Monday, April 30, 2007

Patrick reads at Pegasus Books 4/29/07

Open mp3

Recorded by Andrew Kenower of Project Voice Box.

Recommended Reading

The Unreasonable Slug --Poems by Matt Cook

In The Unreasonable Slug Matt Cook's Milwaukee poetic chops are on full display, like a Sausage Race at Miller Park, you just can't take your eyes away from it. Cook takes one part narrative verse, one part list poem, one part Lenny Clark, and one part good 'ol American midwestern spoken word, simmering it all down into a poetic reduction.

Cook strings lines and ideas together with progression and uncommon logic, forcing the reader to reexamine all the things in life which go without examination in our day to day. How does the wolf spider in the mailbox break up its week? It's a beautiful American verse, a common sense reconsidering of lyric and poetic order through comedy and memory. A sort of Heidegger meets Ron White. Think about that one for a moment. It's important to discuss the composition of the photograph. It's important to discuss the content of the photograph. Matt Cook reminds us it's also important to discuss the content left out of the photograph.

A dialogue is always emerging; between people, between bare feet and the grass, endless strings of stories, some important and some not, but all alive in the act of telling. In this, The Unreasonable Slug is an almanac for modern living, a commentary on American society and politic, sans commentary, society, and politic. Cooks observations string together as a necklace, creating moments, all the while taking actual moments and using them as clear and poignant observation. Cook comes off as a young Bruce Springstein, a Box Car Willie cover of a Hank Williams tune played with a wink and a nod, and that somehow makes it more real.

Funny, smart, satirical, populist, academic, subtle, loud, musical, lamentable, social, an inside joke that everyone gets a little of -- jut enough so as to leave you wanting more.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

now playing: Bill Freind

(from from Jack Gilbert's Monolithos)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation."

Saul Williams

Saul Williams' recent open letter to Oprah Winfrey has been getting a lot of attention in the bloggy-world, and rightly so. Between this and Beau Sia's callout of Rosie O'Donnell, it's heartwarming to see the trailblazers in slam poetry directing their discourse to those with a lot of cultural power, and getting noticed for it.

In Williams' letter, he presents a dichotomy of machismo and vulnerability in the life of an artist. He says that vulnerability is undervalued in hip hop culture but, paradoxically, it's vulnerability that has allowed African Americans to survive in America.

The vulnerability that we see as weakness is the saving grace of the drunken driver who because of their drunken/vulnerable state survives the fatal accident that kills the passengers in the approaching vehicle who tighten their grip and show no physical vulnerability in the face of their fear. Vulnerability is also the saving grace of the skate boarder who attempts a trick and remembers to stay loose and not tense during their fall. Likewise, vulnerability has been the saving grace of the African American struggle as we have been whipped, jailed, spat upon, called names, and killed, yet continue to strive forward mostly non-violently towards our highest goals.

Williams argues that the machismo and competitiveness in hip hop culture are a reflection of the political situation and, ultimately, a reflection of religion. And although I agree to a certain extent, I cringe at the implied hierarchy of influence (religion -> politics -> art), in which art is the poor helpless pauper who must take whatever it is fed by its overlords. In my opinion, it's just as plausible for the influence to travel in the opposite direction. Williams himself is a great example.

Easter Hangover this Sunday

Mark Alburger

As many of you know, my fiancee Kat is an opera singer. As such, she's introduced me to the bizarre and wonderful world of independent opera in San Francisco. And I'm so glad to have been introduced.

Last weekend, I caught Halfway Mark, a retrospective of the work of local composer Mark Alburger. There were some very beautiful sounds, some... counterintuitive sounds. There was also screaming and whispering and talking. Alburger pulls his text from Beckett, classified ads, and everything else. It was one of the most punk concerts I've been to in San Francisco. For reals.

Much of the Bay Area's underground opera world revolves around the tiny nonprofit Goat Hall Productions. Goat Hall puts on a festival of new opera every summer, and a scattering of other shows throughout the year. This Sunday, check out Easter Hangover. Goat Hall's website describes Hangover as "Eclectic spiritual works from religious texts by composers Mark Alburger, John Partridge, and others. A revelatory experience."

Sunday, April 29, 2:00 PM, Goat Hall, 400 Missouri St, $20 admission

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mike Daisey

By now, you've probably heard about the 80 highschoolers and their petulant chaperones storming out of Mike Daisey's performance in Cambridge. The walkout crossed the line between annoying and criminal when one leader poured water all over Mike's handwritten script.

Well, the school has now been identified. Delightfully enough, the school insists that the students had to leave the show due to a "security issue." Daisey has spoken with the vandal, and written about it on his blog:

I gradually opened him up by listening, and responding, the one-on-one version of what I do with an audience. We talked about many things, for almost an hour, and step by step, his story emerged.

He has three kids--one is 21, and two are 17--and he's terrified of the world. Terrified by violence, and sex, and he sees it all linked together--a horrifying world filled with darkness, pornography and filth that threatens his children, has threatened them all his life. They're older now, but he says he still sees things the same way--and that the only way to protect his children and himself is to lock it all out of his life.

Blondie Week Part 2

Monday, April 23, 2007

now playing: Bill Freind

A Contemporary Face Without Any Direct Historical Antecedents
(from Billy Collins' Nine Horses)

This makes me happy:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In one week's time:

Poetry Review Bash

Saturday, April 28th, 7:30 pm

Readers include Denise Newman, Barbara Tomash, Brian Strang, Patrick Duggan from Idiolexicon, Chad Sweeney and David Holler from Parthenon West Review; Ilya Kaminsky, and Bruce Boston and Martin Woodside from Poetry International.

Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley California.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


"To be honest, this wasn't originally intended as a tribute to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. It started as a goofy experiment, just to find out how many authors I could persuade to send me drawings of their own assholes. But then Kurt went and died on us last week. So now it's become something else." Writers' drawings of their own assholes.


My favorite so far is this mess of words from Sandra Tsing Loh:

now playing: Bill Freind


Joyful Noise release party

West coast release party for
Joyful Noise: an Anthology of American Spritual Poetry

Friday, April 20th 7pm
New College Theater, 777 Valencia St., SF

Readings by Contributors:

Nicole Collen
Susan Maxwell
Jane Mead
Catherine Meng
Brian Teare

Monday, April 16, 2007

This about sums it up:

Recommended Reading

Nude Siren--Poems by Peter Richards

Upon first inspection, Nude Siren is a slam-dance of cubism, language writing, and American surrealism, a secret language spoken between friends with both knowing there's no need for a decoder ring, because the words can mean anything and everything. Nude Siren is a walk through a closet of curiosities, skeletons, and almanacs. Richards' images are astounding, the diary of a Picasso painting with open pages, or a naturalistic photograph of complete and perfect nonsense. The depth of originality is astounding, the freshness of language and the secrets therein that keep the reader on his or her toes.

Even if the immediate focus is on the odd originality of the language, Nude Siren doesn't waste a single word or breath. The way Richards pairs surrealism with imagism, a lack of ornamentation, and a pacing of metered breath, creates an H.D. meets Appolinaire, something truly wonderful and smart. As the oddity builds, the occasional moment of complete lyric and narrative clarity draws attention like a torch and violin coming from a bass darkness. It flicks the moment of importance to live, without any sort of heavy hand.

The poems are a collection in the sense of a menagerie, a Santa's Village set out on a poet's table with abstraction for snow.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

now playing: J. Bradley


Monday, April 09, 2007

now playing: Malia Jackson

from Thomas

Read all three excerpts here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

now playing: Malia Jackson

from Thomas

Perpetual Motion Roadshow RIP

And now, Dan le Sac:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Robert Ashley

If I had to explain to someone who doesn't like poetry how line breaks work in post-endrhyme America, I might just point to the music of Robert Ashley. I recently picked up Ashley's 1994 opera Foreign Experiences (released in 2006 by Lovely Music), and I'm seriously wondering why no one has mentioned this guy to me before.

The music is minimalistic, to say the least. Performers sing long sections in unison, rarely deviating from a single note. The rhythms of the music, which mimic and exaggerate (or undercut and screw with) the rhythms of human speech, are the real challenge, both for singers and listeners.

The plot goes something like this: A composer gets a university job in California and, shortly thereafter, loses his family and his mind. Never leaving his apartment, he hallucinates himself into an epic journey through the American southwest. The recording is 76 minutes, but it covers a lot of ground: the book is longer than many volumes of poetry.

It's impossible to excerpt this thing in a way that's very useful, but humor me:
Try to sell a publisher the idea of a book
Called Famous Premonitions, and he would say,
That's a title like I Pissed in the Ocean.
Big deal and nobody buys the book.
The guy that married Bobby Fisher's sister
Taught me this. Talk about fertile women:
She taught Bobby Fisher how to play chess,
So, she probably taught the guy this idea.
So, it's probably hers, but never mind.
The idea is that if we are to trust mathematics,
Which is among the best we have as an alternative
To thought, we have to trust it, even when it
Comes up with something that requires thought.
To wit, mathematics says that both sides of
The equation have to equate, that's the answer.
We are taught by mathematics that an Event (!)
Has to have something out in front in the same
Shape as the consequences. So, you can read it,
The Event (!), in either way. The problem is that
Since we had to give up thinking as too
Time consuming and haven't yet got hold
Of the short cuts (e.g., Time
Savers In Thought) the confirmation of the
Fact that the equation works always mostly
Comes in another language, and languages don't
Always match. For instance, since the proof is
Mathematical, which is not spoken, the
Confirmation, say it's anecdotal, which is
Always spoken, takes too long, so we
Don't believe it, don't take headlines like
Boy Knew His Grandmother Was About to Die!
Seriously. I think I said that right.

In a section like this, it's the enjambed lines in which the line breaks actually take more weight than the end-stopped lines. And no matter how quickly the lines are delivered, those breaks are still present (even when they don't match breaks in the music).

Ashley has said elsewhere that English is more about consonants, and French and Italian more about vowels, and that therefore, English-language opera should be faster in order to use the language to its full capacity. I wonder if the same could be said of English-language poetry.

Ubu has some work of Ashley's, including a fantastic series of interviews entitled Music with Roots in the Aether. In each episode is a one-hour conversation between Ashley and another musician, plus a one-hour exhibition of that musician's work. Subjects include Philip Glass, Alvin Lucier, and Ashley himself.

now playing: Malia Jackson

from Thomas

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