Archive for April, 2013

Tales from the Crypt Vol IV— Geoffrey Cruickshnk-Hagenbuckle

by on Apr.30, 2013


(And now for something utterly original . . .)
Furniture without Rest by Thomas Evans

“Can feast on the real thing” (Cat Power)

Oblivion as They Rose Shrank like a Thing Reproved

Grounded in so great a project’s percept, you might just move through this book, its every page contentious. Hence that completed form of all completeness: don’t spell it at all just write it down.

“Means or doesn’t mean means nothing.” (Jean Genet)

Fashion perceives the rights of the corpse in the living, vanquishing both dissonance and gloom.

There’s only one good system, and that’s the Splendid System. Raven, evil seer at dusk, if the child is father to the man, man is father to the corpse . . .

When it gets too hot for comfort
And you can’t buy an ice cream cone
T’aint no sin to take off your skin
And dance around in your bones

Dream: 2/5/13
T E quote: 3/6/13
G C-H misquote: 3/7/13
John Keats: Endymion
John Cage: An Alphabet
Jean Genet: The Screens
Walter Benjamin: The Arcades Project
Percy Bysshe Shelley: Adonais
Unica Zurn: Hexentexte
Francis Picabia: Eunuch Unique
Philip K Dick: Clans of the Alphane Moon
Wm. Burroughs, Robt. Wilson, Tom Waits: The Black Rider

In a Montevidayo super coup The Crypt Keeper obtained the following exclusive/effusive mission statement from the artist currently known as Thomas Evans.

The Pedestrian Thought Theatre is a theatre composed of individual stages [platforms], upon which thoughts and ideas are arranged as walks. Each thought is realized as an object of mental furniture *. These furniture objects attach to individual stages [stations] that, when arranged in a sequence, form the walk. (continue reading…)

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Time Is a Mouth: Elaine Kahn's Voluptuous Dream

by on Apr.24, 2013


I’ve got a short piece up at the City Lights Blog on SF poet Elaine Kahn:

There’s a thread of disfiguring throughout that’s benign enough to be ominous — “I am cutting myself / out of a piece of paper”, “when I am cutting your hair in my mind” — but all of it comes back to time, which in Kahn’s work becomes the material and subject of human life: “Time is a mouth.” “It happens on you”, she says, referring to puberty and her indoctrination into the global system of lascivious, gendered control (“& the whole world stares / how the world does stare”), but she’s also referring to time as a condition from which we all suffer. As she sardonically puts it elsewhere, “You think beauty / is a good thing / to forgive,” with beauty reduced here to a cruel reminder (remainder) of what time does to it. But it’s also a reminder that human beings are defined on Earth by their intrinsic timeness — not just in their mortality but in their technology of language, which above all else is a means of communicating with the future. No other creature has access to history as a kind of virtual genetic code on which to build empires.

Her latest collection, A Voluptuous Dream During an Eclipse, is from Poor Claudia but sold out (Amy Lawless lent me her copy — thanks Amy!).

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The Book That Killed Me: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs's TWeRK

by on Apr.23, 2013


I am slain, felled, sweetened up and served by Latasha N. Nevada Diggs’ TwERK. It’s like an almanac-zodiac-aphrodesiac-cum-emetic: it’s going to make the language come out of you, and the knowledge, too. At the bargain price of 15 dollahs, this book, fetchingly wrapped in a crunk doily designed by Doug Kearney, delivers page after page of astounding and invigorating rhymes, rhythms, inflections, infections, connections, inventions, allusions and sluices. It’s freaky-deaky, freaking alluvial. It’s brainy and broad and plays its own killer jingle and drives up in its own truck. Watch, children!

TwERK hollas at you from the very first page, opens up by inviting you into a profane dialogue, Elizabethan in its innovation, its linguistic voracity, virtuosity, swift pace, killer instinct and bawdy humor (please be aware: this is not the correct spacing/layout for this poem– only as close as I could get on blog interface):

Mista Popo said: oh bodacious Zwarte Piet,

How does the butterfly thrive

for my big ole kettle belly?


An extra scoot never too robust for my flying carpet.


So croon,

holla at me Jynx,              holla at me Jynx,

holla at me Jynx w/some soba on the side.

Let’s fly away!


Mista Popo want that corn husky hair.


What inmate of the twenty-first century, what language-loving carbon based life form could not rejoice in the presence of such a pliant, flexible virtuosity as LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’s? In the above passage, a zesty and ribald momentum opens its throat for a wash of dubious figures from global culture, and the page is both a party and a scrum: Zwarte Piet, the blackface figure and holdover from colonialism who accompanies Santa Claus in  Dutch culture; Jynx and Mr. (here ‘Mista’) Popo, literally cartoonish icons of blackness from Japanese anime culture who in their ‘Mista’-ness also call up the history of such images in Western culture; the iconic ‘flying carpet’, the fetish of Orientalism which hovers over and behind Western obsession with  ‘Arab’ cultures and bodies ; even the casual imperialism and race politics of the 50’s Rat Pack tucked into that lyric from Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly with Me’.  This poem is racy; this poem is rapier; this poem is sick and sic; this poem is fun! To me it suggests that the vicious vivacity of racist thinking is both the signature of our contemporary global imperialist culture and also its weakness, a circuit back through which lawless bursts of energy may possibly be made to reverse, amplify, over-dub, loop and surge, not unwriting the damage of globalism but defibrillating it, re-animating it, converting the damage to something else entirely: something next.

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs has a lot of language at her disposal, more, I would guess, than most other North American humans. This book speaks Japanese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Urdu, Maori, Hawaiian, Samoan, Swahili, Runa Simi (Quechua), Yoruba, Portuguese, Cherokee (Tsa’lagi), Tagalog, Chamorro, Papiamentu.  Some poems are written in an English so alive with Diggs’s ingenuity it feels like a new fabric (“Sunspot”); others mobilize Caribbean-inflected dialects; others are in multiple languages which incorporate translation, change, and doubleness into their very format, so that the reader can feel the languages touching and  making out and mutating in ‘real-time’—that is, in the art-time of  Diggs’s voice and brain– into an irresistible scintillating new element which is as valuable as a smart-metal but which can be enjoyed without being mined, bought, fought for, bled for, or sold. Something virtual:

                knee deep as I speak,    kino body rock.

lehelehe wit the glock

of menehune.                   freak of the week.          you’s a pua‛a at a lû’au.


my hand lima blazes like Ka‛ahupahua.

make dope-a-delic like Redman in a hula

let me tell it:

I’m taking cheek papālina,

poli breast feedin’ malihini dust schemas.



In charming, generous endnotes which really read like rich and plentiful poems of their own, Diggs informs the reader that this poem was an experiment in scoring rap form for the page, and also that it makes use of Hawaiian language for various body parts with the translation of the body part “literally beside it (either before or after the word).” Just that explanation is an example of Diggs’s brainy, breezy brilliance; to be ‘literally beside it’ is to be in ecstasy; to have one body part ‘literally beside it’ on the page is for the two languages to ‘literally touch’ through a ‘literal’ double body. The circuit happens in and as a surplus, and so much life and energy and language pours through this light relay that it the entire current is transferred to  and through the reader as joy.

I cannot shout loud enough about Latasha N. Nevada Diggs’s TWeRK. Language is not a neutral tool, and the history of the peoples who belong to these language and the hegemonic forces that would distress, suppress or obliterate both the languages and their peoples is what makes these poems so fierce, fraught, bladey and mobile. The showiness  and flaunt of these poems are like the fierceness of the drag balls Diggs’ salutes in one poem: a visible weapon, a tactic simultaneously offensive and defensive, a wargame for the whole body. Diggs’s poems truly work the whole body of the poem, the whole body of sound, the whole body of history, the whole body of voice and ear, the whole body of language and the ability of the page to be its own sonic syntax; they articulate and rotate joints that seemed fixed; they are bawdy and triumphant and they more than work. They TwERK.

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"Shaking the Habitual": The Knife

by on Apr.22, 2013

The Knife has an awesome blog it turns out, on which it posted the following message (as well as other great stuff, about say “Deep Aerobics”):


April 22nd, 2013
We just have to go faster we mean breakneck we mean “like crazy”2

We are never faceless, not even in the most grey anonymous streets of the city. We will never stop being responsible, being extensions, of one another. We will never stop longing for each other, and for something else.3

We, The Knife, will be performing live. We will be there, on stage, all seven of us, sometimes all ten of us, or even more. We have worked hard, together. Things, ideas, concepts have been tried, tested, discarded, evolved, perfected and discarded again.

We know of the performative parts of power (Hegemony! Hi!), the on-going upholdance of everything through the performance of everyone. The habitual dance of the ordinary, the narratives of the normal. We know how the norm functions. But this is not every day. We have put on our glitter, we are ready to sparkle. This is special, if we were birds, (maybe we are) our feathers would shine (they do). We are building a place, a scene, a moment. But the blocks aren’t set, the pieces move. We slipper and slide around it, under it, above. Shaking our habitat.

With raging lungs we breathe, exhausted but enthralled. We sweat and smile and frown, laughing at the future, crying at the past, holding on. Legs astride, one foot yours, one foot ours.
(continue reading…)

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The God Condition: Son of Man, Alien of Steel

by on Apr.20, 2013

If the Greeks taught us that the gods are human, and Christianity teaches us that a human is god, what does the third trailer for Man of Steel teach us?

That the gods are alien, and that an alien is a god in human form.

We can look to the specific orientation of any god-alien-human nexus to tell us how the collective, conscious “we” self-identifies. In other words, our mortal narratives tell us where we are in the cyclic process of dimensional loss and renewal. Are we material subjects or are we gods, or are we gods trapped here as material subjects, with no recollection of having been anything else?

A straightforward linear god->alien->human orientation suggests a narrative of spiritual degradation, or dimensional loss, dropping us off in a reality in which we’re denied direct access to extradimensional input and must struggle to infer a larger context and make meaning out of sensory stimulation and our sense of time. This is the dominant orientation of systems like “science” and “government”, where knowledge is limited to a portion of the data field and subject to control by those invested in false consensus.

In the third Man of Steel trailer, divinity is posited as alien to this planet, and a god’s failure to convincingly identify itself as human is translated, or dimensionally reduced, into human terms: we are to take this failure as proof that we are not “alone in the universe” and that an alien form of life is something for us all to aspire toward.

In other words, to be human is to be alone, to be alien is to be not alone. This is “the god condition” here on Earth. In order to be together, we must not belong.

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Some Thoughts About River's Edge

by on Apr.16, 2013

So just in my lazy post-putting-kids-to-sleep brain I suddenly last night thought about the movie “River’s Edge” from 1986, and by my bad fortune it was on TV!

Anybody have feelings about/for/through this movie?

I remember watching it back in the day and loving it. THis time around it brought too many intertextual connections into my brain, as if this was some kind of key to American culture, to the 1980s, or some kind of un-secret, or unheimlich or peripheral center of a late 20th century American gothic.

FOr example, it’s of course impossible not to think of Blue Velvet, which was made at the same time roughly, with I think the same cameraman. But it’s hard for me not to think of it more in connection with Twin Peaks – because they are both prime examples of that great 80s genre of the teenage movie, just as they both feature as their main characters a dead, pale woman by the river (ie the great convention of American folk music, I killed my baby by the river la la). But if I think about teenage movies it’s also hard not to see the connection to Fast Times and Ridgemont High, with Sean Penn’s Spiccoli a kind of predecessor of Keanu Reeve’s stony character. Like Fast Times, River’s Edge is not only stoner-ific, it also inhabits that strange space where things both comic and tragic, scary and funny mingle (the little brother in River’s Edge reminds me of the angry little boy on a bike in that John Cusak movie – “I want my ten dollars” etc). Both Fast Times and River’s Edge seem to participate in that lurid genre of warnings against “the youth of today.” Interesting to think of them thusly in dialogue with the movies warning against (and/or revelling in) the violence of the lives of African-American youth in the 90s (Boyz in the Hood etc); perhaps black youth took the place of youth for a while?
(continue reading…)

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Aase Berg Reading at U of Notre Dame (April 8, 2013)

by on Apr.10, 2013

Aase Berg read here last night. Thanks to Coleen Hoover, who filmed the event, you can now watch it here (complete with my incomprehensible introduction):

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Reading Tonight in Chicago: Aase Berg and Johannes Göransson

by on Apr.06, 2013

We’re reading at the Myopic Bookstore tonight (Saturday, April 6) at 7.

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What is Contemporary Poetry?

by on Apr.05, 2013

Recently a lot of people – a lot of them younger, a lot of them people with a fiction background who apparently used to think poetry was boring and a lot of Swedish and foreign poets – have asked me to tell them what contemporary poetry I read or I think they should read. Well, people often ask me to talk about contemporary US poetry, but so much that I love is in translation and I prefer to see US poetry in connection to other places. So here are some books of contemporary poetry I feel you need to read. I’ve excluded all Action Books and books that I have translated (all of which it goes without saying, you should read and read and read until you vomit!), but these are the books that really matter in contemporary poetry in my opinion:

The Drug of Art by Ivan Blatny (Ugly Duckling) – selection from a Czech poet, whose work ranges from Eastern European modernist poetry to the great late stuff, a glorious interlingual mish-mash. Read some poems here.

Raul Zurita, Dreams for Kurosawa – amazing visionary dream poems by one of the world’s great living poets. I love all his books: Prugatory, Songs for his Disappeared Love, Anti-Paradise etc. Here he is reading at Notre Dame.

Percussion Grenade by Joyelle McSweeney – Seth Oelbaum recently called Joyelle one of the three greatest living US poets, and that’s probably right. This is Joyelle’s best, most rambunctious, radical and necropastoral jam. (Also check out her new prose book Salamandrine: 8 Gothics.). Here’s something Joyelle recently wrote about the play, “Contagious Knives,” which is part of the book. Here’s a recent review in HTMLGiant. And another.

Chelsea Minnis, Poemland – Contemporary American poetry who blends fashion and ultra-violence. I love all of her books. This one is didactic in the best possible sense. I think she was also in Seth’s “top three.” It was also Minnis whose work first prompted Arielle Greenberg to coin the phrase “gurlesque,” a controversial and insightful concept that is now being hotly debated all over the Swedish newspapers, journals and webzines (here for example) due to Maria Margareta Österholm’s book of criticism, The Girl Laboratory in Pieces: Swedish Prose 1980-2005 (we published a translation of the intro here).

Alice Notley, Descent of Alette – It’s of course notoriously impossible to say who’s the “top three poets” in any country, but Notley has certainly been one of the best US poets over the past 20+ years. I love most of her books, but for me Alette – a feminist, visionary epic set in the subway of Reagan’s America (thus increasingly realistic, correct) – is probably still the best, the one I teach most often and the one I always recommend to people from other countries who want to know about the best contemporary US poetry.

Ronaldo Wilson’s Poems of the Black Object – African-American poet writes brutal, grotesque, gorgeous poems in prose and in pretty lyrics. I wrote this post about him a while back. This book really moved me.

Maroosa di Giorgio, The History of Violets – Aerie, mysterious necropastorals saturated by art, flowers and violence by the late Uruguayan super star (in the Warhol sense of that word). Swedish readers might see the incredibly close connection to Swedish poet Ann Jäderlund, the superstar of Sweden.

OK, I said I was going to ignore Action Books, but really I can’t talk about contemporary poetry without mentioning Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, who is really one of the greatest living poets. She’s got two books out with Action Books and a few more on the way, and one chapbook from Tinfish, all translated by Don Mee Choi. Here’s something Lisa Flowers wrote about her. She too partakes with some of the gurlesque/necropastoral vibes I’ve mentioned above. THere’s a whole bunch of awesome poets in South Korea right now, though they have not yet been translated to English (we’re working on it).

OK, that’s my quick post for the day. I’ve no doubt missed some great ones but this is a pretty good image of my idea of the greatest “contemporary US” poetry, or at least a start.

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On Terror

by on Apr.04, 2013

I’m writing this from my desk in an office where I have spent the morning watching Al Jazeera videos and reading the New York Times and this is not entirely antithetical to what I’m supposed to be doing at my desk.

A few weeks ago I was getting ready to go to New Jersey for a visit home, which I’ve done more in the past six months than I ever have. There has been literal disaster after disaster. Anyway I was getting ready to go home. My uncle was posting North Korean propaganda videos on his Facebook page and I was watching them the way I read a really good poem – over and over again, trying to assess its balance of irony and sincerity.



The video is dubbed in English in a way that makes it feel like farce, except it’s not. The script in English feels like it must have been written by a contemporary experimental poet with a solid sense of fun, like maybe Amy Lawless wrote it in a fit of black humor. I was just getting into My Dead when I watched the video for the first time and I was thinking about mourning and rituals and pre-emptive strikes, how one must convince oneself both of the seriousness of tragedy and its ephemeral nature in order to engage in the act of grief.

A few weeks later I was having brunch with my best friend and I think we were talking about Amy’s book and I was reminded of a novel I’d read in college called Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. The main character in the novel, which is set in South Africa, is a man named Toloki who is a Professional Mourner. The day I was having brunch was Easter Sunday and the day before we had gone to see a lecture and reading at the New Museum where Ariana Reines dressed up as Margery Kempe and talked about public grief.



The night before that I was trying to find a bar that didn’t ID so I could take my little sister there and we ended up at a comedy show that was so abject it was a kind of public self-grieving and my friend and I talked about how the responsibilities of Poets, Comedians, and Lawyers are essentially the same – to be observant and self-aware and make public texts of our knowledge. The next morning we added Professional Mourners to that list.



Professional Grief is an epic responsibility requiring a great deal of strength and physical endurance – the endurance literally to cry for many hours or to stand in front of people and say something – in addition to a measured amount of weakness, pliability. There has to be something in the instrument that moves.

My whole entire life I have been aware of my place as an American Girl in relation to War. (continue reading…)

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"Why is the poem such an insult to this evil life?”: on Sandy Hook, Blake Butler, Aase Berg and Disaster Aesthetics

by on Apr.03, 2013

A few weeks ago, in the wake of the school massacre at Sandy Hook Blake Butler and I wrote a play of sorts called “Sandy” about the massacre – about the shooting, the reporting on the shooting, the relationship of the shooting to the steady stream of murders of young black people that goes un-reported in the media and to all those drone-killed people elsewhere in the world, all those people saying, “you can’t understand a thing like this, you just have to go to church” (a cop-out for sure), all thes people who want an easy explanation of it, all the people who want such a complex explanation of it that the whole thing becomes diffuse, and the relationship of violence to art, to media. In short, it was a work of art that ate and was eaten by a proliferations of images and rhetorics.

Blake and I were very pleased with it after a few weeks of going back and forth, so Blake started to send it out to various journals that had solicited his work. It soon became apparent, that when they solicited Blake’s work, they did not think he would send them something about Sandy Hook because it was roundly rejected by all kinds of journals. The editors seemed to agree that it was “offensive.”

Why was it offensive? It was unclear to me. We had made an artwork in response to a terrible event, trying to respond fully to its violence, its absurdity, the proliferation of responses, its horror, its ridiculous sideshows.

Why? I will hazard to guess that it was precisely because it contained “too much” art: too many scene changes, too many characters, too many references to Katie Perry, too many dead black youths, too many dialogues with the killer, too many dance performances by his dead mother trying instruct children how to flee from drone attacks. Unlike all those other acceptable responses – responses that replayed the murder act and scene and background endlessly, ours was an artwork that placed art in the violent center.

People are squemish about art about violence and suffering that remains art-sy. Art about disasters should be transparent; to foreground the art, the pageantry is somehow offensive. You are accused of “aestheticizing” suffering, violence, torture etc – as if that is an inherently negative thing, as if that makes it flippant, as if that is not pious enough. As if the art itself is a crime.


This is the subject matter of a brilliant essay by Aase Berg called “Tsunami from Solaris.” (continue reading…)

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Joyelle McSweeney: "The Contagious Knives," Percussion Grenade

by on Apr.01, 2013

Joyelle McSweeney’s play “The Contagious Knives” will be performed by The Medicine Show Theater on April 19 and 20:


The Medicine Show Theatre Company presents the magical Joyelle McSweeney’s necro-pastoral farce of tremendous importance, “Contagious Knives.” Louis Braille, the Devil, Bradley Manning, Lynndie England, and a wedding chorus come together to smash your facebones with this verse play in Purgatoree.

April 19 & 20 @ 7:30 PM
Tix: $10, $7 for students + seniors

Call 212.262.4126 or e-mail for reservations.


In response to Poetry Society, Joyelle explains the play in typically virtuosic manner.


Inception: I found myself writing “The Contagious Knives” in a fury of contagion; a corrosive tide of rage and frustration at the state of the world, its steady state of exploitation, coercion, misery, metals, charisma. Everything comes out in the river, as Steve Jobs, now dead, said at TED: first time as industrial waste, second time as carcinogen. This is why the language of this play (as in life!) is itself toxic, tidal, runs headlong in riptides, loops in eddies, and piles up in scurfy little pools, reversing and resaying itself in the space of a single line or run of lines, rising in little violent crests. I hope it is rocking, and you can hear it ticking like bad news. TheMerchant of Venice with its accesses of violence and vengeance and its revolting figure of Cruelty-Masked-as-Justice (ie Portia) runs behind this text, as does Sophocles and the glitchy sceneastics of Ryan Trecartin.

Also has also been some recent reviews of Joyelle’s brilliant book Percussion Grenade, which includes “The Contagious Knives.” (continue reading…)

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