Thursday, March 20, 2003, the day the war started, was warm and mostly clear here in San Francisco. Where I live, out on the avenues, there was a surreal sense of being equally far away from the bombing in Iraq, the pompous speeches from Washington, and the major demonstrations taking shape downtown. But eventually, I made my way down there, stopping to grab a small cassette recorder with the intention of interviewing as many people as I could while the protest was taking place. On Market Street I fell in with a phalanx of riot cops charging through startled business clerks out on lunch break. By 6th the whole street was closed, and anarchy reigned. I saw dozens arrested for refusing to move from the center of the intersection, police locking their wrists in plastic ties and loading them into wagons. I watched a woman break down sobbing uncontrollably at the feet of officers who merely stood there, holding the line, until friends came to console her and carry her away.
I saw construction workers waving and flashing peace signs at a huge crowd from the seventh story of a building they were working on, their cheers echoed back a thousand-fold by the masses of marchers. Later, on California Street as the unplanned march turned towards the financial district, closing streets and jamming traffic as it went, I watched as Muni drivers rang the bells in a backed-up line of Cable Cars, slapping high-fives and encouraging protestors to jump up and take turns ringing them, too, like kids ringing the recess bell at school.
Not everyone was so enthusiastic. A well-heeled man snarled and argued with protestors as they passed by his fancy hotel, practically frothing at the mouth in his anger. Back on Market Street, a couple of down-and-out men yelled at people as they filed past, calling them traitors. A woman on the third story of another hotel frowned and gave the "thumbs-down" sign. Another woman driving a classic Delta 88, stopped in traffic on Van Ness, hurried to magic-marker a message onto a white box top: "Support Our Troops!" She had a cousin over there.
Interview with Lauren, 6th and Market Street:
How long have you been out here?
Have you seen anyone get arrested?
Iíve seen a lot of people arrested, but it seemed to go very well. Iíve seen a lot more roughness at other times.
Are you willing to get arrested today?
Iím not planning to -- I have to think about whether Iím willing to. What about you?
Iím supposed to pick up my girlfriend at the airport tonight, so...
(Laughing) You better not, you better show up...
So, have there been this many people all day?
What I saw -- Iím not from San Francisco, so I don't have the best command of the landmarks, but from what I saw, at various intersections people had used concrete and chained themselves together, there were tons of cops, and they used chainsaws, and welding equipment to bust them apart, and then they quite gently really, got them loaded into wagons, and all those people had intended on getting arrested, and sure enough they did. There were crowds, and a lot of support...
Where are you from?
Iím from Maine.
What are you doing out here?
Well, this week is the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, radio people are meeting, my husbandís one of those people. We participate in a community radio station in Maine, so that's what brought us to San Francisco. So this is great, it's great to be with a lot more people than I would be with, but I have to say, the same thing's going on there, there was a huge walk out. I was just on the phone with my son, I mean huge is smaller numbers back there...
* * *
Interview with Diane from Colma, on Van Ness Avenue. (Diane was driving a vintage Olds 98 and was stopped in traffic as the march passed.)
Where you headed today?
Home, actually to a friendís house.
How do you feel about this, thatís going on?
I think we should support our troops, but I think these people have a right to do whatever they want.
Do you know anyone whoís fighting over there?
Yeah, my cousin is, heís an Air Force pilot.
So I see youíre making a sign?
[she had been making a "support our troops" sign, black magic marker on a white box top]
Yeah, I was gonna stick it in the back window, but now everyoneís gone. I mean thatís fine, whatever they wanna do, in protest, but thatís why people are dying so they can do this. They gotta remember that.
I support what theyíre saying, but I donít think theyíre right. I think we gotta take this guy [Saddam Hussein] out, or... North Koreaís next. Theyíre after him, theyíre not after Iraqis...
* * *
Interview with Jennifer, a student from UC Santa Cruz:
How long have you been out here?
I got here a little late, Iíve only been out here since noon.
What have you seen so far?
Iíve seen the greatest protest Iíve ever been to in my life. I love seeing the people in the streets of San Francisco uniting together and marching through the streets, that is so powerful...
What do you think itís gonna accomplish?
If nothing else it at least gets the word out that people do not agree with the war, not everybody is in solidarity behind this. This is solidarity, this is people coming out and saying, we know that maybe our votes donít count anymore and maybe our voices donít count, but weíre gonna shout anyway until weíre completely out of our voice.
Did you cut class or skip work to be here today?
No I didnít. I just turned in my last final yesterday.
Have you seen anyone get arrested?
I havenít seen anyone get arrested, Iíve heard of a few people who escaped arrest... Iím originally from L.A. and Iíve been to protests there, and everyone gets arrested in L.A., so this is a really great protest, to me.
If you heard later today that someone they managed to kill or capture Saddam, how would you feel about that?
I would still feel that the war is going to go on. Itís still continuing, thatís not the only ambition in the war, and even the way itís been done so far is not legal by our standards, the United States, nor by world standards, weíve broken treaties, weíve broken promises that we made to other countries, weíve ignored the U.N. entirely, it still wasnít done right, regardless of what they think they accomplished. And that wonít be the end, there never is an end.
Is there a right way to do this, or is the whole thing wrong from start to finish?
I think itís full of lies, and I donít know what to believe, because I donít think weíre getting a lot of accurate information, so Iím not sure exactly, if Saddam Hussein has weapons or not, but I do know that we created the U.N. to handle international conflicts like that, and we havenít let that work.
So you feel like, if we had waited for more inspections, and then gone into Iraq, that could have worked?
I just donít think there was going to be a time for us to go into Iraq. Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. investigators, saw no smoking gun, did not think there was any reason for us to go to war, the U.N. is not behind us, itís probably not even an accurate war. You canít say, well because he hasnít shown us any weapons then that must mean heís hiding them, thatís not proof -- thatís the opposite of proof.
So what are you gonna do, say tomorrow, the next day, to continue to make your voice heard, attend more protests, or write letters...
Yeah, Iím gonna come back here. Iíve been writing letters to Ė e-mails to various politicians, Iím gonna come back here, hopefully Iíll be here all weekend. I actually broke my ankle a couple months ago and this is the first walking Iíve done on it, so hopefully Iíll be able to continue walking around the city. If not, Iíll just go and find a place where thereís a sit-in of some sort, and sit.
* * *
Interview with Eric, another man stopped in traffic on the corner of Montgomery and California, riding a motor scooter.
So, howís it feel to be stopped here with all these people going by?
I feel great.
Do you support them?
Are you working today?
Iím supposed to be at a meeting today, but itís all right, it can wait.
Where do you work?
Two blocks up there.
What is this going to accomplish today?
Hopefully an awareness, you know, that people are super pissed off about the situation and they are able to get out and express that in a collective way, so itís bringing people in that are trying to get to work or somewhere else, which is a good thing.
Do you feel like there is another solution, has it been explored, somewhere between sanctions, the U.N... What could have been done differently?
A lot for sure. Thereís always other solutions, and the one that weíre faced with in the news this morning is the most extreme and most undesirable.
If you heard today that they managed to take Saddam out and there won't need to be this big "shock and awe" massive bombing, will that cool off the tensions?
I donít know, but Iíve heard from some really respectable people that once in, weíre gonna have a really hard time getting out of there. No matter what happens, even when so-called victory comes about either soon, a month, six months from now, itís gonna be years and years before the U.S. is able to get itself out of the predicament itís gotten itself into. This awareness needs to be a lot more widespread than it is now.
Is there anything you plan to do to protest or speak out?
Yeah, I do my own part. Thereís that True Majority online Iíve been sending faxes to, my representatives, I made phone calls to the White House a few weeks ago... so stuff like that. Mostly low-key, I donít feel like I need to be out here, but itís good to see.
Interview with Lee and John, a couple of guys sitting on a stone kiosk arguing with protestors as they went by:
How do you guys feel about all this?
John: everybody knows in their heart of hearts that Saddam Hussein has had chemical and bio weapons for decades, we know that. We may have even given em to him Ė but the point is, he used em for eight years against Iran, he used em against his own people, he believes heís the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, he wants to destroy Israel... He canít get his coalition forces together to destroy Israel...
How do you feel when you see people marching like this?
Well, I was a marine, I believe they have every right to do this, I gave my life that they could do this, I just happen to disagree with them. I wish they would fly first class to Baghdad and stand in front of the defense ministry and say ĎGeorge you canít bomb us now, cause weíre over here!í
What do you see happening once the war continues and afterwards?
I anticipate based on what Iíve heard, from my sources, my friends in the military, that weíre gonna hit em hard for two to three weeks from the air. For two to three weeks in the air, then weíre gonna mop up... Heís got his regiments along the Iranian border right now. After we attack from the air, then heís gonna bring his forces from the Iranian border to meet our troops coming into Iraq.
So what do you thinkís gonna happen after the war?
I think after this is over, and itíll be over in less than thirty days, we are gonna have to literally spend 100 to a 150 billion dollars and give those people what they need and have needed for decades Ė medicine food schools hospitals Ė the know-how and technology to farm. Those people have been living under tyranny for so long...
Do you feel like theyíre going to live up to more of a Marshall Plan or is it gonna be more like whatís happening in Afghanistan?
J: Well, weíve just started there, weíre gonna be there for years to come. I donít think itís gonna be that way in Iraq, we can get this over with between 30-60 days, and whether we kill him or not weíre gonna be in there and weíre gonna literally rebuild that country. I hope to god thatís what we do...
What happens if that doesnít happen?
J: Well, everybodyís saying thatís the purpose of this attack, to free those people. Now Iíve never lived in Baghdad, but from what I see on the news, and it could be propaganda, those people need help, and theyíve needed it for thirty years, and I hope to god that we can be the ones to give it to them. At whatever cost, you know, freedom is freedom. And I gave my life for freedom.
Were you in Vietnam?
J: No sir, we were getting ready to go into Nicaragua to take care of Danny Ortega...and Bill Casey, head of the CIA, were mining the harbors out there [?]
You know, Bush is not right, heís not completely right on this, his hands are very dirty. His dad was into the into the New World Order, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Government. Kill off the dollar, kill off the yen, kill off this new euro dollar, put a mark in your forehead Ė the Bible talks about it.
What could have been done differently?
Leading up to the war.
J: This war? Thereís nothing we can do sir, itís not in the hands of the people of the world anymore, itís the world leaders that have conspired this.
But could there have been a middle road between what the U.N. was doing and...
J: No. No, the U.N. is nothing but a puppet...
Lee: How long have we been trying to disarm Saddam now, 10 years?
J: Oh, more than that... but, whatís your question?
Iím just wondering if increased sanctions couldíve worked, inspections...
J: I donít think so, like they say and youíve heard, Iraqís the size of California. we could have had 20,000 inspectors in there--
L: I see a twitch of sarcasm on your face in listening to his comments, why?
Itís not sarcasm. Iím just eating my Popsicle...
L: You got any family over there in the forces right now? Do you know anybody that has family in the forces? When they joined the military, nobody forced em to, correct?
L: No draft. So they signed to fight for their country. Honor. Dignity. Pride. Theyíre gonna follow their orders. What do you think theyíd think if they took video tapes and saw us protesting what theyíre about to do? What would that do to their morale?
I donít know Ė what do you think itíll do?
L: It damn sure wonít be good. Iím from the south, and we got a saying Ė itís not how the jackass got in the ditch, itís how we got him out. This war is imminent. Thereís no doubt about it, thereís nothing the people of this nation can do. Itís gonna happenóitís already happening, itís happening as we speak. I havenít seen the news in 24 hours but, our guys and 35 other coalition country forces are behind us, letís just pray that they come home.
What do you feel like people should do if they donít agree that thereís no alternative to the war?
L: I donít think this is the correct way. A lot of people have lost wages today. This city has lost millions of dollars, because of Muni, the police officers that theyíve had to pay to police these kids up off the road. I bet you at least a third, realistically without exaggeration, are under 16 and have no clue or idea of what political policy, democracy, much less war is all about. Theyíre probably out here because they can be with their friends, out of school. This city has been disrupted. And itís not right. How many people have lost wages, what about their kids?
So is it right?
We had a little girl come over here and we had the same discussion, and when we were through she walked in the crowd, back to her four friends, said have a good day guys, and left. Because her brother was over there [in Iraq] and she was in tears. I told her how would you feel, what would your brother feel if he saw you protesting what heís about to give his life for? Youíre telling him heís wrong, heís a piece of shit. Our boys are there, our boys are over there, and it stinksó
J: It does stink. It does stink.
L: And I hope they donít get gassed. To die by nerve gas is awful, itís ruthless, itís a painful, painful death, agonizing... all we can do is support our troops, boys girls, do your jobs, get it done, and come home.
* * *
I tried to interview a man who was being arrested on Market and 8th St.; when the cop shooed me away, I interviewed the husband of a woman who was being arrested for refusing to move from the street. His name was Paolo.
What are they arresting you for, where are they taking you?
Cop: You have to stay out of here, itís none of your business.
Itís everyoneís business!
So what happened, how did they get arrested?
There were about ten people in the middle of the street, and they started holding hands and making a circle, and there was a group passing down golden gate, and they saw the original group, and suddenly there were a hundred people or so.
Thatís your wife, right there?
Yeah, sheís being picked up right now Ė yeah. And so about ten of them refused to get up, after about 20 minutes or so Ė there were a lot of storm troopers, maybe 30 or so, came and started marching, and they actually did this technique where there was a group coming from the side that nobody had seen, so they took them from two sides.
A group of police?
Yes. So they just took Ė ten people refused to move, and they got arrested. After the first group got arrested actually, they warned people that they were now authorized to use batons, and they started charging down the streetó
Did you see anyone get hit by batons?
I didnít actually see anyone. I think mostly people just moved away. But these people got arrested before that.
And theyíre just waiting to take them away?
What do you thinkís gonna happen now?
From what Iíve heard, itíll be a couple hours, maybe a little more, but theyíll probably let people go.
Do you know where theyíre taking her?
No, Iím not sure. Iím gonna go home and sheís gonna call me.
Why did you guys come down here today, what do you think this is gonna accomplish?
Well, I guess, this morning when I woke up, I think we were both so demoralized by what was happening in Iraq, and we thought if itís gonna be another demonstration where they make a ruckus until the event happens then they just let it go, that just canít happen this time, so we felt we had to come, and I just hope itís not a one-day thing. Obviously we canít expect people to be on the streets every day, but once a week or maybe all the different groups involved here takes a day and keeps on doing this.
Do you feel like there was a time Ė at what moment is violence justified in Iraq, and here in terms of protest...
Iím not a pure pacifist, I believe violence can be justified at some point, when absolutely everything else has been exhausted, and that goes probably for both cases. And certainly in the case of Iraq there were so many indicators that violence could be avoided, even a week before, if anything things seemed more and more optimistic, if theyíd just let them [inspections] go on...
The following essay will appear later this year in First Intensity (http://homepage.mac.com/firstintensity/)
edited by Jenny Penberthy
University of California Press ($45.00)
by Dale Smith
In "Paean to Place," one of her longer poems, Lorine Niedecker wrote, "In us an impulse tests / the unknownÖ." That impulse led her in poetry to challenge such limits as there are for anyone, though it was her particular situation, living alone most of her life in rural Wisconsin, that gave her personal vantage for the technical mastery of her spare, subtly ornamented writing. That ornamentation came from within, through the sustained harmonies and discordances of language. Her words were carefully chosen but simple, sympathetic to the homespun cadences of Black Hawk Island, her family's home. That she had worked as research editor with the Federal Writer's Project to compile Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State, certainly helped build the skills necessary for a folklorist. Poems from this Depression period collected in "New Goose" show how close her ear is to the ground. The folk in her specific locale contribute to a kind of vocal workshop for Niedecker who, as her editor Jenny Penberthy says, works "with twin allegiances to a rural backwater and a metropolitan avant-garde."
Following an earlier (and surprising) surrealist influence, she devoted herself to the study of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore. She carried a close friendship with Louis Zukofsky that endured many years of intimate correspondence and frank editing advice. But it wasn't until she wrote the poems in "New Goose" that she settled into the mature nature of her working habits. Her sympathetic readings of Marx and Engels contributed no doubt to this folk embrace of landscape, but there's also a sense of a profound interest in "condensary," a compression of common speech into poetry. Repetitions of words and phrases thread into the textures that make up life around them. Niedecker gets them down as Art.
Remember my little granite pail?
The handle of it was blue.
Think what's got away in my lifeó
Was enough to carry me through. (96)
The poems in "New Goose" are untitled, brief but expansive, as above, in their forlorn, resolute patience. Her poems are like transparencies, receiving many revisions and careful re-workings. Compare what's printed here:
Asa Gray wrote Increase Lapham:
pay particular attention
to my pets, the grasses. (105)
Against it Penberthy notes a considerable variant found in a letter to Niedecker's confidant Zukofsky.
Great grass! The shoots Michaux
brought back to Philadelphia
by way of Bartram and known to Linnť
bear Jefferson's name.
Asa Gray wrote Increase Lapham:
pay particular attention
to my pets, the grassesó
on these lie fame.
This is but one occasion of the variations noted throughout the collection. And despite the brevity of her work, a tremendous amount of time went into their painstaking compositions. Penberthy records that the 1960s poem "Lake Superior" was condensed from nearly 300 pages of notes that "detailed research into the history and geology of the region." (434) Everything here is worth reading carefully, for through the changes it's possible to see a process of a kind of listening to language. It's personal, isolated and sometimes frustrated, but more often too it reveals a mind cast with optimism onto the vocal surfaces of conversation while behind it the vegetable kingdom heaves with subtle dominance. A short sequence from "For Paul and Other Poems" examines that thin membrane between human need and nature's perilous gifts to it.
Green, prickly humanityó
men are plants whose goodness grows
out of the soil, Mr. Stinkweed
or Mrs. Rose. (147)
And again attending those unflinching thickets of human misery in the lonesome wilderness, she writes:
The thought that stings. How are you, Nothing,
sitting around with something's wife.
Buzz and burn
is all I learn
I've spent my life on nothing. (147)
Her ability to say a lot in a small space with such musical range is not entirely unique. The preservation of place in the sound and choice of her words is. Her poetry is sustained by the folkloric impulse to recover and record native speech, and by the long life in a single place, outside the main urban centers of modernity. And this of course is one of the peculiar contrasts of Niedecker's work. Her welcome canonization as a leading Objectivist, with Oppen, Zukofsky and others, puts her in league with men of diverse world experiences. But it is her attention to the long, returning rhythms of rural life that sustains her measure in the technical workings and manipulations of the poem. The collection here shows what hard work it was to see that "the three virtues / knowledge, humanity, energy / Sometimes ride." (153) The emphasis, of course, is on "Sometimes." Above all she is a poet whose pleasure is inspired by language and place, attentive to local variants of collective tongues. Despite her isolation from the 20th century avant-garde writers she admired, she is very much their contemporary, showing how almost by ear alone the work of poetry is transmitted.
Penberthy has made a significant contribution in this careful and detailed presentation of Niedecker's work. Without her attention Niedecker no doubt would remain a marginal backwater poet. Her contextual notes, biographical references and laborious archival research fleshes out the life of the poet behind the vivid architecture of the written Art she recorded. Her sympathies for the subtle movements, alterations and revisions of Niedecker's work retain a sense of poetry as process rather than a museum-like encasement of definitive, finished work. That process is an ongoing act of attention, and the record of it is poetry.
THESE POEMS OPEN into the death of Arabia Felix (the culture, not the place), the rise of Imperial Europe and eventually the tumult of these other empires in which we now find ourselves entangled, all of it founded on Henry the Navigator's relentless push to get around Africa on the way to the Spice Islands. Not only did Henry's success bring an end to the European caravans whose taxed wealth had funded the flowering brilliance of medieval Arab culture but, in the process, he also developed the instruments that made possible Columbus's cataclysmic voyage across the Atlantic. It all starts there, then: on Cape Espichel, just south of the western extremity of Europe, just north of Henry's school with its wind rose etched in stone, where at the end of a canyon of centuries-old pilgrims' quarters in utter decay, lie the ruins of Our Lady of the Cape. It is a terrifying order of terrain vague, ill-defined and perched between here and here, between now and now, where syntax flutters back and forth, in and out of the knowable, the measurable, honouring its dark ground without abandoning its promise. Adrift in history and myth, fairy tales and TV, the tedious and the unexpected, the ordinary and the marvellous, these poems seek a glimpse of unanticipated forms and disparate knowledges in the detritus of experience piled up in the corners of the millennial turn, a land as promised, not of the given but the taken. The poems cross and recross untold regions of the heart disguised as a New World, scattering the seeds of the yet-to-be thought, drawn on by a dream past apocalypse.
from Dislocations in Crystal
Coach House Books (www.chbooks.com)
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
Walt Whitman, from Preface 1855óLeaves of Grass, First Edition
It's a thankless task. That's beyond question. But I've preferred the review format for a number of reasons. Maybe I have been emotionally brainwashed by Benjamin's careful examination of works, or of Creeley's powerful investment of emotion and spirit to the texts he finds worthy of study and illumination. I like the size, the contained focus and, above all else, the modest engagement book reviews demand. Within those limits I'm able to find what's new in a work through what's new to my thinking. It's an emotional investment always, or it's just an exercise. But the form transfers this energy toward a goal, an illumination or extension of another's work and words. It's a highly advanced collaboration. Unlike an opinion column or journal, the science of review writing demands evidence to support the hypotheses generated by the exuberant coming-to-terms of the reviewer.
As a poet living in the United States during one of the more obnoxious and politically absolute administrations in its history, I find it increasingly difficult to bring words to bear on "the absolute condition of things," as Melville put it. For one, that "absolute condition" is now irresolute, unstable and contradictory. But I feel a responsibility to my diverse physical and creative environments, much more than to anything in myself. The myth is that "self expression" releases the psychic content of the individual for communal mastication. Against this, I've channeled my thoughts on books through the formal medium of reviews and essays. What I think or feel is of little significance compared simply to what's happening. To find out what's happening seems to me the goal of a book review. Same thing goes for Art.
So despite the total psychic cost of our current war in the Middle East, I am moving forward with acknowledgments, notes and small reviews of books that come through our home from time to time. I'll try to update this list periodically. Thanks to those who have sent us so many terrific packages.--Dale
New American Writing . 369 Molino Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941. Special features: Russian Absurdist poetry of the 1930's and Tymoteusz Karpowicz: Solving Spaces. Diverse collection of work edited by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover. Poems by Nathaniel Tarn, Clayton Eshleman, Elizabeth Robinson, Rosmarie Waldrop and many others.
LVNG 10: Translations. P.O. Box 3865, Chicago, IL 60654-0865. Edited by Joel Felix, Michael O'Leary and Peter O'Leary, LVNG gathers Poems from the South Pacific adapted by Nathaniel Tarn, Andrew Rathmann's translations of Paul Celan and poems from the Kabbalah translated by Peter Cole. There are other pieces here by Theodore Enslin, Chris McCreary, John Martone and Murat Nemet-Nejat.
Shuffle Boil 1 and 2. A magazine of poets and music. Edited by David Meltzer and Steve Dickison. C/O Listening Chamber, 1605 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703. Editorial correspondence: email@example.com. Great pieces here by Michael Gizzi, Linda Norton and Geoffery Young. Luminaries Steve Lacy, Amiri Baraka and John Wieners have work here as well. While jazz is a prominent element to this journal, with articles about Billy Strayhorn, Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry, other work looks at Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, the Nashville music scene and Danielson Famile (by Alan Gilbert), "Ötoo weird for Christian rock, too stange for alternative rock, and not cool enough for anything vaguely electronica." SB is a great space for poets to shift gears and tend one third of the holy trinity: Art, Music and Poetry.
Ultimate Pavement Saw 7. Edited by David Baratier. Pavement Saw Press, PO Box 6291, Columbus, OH 43206. firstname.lastname@example.org. This issue features work by Sean Cole, Steve Abbott, Amy King, Susan Quasha and others.
Snare 3. Edited by Drew Gardner. PO Box 2055, NYC 10009. New writing by Marianne Shaneen, Elizabeth Willis, Edwin Torres and others. Spacious format. Elegant design. Good work by Allison Cobb.
Lungfull number 12. "100% Dashing." Edited by the incomparable Brendan Lorber. 316 23rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Big, baby blue cover. Great work by Eileen Myles, Chris Stroffolino and others. An eccentric, small press source for what's happening around Poetry Town.
POM 2. Edited by Allison Cobb, Jennifer Coleman, Ethan Fugate and Susan Landers. 227 Prospect Ave #2, Brooklyn, NY 11215. email@example.com. Betsy Andrews, Jules Boykoff, Chris Tysh and others respond to work in previous issues of this eccentric Brooklyn magazine.
While You Were Watching. Chapbook by Monica Peck. dPress 2002. Sebastopol. www.dpress.net. This is a sweet prose sequence of great phenomenal clarity. "Come here," Peck writes. "Come out of that inkwell. This is the face I want to show you. Forget the others you have seen of me. Forget how I look as I am just stepping out of my door first thing in the morning, dragging my bicycle onto the stoop, helmet unclasped, pantlegs rolled above the knee." A beautiful little book of loss and desire in urban landscapes. And the language is rich, never missing. The motion is in the cadence.
Clutch: Hockey Love Letters. By Sawako Nakayasu. Tin Fish Press 2002. Susan M. Schultz, editor, 47-728 Hui Kelu Street #9, Kane'ohe, Hawaii 96744. www.english.hawaii.edu/tinfish. Meditations on hockey, ice rinks and love, these small, fragmentary poems explore cultural and personal interruptions. Beautifully designed and bound by a rubber band. Get it.
Estrella's Prophecies (The Runaway Spoon Press, Box 495597, Port Charlotte, FL 33949) and Estrella's Prophecies 2 (extant / anabasis, 1512 Mountainside Ct., Charlottesville, VA 22903-9797). By David Baratier. Pieces from a fortune telling vending machine. Our poor author is haunted by frequent outbursts of the future. This is from Prophecies II: Pity for something which you have done / to yourself is in short supply these days. / Do not let someone gouge your eyes out / this month. Overdone, archetypal anti-climatics, should be avoidedÖ." Baratier's is a stern goddess, but she inspires poetry in ways Robert Graves would have found admirable. So it is writtenÖ.
Fin Amor. By Peter Gizzi. Tougher Disguises 2002. Designed, typeset and printed by James Meetze with original frontispiece by George Herms, this chapbook is one of the most elegant and beautiful things to pass through my lair in some time. It's simply gorgeous. And the written work inside stands up to the lovely presentation. Gizzi's at his best with these brilliant, provocative meditations. It's the quality of attention and his affections for things in the world that gives pause over his lines. Reflective, active, the sequence is result of careful readings of the world.
There is no better everything than loss when we have
time. No lack in the present better than everything.
In this expanding model rain falls
according to laws of physics, things drift. And everything
better than the present is gone
in no time. A certain declension, a variable speed.
Is there no better presence than loss?
A grace opening to air.
No better time than the present.
Odes. By Nicole Burrows. Sardines Press. 303 Ortega St., San Francisco, CA 94122. firstname.lastname@example.org. A beautifully designed chapbook with letterpress cover by Roger Snell, Odes is the first in a series of chapbooks by Sardines Press. Poems here recognize and pay homage to a number of poets, including Lewis Warsh, Alice Notley and Eileen Myles. Burrows' mimetic gifts are displayed with wit, humor and insight.
Jim Behrle has created audioblogs of two war poems Kent Johnson read recently in Providence. Check it out at
while we're bogged down outside Basra.... (DS)