today’s ensemble: Exene dress

Hot like a kitty
flat like a sound
crowded like a toolkit

vapidity of love as polemic,
I’m an eminent sore, sticking
out. Semiticism of rapid conversation:
sore caves, sore curves, sore flatness. soreness.
Porn girl looks up at camera for a sec, then gets back to business.
The misty mountains are misaligned. Explain.

Barack Obama drinks a Bud Lite.
Everything too meaningful, like panties
on a lamb (wilder). Lernen Sie Englisch, yeah, OK.
Millions old every month
confusing MIDRASH and MIDRIFF.
I cover my cleavage out of respect for others…

Like bobby pins on a yarmulke, these are
the days of our “lives”:
neurotic golden behavior as sought-for hornbill

EAT the candle
PRAY the html
love whimpering mightily

rocks tumble into hipsters
underwear now in a spoon.

mind asks for a different dogstar
because quiddity is so serviceable

and then I want quince. Jerking.

today's ensemble

Today I’m wearing my “Exene dress.” Fine and sheer black cotton faux vintage, lined, with sheer puff sleeve and lace hem. Plastic faux-jet buttons and pintucks at front and above hem.

I saw X play live several times in the late 70s and early 80s. Exene always had these wonderful crow-like vintage dresses, sometimes in several layers,like a Heian jidai noble, and an assortment of bracelets,ivory and red and totally various, each so different from the other as to create strange orchestras of decoration on her arms.

I remember driving down from the Bay Area with friends to hang out in LA. We went to… what was that little club in Chinatown? The Germs played. Also maybe The Middle Class, and the Controllers? We had frozen beer for breakfast. Penelope of the Avengers teased me for some reason. We hung out with Billy Zoom, making fake snow angels on the living room floor. I remember I had on a Burgundy suede fringeg jacket. Hair dyed to match. A friend who dealt drugs wore a striped Johnny Rotten mohair sweater and brothel creepers. Did we actually eat anything? I can’t remember.

Anyway, I’m drunk on tawny port having helped Gary celebrate his birthday at St. Dymphnaa with Franklin and Jordan and Adeena. Since I almost never drink I feel weird. Now must post this before midnight for the integrity of the project, then try to sleep it off. Later!

Segue Goes Country

The Wassaic Project Summer Festival Presents: “Segue Goes Country: Innovative Poets from the Tri-State Region” August 15, 2009, 3-5pm, @ Luther’s Livestock Auction Barn

Poetry by Bob Holman, Geoff Young, Stacy Syzmaszek, Gary Sullivan, Michael Gottlieb, & Nada Gordon presented by The Segue Foundation, publisher of Roof Books:

· Nada Gordon’s most recent poetry is Folly from Roof Books. Publishers Weekly dubbed her an “outrageously ludic punk priestess. She blogs avidly at

· Bob Holman’s most recent book is A Couple of Ways of Doing Something, a collaboration with Chuck Close; The Awesome Whatever is his new CD. He is the founder of the Bowery Poetry Club.

· Michael Gottlieb, the author of 14 books, lives in Lakeville, CT. Gottlieb’s latest, Memoir and Essay, was by hailed by Kasey Mohammed as “an immensely valuable document in the annals of Language writing and contemporary literary autobiography.”

· Poet and cartoonist Gary Sullivan is the author of PPL in a Depot, a Googled book of flarf plays, and the comic book series Elsewhere. He maintains a blog at

· Stacy Szymaszek is the author of Emptied of All Ships and Hyperglossia from Litmus Press. She is the Director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. A section of a new long poem “Hart Island” is forthcoming in limited edition from Albion Books.

· Geoff Young’s press, The Figures, published over 125 books of poetry, fiction, and art writing. His own recent books include Cerulean Embankments and Fickle Sonnets. His contemporary art gallery in Great Barrington has presented more than 60 shows.

Where: Luther’s Livestock Auction

35 Furnace Bank Rd, Wassaic NY 12592

Luther’s Livestock Auction walking distance of the Metro North Wassaic station.

By car coming North on 22, turn right on Furnace Brook Rd. and follow the crowd

More information:

today’s ensemble: Bakhtin and Vygotsky walk into a bar

Bakhtin and Vygotsky walk into a bar.

I’ll take a Pink Panty Pulldown, Vygotsky says, to herself.

Bakhtin orders a Sex on the Beach, with a twist of irony: “How many words does it take to have a context?”

Their eyes fill with sugar. They lift up their babydolls.

The barkeep asks, “What’s the meaning and purpose of cud?”

Bakhtin answers: In the absence of external restraints, it helps to manage the drive.

Vygotsky nods: Yes, a monument to a model of knowing… in foam.

Moral offense?

Or technical lapse?


Today’s look is earth tones + flamenco + a little glitter.

Copper tulle shrug with gold sequins and embroidery.
purpled gray sleeveless top with ruching
simple dark brown linen/polyester skirt with bias inset
coordinated bronze sequinned fitflops (not sure if these work, but they are hell of comfortable), beaded bracelets, faceted teardrop earrings, and facial expression

today’s ensemble: novelty prints, kitsch, a perfect rose, Japanglish, midrash, incense, etc.

I have a special love for representational clothing. All clothing, as I have mentioned, signifies, but what I am calling representational clothing actually has TEXT or IMAGES printed on its fabric. The PRINK tank top and the t-shirt patchwork skirt I wore recently are two examples, as are these Japanese t-shirts:




Today’s handmade-by-yours-truly skirt features both text and images. The images are nostalgic cartoons, in the style of perhaps the 1930s, but some of the costumes depicted in them evoke the 1890s. The message is old-time kitsch as interpreted by the Japanese. I bought the fabric last summer in Shimokitazawa and have blogged about it before (I’m that into it, this fabric). It’s horrible not to live a few blocks away from that particular fabric store anymore. Note how the text, which is half-lisible (is that English?), half-sensical , surrounds the cartoon panels almost midrashically. (Is that English?)



I love how in this one the be-ribboned (festooned?) puppy is scampering up to get the love letter from the little girl:


It also satisfies (or titillates) my fairly serious (and fairly predictable) passion for roses. This rose is particularly well-formed. Most roses in novelty prints are prissy or blowsy. Not this one. It’s just about perfect:


You’ll note that the themes of the cartoon panels are “days of the week,” calling to mind marked underwear. As I have elsewhere stated my contempt for the quotidian, it may surprise you that I find this not only endearing, but positively transformative of said contempt into, yes, I think so, delight. I’m easy.

Here’s the ensemble, in which I am deceiving myself into thinking I am statuesque (more alchemy here).


But the punctum of the outfit, really, is the hair ornament, bought at a thrift store in Japan and featuring a beautiful camellia (or is it a rose? what do you think?) with red, pink, and silver petals, pink buds, and very traditional, like that on a formal Japanese envelope ornament, gold cording.


I suppose the theme today is “Japan.” I suppose I am missing Japan. I note that at this very moment I am, ironically, burning incense from the Gotokuji temple in my old neighborhood. Gotokuji’s pagoda:


and Gotokuji’s famous maneki neko:

maneki neko at Gotokuji temple

today’s ensemble: style vs. taste, merged entities, seersucker

Hello friends,

You might think that I would be tired already of writing about


… but really, I’m not. I had to get dressed again today, too. I would like to remind my more literarily-oriented readers, who may be tiring of this “thread” (ha!), that the two disciplines of dressing and poetry have ever so much in common.

Kennedy Fraser writes, in The Fashionable Mind:

Style is rarely glimpsed in times like these, which at best encourage its humble relative, good taste. [Open just about any poetry magazine and see for yourself.] While style and taste have been known to intermingle in the past [I would consider the poetry of Edwin Denby to slot in nicely here.], the currently widening gap between them reminds us once more of their fundamental enmity [right?]. The world of the merely tasteful – a trim edifice of bourgeois conformities, with narrow slots to be filled and straight lines to be toed – is bound to barricade itself, in the end, against style, which is individual, aristocratic, and reckless [I think you can guess what parallel I might draw in the world of letters here, except that I do object to the word “aristocratic.” Sometimes I just wish I could edit books that are already published.]. Taste concerns itself with broad, lifetime progress, and never makes mistakes; style moves by fits and starts and is occasionally glorious. Style differs from elegance, too, yet they often keep company, since elegance is generally regarded as a prime object in the quest for style. But elegance is static and hermetic [shall we say… Rilke?], and the moments of its attainment in a life of style are like so many cathedrals along the route of a comprehensive cultural tour. Style requires allegiance to a creed whose shifting nature makes it all the more demanding. But then style is more rewarding than the ways of elegance or taste, and it is surely closer to an art.

Or… if I may use the term loosely (sorry, Ben): a poetics. Taste is modernist: style is avant-garde (thanks to Rob for a related insight). Style (we all know this) emerges without regard to class or status (and as such is democratic, not aristocratic: just take a look around you on any vehicle of public transportation); taste and elegance assume at least some kind of status quo. I am not interested in elegance at all. In fact, it makes me a little sick. I don’t object to a modicum, a smidgeon really, of taste, just to keep society from collapsing altogether. Style, on the other hand, is paramount.

Speaking of Paramount, I took my students to The Museum of the Moving Image today. Here are some of the entities I merged with there:









Two of the style icons pictured above I long ago adopted as my personal compasses. Can you guess which ones?

Today’s ensemble features a breezy (it’s 87 degrees outside and muggy) bias cut seersucker skirt whose deep pink and periwinkle stripes combine to make a fine lavender. Note the semi-elliptical insets at either side and the oversized patch pockets. The tank top is a neat little bit of self-promo: that’s the cover of Folly. Slightly puffed sleeves on the midriff cardigan help protect against ubiquitous air-conditioning. Shoes by… Harley Davidson!


Since I seem mostly to choose photos in which my eyes are downcast (what’s that about, I wonder?) I leave you today with something a bit more confrontational:


Today’s ensemble + weekend style report + poetic motivation

Weekend style report:

The best look I saw all this weekend was “shirtless with bunny” as you can see here.


The grass at Korean Arts Village wore us. Dig Rob’s fedora! And Kim’s 60s daisy dress with Ray-Bans and preppie Minnetonkas! Gary’s in purple (my influence).






I converse with one of the village elders, who wears a simulacrum of homespun.


Here, Coco (who is thinking to change her last name to either Duchamp or Ono) is wearing a faux-batik print jersey dress in robin-egg blue, perfect for a summer romp in the country. I am also in jersey, in gaudy solids. We played Beatles trivia on the car ride back to the city; we are just about tied, I think. I couldn’t name the number of McCartney’s children (including the adoptees), and she didn’t instantly come up with “Apple Scruffs.”


Rob and I discussed poetic motivation at length. I’m not sure whether we agreed to disagree or whether we decided we were describing different sides of the same coin.

I insisted that since our society gives back so little to poets, that I cling to certain appealing (to me) aspects of the poet myth: the milieu, the conversations, the sensitive antennae, the embroilments. I maintained that we are “special people” who really are more observant, who perceive more intensely, than the average member of the hoi polloi. Rob felt that was not necessarily so, and opined that it is our main task to make work that is relevant to the contemporary situation using the materials of the culture around us. I agreed that form is primary, but that it is our particular challenge to make forms that are adequate to the intensities of our motivation, which starts for me as a kind of rhythmic itch that I suppose I could call emotional, the spontaneous overflow of powerful…you know the rest. That’s why I insisted on describing myself as a lyric poet. A lyre is a musical instrument. The strings vibrate. There’s something to that, and also to the sense of being able to enter a state of sonic excitation (I dragged the old “radio” metaphor out of the closet here)… that drugginess, to me, is what it’s all about. If it is intellective, or if there is critique in what comes out, for me that is more or less of a by-product.

No one in the car (although Coco didn’t mention her stance on this) quite agreed that this was how it worked for them. How about you guys?

I am only posting the outfit from Saturday as Rob and Kim had issues with their water tank and no one had a shower on Sunday morning. It’s the right thing to do, I think, even though I am wondering about what the constraints of this project should be. Is it like birth control pills, that if I skip a day I expose myself (or my project) to some sort of compromise?

Today, back to the 50s thing: Taffeta plaid with pink and gray undertones, coral lace bolero. Rain is forecast on and off all week, and it occurs to me that taffeta is the perfect fabric for the rain, even though I will sweat a little. Dress bought in Manhattan Chinatown for I think $30, on East Broadway. I have entirely forgotten the provenance of the bolero, but I think I’ve kept it around for a couple of decades.


today’s ensemble: aloha friday

aloha dress

Too much garbage? What if there
wasn’t enough fruit jelly
Up your body (havoc!)

“Too much sauce! That is spaghetti
with anchovies and olives tomato
soup! Blasphemy!”

Posts of this kind will not
be permitted in this carnival. …
Aloha! I am leaving paradise next week.

Notice that the aggressor is not wearing
too much padding and taking a substantial
amount of hits without getting hurt!

BTW I don’t dislike Aloha,
we don’t wear grass skirts and … i
drink too much and cry a lot but dance often

What is the meaning of “too much metal can destroy you”?
Gold fabrics won’t work, because they shimmer too much,
and there’s WAY too much rice, in comparison to spam

and the head is disproportionately big:

aloha dress

today’s ensemble: the gaze, shame, hegemony, and rain

I’m teaching a class this summer called Image/ Text/ Screen. Today my students and I watched the first part of the second episode of the BBC TV version of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. It’s from, I guess, around 1972, and it’s worth watching for the mod 70s fashions alone. Really. There’s a pair of blue-green granny boots in this video that I can’t believe I don’t own.

If you didn’t take the time to watch it, and haven’t read the seminal (love that word, really) book of the same name, know that this episode focuses on the female nude in art and also on women as objects of the gaze (including their own). He narrates:

Men dream of women.
Women dream of themselves being dreamt of.
Men look at women.
Women watch themselves being looked at.

At the time, I imagine this was a very radical observation. Of course in some ways it is still true. But it doesn’t, in its elegant essentialism, really represent the reality of how women look at men, or at each other, or even how women look at themselves, does it? I think you could switch the genders in the quote above and it would be true, and would even be true in some cases if you had the same genders in each line. Do you agree with me? If so, do you think that has always been so or has our (everyone’s) situation changed dramatically in the past 40 years or so? Granted, there’s still a lot of “old thinking” left. One of my students, a male, insisted today that “men are more visual” and even printed out an article by some (male) sexologist to “prove” it. “Nonsense,” I told him, saying that no male “expert” can contradict my own experience.

The notion that men “own” the domain of the visual and the power of the gaze is so last century.

All the same, there are other remnants of the traditional Western way of seeing that linger, and that I have been noticing as I move through this project, namely,

1) the notion that to solicit the gaze by displaying oneself is somehow shameful and vain
2) the idea that clothing as a subject of discussion is trivial or superficial

The first point brings to mind those Western painters Berger mentions who, desiring to look at women, painted them nude, put mirrors in their hands, and made their paintings anti-vanity morality tales. The same is true of images of expulsion from Eden. What thin excuses! European cultures were so long steeped in this kind of culture of shame that it seems to have found its inverse extreme in the exhibitionist climate we now live in. Even the word “exhibitionist” has disparaging nuances. The fact is that we all exist as form in at least three dimensions, and we all have eyes, and image capturing devices, so why does the shame (or inverse “shamelessness”) around display (and this occurs to me, applies not only to visual display, but to verbal display as well) still linger? I don’t pretend to have an answer to this question. It’s just something I’m noticing.

Regarding the second point, it occurred to me today that clothing is in fact neither trivial nor superficial. Deciding what to wear is a daily aesthetic choice that everyone has to make. There’s nothing trivial about aesthetics. So much meaning and affect and history go into every one of these decisions. We assume that clothing is superficial because it covers the surface of our bodies, but really that is too literal and just wrongheaded. Cloth and clothes wrap us just after birth, in sleep, and even in death: nothing is closer to us or more intimate than the garments that touch our bodies (“nothing comes between me and my Calvinism”). The clothes are part of us.

Something else I have noticed: I am not interested in “fashion.” Not really. I am interested in clothing.

Fashion is about hegemony.

In the same way, I am not interested in what group of poets is ahead or who the powerful figures are or who gets to have the most secure toehold on eternity. This seems to be the focus of many squabbles on the blogs and elsewhere, and those are the sort of posts that get the most comments and attention. At the risk of sounding quaintly essentialist (or just insufferably superior) myself, I really do think this is a male concern. I’m interested in poets and poetry and poems, but not Poets and Poetry and Poems. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Today’s outfit really can hardly be called an outfit. It turned into an uncharacteristically-for-July cool and rainy day, and I really just threw this on. I wanted to wear the aloha dress I mentioned yesterday, but that really is a dress for a sunny day. Again, my students liked this outfit: the colors, they said. The bright orchid cardigan got a couple of nice compliments. I like the cutouts on the purple empire top, but I do think overall the ensemble looks very teenage, and not really artfully so, either. A co-worker stopped me on the campus at lunchtime to tell me I looked like a student.

It was so humid and sticky that I had to do something with my hair, which felt like a scratchy wool poncho, so I did this top bun thing and then the four braids on either side. I did it while waiting for my lunch to come at the Thai restaurant. Another co-worker, an Indian guy, stopped me later and said I looked like Laura from Little House on the Prairie. I thought to myself, don’t I look more like Shiva? Anyway. Here I am, looking tired today, because I have pain from using computers too much, and it’s rainy.

today's ensemble

And here’s another co-worker, Cassandra Dawn, looking so cool in her Wayfarer glasses, understated navy shorts and t-shirt, and smudgy Converses:

Cassandra Dawn

It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll put the damn dress on anyway? We’ll see.

Shoutouts to Laura and Anne as well as Suzanne on flickr & Steve Evans on FB for keeping the meme flowing. Mwa!