Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Friday, February 29, 2008

a definition -- am i a "post-avant?"

According to Reginal Shepard on his blog post on Harriet, the thing that I've been trying to think about for a long time has arrived. Do I trust it? It seems credible, and I'll probably be looking into it more and more.

We are, I think, of the generation of the "post-avants." Here's the definition:

"Post-avant" (as in, "post-avant-garde"—insider groups love shorthand) poets can be described as writers who, at their best, have imbibed the lessons of the modernists and their successors in what might be called the experimental or avant-garde stream of American poets, including the Objectivists (especially Oppen and Zukofsky), what have been called the New American Poetries (from Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan to John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara), particularly the Projectivist/Black Mountain School and the New York School(s), and the Language poets (including such poets and polemicists as Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman), without feeling the need (as so many other poetic formations have) to pledge allegiance to a particular group identity (the poetry world is full of fence-building and turf wars) or a particular mode of proceeding artistically. As poet and editor Rebecca Wolff writes of her journal Fence, a home of the post-avant, such writing “intentionally blurs the distinction between 'difficulty' and 'accessibility,' preferring instead to address a continuum of utterance.” Though many of these poets have projects and even systems, there aren’t a lot of programs. There’s much prose writing and thinking about poetry, and many, many blogs (this is a very wired “generation”), but not many manifestoes.
So, I suppose the question is, are we writing what we want to write, or are we knowingly giving credit to our influences and adjusting ourselves appropriately. I don't mind saying that I have huge influences within the New York School and the Black Arts Movement, but also a big part in the influence of my peers (hey guys!). So what do you think, guys who read this? Are we "intentionally blurring the distinction" between the 'difficulty' and 'accessibility' of our poetry? Or are we just writing what we wann' write?

this isn't my poem...and i don't know who it's by, but it's lovely


Thursday, February 28, 2008

"For who but I should understand love with all its sorrows and joy?" -- Walt Whitman

It's Never Possible to Write a Good Love Poem

Dates are dropping from the tree outside.
I tried one, it's nice, but dry.
You have to peel a green skin
to get to the meat, red and seedy,
a million of them. I wrote once,
"I want to take you outside,
ask you questions,
wonder at your solidity & ease
like the shining fact of your nose ring
against the sun."
Who but
I should understand love
with all its sorrows and joy.
That should still be a question.
Now I wonder how I never knew
a thing in my life. How, like a cake, love
always molds into another thing.

Older poem, slightly revised...

Phill Grossman passed away in a motorcycle accident, he was a big person in the GW community, I feel, cause almost everyone knew him, at least by his feathered fedora, or his big black cloak he always toted around...

Elegy for Phill

Death is a wet sock
that slips too suddenly over the body.
You shake his hand.
Droplets wander down your arm
plink onto your shoes.

He shakes your hand and smiles
because before, you knew him as
warm. He played clarinet.
He is sopping.
The sidewalk is wet with his past
as he walks, & turns the corner.

Apologies for the grossness of this poem...for those who can't read anything about my own body, please avert your eyes...

(This is unfinished, no title as of yet...)

Naked again, looking into the mirror,
just mystified by the curve
your pregnant (man's) belly makes
(the chest, a bit large to call them pecs)
but mostly that dive downward
that impressive hill leading into the forest
and outward to the cliff.
(Is that what a Jewish penis always looks like?)

Our body is a long curve,
isn't it? And yet that's what, supposedly,
interests us men: curves, the voluptuousness
of a bottom lip, the hip
curve enough to place a hand,
something to rest on
that suddenly your fingers
grow, widen like a dilated pupil

(here's where it's unfinished...ideas??)

A new flood of poems, some old, rediscovered ones, sorry no numbering...i gave up, remember?? i'm a quitter!!!


I'm a pear. A washed pear.
How does one live
like this: easily held,
always still or waiting
to be eaten or who knows what.

I guess it's not so bad, though:
aren't I a delicacy somewhere,
fit on a plate
with gorgonzola, romaine
and raspberry vinaigrette?

There are the obviously pitfalls.
I have no ass, no penis --
just tough skin and sweet meat.
I can't even love. I get lost
in the earth when done with, and then?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

i give up

dearest sirs and mademoiselles, i give up. i thought i could do it but i think, in the end, i haven't kept up as well as possible, and i have officially decided it's over.

i could've been a contedah. i could've been a contendah!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Words plum (after a really silly menu that's badly translated) #50

Words plum. Love peaches into the horizon.
But words plum. They hold you in their hand
sour and a reddish-purple and hopefully not mealy
on the inside. They’re smaller, shapely,
perforated by pock marks that don’t even sink

inside their skin, unless actually infected
& dangerous and must be sucked out
by a quick bite and spit into the trash.
Love’s pit splits open and who knows what’s
inside that poor thing. Does it grow at all?
The meat is what counts. It’s hard to swallow a peach whole.
Plums fall to the earth.
Peaches over-cast the sky.
Love over-casts the sky. Words fall to the earth.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Untitled, #49 (I'm cheating cause it's an older poem...)

I hope to fall down to my death like a pleasant cadence.
Like a symphony,
an early Beethoven, say,

I finish and that’s it! It's not the end, though,
that's important.
It’s the falling that is important to me.

I suppose I won’t realize it.
Or perhaps I will,
and that’s all the better.
I will know what to say at least.
I will probably want a glass of water
in a blue cup
and want to know how fast
the water runs,
if it babbles like a voice.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Such Thoughts In Summer, #48

The afternoon is called heat.
It doesn't matter the temperature
in the room, under a blanket
that in dreams could be a pumpkin
or an autumn ed of leaves,

the afternoon lifts me out of bed
with heat. Plucked slowly
like a lazy nylon guitar string.

To not wake would be better.
But the point is to open like a book
and love & respect your reader
with the words of a lover.

Short (a small exercise), #48

is the can strewn on the floor
forgotten after a hurried lunch.
Your hair as well, and gaze,
never up, only close, it's as brown
as your hair.
The inning, Sox vs. Yanks, was not.
Love was not. Your hair is.
As brown as leaves. Time was.
As brown as leaves.

Do I Finish You, Afterall? #47

Emptiness like a cave in my mouth
tastes like idle coffee
like idle coffee cake, like bad vanilla
like a foreign language
and it smiles at itself, as in a mirror
looking at itself, touching up,
fixing his tie.

Unfinished Poem in Spanish, #46

Sea o no sea el cafe
siento un zumbido en mi brazo
como cuando suena la ampoyeta...

(rough translation)

Be it the coffee or not
I feel a buzzing in my arm
like when the lightbulb buzzes...

Under a Gigantic Memorial for the Carabineros de Chile, Santiago, #45

This city is so empty. Six p.m., no,
that's a lie, almost seven
on a Friday. It's February,
summer vacation, the beach-week
when you can afford it
and the time. The shade is glorious
under this thing, though
the marble is as hot as the sun
and anyway it's not of much consequence
because the people are gone,
not concentrating on shade
but sun and how it bronzes the skin
instead of baking it like a pastel de choclo.

And so what's there to notice now that everyone's away
besides the immensity of this monument
the taste of watermelon (which I don't like)
and grapes (which I do)
some good coffee & cream
that I'm still slightly swallowing.
And the shade
& the large Bayer sign across the street
the sun
and summer traffic that goes swoosh
like a blown paper, loose leaf.

This is Probably More of a Worry Thought than a Poem, #44

Bronchitis is very easily cured.
He's off the anti-biotic
and should be getting better,
but they're hiccup-coughs
those that won't let you be
so you have to suppress them
until the cough builds & erupts
all over again. He's older, suddenly.
Though there's no real reason to worry
because a sickness fades
a cough fades, so do hiccups
but then there's sleep &
the hours of it lost, and,
with some help & force, regained.
His voice is still the same,
and probably will be in July,
when I'll see him again.

Mi abuelo ha envejecido, #43

Ser viejo es ser cansado.
Hasta los ojos hasta los dedos y labios
cansado como cuando un arbol se cansa de mover
y llora un poco en reposo
apoyandose con su tronco extranjero
como sus propias ramas.

No es que sea muerte esto.
God forbid. Speak not of these things.
Speak no more.

Blues, #42

A phrase of a song is just attached
to my psyche, & won't get outta me:
"I wear blue. I wear blue,"

but it's not so simple as that:
I (elongated) wear blue. I wear (pause) blue.
A vinyl with a speck in the groove.

This is the nature of a song, I suppose.
It digs & digs and then I wear it too.
And when the body adjusts

the eyes adjust too. Everything gets tinted,
what else in this view isn't blue.
Even pain has its own depths

and that's why a song digs. Despite
sweetness like honeydew, it aims for something
and then it tints.

Friday, February 15, 2008

hey all, sorry for the delays, the wrist is REALLY hurtin lately...

i have some tendinitis...but i am writing i do promise that. i'll post all the catch up poems later on, hopefully wrist intact.


Monday, February 11, 2008

A Jewish Melody, Congregacion Israelita, Buenos Aires #41

A short, sweet melody jumps & twiddles its thumbs,
mildly enjoying itself until an outburst of
happiness like pigeons or blackbirds
clambers out its own spaces making winds.
I wanted to write a Song of Exile:
a melody had wrenched me and left a pang.
A song of exile doesn't celebrate:
a minor key that does not drag, it just continues
breathes in and out the past.
We chant along in shul, once happy then sad, in cycles.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

#40 ya'lls!!1! Autumn's Child

It’s summer in South America.
Santiago, Chile,
is hot and I have stayed
inside my house for too much time

doing nothing.

This title is stolen from a song I almost downloaded
but wasn’t able to in the end.
I long for autumn.

Even summer carries a certain loneliness.

It’s the right temperature outside.
From the dryness of this city
I can wear flip-flops and be cold
though comfortably cold

like the beginning of autumn. I miss New England.
Trees, glazed in burnt colors.
Everything is possible in autumn
though most people believe it’s the spring that renews.

I doubt that. Through fallen leaves you can see
the probable future
and the smell propels you back into memories.
Sadness and happiness like yellow apples.

Summer is simplicity.
It’s here for heat’s sake; for the blossoming of blueberries
strawberries, peaches and plums.
The darkest plum skins are an autumn night.

When heat is what keeps you in,
no doubt there’s loneliness in summer.
You begin to think about the outside,
unintentional looks at the market, while waiting for fresh apple cider.

Voices, #39

I just heard a recording on a website:
Kenneth Koch, “One Train May Hide Another.”
The beauty of his voice --
high, consistent,
pensive or in a half-lament --
just kept going and did not want to stop:
beautiful, reckless. But it's ok.

It’s when a voice becomes nervous
purely out of its own responsibility to become nervous
like John Berryman does on his recording
of the first “Dream Song,”

that you twitch too
with every stutter and pause:

Like you in a train, nervous,
you want to get off
but refuse out of stubbornness
even though things like shanty houses shock you
and swamps with trees like
burnt bone shock you
and it doesn't stop
doesn’t want to stop
and you twitch nervously, beautifully.
But it’s ok.

Friday, February 8, 2008

After a Long While (on the Metro)

my eyelids fall toward my satchel
like the drop of water
off the glass she was holding.

Plucked Guitar #38

I like how the sound of the guitar
slides down your throat
twiddling & plucking your chest strings.
And a tear wells up
because it's as if it were a sock in the gut
but you enjoy it
it makes you feel sad
like a semicolon does
stopping forever the top of a letter
while reaching back towards it all at once.
The twang you hear should be low
and far reaching.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

#37, I apologize for the suckitude....

Sleep, Happiness, Theory

What is happiness?
Happiness is a roll of film

What's a roll of film?
Something to take pictures with

Your dreams, which always
end up blurry, in motion

Fear which is frozen
and green with sickness

Sleep, which is nothing but
rest, heart stealing

like a photo is said to do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

#36, and it needs lots of help

The Art of Barbecue Isn't Hard to Master,

it all depends on how you
treat your steak, sausage, ribs,
whatever cut you may have.
Do you grill peppers on the side,
an onion, a tomato?
How do you like it:
bloody as the red pepper,
or black, burnt
like some eyes, like some fingers
like cages, knives,
two holes on the moon's surface
holes between lips
the rip in the carpet
that tears a bit more
since a foot will always get caught in it
and trip
blackening the surface with skid
and soot and charcoal.

Monday, February 4, 2008

#35, Heat

Sweat should be colorful.
Then you can be bathed
in a mood ring
instead of bland salt water:

morose reds, greens like those
that drip off conifers
in the morning like brewing coffee,
blues like infants' eyes and brown
like the roots of a family.

Walk, swagger in heat.
Colors dissolve in the shower,
like troubles,
after a brutal humid day.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

With an Elated Heart I Stare at a List of Argentine Poets and Authors (#34)

Perhaps after I buy a slew of books from every author, my capitalist urges to feed the Machine will subside.

...they smell like Florida oranges.

Passing by Old Train Junkywards, I Demand More Happiness in the World (#33)

If you insist on being an old train, rust cresting your spine & sitting next to warehouses all the time,
at least hire a graffiti artist to color your losses in pinks, oranges, and lime
over white.

Ok, kids, back on track here -- La Bomba del Tiempo (#32)

Each finger is a wheel of time.
Banging against the skins,
an audience transfixed
and if not, then jumping, flailing.
Air is hot. It makes us move
slowly, though our desire
for rhythm rockets.

Each finger is a wheel of time.
I lose some dead skin on my fingers each day.
Lately, I wake up with more
wanting to fall off.
It's as if I'm molting.

A good restaurant or cafe
allows you to take your time.
Never to wear a watch,
wait for the wind to blow outside
and slowly, deliberately
put down your fork.
Each finger is a wheel of time.