To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

David Antin: 11 games for eleanor (previously unpublished) with a republished “note on David Antin”

(“games for eleanor” was a set of 2 person games composed between 1965 and 1966 as a deck of 23 cards intended for reading in subsets of six to thirteen cards selected at random. D.A.)

you come into a strange room
as always you are afraid
you are afraid of     the dark     lightning
    an empty road
you will not stand under a tree when
it is raining or sit near a window
    with a spoon
you hear strange noises in the car
the refrigerator is menacing
you believe in bad luck

we make a plan of the city’s streets
we draw lines indicating the paths
    we intend to take
we spend a great deal of time marking
    in the paths with colored pencils
which we do with such care
that the colors soon obliterate the
and we end up framing the maps
    instead of taking walks

 i don’t habitually watch you noticing the
    way you come and go
i come across you suddenly like a mirror in
    a painting
in which i am reversed
you are a taste in my mouth

i want to know the way in
I also want to know the way out
even if i want to stay there
I want the doors lit

boundary lines
they are waiting for a word
as they lean against it
it is of a level
they become straighter and
as they go down

what kind of game are we playing
there are some games in which one player wins
what the other player loses
games of this kind are called zero-sum games
because when you add up the gains and the losses
    you get zero
according to the best authorities all games
can be reduced to zero sum-games
what kind of game are we playing

we make a list of all the things we want from each other
i read your list and you read mine
we add many other things to each others lists
we hand them back and learn to want them

cannot retire from them
they require
fixing ones eyes upon it
foresight is seeing
what is not there or
it is seeing the length of your arm or
it is making something
that is not there
now or yet
maybe never

it might be an animal
or a collection of stones
if i turn away
it is a circular movement

we require
nowhere you put your hand
will cover it

treating between equals means
treating between extremes means
standing (not lying) between poles means
treating as equals means
treating as poles means
standing (never lying) means
equal extremes


David Antin was  my compadre-in-poetry for more years than most of us have been alive, and over those years I watched with delight & awe his development from “poems that look like poems” to the great acts of talking that mark his later work.  In 1975 I took time to write about his early lineated poems in an essay published in Barry Alpert’s Vort, number 7, and reprinted later as “David Antin: The Poems Before Talking” in my book of essays, Poetics & Polemics (University of Alabama Press, Modern & Contemporary Poetics Series).  An excerpt from that essay follows. 

It seems to me that for Antin as for others of us, there has been a strong sense that what we do as poets (more simply: as people responsible for keeping language & reality together) is in danger of an inescapable, premature reduction as it’s forced to enter the unique entropy machine of the modern communications nexus.  All of which Antin (whose outside reputation for many years has been as an art “critic”) has shown in his model of a Jean Tinguely-type “self-stabilizing data processing machine,” the blueprint of which strongly resembles the ground plan of the [old] Museum of Modern Art.  Put any kind of input into this machine, & it will process it in such a way that the output will be “indistinguishable from the pre-input or initial state of the said machine”:  a product called “art” there or “poetry” elsewhere, but with its specific features degraded to the level of what we were expecting all along. Whatever. …  

His, then, is poetry with a vengeance—not because it sounds like what we were expecting all along (obviously it doesn’t) but because he’s deeply into it & challenging the language on its own ground.  Don’t fret that Antin has left “emotion” & “imagination” to the businessmen who care about such things (that’s what he says he’s done & I believe him), but watch him move deliberately toward that rementalization of reality he hopes will spring us from the trap of the Tinguely Machine. … 

For he acts, here & elsewhere, as the whacked-out moralist [like Epictetus, a role model for his early poems] who recognizes (finally & at long last) that at the bottom of our mis-doings is the evasion of our own responsibility to express the reality of things at all costs.  I think he’s getting there [has gotten there by now & more], by every means a rementalized avant-garde can put at his disposal.  At least I mean to say I’m grateful.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Clayton Eshleman: Four New Poems from “Penetralia”

 A Half Hour with Basquiat

Skull trash staring through wall splash.
Face skillet with sunny-side-up red eyeballs.
Black heel sprouting splayed white fingers.
We have no Hades,    only fetus graffiti!

Halo in a state of wire-barbed garble.
Words a pickup-sticks melee,    a Styx of bloated
   Charon heads,   out of “syncopation” staggers
      sin  cop  nation,   the hero din of heroin wind.
“O war within my members!”
Pit bull in a wedding dress trailing bloodied brail.

Is Basquiat’s angel aware of its incarnation in ashes,
its wholeness in spit-swiped absence?
Its arrows, spirals, half-effaced, misspelled words?
Its word-antlered
        ant hives of
     mutant lewd

Ours, the Aeon of the Child, “Crowned & Conquering.”

The only sin is self-restriction. Detritus as the nullity soul of vision.

Skull as a dream meal, including knives, forks & bone cake chewings.

                                  [Gagosian Gallery, NYC, 3 April 2013]

 The Lavender Fathers

I am one of the lavender fathers.

We want to find that Stone of Division
set as a corner in the human wall.
Our shoulders placed against it would set in motion
the transformation of temporality into great time.

Who you may ask are the lavender fathers?

We are the why & pale of anti-know.
We move inside the word wards of an original wetness,
measure veils stretched over bones.

Each word, a riddle of corridors,
is a capstone capping sunyata.

We once lived in the glyph balloons inhabiting Maya imagination.
Now we play, as if it were a cello, the Grunewald Isenheim Altarpiece,
drawing out its mole tones, its Sadean larvae…

Alas, we fathers are a mess.  We’ve lost, out of our penises,
so much blood. Our ladies, from doing the thorn-pull,
speak to us only in shred-tongue, & while we are under all that occurs
we are weakened by non-existence.
We have lost our cohesive zap as sidereal gremlins,
we now only act up in metaphor…

And what does it mean to be lavender & not,   
to be something emanating from an ancient moose,
the antler motion of a father, neck pouch as a bell,
an image of existence prior to being,
slicing lakes of light burgeoning into green hives, shadowed armatures,
hydromedusae sutra-stroking through world mind evolving.

Tree Roots and Trunks   
                                            [Auvers, July, 1890]

 And Persephone took Vincent’s brush hand,
drawing him down to confront the fusion,
never achieved in painting, of the life of the world
& the inertia of the materials employed.

Her clitoris, when he dared to touch, felt triggerish.
If he could just release it as they tunneled & crawled,
would his mind let go of its descriptive miasma?
And form, of all the connective tissue with which it was stuffed?

Is this the eternity of finality, he wondered,
or the monadic demise of the moon?
Are these blue rootlets frisking about like snapped legs,
the motion within immobility?

A blue corm with three lidless eyes was staring at him,
a face now masked with twigs.
Is this my fix, Vincent puzzled, fumbling for that clitoral trigger…
am I just like a planet, or a paralyzed star?

The daily doldrums of only seeing what he knew,
only doing what he thought, having no right to do evil,
nearly always being alone, seemed to have paused….

As he continued to filibuster,
he realized that his eyes were filling with ants.
“The Great Transparent Ones,” he thought
“communicate entirely through waves & odors…
The Great Transparent Ones…   undying ebb & flow…
the form the wind assumes in a cyclone,
the rays emitting light inside a bulb…

pillow of this dunghill…”

Vaginal blast of the son shot back.

                                          For James Heller Levinson
At Eighty-One

I just awoke from a dream of being in Vienna with Caryl & Wilhelm Reich.
We were at an institute & Reich, late at night, asked me to go out and get him a cigar.
I walked out to the river! Autumn evening light, the river glistening,
beautiful beyond language—or was the river language?

Think of this page as a lighthouse beam on night’s cornucopian density
thousand-wired to the boles & excrescences that have inspired me:

          Bud Powell’s midnight fulgurations on “Tea for Two”
          Cesar Vallejo imprisoning me in global life
          The centroversion of Lascaux
          Hieronymus Bosch vibrating wizard-cruciform insight

Side by side with Caryl in that liminal zone between home &
poetry’s jaguar mouth.  I stared for 25 years into a cave womb
where a bison-headed Cro-Magnon hunter danced after an equally hybrid herd.
In the Les Trois Freres engraving I spotted a long-haired young woman
seated inside the hunter’s lower body & noted:
“the hybrid is the engine of anima display”


Why don’t you risk weather-roping a raft to the stain of being eighty-one?
The pattern guide is oblivion spell, words no longer safe from sleep’s connect
     to being gone--
I’m wondering how Pollock would have “dripped” 3:19 AM
when & if the spell of vanish had lifted the octopus out of modes of knowing--
to write now in the flow of no, use “no”
scratch your “are” as if in Combarelles,    be first as you last,
bolster, game the maze of no longer knowing what from whether,
is it not time to forget the broken pylons of your strife gain,
now the problem of saying is moles gnawing through each word
since no word instills a savior path.


The mesh of now & the life-force we undermined in Eden:
a crucible clouded with the frailty of forever…

Beautiful river also an open skull emitting Trump & nebular gas…

Let’s go shop, feel the sunny autumn breeze
in the randomness of fixture as a tuned spar.

All adds in as nothing floods out
& nothing
adds up
as all.
                                                 November, 2016

[note.  All of these poems are from a new manuscript called Penetralia which 
will be published by Black Widow Press in the spring of 2017. In August of 2017
Wesleyan University Press will publish Eshleman's co-translation with A. James
Arnold of The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire, a bilingual 950 page collection. 
Eshleman's most recent book publications include Clayton Eshleman / The
Essential Poetry 1960-2015 (Black Widow Press) and A Sulfur Anthology (based
on the 46 issues of Sulfur magazine that he edited between 1982 and 2000) from
Wesleyan University Press. There are also several chapbooks from BlazeVOX
that can be accessed by emailing]

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Jerome Rothenberg: A Poem for the Cruel Minority

[Written during the Reagan administration as “A Poem for the Cruel Majority” & a counter to talk then about “the silent majority” & its rising place in our national politics. The result of the recent election, in which a minority of the electorate brought Donald J. Trump into office, caused me to rethink & to reword the earlier designation. If further changes are needed (& they will be), I’ll think about it more. (J.R.)]

     The cruel minority emerges!

     Hail to the cruel minority!
                                                                                                                                                                       They will punish the poor for being poor.
They will punish the dead for having died.

     Nothing can make the dark turn into light
for the cruel minority.
Nothing can make them feel hunger or terror.

     If the cruel minority would only cup their ears
the sea would wash over them.
The sea would help them forget their wayward children.
It would weave a lullaby for young & old.

    (See the cruel minority with hands cupped to their ears,
one foot is in the water, one foot is on the clouds.)

    One man of them is large enough to hold a cloud
between his thumb & middle finger,
to squeeze a drop of sweat from it before he sleeps.

    He is a little god but not a poet.
(See how his body heaves.)

    The cruel minority love crowds & picnics.
The cruel minority fill up their parks with little flags.
The cruel minority celebrate their birthday.

    Hail to the cruel minority again!

    The cruel minority weep for their unborn children,
they weep for the children that they will never bear.
The cruel minority are overwhelmed by sorrow.

    (Then why are the cruel minority always laughing?
Is it because night has covered up the city's walls?
Because the poor lie hidden in the darkness?
The maimed no longer come to show their wounds?)

    Today the cruel minority vote to enlarge the darkness.

    They vote for shadows to take the place of ponds
Whatever they vote for they can bring to pass.
The mountains skip like lambs for the cruel minority.

    Hail to the cruel minority!
Hail! hail! to the cruel minority!

    The mountains skip like lambs, the hills like rams.

    The cruel minority tear up the earth for the cruel minority.
Then the cruel minority line up to be buried.

    Those who love death will love the cruel minority.

   Those who know themselves will know the fear
the cruel minority feel when they look in the mirror.

    The cruel minority order the poor to stay poor.
They order the sun to shine only on weekdays.

    The god of the cruel minority is hanging from a tree.
Their god's voice is the tree screaming as it bends.
The tree's voice is as quick as lightning as it streaks across the sky.

    (If the cruel minority go to sleep inside their shadows,
they will wake to find their beds filled up with glass.)

    Hail to the god of the cruel minority!                                                                                                   Hail to the eyes in the head of their screaming god!

   Hail to his face in the mirror!

   Hail to their faces as they float around him!

   Hail to their blood & to his!

    Hail to the blood of the poor they need to feed them!                                                                           Hail to their world & their god!

    Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!

Hail & farewell!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Michael Palmer: “Tomb of Aimé Césaire” and “Light Moves (1-6), for Jackson Mac Low”

Editor’s Note  I’m using today’s Poems and Poetics to celebrate the publication of Michael Palmer’s new poetry collection, The Laugher of the Sphinx, just out from New Directions.  A great & thoroughly distinctive poet in his own right, Palmer in these poems shows his affinity & regard for two of the great ones who came just before him, & in “Light Moves” especially, the work “pointedly echoes and evolves from Mac Low’s 22 Light Poems” published several decades earlier. Along with this sense of contemporary & historical kinship, the lyric force of Palmer’s own later poetry is a turning that illuminates the power of the work (his & theirs) that came before & the work still to come.  The presence here of the attendant linkages is surely one of his greatest resources: “that company I always hear as I work, and for whom I write, and to whom I write.” (J.R.) 

Tomb of Aimé Césaire 

I mourned a person who turned out
not to be dead
Of that what is to be said 

Surgical noise of the city
Sentence and song under earth 

I wept for something lost
a dawn or a dusk or a thought
a thing that couldn’t be bought 

Sun throat cut
Woman removing a glove 

And the body at once naked
and veiled
waiting and waiting for what 

Coma Berenices above the bay
sea wrack beneath 

Speech of the bone
and of the polychrome wing
speech of the leaf descending 

and of the rubble in a ruined field
Words have their lives apart 

I mourned a person who turned out
not to have died
between a feral sky 

and a flooded shore where
a wave was frozen in mid-air

Light Moves 1 

Mineral light and whale light,
light of memory, light of the eye,
memory’s eye, shaded amber light
coating the page, fretted
light of anarchy, flare of bent
time, firelight and first light,
lake light and forest light,
arcing harbor light,
spirit light and light of the blaze,
enveloping blaze,
century’s fading light,
light of cello, voice, drum,
figures billowing along
horizon, aligned, outline.

Light Moves 2

Bright light of sleep, its
shortness of breath, its
thousand sexual suns, curved
and fretted light, lies of that light,
dark, inner light, its
whispered words:
Now beyond, now below,
this to left, this to right,
scarecrow in stubble field,
nighthawk on wire,
these to cleanse your sight.

Light Moves 3

Light through the Paper House
rippling across floors and walls,
across the words of the walls,
its paper tables, paper chairs,
its corners,
pale light by which it reads itself,
fills and empties itself,
and speaks.

Light Moves 4

Watcher on the cliff-head
in afternoon light, aqueous light,
watcher being watched
in the salt-silver light
amidst the darting of terns,
beach swallows and gulls,
between the snow of sand
and the transit of clouds,
keeper of thought or prisoner of thought,
watcher being watched,
snowman of sand,
anonymous man.

Light Moves 5

Night-sun and day-sun
twinned and intertwined,
light by a bedside,
cat’s eye by night,
owl light and crystal light,
endless motion of the light,
the rise and the fall,
the splintered flare,
churning northern lights,
phosphor, tip of iris,
gunmetal moon’s
far, reflected light,
oil sheen
on pelican’s wing.

Light Moves 6

And yet what have we done
where have we gone
sometimes in light sometimes not
we say the great world the small world
the fields
patched with yellow the sudden crows
the city’s streets
alone among others
the billowing streets
bodies crowding past
outlined by light.
What have we done
among the roads and fields
in the theater’s shadows and the theater’s light
so bright you cannot see
those watching beyond
in perfect rows in the dark.

(in homage to Jackson MacLow)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Gerry Loose: Eight Further Poems in Ogham Script with a Note on Poetics & Translation


Church of the 3 Brethren     Lochgoilhead


little saint of whitethorn
little quencher of wolf spark
welcome to the burial mounds
dear confessor of blood-red berries
sweet dweller of beehive cell
oaks make good gallow-trees
my heart
Blackwaterfoot, Arran, King’s Cave #1
son: to leave                                                                                                                                       
friend: to stroll among trees                                                                                                        
work: to ride horses                                                                                                                       
killing: to be swift                                                                                                                          
father: to shelter the hunted
Blackwaterfoot, Arran, King’s Cave #2
skinsilver birch                                                                                                                                    
rowan of pillage                                                                                                                                  
heather the udder brusher                                                                                                     
poplar the horse trembler                                                                                                            
oak of hill & adze                                                                        
Scoonie, Fife
no name for        them
they grow deep within
tree proud bush proud
urgent    they   ’re allies
though    they     groan
shrivel        in the hunt
still bigger than a horse
coltsfoot the apple that suckles                                                                                                      
sun hoof the vine that strangles                                                                                                  
sun horse the yew that sickens
manifold the wheel
honey bees dancing
blush of the dying
breath of horses
wood brands burning
warriors at the breast
trees green leafing
world wheel whirling

begin with honey
& fellowship of trees
one third of a spear
& a shroud

return salmon
return sun
return spring well
bees are dying
Mains of Afforsk
beauty’s a boast
& kinship with saplings
with a glow of anger
& warriors’ gear
cherished hazel
& grace disappear
cypher unknown
& wisdom undone
Writes Gerry Loose, qua translator:
     “Ogham is the [rune-like] script used for inscriptions on stone during the 4th–8 th  centuries CE, in the earliest known form of Gaelic. It comprises strokes across or to either side of a central stem line and is found on monoliths mainly in Ireland, with a few in Scotland, mostly in Gaelic but some in conjunction with Pictish symbols, which may be in that language. ...
     “Ogham is also called the tree alphabet, since the name of a tree (or plant) has been ascribed to each Gaelic letter thus: beith, luis, nin – birch, herb, ash . . . & so on. An alphabet végétal. ...
     “Whatever the method of reading this script, it is steeped in the secrecy of the literate over the non literate; it’s always regarded as the property of the high poets, the early medieval fili of Ireland, who would spend many years memorizing 150 varieties of ogham. With the above, it’s possible to see the poetic possibilities, whatever ogham script is used. ...
     “Because the letters on the inscribed stones are sometimes doubled up, I have used this for emphasis.  Because, also, not all words in Gaelic have precise English equivalents (for example seanachas has overtones of biography and of tradition and of genealogy and of history and of language) I have moved between phrase oghams to use words I think best work in a given poem. Where these will not do, I have used other, appropriate translations of the Gaelic, the stone and the landscape itself to make a viable English poem from the ogham.”
N.B.  Three additional Ogham poems can be found on Poems and Poetics for February 5, 2015.  Loose also notes that the titles of the poems posted above are all place names.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Mohsen Emadi: YAMSA, A Tribute to Absence (from “Standing on Earth”)

in memory of Farzad Kamangar


Translation from Persian by Lyn Coffin

[Farzad Kamangar was a 32-year-old Iranian teacher, poet, journalist, human rights activist and social worker who was hung on May 9, 2010. At his execution, he offered chocolates to all the observers.] 


I'm sitting at the end of the world
in Yamsa
on a small island
you can walk around
in an hour--
a sufficient time for you to know
the date you are waiting for
is not coming.
fifty years ago, it was bought.
they built some wooden cottages,
a fireplace and an oven
and I arrived there by boat.
it is rainy
at the end of the world.
swans and boats are floating on the water
death does not come here.
I was sitting on the boat
when she, with her green eyes,
was speaking to me about the age of soldier's boots,
which last more than fifty years in her land,
the fact that she misses me
and loves fire
and blue flames.
the end of the world will not come again
always, there is only one end
and nobody can interpret it.


In Yamsa
nobody speaks his own language
in winter when the lakes are frozen
wolves and humans come here walking
this place was never uninhabited
everything which came here came in its perfection,
your beauty, my impossibility,
and in intensity
language always disappears
one can only point to objects.
people come to Yamsa with abstract nouns
but in the first fire
abstractions and wood burn together
and the taste of chocolate
turns to ash in the mouth
when the chair is pushed away from under the feet of a
hanging man and
absurdity and meaning
both refer to the chocolate wrapper
at the same time the stage is emptied
of the killer and the killed, the viewer and the viewed,
and the cleaner sweeps up the chocolate remains.
sitting at the end of the world
the wind crawls into the fire and all the flames are blue.


Absence is when you can point out
all the attributes of someone
her green eyes
her moonlight skin and her lips which are
but you cannot point at her
or when the woman who lies beside you
does not have a nightmare
that makes the caress of your hands a necessity
this is the reason God is always absent,
whether the chair is pushed out from under my feet
or I sit in Yamsa on a chair
and the you of my poems changes.
In all the world wars
no bomb ever fell at the end of the world
it has never been occupied
no savior ever fit there.
At the end of the world
I am burning papers
where the skin of women and my hands
mingle with decorations
boats row in nothingness
the wind crawls into empty houses
and all the flames are blue.


in Yamsa
time transubstantiates to experience
a day is the distance in feet between newly-arrived boats
and never-arriving boats
a year is the distance
measured in hands
it takes my hands to reach your hair
and eternity is taller than the height of a human
the height of a pushed away chair
when the feet no longer move
and the doctor-in-charge determines
the rope can be taken away
the rope is taken away
and I get empty in the transubstantiation of boat to boat
hand to hair
and body to memory
I transmute to a place in Yamsa,
a grave, a cradle
where blue flames
are the only burning metaphor which flickers there
just like a date
at the end of the world.


I'm sitting here
in Yamsa
in shadow and reflection
song and the river
tears and the breath of infinity
in a boat which brings me back
to you and my Palestine
to me and your Kurdistan.
arsenic burns blue
lead burns green.
arsenic and lead,
poison and bullet
burn in us
we miss each other
and both are indebted to absence
it is rainy.
the trains are delayed.
In the last station
with a blue umbrella
I'm searching for a woman
with a red umbrella
and green eyes.

 [Reprinted from M. Emadi, Standing on Earth, recently published by Phoneme Media, Los Angeles.]

 Born in Iran, Mohsen Emadi is the award-winning author of four collections of poetry published in Iran and Spain. He has also translate numerous collections of poetry. Emadi studied Computer Engineering in Sharif University of Technology in Iran and Digital Culture at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. He is the founder and manager of Ahmad Shamlou's official website, and The House of World Poets, a Persian anthology of world poetry featuring more than 500 poets from around the world. He was awarded the Premio de Poesia de Miedo in 2010 and IV Beca de Antonio Machado in 2011. Emadi has lived in Iran, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Spain, and is now based in Mexico City.