Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

extra explanatory note on the BellumLetters

BellumLetters is a series of anti-war/protest poems written during April 2007 as part of the napowrimo undertaking.* BellumLetters is a play on the term belles-lettres, which means"beautiful" or "fine" writing. Bellum is the Latin word for war, thus "bellumletters" is meant to suggest "war writing."

*napowrimo = national poetry writing month. Term coined by Maureen Thorson who originated the tradition of writing one poem per day throughout the month of April, aka "National Poetry Month."
poems from Guantanamo

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

BellumLetters (2.1)

BOOKS OF TOMORROW (waving goodbye)

the needle threads the space that was
the body before handguns, plastics.
glass-litter in the grass, a home
for ants, crow-gifts, a sublime
hatchet the sun glinting over
the tracks, razor zips away
towards corn, corn-fed autos
and stones stacked according
to plan (whose home?). Waxed
lumber builds our wishlist, snug
in water, a place for bones
to bend without a sound.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

BellumLetters en route

I mailed out the BellumLetters chaps for Dusie yesterday. It's an interesting punctuation for a project that I feel is still developing. I like this actually -- the idea of publication as a moment of shift or diversion or pause as opposed to a sort of terminus or ending. It's almost a way to see it as a terminus in literal sense -- a point of simultaneous departure and arrival in all sorts of directions. Disruption.

In the end, I opted for a design that satisfied my desire for a tactile sense of the pedestrian. A design that used materials familiar to me from days in elementary school. The war is in everything I touch. It is even in construction paper and glue. And in stickers from kmart. Stickers that depict dog tags and tanks and army stars and bombers and helicopters. No ambulances. No wounds. No flag-draped coffins. No people even. Only the depiction of materials that remotely represent the human who wears the dog tags, who drives the tank, who flies the plane. And a representation in which "the enemy" is an absence. A space without. For a moment it possible to imagine that soldiers are released to this emptiness. That this emptiness is not a construction that intends to conceal the humans who live there. Live where soldiers are sent to fight. Sent to _________.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

notes on poetry and capitalism

I've overheard a number of recurring conversations about how to sustain publishing ventures and small presses, mainly focusing on the question of how to fund such ventures. In some circles, the solution offered is to charge reading fees and run contests. This can be problematic for a number of reasons that have been well documented all over the Internet, but people can run their presses however they wish, and many presses with contests have produced some of my favorite poetry books. Another solution -- and one I like a great deal -- is to use print on demand or the downloadable/printable publishing via the internet. Another solution I like is that of funding publication through pre-sales to public and university libraries. Another solution is to form press collectives.

Yet one of the things that is often missing from the conversation is how this question of sustainability is often explored in a way which presumes the necessary conflation of poetry and "the market." Which is to say that the way this question often gets posed elides the difference between "publishing" and "selling." While it's true that many modes of publishing involve the selling of texts, it's also true that many of them don't (including some of the methods mentioned above).

public | profit

One of the main reasons poetry publishers have trouble breaking even is because the world of publishing is set up to promote profit. For big publishers of best sellers, this means using cheap labor and publishing titles that will sell. Pro-capitalists will tell you that the market consistently produces work of the best quality, but the for-profit definition of "quality" gives me the creeps. And I'm not really sure if it makes sense to invest in the notion of "quality" or to adopt market terminology when talking about art. To me, there is inherent contradiction between "publishing" (to make public) and "profiting"(to gain). Historically, whenever it has become cheaper and easier for one to self-publish, there has been a move on the part of those who previously controlled the means of production to squash the efforts of "the masses." And this is when the idea of quality is invoked; once the elite-test cultures of bourgeois taste are weakened, many are quick to declare that culture is in "decline."

And I've also heard lots of talk about how poetry is "dying" and losing its audience and how it is a marker of some sort of death of culture. To me, this just seems like another way of saying that some definition of bourgeois approved culture is losing ground. In other words, I think it is an argument that has a lot to do with class. I mean, the *type* of poetry discussed in the recent Time article is very specific -- vaguely traditional poems written mostly by educated white people. If we define poetry as a radical engagement with language and text, then I think it is clearly thriving in hip-hop scenes, graffiti scenes, DIY craft scenes, and elsewhere. More and more, I think articles like the one in TIME are really talking about the demise of some culturally sanctioned bourgeois idea of poetry more than they are actually talking about *poetry.*

readers | buyers/customers

There is also lots of talk about how an audience for poetry can be widened and developed. To me, this question is sort of backwards and conservative. The audience for poetry *has* widened and developed, it's the "definition" of "poetry" embraced and promoted by certain poetry institutions that has not. Personally, I am not comfortable defining the potential audience for poetry as "buyers." Partly because -- as I noted earlier -- I'm not a big fan of the market paradigm, but also because I don't believe that poetry is limited to books or any type of "marketable" good or property. I don't think it is productive to hope that Americans will come around and start buying more poetry books. I don't think the question of whether or not "future generations" will thank us for poetry is dependent upon the increased sales of poetry books.

Yes, books are great. I'm a BIG fan of books. But what about community-based workshops in homes, women's shelters, after-school programs, libraries, prisons, and hospitals? What about the celebration and acknowledgement of poets working outside traditional/academic disciplines? It is a fact that for every voice that has ever been and is recorded, there are millions that were and are not, and at a certain point one has to ask if the market model and the version of poetry represented in the TIME article are really the best way to "preserve" poetry. And who does the market benefit? Who benefits from "poetry" as defined by TIME magazine? What happens when poetry is given away? When it is defined as various and multiple?

"the market" | self-publishing/DIY

I don't mean to diminish the work independent publishers do to make and distribute books of poetry. I know it's hard work. It's simply that I'm made uneasy by the conflation of poetry and capitalism that is often invoked when people talk about how to "save" poetry. Moreover, I'm not comfortable with the way an engagement with capitalism shapes who/what gets published.

Much of the most exciting new poetry I've encountered over the past several years has been self-published or else published by small DIY publishers. I think the stigma of self-publishing *has* been removed. If we wait for the "authorities" -- whoever they are -- to say that self-publishing is okay, then we haven't escaped the market logic at all. For independent publishers who've accepted the limitations of the capitalist model to present themselves as martyrs is a truly bad faith gesture.

Of course poetry books from independent publishers are a *huge* part of my life as a poet. But it seems like many people who do amazing work have struggled against the contest model. Instead of waiting for years to win a contest and get the seal of approval from a university or small press, many writers *are* self-publishing and I think this is a really good thing. Especially for "future generations" who I hope will be able thank us for making poetry less exclusive, less sexist, less racist, and less elitist.

also, here is an earlier, related post.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

~*~Coming Soon from Hex Presse~*~

******Cleromancy Poetry Game******

******six word dice for poetry, divination, and play******

*Six dice; each side of each die has a different word (for a total of 36 words)
*Words for cleromancy #1 are sourced from the poetry of Emily Dickinson
*Each die comes from a different poem.
*Cleromancy #1 comes from poems #339 ("I tend my flowers for thee--"), #479 ("She dealt her pretty words like Blades-- "), #1775 ("The earth has many keys."), #500 ("Within my Garden, rides a Bird"), #311 ("It sifts from Leaden Sieves--"), and #632 ("The Brain -- is wider than the Sky --").
*Comes in a Hexagon shaped box
*Dice and box are pyrographed and inked by hand
*Roll the dice to make poems or divinations


Games will be available through the Hex Presse Etsy shop soon!

There will be MORE cleromancy poetry games from Hex Presse. Each game will be sourced from "woman-authored texts"** and contemporary poets will be invited to "curate" the dice. Cleromancy #2 and #3 are curated by Jessica Smith and sourced from the work of Christina Rossetti.

Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortilege, casting lots or casting bones in which an outcome is determined by random means, such as the rolling of a dice.

Words on dice can be used to make make poems. Here are some examples of visual poems made with word dice.

**open to interpretation :)


x-posted to WOMB blog and Hex Presse blog

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007


I am now caring for four baby crows.

from wikipedia:

-The American Crow is one of only a few species of bird that has been observed modifying and using tools to obtain food.
-American Crows are monogamous cooperative breeding birds. This means that they will care for young that are not their own.
- American Crows are a sentinel species-
- crows top the avian IQ scale
- One species, the New Caledonian Crow, has recently been intensively studied because of its ability to manufacture and use its own tools in the day-to-day search for food.
- Frequently crows appear to "play" with hawks, taking turns "counting coup" while escorting the raptor out of their territory.
- In occult circles, distinctions are sometimes made between crows and ravens. In mythology and folklore as a whole, crows tend to be symbolic more of the spiritual aspect of death, or the transition of the spirit into the afterlife, whereas ravens tend more often to be associated with the negative (physical) aspect of death.
- In Buddhism, the Dharmapala (protector of the Dharma) Mahakala is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms. AvalokiteĊ›vara/Chenrezig, who is reincarnated on Earth as the Dalai Lama, is often closely associated with the crow because it is said that when the first Dalai Lama was born, robbers attacked the family home. The parents fled and were unable to get to the infant Lama in time. When they returned the next morning expecting the worst, they found their home untouched, and a pair of crows were caring for the Dalai Lama.

also, language and stories.

black as fuel, red mouth
without winter

Foxglove (blood for oil)

As if it's made for loving: hollows
and veils, speckled
frolic over thin skin. I'm all
for moving. The wells dry
up and we're stranded
here, contractions obligating
rhythm, but the labor
disappears. Borders
dredged by bastards, our
hands swelling. If you
insist, I'll pick, but everyone
will know we're scared.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saturday, June 02, 2007

is this real?