Friday, June 12, 2009


These are just a few of the books / music on the nightstand or packing with us on road trips. Some are old timers brought out from the golden shelves, others are brand new for Spring 09. All should be bought used or new and preferably from independent booksellers, or from your local library, or read free that rainy day in Barnes & Noble. Take charge, reader! Kindle is for sissies! A real book in hand or pocket or satchel is man's best friend. Stroke a book.

Rae Armantrout


As if, after all,

the thing that comes to mind
times inertia

equaled the "real".


One lizard
jammes headfirst

down the throat
of a second.

Clayton Eshleman
The Grindstone of Rapport
selected poetry, prose & translations
(Black Widow Press,

I'm most fond of early Eshleman poems — long before the clap-trap of alchemy and self-analysis inflicted his poems, these are best left for prose ruminations where he is far superior. There is a brotherhood in all of this book that comes through with a power and a force to reckon with. An involved artist of many talents, Eshleman ranges well and often fearlessly — from editing original matter like Caterpillar and Sulfur publications, into literary and philosophical essays and inquiries, pushed with a passion for all-lands poetry and translations where an alchemy of sorts is finely tuned. This is a book to own and fuss with and pass along.

Alec Wilkinson
The Protest Singer

In Washington DC there are many monuments and portraits in oils hung on display and millions have walked before them — a showcase of leadership and goodwill, and in some cases thieves and downright murderers in sheeps clothing. One day America the beautiful may wake up and show a portrait for all to see of Pete Seeger, an American lad who crossed all the world singing songs of freedom and civil rights. Easy songs. Songs as lullabies and things to whistle to. And he had the greatness to sing the songs of many others and believe in those even more than his own. A great great caring soul. Alive at 90 years of age just like the gods planned it for us.

Robert M. Thorson
Beyond Walden

Things about kettle lakes, glacier deposits and emerald water (as seen at Walden Pond) are some of the subject matter here — but it's only a jumping off point for this fine geologist's mind to mull over civilization and how one evolves and perhaps withstands and hopefully provides. Water doesn't just run through one's fingers here.

Gideon S. Golany
Chinese Earth-Sheltered Dwellings
(University of Hawaii)

I first took notice of earth dwellings in China where those were burrowed in and making habitats in the Great Wall.
Yaodong (below-ground habitats) have been used continuously in China for the last four centuries and today house more than forty million Chinese. This book's detailed survey of the culture and adaptation by the inhabitants is one for the ages. Well-paced illustrations and text work take you on a journey, and mostso provide lessons for modern architecture, urban design, and survival.

Stephen Addis
77 Dances

Simply exquisite — the first book on Japanese calligraphy by poets, monks and scholars that shows the Momoyama and Edo periods (1568-18680) in large format illustrations. The Zen, the haiku, the landscape, the gossamer. Less talk, go look. The author is a thoughtful practitioner himself and trail guide.

Lew Welch

Hermit Poems
(Four Seasons Foundation)

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
"ring of bone" where
ring is what a
bell does

For a
Steve Earle recording — singing like Steve Earle, with hand claps and yells and sometimes as if through a bullhorn — this isn't disappointing. But since he is singing all Townes Van Zandt songs, he's about ruining every song with all of the above. It's a mottled mess. Of the two-disc CD, head for "the basics" CD. Townes Van Zandt sparkled and generally reached the backside of heroic. He wasn't singing his songs, he was giving them to us. Hand delivered. Listening to his good friend try his ever-loving best to even attempt a delivery is all heart and with thanks. But now go to the originals and be scared to death.

Journal of the short poem, No. 7, Spring 2009
NO/ON, edited Philip Rowland
Minami Motomachi 4-49-506
Shinjuku, Tokyo, 160-0012, Japan

A Japnese bound treat of special wonder. Now 7 issues, over years of practice and particular care. The poets range internationally and move well together.

take care

of being
taken care of
of the moment
by the moment
for the moment
— Sheila E. Murphy

Thomas Meyer
(Punch Press
810 Richmond Avenue
Buffalo, NY. 14222-1167)

Done up in the full glory once championed by Jonathan Williams at Jargon Press — bold stroke cover design and title page with no misunderstanding where you are about to be engulfed. Here is this long poem/reverie, even personal prayers, by
Thomas Meyer, gentleman and long time companion to Williams. New publisher in Buffalo, Punch Press has done this well. Robert Kelly has come forth with an introduction. With visual images by the one and only Erica Van Horn. Kintsugi — the practice of repairing ceramics with gold-laced lacquer to illuminate the breakage. One lover speaks to another's passing.

All dogs bark his name.
He who has gone

there from here

past time's gap. Jumped.

Lorine Niedecker
Immortal Cupboard

Living for years in the solitude of rural Wisconsin, poet and experimental writer Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), chose what many might see as a lonely path. Out of her very deliberate and austere lifestyle came a poetics of observation so acute that some literary critics have described her as the 20th century's Emily Dickinson. Taking cues from Niedecker's work, filmmaker Cathy Cook combines original live-action footage, animation, archival images and the poet's only audio interview (with Cid Corman) to unfurl the poet's psychological and physical landscape. Through a repetition of images, text and sounds that mirror Niedecker's own processes and forms, Cook gives new voice and visibilioty to the extraordinary works of this very private poet. Longhouse will soon have DVD copies of this excellent film available.

Patti Smith

Ample time now for you to have listened to the Steve Earle noted above and either agree with me, or be sick of me, and to substitute the Patti Smith cd in your play list. This is exactly what we did the other day in the hot sun while on a job painting a house — the Smith and not the Earle got us through the late day strtetched hours of finishing up fussy cornice and window trim painting. Smith does twelve cover songs here that she has pretty much grown up with, as we have, as her crackerjack band has, and the familiarity and play-to-invention shows. Highlights occur with Hendrix, Neil Young, the Stones, even Tears for Fears, George Harrison (The Beatles), Allman Brothers, and these days few do Bob Dylan better than Patti Smith, and probably her turn of Nirvana's
Smells Like Teen Spirit is the best track on the cd. Her take on The Doors, Paul Simon, and the Airplane don't quite hit it. But with each song you can finally hear the words! Leave it to a poet.

Agha Shahid Ali
The Veiled Suite the collected poems


My ancestor, a man
of Himalayan snow,
came to Kashmir from Samarkand,
carrying a bag
of whale bones:
heirlooms from sea funerals.
His skeleton
carved from glaciers, his breath
he froze women in his embrace.
His wife thawed into stony water,
her old age a clear

This heirloom,
his skeleton under my skin, passed
from son to grandson,
generations of snowmen on my back.
They tap every year on my window,
their voices hushed to ice.

No, they won't let me out of winter,
and I've promised myself,
even if I'm the last snowman,
that I'll ride into spring
on their melting shoulders.

and forthcoming, early Fall 09
Will Alexander
The Sri Lankan Loxodrome
(New Directions, 2009)

Loxodrome - or rhumba line - the word origin from the French 'point of compass' or the Dutch ' space, room'. The imaginary line (made imagined by Alexander's nautical cosmotics) across the earth's surface bisecting all meridians at the same angle, this being the standard mechanics for plotting a ship's course on a map. With Will Alexander's book of meditations, or homages in grip with Cesaire or on the horns of Sun Ra, we have one lone Sri Lankan sailor, traveling eastward from Madagascar to Sri Lanka, with invasive spectres / amidst the constellations, where one calls the monsoons hermits.

I look through myself
as through the wayward rum of the Sufis
& near the Maldives I know
some greater apparition will appear
unlike Gianini
at the core like a singular upward double
crossing the inward "Chinvat Bridge" *
the crossing point to "the beyond"
unlike the force that corrupts the eyes from without
creating its force from strict material biotics

I am carrying the inks which dissolve the corruption of the gravid
with their weighed negative conservation
with their glossary of urns that imprisons
& denies the sacred impediment
the susurrant infamy which listens

therefore I've cracked
the inner botulism doors
the profane obtrusion
the egalitarian as mystery

as I wander
I travel across the core at eclectic meridians
never canceling my wavering
my dread
my magnetic "failure to observe"*

*Chinvat Bridge: In Sufism 'the threshold of the beyond'
*failure to observe": inaccurate recording of a 'series of events because of divided attention...'

Enjoy the Reading, the Music, the Sparks!

in memory

David Carradine

David Bromige
Harold Norse
William Witherup