Postmodern Collage Poetry

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

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Memorial Day begins the summer and I often think about the soldiers I have known or know by proxy.

My great grandfatherEmanuele Guerra who fought in World War One whose hand froze off and who spent the next 30 years recovering from icy trenches and a year in a prison camp in Galicia.

Or my Uncle Phil who entered Europe on D Day in a tank with Patton, and was with Patton when they liberated Ohrsdorf Concentration Camp and who told us kids how much he enjoyed serving. He also taught us never to hate and never to use a racist or bigoted word.

Or my 7th grade history teacher Mr Campbell who fought in Vietnam and introduced me to reflection and doubt who showed me how tough a man could be.

Or my Dad George Bianchi who served in the Air Force, became an officer, and left behind his small beginnings to become a person of service and got to see the world.

In these days when our nation has chosen to fight wars of choice we forget that not all wars and not all causes are suspect.

Be it the soldiers in Spain during their Civil War or the Soldiers of the US Colored Troups or Uncle Phils tank at the gate of a Concentration Camp there are some things worth fighting for.

I think that what makes this war so unsavory is that idealism is being used by powerful and synical men for their ends. The image of this war is not a young Italian American kid from Philadelphia liberating a concentration camp, it is a man in a hood and a pyramid of naked humiliated men. The image is not the US Colored Troops entering Richmond to end the Confederacy's evil rule, but Guantanamo.

There have been some noble moments, Pat Tillman for example but on the whole I keep asking myself why are we involved?

In the end I keep looking for the Nobility of America.

I saw that nobility in New York on September 11th in he person of Fr Mickael Judge who died serving the fire fighters in the World Trade Center, I saw it in the nobility of people working to help those in need in Katrina when the government failed. I yearn for the America of the US Colored Troops, the America of Belleau Wood or Normandy.

I am not a cynic.

I love the flag and I still get excited when I return to the USA from a trip and the customs guard says "welcome home" but I want America to be more, more than a hooded man in a prison.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Gilbert Sorrentino-Deo Gratia

Gilbert Sorrentino died this week. Sorrentino is a newer influence for my writing, I was introduced to him by a friend, Mark Tardi and it was immediate simpatico.

In a world of syncophants and literati who are more concerned with appearances Sorrentino was the real deal. His book Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things is a prophetic indictment of the kind of literary scene that is so prevelant today; based in appearances and lack of a true sense and more on who one knows and imagining oneself as something that you are not he tears into this world and brings light to scare away the roaches.

Sorrentino's literary essays are one book that I can read over and over again. Any critic who can make me rethink
Lorrine Neidecker is worth a read (I still hate her work). His essay on William Carlos Williams is so well reasoned that I have not found another to compare to it. His essay on Creeley brings together two of my personal lodestars.

Over the past two years we have lost Sorrentino and last year Robert Creeley and while Sorrentino was an academic and Creeley was not a lifelong academic there is a simpatico in terms of not being willing to play the game and wanting to be true to their literary project. A poet like Creeley, if he had even played a little of game would have surely won the Nobel Prize but instead his work stands as a mountain in the plains. Sorrentino too if he was the right type of writer would be up for these awards but atleast he won the Guggenheim.

Sorrentino too is a mountain.

His fiction, mostly published by Illinois' own wonderful Dalkey Archive Press, is innovative interesting and worth the time to devote to it. Sorrentino pissed allot of people off with his directness and clarity this is what I aspire to in my Poetry and if I piss people off that is an added bonus.

Sorrentino came out of Italian American Brooklyn and he was of White Ethnic poets and writers a generation with Phillip Roth, John Ciardi, Joseph Ceravolo, Ginsberg and many others who were truly New York area writers. The New York/New Jersey that was a unique place where people spoke with New York accents and did not learn their English at Choate. New York today is filled transplanted suburbanites who moved from Bucks County or other Suburbs to live the New York writer experience.

Sorrentino knew how to use the nexus of working class White Ethnic (read Italians, Jews, Eastern European, Portuguese, Others), with the intellectual world that is so often filled with fakirs. He is the only avant garde writer who could use the word Faccia Brutta and it not be fake. One of my favorite Sorrentino sections is from Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things Brooklyn/Paterson local where he dissects the realities of how people get published. Is it any wonder that Sorrentino was not loved in the literary world?

In the end Sorrentino was always uncompromising on what was good and what was not good and he made more enemies than friends but at least we knew where we stood.

Deo Gratia.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sensitivity Training


Few if any poets are really interested is having real discussions about Poetry as an artform and fewer are willing to express their ideas clearly for fear of I don’t know what? There was a time when poets who differed argued but that is not the case any more. I have never been able to understand American poets hypersensitivity to critique

The crux of the issue however is that poetry and poets are too sensitive and are in fact not engaged enough. Few are willing to take a risk and to lay their cards on the table. If you don’t like a book or a poem you should be able to say so and make your intentions clear without fear of repercussions on your own poetic publication chances.

There are many poets with whom I do not agree aesthetically for example Simone Muench, Joshua Clover, Jerome Rothenberg, Kristy Odelius, and Garin Cycholl but I still admire them as people and as artists.

My critiques are not personal they are critiques. I can critique their work just as I critique work by poets like Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery without it being an attack of them personally.

In fact it is out of respect for them that I even spend time reflecting on their work. A real poet who is confident of their skill and vocation is not afraid of critique. I may write about Peter O’Leary or Jennifer Moxley or Arielle Greenberg critically but it is out of respect for their excellence that I do this and you can be sure that the greatest insult is to be ignored not to be critiqued.


Last month I received an email regarding a Chicago anthology being published by someone here in Chicago. Ten minutes later I got another email saying that the site was interested in women poets “but might publish a man or two” if they were appropriate.

I was really steamed.

What I cannot stomach or understand is when editors are not clear about their intentions.
I know for example that if I submit to Poetry Magazine or Denver Quarterly my work will be rejected because I do not fit their aesthetic.

I know not to submit to Belladonna because their mission is to publish women poets. So if I have done my homework I spare myself wasted time and effort. But if an editor does not make this clear and then asks for submissions the poet wastes her time.

Is your magazine a vanity exercise? Or a serious forum?

As someone who submits often I know that simultaneous submissions are unacceptable and that when editors are not honest and clear about their editorial positions and you send fine work to a journal only to find out that it was never going to be considered it is a frustrating thing.

What I argued in my post on was that editors should be clear about their desires and requirements. The result of this mild critique was a reaction that I was “attacking people” and that I was “insensitive”. I did not attack anyone. I tried to create a discussion about an issue that I think is important; editorial honesty.

People have died for writing poetry.

Today in China poets work in labor camps.

Poetry is important and is not a toy to be played with.

When a Poet sends work to a magazine that is a sacred act and the poet should be afforded the respect of knowing where she stands editorially.

Am I insensitive?

to this kind of thing....Completely….

but at least I can sleep at night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ruben Dario and Freshwater Sharks

reading new translations of Ruben Dario
and wondering about freshwater sharks

they live in Lago Nicaragua
amid the water
listen to the Gospel
from Ernesto Cardenal

Walker went to Nicaragua and ate human flesh because he could

that buckaroo in his young boys cowboy outfit with fringe and white handled pistols

it is possible to drive to Nicaragua but the poetry stays with the freshwater sharks

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pity for the Baby Bears

I pity the fans of the Baby Bears.

It used to be fun to make fun of the Cubs and their fans and we were happy with our tattoos and stumps and they were happy with their blondes and beer but now everything has changed.

The words Chicago White Sox now mean something and that something is that we are winners.

The Cub's fans have been duped and lied to but it is their fault. Sox fans have been derided as tough and negative- but that is not what we are now- and the feeling is uncomfortable.