Thursday, March 29, 2007

Recommended Reading

Broken World -- Poems by Joseph Lease

(For the purposes of full disclosure, I have to admit this is a somewhat biased review, as Joseph Lease is a friend, and I myself had a hand in the pre-press copyediting. That being said--)

Broken World begins in a low tone, an easing of whispered language, reminiscent of James Schuyler or Robert Creeley (himself somewhat of a mentor to Lease.) That ease soon fades as we move into the title poem, a eulogy for Lease's friend James Assatly, who died of AIDS at a young age shortly after completing a novel which remains unpublished. By eulogizing his friend in verse, he also eulogizes a bygone America, a bygone hope, and a faltered national dream and identity.

In many ways, Broken World is about death, but it does not mourn, it is death as transformation, death as opportunity, death as rebirth and re-imagining (the refrain of Free Again builds this into a chorus, a raucous mercy meal for the departed.) The world and its norms are failing all around us, but once the soul leaves its body, the next body is waiting, there is new hope and new life, and a new will to fight for what is important. Nietsche thought we could form the world with our will, and so does Broken World. It is our prayer.

It is also identity -- Jewish identity, middle class identity, American identity, and the collective history and baggage that comes along with it. Lease moves through form and line, verse and prose, image and breath, approaching these weighty issues with ease and grace from so many angles -- this death becomes our history, our refrain. His politic is subtext, and the lack of a heavy handed overture is refreshing.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

now playing: M. Rather, Jr.

Fake Fakes I (After Phillip K. Dick)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Perpetual Motion Roadshow hits San Francisco TOMORROW!

Tomorrow the Perpetual Motion Roadshow #41 hits San Francisco!

Wednesday, March 21
7:30 PM
Modern Times Books
888 Valencia St
San Francisco



JoAnn Riedl, who plays dirty rock guitar in dirty Milwaukee.
Norman Cristofoli, who spits poems and organizes artists in Toronto.
Cindy Emch, who spins words, records, and queer open mics in SF.
and Idiolexicon's own Patrick Duggan, who lifts large objects and throws down large words in SF.
Hosted by Elliot Harmon, who writes reductive one-sentence summaries of people's livelihoods.

JoAnn Riedl’s deep, aggressive vocals and percussive, dirty, rock-guitar style hail from Milwaukee. "Her ability to switch from acoustic to electric in an intimate solo setting, along with her raucous, almost punk, approach, has set her apart from her peers with reckless abandon," according to Brian Barney and David Luhrssen of the Milwaukee WI Shepherd Express. Playing live since 1998, Riedl has performed solo, with the backing bands Kicked Out Scout, the Relief, and is a front woman for the Barrettes. She is working on her third full-length album. JoAnn has performed in Canada, Ireland and throughout the US.

Norman Cristofoli is a poet and spoken-word performer and publisher of the Labour of Love literary magazine. He is also the co-founder of the Coffeehouse website for independent artists. However, if all the world is a stage, then he prefers to stay in the tattered old balcony seats, hiding in the shadows, away from the spotlight. He believes that too much emphasis is placed upon the artist, whereas the only thing that truly matters is the art itself. Bios should be buried with the artist... let the art live on.

Cindy Emch is a San Francisco writer who swirls together the wholesome and the wicked. She is a poet, performer, DJ, curator, and all around community building hell raiser who wants to rock your socks off. She has published five chapbooks, has written for a variety of film and pop culture mags, has been published in Lodestar Quarterly and has work in the upcoming "t's So You: 35 Women on Fashion, Beauty and Personal Style." edited by Michelle Tea and Tough Girls 2: More Down and Dirty Dyke Erotica" edited by Lori Selke. She has featured up and down the California Coast and is very proud to have founded the Queer Open Mic in San Francisco which makes its home at the Three Dollar Bill Cafe.

Patrick Duggan is part Surrealist, part New York, but not really either. A recent graduate of CCA's MFA writing program, he's been featured in numerous journals, anthologies, and readings throughout the Bay Area. He co-edits the web journal Idiolexicon and works in a warehouse.

Starts at 7:30 PM sharp. Don't show up late.

Recommended Reading

The Maverick Room -- Poems by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Jazz had its army of poems and poets. Hip-hop has its army of poems and poets. In Thomas Sayers Ellis' Maverick Room, funk finally gets its due. He brings the scene and memory of growing up impoverished in Washington D.C. in the shadow of the White House in the richest country on Earth, and pairs that youth with a rhythm and verse of political and neighborhood lyric with a bass line meter and soaring guitar breaks.

The beauty and fire of The Maverick Room doesn't stop there, however. Ellis moves from form to form, keeping lines quick and unornamental, or letting them weigh down with density. He lets the form sit in tradition, or frees it to give and take from all the space on the page it needs.

Ellis lets his language create fast flowing idea, and those ideas become image and emotion. Culture and cultures float in and out in half reference -- everything from movies to music, art to clothing fads -- in half reference. Without a heavy hand, The Maverick Room combines that culture with sometimes subtle, sometimes not, shout-outs to Amiri Baraka, Robert Hayden, Bob Kaufman, and other forebears. And bringing together Baraka and Hayden is like overcoming physics -- something Thomas Sayers Ellis does time and time again in this book.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

now playing: Larissa Shmailo

Lager NYC

Recommended Reading

Crush -- Poems by Richard Siken

SIken's Crush, his first book which also won the Yale Young Poets' award in 2004, is one of he most complete works of poetry I've come across in years.

He uses the pacing of his long line to slow time, and create a darker atmosphere within the verse, where shadows move from walls and creep along the legs of lovers. Time drags in elongated moments, or appears in flashes of memory and scenescape. His pace and image teach us fight from the first two pages how to read the work, and how to prepare yourself for the worlds of panic, death, and love which are to come. Siken reminisces in sadness and joy, madness and damagingly clear thought. He pairs image and notion with time and yearning. There is beauty in the voice and damage of this book.

Siken's poems are punk rock anthems, old country ballads, 60's B-movies, pulp novels, tin pail lunch boxes stuffed with old polaroids and love letters. His poems progress to a down tempo drum beat, and the skill in line break leaves the reader constantly moving forward, the combination forces us to digest and contemplate the words as they come, but never let up a moment for us to stop chewing. It's almost dumbfounding how Siken combines the long breath of a Ginsberg with the complete, unornamental word choice of a Creeley.

Crush is a project in obsession. The repetition of pacing and break builds on the down tempo into a culminating panic under the weight of body and the gravity of obsessive love. Siken has, within Crush, created a world of love and death, of paranoia, where voices drift in and out, where the self questions its other aloud, causing disbelief in the fact of the world even as it builds around us into existence.


Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm an early adopter.

Alternative Riting Konference in Ashland

Milton Bradley

Were it not for McSweeneys' resident old-book-geek Paul Collins, I would have no idea that Milton Bradley was a real person. Bradley was, apparently, a student of design and color theory, who first tried his hand at game design with The Checkered Game of Life, pictured above.

It's quite an elegantly designed board, compared to its gaudy grandchild. The warnings of idleness and intemperance are, of course, charming. Much like its successor, the game did not include dice, which were considered wicked.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


If you're a Livejournal user, you can read Idiolexicon right from your LJ page here. Sometimes comments appear on the Livejournal version of Idiolexicon. Sadly, unless someone notices them, those comments stop existing after a few weeks.

Reader Scott Pfahler had this to say about the Christian Marclay video:

I like it, especially the reassembled records.

The guy in the video who claims that this guy was the first to use a turntable as an instrument (i.e. before hip-hop) is full of it though. The wikipedia page for him claims he started mid-seventies (and he seems to indicate that his art was in part influenced by Punk, which means a starting date of about 1975 at the earliest). By contrast, Kool DJ Herc began pioneering the hip-hop break beat at parties in the Bronx as early as 1973. So it all seems like an unnecessary attempt to make this guy seem more original and important when his art alone should be enough to demonstrate that.

Like I said though, cool stuff.

now playing: Nathan Gibson

a response to pat duggan’s response to chris dodd’s bill which was a response to president bush’s military commisions act which was a response to...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This week in Corporate Power

Halliburton Co., notorious among the left wing as a no-bid oil and defense contractor (read: War Profiteer) and former employer of Dick Cheney, made headlines this week by announcing that they, like Michael Jackson, will be relocating to Dubai. While this has caused a large outcry in Congress (everything about the move seems suspicious) spurring accusations of future expatriate tax dodging, legal wrangling, and even the conspiracy theory that Halliburton has inside information that President Bush will soon begin a war with Iran (it's illegal for American companies to work inside Iran, so Halliburton can't profit off a possible reconstruction like they are in Iraq if they're an American company.)

Whatever the reason, and parts of the move do make good corporate business sense, it sparked a debate this week across many forms of media regarding corporations and corporate power. We all recall last year's exporting of U.S. Port security to a Dubai based company, as well as the expansion of "Free Trade" to Central America with the signing of the CAFTA agreement. CAFTA, coupled with a 90's "Free Trade" obsession that brought us both NAFTA and the WTO, has lead us into an unprecedented era of global corporate power. As trade barriers, protections, and tariffs are continually bulldozed to make way for a sort of global Oligarchy (their are currently about 800 billionaires in the world, while more than 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.) This all begs the question, do economies exist to serve society, or does society exist to serve economies?

For those who don't know, tariffs are something we've had in the United States since our very founding. The basic idea is to level the playing field and keep major industry, agriculture, and production strong in a country. If it costs a business $1 to buy a bag of sugar in America, and a penny to buy it from Costa Rica, you can buy it from wherever you want, but the Costa Rican bag would be taxed ninety nine cents, evening out the playing field. Because of tariffs, America was a global production machine for it's entire history, that is, until Ronald Reagan came into office.

Reagan did away with rules requiring companies to adhere to U.S. trade protections, which began an economic race to the bottom which still lasts today. During Reagan's presidency America lost some-odd 6 million manufacturing jobs to China and India, 3 million jobs under Clinton, and that flood still continues. After eight years of Reagan, four of Bush Sr., Eight of Clinton/NAFTA, and another eight of George W. and his corporatist philosophy, the United States produces almost none of it's own cars, clothing, electronics, computers, steel, hell, even our food is tied up in imports. If we ever run into a military entanglement with China, we'd be on the short end of the stick since China manufactures almost all of our military weaponry.

This decade of "Free Trade" is the reason that the American middle class is vanishing. Those millions of jobs lost were mostly middle class jobs, and also mostly union jobs. The American dream is a house, a car, and a comfortable family life. Before Reagan and neoliberal "Free Trade" a single paycheck family could get by because of good wages and trade protections, now Americans work longer hours than ever for far less pay. What's become evident over the past decade is the neoliberal/neoconservative policy of Corporate "free trade" and deconstruction of tariffs is producing a global Elite (800 billionaires) and a global poverty/working class (everyone else.) Even the rhetoric of pushing "Free Trade" to help small and local business has been worn out, since it's painfully evident that multinational corporations, and only multinational corporations, are benefiting.

Back to the question of economies serving societies: once upon a time, corporations (as well as media outlets, hospitals and HMOs) were required by law to "serve the public good." This need to serve the public good was chipped away during the 20th century when antitrust laws ceased to be enforced. This allowed power and money to become concentrated in the hands of smaller and smaller groups, and as the century went on, states began to compete with each other to house corporate headquarters, each state lessening their own articles of incorporation to make potential tax bases more attractive. (On a side note, Congressman Bernie Sanders has show interest in legislation to stop this practice of states undercutting each other by denying said states funds for such things as highway projects and transit bonds.) This shift away from the public good, and toward corporate good, all began with a controversial Supreme Court decision from 1886, where the Court ruled that corporations do not share the rights of citizens. However, the summary of the decision, written by a court clerk who was also a former railroad CEO, contradicted the decision by the justices. This contradiction went unnoticed, but has been citied many, many times in the Supreme Court in the upholding of "corporate personhood" when in actuality, the decision stated exactly the opposite.

This week, as President Bush tours Latin America, pushing for more "Free Trade," we should take the opportunity to ask just what our threshold for corporate profit and trade protection is. If China and Japan stopped buying our debt, or if global oil markets began trading in Euros or Yen instead of dollars, our economy would crash because of the trade hole we've dug ourselves this past twenty years. We manufacture nothing, and have little control over our food supplies and other corporate controlled aspects of American economic life. Prices for absolutely everything would soar, and we'd quickly learn first hand about the living conditions we've imposed on the so-called third world for so long. Picture a second Great Depression, just without the industrial engine for economic recovery.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Recommended Reading

Steal Away -- Poems by C.D. Wright

I love C.D. Wright, and I'm not afraid to say it. For over twenty years, she's been at the forefront of verse, form, and language.

Steal Away collects selected verse from 1982 until the present, showcasing her early whit and play with form and language, her movements marrying narrative and image, and her perfection of the list poem. She changes form and style as easily as you or I might our socks. Her partnering of line to form, her use of punctuation as line break and line break as punctuation, and space as breath, are the building blocks of her work. The things many poets struggle to combine in their own poetry kitchens, C.D. Wright wields with ease and grace.

Her subjects are as varied as her approaches. In one poem she may weave the day to day of motherhood as a literal laundry list, and in another may confront the body politic with a series of periodless prose blocks. She muses on seasons and urban streetscapes in semi-traditional line and meter on one page, only to then launch into twenty pages of post-surrealist Oppenesque lines which using no space and changing twenty aesthetic approaches across the entire span.

The reason I myself love C.D. Wright, is because I can see in her the poetic ingredients that I love to reach back into for my own work; Language Poetry, New York School, Black Mountain, Surrealism, Modernism, Imagism (not to mention a political feminism so subtle as to be screaming), she is the culmination of 20th century American poetry. This book is a must read for anyone writing today, one of the pivotal benchmarks for we younger poets as we look to write our way into the next century.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recommended Reading

Codes Appearing -- Poems by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer is the Depeche Mode of poetry.

For someone like me, growing up on the East coast, with the only bookstore in one hundred miles being a Barnes and Noble, I thought the poetic world revolved around James Tate, John Ashbury, Charles Simic, and Jorie Graham. When I was first handed Michael Palmer's "Sun" it was a much needed and bewilderingly amazing bridge to Language, Post-language, and the greater intellectual possibilities inherent in verse.

If Ted Berrigan and Bruce Andrews had a son (God help us), he might be Michael Palmer. Palmer presents his life and his periphery with room enough in the words and style to make, as readers, our own. There is freedom for everyone within the pages of Codes Appearing. There is no extraneous within Palmer's language, every color makes sense, every turn of phrase, every image builds on the fragment and suggestion surrounding it.

In his "Baudelaire Series" Palmer writes for and after the heavy weights of poetic history. He pays homage but also builds and brews his own voice, using the shreds of history and tradition to build his own platform on the heads of giants. He moves swiftly from Rilkeesque verse to Oppen's sparse line, to prose poems worthy of Edson and Wright, all written in the same searching vein of consciousness.

He pairs a bare-bones approach to verse with seeming plays and monologues, with found text, with implied text, and creates whole short stories embedded with one or two lines. His play with form and space, taking breath or inflating it, alter our perception of the possibility of verse and intellect. His use of refrain, something amateur hands easily squander, is both masterful and adds to the layers of word and intent. Poetic history is colored sand from a tourist trap, and Michael Palmer's Codes Appearing is the glass jug encasing it.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

How I Learned To Start Worrying And Loathe Supply Side Economics

Let's talk about debt.

Recent statistics tell us that since George W. Bush came into office and squandered the treasury surplus that the "pay as you go" Clinton years left, every child in America from here on out will be born with essentially $30,000 in debt. Those of us who have student loans, credit bills, and/or health care problems are no strangers to manageable debt, but a new report this week from the Congressional Auditor from the Office of Government Accountability throws even more fuel onto George W's insane fiscal fire.

Closing the fiscal gap over will cost us 26 Trillion Dollars over the next 75 years, or roughly $300,000 per full-time worker for the next six decades. That's me. That's my friends, my sister, my cousins. Thank you President Bush. Thank you Republican Party. What's $300,000 over the course of my life, really, if it means Ronald Reagan gets his face on a coin?

A combination of future costs from entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) combined with Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy; deficit spending; tax breaks for corporations; slashing of the estate tax; borrowing from China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia to keep the Treasury afloat; decrease of real wages combined with the largest gap between the rich and poor since the Depression; our ridiculous trade deficits from the WTO and NAFTA; and Bush's multi-billion dollar mistake in Iraq.

All of these factors combine to leave my generation with a bleak financial outlook for the future. If China topped buying out debt, our economy would sink. The same goes for India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The Republican Party believes that in the long run, the free market will work itself out, but on a global level there is no real free market, just a planet-wide race to the bottom for wages and living conditions. Even Adam Smith, who praised the free market and capitalism as a great good, wrote extensively for the need of governments to regulate it, lest it subsume itself. As it did in the 1930's. As it's threatening to do again. We left the 90's with a budget surplus, but thanks to tax cuts, unfunded entitlements, and corporate deregulation since Bush took office, the rich are richer than ever, and everyone else is trying to skate by. We tried this in the early 80's, and in his second term Reagan had to pass maybe the largest tax hike in U.S. history to keep the country afloat.

There are currently sixteen million Americans living in poverty, plus more than 700,000 Americans homeless. These are the facts.

I believe in the free market. I believe in regulation. I believe that everyone should pay their fair share. I believe in making money. I don't believe in making money on the backs of a huge class of working poor. When Japan moves auto plants to Canada for no other reason than they have single payer health care (one-third of the price of a car made in America is figured in from our outrageously costly and ineffective free market health care system) something is wrong. When we buy over $234 billion a year more from China than they do from us, when our manufacturing base is so fractured and sold off, I worry. About my future. Our future. We talk every day about the human costs of the war in Iraq. We fret about elections that are years off. We rush to the radio for breaking news about Anna Nicole Smith. I worry about my kids someday. We saw what can happen this week when slight market adjustment in China dropped the Dow Jones 400 points, and nearly sank the dollar. This is the tip of the iceberg.

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