Saturday, December 29, 2007

Skating into 2008

2007 was a really big year. There are four events which have defined this year for me.

1. I learned how to ride a bicycle. Boring right? Not exactly. I'm a 38 year old with cerebral palsy. This happened late in the summer in front of the gasping stares of the neighbors. The bicycle is a miracle event for me in three aspects: it made me closer to and more worshipping of my husband, who is an avid bike rider and, after getting sick of my endless whining convinced me that I could do it. Then, there was just the pure pleasure of riding the bike. Finally, my bicycle has forced me (and others) to think of myself in a new way. Instead of defining myself by what I CAN'T do, something which I've done all me life, and others have been more than happy to go along with, I have had to have sort of a re-adjustment in attitude.

2. My book arrived.

3. Thanks to the poet Robin Art and my wonder boss, Emily, I have had my first semester teaching composition. This has been much different from what I thought it would be, although equally pleasing.

4. I finally (after six years) had the strength to resign from the Department of Education.

There have been smaller things too: hanging out with Jill, Bruce and Reb was great. Meeting Lisa Jarnot changed my life. The death of my poet-friend Mary Higgins. Getting closer to my mother, my grandmother, my son, and my in-laws.

I have some resolutions for 2008. Most of these are centered around poetry.

I have spent this year writing and struggling to find a place to fit in the poetry world -- which is a place that feels very divided to me. The fact that my work doesn't fit into any particular place as made me feel like an outsider of sorts. Some say my work is too experimental, others say it isn't experimental enough. Some people dismiss work because you're a woman, others perhaps because I'm disabled, others because I'm not disabled enough. I've been told that my work is sentimental, or that it's oblique, or that it's perfect and will find a place in the world. My anger has led me to (perhaps unnecessarily) to get in some heated discussions. After a one disaster in particular, I went list-serv free.

What I need to do is find a quietness. I need to separate the ego from the artist. Art is not (or shouldn't be) a way to make friends or find validation in the world. Whether one is in magazine x or magazine y or included in such and such group doesn't make one a better person and it certainly doesn't make one a better artist. There are plenty of 'known' poets who write like shit, and plenty of 'great' poets who never get their due. But, I've bought that mythology. I think most of poets have. If we haven't, why are so many poets (myself included) vying to get in certain journals, certain MFA programs, even certain jobs. Who has come up with the power to convince people that once they are published by x press they've arrived. The truth is the stakes are so little in poetry that there is no arriving. As dad likes to say, poets are not rock stars, you will always be able to go to the grocery store without being recognized.

My perceived (oft real) rejection of my body has seeped into my life as an artist and that's not a good thing. I've been bothered by (poetic) rejection in the past simply perhaps because I see it as an extension of my incapability to fit in as a young woman (in popular circles, in ' normal' circles, even (believe it or not, with disabled the world). My body places me in a strange place. I have all the capabilities of an average person, but I look slightly 'off,' so I can't what we call in the gay world 'pass.'

But, I am finally ready to divide the two. I am not my work and my work is not me. I just happen to be the person who wrote the stuff. Any pleasure or distaste that people get from my work does not have anything to do with Jennifer. I think many, many poets and editors are unable to make this distinction. I know it sounds trite, but it's what I'm dealing with.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


We just came back from the "Water" exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. The show is primarily a plea for conservation. It didn't quite have a profound effect on me because I think about this stuff all the time, but I was thrilled that the message might get through to other people. Some facts about water:

The average price of tap water is .01 cent per gallon.
The average price of bottled water is $10/ gallon.
40% of bottled water is from municipal water supply.
In some parts of Africa women are required to walk ten k a day to fetch the day's water supply.
Argriculture uses most of our fresh water.
It takes 600 gallons of water to 'raise' one commercially raised hamburger.

Here are a few things our family does to try to help. I wish we could do more.

We are not vegetarians, but we limit our meat consumption and try to buy organically, humanely raised meat.
We buy mostly organic food.
We use energy efficient light bulbs.
We try to turn the lights off when not in use.
We don't own a car.
We do not buy bottled water, at all.
We recycle everything.
We don't flush the toilet after every pee.

If everyone did a few simple things, we might get somewhere!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Shopping as per Revend Billy

I don't know what Jesus would buy, but it wouldn't be from The GAP!

I continue on my Rev. Billy, politically correct shopping ventures. Jeff's list is nearly done. He got a slew of various items from the Natural History Museum ($195) and a few books from our local bookstore, Word ($35). I did sin, yes I did, I bought the husband a CD from Amazon ($12) and Goodness he wants a phone-thing (I think I may have to give AT&T some money), ughh.

Today, December 17th, is the OFFICIAL release date of Derivative of the Moving Image, which means, if you ordered it from Amazon, it should be in the mail. If you didn't get a copy yet, there's only about 100 left. Act now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've been mulling over what I want for Christmas, As someone who tries to maintain a non-materialism lifestyle, I've been hard-pressed to come up with anything. I mean, I would like Rufus's Judy Garland album, but that's about it. Then, it occured to me that I was greedy, I did have a list, a long list. I will share it, but you can't get it at the Gap.

The List

I want Bush and Co. to disappear. I want Obama and Oprah to run the country.
I want people to stop being mean to homosexuals.
I want my friend to have her sight back.
I want my sister to be alive.
I want Lisa and Thomas to be eternally happy.
I want the hipster mom who sent her kid to school with lice to be cosmically punished.
I want my son's teacher to stop harassing him for picking his noae.
I want my two snotty students to grow up.
I want to be in Oregon.
I want my friend Jeff Hoover to re-appear.
I want my house to be clean.
I want people to read my book.
I want my cat, Lucy, to stop pooping in the tub.
I want the guy who killed a bike rider to go to jail.
I want everyone to spend one day in a wheelchair.
I want someone to build a New Mexican restuarant next door to me.
I want Will Alexander to feel better.
I want the roaches to go away.
I want the dollar to get stronger so that I can buy a dress at Agnes B.
I want all children to have health care.
I want every New York to teach in an inner-city school for one day.
I want Jill Essbaum to get the job of her dreams.
I want Ms. Weiss to retire.
I want to be on the Brian Lehrer show.
I want the poetry world to be a kinder place, where people are supportive, not vampish.

Wait these's more!

I want my husband's class to behave.
I want my husband to find an agent.
I want my grades to be done.
I want my son to behave in the mornings.
I want to see my dad, Anne, and retarded Sammy (ITS A CAT).
I want to see the new Schabel film.
I want my cat Muffin to survive a little longer.
I want my student's Blaise and Jesse to make pro (swimming and football).
I want Apogee Press to answer my emails.
I want AB to get all 'A's in school.
I want my student K. to hang in there.
I want HIV to go away.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Poetry's Best Of 2007

Best books of 2007:

Nancy Kuhl, The Wife of the Left Hand
MaryRose Larkin, Book of Ocean

Rock Star of Poetry: Kate Greenstreet

Best Host: Bruce Covey tied with Sommer Browning

Hardest Working Woman in Show Biz: Reb Livingston

Sexiest Poet: Jill Alexander Essbaum

Most interesting non-poetic text: The Dangerous Book for Boys

Best Poetry Teacher: Lisa Jarnot

A New/Old Poet I read: Duncan and Olson

Most Poetic Film: Short Bus

Most Long Awaited Book: Mine -- 15 years!

Saddest Poetry News: The deaths of Gene Frumkin and Mary Higgins

This year, we are going to follow Rev. Billy's good advice. We are going to cut our Christmas shopping down. We suggest you do the same! We suggest making things, donating money or stuff on other's behalf, and avoiding the big box stores. We know it's a lot easier in New York, but we buy from the local bookstore (Word), local toy stores, the local bike shop, and the Natural History Museum. We highly recommend buying poetry books!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I was number three on "Word" Bookstore's bestseller list. Thank you Christine!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A New Saint Elizabeth Street

After five years as editor of Saint Elizabeth Street, I have decided to change the format. Although I'll be sorting through the number of submissions I have currently, after this issue, I'm going to stick to invitation only.

The life of a small magazine is a difficult one, as all editors know. Every editor, no matter how popular, has their crosses to bear. Saint Elizabeth Street has always been a small enterprise. Although we've published many fabulous people, we've never had the time or knack to make it into something popular or 'famous.' This comes largely from the restrictions of having a small child, a full-time job, two cats, and my own writing career. Mainly, I'm just not that good at tooting my own horn. At first, I had illusions of SES rivaling Paris Review, Fence, and so on. Since then, I've grown up a lot.

I have been realizing things about the poetry world that my older mentors have been telling me for years. Poetry is and isn't a hierarchy. Within reason, young poets are all the same to me --no matter how many books, what job, or what awards they have. The real imporrtance is in the work. Is it good? Does it offer something to the world? If the work is mediocre, it is irrelevant who publishes it. There is a believed hierarchy within my generation that I just don't buy into. At the top of the poetry hierarchy, if such a thing exists, are the older poets: Tarn, Bernstein, Notley, Waldman. I don't have to list them all. The folks who have really been around the block more than once.

I have also realized that many poets regard poetry as a horse race. The game is to see how many poems you can publish in x amount of time to get x award or x job. I'm not saying anything new. Tarn writing about this all extensively. People who live in glass houses, of course, shouldn't throw bricks, and I have fallen into this trap as much as the next guy. However, it has really started to affect my work as an editor.

Poets submit work and write back a day later and say the work has been taken elsewhere -- or they want to edit it -- and so on. There must be lots of mags. Who is taking all this work? Poets who I publish often don't write back to say thank you or give positive feedback. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to work hard to publish the work of a poet who you never hear from again. I am sure there are numerous reasons for this, but it often feels like the poet is just off to the next thing...the next publication, the next submission. They are moving too quickly to look back. I cannot tell you how wonderful the small world of appreciation is. I HAVE worked with some wonderful poets: Howe, Olsen, Tarn, Baker, Richard K., Dabid Abel, Gil F, Kate Greenstreet, Jen Benka, Meredith Quartermain, Stephanie Strickland, Marcella Durand, Aneta B, MaryRose Larkin, Gene Frumkin, Mary Higgins, Lee Bartlett, VB Price, so on and so forth. I feel guilty for leaving people out, it would be too long to list them all. David Wolach has been particularly fabulous. George K. in the Gene Frumkin issue has been a lovely soul. There seems to be a correlation between success and graciousness. There also seems to be a second link. Ultimately, the best poets, no matter their quality of writing, don't seem to give a fuck about getting ahead. Rather, they live and die for poetry.

Once the initial shock was over, I was thrilled with being a small publication. I don't mind being read by a small audience. It has made me feel part of the poetry community in a way that I never did before. I have met so many wonderful people and read great work. But, it's really starting to take an odd turn. I find that I DO mind not being read by the people I publish. It may seem selfish -- but it's just not fun. I asked Reb Livingston if I should keep plugging along. She said that it has to be fun. I'm not so sure so anymore.

I have to admit that I'm not the best editor either. I lose maniscripts, I take too long to reply, I spelled Stephanie Strickland's name wrong, I published the same Susanna Fry poems twice. On and on. Poets should be protected from me! But, I do have to say in my own defense all these things have happened to my own submissions too. I've never had a poem published without a typo! (except in Coconut!).


Speaking of killer cool poets, I just had the luck of reading with Reb Livingston, Jill Alexander Essbaum, and Bruce Covey at Emory University. I've never met a group of more fabulous, kind, warm folks, and fine, fine poets too!

Monday, November 26, 2007


I'll be reading a few places in the next few months:

November 29th
Emory University
Harris Hall Parlour
Atlanta, GA
With Reb Livingston and Jill Alexander Essbaum

December 8th
So And So Reading Series
The Distillery
Boston, MA
With Reb Livingston and Andrea Baker

December 10th
Robins Bookstore
Philidelphia, PA
6 PM
with Andea Baker and Jim Stewart

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book Update

I am in the midst of a poet's most difficult job. How to promote your work and not seem like a jerk? How to be an artist and not be egotistical? There are only a few copies of the first printing of Derivative of the Moving Image left!

Here are a few tasty samples:


Being disabled is not what you think.
Limitation exists only within the context of others
as the only language the body knows
is that which it tells itself.
Movement appears painful from a distance
when rather it is just the body reiterating itself.
Like one of da Vinci's hopelessly grounded things
these limbs make a contortionist out of me,
lifting my one good wing from the sidewalk
I unfold finally, cinematically,
after a winter of wordless birds.

From Hypnogogic Diary


Now, you are no longer yourself
but a variation of.
I resist taking you in,
not in repulsion but worry.
You prove your accidental cruelty
in this structure that can
no longer bother to move
beyond itself, redefining our
ideal, our own small interest
in death. When you go
will you leave behind merely
a space that the human figure once filled
or will a likeness remain?
As mundane as it sounds,
I am finally settling into this life.

From A Paris Hotel Room

It was the spring after my sister died that I began to notice the moths. They would follow me from room to room beating against the window shades or showing themselves in the one tiny patch of light as I dressed for the day. Some days, some hours, I would count as many as twenty and still they held no significance for me. I saw them as many see the trees which line the highway, just passing objects.

One afternoon when the rains came I let the girls take off all their clothes and run naked in the yard while I danced around them in my blue nanny dress. I don't know why I did that. That night the moths were so large that they woke me like a burglar might. I put bowls of sugar around the house to keep them from the books.

Occasionally, the elder of the two girls will touch my arm and speak of my sister as if she remembers her. She tells me that my sister is dead.

Then the moths. They like to linger in hot places like the roof of the car. The smaller ones cling to my hands as I water the garden in the morning. When I ask others if they notice the creatures with the same consistency most deny it or act as though it is ordinary. The few that show an interest describe them as hideous monsters. I argue them to be more beautiful than butterflies.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Big Day

Book Party for Jennifer Bartlett
Derivative of the Moving Image
Friday, Nov. 9th
7-9 PM
Word Bookstore (
126 Franklin St.
Greenpoint Brooklyn
take the 'G' train to Greenpoint Ave.
Walk 1 block to the river
Make a left on Franklin
Wine Provided!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


As we progress rather quickly toward WAR with Iran, remember to write to whomever will listen (or not) and try to stop it! Meanwhile, if you are not convinced that Iran is NOT THE DEVIL STATE rent 'The Apple.'

I'm reading tomorrow at Pete's Candy Store with the fabulous Betsy Andrews and the wonderful Jim Stewart.
709 Lormier
Drinks, Sandwiches, and Poetry
What more could you ask for!

Also, there is a benefit for Will Alexander:

308 Bowery / F to 2nd Ave, or 6 to Bleecker
$10 suggested donation, more if you can

Poet and artist Will Alexander has become seriously ill and has no health insurance. In order to help him defray the cost of treatment his friends will gather and read Will’s work as well as poems for Will.


(and more tba)

Funds raised will be sent to POETS IN NEED, a nonprofit organization set up to help poets in crises. If you can’t make it please send a tax-deductible donation with a note that it is for Will Alexander to:
PO BOX 5411

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Brookyln Rail

If you are out & about in New York, I have a poem on the last page of the Brooklyn Rail. Yeah!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Awww, yes. Snuggling up with a good book!

I am really surprised at the way I feel now that I am able to hold my book. All the rampant critisms I have of myself have faded, and I feel utterly at peace. I was telling a friend today that this has been such a journey for me. Tarn called it an "epic." I have waited so long, and held on for much longer than almost anyone I know has had to. Most of my contemporaries are on their second or third book by my old age -- nearly forty! Some of the delay is my own fault. I think that I am kind of a famously underachiever. Someone who was always too shy and insecure to really accomplish much. There were a series of events that really pulled me into poetry and made me more self assured.

The first of these was my move to New York, and my access to poets. Then can my marriage to Jim who was on the same frustrating path. A big boost was our decision to create Saint Elizabeth Street. Then, UNM Press accepted my book with the help of VB Price. When I met the poet Andrea Baker ...who lives around the corner...her success provided a new model, and she has been enormously supportive and helpful, as I hope I have of her! Finally, the relentless egging on of my father and Nathaniel closed the deal.

I am in sort of a strange space, however, because my immediate circle has seen the book, but it won't be in the world for another week. Neither of my parents have seen it, nor have Nathaniel and Bill Olsen. It's another waiting game...with lots of work to come. Luckily, I have my students, my kid, my husband, my mother's pending trip to NY, and laundry to distract me!

Blessings are always mixed. Some people who are everywhere in the book will never see it. My beloved sister most of all, my step-mother Elizabeth, Gene, Mary Higgins, and my super-hero of a grandfather. But, overall, life is good...

Now if only I could find that paint guy's number...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Arrival

My book is here! And it's lovely, thanks to the good folks at UNM Press. Last night, we had a wonderful celebration with the Bakers, Julia, Nancy, and three nutty boys. There was champange all around! I'm too exhausted to say more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I am so heartbroken by what is going on in my country, I don't know where to start. In NYC the news is geared toward President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia U. The media is on the bandwagon trying to convince Americans as fast as it can that we need to attack Iran, Let's follow the train of thought.

1. The first line of the Times is that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that homosexuality does not exist in Iran. Is this supposed to turn Americans toward war. Don't MOST AMERICANS have prejudices against homosexuality. What has Bush and Co. said about gays?

Bush 2003 I have no problem with homosexuality -- I have a problem with homosexual acts.

"I think it's very important that we protect marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. I proposed a constitutional amendment. The reason I did so was because I was worried that activist judges are actually defining the definition of marriage. And the surest way to protect marriage between a man and woman is to amend the Constitution."
--Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004

2. We should attack Iran to stop them from getting nuclear weapons...

The US has nuclear weapons, and has been the only place crazy enough to use them.

3. We should attack Iran because they don't like Isreal.

When is Isreal going to start defending itself? Also, has Iran DONE anything to Isreal, saying and doing are not the same.

4 Ahmadinejad."denied that Iran is involved in smuggling weapons into Iraq, as the US government has charged." The media wants us to believe this is a lie. Iran and Iraq have known opposing groups, IF they have supplied any weapons, it has been to people on our side.

I am begging people to stop being apathetic, I agree that Ahmadinejad is a jerk, but I refuse to live in a landscape of constant war. What can we do:

1. Don't vote for Clinton or Guiliani. This will assure war.
2. Donate money
3. write your senator
4.try to spread the word
5. go to marches -- there is one in DC this Saturday

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Just came back form my first bike ride with Jim! After a difficult morning, things seem back on track. The laundry is washing, the cats are sleeping, and Jeff is with the Bakers.

In other news, Lisa Jarnot is reading at the Poetry Project on Wed.

I did an interview with Didi Menedez here.

And the fabulous book arrives at the press this week!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Poems in Wodgathering

I have some poems in my first magazine working with poets with disabilities, Wordgathering

Friday, September 14, 2007

Book News!

The book is arriving the week of October 5th, but can be ordered now.

We are having a fabulous book party.

Nov. 9th
126 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222

There will be wine, you know it!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Gift!

For my 38th birthday, my husband bought me this....and taught me how to ride it!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bad news/good news

I just got poems rejected from Fence for the 80th time. I don't know what's up with them. The poems I sent are close to other stuff that they publish. They are also part of a trio of which the first is arriving in The Brooklyn Rail next mont h. Yea!

The book is at the printer. It won't be long!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mahem Hits Manhattan!

There's a taxi strike in NY! O my goodness, how will all the rich people get to work! It's fashion week to boot. Surely, Naomi can't ride the bus in THAT!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Two Lines

These are my favorite two lines in a song ever:

"The boys who made me lose the blues
and then my eyesight."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Lee Bartlett

Today I am thinking about my father, Lee Bartlett. Last night, I read sections my father's magazine, American Poetry. I was looking at Fall, 1988, the issue which is posthumously dedicated to Robert Duncan. The issue includes an interview with Bill Everson, who was friends with Duncan for forty years. Mary Fabily (whose name I am surely misspelling) was a lover/wife? of Everson and one of Duncan's closest friends. Note: Duncan, while gay, seemed to have some funky stuff going on with the ladies that is unclear to me. Everson speaks of jealous tensions surrounding the Mary -- and I have been reading simuliar stories about our beloved Ms. Levertov.

But, I don't mean to write about these guys & gals. The point is: ah, my daddy!

The deeper I get into his work, the more I realize how seminal it is/was to the world of poetry. As I have mentioned before, Talking Poetry, for example, is probably the best book of interviews with poets that I have run across. Where else is there one collection with interviews with Michael Palmer, Anne Waldman, Thom Gunn, and Clayton Eshleman? Just to name a few. In addition to a stack of books on Everson, including his biography, my father also edited/wrote/worked on DisemBodied Poetics for Naropa, a book of James Laughlin's letters, an Anthology of New Mexican poets, The Sun is But a Morning Star (which I now know comes from Duncan), the American Poetry Series (which includes books by Everson, McClure, and Tarn), his own book of poetry -- the Greenhouse Effect, the letters of Stephen Spender, a bibliography of Beat poetry, and the first essay on the Language Poets called "What is Language Poetry?" which arguably may be where the term LP derives from. & these are just a few.

It is amazing to grow up and find that something to which you never quite paid attention is so valuable to your work life. It's like growing up to be a filmmaker and finding out your mother had an affair with Woody Allen.

It frustrates me that this great work has been pushed aside. I so want to share it, not out of nepotism, not for the money or glory, but simply because IT'S REALLY GOOD. My father's work is just as important as Silliman's and Perloff's. And the older folks know and regard him well. But, I can't help but feel he's been shrugged off by the younger generation -- unless they are poetry fanatics who read EVERYTHING (Matt Hendrickson).

I think this loss is because many of the books are out of print. Also, my dad is not an internet guy. He's not even in Google! I can't help but also suspect that it's the old paranoid West-East Coast poetry thing. (Sometimes I feel like we are rappers -- oh! by the way, he wrote one of the first essays on that too!)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Since it is highly doubtful that the Times will publish my letter, I've decided to post it here. The Times resistance against publishing letters in from DOE teachers in general makes me suspect that either they a). think we are dissgruntled workers exaggerating or b). only want to disclose one side of the story. I do plan to send the letter to the mayor, governor, and chancellor -- which of course, will all be a waste of time.

To the Editor:

It is ironic that on the day I resigned from the New York City DOE The Times had an editorial about the lack of teachers. I am one of those teachers who is quitting six years into their career. I never had a problem with the salary, nor benefits, which I find decent. My issue is that in six years of teaching, I was excessed three times. I was blantantly discriminated against because I have cerebral palsy, and harrassed by more than one assistant principal. My colleagues have also been treated with utter disregard. Recently, colleagues with 20 years of experience were forced to re-apply for their jobs. I am very stubborn and worked hard to be a teacher. If, over the course of six years, I had been treated with one speck of respect, I wouldn't be handing in my papers. Until the Department of Education treats its teachers like human beings, no amount of money will keep us.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Letter From Cid

Going through my old things, I surprisedly came across a letter that Cid Corman wrote me while I was working on my Muriel Rukeyser thesis, some of which will strike as contraversial. I leave out the beginning formalities for the sake of time. The letter was a response to my question about the marginalization of Rukeyser's work. I don't know what ultimately led me to Corman-- perhaps that we had met briefly earlier at Naropa. It was exciting to re-find the letter, and his comments were insightful, not only to Rukeyser's work, but his attitudes about women and Niedecker.

"Muriel R I never met or knew personally. I did admire her early book THEORY OF FLIGHT. Her WAKE ISLAND meant well but was a big disappointment to me. I found her work uneven, but even so- more interesting than most. Lorine is much finer and is gradually finding a greater audience -- long overdue. (All my people are/were independent spirits, like myself, and that tends to keep us out of the standard taxts, at least while we're "alive.")

I think she (MR) was included in John Ciardi's MIDCENTURY AN ANTHOLOGY from the early 50's. She may had have had a poem or two in Oscar Wms pocket anthologies - but he and his wife (Gene Derwood), poor poets, were far more conspicuous. Whether MR ever attained a place in Untermeter's standard texts in the late 30's and 40's - I cant recall. Possible. But meagrely. I see she's NOT in the Ellman OXFORD job - no more than LN is.

I wish women wd get off the gender kick: they narrow their perceptions needlessly. Lorine has sharper eyes than this. And was a wonderful human being.

Academia/the Establishment have all the credentials that work with regular publishers and they guarentee BIZ/sales/money. They have the buyers in their pockets. As simple as that. By and large publishers have NO sense of poetry. Jay Laughlin exceptional, but even he has missed out on some great ones. (He has first crack at Zukofsky and LN).

Poetry often, alas, is slow becoming accessible to its audience. Higginson boosted Emily imensely but merely tolerated her as a freak. Whitman and Melville as poets were largely posthumous figures"

I will type the final two paragraphs tommorrow,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ok, I lied. The day wasn't ALL bad. Ms. Das made us dinner & Jeff got a new bike & now it is quiet & I can read Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.
Today was a little harder than that possible? Everyone has gone back to work, so I have been deemed Mary Poppins! R. and Jeff were getting along famously for three hours this morning until the hits began to fly. Both boys ended up in hysterics and R. had to go home. Meanwhile, I was trying to keep my work going, and the couch was being delivered and I desparately needed to find a fax. I didn't tip the couch guys the right amount (of course). Jeff screamed (literally for 1 hour straight). I had to get to that fax machine & he couldn't find his shoes, so he wore my pink ones down to the fax place, which was closed! (We eventually found a place).

I wasted an enormous amount of the day attempting to contact people at the Dept. of Ed. I finally decided to resign rather than extend my leave. I finally got in touch with someone. My school closed, and the DOE did not make one effort to get in touch with me all summer, and my attempts to get in touch with them were not successful. When I told the director of HR that I was resigning, it was clear that he could not care less, and had no time for my complaints. Ironically, the Times did an editorial today about the problem with the lack of teachers. Hello! I plan to write to the Times, but it is unlikely they will publish the letter. If they don't, I'll post it here.

I AM THRILLED about my new job. That's not the problem. What gets to me is that I worked so darn hard to be a DOE teacher. I went on dozens of interviews, took tests, got a new degree, put up with countless prejudices against my disability, nurtured the WORSE behaved kids, and swam through harrassment from Assistant Prinicipals. I tried and tried and tried. I can say that I probably tried harder than most to make that job work...and here I am, quitting. If they can chase somone as stubborn as me out, believe me, there in no hope.

The Poetics of Identity

BECAUSE I'VE NOTICED THAT PEOPLE ARE JOURNEYING OVER HERE FROM THE HARRIET BLOG, I've decided to re-post my essay on identity poetry. Lest I be named a hypocrite, I want to be straight in saying that my arguments on every subject are often contraditory.


Lately, I have been thinking about poetry and identity. There have been many poets giving birth to children lately. I have been reading various discussions of how parenthood influences a poet"s work/identity. Jeffrey McDaniel discusses this in "babies, parents, and poetry" on the Harriet Blog. Eoach just did a fabulous issue #3: Queering Language. This issue includes many of my favorite poet/blogger/people including Jen Benka, Amy King, Bill Kushner, Mark Bibbin, Nathaniel Siegel and so many others. Soft Skull recently published Jullian Weise's An Amputee's Guide to Sex.

First, I need to "identify" what people mean by "identity' in poetry -- or the world. I think that people chose to create identity in order to survive in the the world without being destroyed. People tend to create identity issue as a backlash to marginalization. White, rich males don't tend to focus on their whiteness or richness because these are not things that need to be overcome. When people consider the question of identity in poetry it tends to focus on some version of the outsider due to race, disabilty, sexuality, gender, or, believe it or not parenthood.

Identity in poetry can be great, and it can be very problematic.

On the one hand, I am so grateful to people like the editors at Eoach who put together such a comprehensive, beautiful issue. It goes without saying that outsiders need more of a voice in literature. However, what I am leery of, is poetry that rests too much on the laurels of the author's "otherness." If Charles Bernstein wrote obsessively on being a Jewish boy growing up in New York, would he be so wonderful? The quality of the poetry has to always be primary. The poets in Eoach have been able to avoid being trapped in one kind of work. The poetry speaks for itself.

I have not read Weise's book yet. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. She's very young and has met good sucess. What I have read of The Amputee's Guide to Sex is interesting. The book has great selling power: disability, sex, and a scadelous cover. But, what will her next book be about? How can she move backward from this? Although I thought Tory Dent was a highly talented poet, I found her work problematic. She had HIV; that is all she wrote about.

But is it okay to use one's disability/race/queerness to sell books and/or get a university job? Isn't society hostile enough toward us that it is okay to turn the tables on them and use it to our advance? Is it fair for me to sit here and collect a check for being "disabled" when I actually could be at work? Or did God bless me by giving me time to write? It's all so very hard to sort out.

I have wrestled with this problem as a poet with cerebral palsy. When I wrote something direct, James Galvin tore it apart publically in a workshop. I was crushed. But, then he gave me some great advice. He told me that my disabilty would come accross, no matter what I wrote, and I think it does. In my new book, I only have 2 disabled poems, one is really good, one sucks. UNM Press has decided (and I have too) to make it clear that I am disabled in the hopes of making the book stand out. But, again, I'm not entirely comfortable with this, it's more like, well as a poet, you have to use whatever you can. (This would also be a good place to note that to my knowledge exposing my disability has done NOTHING for my poetry career, which has been relentlessly slow). I have tried to tackle the issue in my second book, but have had very little success.

I hope I don't piss off too many people here. I am certainly not saying that anyone should be/live/write other than their own experience. Until we rid society of prejudice, there will be a need for special grants, magazines, and so on. But, people only need to write, and their experience will be there. Everyone knows Ashbery is gay, Eigner was crippled, and Hughes was black.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today was just not a good day. Carrying over from yesterday, I had a number of insults thrown at me from Ange Minko (sp?) of the infamous Harriet Blog (Poetry Foundation). Who knew that poets of some stance could be so mean and illogical.

Jeff and I saw a guy smoking crack on our street in the middle of the day.

Some ten year old thugs at the park relentlessly rode their bikes around me, calling me retard after I (stupidly) told them to watch their language in the children's park.

Mary Higgins died. This, of course, puts it all in perspective.

I like to say (cliche?) that when a poet dies a star goes out. I think the world needs as many poets as possible. & it really needed Mary. Mary was a poet, not nearly celebrated enough, who was relentlessly talented and interesting. More than that, she was kind. She was soft-spoken and always compassionate. She took her illness calmly and bravely. I remember how wonderful she was at the reading (two?) years ago at Columbia with Charles Bermstein. They were thrilled to have her; she was thrilled to be there. Mary did not take any successes for granted. Even though she was deserving always, she had no airs about her. She was always gracious and grateful to be in the poetry world.

Mary later told me that before reading she had been diagnosed as 'terminal' and decided to keep it private. She said that she later questioned her decision. But, she told me that she wanted the reading to go well and she didn't want to elicit pity. She had a wonderful time in New York. Even in our last conversation, she expressed gratitude to my dad for introducing her to the Language Poets. She told me numerous times that he had helped her find her true voice.

I loved Mary. There is no way a person could not. It is odd that her "friend," our mentor and friend Gene Frumkin died less than a year ago. All I know is there are two less lights in the high desert tonight.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

All things food!

If you're interested in eating visit Fab Faye at

Sing It Sister!

Lisa of the Lisa-blog writes: "Organic farming appeals much more than the ongoing nonorganic carrot of "you'll get a good full-time teaching job when your biography of Robert Duncan comes out." The point is that we didn't write about Robert Duncan in order to get a teaching job. We wrote about him because we loved him."

Be careful, with that attitude Nathaniel Tarn might fall in love with you!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I've become a work-a-holic of sorts. Jeff doesn't start school for two weeks, so I'm trying to pay bills, scrub the house, finish book business, and make a syllabus all while watching him out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, movies are being heavily employed. I broke the gameboy by putting it in the backpack with his seashells. A shell got stuck in there. He keeps telling me -- you have to pay for it! Like I didn't the first time!

Don't tell my mother, but now California is starting to grow on me too. (Northern, not Southern). I really like the concept of food in Kali. I'm into the whole hippy thing that I hate for our food to waste energy by traveling to us. In Kali, the food is near, fresh, and cheap. I know NY has the green market, but it terms of the distance, variety, price, and freshness there in no comparison. My mother can buy strawberries at the end of her street. Wine practicaly comes out the faucet. I also love the humane cattle raising they do near my grandmother's house. There are horrible feed lots all of southern cal., but where Gma lives (appropriately called Vacaville) people raise their own cows-- or they go to a nearby small farm. There is a farmer who travels around the neighborhood with a Temple Gradin designed contraption slaughtering their cows for them. Unitl they die, they just hang out on the hill (WITH THEIR BABIES) eating alfalfa. Now, if you believe that it's wrong to eat animals at all, then this won't make sense, of course. But, I'm much more concerned with the cows having full, happy lives. It's funny, no one ever talks about hear lots about factory farming and organic farming. But. people never write about people raising their own cows and the traveling slaughter truck, or going to your neighbor to buy a cow that's hung out on the hill. I didn't even know what these cows were for. I was baffled to see two calves of a good size walking up the hill behind mama. According to all I've read, calves are always sold for veal. This just isn't the case. I wish more people in the country would do this -- as I know they do with chickens. I suspect that they do, but since it really has no market value, they don't talk about it in the media.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ah. Home

We finally arrive home last night to a TON of work....poetry, cat pee, a new professor job (for me!) and Jim has already gone back to the factory. Rather than reading the list of twenty books that Jeff is supposed to read before kindergarten, he's glued to Chicken Run.

I have amazing stuff to report from the West...but it will have to wait. Meanwhile, I had a very telling dream about Jorie Graham. I dreamt that she told me she gave up writing poetry because there were too many starving kids in the world & she had to help them.

Speaking of superheros, the Lisa of LisaBlog has come back to Sunnyside and she's offering a workshop. She is the BEST teacher & serves popcorn and ice water with melon in it. If you're REALLY nice, she'll give you free soap. You need this class!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reading Duncan, But Not Much!

I've mainly been on vacation!

Ugggg! The baby fell!

Ahhh, momma!

Too many boys & one sister. for dinner!

Monday, August 13, 2007



Williams and Levertov

My mother, who I love, wanted to read about us getting kicked out the 4 Seasons, but Jim told her the story over the phone, so I can progress with Poetry.

I have just finished reading the letters between Levertov and Williams. I highly recommend this for even people who don't necessarily go for letters. The correspondence is edited so that it is easy to follow a narrative. WCW seemed to have a pretty strong interest in the idea of mentorship and the apprentice poet. He was also connected to Ginsberg, of course, and the book mentions Guggenheim letters for many others in addition to L.

I recollect some vague complaints about the 'sexism' in WCW attitude toward Levertov. When you read the letters you cannot help by notice that his tone is somewhat condesending. I would argue (just from this book) that Williams was definitely a believer in the male/poet role and thought of Levertov as somewhat of an anomaly. In fact, the only other female poets Williams refers to in the book are Sappho, Loy, and Solt. He and others refer to Levertov by the dreaded term "lady poet."

Yet, like critical feminists, I cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Williams resistance to the idea of woman as poet just reminds me that he was a product of his time. If the reader can ignore it, as Levertov did, s/he can find real value in the relationship and a text for how it was crucial to both poet's life work -- although particularly L., not because she was a "girl" but because she was the poet in training here. I am working on a piece for How2 on mentorship and theirs provides and interesting outline for the concept. Their's was a life intwined in all ways. Not only in terms of sharing work, but in being intamate with each other's families.

But, Levertov DID have a hard boat to row; and (she rowed it famously!) writing in the 50's, completely surrounded by the boy's club-- Duncan and Creeley were best friends. She lived in a time when women were famously repressed and expected to be housewives. Levertov, for example, is known to have spent some of her Guggenheim grant on a washer and dryer.

It is pretty mindblowing to consider that Confessional poetry, the Beats, the New York School, Black Mountain, and the SF Ren. were happening pretty simultaniously. And how exclusionary toward women these groups were. You have Lorine Neidecker in the Objectivists, but I think she was earlier. Helen Adams, famous for being the only other woman poet (I think) in THE Anthology. The Beats somewhat included Wakoski and Kruger, Waldman was yet a wee lassy! The 'movement' that seems most feminine is confessional, Although, Levertov lived near the Lowell/Sexton kids, she seems to have little interest in them. She mentions Lowell only in passing and the others not at all. She also didn't seem too pleased with the New York guys as she writes with distaste about Ashbery and O'Hara.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hello from Hawaii! Well, not much news: just sand and sun and glad to flee from the hot, hot BK.

Before leaving Hood River I finished a Boland book. At first, I wasn't impressed, but she really drew me in. She has such a beautiful voice.

I find myself doing more on vacation than I ever do at home. Here are a few things I've done so far:

Made paper
Shopped for Books
Went to a Concert
Read 2 poetry books
A sad attempt at Snorkeling
Went to the pool four times
Saw the Simpsons
Got kicked out of the Maui Four Seasons
Finished Of Human Bondage
Saw the "Bodies" exhibit
Went to Art Night
Wrote 1/2 a poem

More soon on Lady Jorie Graham, and a report from the WCW/Levertov letters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser is a poet that you really feel bad about picking on. He seems like Stanley Kunitz, such a gentle, benign soul, that one cannot take his poetry to task without a certain amount of guilt. And Kooser's poetry is not BAD. He is certainly more deserving than many others and certainly has skill. The problem isn't even with Kooser's poetry as a rule. Take it or leave it: he writes straight narrative poetry that is borderline sentimental. Some of it is very touching, most of it is uninteresting. Poems such as this one:


All night, this rain from the distant past.
No wonder I sometimes waken as a child.

Hardly seem poetry at all, while others in Delights and Shadows do show a certain amount of emotional complexity. Emotional complexity seems to be the driving force behind Kooser's poetry. But, for my money, poetry has to have an additional complexity -- that of language. Here's where Kooser often falls short. So why was Kooser elected Poet Laurete, and why is he published in all the major places? Well, that is obvious, but I'll complain anyhow. Americans, when they read poetry, which is almost never, want their poetry to be easily digestable. They don't want to have to work for anything. We live in the land of Hollywood movies and Judith Krantz novels. This kind of society -- when they throw poets a token bone -- throws it to Ted Kooser, Deborah Garrison, or Maya Angelou. Not to compare the former to the latter. Kooser does have talent.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cab-Net Review

Finally, my review of Fence's Anthology Not For Mother's Only is posted on Cab-Net. I'm no good at links but the URL is here:

I hope the review isn't too critical & I hope I did my research enough. I'm really proud of it. I do LOVE the book. I think everyone should own a copy. I keep mine close at hand.

Sean Lennon & Rufus Wainwright

Last night's concert that I went to at the Crystal ballroom in Portland arrives to this blog with very mixed reviews. First, I am simplely too old and tired to see shows in these kinds of venues anymore. I'm such a grouch! We got there at 8:30 and Rufus didn't come on until eleven. We had to stand the whole time which was hard on the feet and back. The crowd was a strange one, some of the people were painfully young. I stood near this girl who kept bumping into me and hitting me with her hair. She told her friends that for her job she nannied...when did nanny become a verb? I missed something here. Oh, and it was hot as all get out. The main unusual thing for me was that it seemed like a "hang out" concert. We used to go to these all the time in Albuquerque -- there is nothing else to do, so you head on down to the ballroom to visit your friends and get drunk. It is not always relevant who is playing. This was odd to me because people who like Rufus in New York take him pretty seriously.

Sean Lennon was absolutely great. I really liked his first album that he did some years ago when he was pretty young. This record was pretty pop-ish. His work has really matured. He has grown a beard. He looks exactly like both of his parents. Did I mention we were at the front of the stage? Lennon was so funny and talented- really just a joy.

It WAS a thrill to see Rufus close up. I have only been that close to him once before when I went to the Times interview. But, Release the Stars is,by far, not my favorite album. The title song is wonderful and there are three others that are great, but on the whole, it's a pretty average record & he didn't do many other songs on earlier albums. I also think the space wasn't right for him. It always seems a fantasy to see your favorite singer close up -- but Wainwright's show is so energetic and grandious, I don't think a small space does it justice. After seeing someone perform at Carnigie Hall you're pretty spoiled! Also, his sister Martha was not with him. It was as though a limb were missing. I can't believe what talent she brings to his music. I mean the way they work together is just magical. Still, all told, he was still all those lovely things...charming, good looking, and my what talent.


Yesterday we made our yearly trip to Powells. We spent 302.53$. Here are a few things we got:

I got:
Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelof Translated by Muriel Rukeyer (first and only edition)
George Oppen Selected Poems (Intro by Bob Creeley)
Barrel Fever by David Sedaris (yes...I'm a fan)
The Collected Poems of Charles Olsen Excluding the Maxius Poems
Grave of Light, Alice Notley's New and Selected 1970-2005
Book of Ocean by Maryrose Larkin
Before the War by Duncan (with preface by Palmer)

Here's what I passed up:

A bunch of Mary Oliver
the new CD Wright
Anselm Berrigan's (1st or 2nd) book
Jenny Boully's new book
a $60 signed copy of Duncan's Before the War (that was painful)
and an advance readers copy of Kate Greenstreet's case sensitive

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Proof!

My final proofs arrived yesterday. I am going through the normal stages of proof grief. Elelation, abject horror, confusion and overwhelming, denial, and acceptance.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

& Two Days To This

Jorie Graham, Part One

Jorie Graham begin The Errancy with some of my favorite contemporary poetry lines:

Shall I move the flowers again?
Shall I put them further to the left
into the light?
Will that fix it, will that arrange the
Yellow sky.

Of all the poets I have read, I think Graham has been the one who has influenced my work the most. For me, Graham was love at first sight -- or rather love at first hearing. She read a a small church at Harvard with Ashbery and one other famous artist/poet whose name escapes me. The reading was so packed that about 100 people where turned away. However, they broadcast the reading live into Harvard Yard. Anyone who has heard Graham's voice is aware of the sulty sexiness of it. I was addicted. I immediately ran to the bookstore (which was open until 11 PM) and bought Dream of the Unified Field. Ahhh, what bliss.

What attracts me to Graham so much is so hard to explain. First, I feel like I might have to defend my passion. I rarely hear any one of my contemporaries mention Graham. My feeling is that it is probably unpopualr to like her. First, there is the entire scandel of her picking one of her students for a book prize and the backlash against her because of it. (As if that has never happened with any other poets before!) Then, there is the thing of Graham being a poet perpetually blessed with luck: education in Europe, marriage into the Graham family, books from Ecco, and jobs at Iowa and Harvard (just to name a few). I would argue, however, that when I think of poets that have maintained this attention in America (Pinsky, Garrison, Kooser, and so on) Graham certainly deserves where she has gotten. I mean, she CAN write!

What attracts me to Graham's work is how it moves easily between the obscured and clear. It does have a narrative, but, unlike Kooser's work that I read today, the narrative isn't easily apparent. The reader has to work at these poems, she has to swim through them.

The Hood River Oregon library doesn't have much in the way of poetry books, but here's what I did get:

Ted Kooser
James Wright (as per Andrea and Chris)
Jorie Graham -- who I will write about shortly
Eaven Boland
Meanwhile, I am page 555 of Of Human Bondage

& here is the view:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's up!

Hello Friends,

We have a new issue of SES hot off the press.

Poets include
Nancy Kuhl
Michael Leong
Changming Yuan
Jason Fraley
David Wolach
Jennifer Firestone
Maryrose Larkin
Larissa Shmailo
Translation of Dante by Anna Akhmatova
Susanna Fry
Kristin Abraham
Carolyn Guinzio
Meredith Quartermain
Stephanie Strickland
Gil Fagian

Now, it's time for vacation!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Talking Poetry

The Pride Festivities waylayed me from poetry momentarily.

In Lisa's class, we've been looking at Tom Raworth's website website and old copies of InFolio magazine. Infolio, if I'm not mistaken, Infolio was supposed to be a daily and included everyone. The mention of Raworth led me, as many things do, back to my father's seminal book "Talking Poetry." It wan't until I was in graduate school that I really delved into "Talking Poetry." I did my master's lecture on So-Called Language Poetry. This was sort of a rebellious act, as I went to a narrative school, Vermont College (after being rejected from Bard & Brown). Vermont College struck me as a school in which I strongly did and did not fit in....but that's another story.

"Talking Poetry" carried me though my work. Published in the 1980's it includes essays by Clark Coolridge, Theodore Enslin, Clayton Eshleman, William Everson, Thom Gunn, Kenneth Irby, Michael Palmer, Tom Raworth, Ishmael Reed, Stephen Rodefer, Nathaniel Tarn, Diane Wakoski, and Anne Waldman. Someone at Vermont stole my paperback copy, so I have my dad's hardback. Glued on the back page is a note from Diane Wakoski that says, "To Lee, who has helped contemporary poetry more than anyone I know." The book is out-of-print, but you can get it on Amazon.

The entire East Coast, West Coast Poetics have always been a disappointment to me. It bothers me that my father, Bill Everson, and even poets like Michael Palmer (who started in the East as George Michael Palmer) are laregly dismissed by Easterners.

Recent books & News From the Factory

We are slowly inching toward vacation. The new issue of Saint Elizabeth Street should be launched tommorrow morning. I will keep you posted.

I recently dipped into a number of books. I love CD Wright's Tremble. I think Wright has enormous talent. Although not all the poems caught my interest, the lion's share of the book is good in some way. I was also proud of myself for reconizing a reference to Michael Palmer in a poem called Lake Echo (See Notes for Echo Lake). I also have an homage to the Palmer piece in a long unfinished poem called Notes for Los Alamos. I also peeked into Rachel Zucker's two books. I think Rachel's poem of childbirth should be required reading for pregnant families. I think they should give it out in Lamaze class! It provides such a lyrical, real portrait of what it means to give birth. Strangely, I liked Rachel's first book better than the second, although I still enjoyed Eating the Underworld. For me, books based on myth are difficult because I feel like you have to bring so much knowledge to the plate, and I am so lacking in mythical history. I also, credit to Lisa Jarnot, discovered George Oppen. Oppen is probably one of the best poets that ever lived. If you haven't read him, you're missing out. I didn't like Simic's Hotel Insomnia. It left me feeling empty handed. The same for the few James Wright poems that I read. Wright, who I discovered via Anne Sexton's biography, strikes me as a lesser Pinsky or Kunitz.

We are nearing the end of The L Word. Other than good outfits and girls cute enough to make a straight girl gay, this show doesn't have much substance. But there was this one scene....Tina and Bett have a baby. Since Tina is the birth mother, Bett has to apply to the state to legally adopt the child. This is intense enough. But then, the state worker who does a family visit with them uses a wheelchair AND she is a complete bitch. She is prejudice and harsh and ridiculous. Then, Alice comes crashing in and hits the woman's car. Alice says, "Why can't you have a 'normal' car." This is layers and layers of prejudice. It shows how people who are considered outsiders from the norm are still prejudice toward OTHER outsiders. Not to mention that people with disabilities are supposed to be cheery and nice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Review of case sensitive by Kate Greenstreet

A fine definition for Kate Greenstreets first collection, case sensitive, can be found within the text:

What is the appeal of a mystery? Someone is looking for something,/actively.

case sensitive uncovers the mystery of the ordinariness of life unfolding. In most parts of the book, Greenstreet shows a talent at balancing the best type of poetry just enough narrative to ground the reader, just enough strong, lyrical language to make the reader want to know this narrative.

Although I may be mistranslating, I feel as if I know exactly what Greenstreet means when she writes:

I believe we need light

inside the body:


“Taking turns
as the groaning, screaming woman.

And as the nurse
who brought the doll. It gets more like this.

What child has not played at the adult world? Then, grows up to find that the
complexities of this world are, as my father likes to say, endless. While Greenstreet probably doesn't mean these lines to refer to childrearing, they certainly could. I have not read such an accurate description of motherhood since Woolf's frustrated mother in To the Lighthouse. Interestingly, neither women have children. How can they be so right on the money?

case sensitive's testament to the magic of ordinariness is carried further in the second section of the book [Salt]. Greenstreet writes around a most common, boring household item. And one we couldn't live without! Each opening quote is taken from Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky.

I love the odd vastness of Greenstreet's influences. In other parts, Greenstreet quotes or mentions my three favorite artists: Basquiat, Lorine Niedecker and Agnes Martin: the latter two of which were/are two grossly underrated geniuses. Be honest, how many people do you know who've read Corman and Niedecker's letters? On can see traces of these womenÂ’s work in Greenstreet's. Work that relies heavily, if not exclusively, on subtly.

I am largely disinterested in humor in poetry. Humor in poetry is largely displaced. As trite as it might sound, I want poetry to tell the human condition, and/or to stretch the language to its full potential. Ironically, that is why I think the moments of humor in GreenstreetÂ’s book works. Andrea Baker once said something to the effect that Frank O'Hara makes humor an element of his poetry, but it doesn'intregity the integity of the poem. I think this applies to Greenstreet who uses humor in spots, but never slips into the easiness of making the poem a joke.

From Book of Love:

“Then the aliens come

and take our planet
and eat our food
and talk the world time about the better food they had on other planets.”

Barely two pages later, she flows easily back:

what connects us
to the Saints;

The only issue I have about case sensitive is that it could be edited down a bit, and/or perhaps transformed into two books. Greenstreet has said that the book is comprised of five chapbooks. At 117 pages, case sensitive is quite a bit longer than the average introductory poetry book. There also seems to be a dichotomy in the book. Most of the poems rely on the strength of Greenstreet's talent for mixing lyricism and narrative. However, some poems, particularly those in Book of Love and Diplomacy slip into a modern obliqueness than I can not connect with. The poem "informant" begins:

"If x = x,
y =x,
abc = x, etc."

I confess to being alone in this opinion, however. Currently, it seems, many small journals are having a backlash against lyricism and obliqueness in perferred. I do think that, in poetry, beauty has to be number one. And, for the most part, Greenstreet gives it.

In Great Women of Science and Salt the reader meets interesting characters.

I want to know more about the lover who sits around wondering

"when the Bronze Age was."

The person who drives away from their lover to stay under
"half a neon cowboy"


"ripped out everything: shelves, cabinets, wallboard."

Most of all, I'm smitten with the strange mother who, at turns, cries, sleeps, and
needs constant attention from her daughter - who gives it to her.

"I was icing this cake for her,
but it was crumbling
(It wasn't a very good-looking cake.)"

While the last two "chapters" are not as interesting as the first two, Greenstreet does return to the characters a bit. She also ends with some moments of (as Nan Goldin mind say) "High Art." The one political poem in the book "If water covers the road" is sensitive and poinent. The final prose poems are lovely and engaging. Best of all are philosophical thoughts about memory on the last page (which you will have to buy the book to read).

Finally, if you have never heard Greenstreet read, I highly recommend it. Matthew Hendrickson wrote (on his blog) of her reading,

"Kate is about the best damn reader of poems I've heard......Greenstreets voice, like this poetry is steadfast and dead pane. It is, at turns, like case sensitive, lyrical, narrative, mysterious, and full of wit."

That about says it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Poetics of Smallmindness

I am finding that poetry is more and more the opposite of what I think it should be. One of my definitions of poetry would be that it is a place to expand our minds.

Instead, so many poets work so hard to make "poetry" an exclusive place that is so hard to get into. The Language Poets hate the St. Marks Poets. The Iowa Poets hate everyone. So many people want to lay claim to the word experiemental, but that word really has no meaning anymore. What is "experimental?" Is it Stein, Fanny Howe, Clark Coolridge, Jorie Graham, Norma Cole? One could give a concrete argument for why each of these poets would or wouldn't be called experimental. In his time. Eliot was certainly experimental....and what's so great about that tiny word anyway? Robert Hass, Stanley Kunitz, Anna Ahkmatova, and Denise Levertov are/were all great poets too, and they're not the "e" word.

There was a uncomfortable moment in my workshop last week when a guy I really like suggested that I read Simic. He looked at another guy waiting for the critical ax to fall. Then, he second guessed himself saying that he knows it's not cool to like Simic. That is the rub. Many people have divided poetry into what's cool and what's not. There's an agreed upon system that everyone must adhere. But this is so sophmoric. The great poets (like Ginsberg) read everything. Some poets (like Everson) never read poetry at all. His library was full of non-fiction. Also, I was saddened because a poetry blog I like to read was made private. What is that all about? I thought people wanted readers. Or perhaps the reasoning is like the "I'm not a plastic bag" bag. If you make yourself into a hot item, people will wait in line for you.

I wish, for one week, everyone would go read the opposite poet of whom they normally read. I think the world would be a better place.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


In addition to reading, we have been making progress here at the factory. We are leaving on Thursday for Oregon. If you rob our house, please take our cats with you! Only one of them isn't toilet trained. I'm not telling which one.

The boys are hoping to ride bikes, hike, and swim. I'm looking forward to buying clogs, going to Powell's small press shelf, and seeing Rufus in concert in his favorite town.

We will have the long awaited new issue of SES up and running before we leave. Our [still nameless] reading series will start in Sept at WORD with a reading by Kristin Prevellet. In October, we're hoping to host Jennifee Knox and Shanna Compton, with my own book party soon to follow. We are hoping to have our tribute to Gene Frumkin compiled and up by September. The librarian interviews are still in the works. I, myself, will be attending Queens College MLS program in Fall unless the DOE offers me a sweet job. I'm not holding my breath! It's too bad I can't teach poetry. I'd be so good at it. It just doesn't seem in the cards.

Hal Sirowitz

Although I usually do not fall for straight narrative, I was completed charmed by Hal S's "Mother Said." Sirowitz has a very unique sense of humor that I think really steps out of the typical Poetry Slam genre, which is not my favorite work. His poems remind me of a strange Charles Bernstein quote from A Poetics in which he says something to the effect of poetry should be like television. We rarely find good poetry that is. Poetry does many things for us. It gives us beauty, it keeps us company, it holds up a mirror to our lives, it helps us know the pain of others, it expands the language. It is rare that good poetry is easy. It makes us work. Perhaps this is why people dread poetry so much. Hal doesn't make the reader work to hard, but the work is substantial in its own way. He is a true wit.
Today's Sunday Times presents yet another misguided response to poetry.

In his review of four new poetry books James Longenbach makes a point of noting " the field's [poetry] status lets poets pursue art for its own sake." True, poetry itself may be marginalized, but interestingly enough, two of these books were published by Houghton Mifflin and a third by Norton. If this is the height of the ignored, where do the rest of us lie?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Library Visit

I check out a number of books from the library in order to catch up on things.

I got:

Hal Sirowitz, Mother Said
Rachel Zucker's first two books
Jack Spicer's Collected Poems
George Oppen's Collected Poems
Michael Palmer's Without Music
Marie Howe's What the Living Do
A Selected Zukofsky

I've started to shift through them.

Jim & I have also been watching "The L Word."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Word As Such is not a new idea, but derived from the Russian Futurists writing in the early nineteen hundreds. The poet Khelbikov and his contempories devised the theory of Word As Such or "laying bare the device." "In order to revitalize their obsolete language, the new poets scorned any idea of literary fame and thumbed their noses at public incomprehension and committed themselves to increasing the volumn of the poetic vocabulary with the aid of arbitrary, derived words." (Sound familiar, anyone!) This statement lay the basis of ZAUM, a transmental language made up of words that were either wholly invented or derived from existing roots. In addition, their manifestos claimed to "cease the view of structure and pronounciation in accordance with the rules of grammar." Zaum was an answer to the problem (as they perceieved it) that "speech and thought cannot keep up with the experience of inspiration" and the artist must be "free to express not only in ordinary language but personal language."

Meanwhile, in a different part of Europe, a young lady named Gertrude Stein was working hard to form her our version of "zaum" or way of making the language new. Stein, never one to be shy about tooting her own horn writes of "a rose is a rose" (which some might not realize is actually from her children's book "The World is Round) "Now listen! Can't you see when language was new - as it was with Chaucer and Homer - the poet could use the name of a thing and the thing was really there. He could say 'O moon, O sea' and the moon and sea and love were really there. And can't you see that after hundreds of years had gone by and thousands of poems had been written, he could call on those words and find they were just worn out literary words. Now listen, I'm not a fool! I know in daily life we don't go around saying is a... Yes, I'm no fool, but I think in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry in a hundred years." Here, she is setting the path for poets such as Palmer.
Probably the first use of the term Language Poets was applied to the group in Ron Silliman's anthology "In the American Tree" which included Andrews, Coolidge, Grenier, himself, and other. And those published in Language magazine - including Watten and Hejinian. The work was refered to as "language-centered, minimal, and non-referential formalism. Not a group, but a tendency of many." Silliman writes of "Rejecting a speech-based poetics and consciously raising the issue of reference (i.e. narrative) to look at what a poem is actually made of - not images, not voice, not character or plot - but the invocation of a specific medium - language. (And) if nothing in the poem could be taken for granted, then anything might be possible."

Perhaps "non-referiality" is the wrong term. The idea of non-referiality in the purest sense does not exist because the words (unless nonsense) will always point to something. JLM writes, " Then, perhaps the term "non-referential" implies that disjunct 'references' and intentions' do not add up; if you say 'dog, watermelon, racine, Wisconsin, Jupiter, to quarter above the...' each member of the string has meaning in itself, but the string as a whole does not." But, even LP are not this extreme. I am not sure that a poem CAN be written without intent. JML writes, "I doubt that any such works, whether aleatoric or conciously composed through calculation or intuition are truly ' empty' of all content, even when the authors have none in mind - when they do not intend to say or imitate anything. Thus, it may be correct to call such verbal ways 'perceiver centered' rather than 'language centered.' This is asking the reader to take an active part, to use her imagination, and move away from the accademic notion that there is a teacher who 'gets' the poem and will teach it's exact meaning.

This, by the way, is the reason that poetry is in a state of crisis in America. The general population is not taught that you can or should read poetry on a visceral or emotional level. School teaches - per-k through grad school - that there is meaning specific to the poem that the reader must get correct. This has led to the fact that even the most intellegent people in our country (and people who do read) do not read poetry. LP force the reader, in my opinion, to respond viscerally, because the story is so slight.
Gluck's poem (which I do like) tells a story through the persona of the grandmother. While this is obviously not a confessional poem (the character may or may not represent the poet's own grandmother - perhaps she made it up). Gluck uses particularly vivid images

"The drugged Long Island summer sun."
"My children have their husband's hands."

She is witty when she alludes to the grandson as a pig, "Squealing in his pen."
Gluck makes a staement with her poem - "I have survived my life." Gluck uses metaphor, simile, language, and son to get a point across. Therefore, the poem becomes a means to an ends. This has historically been one of the purposes of language and poetry. But, there is also a different type of poetry - where the means IS the end.

"Dearest Reader" serves a completely different purpose, if any at all. The title is a bit of a misnomer, Is Palmer "really" speaking to the reader and, if so, what does he mean to tell us? Thre poem is a painting - a scene where "there were trees formed of wire, broad entryways" and so on. Many questions arise that would come up in the typical workshop setting - what is exactly going on here? What is the narrative? Meaning? These questions become obsolete in the poem. The strength of the poem is in it's raw beauty.


Sunday, July 08, 2007


I want to recycle some stuff I wrote at the start of the blog. I'm going to put up some parts of my essay on LP and my essay on Nathaniel Tarn. The Deborah Garrison review is a few notches down the blog.

In the meanwhile, books checked out of the library: Duncan's Selected, Carl Phillip's The Rest of Love, and K Hahn's The Artist's Daughter.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Marxists With Trust Funds (Finding Meaning and Beauty in So-Called Language Poetry)

“When I wrote it only God and I knew what it meant. Now only God knows.” Robert Browning on “Sordello.”

Michael Palmer is a West Coast poet originally from New York City. After taking degrees in comparative literature from Harvard, he moved to San Francisco where he has lived since 1969. Palmer, who began publishing in the early seventies, is often classified with the so-called Language Movement in poetry. Palmer was not necessarily a part of the LM, but rather a precursor and seemingly influential on poets such as Bernstein, Watten, Hejinian, and Harryman.

Of his ties to the LM Palmer said in an interview with Jubliat,

“It goes back to an organic period when I had a closer association with some of those writers than I do now, when we were a generation in San Francisco with lots of poetic and theoretical energy and desperately trying to escape from the assumptions of poetic production that were largely dominant in our culture. My own hesitancy comes when you try to create, let's say, a fixed theoretical matrix and begin to work from an ideology of prohibitions about expressivity and the self—there I depart quite dramatically from a few of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets."

What Palmer describes as having in common with the LP is an attempt “to bring into question surfaces of language, normative syntax, and so on.” Opening up the possibility of experimentation with what Palmer calls “a necessary naming (for everyday language) but is arbitrary in terms of the thing itself.” Palmer goes on to say, “ If I were to ask you if a particular chair where free and you started wondering about the meaning of the term free, we’d never get anywhere. But, in the poem, when one has the possibility of multiple layers of meaning, that is when you have something that will open up unique areas of function.” (To my knowledge, these ideas derive from Wittgenstein, a favorite of the LP.) Interestingly, similar ideas were developed by Yoko Ono through visual arts when she wrote the words “This wall is blue.” on a white wall.

Of personality in poetry, Palmer says, “I’m not interested in myself- that’s just some guy sitting here drinking coffee and making a fool of himself. A self that’s transformed through language interests me, though….It seems reductive to me exactly at that point where you focus on the self alone and thus end up with a poetry of personality, and that exhausts itself as soon as the personality exhausts itself.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eignerautobiographical prose.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I missed class Lisa's class yesterday. I was out with Jim involved in an anti-war subversive public art project. Sorry to be so vague. The people in charge of the project created a blog about the project. The NYPD found the blog and sent them a threatening message. Don't those guys have any criminals to catch?
My book is on Amazon!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rukeyser, Wheelwright, and Olson

Today, I had my first experience in a library archive. At the nudging of Lisa Jarnot, I visited the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. I was supposed to be researching magazines, but got distracted by the fact that the library contains a Muriel Rukeyser archive. I was limited on time so I chose to read the letters of two poets who had written to Rukeyser, Olson and Wheelwright. In a reprinted letter to Cid Corman Olson refers to a type of poetry that is "o not pretty yet but will be (Rukeyser or lazy leftists)." This quote made me wonder about Rukeyer's relationship to Olson. Was he being sarcastic? Or did he really dislike the communist movement? I later found out that Olson was heavily into Roosevelt and a worker for the Democratic party. I did find one letter from Olson to Rukeyser in the archive. Note: with one exception that is a secret between my father & I, this was the first orginal letter I have held in my hands. The letter was very warm. It was addressed to Muriel in Venice, Calfiornia and made note to something pertaining to a script. I was particularly touched because the letter was written right after Rukeyser gave birth to her son, and Olson send them his warm wishes. Peter Bear (who grew up in Gloucester) told me that when the Maximus poems where published they were sold at the local department store right between "The Sound of Music" and "Summers in Gloucester."

The second group of letters was from John Wheelwright to Rukeyer. I learned of their friendship while looking through the database before going to the library. Wheelwright is a poet with little or no attention. He struggled to make his poetry known during his life time and it has largely disappeared sense. (Ashberry, however, wrote a brilliant essay about Wheelwright -- I don't have the title of the book right here). Wheelwright is of special interest to me because he was related to the aforementioned Peter (great-uncle by marriage although not Wheelwright's own as he was homosexual). I didn't know that Wheelwright and Rukeyser were friends and collegues. Rukeyser also planned to publish a magazine (Housatonic) for which she had accepted Wheelwright's work. In the letters Wheelwright says the strangest thing: Nothing has happened to me except that I have not married. The tone in the letter is sad -- yet why would he marry? He also mentions a resistance to going to Yaddo -- a scene of which Muriel was part of at the time -- and seems insecure that he will be included should he want to attend. The letters are full of these kind of insecurities. The glue that most held these two poets together was their commitment to Communism.

While both poets had difficulty with noteriety in their lifetimes, Wheelwright, however, did not find the posthumous (sp?) success that Rukeyser did through the feminst moment and the great folks at Paris Press. Although her books were out of print throughout the 70's, 80's, and early 1990's, she had a comback with "Out of Silence" in 1992 -- twelve years after her death. During her lifetime, she was notably excluded from Donald Allen's anthology for reasons which are unclear to me.


Today, I am misisng a cat. I can't find Muffin anywhere. I think she might be hiding from the noise. The city is tearing up my street and the noise is horrendous. It reminds me of the story William Rukeyser tells of his mother: "She believed in the nobility of labor, but she recognized the absurdity of a lot of it. I remember her closely observing, from her bedroom window, a Con Ed crew at the corner of York and 88th, That crew dug holes in the pavement, covered them with steel plates, and then paved them over." William, who Muriel referred to in her letters as Laurie, describes his mother as a strong poet full of contradictions unwilling to tow any party's line, except her own. She was a lesbian, but slept with men. She was a feminist, but focused more in her writing and activism on injustices against the poor and Blacks. She was a poet, but wrote prose, children's books, and biographies.

While some of her poems are intensely romantic/sexual, Rukeyser was intensely private in her life. In one of the folios at the Berg, there is a series of unaddressed love letters and notes. The letters are full of such passion, one wonders for whom they were meant. An even more curious letter is one that Rukeyser addressed to herself in Provincetown Aug. 23, 1935 (even then, a mecca for gays and poets!) Rukeyser tells herself (or the later reader),

"I have wanted so wildly all these years without satisfaction that I think I could spend my life in bed with the Holy Ghost, Father, and the Son and still never be filled except in self-filling torment."

This has so many connations some of which verge of the sacreligious. In church we refer to being filled with spirit of the Lord, although Rukeyser was Jewish. There is also the cruder reading of a description of sex. The "letter" could also refer to the lot of a poet -- always craving more of poetry and like. The ending of the letter gives a glimpse into the cause of Rukeyser's depression. "See how a day can change your life....a telegram arrives...I smile, I smile."

Another correspondence which caught my notice was that between Rukeyser and Albert Einstein. I am not sure if this has ever been published. Rukeyser wrote a biography of the scientist Willard Gibbs. She asked Einstein to write an introduction. Einstein's reply in extremely harsh. (I will just put a few lines because one in not actually allowed to quote unpublished work).

"This (writing such a text) can only by done by someone.....grasp the material....personal side must be taken account of but it should not be the chief thing.....result is banal hero-worship....I have learned how hateful it is when a serious man is lionized....I cannot give my public endorsement to such an undertaking."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Larry Eigner

Less marginalized than Rukeyser and Wheelwright, but still not as popular as Duncan, Olson, & co. was the great poet Larry Eigner. Eigner was born in early August 1927 in Massachusetts Bay near Salem and Gloucester. He "got" cerebral palsy during a birth accident. He had a amazing number of books supported and helped by the most know poets: Levertov, Grenier, Watten, Creeley, and Silliman's "In the American Tree was dedicated to him." Eigner has an extensive archive Buffalo's EPC, including audio of interviews and readings. Levertov refers to Eigner's work as a "Wide open field of vision in which objects disparate themselves." Or what Bernstein means when he says "it meant a luminosity of every detail." (Bernsteins' obit to Eigner on the EPC)

While I am stiil uncovering the details, Lisa Jarnot said that Eigner got cerebral palsy during his birth due to the fact that forceps were used in his delivery. This is one, among many, ways that CP can occur. CP isn't a disease. It's merely a catch-all phrase to descibe any number of motor problems that can derive from brain trama during or shortly after birth. Eigner's CP was severe. Cared for by his mother, Eigner spent the first fifty years of his life basically sitting on his parents porch. Jarnot notes this and urges her students to look at Eigner's particular way of looking. In a post on the EPC, Silliman writes that Eigner actually began to write (as a teenager) before he learned to speak & wrote on a typewriter. (He did do minimal handwriting -- I received a book signed by him last year for Christmas!) His limited physical ability and energy help account for his short lines and short poems. I hope Silliman won't mind me quoting him. Of Eigner's lines he writes, "the complex choreography of one whose total physical vocabulary is in use in the composition of the poem."

After his father's death, Eigner moved to Berkeley to live with his brother. He was 51 years old. My father, Lee Bartlett, who was an undergraduate at Berkeley remembers seeing Eigner "rolling down the street." Eigner says in the EPC interview that "physical excercise was the hardest part of his life, everything else was a vacation." I was surprised to find that the many of the people in my workshop were naive about Eigner's disability and still considered in a "disease."

I can imagine Eigner's life well, and where the poems come from. His body was completely non-functional. Yet, he was an absolute genius. One way to look at such a disability is that Eigner was not burdened by things like a job, family, or housekeeping. This is not to glamourize such a position, but to say that one wouild be able to devote one's entire time/life to poetry and thinking. I am sure he suffered great lonlinesses though. And while he was revered within the poetry community, he probably was rejected by mainstream society.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gone Cold on PS 1's Warm Up

I'm such an old lady. I went to the Warm Up party today at PS 1 in Queens. I used to love this thing a few years back. It used to be a neighborhood-type-party thing. But them Manhattan got ahold of it. Now it is a hipster meat market. & what's up with those 1980's outfits. I swear Sex in the City killed fashion. Sure, everything looks good on Carrie, but boys and girls the 80's were ugly in the 80's!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Here Reb Livingston & Didi Menendez talk about whether a poem posted on a blog is "published."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I am finally putting together the new issue of SES. Our last issue was in Fall 2006.

SES tends to receive less submissions than other magazines. This is both good and bad. Less work, but less selection. When I consider that "Poetry" probably getting 300 submissions a week, the idea is staggering. But, then again, the editing of SES is a one person operation. Ths is why sometimes things don't move as smoothly as they should. I sometimes take awhile to get back to poets.

Also, rejecting poets for me is always difficult. I worry that I am dredging up bad karma when it's time to put my own work in the mail. It is actually easier to reject poets who have been published in choice magazines. I figure that if a poet can get his/her work into Poetry, Paris Review, and so on, that a rejection from SES will hurt only a little bit. However, some might see it the other way, how can I get into PR and not this tiny journal. I think that editors reasons for rejection are vast. The magazine could be full. The editor could be tired. The editor could have a narrow asthetic. S/he might only want to publish people they have heard of before. The poet's work might just be bad. University journals are particularly problematic as the first eyes on the poems tend to be those of graduate students whose ideas can be still forming. There are also the good ole' political reasons. A poet is kidding themselves if they think they don't exist.

The entire system though remains somewhat of a mystery due to the fact that the rejected poet receives a tiny slip printed paper or a form email. (I hope to shed some light on this in one moment.) But, rejection is tedious and soul-crushing, no matter where it comes from. And it is just part of the game. In the past year or so, I've been rejected from Paris Review, 3rd Bed, Harvard Review, Cue, Sentence, Drunken Boat, APR, Poetry, MiPoesis, Denver Quarterly, and countless others. I've had poems accepted by plenty of folks too.

Now, about those reasons. SES is slightly flawed because it reflects the taste of one person. The perfect magazine might be run by a group of people from all different schools/asthetics who had to "fight it out" and make something comprehensive. This was the orginal idea behind SES. I was more influenced by Language Poets and lyricism -- sort of like the Mei Mei Berssenbrugge hybrid. While my husband was from the Slam tradition. With these two backgrounds we thought we could make something expansive. Alas, the editing fell to me, the web stuff to Jim.

I try to be a diplomatic regarding style as one person can be. One can only expand the mind so much because that thing -- taste -- always gets in the way. I tend to like poems that are somewhat lyrical. I like prose poems. I like poems that have startling images. I like poems that challenge form (such a Mary Higgins). I rarely connect with political poems. Poems that have lines that sound like prose don't usually work for me. I don't like poems about sex. There are a number of words in poems that drive me nuts. (Yes, I can reject a poem based on a word!) The major problem I have with poetry is that I don't like work that is oblique without reason. This seems to be the trend right now. We can thank the language poets for that one!
But, life is contradictory. And I might break all these rules, as quick as I set them.

It's so hard to pin down, that thing that is poetry.

PS: Send poems!