Postmodern Collage Poetry

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Robert Creeley Deo Gratia

Robert Creeley-Deo Gratia

Robert Creeley died today and I am beside myself. I was not a friend or mentee of Mr Creeley but he did do kindnesses for me a poetic nobody without the 'right' pedigree he did not have to be generious but he was.

I first met Bob in Dallas Texas at a reading, he signed my well worn copy of his New and Collected and said he would correspond with me. I send him a poem which he critiqued- I was being critiqued by Robert Creeley this care for another human being the care for the little things made Robert Creeley a great poet and a great man. His words meant allot to me as a younger poet.

Later in my life I encountered the Poet in Camden, New Jersey at the Walt Whitman Center. I had just lost my job with a Dot Com and my wife and I were on the verge of financial ruin but I drove down to Camden to hear him read and he remembered my work and we corresponded again for a short time. He gave me advice that led to my book's final edit and I believe it was his editing that convinced my publisher Geoffrey Gatza and Blaze Vox to take my book. I owe Robert Creeley a debt of gratitude for this kindness.

Later when I started Robert Creeley consented to be interviewed it took some time but he did the profile and completed it only a month before he died. He answered questions with care and with respect and his answers were meaningful.

I only wish the Robert Creeley had won the Nobel Prize because he deserved it more than allot of other poets.

In the end Creeley death is a break with our poetic fathers and mothers. Creeley was mentored by some of the greatest poets our American Idiom has produced Pound, Olson, Williams, Cummings he was friends with some of our great poets
Levertov, Duncan, and others and our great Artists like DeKooning, and Klein and he was a mentor to so many of our new dear poets like Lisa Jarnot, and Peter Gizzi, and so many others for whose work we are blessed and I mean blessed not fortunate.

God I believe speaks most clearly through poets and artists. Religion is a thing by bureaucrats and businesspeople who think they are artists. But real spirituality comes from poetry and art and God is in this purely.

In the sheer magisty and magic of Hagia Sofia, Chartre Cathedral, Gregorian Chant, the Bamyan Buddhas, the Dome of the Rock or Macchu Picchu God is imbued in the stones and in the place and he/she dwells there inspite of our human frailties and human vulgarities. I believe that poetry is God's greatest creation-whether it is the poetry of the Bible, Koran or Gita, the poetry of Dante, St Francis, Lao Tsu or Rumi or the poetry of Pound or HD or Robert Creeley God is there singing truth amid the petty stupid and violent-

Robert Creeley's poetry was part of God's singing.

As a Catholic I believe in the Communion of Saints and that we can ask these saints to intercede for us with God for our world. I know that today Robert Creeley is there interceding for Poetry and that the heavens welcomed him with open arms and Psalmic poems.

Deo Gratia

Sunday, March 27, 2005

91 Years of Poetry

I normally do not write on the blog about personal stuff but one of the reasons that Waltraud and I moved to Chicago was to help out my parents with my 91 year old Nonna (Grandmother). Matilde Guerra Vanzo, my Nonna is as they say in Italian a Figura. I was not blessed with a 'traditional' Nonna of legend. My Nonna is a power even today as an older fragile woman.

As a young woman she was great beauty, a business owner, restaurantuer and activist at a time when most women were not able to do these things.A woman who lived through two world wars, seeing friends and family disappear first to the Fascists and then to the Nazis. A woman who decided at an older age to go and live in New York and did not miss a step or a moment of life she was and is always the center of all our attentions. She is a active and intelligent woman who is now unfortunately fading toward her reward and in this moment we are all reflecting.

But one of the things that we all have a benefit of being exposed to is her early education and formation in Poetry because as she can do less and less she is reciting poetry. The fact that my 91 year old grandmother, who has problems remembering if she ate dinner can quote and recite Dante, Cavalcanti, Leopardi, Catullus in Latin, Cicero in Latin and Manzoni to us as if she is reading it and also the Aeneid of Virgil shows the difference between her world and ours a world where literature mattered.

As a Child Nonna was expected to be literate and people of her generation and her class in Italy were literate. Books were a part of their lives and poetry was much beloved quoted and read. Nonna is not the type of person we would today associate with poetry or poets; but in many ways her world was better for poets a world where people loved poetry and read it regularly.

Vestone her town is one of my favorite places, where Lake Garda, the Alps and the Padana meet it is our home and a place known for painters, Garosio and Togni are from Vestone and to this day painters and poets are held in high esteem to be a poet or painter is something. The region of Italy where she is from is also the home of Cattulus, Montale and Ungaretti Sirmione which is only few kms away from Pound's favorite place.

Her world is so far from the world in which we live; in her world poetry and art were part of the fabric of tough lives. People read poetry and looked at art not to be numbed but to feel and be human- I yearn for such a world. A world where we seek out feeling and life and whether it is bad or good we experience it.

As Matilde Guerra Vanzo continues to decline I still get to hear her in perfect Italian reciting Dante a Dante imprinted on a little girl in the Alps in 1920 and feel connected to the Poet and to my history and why I am poet.

Monday, March 21, 2005

What is the Prairie Rennaissance?

What the hell is the Prairie Rennaissance?

In postmodern times people tend to shy away from movements from groups and from names that are pejorative or limiting. Black Mountain, The New York School, the Vorticists, Futurists- and on and on are engrained in our collective poetic memories. Say the word Language Poets and everyone who loves poetry knows exactly what is being said and spoken about. But today people want to be careful not to be seen as part of a group, or a movement but sometimes these things happen without consent of the group and this has happened in the Midwest.

I had the fortunate timing to return to Chicago and the Midwest in March of 2003 and in the process to see that something is happening in our part of the world. Poetry-that most snobby and etherial of the literary arts in which a mediocre New York poet with the right connections can get published profusely-because of whom she knows ; while a fine, fine poet will be virtually ignored for many years because they are not known was changing.

Poetry because of the internet and because of the fact that creative people need not be in New York or San Francisco to have an impact has changed and one of the fruits of this change is something we are experiencing now, The Prairie Rennaissance. There are other places as well that are having their own rebirths, Texas, and Los Angeles come to mind.

A community of poets, sitting in the middle of the country getting published and dialoging all with their own interests and agendas but also in dialogue has arisen in our part of the country and if people in other places are missing it they should see what is happening in the past year or so new books have come out from

Kerri Sonnenberg, Stacy Szymaszek, Roberto Harrison, John Tipton, Ray Bianchi, Mark Tardi, Chuck Stebelton, Laura Sims (She won the very NEW YORK FENCE ALBERTA PRIZE), William Allegrezza, Jesse Seldess, Peter O'Leary, Dan Beachy-Quick, Arielle Greenberg, Garin Cycholl, David Pavlich, Joel Craig, John Beer, Daniel Borzutsky, Kristy Odelius and Simone Muench.

All of these books came from the unique formation of the poets who wrote them but also all of these books came out of a group of poets who are in dialogue and who live between Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee and the greater Midwest, the Prairie.

There are also other poets who are older but who are working in our region as well including Mark Nowak, Cole Swenson, Steve Tomasulla, Joe Amato, William Fuller who also are in dialogue and this great mash this great mixing is creating new and innovative poetry where it did not exist before.

Chicago and Milwaukee, reading series like the Discrete Series, Danny's Series, and Chicago Poetry Project, Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee new presses like Flood Editions and great magazines like Conundrum, Antennae, Near South, Chicago Review and many others have made the Prairie fertile ground for a new poetics. The website that I animate, consistantly has over 3800 unique visits and over 100,000 hits a month which is amazing for site focused on our small poetic part of the world.

It is interesting because over the past six months many members of our community have read in San Francisco and New York, the Mecca and Medina of the poetic world and so many poets commented on not expecting innovation from our part of the country! But the dialogue that is happening is leading to new ways
with poets like Stacy Szymaszek taking Olson and French Poetry and the Sea and creating something totally new, a poet like Mark Tardi who has fused math and music into a new sense of verse, John Tipton who takes an Eliotonian sense of order and turns it on its head to creat something new, or a poet like Simone Muench who while being firmly in the mainstream innovates on the edges to make a poetry that is new and fresh.

In the end the Prairie Rennaisance is real- it is new and it is building a new sense and innovative poetics not bound by traditional lines- a poetry that fuses traditional, experimental and innovative into something new.
Poets who feel free to smash the divisions, Experimental, Neo Formalist, Mainstream and to make something new again. Many may wince at the idea of a new collection of poets but in a sense we are an island in the middle of the sea of the US and that island has been recognized for what it is; something new.

Listening to Silence


The most important items for the congress this week were Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and the Steroid use of Major League Baseball players- to say that one is perplexed would be an understatement.

I have been thinking allot about what being 'Pro-Life' means.

I am not one of those people who discounts people for having this position but I want someone to explain to me when violence is acceptable?

Why is some life more valuable than others?

When is death preferable to life?

When is hypocrisy sin?

Watching Tom Delay and others lamenting Terri Schiavo; and being outraged by steroids I have say that Hypocracy is is full view. Did not GWB make money from Steroids? Does not GWB get money from the Medical Industrial Complex?

Do we always have a right to life? Or is it conditional? Does Slow death cost less than instant death?

I wonder what Carla Rae Tucker thinks here was a woman who murdered- who repented and received no mercy from George W Bush she was killed- without mercy- by the state for doing what is an aweful crime- but GW is supposed to believe in redemption? Why not for killers and people on death row?

So Ms Tucker does not have a right to life? But Terri Schiavo does?

The 1500 dead American soldiers do not have a right to life?

The 300,000 dead Iraqis do not have a right to life?

Why can't anyone be consistant? Are there no rules, no principals that are fixed, eternal?

Why can't it be simple? Why can't it be easy?

If life is a value, if a 'culture of life' is the desire doesn't all life have the same value?
Why doe American lives cost more than other lives?

Shouldn't we as a society strive for a world where life is respected? All life, Arab life, Death Row Prisoner life, Immigrant life, Unborn life?

But that is not what this is about- no one really believes in Life.

we believe is selfishness and vengence and ease and not rocking the boat- hundreds of Millions of Children in the world die from simple diseases and no one cares about their lives.

I want to know why all life is not sacred?

I want to know why no one challenges those who take life easily?

I want to know why hypocrisy is allowed to go unchallenged?


it is interesting that in this week of the Passion where Jesus/God was Crucified for challenging the status quo for challenging old ways for preaching that Blessed Are the Poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God- where God said NO to the injustice around him and said NO to Hypocracy the President and politicans have a chance to do more hypocrisy-unchallenged?

Where is our John the Baptist?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Holy Week

Sunday is Palm Sunday or as Catholics call it Passion Sunday. There is no week in the year where I feel more Catholic and more tied to my Pagan Mediterranean roots than during this time. I have lived and been many places during Holy Week. As a young person we used to go to De Andreas Seminary in Lemont, IL where the Vincentians had a formation house. The Holy Week Services were always wonderful, full of passion. Now when I remember those days from Childhood I can see also that every year there were less and less seminarians until they closed the seminary, but this will be my first remembrance of Holy Week the slow ebbing of a church that was changing for the better and for the worst.

I like the way that Catholics ' do' holy week. I love the idea of suffering and purgation
that fills the week and the majesty too. The love the idea that people imagine God scourged and whipped and suffering along with us. When I lived in Bolivia I had the absolute best Holy Weeks, I have written about this before the prison where I worked the men all washed each others feet- as the priest does in Catholic Holy Thursday Mass. Watching 2500 inmates do this was the closest I have ever been to the Gospel.

In the end Christmas is a ' nice' holiday but Easter is THE holiday.

In the end I love the Paganism of Holy Week. I could never be part of a religion that was not full of Paganism. I find Protestantism too cut off from the organic religions of the world and I find Judaism and Islam too concerned with Oneness.

I like plurality and I like the fact that my worship is tied to the Pagan worship of the land in which my people arose from, Italia.

Irony seems to be the coin of the realm today and I think that it is ironic that God was Crucified for political opposition I wonder what Jesus would do with George W Bush?

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Hanoi, Viet Nam

After 10 days in China, Viet Nam is a refreshing and amazing place. Hanoi is such an interesting place, an Asian city, with French architecture which is strangely organized in an Iberian manner? I must say that I am amazed at the sheer beauty of this place the people are very attractive but it is the locale that is so stimulating. You are driving in a district and amid the buildings is a Buddhist temple that is 500 years old I know I sound like a romantic but this is a culture of confidence. People are very nice to Americans, they can be since they kicked our collective asses in theVietnam war -

Vietnam is a great place I wish I could stay longer.....

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Slavery, Justice and our Lifestyles

Qingdao, China

I have been working in international business since 1997 that is for 8 years of my life and I have always been forced to face the challenges from my poetic brethern about exploitation and globalization. I have tried in my global dealings to be fair and to not exploit but today a conversation with a colleague here in China brought up all the issues and opened up questions for me.

First off I am in Qingdao which is a large city in northern China which was once the German concession before World War I, there are still some German buildings here. China as I have written before is a somewhat alien place for me. The new China that has developed is a place where money, power and wealth are revered China today is like Chicago in 1910, unfettered crony capitalism. We stayed in a ' new' hotel in Guangzhao amid a new community build among the rice fields and the thing that struck me was the fact that houses were huge, there were many restaurants, golf courses and shops but no theatres, no churches and no cultural places of any kind this is the China of tomorrow?

Back to the conversation, my colleague declared that " the truth is that all nations were developed and grew using slave and child labor and that this is ok because eventually things sort themselves out so we as a company should not worry" now we as a company have very strict rules on these issues which I intend to enforce but what I also realized is that it is this attitude that has created terrorism, poverty and violence in our world.

If certain people can be ' expected' to be inferior to be exploited then not all human beings have value-if all human beings are not of equal value why should someone in say Palestine or Afghanistan or Madrid care about the lives of their 'betters' who are getting killed by terrorist bombs? If we have learned anything over the past 50 years it is that exploitation, which by the way is rife and rampant today, leads to terrorism and to wars. I am not saying that companies should not look for better prices in cheaper markets that is natural and Capitalism, what I am saying is that we as Americans cannot build our prosperity on the terrible poverty of others, there is half a loaf that needs to be shared.

In China however what I see is a replay of Armour and Swift and Henry Ford and this is a great thing for China but when with China's Samuel Gompers, and Emma Goldman arise? When will America's arise again as well?