Christian Bok's Eunoia is a baroquish delight. The two most universal stylistic elements of Baroque music were continuo, also called thorough bass, and ornamentation. The bass of these poems are the vowels, the ornamentation the incredibly varied vocabulary built around these vowels. Here's one poem from Chapter A (every word of every poem in this chapter anchored by the vowel "a"):
Hassan can watch as all hands land a small warcraft and camp at a lava sandflat -- a basalt strand that has tar sands as black as magma ash. Wasps and gnats swarm as all hands stack sandbags and start a spartan camp. A campman, smart at campcraft, can spark a match and warm an ashpan that thaws what hard-tack a clan wants: bran mash and lard, spam hash and salt, ballpark franks and flapjack stacks (all starch and fat). A packman at camp packs a backpack and a packsack. A watchman stands watch, as all ranks at dawn act as pawns that can marshall adamant brawn and march a harsh warpath.
Then again, it ain't Johann Sebastian Bach, or any other Bach back then. Haven't laughed at/with the Brandenburg concertos. These are poems to read aloud, to laugh aloud.
SleepingFish is a print publication of text and art that haphazardly follows a 9-month gestation cycle. The submission period for issue 0.75* is
Feb 15 to June 1, 2005.
SleepingFish issue 0.5 isnow available.Please consider getting it before submitting for the next issue 0.75. Issue 0 and free webbed features are also available to give you an idea of what SleepingFish is about.
is "amemeis amemeis ameme" ameme?
The driving theme for issue 0.75 will be "meme expression". If you are reading this, then you are probably under the impulse of contagious memes that you feel a compelling need to propagate. Language is a virus and you are the host organism. You live in a world no longer governed by the evolution of genes, but the revolution of memes. Whether you are conscious of them or not, you are a carrier of these self-replicating ideas. You are the vehicle by which memetic code expresses itself through text and art. These memes might tell stories encapsulated in myth or metaphoric pulses. Meme expression might reveal itself in the form of textual or visual art or hybrids of these. Memes might disguise, mutate, replicate or cross-pollinate themselves as other art forms or textual methodologies spontaneously spawned from the universal lexicon of language.
My reading’s always been circumscribed by time (ain’t enough days in the hours) and money (not enough for me or libraries I frequent to seize all the possible books I could possibly read). And there ain’t enough exposure to poets writing today – who’s the Emily Dickinson of the early 21st century?— tomake sure all earnest, die-hard, curmudgeonly readers of poetry cross paths with poets they desire/need to read. I’m always behind while I’m trying to keep a/head. I know I’m missing much too much too much too much.
One poet I’ve missed in the past was Thom Gunn. Sure I stumbled across his work again and again and again in the 1980s-90s Bay Area, reading it in journals. Allergic to rhyme, though, I didn’t give his poems my (time, I’m tempted to say, but I say:) attention. His work dominated one publication at least, Threepenny Review, when so many other poets went unheard. His work was the establishment. Thom Gunn I thought was the rear-guard, the academic, the Enshrined Convention. Man, was I wrong.
Last summer, finding a remaindered $22 hard-cover copy of one of Gunn’s last books, Boss Cupid, in Boise, in one of those sterile outlet malls littering America (offering all we don’t need at exorbitantly low prices we don’t need to pay), I was willing to give it a chance at $2. The first poem, “Duncan,” a paean to Robert Duncan’s power, in its prime and then on the wane, held me for months – I re-read it dozens of times before I was ready to go on to the remaining poems, and I didn’t even notice the rhyme. Here’s the last stanza:
“He was now a posthumous poet, I have said
(For since his illness he had not composed),
In sight of a conclusion, whose great dread
his life soon to be enclosed
Like the sparrow’s flight above the feasting friends,
Briefly revealed where its breast caught their light,
Beneath the long roof, between open ends,
Themselves the margins of unchanging night.”
I loved the book, a mess/mass of contradictions – high-brow language with low-brow subject (“Troubadour,” songs for Jeffrey Dahmer), low-brow language with high-brow subjects (poems about David and Bathsheba), intensely personal poems -- about his partner of forty plus years (“In Trust”), about street people, young men strung out, nights in bars, anonymous sexual encounters in Central Park, his own aging –a mastery of form (mastery = form’s unobtrusive, fluid yet staunch as bone) with a frankness, a rawness, that rarely goes hand-in-hand with conventional verse. Gunn may not have shucked the conventions of meter and rhyme, but the content of his poems, shifting, sliding, nudging, balanced their often oppressive weight.
A thoughtful, passionate, caring response [see below] to a thoughtless, shallow, hurtful"review." Have you sent this to Web Del Sol? It's "reviews" like this, criticism for the bite only, not the explication, the depth, the contribution to all our learning, that give reviewing/criticism a bad name. We should all have a minimum requirement that the review contain evidence of reading the work under "discussion." Otherwise any one of us could write a hundred such "reviews." What would we accomplish? Alienate those few readers still reading contemporary poetry.
[Added tonight] Do we have standards for what constitutes an on-line review?
Do we not want convincing evidence that the reviewer has read and thought about the work under review?
Do we not want reviewers to put their personal views into the context of the larger world of poetry, its various communities, the body of work in the present and its relationships to poetry past?
Shouldn't McGrath be able to show he's aware of where eratio positions itself, i.e. what it's attempting to do? I would give his view much more credibility if he first show how eratio stumbles through its own intentions.
I know McGrath's flip comments have always occurred whether at the end of a poetry reading, spoken between friends, or in letters or other conversations between readers. But when they appear on a website such as Web Del Soul these comments have more weight than they deserve.
[The e-mail from From Gregory St. Thomasino] ERATIO SMEARED
"Eratio Postmodern Poetry :// View | Rating: Eratio offers up incomprehensible postmodern fodder for critics of postmodern incomprehensibility. Good luck finding anything intentionally; look for links and find a blog, look for poetry and find quotations. And when you realize that Eratio's editor, Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino (whose name suggests either a pseudonymously guarded narcissist or the tragi-comic hero of a Wes Anderson film) has included his own embarrassing asseverations ("Discourse is like a river" is his unqualified and deplorably facile, but apparently quotable, simile) along with the words of Nietszche, Plato, and Jung, you'll start wondering whether this postmodern experiment is, in fact, a postmodern parody. On the same page, alongside the luminous Lord Duke G.V. St. Thomasino, Diane Wakoski is quoted as saying, "I feel that poetry is the completely personal expression of someone about his feelings and reactions to the world. I think it is only interesting in proportion to how interesting the person who writes it is." By Wakoski's logic, the people who bring you Eratio are not very interesting at all."
[Gregory's response to the "review"] Friends, as contributors to eratio postmodern poetry, you should proudly count yourselves among some of the most talented and influential writers and artists on the scene today. As editor of the site, I can honestly say that many of the works submitted for eratio simply do not make the cut (and I'm sorry if I've rejected your work, Mr. McGrath, but there's always the welcome to send again). I try to be fair when making these judgments, because I know what it means to put your heart into something (especially something like poetry), and how it feels to be rejected.
Eratio is a labor of love, since it generates no revenue for me (but rather costs me time and energy and money). Each issue requires months of work, involving coding, design, correspondence, planning, and an immeasurable amount of frustration. Ultimately, it's very gratifying -- but I cannot say it's fun.
Still, I am proud to publish your work and hope that its presence at eratio gives you some exposure and some degree of satisfaction that you otherwise would not have had, and gives you some encouragement to continue being a poet in an economy that doesn't much care about you.
I do not know Tim McGrath. But if you read him closely you'll see that this is nothing more than a personal attack on me (based on his dislike of my name!). I am distressed because none of the poetry or artworks are mentioned, and in fact I do not believe Mr. McGrath even bothered to read or look at any of it. (But can he, indeed, talk about the poetry, or the content of the page, or the logic of the concept, I wonder? Why the subterfuge of fixating on my name? No one of any real insight or wit would do that -- unless he were inclined to burlesque.)
As a poet and a critic, I take great care to explicate my reasons for "liking" or "disliking" something. More importantly, I consider it my responsibility to try to place a work into context, to appreciate what it is the poet is trying to achieve, and to assess whether this has been accomplished (and sometimes I offer alternatives, but I never ridicule and I am never disrespectful, and I always manage to point out a poet's successes). There are several reviews in the current issue that I took great care in writing, I hope you'll see them for yourself now that the issue is up.
Reading Tim McGrath's personal attack (on my name, for Pete's sake!) is an example of something a poet or a critic should never do. Mr. McGrath has latched on to my name as something that irritates him a great deal, and in the process has ignored your work and mine. Why does Mr. McGrath dislike me personally? Could it be that this is payback? (Or else: What's "pseudonymously guarded" about it? What's "narcissist" about it? I will, however, accept that being a Roman Catholic name it is somewhat "tragi-comic.")
Mr. McGrath's tone -- glib, cynical, condescending, and uninformed and lacking of the requisite vocabulary to comprehend let alone explicate or set a value upon "the postmodern" -- is indicative not only of Web Del Sol but of the "unlettered lad" generally. I do not know why Web Del Sol has adopted this attack mentality toward anything to do with "the postmodern," but for sure it is the creativity of resentment.
"A postively ungainly, chockablock and always affecting pseudo-memoir, long shot: an autobiography of a distant friend is forever trying its humble best to move through its mass of components (and the usual recording of ego and personality) to the transpersonal.
Using lyric, narrative and experimental forms and employing polaroids, it's a nonlinear chronicling, scored in ingenious staves, of all kinds of impressive small and big life moments -- anecdotal, phantasmic, personal, historical, philosophical, frivolous, mythic."
John Vieira's work is such a blur -- lyric meditation, b & w photographs, yogic drawing and concrete gesture (in earlier works) -- it's as clear, as trans/parent as work can be:
"my left eye
on the right
You can get your transcendent hands and eyes on his latest book for $10 via Score, 1111 E. Fifth, Moscow, ID 83843.
As a long-time resident of the Bay area, I've crossed paths with Thom Gunn's work innumerable times, in print and in person. Though I've found his poems a bit formulaic for my taste, the topics too self-centered, I've always appreciated his ear, his sense of sound, his sound of sense. In Boss Cupid (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, and Merlot, 2000), Gunn's got at least a dozen poems that ignite the ear, the heart, and the mind, structure/body and content creating synergizing. Here's Front Bar of the Lone Star: