getting something on the first take. I guess that practice makes innocent bystanders uncomfortable.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two Philosophy Books of Interest

Just finished reading two brief philosophy books:

Towards A New Manifesto by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (Verso, 2011)and One-Dimensional Woman by Nina Power (Zero Books, 2009).

A New Manifesto is, as one of its blurbs has it, "A philosophical jam session." It's comprised of transcripts of exchanges between Adorno and Horkheimer in 1953 as they attempted to formulate something akin to a new Communist Manifesto. They're trying out ideas, thinking out loud.

This sort of thing is really in my sweet spot. I love exchanges that are based in true inquiry and aren't about position or besting someone. This passage was of particular interest to me:

Adorno: Philosophy exists in order to redeem what you see in the look of an animal. If you feel that an idea is supposed to serve a practical purpose, it slithers into the dialectic. If, on the other hand, your thought succeeds in doing the thing justice, then you cannot also assert the opposite. The mark of authenticity of a thought is that it negates the immediate presence of one's own interests. True thought is thought that has no wish to insist on being in the right.

One-Dimensional Woman is philosophically based cultural criticism at its best. This passage needs quoting:

The jokey male hypothetiical question to lesbians ('don't you spend all day playing with your breasts?') has literally come true. They are 'assets' in the physical and economic senses simultaneously and as much use as possible is to be extracted from them -- their role in breastfeeding is perversely secondary to their primary function as secondary sexual characteristics.

What the autonomous breasts and the concommitant becoming-CV of the human means is that the language of objectification may not be useful any longer, as there is no (or virtually no) subjective dimension left to be colonized. The language of objectification demands on a minimal subjective difference, what Badiou quaintly identified in the realm of personal relations as 'the intangible female right ... to only have to get undressed in front of the person of her choosing.' In the realm of work we could call this the right not to have to lay bare one's entire personality and private life. In effect, this is what the world of work increasingly demands --that one is always contactable (by email, by phone), that one is always an 'ambassador' for the firm (don't write anything about your job on your blog), that there is no longer any separation between the private realm and the working day (Facebook amalgamates friends and colleagues alike). The personal is no longer just political, it's economic through and through.

I'm struck over and over again by how fucking much I don't know. But I do know this:
if we can't as human beings find a way toward something like concern for the others we don't know, then we, ultimately, have no regard for ourselves. Think critically. Act on the behalf of others. Try to love one another (right now).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


John Bloomberg-Rissman has joined Maria Damon, and myself, as a co-curator at Ask/Tell.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Listening to Coltrane's A Love Supreme after listening to a bunch of Steve Reich and Keith Jarrett.


Working on a new longish poem called Risk Groups. Not sure where it might be going. I think though that it owes a bit of its impetus to the impending end of my career in public health.


Three weeks to go before my last day at the Health Dept. Those final weeks will be pretty frantic as I try to finish up as much as I can. As much as I want to leave the job, goodbyes are always difficult. There have been a few surprisingly touching moments already--heartfelt exchanges with people I've worked with in the field for as many as 34 years. It's a time for reflection, for sure.


As I wrote in an earlier deleted post, to be a public health sanitarian is to be a professional worrier. One's spending one's working days trying to prevent bad things from happening. What does one accomplish in the end? I can't tell you how many people I kept from getting sick. I don't know. It's an intense job with many layers. It's also pretty thankless. I'm looking forward to the next chapter. I want to live some of the life I've deferred over these last 30 plus years. I want to do some readings, collaborations, and take the writing to a different level than I've had time for thus far. That's my ambition. We'll see what happens.


Am hoping to travel east soon before the De Kooning retrospective ends at MOMA. That's a show I'm aching to see.


I'm also hoping to redefine my relation to blogs in the coming year and to step things up at Ask/Tell.





Sunday, November 20, 2011

I pay attention to a lot of things. Yet I blur on a lot too. I wonder what it is reasonable to expect of a human being (in terms of responding to its environment).

Graham Harman on Quentin Meillassoux

I've been slowly working my way through Harman's Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making (Edinburgh University Press, 2011). It's a challenging book and is not the place to start if you're new to Harman's work. ( Circus Philosophicus is the book I'd urge newbies to begin with. I think it's a volume that poets, in particular, will find engaging. But I digress.)

I'm fascinated by a passage from the Meillassoux volume. It's from the chapter on The Divine Inexistence. Here goes:

"Meillassoux's model of the divine 'carries both atheism and religion to their ultimate consequences in order to unveil their truth: God does not exist, and it is necessary to believe in God' (DI 233). If God existed, we could not believe in his advent, and we would be stuck with the amoral God who allows miserable things to occur. Belief now means hope for the future immanent God rather than faith in a current but hidden one. But we should also remember that 'atheism diminishes humans and humiliates their projects by deposing what it believes to be a simple myth' (DI 234). We have seen that what it gives us instead is a Promethean model of humans who are debased as badly as the amoral God of religion himself. For this reason, all the present-day efforts at demystification are a 'mocking enterprise...that only allows our species a few mediocre projects compared with what we are capable of envisaging. It is a sarcasm of humans towards humans, and thus a hatred of oneself' (DI 234). Religion is no better, but simply 'the undercurrent of a world that is not infinitely desired: a world not seized in its infinite power of advent, and loved for the eternal promise of which its madness is guarantor' (DI 235)."

I've been thinking about this passage all morning. It is a startlingly cogent tear-down of a chilling cultural binary.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Many thanks to Lars Palm who sent this poem in response to Parts and Other Pieces :

(q & a)
for Tom Beckett

am i rude if i say
the questions appear more
interesting than any answer?

or will you recognize my love
of questions & w(e)ariness of all
who claim to have answers?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Libraries That Have Supported My Work

If you're interested in accessing some of my publications through libraries, especially some of the older ones, then go here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I've been sick for the last few days but powered through a punishing work schedule. Now am feeling depleted--drippy, woozy. I don't know if I'm going to be able to handle going to work tomorrow or not.


Haven't been able to write anything of value since publishing Parts and Other Pieces. It feels like that book has fallen into a black hole. Which is depressing. It, along with an unpublished chapbook entitled Collapsing Structures, represent much of my best work from the last year or so.


A bright note: my recent interview with philosopher Graham Harman at Ask/Tell. It was an energizing exchange. I hope poets are reading it too and not just philosophers. I say that because when I google the piece, the great bulk of references to it are at philosophy sites. The driving idea behind Ask/Tell is to get poets not just to converse with other poets but to engage folks from other disciplines and to expand the forms that poetics can take. I would love to see poets in conversation with choreographers, visual artists, ecologists, composers, philsophers, scientists, etc, etc. I want to explore the poetics of experience as much as anything else. With the hope that it will lead to further collaboration.


Currently working on an interview with NF Huth. Nancy has recently released a full-length collection, Radiator, and a chapbook called 3 Words. I hope these books can find the wide audience they deserve. Her treatment of objects in her poems resonates for me with aspects of Harman's object oriented ontology.


I couldn't sleep last night. We live a couple of blocks from the center of town. Twenty thousand Halloween revelers and the attendant police presence--siren after freaking siren--made much needed rest impossible. My eyes are barely open as I type this. So, later...


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

If You're In Oakland Later This Week...

Fellow Travelers Performance Group is back again with

Meditations on Being Lost
an installation dance work choreographed by Ken James

Meditations on Being Lost examines the quirks of being open to possibilities. It is about readjusting. Pondering decisions, and the possibility of fitting in and a series of impossible solutions. Performed in a unique space designed by Matthew Antaky, the audience surrounds the space offering opportunities to wander around the performance - readjusting your own view of the work.

Choreographed by Ken James
Lighting and set by Matthew Antaky
Dancers Paula McArthur, Silvina Lopez-Barrera, Ken James
Super Fabulous Guest Artist Chris Black
Inspiration by the poet Tom Beckett

Where and When
Performed at The Project Bandaloop Studio
1601 18th Street at the corner of 18th and Peralta, Oakland CA 94702
October 14th and 15th at 8pm
Keep up on us on Facebook:

Thanks for generous support from the Dancers Group Lighting Artists in Dance Grant and The East Bay Fund for Artists. And viewers like you, of course.

Fellow Travelers Performance Group

Sunday, October 2, 2011


An actual world

In a virtual universe.

Poetry is philosophy

Except when it’s shit.

Accept when it’s shit.

Echoes are objects.

Just like shadows.

Shadows like You.

Pronouns are flags.

Saying something is Something

Isn’t like anything.

Saying something is Something.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

seemed important
at the time.

A Shot in the Dark

I have a chapbook manuscript (31 pages) looking for a publisher. It's called Collapsing Structures and out from it spills two longish poems. Anyone interested?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The inaugural interview is up at Ask/Tell: INTERVIEW WITH SAWAKO NAKAYASU ABOUT TEXTURE NOTES (Letter Machine Editions, 2010) by Thomas Fink.

I am always open to submissions of interviews by poets. I'm particularly interested in interviews by poets of non-poets. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have a project in mind.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Not so much

At the moment

(drunk & disordered

or otherwise unsorted).

You never know.

Phrases return unbidden.


Nouns are things.

Things are whatever

One cannot know.

One is alone.

One is surrounded.

Isn’t one’s sexuality

Tortured by definition?

You’re translating me.

I’m interpreting you.

Nothing is inevitable.

Little is effective.

An electrical storm.

More pressed flowers.

A Divine Comedy.

Our enforced comity.

Some phantom situation.

Our phantom enterprises.

Let’s start over.

A little more

Than one thought.

(This blank enclosure.)

Closed window into

Whatever is yet

To be opened.

Submission is remembering

Something otherwise problematized?

Questions are thresholds,

Marks of betweenness,

Unshaped boundaries of

_____, ______, _____

(forms of noise).

You want me?

Here I am

(total access for

a limited time)

Some kind of

A bad object.

Pronouns are bad

Actors (very bad).

I love parentheses.

I love to

Fill in blanks.

I love to

Leave things blank.

You love what?

Emphasis is whack!

One wants anything.

Perhaps nature poems?

I don’t know.

Pronouns aren’t natural.

Neither is nature

(that’s nothing new).

Nothing’s like anything.

Please repeat that:

Nothing’s like anything.

That feels profound.

That feels OK.

That feels degraded.

This feels edgy.

What’s one thing?

What’s an object

In your scheme?

Why do words

Look so strange?

Especially ones I

Think I know?

A new constraint

Is an orgasm

Cheated or prolonged.

Desire is everywhere.

Desire is everything.

Who are you?

Want to sing?

I’m not unique

In being afraid.

One could take

A clinical approach.

Still, I want

To say: Help!

Life is virtual.

You all know

This: yes, no?

Poetry begins with

And ends with

Whatever can be

Thought and said.

Or just posted?

Writing is fucked.

To think is

To talk within

A collapsing structure.

The House of

Being’s on fire!

Whose, ants in

Britches, crotches itch?

Raise your hands.

Come and testify.

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Out!

Now out from Otoliths

Tom Beckett
80 pages
Front cover image by Rosaire Appel
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-6-1
$13.45 + p&h

The difficulties that language presents have their analogues in life. Whether posed, or proposed, or just tenuously poised on the thin line that divides articulation from understanding, the phrases and phrasings of Tom Beckett's elegant and nervous Parts and Other Pieces challenge the givens of experience. The excitement and beauty of this four-part book are the product of a mismatch between words and worlds. And it is, indeed, a beautiful and exciting book. Variously witty, angst-ridden, melancholy, sweet, Beckett's parts provoke a powerful whole. —Lyn Hejinian

If Tom Beckett cares about anything, it’s everything. “Are you with me, Columbus?” Why yes, you are, we naturally reply, since Beckett has asked us a question he already knows the answer to, since he loves and respects the durability of our imaginations, desires, impulses and anxieties. Our answers, in substance and scope, are the very near silent dialogues that Beckett hears in the thought acts generated by poetry: openness taken from the shadows of openness alone. Beckett’s poetry has always reminded me that we are all in the process of our obsessions, where “What I might be able to do for you and not myself is to/mirror you,/establish your presence.” Tom Beckett is the poet in all our poems, goofing off when we harden in our terrible seriousness, and in the next moment, attentively concerned with how loud we just laughed. —Jordan Stempleman

Tom Beckett writes from the lab. His work, in its observational acuity, gives back to us all the stuff we see floating in the peripheries – of language, of social order, of identity – and places it smack dab under the lens. Where it pulls us in, performs for us, makes us marvel at its range, occasionally repels us, often makes us chortle. Parts and Other Pieces is alive, emotionally raw, self-effacingly hilarious, and ultimately quite beautiful. Beckett is the master; we’re damned lucky he’s got the white coat. —Jessica Grim

Tom Beckett's Parts and Other Pieces bristles with a fierce, rhythmic relentlessness. These are poems of urgent self-reflection, caught between the demands of everyday life and a consciousness haunted by spikes of piercing perception. —Charles Bernstein

“As a writer,” we read in an interview with Tom Beckett, “it can be more important to pay a lot of attention to a few things rather than a little attention to a lot of things.” Touché! Beckett’s new collection begins with a sequence of questions posed on the Ohio State campus (Goodbye Columbus!) and responds with a series of answers—not quite to the original questions and hence all the more pertinent and mysterious. The connection between A and B is provided by the middle section, “Between Asymmetries,” whose maxims, written under the sign of Emerson, enact the truth that “Language grids support the inexplicable.” The final poem, the minimalist “Parts” provides the “break (brake)” that makes everything that precedes it come together in one radiant whole. —Marjorie Perloff

Also by Tom Beckett & available from The Otoliths Storefront:

This Poem / What Speaks? / A Day

& the three volumes of the classic interview series:

E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The First XI interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Second XV interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Final XIV interviews + One

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Don't stop

and think.

Think and

don't stop.
Going through a period of mental and physical exhaustion. Work is insane now. I come home tired, go to bed early and wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things I have no control over. Chronic insomnia for the last year or so.


Homemade lentil soup simmering. Jeff Beck on the box.


My new book should be out in a few weeks. If nothing else it may be my most beautifully blurbed volume. The back cover will be graced with kind and eloquent words from Jordan Stempleman, Jessica Grim, Lyn Hejinian and Marjorie Perloff.

And the front cover will have wonderful images by the incomparable Rosaire Appel.


Have written the first sections of the novel and am mulling the next turn.


Internet connection fading out with some frequency. Sigh.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Am living in the midst of an enormous amount of work related stress. Trying to think and feel past that to the real work I want to do when I retire at the end of the year.


I've been trying to write seriously (often failing, sometimes seeing a glimmer of hope) since the 1970s. Barb and I got married in 1976. I've been working at the Health Dept. since the spring of 1977. Our first child was born in 1978. Our second in 1984. We have two grandchildren now. All of this is to say that what writing, editing, publishing, etc, I've done so far has been done in the context of a very busy life. I put out The Difficulties when the kids were little and we had no money to speak of. I begged and borrowed and scrimped to do The Diff's. I even sold a life insurance policy. I could go on... The point, I guess, is that the pursuit of poetry hasn't made my life easier. It has, though, made it better.


I'm hoping, when I retire, to write daily. That would be such a sweet luxury. I have an idea for a novel called "Appearances" which I think I can write (if granted an open expanse of time).


Earlier today, after doing dishes, vacuuming floors, and eating lunch (fried clams), I read the manuscript of my friend Jessica Grim's latest book of poems. I've known Jessica for around 20 years. She's an engaging person and an incredible poet. Jessica's poetry is not flashy. It's thoughtful , quirky and kind of dense. It's a poetry of epistemological and phenomenological turns. It's a poetry of encounters, a poetry of interfaces, a poetry about the word inside of the world, where nature and thought are equally palpable and similarly fragmented. It was a privilege to read this work. Seek out her writing. Read it slowly and savor it. I'm telling you it's special.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

I love this sentence from John Edgar Wideman's novel Fanon (Houghton Mifflin, 2008):

"Opening a novel, opening our eyes, opening our minds, hearts, legs, wallets, we are opening ourselves to a reality not unlike a magic slate where one unvarying condition of our appearance is that we are condemned, sooner or later, to disappear and never be seen or heard again."


Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm back from a long weekend in the greater Washington, DC area. Had a great time but am a bit road weary.

Particularly fun was dim sum in the city (wish I could have some more of those squid ink dumplings filled with prawns and other goodies), followed by a visit to Bridge Street Books (where I dropped a bundle on some great titles).

Came back home to some terrific mail. Most notably: Percy & Bess by Alex Gildzen. Check it out.

More later, I hope.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm thinking about the word "adumbrations." It looks, at the moment, unusually beautiful. I'm thinking it could be the title of a long poem I've yet to write. Not to mention that yet-to-exist piece's method.


Where does a poem begin for you, dear reader? For myself it is often a matter of some evocative kernel. It could be a word, phrase, couple of sentences that I start to worry about and fuss over.

So one begins with that kernel or fragmentary beginning, but sometimes things don't go far and never get returned to. Sometimes things linger in a notebook for months and are returned to. Sometimes things blossom almost immediately. Like a rose or a radish on a summer day. Or roadkill on the four-lane. Sometimes the line between a beautiful realization and a gruesome discovery is pretty damn porous.


I hooked up with language poetry back in the day only partly because I was French kissed by Roland Barthes.

I hooked up with language poetry back in the day only partly because of John Ashbery's gabby frozen honey.

I hooked up with language poetry back in the day only partly because the limits of my language seemed to be absolutely contestable.

I hooked up with language poetry back in the day only partly because Gertrude Stein taught me to narrate the decaying moment and to appreciate the luminous beauty of the opaque.

I hooked up with language poetry back in the day because it was the most interesting conversation going at the time.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sorting through some of the chaos of my study I found a hard copy of Otoliths, Issue Two, Part One, and in it this poem of mine. I'd forgotten about it, but I like it:

A Meditation

(for Jordan Stempleman, once again)

don't think
color or form.

space, all
I know is

want to
be born again

water in
a shaken colander.

meaning is
mediated by calendars.


In retrospect, this piece is one of my best hay(na)ku outings.
Today's my birthday. 42 years ago, on my 16th birthday, the first man walked on the moon. This morning I had my quarterly medical exam. On being told that today is my blessed day, the physician said he was going to give me a prostate exam and then started laughing. He's such a cut-up.


Late last evening I inadvertently deleted over 900 e-mails. Oops. I like, by the way, that OOPS is the acronym for Object-Oriented Philosophy of Science.


It's deadly hot here, but--given a choice-- I'd much rather broil than freeze my ass off as I did much of this past year.

Nota bene: birthday boy's butt is dewy with sweat right now. I'm throwing that out like a love grenade. Just thought you'd like to know. Boom!



Sad ecstasy of shadows
Coming into me.


All or
Nothing leaks out.


Limitless limited bodies.

Statues made of noise.



Overpainted, stained,
Smudged, smeared,
Scratched, half-erased pentimenti.

Your voices
Shadow mine.

Streak of color.
Cadence of speech.

Borders aren’t
Always apparent.


Borders aren’t
Always available
Or mappable, documentable.

There’s something
About networks.

There’s something in
My overlapping senses
Of things.

I didn’t want
To comment (or
Commit) but
Couldn’t help myself.

The noise
In me
Is undimmed.


You say
You want
For nothing.

This you,
This I
Are most
Peculiar constructions.

Talking to
Oneself in
Speaking to another
Is a kind
Of reverse ventriloquism.

The dummy lives.

How much

Can one
Listen to, embrace,
At once?

How attentive
Can one be?
Is this
A test
Of worth?

I am
Not beautiful.
I am

Not you.


How does one
Read a poem
Which is
Crossed out?




Tools, moods,

Rooms, food.


A sonic

Thing that

Thinks is

What I'm

Talking about.


This heaviness

Is unlikely

To be

Lifted soon.


Spaces one's

Inscribed upon,

Scratched into.


Swallow and

Swallow again.


Thresholds, tongues

Held. Hell

Is self-consciousness,

Thoughtless nests,

Nets or

Knotted chords.

Notes leak

Out of

What surrounds

One's aporias.


What is

Thinking called?

--Dancing, war,

Sex, writing?

--Being, language,

Maths, noise?


I had

A seizure

That I

Don't remember.

Tore me

Apart, put

Me together

Again, rearranged.


Drums and

Guitar mirror

One another.

Attention, practice

Always entwined

In exchange.


Wherever I

Am you're

Someplace else.




State. Presences
Out of register.


Torso in mirror

Receding faster

Than it appears.


The world
Is overseen
& underheard.


If philosophy is psychosis
If poetry is a ventriloquist act
If the robot’s notebook pages have been filled out and overwritten


What surrounds
One’s aporias?
--So-called nature?

Formula fiction skillfully
Fondles pleasure centers.

“Entanglement” means any set of conditions.
“Entrapment” means a condition.


What is the price of ambiguity?
What is the price of exactitude?


Nature scares me.
Human nature most of all.


One has
To acknowledge
The irreducible.


What about
The Body?


My Robot


Here between
The global
The local
I dream

My robot
Just arrived
In the mail.


The package
From within.

My robot
Emerges grinning.

I take
Its place
In the box.


My robot
Opens the box
I am in.

Our eyes lock.

“Happy Birthday,”
I say.



No thing
Isn’t connected

To some
Other thing,

To some
Unexpected thing.

Separations are
Social constructs.


Is there
Such a thing
As unmediated experience?


Where to
Begin again?


Sensation isn’t
A territory.
It’s weather.

Waiting is
The story,
Oratorio, opera,
Tap dance.


I’m not
Protected against
500,000 definitions.


I am
A series
Of interruptions.


Inside and
Outside all
The time.


My Robot
Is one hard
To parse sentence.

Try, if you
Want, to diagram
Our relationship.


Everything is
Virtual in its
Own way.




Will he
Sample me
Today or
Will he
Sample me


Robert Duncan, in "The Venice Poem," writes:
“The world is false as water.”
I’ll never understand that line.


I’ll never understand any thing.


What is thought’s object?


“What do you know?”
Was a common greeting
When I was young.

The formulaic reply
Almost always:
“Not much. You?”


Does anyone
Think much
About cultural
Assumptions anymore?


Irregular spacing

Is a symptom.


What is
Not broken?


That fucking copula


The relevance
Of specific


I keep
Deferring stuff.


The realm
Of “as”
Or “ass.”

A truly
Slippery slope.


Where are we
In this mess?


Messages are
Being sent

But are
Rarely received.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've been thinking about nets of reference. Reading Graham Harman I've been led to the work of China Mieville, Timothy Morton, Bruno Latour, et alia, and back to thinking about Heidegger, Husserl and the phenomenologists. And, of course, too, at this point, I want to read everything Harman writes.

This has always been so for me. If I like a writer I try to read all of their work and try to follow up on their references, their loves, until I'm spent.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Home is the strangest place. It is strange in its very homeliness, as Freud observed. Indeed, here is strange in itself. To see a place in its strangeness is not just to see how it is permeated with otherness. That could collapse into racism: otherness immigrates and I'm ready with my gun. Within a horizon, you can indeed be aware of "another" place over yonder. Appreciating strangeness is seeing the very strangeness of similarity and familiarity. To reintroduce the uncanny into the poetics of the home (oikos, ecology, ecomimesis) is a political act. Cozy ecological thinking tries to smooth over the uncanny, which is produced by a gap between being human and being a person--by the very culture which is necessitated ironically because humans emerge from the womb premature, that is, as beings of flesh without a working sense of self.

--Timothy Morton,Ecology without Nature: Environmental Aesthetics (Harvard, 2007)

I've been reading and re-reading Morton's book for several weeks now. Impossible to recommend it highly enough.


Am also reading The Prince and the Wolf: Latour and Harman at the LSE (Zero Books, 2011) which is the transcript of the February 2008 debate between Bruno Latour and Graham Harman at the London School of Economics. Video of the event is available on the web, here:

This is truly an exciting time for new philosophy. Graham Harman is the real deal.


I've been working my ass off in order to get ahead of things to the point where I can take off the last two weeks in July. It's rare for me to take off 2 weeks at a time. Usually I take a week, or a day or two, here and there. I really need some down time. Am planning time at home and time away.


Grandson Andy turns 5 in a week. 3 days after that I'll be 58.


Haven't had much time for writing these last few weeks. Am 20 some pages into a long poem which may get much longer--or not. There's so much going on in it that it's difficult to say what might happen next. It has an almost sexual tension. Can I keep it going, please? OK. I'm going to think about England.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Treated myself and watched 2 movies today: Godard's Made In USA and Schnabel's Basquait. Loved them both.

I'd watched Basquait years ago, but hadn't seen the Godard. Which is weird because I've seen most of JLG's films several times and am generally obsessed with his work. I've even seen some of his Histoires du Cinema.


Thunder cracking. It might storm again. Or it's just heat games. I dunno.


Listening to the Stones Rarities album.


Lip-sunk thoughts

Trace a vein

Speech balloons

Leak language salts


Location's always between

Must things be named

Is this being consumed


Names disturb space

Sentences are fenced

Punctuation is ______







Every breath a _____

Here and there

That and that


Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm listening to Coltrane, the whirl of several fans (ceiling and floor varieties), multiple ambient sounds, and swirling thoughts.


One of the new books to enter the reading mix: The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson. Another: I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge.


It was great visiting with Jessica and Tom yesterday. There's no substitute for face to face time with real friends. J & T are just that: poetry friends who are also real friends. That's a truly lovely thing. We can speak of language poetry, Emerson, or of eco-poetry in one instant and of family matters and gossip about mutual friends in yet other instants with trust and respect. We can joke about a tofu habit enhancing man boobs. We can connect and listen to one another. It was a spirit boost seeing them.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's storming. Hope the weather doesn't remain bad much longer since I'm going to be driving to Oberlin to visit my friends Jessica Grim and Thomas Fink. Jessica lives in Oberlin, Thomas is visiting. I'm looking forward to some lively conversation.

Still lagged from a lot of driving and intense thought yesterday. Drove to Columbus and back. The occasion of my visit there was a visit to OPERS (Ohio Public Employee Retirement System). After 34 years at the Health Dept. I am getting close to pulling the plug. Still a lot of emotions and a couple of financial decisions to sort through. But an end is in sight. As is a new beginning. I very much need that new beginning.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Today I've added about 80 words to the new long poem. That's a lot for me. The piece is problematic. Which is keeping me interested. 22 pages into the thing.


Made a terrific sea food pasta for lunch. I stir fryed shrimp, bay scallops and calamari in olive oil with red pepper flakes. Added a splash of lemon juice and some parsley. Tossed it all with whole grain pasta. Simple and wonderful. One of my favorite kind of cooking. Good ingredients and true depths of flavor. The broth was memorable. It has me wanting to do a fish stew or cioppino.

I sometimes dream of slurping oysters, eating octopus. I'm always hungry.

Nature scares me.
Human nature most of all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Parts and Other Pieces is the title of my next book. Mark Young's Otoliths press is slated to publish it in a couple of months. It's an 80 page book made up of 4 long poems. It's getting some interesting prepublication feedback. I'm cautiously optimistic that the thing is going to be read.


It's a beautiful day in Northeastern Ohio. Something I haven't been able to say too often over the course of the last 6 months. Between April and May we had 13 inches of rain. And don't get me started on how much snow I moved over the course of the winter.

It's good to feel the sun and smell the flowers, hear birds and children playing outside.


Inside and outside: the theme recurs over and over again in my thought.


Am reading many things and working on a new long poem. Among the reading:

Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics by Timothy Morton (Harvard, 2007) is a treasure. Morton systematically thinks through the ways in which ideas of nature impede our ability to come to terms with the environment.

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell (Doubleday, 2011) is a timely and much needed new biography of the man who, in the late part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, probably was unique in the degree to which he fought for social justice in these United States. He helped make labor law, he helped the racially oppressed, he created the lawyer advocate, he defended my hero Eugene Debs! Much of his work is being threatened now or being undone. Read this book. Think about this history. Because it is returning with a vengeance. The rich are rising and trampling much of value beneath their feet. Anti-trust laws and union rights are being swept away. The ever reverberating consequences of insatiable greed...

There Is No Year by Blake Butler (Harper Perennial, 2011) is a beautifully realized novel of suffocating surreality wherein a father, mother, son, various doppelgangers, houses, boxes and others evolve toward a telescoping, uhh, resolution.

As to my long poem in progress, I'm as uncertain as ever. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

No thing
Isn’t connected

To some
Other thing,

To some
Unexpected thing.

Separations are
Social constructs.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

If philosophy is psychosis
If poetry is a ventriloquist act
If the robot’s notebook pages have been filled out and overwritten


What surrounds
one’s aporias?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I'm more and more obsessed by the keywords in a poet's work. Those words which recur again and again that obviously have a strong resonance. Creeley had many--particular, occasion. I could go on and on in this vein.


I have a strong sense memory of being with David Bromige in Northern California. Our conversation turned to Creeley's work. David did a pitch perfect riff on Creeley talking and stressed the word delicious in such a, well, Creeleyesque manner that I knew David thought a lot about keywords too.


(to be continued?)

Monday, May 30, 2011














Thresholds, tongues
held. Hell

is self-consciousness,
thoughtless nests,

nets or
knotted chords.

Notes leak
out of

what surrounds
one's aporias.


What is
thinking called?

--Dancing, war,
sex, writing?

--Being, language,
maths, noise?


I had
a seizure

that I
don't remember.

Tore me
apart, put

me together,


Drums and
guitar mirror
one another.

Attention, practice
always entwined
in exchange.


Wherever I
am you're
someplace else.





Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Etude

Tools, moods,
rooms, food.


A sonic
thing that
thinks is
what I'm
talking about.


This heaviness
is unlikely
to be
lifted soon.


Spaces one's
inscribed upon,
scratched into.


Swallow and
swallow again.

Waste Land

One of the most moving and useful documentaries I've ever seen:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is poetry solely the province of _____?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It should be noted that Geof Huth has completed his gargantuan 365 ltrs project. I've got a few things to say about it.

365 Ltrs has been an interesting project to follow. I've read all of the entries, with varying levels of attention, more or less as they appeared at the site. Some I've revisited.

The premise of the project was to write a poem addressed to a different individual (with one exception) everyday for a year and to end on the day of Geof's wife Nancy's 50th birthday. The blog both begins and ends with a poem for Nancy. There are 363 other addressees inbetween those 2 entries. Most of the poems are long. The final entry is 50 pages long for goodness sake.

I found the project to be delightful and exasperating by turns. Much like everyday life.

Geof-- in addressing family members, fellow poets, artists, archivists and friends--is addressing these individuals directly and tangentially. He's also mining his day, sloughing quotidian skins, improvising in ways that keep him interested, and from time to time shouting out self-evident (to him) quod erat demonstrandums. Not to mention creating visual poems.

On the one hand, it is an excessively generous project. Not only did Geof post entries to the blog, he also snailmailed personalized copies to individual addressees. I can attest to the pleasure of receiving one of them.

On that other proverbial hand, this was an extraordinarily obsessive project. A project which resulted in Geof sleeping very little over the course of the last year. I worried over his health.

The work which was generated was copious in quantity--well over a thousand pages--and of mixed quality. It ranges from the rote to the sublime. Don't get me wrong, I think Geof is a special kind of genius. That doesn't mean he doesn't sometimes write crap. And he writes crap in the way that most human beings do: when he writes just to write. That, in my opinion, is rarely a good enough reason.

I need to write and often fail. Geof needs to write and rarely fails (to write).

So, Geof: congratulations on completing the project. But take a breath. I worry about you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera (1985) . I first saw this documentary on a local PBS station, 25 or so years ago, on a very small black and white TV in the kitchen of the apartment we had in the old farm house on Brady Lake Rd. The place of many blueberry bushes. The place which earned daughter Claire her nickname Clairyberry. I used to hold toddler Claire in one arm while picking berries. She'd hold the pail. I'd put the berries in the pail. She'd scoop them out and eat them. One of my most treasured memories.

Anyway, my grandsons (Claire's children) stayed with us for several hours yesterday. Andy built many robots out of Legos. Ryan ate bananas and many soap bubbles were made and smashed by both of them with much glee.

I digress. I'm tired.
Overpainted, stained,
Smudged, smeared,
Scratched, half-erased pentimenti.

Your voices
Shadow mine.

Streak of color.
Cadence of speech.

Borders aren’t
Always apparent.

Borders aren’t
Always available
Or mappable, documentable.

There’s something
About networks.

There’s something in
My overlapping senses
Of things.

I didn’t want
To comment (or
Commit) but
Couldn’t help myself.

The noise
In me
Is undimmed.

You say
You want
For nothing.

This you,
This I
Are most
Peculiar constructions.

Talking to
Oneself in
Speaking to another
Is a kind
Of reverse ventriloquism.

The dummy lives.

How much
Can one
Listen to, embrace,
at once?

How attentive
Can one be?

Is this
A test
Of worth?

I am
Not beautiful.

I am
Not you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some folks may remember my squirrel obsession of earlier days. Check out this squirrel impression by Betsy Salkind:
Sometimes when I feel like I'm drowning in frustration and disappointment with myself, I clear the deck, delete the blog (how many has it been now, how many hundreds and hundreds of posts vaporized?), tear up the manuscript, shred notebooks, toss hundreds of pages of notes, poems, journal entries, etc, without looking back. I don't understand the compulsion to save everything one does. I don't think one can save oneself.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I read several books this past week. Right now I want to note three of them:

Sleepwalking with Orpheus by Craig Watson (Shearsman Books, 2011). In the 8th decade of the last century, Craig and I had an intensive epistolary exchange. We've been out of touch for a long time, but I feel touched and greatly moved by this brilliant new book. Sleepwalking with Orpheus is a feeling through of associations sparked by years of meditating about Cocteau's version of the Orpheus myth. Strongly recommended.

the ulterior eden by j/j hastain (Otoliths, 2011). Heartfelt erotic meditations. Gorgeous work. One reads it and wants to read it again.

Heidegger Explained: From Phenomenon to Thing by Graham Harman (Open Court, 2007). This is the best book about Heidegger ever! Harman is a terrific writer. His "Glossary" and "Appendix: Heidegger's Numerology" alone are worth the price of the book. But the whole volume is full of riches. If you've tried to read Heidegger and have become discouraged,or are thinking about approaching him for the first time, this is the place to start.

Monday, May 2, 2011

All of this
Is a knot
Of the procedures
We have become.


Overheard girl in
School hallway: “Hey!
Medusa! Wait up!”


A wake-up call.


Thought is sensual
But not always


Practice is eros
(a rose).


Today I bought
An octopus.

My thighs
Are moist.


All of this
Is not much—
A twisted bouquet.


The world
Is overseen
& underheard.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

One of my best sense memories of recent years involved eating grilled octopus in a Greek diner in Buffalo,NY. The company was great: Barb, Geof and Nancy Huth, and Doug Manson. The octopus was superb.

Today I bought a frozen octopus and I am going to figure out how to cook it sometime soon. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Otoliths Is Five Years Old and...

Issue 21 is live! I'm happy to have work in the issue and to be in such good company. Happy Birthday, Otoliths! And thank you, Mark Young, for keeping this vibrant registry of contexts in play.

And speaking of Mark Young, he has a new book out from Dysphasia Press (no contact info is provided in the book, nor is a price noted, so I'm not sure what that says about availability*). It is a stunner called Geographies.

If you are a regular reader of Mark's personal blog you'll be familiar with this recent series of often hysterically funny poems. Here's one of my favorites (and one of the most brief):


Courtesans a-
bound in the
grounds of
the Grand Mal
Croquet Club.

I want to say that, often when reading Mr. Young, I tend to have elliptical seizures.

*contact me, if interested, and I'll send you the ground address of Dysphasia Press.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Read and Recommended

O Fallen Angel by Kate Zambreno (Chiasmus Press, 2009). A terrific first novel in which three voices grasp for purchase on reality. A terribly beautiful feminist parable.

Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus (Semiotexte(e), 2011). Searching art journalism. I, for one, want to read everything Chris Kraus writes.

The Name of This Intersection Is Frost by Maryrose Larkin (Shearsman Books, 2010). When I interviewed Anne Gorrick for Eileen Tabios' e-zine Galatea Resurrects, Anne quoted Maryrose as saying "It's better to be adventurous than good." That advice made me want to check out this writer. I've not been disappointed.

Capital by Giles Goodland (Salt, 2006). A masterful work of sampling. The zeitgeist explored through every nuance and connotation of "capital. " A beautiful and profound book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

lawn. Patchy
house. Patchy life.

Notes from/toward SELF-LOVE


Clean shaven man
In a robin egg blue camisole.

I look at him
Looking back at me.
We make a mirror unfold between us.

It’s hard
To see what another
Sees ( let alone say it).

I am you who
For a brief teary moment
Wears a craved camisole.

Truth is
There’s nobody in the mirror.
No Miss on scene.

The scent of hyacinths
Is overwhelming.


He says he’s going
To change his name
To Charlotte because it
Is mostly harlot and that
Appeals to him.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On & Off: Couplet Therapy

for Jim McCrary

Electricity is weird

& I'm wired.

Really, we ought

To get going.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Recently Received

Nancy Huth's A Space for It

Nancy Huth's chapbook in the this is visual poetry series from is an investigative tour de forceItalic. Photos, of interiors usually--but also, usually, exteriors are bleeding in. A few words arrayed across the surface of each mise en scene. The one word which always recurs being "it." So, literally, each page is a space for "it." I hope many readers will find a space for this book in their libraries.

<p>Po Doom by Jim McCrary (Hanks Original Loose Gravel Press, PO Box 453, Arroyo Grande, CA 93421) $7. The crankmeister is back, ripping and tripping and consigning yours truly to "couplet counseling" among other things.

Peace Conference by Thomas Fink ( Marsh Hawk Press ) . Fink is at the top of his game. Which is something to see and savour. He is a master of open, shaped sequences which continue from book to book. More of his Yinglish Strophes, Dented Reprises and Nonce Sonnets, among other things. I'm particularly taken though by his extraordinary new series, Dusk Bowl Intimacies. I'll be awhile trying to learn from and absorb this important volume.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The anxiety contained within the heaviness of waiting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This has been a tough week. Earlier there was the medical misadventure. Today our gas has been shut off because a number of leaks have been located in the house lines. (We live, I should note, in a house which is over a hundred years old. The infrastructure always needs tweaking.) So, no heat, no operating stove, no hot water. Until, hopefully, the plumber and gas Co. resolve things tomorrow. It will, I suspect, be at no little expense. Sigh. * I've been thinking a lot about the current political situation in the US. (NB: I work in Public Health, am a union member, and an hourly wage earner, in the great state of Ohio.) I've been thinking, too, a lot about fascism. Do we really want corporations to run things? Do you really think corporations are people? And if they are, are they the kind of folks you want to hang with? Is spending money how corporations talk? And how come when they talk they only seem to want to limit what peeps who think differently from them want to do? I, for one, love most people. I can't say the same for most corporations. * I've been thinking, too, a lot about the New England transcendentalists. Am reading right now Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia by Richard Francis (Yale, 2010). It's a pretty wonderful book about a very specific quest for perfection which was always already destined for failure. It's a great evocation of an intellectual/emotional milieu. Bronson Alcott and his family, Emerson, Thoreau and a great cast of others figure in the story. * So, have been feeling pretty down lately, but keep trying. Dug up some deeply rooted hosta plants and removed as much yard waste as I had energy to do. I'm trying. *

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Am not going to go on about this, but had an unplanned ride in an ambulance today to a Cleveland area emergency room. Scary, that. No doubt the bill will be scary too. It hasn't been a wonderful day.

However, it is great to see a new Galatea Resurrects on the virtual news stand. Go here to read it:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Experience is structured By turns. A naked torso In a dirty mirror. Between the lines, On reflection, One wants more.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Friday, March 25, 2011

Is a moment a telescope?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is reality retroactive?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"For the analytics the great enemies of human thought are fuzziness, non sequiturs, lack of clarity, poetic self-indulgence, and insufficiently precise terminology. I diagree with this threat assessment. In my view these are all relatively minor problems in comparison with shallowness, false dichotomies, lack of imagination, robotic chains of reasoning, and the aggressive self-assurance that typifies analytic philosophers at their worst."

--Graham Harman

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Susan Tedeschi on the headphones. Her blues reach me consistently.


A lot of unsifted things roiling in me. Can't say that I'm feeling very positive these days. Still...

Got to see oldest daughter, M., this past week. Always a joy. She was in town from the East coast for a few days to help her sister, C., our youngest, after a surgery. We all took turns with babysitting, etc., for the grandkids, but M. did the lion's share.


Had a great homemade meal tonight. Crab cakes, couscous, salad. Never underestimate the curative powers of real food.


Watched a documentary about Godard and Truffaut this afternoon. That relationship has always been instructive for me.


Reading an enormous amount. Still struggling with writing but seeing some glimmers of hope.


Virtually all the chapbooks,pamphlets, etc, of my work that I thought were going to be published in the past and present year have fallen through for various reasons. This is not unusual in my experience. Still...a pissedoffness is starting to build in me. Be warned: I'm going to put a manuscript together this year that's getting out one way or another. And I'm going to get out and read somewhere too. I'm feeling the itch. It probably won't be pretty. It definitely won't be pretty. But I'm pretty certain that there will be some big fun. If only in my own mind.


What is poetry anyway? A series of investigations is the simplest response. I've often spoken of poetry as an epistemological adventure. And that's true enough. Perhaps it's truer to speak of poetry as a series of mediations/interventions. Maybe poetry is a series of translations. Yeah. That.


Twinkle, Twinkle

Fairies dance
A forbidden dance

One yearns
To learn.

Here and there
The Real constellates.

This hammer
Is exhausted.

Red stop lights
Run one down.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The sum of relations
Is not a math problem.

An assertion shored
Against a tidal wave.

The title of this piece
Is blank.

Beginnings are hard
To parse.

Success amplifies susceptibilities.

Pictures infuse the Subject.

Nets of quickening correspondences
Are falling from the sky.

Outsized antennae contradict
Accumulated conversations.

Translation anchors sensation.

One notices bonelessness.

Penetrations are bifurcated perceptions
(not portraiture).

Presence is the abstraction
Of luxurious reverie.

Representation is diminution.

Anything is particular.

One’s feelings are surrounded
By overweening anomalies.

Resistance is an object.

Bodies are unraveling maps
Of erotic deformation.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

2 New Chapbooks by Lynn Behrendt

This is the Story of Things that Happened (Dusie, 2011)

I l-o-v-e this poem of negative and positive assertions. I l-o-v-e that it is comprised of “stories” about and not about the roundabout of contemporary existence. I l-o-v-e the dialectic which is established amidst a seeming welter of things and concepts. Relation is everything. And the sum of relations is not a math problem. It is an ever dissolving picture of one’s totality. As Behrendt writes toward the end of the piece:

This is a story about information
as an extreme sport.
This is a story about the life & death struggle
of a photograph.

This is the Story of Things that Happened is, I believe, a haunting poem of assertions shored up against a tidal wave of depression. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Acquiescence, (Dusie, 2011)

This little chapbook is a beautiful object: an accordion fold poem slipped inside of a sleeve.

Acquiescence is a dark and searching monologue about drowning and separations, uncertainty and despair. If This is the Story of Things that Happened confronts a tidal wave of depression, Acquiescence rehearses what it might mean to

sink down


black water
cold slow

water smooth
slimy water

swirl &
soak it

up, choke
on it

breathe it
in deep

breathe more

of it


sink into

a beautiful

Behrendt's writing is charged with an ache for connection and understanding. She's a searcher. The end of the poem made me weep:

I don’t know
what it is

what anything is
and why everything

is a thing and why
this pains me so

and why it aches
and aches and aches

way way down
way way down

2 new gorgeous books of luminous dark matter from Lynn Behrendt. Poetry doesn’t get any better than this. I am in awe of this work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Full-Frontal Poetry

Full-frontal ambience

Full-frontal hesitation

Full-frontal shadow play

Full-frontal otherings

Full-frontal rhetorics

Full-frontal laughter

Full-frontal asshole

Full-frontal frustration

Full-frontal fashion statement

Full-frontal monad

Full-frontal clock

Full-frontal blockage

Full-frontal carapace

Full-frontal parenting

Full-frontal stop

Full-frontal opening

Full-frontal question mark

Full-frontal Götterdämmerung

Full-frontal wtf

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Intense dissatisfaction with my own work is a constant. I try to psyche myself into a sense of optimism but can never maintain the façade for long. I don’t have the supreme confidence of the Master to project. I’m more of an assemblage emerging dans la merde than an outline coming out of clarity -- more of a morel than a moral.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Too Brief Note On Flux, Clot & Froth ,Vol.s 1 &2, by John Bloomberg-Rissman (Meritage Press, 2010)

John Bloomberg-Rissman’s work frequently reminds me of what I thought I knew but really didn’t. The guy’s got mad skills. He’s a collagist-philosopher-epic poet with a real feel for the Real. He’s someone whose work you ought to get to know. I’m just saying…

Flux, Clot & Froth (Volumes 1 & 2), recently out from Meritage Press, constitutes the middle term of a tripartite project—a project which bears the same name as JB-R’s blog—Zeitgeist Spam. It’s an ambitious project . The first part, No Sounds of My Own Making, was issued by Leafe Press in 2007. The final part, In the House of the Hangman, is in progress now at Zeitgeist Spam (

The 1st volume of Flux Clot & Froth (FCF) is a poem just over 700 pages in length. The 2nd volume documents the source material for FCF, Vol.1, in 2764 footnotes; it also includes a "Special Bonus Party Remix," a 10 page poem written in honor of Geof Huth’s 50th birthday.

In Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (, 2009), philosopher Graham Harman (whose work I was introduced to by JB-R) rejiggers a brief passage from Latour to read:

“No matter what an object is, if it affects no other objects, then it is as if it never existed at all […]. Reality is so much a collective process that an isolated object is merely a dream, claim, or feeling, not a fact.” (p.50)

FCF is about nothing if not context and relation. Everything, every element of this poem is in play with every other element. It begins to feel like a kind of ecosystem.

Most of FCF is written out in the hay(na)ku stepped tercet form that was invented by Eileen Tabios, but there are also stretches of prose and lists, dialogue, images and etc.

JB-R works with appropriated materials, almost entirely. He harvests—snips and prunes—bits of poetry and philosophy blogs, journals, books, etc., and makes the material new by reconstellating it, by situationing it in overlapping networks of similarly relocated passages.

It’s interesting to me that JB-R rarely alters what he snips, except in-so-far as he’s altering the context in which it appears. It’s interesting, too, that the result isn’t some kind of hot mess. The work reads really well.

It reads well, I think, because JB-R has a refined understanding of how to negotiate multiple registers of thought and feeling. (There are too many registers to begin to catalogue here.)That he reads as deeply in philosophy as he does in poetry is surely significant in this regard.

That FCF is constructed of excerpts from 1000 other writers should give one pause. Snips from my own work figure in the project. That gives me pause. No one really owns their words, do they?

FCF is avant writing as interesting in practice as it is in theory.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Whatever one is
is it
in a game
of tag.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Orphan Universe

I don't exist.
Not exactly anyway.

Outside between things.
That's it entirely.

Except that every
thing changes in

all ways. Always
it is all

a performance, every
piece of us.

Each performance melts
into another thing

becoming something else.
An orphan universe.


I'm struck by
how often I

don't know what
I write means.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

the mess
inside of this

is about
to leak out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've been thinking about the detours one takes in life. Detours, I mean, from one's supposed course, one's projected path.

I don't want to go all Dante on you or anything, but...

I've been thinking too about Ovid's Metamorphoses, about -- you know -- how everything becomes something else.

Fuck metaphors. I'm talking about something else. This is serious. Really.

Anybody out there?
thing is
a negotiation --

an outcome
of relations.

There are
only actors.

Our network
is farflung.

To repeat,
do not draw --

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rae Armantrout's Money Shot and Susan Howe's That This are recent reads. Both are fascinating in entirely different ways.

I've worked on projects with both Rae and Susan and doubt I've endeared myself to either. No matter. We still did good work together.

Of the two books, Money Shot appeals most to my own sensibility. I share Rae's tendency to pare things down to the epigrammatic phrase. I love the way she surfs the zeitgeist for poignant snips of speech to torque and recontextualize. That said, Susan's book fascinates me more.

That This is a book of three section. In the first section, "The Disappearance Approach," Howe's recently (2008) deceased husband, Peter H. Hare is memorialized. In the second section, "Frolic Architecture," Howe collages poems out of the private writings of Lucy Wetmore Whittelsey (the daughter of Jonathan Edward's sister, Hannah Edwards Wetmore). In the final section, "That This," are 7 short poem-segments. Each have 4 lines which are split into 2 stanzas. Except, that is, for the penultimate poem in the sequence. It has 6 lines and exists as a single stanza.

"The Disappearance Approach" is as elegant a meditation on loss as I have ever read. It grounds the book. "Frolic Architecture" is trace and aporia--tattered flags of meaning ripped from the archive (ark hive?). "That This," the title poem--the final poem, is a gorgeous distillation of Howe's metaphysics. I'll leave you with one of the segments:

The way music is formed of

cloud and fire once actually

concrete now accidental as

half truth or as whole truth

Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading Notes

Graham Harman's Circus Philosophicus is one of the most interesting books of philosophy I've read in some time. Each chapter develops a different myth to illuminate the author's object-oriented philosophy.

The first chapter describes a ferris wheel which is miles in diameter. It carries many, many objects far above the earth and far beneath it. Relations are established between its occupants and its observers.

In chapter two: a bridge from which things are dropped and a series of "show trials" of pre-Socratic philosophers.

In chapter three: calliope as animalcule --circus music does Leibnizian metaphysics.

Fourth chapter: offshore drilling rig as reductive deity.

Chapter 5: a haunted boat in the waters near Hiroshima "is the basis not only of aesthetic experience, but of physical causation as well..."

Final chapter: "a theory of relationless entities" under the sign of a sleeping zebra.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"All real objects of every size now have the power to interact with all other things, at the price of turning them into images. The entire cosmos is in fact a dystopia filled with trillions of miniature deities, each of them a platform in a hurricane-infested gulf."

--Graham Harman, from Circus Philosophicus (Zero Books, 2010)



I'm packed into a murmuring crowd of people somewhere, perhaps a bar queue. Someone cops a lingering feel/grope of my ass. It is an arousing experience. I turn to find myself alone in a cavernous room, staring at my reflection in a mirror.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I am
putatively male

-- an inverse
universe of representations
and alibis --

a symbolic entity.

Just sayin'...

In the full
-length mirror

I don't feel

as naked
as I appear.

is insufficient.

It's the little
deaths which
presage resurrection.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Thus we must stress that the Nietzschean 'neutrality of life' is not some wide, blossoming meadow in which, so to speak, every cow is black, and we can joyfully jump around in any direction we please. It looks much more like the edge of a sheet of paper, separating and, at the same time, holding together the two surfaces. This neutrality is not some kind of grounding or basis, the background of differences and distinctions; it is located in the very midst of these distinctions as the stuff from which these distinctions are made -- meaning that it exists only as an edge. This is also why the points of breaking, rapture, or crisis are often the points where, one could say, this 'stuff' becomes visible, perceptible. And, of course, it is also why anyone who wants to be up to (the task of) this 'middle' has to have the skill, concentration, strength, and light, nimble ease of a tightrope walker."

--Alenka Zupancic, from The Shortest Shadow
Early this morning I drove 60 plus miles West of Kent to visit Jessica Grim in Oberlin, Ohio. We met at a coffee house and spent a few hours talking. Jessica and I, these days, tend to only see one another once or twice a year. But when we get together it's not awkward; we seamlessly pick up where we left off. Our conversations are ranging, punctuated with laughter, and invariably leave me feeling a little better about the world.I've known her since she first moved to Ohio from NYC over 20 years ago. She's my one true poet friend in Ohio. But's she's much more than that: she's truly a good friend in a grander sense. I don't think there is much that we couldn't talk about with each other.


My youngest daughter, Claire, turns 27 on Monday. Geeze. Jessica reminded me of a visit to our house when Claire was little. Jessica said, on that particular occasion, Claire was convinced that she could teach her pet guinea pig to talk. I didn't remember that, but I do have fond memories of when Claire used to put that same guinea pig in her pink Barbie Corvette and tool it around the living room.


The Ask/Tell blog is going to take awhile to get off the ground, but feelers are going out in multiple directions and I'm confident that by and by the work will get done. In the meantime, I need to return to some unresolved texts of my own which I've been neglecting. Onward!


Friday, January 21, 2011


Maria Damon has kindly volunteered to co-curate ASK/TELL.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Sent This As An E-mail, Now I'm Sending It To All Of You Whose E-addresses I'm Too Lazy To Look For Now

Dear Friend of Poetry, Dear Lover of the Arts of Engagement:

I’m starting a new blog of interviews/exchanges/engagements. You may recall my earlier outing with E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S (, a site which presented in-depth interviews with contemporary innovative poets.
The new blog, ASK/TELL ( ,hopes to build and expand upon that previous project by encouraging exchanges about poetics and the poetics of experience in a variety of formats. I am particularly interested in cross-disciplinary conversations/exchanges. Imagine a poet and a philosopher talking. Or a poet and an ecologist. Imagine exchanges that stretch what it means to interrogate reality. Imagine exchanges which change the ways in which we think about poetics. I’m looking for work that takes some risks.

I’m open to proposals for projects and I’m interested in taking on a motivated co-curator.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

Tom Beckett

PS: Please feel free to circulate this message.
I've deleted ANDSWERVING, the blog in which I was attempting answers to "Questions at Ohio State." The piece wasn't working. So it goes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I've gotten sidetracked from other projects by a new poem that I'm 5 pages into so far with no end in sight.


I'm cooking a stew now, sipping wine, listening to music, flipping back and forth between a few books and making notes.


If you haven't ordered a copy of The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian from Belladonna yet, what are you waiting for? It's a freaking gorgeous picaresque adventure. Here's a taste:

"This was our dream: We are standing, we see ourself do this, ankle-
deep on a vast beach of irridescent pearl sand over which a sheet
of shining water lies motionless, like a vast and penetrable mirror
tilted very slightly toward the sea. We look down into the water
and see reflected there what's between our legs. Reluctant to
distort the perfect view of what is otherwise so difficult to see, we
lean forward. Slowly we sink closer, down into the cold water and
the warm sand below, to suck up the pink and dark object of our
study, until the water hangs around our thighs. People on the beach
can see us from what would be distance except for a quiver in the
air that has flattened and immobilized both near and far in a single
plane of diffuse light. A scent before our eyes. We inhale as a large
wave washes the rosy shell away."

Isn't that marvelous. It's an incredible collaboration by two of our best innovative poets.

"The whole difficulty lies in the question of if and how it is possible to say 'No' to this suffocating Superego imperative of enjoyment. Here we could recall the joke about John, who decides
to pay a visit to a psychiatrist because he wets his bed every night. He explains to the doctor that every night, a dwarf appears in his dream, saying to him: 'And now, dear John, we are going to pee.' And John duly pees in his bed. The psychiatrist advises him to respond to the dwarf's invitation with a determined 'NO!' John goes home, but returns the next day. 'I followed your advice,' he says to the doctor. 'When the dwarf appeared, and encouraged me to pee, I firmly said NO! But then the dwarf replied: Very well then, in that case, we are going to shit.'"

--Alenka Zupancic, from The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two