Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Opinity on Porcupinity

Porcupinity and the Critics

The Torontoist recently posted an interview with me about my forthcoming The Porcupinity of the Stars. I really enjoy these kind of interviews. They provide me with an opportunity to clarify and articulate (even to myself) what I might be thinking and to share some of the process of creating and publishing a book and to share some of what I was trying to do with the book as well as the general excitement. 

Also, I received a first review by Zach Hudson on the book which is not yet out. I do truly appreciate the thoughtful engagement and I'm very pleased to have someone read and think about the book even if I read it very differently and have different opinions about it. This is of course the life of a text. It goes out into the world and, like a third son in a folk tale, seeks its fortune by its own devices. I just have to trust that it was 'brought up right' and is able to take care of itself, whether before dragons, princesses, cliches, glass mountains, reviewers, or readers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spew out the Mettal which hath so inqinated and invenom’d both Body and Soul

de las Casas: A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies

I have been researching pirates, pirate lore, and the history of ocean exploration in the Renaissance in preparation for a work of fiction that I am planning.

I've been reading various books on piracy and history, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome de las Casas (1474-1566), Stevenson's Treasure Island, and Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. I've also been listening to the CD compilation "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys," which includes many contemporary artists' renditions of traditional songs.

De las Casas contemporaneous account of the genocide of the natives of the Caribbean contains many extraordinary passages of brutality told in remarkably vivid language. Mostly, the Spanish are committing the violence, there is, however, this passage describing a rare moment when the natives, with grim irony attack the Spanish:

for when they had taken some of them Prisoners (which was rarely) they bound them head and foot, laid them on the ground, and then pouring melted Gold down their Throats, cried out and called to them aloud in derision, yield, throw up thy Gold O Christian Vomit and spew out the Mettal which hath so inqinated and invenom’d both Body and Soul, that thath stain’d and infected thy mind with desires and contrivances, and thy hands with Commission of such matchless Enormities.

As I research and plan, various ideas for poetry spring up. Here is one such example.


the sea is an aphorism
a drowning man that cannot see ocean for the waves
or more practically, the sky for water
a ship that passes by itself in memory only
how can the future find the past?

memory is a kind of ballast
dawn holding dark to the horizon
these words begin at one point in the story
but end in another

the sailor recalls
how a sword makes its own scabbard
when it enters a man’s bowels
death birthing its own sheath
from the living

the ocean a scabbard for drowning
a distant star a distant star

the sea has no surprise endings
and no beginnings
the sea dogs the sea dogs
waves turning twice, then collapsing on the sand

forgiveness forgives
an unknown island
something priceless hidden
beneath the sand

the horizon only horizon
the distance itself a kind of wave

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Person of the Cow



how fantastic that these words are here
how fantastic that these words are somewhere else
how dark is it inside a cow?

how fantastic that you are here
how fantastic that you are somewhere else


deer are deer-shaped cows
crows are just another cow shape
Oh fantastic is the light of fantastic cows

O cowlick
fantastic calves are fantastic legs
O cowlick
fantastic tongue and groove flooring
and sideshows
O cowlick
fantastic are your cows that constellate
and are licked


O dark and fatal crow down the well
O tragic bird-bucket gathering flight-water
and the moon

you are an ouroboros
a crow of fantastic light
that licks itself
a cowlick
that dines upon the tragic and fantastic folds of knowing
the terrible or hermaphrodite stars
the calves of the legs
the fantastic tongues of absent crows


O inside every crow is another crow
wondering how it ended up wearing
a crow as an overcoat of feathers
it is winter inside the crow
the shadow of tongues
fingers fondling the star-filled sky
the inside of the crow
a limitless crow
the inside of the cow
its single perfect life

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Then figures

a tiny pebble

found on the road

rolled between then fingers

then thrown away

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can't tell the forest for its age


This is what I will look like when I’m old.
The forest.
At that age, you become a kind of geography.
Imagine a cloud.

I am on a mountain
and reach out
My hands go right through
When I’m old, I’ll be more like remembering.

Yeah, with parts that aren’t so clear.
Did you say pants?
I walk into the yard
sit on a deckchair and look up.

The sky has plenty.
What did you mean, ‘geography’?

Friday, August 06, 2010

"love that picks its own inversions, its sweet pushmi-pullu": a review of Servants of Dust:

My chapbook, Servants of Dust--published by derek beaulieu's No Press (see his brand spanking new website)--was reviewed/discussed by Vanessa Place over at The Constant Critic.

Here's part of what she wrote:

"Gary Barwin’s Servants of Dust is a collection of the punctuation of Sonnets 1 through 20, rendered spatially (oh, Mallarm√©!), so that Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) becomes:
inverted commaquestion mark
inverted commacolon
inverted comma semicolon
inverted commainverted comma semicolon
inverted commacomma
And in that way, one can see the play of punctuation across the page, fitting like the darling buds of May, or any buds, for that matter, Sonnet 2 being particularly dashing, though full of caught breaths, while Sonnet 20 is more dense, love’s own woolen thicket, pudding-proof of the rush and pause and interpolations that is not only love, but is love that picks its own inversions, its sweet pushmi-pullu."

[Note that the weird little light grey boxes aren't there in the original chapbook or in Vanessa's discussion, but exist here as visual testament to my ineptitude with blogger and HTML.]

Some more discussion--and reviews of Volume One (Selected Anonymous Marginalia) Liam Agrani (ed.) (BlazeVOX Books); and Autobiography: Volume One (1975-1993), © Ryan M. Haley (Ugly Duckling Presse)--are at the blog.

Earlier on the blog, there's also a discussion of Rachel Zolf's Neighbour Procedure (Coach House) which I haven't yet got a hold of, but am anticipating greatly as I am a great admirer of her work. The section Shoot and Weep which was published as a chapbook by Nomados was fantastic.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gabriel Gudding in Toronto: A Workshop...and a Reading ( with Stuart Ross & Gary Barwin)

The always surprising Chicago poet Gabriel Gudding leads a poetry workshop in Toronto on August 12, 5:30 to 7:30 at the offices of Mansfield Press, 1 Wiltshire, Unit 204A (near Dupont & Symington).

To register for this rare opportunity, write hunkamooga [at] sympatico [dot] ca. Cost is $25. Preregistration is a must.

The workshop is co-presented by Meet the Presses and Mansfield Press.

LATER THAT EVENING: Gabe will also be reading later that evening with Gary Barwin and Stuart Ross at The Piston (Bloor & Ossington). Further details coming your way soon.

Gabriel Gudding is a poet and essayist. His books include A Defense of Poetry and Rhode Island Notebook. He teaches experimental poetry writing at Illinois State University, and his work has been translated into French, Vietnamese, Spanish and Danish.

This reading marks the launch of his chapbooks Congratulations on Being Here (Paper Kite Press) and Small Celestial Theater (Proper Tales Press).

"In a crowded field, Gudding's work demands attention." — The Boston Review

"This is the first 21st-century classic." — Alan Sondheim

"This book is one of the best books of poetry I've seen for many years." — Stride Magazine

"Rhode Island Notebook is an act of kindness — to his daughter, to himself, even to poetry." — Cultural Society

Here's a link to Gabriel's reading of the title poem from A Defense of Poetry.




Sight. Take something two and make it one.

The sea. Take flesh and blood and make it wooden.

Parrot is dog of the shoulder. It closes its three lids and clings to the shore, its mind a sextant pointed at flight, its wings which were two, wooden and flightless as the ocean itself.

Beneath the surface, a strange glow, eyes in unexpected profusion.

With fewer fingers, even a simple stick is something.

It’s not that the world is round, but that it is large.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

On Listening to Coleman Hawkins


some think our ears
radiant fetuses

driving their tiny cars
on either side of the head

how do we know magnificence?

the disco ball of the heart
a mosaic of shiny blood
that’s there and then not

(text from: The Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House, 2010)

Monday, August 02, 2010

On the Crossing of Species: Bob de Graaf / On Proxmity


Vanescrew (Synthia) Slotta
Crossing of a Vanessa (Synthia) Atalanta and a slotted screw.






I want to be close to things.
I could be happy.

I want to be close to things
sneak up to a desk.

Desk, you are wooden.
You are a thing.

Let me be close.

Road. Let me be close.
Bank. Let me be close.

I want to be close to
the whiskey light
at the end of day

I put my hands out
to seem not afraid.

Things stand still.
I stand still.

We do not become close but
are not frightened and do not run

Let us hold each other’s breath

Twilight between the fingers
soon becomes dark

The Paleolithic Imagination, Clayton Eshleman and the Juniper Fuse, Nostagia for the Present

Don Hitchcock's image of the ibex discussed below. He writes about other aspects of the cave where this ibex was found over at this site.

I’ve been reading Clayton Eshleman’s remarkable THE JUNIPER FUSE about “upper paleolithic imagination and the construction of the underworld.” Two things in chapter one which have me thinking.

One. At some point, people made a fantastic imaginative leap. They developed a ‘vision’ of the(ir) world. They were able to conceptualize the world as a concept. We assume that a squirrel just lives in the world and moves through it without a thought to it being something. These people made the leap to imagine the world.

Two. In discussing the imagery created by Paleolithic people found on the walls of caves,
Eshleman makes a remarkable point which comes from the writing of  James Hillman. We tend to conceive of this kind of imaginary, and indeed the imagery of dreams, as being a representation of the real, waking world, the world above ground. But, what if we conceive of dreams and this subterranean imagery as referring only to archetypes, myth, the subconscious, and an internal world? It is not a working out or an illustration of the aboveground, of the conscious, but instead is made to exist solely and wholely in the unconscious and mythic world. Here’s what Eshleman says: “Modern people have interpreted their dreams and treated them as a reflection of daylight and daytime activities, thus denying them an autonomous realm, an archetypal place that corresponds with a distinct mythic geography – in short, an underworld that is not merely a reflection or diminution of an empirical sense world.”

In the caves of  Mas d'Azil (La Grotte du Mas d'Azil) there was found a carving on the end of a spear of an ibex with a turd emerging from it, two birds sitting on the turd. Evidently this image was quite significant or popular. It is found carved in a number of other places.

Here's a poem about it:

an ibex bends
a turd emerges

two birds land there
with remarkable wings

this a message from
our ancestors

ten thousand years ago

ten minutes
five minutes

one minute



Sunday, August 01, 2010