Postmodern Collage Poetry

A blog about writing collage poetry, post modern poetry, multi lingual poetry

Monday, January 31, 2005

Brazil meu Brasil Brasileiro

Well... Chicago is cold.

Upon returning to Chicago after two weeks in Brazil with Waltraud I have to say that a little bit of perspective is a good thing. Upon arriving in Sao Paulo we had a dinner with Regis Bonvicino and this was a delight. Regis is a poet who has such range and is someone who has such insights into poetry globally. I think this comes from the fact that he is not a poet only but also works and lives in a greater world a poetic life.

Brazil is a place of great import for me and being there for two weeks sets such a contrast to our life in the USA. Brazil and Latin America is general is a different mindset when it comes to the arts and poetry; in the USA poets and other artists are driven by innovation- in Brazil poets tend to bring voice to points of view that are not normally heard in the poet world. Brazil also still possesses an "artists" sense where
aesthetics are more important than origin. Race and Ethnicity are rawly presented they are before the world for eyes to see.Brazil has a sense that is everywhere that is one part Latin, one part Native American and one part African this mix free of the Puritanism of the USA is a delight.

The trip was interesting for a allot of other reasons we spent some time in Porto Alegre where Waltraud went to art school. Porto Alegre is Brazil's answer to cities like Miami, or San Antonio it is a bi-cultural city that sits between the Spanish speaking and Portuguese speaking world. It is also a city of great artists and artistic feeling. We went to a great exhibit of photos at the art museum, some by Henri Cartier Bresson and some by Brazilian artists. We got to see our friend Helena Greco who is a great
artist of painted ceramics in the same tradition of the Russian Futurists her work is just great.

So back in Chicago- good to be home only wish it was warmer!


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Banal Poetry Anthologies Challenging Poets

Early this morning before I had to get to work I went down to the Seminary Co-op one of Chicago's true cultural gems and picked up a couple more books for my trip. Picked up the last book by Viktor Szchlovsky (sic) and a copy of a book of Catalan mystical writing from the 1260's .

These types of books are only to be found at Seminary Co-op I just finished a book on the Egyptian Desert fathers which was great in its obscurity and the fact that these academic books are challenging in a way that most of life is not. challenging for the brain.

As I was looking through their fine poetry section I noticed an anthology of " new innovative poets and poetry" .

I opened the book to find none of the innovative poets I know- no Kerri Sonnenberg, no Chris Murray, no Catherine Daly, no Jen Hofer, no Jesse Seldess, no Brian Clements, no Mark Tardi, no Chris Stroffolino and the list goes on and on who was not included; while the list of who was included was filled with poets whom are good at sending their work to awards though and playing poetical political games a field of mediocre pablum nothing innovative about the poetry just the same vanilla with strawberry mildness.

The problem with our artform is that too many mediocre poets are held as the latest thing not because the writing is great but because they fit a profile, or play politics well and can impress the poetic Gods.

I have yet to see a magazine that takes the myriad of poetry books published each year and says this is crap, this is interesting. I have yet to see a poetry magazine or press say boy his work has declined from his first book .

Or a poetry magazine that publishes an interesting poet who might be politically incorrect- maybe a Devout Christian? or a Devout Muslim or God Forbid a business person.(Sorry William Fuller).

Real diversity means publishing more than people we are comfortable with we need to be uncomfortable too. I would love to see an anthology of poetry from the Taliban to just to see what they are thinking.

Another challenge with our artform is the fact that we as poets are not in dialogue with the greater world of art and life the way we should be poets are self absorbed and mentally masturbatory. Sometimes sex is better with another person-

Robert Creeley when he was at Black Mountain was in dialogue with John Cage and Willem De Kooning who are poets in dialogue with today mostly other poets? Which artists or others do we dialogue with and does that dialogue illuminate ?

Instead poetry presses publish our friends and our friends publish us. Poetry is the only artform where other artists, in this case poets, decide who succeeds and who fails. There is little outside review and this is a problem for the artform. We need as an artform to begin to ask if we are only going to write for each other then what is the point?

What I think needs to happen is that poets need to seek out others to be crosspolinated with regularly. Poets need to be in dialogue outside the academy. While I sometimes find Ron Silliman's Blog self serving I also like the fact that Ron is a public intellectual and not a professor. The fact that Ron lives in Paoli, PA and not in some fauxhemian neighborhood is also refreshing and rare.

The other night on Charlie Rose (now I am being the stereotype) all the National Book Award nominees for fiction were on and all were New Yorkers, White Women and they all went to the same schools. I cannot believe that there was not one Midwesterner or Southerner who wrote a work of fiction of note? Lack of diversity lack of trying to be diverse leads to a truncated literature.

Where are today's Nelson Algren's where stories and poetry are bubbling up from the streets? Sure there is the whole slam hip hop world but most ' experimental poets' are not in dialogue with those folks maybe we should be.

Last year at AWP I got to meet three poets whom I have admired for many years and these three lived up to their marketing.

Peter Gizzi, here is my nominee for poet of today his work is so stimulating and interesting and intellectual at the same time not contrived,
Jen Hofer who also lived up to her marketing and is just a real punch in the face with her work and life.
Catherine Daly who has below here midwestern corn fed look an inferno of poetry that I enjoy, read her book from Salt (forget the name now) and then go read Meister Eckhart you will feel like be bending spoons with your mind.

So now I pack my books and leave cold Chicago for warm Brazil and look forward to two weeks of mold, beef, coffee and heat- pure pleasure will poetry survive for two weeks without me contributing to the Buffalo List?

Oh the world might end because what i have to say is sooo important.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bloggian Poetics

Well- i have been writing allot- below is a poem that is in my new mss. the one I have been sending around-

It is placed in the Main Post Office in Cochabamba, Bolivia where I lived from 1994-1996. It is funny how places are routine daily events and then you leave a place and you never return. Now I can see and feel the place-

The Cochabamba Post Office was one of those places for me- Cochabamba does not have domicile delivery of mail so if you want to get mail you must a have a PO Box. The Post Office in Bolivia was the place to see Gringo Volunteers in Cochabamba. I have to say that there were few things more pleasant than getting a package of books or magazines when I was in Bolivia.

One of the interesting things however was the fact the poor in Cochabamba also knew that the Post Office was filled with ' rich' volunteers getting mail. So out in front of this Fascistically grand building were all types of poor- one armed people, people with all kinds of skin diseases- children full of lice- begging for food or money
I most enjoyed watching the nuns who were mostly of indiginous origin like the beggars in their starched white habits walking by avoiding these folks. It was the greatest irony in Bolivia to see Priests and Sisters who preached an option for the poor- but they lived in relative palatialness.

This was also true of the other missionaries- Protestants in Bolivia preached that poverty was a result of sin- Catholics as a result of injustice but both of them were wrong the problem is power or the lack there of. In the end there was much to be done and no one to do it....

I have written here about Bolivia and as Waltraud and I prepare to go to Brazil this week I always think about Bolivia and my first night in Bolivia sleeping in a cement room, metal roof with dogs outside barking quite an experience.

South America all of it sits with me everyday- I recently saw Motorcycle Diaries and that harshness in the movie was with me for three years in Bolivia- none of it was exagerated by Walter Salles. Harshness....

Convento 1994
Correo Central Cochabamba

Enter me and rip open my stitches; Cántico espiritual; Noche oscura; Entréme donde no supe Vivo sin vivir en mí Tras de un amoroso lance Un pastorcico solo está penado.

Open sewers are flowing like a river to the sea; a man fell in and drowned in the Barrio’s escrement. The river of shit filling the procession route. Lift high the statue of Maria and don’t let her dress drag in the shit river.

En el principio moraba En aquel amor inmenso Una esposa que te ame Hágase, pues, dijo el Padre Con esta buena esperanza En aquestos y otros ruegos.

“where is your mother today Pepe?” “oh my father beat her to death”
“oh I understand let us not talk of this again as not to offend you father”

el tiempo era llegado we are arriving at the time when the convent doors are opened and the street people can see into the cloister and see why poverty looks so pleasant. The garden is maintained but the friars have old bread.

Outside the post office in Cochabamba, Bolivia there are cripples they are ignored by the missionaries who walk by. The cripple’s souls are not interesting like the souls of generals.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Poetic Business and Poetry

Random Thoughts from a Ranting Poet

Official Verse Culture

Much has been made over the past few years about ' official verse culture' . It is true that certain subjects and certain types of poets are usually published others are not. I am convinced that the locus of the ' poetic problem' is that fact that so many of our poets are university people. The result of this reality is that an air of unreality exists around poetry that does not exist around other artforms.

Business of Poetry

The second part however however is part of the business of poetry. The objective is seems of many experimental editors and publishers is to publish work written by a certain type of poet- usually white, sometimes not, usually liberal, sometimes not and a poet who is well connected to the business of poetry. I plead guilty at having work published by friends of mine- not that the poems were not worth publishing- but without that little extra boost? Who knows if they would have seen print? The problem is that whole categories of verse and poetry are now unseen in the poetic scene. I recently had a chapbook rejected by a major magazine not because the poems were not good or well crafted but because the work was " too political" I am still trying to find out what part of life is not political? The fact that I go an buy my bread at Liborio Bakery from the Italian baker and dont buy my bread from Whole Foods is political, the fact that I do not read many Harper Collins Books (Owned by Rupert Murdoch) is political.


The problem is vapidness- how many more books do we need by writers who went to an MFA program at 22 and now are writing about their 'experience' of Zoroastrianism or Kabbalah or the Poetry of the Pelvic curve? I think that it is time for poets to begin to ask is the poetic echo chamber all that we have to sell to? I think that we can do more and getting one's book published by Wesleyan press or impressing Ron Silliman is not what poets should be doing. Poets should be in the vanguard not a group of syncophants.


I have been spending my Saturday today sending out submissions and I am sure that most of them will be rejected. I am going to submit to Poetry Magazine again not because they will take my work- but out of principal if they are going to continue to publish the garbage they print then I will continue to send out work to them and keep collecting rejection notes.

So Poets is poetry in this Republic only to be a poetics of the comfortable? Of the Politically Correct?

Cool Poets

Speaking of cool poets whom I respect- in February Lisa Jarnot and Robert Creeley are appearing on and since I am a Catholic I need to create saints and Lisa is for me the Patroness of my Generation X . When I read her work I hear my generation in her work. Our poor generation that sits between the Baby Boom and Millenium a generation where many of our parents ended up on that Black Granite wall in Washington and most of our parents divorced or spent the decades in self absorbed dreams.

Lisa reclaims for us the complexity and fineness of poetry and her interview is great.

As to Robert Creeley- the Patron Saint of connections I must say that I have always loved Robert Creeley's work. I have been always influenced my ' intellectual chains' I fell in love for example with Thomas Merton in College and he led me to John of the Cross, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ad Reinhardt and Ernesto Cardenal- Robert Creeley led me to Charles Olson, Pound, Duncan and so many others and it was a book by Robert Creeley that I chose to carry with me on the Inca trail in Bolivia and carry with me on my sojourn in South America-
Robert Creeley is America's greatest living poet- sorry John Ashbery. (having said this Michael Palmer will be the greatest once Robert Creeley is no longer with us)

So we are off to Brazil this week- I cannot wait our first vacation in three years and summer in January perfect

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Reason the Tsunami is So Bad

I have included the link to donate to Catholic Relief Services on top of the Blog but please donate to whomever you want to to help out.
I have spent allot of time over the past days thinking about the Tsunami and all the moral implications of what happened. I think that it is important to separate the mud from the water and ask some questions about justice.
1) Why didn't the world community spend the money to install an early warning system in the Indian Ocean like we have in the Pacific and the Atlantic?
It is important amid all the horror and all the talk of Asia's economic explosion and growth that many people are left behind and that the world is not spending the money needed to establish an infrastructure to deal with these problems. There is no way that 150,000 people would die if a Tsunami hit the USA.
Why are people in Asia not due the same safeguards? Some of the money that is pouring into India and Sri Lanka needs to be used for safety infrastructure. If this is not done we are asking for more of these tragedies.
2) The second question is a dicier one- is Developing World Tourism just?
I sat aghast last week listening to a German tourist interviewed about the tidal wave. He said " Oh I was sitting in the massage room with a couple of girls and then the wave crashed in"
The fact is that much of Thailand's tourist infrastructure is focused on Sex tourism and cheap trips for Europeans and Americans. There is a real justice issue here when rich people go to poor nations to ' spend there money helping out'.
I think that we ought to move toward a more sustainable situation. All one has to do is go to Cancun to see what an unjust situation exists when Tourism becomes like it is in much of the world where big corporations make all the money and local people are but employees.
3) Should we as a world be making global decisions together to avoid such horrors?
The bottom line is that we as a world need to start making decisions- and many of these decisions might result in individual nations losing sovereignty. We need to make global decisions to global problems with the majority deciding what we do.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Sheer Joy Iowa 30 LSU 25

Sheer Joy... Iowa 30 LSU 25

As a poet interacting more or less in a poet's world where many of the banal and common things of life are not appreciated by my fellow bards sometimes I have to temper my interests;

Poets have many important things to worry about and my own work is full of politics and religion and tough things I also like some simple things; on the whole I like snobs and intellectuals- many poets are a good time . I also realize that people only have so much time and how you spend your time- as it says in the Bible where your treasure is so there your heart will also be and my heart is with poetry.

Yesterday January 1st 2005 was a day of sheer guilty joy it was poetic.

Sitting in my parents living room I watched the Capital One Bowl- my Iowa Hawkeyes (Raymond Bianchi BA '89), fought the LSU Tigers and on the final play of the game with no time remaining Drew Tate threw a 56 yard TD pass to win the game. Sheer Black and Gold joy. Jim Zabel, Iowa's voice from 1933-2003 (He succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1932) broke down in tears. I am sure that a collective scream was let out (or better for an Iowa crowd a collective bleet) that stretched from Iowa City to all Hawkeyes everywhere. Fox Sports called the game the greatest bowl game ever- and its greatest team was our Hawkeyes.

During my time at Iowa (1985-89) I went to many Football games; it was great it was the mid 1980's Iowa won allot and made 2 Rose Bowls, -Chuck Long, Hayden Fry- and it was a very fun endevour plus the drinking made it worthwhile. Iowa beat Michigan 10-9 my freshman year on a last second field goal and we stormed the field and tore down the goalposts.

I graduated in 1989 wanting to get away from Iowa City- sometimes we don't know how good we have it where we are.

I moved to South America in Brazil and Bolivia in 1993. I did not watch much college football in South America and the 1994 baseball strike dimmed my interest in the White Sox. Maybe my interest would wane?

Although an interesting event happened in 1995; I met a 1930 graduate of Iowa at Lago Titicaca; a Bolivian Doctor who when he saw my Iowa Champion sweatshirt- yelled out GO HAWKS at 19,000 feet in the Andes I have a picture with him, talking about Hayden Fry and the Hawkeyes 8000 miles from Iowa City with the Andes as a backdrop.

In 1997 when I got married and I returned to the USA for my honeymoon I took my new bride- Waltraud Haas- artist and non-football fan to Iowa City for a visit. It was nostalgic trip because I learned allot in Iowa City and I felt nostalgia for the first time about Iowa- I learned how to write and read poetry( thank you David Hamilton and Jorie Graham)- enjoy good bookstores thank you Prairie Lights and Murphy Brookfield and Haunted Bookshop- and to love Hawkeye football which came back to me when we drove by Kinnick Stadium.

The only sports affection that comes close for me to my love for the Hawkeyes is my love of the Chicago White Sox- I have lost interest in the NBA and NFL and college basketball is not my favorite. I just don't have time to watch all sports with work, wife and poetry to do but Baseball and Iowa Hawkeye football I make time for and it is a guilty pleasure.

When Waltraud and I returned to the USA in 1998, I was not that interested in watching sports on television. We moved to Dallas, and while I would watch occasionally no passion was elicited from me. I had a new high powered publishing and trade show job and a new wife and I guess I thought I was too sophisticated to care?

This changed in terms of Iowa Football in 2000. I took a job with a in Miami Florida, leaving my comfortable and lucrative position with Miller Freeman in Dallas to chase after the Dot Com dream. I was full of hubris- thought I was really something- but I think everyone who was 33 in 2000 who worked in Media was full of hubris remember Remember all the billionaires? It seems like 100 years ago.

The experience in Miami and later Richmond, VA was a total disaster- within a few months the .Com was on the verge of going out of business because it lost funding- my wife was still in Dallas- and we were on the road to financial ruin.

We sold our house at a loss what a mess and moved into a little apartment with our two cats. The lowest moment was living in corporate housing in Miami and on a Saturday, awaiting the inevitable crash of this Dot Com, I watched the Hawkeyes break a 9 game losing streak to beat Michigan State. A moment of sheer joy amid despair. I watched all those crazy Hawkeye fans on TV it was soothing salve; an October day in Iowa City.

During this darkest of times for me and Waltraud- Iowa Hawkeye Football became a diversion something that along with my renewed interest in my White Sox made for a guilty pleasure- like when Marjorie Perloff said on our website that she likes to watch soap operas. As my life reached a nadir in early 2001, I began to rise and resurrect and so did my Hawkeyes (cannot say the same for my poor White Sox) .

In 2001 we moved to Princeton, NJ- to again work with Miller Freeman and then came 911 and amid the 911 tragedy that befell New York and us I was in Italy when that happened and I did not know what happened to Waltraud for two days
since Waltraud worked close to the Trade Center. Thank God she was ok.

9-11 was traumatic to many people in Princeton where we lived were killed the train station was covered in pictures of people looking for their loved ones and New York had a smell of death it was sad time.

My Hawkeyes provided just the salve for our wounds with sheer joy. Waltraud and I went to Penn State to see the Hawkeyes in October. We won in double overtime and I screamed so loud that I lost my voice for three days- it was a catharsis during a time when there was death everywhere.

The Hawkeyes went to the Orange Bowl and lost in 2002 but it was ok . The team that Kirk Ferentz put together was clean and simple and pleasurable without the pain that was removed for a moment at a bad time.

Last year with my parents and my Brother Jon-Paul (U Wisconsin 1999 BS) we began to attend the annual Wisconsin/Iowa game as a new family tradition as my brother went to Wisconsin. . Last year in Camp Randall was cold rainy win- and this year in Kinnick Stadium we went to the game with my very proper Boston cousins Sandra and Keith- where the Hawkeyes won again and my Boston cousins got a good rich meaty taste of the Midwest at the game.

I think that people enjoy College Football because it reminds them of a time in their lives when things were simpler and easier. For a moment it can be in my case October 1985 0r 86 it is a cool crisp autumn day on the Pentacrest- I am first being introduced to Pound or Eliot or Communism or Latin or something else and life is simpler and in a place like Iowa City Bucolic and simple those are good memories and stimulating times.

Thomas Merton said that October is sickness in the USA where everything seems possible especially for Undergraduates. All is new and clean and interesting and possible maybe this is what is elicited by college football?

Donald Hall, who is a better Baseball writer than poet- said that it was in the little silences that Baseball is most poetic- I think that for college football it is the silence right before the band goes on the field. Or maybe the scream that comes in one voice when there is a touchdown in the final seconds like yesterday. All I know is that at the times when I needed joy- the Hawkeyes have come through.

So, the sheer joy of watching my University of Iowa Hawkeyes winning yesterday was the best way to start a new year- a new year that we can hope will bring more good than bad- and perhaps if we can dream- good things- especially for poets and Hawkeyes everywhere. GO HAWKS