[I am incredibly sad that I didn’t write this. The authors have asked to be credited as “The Squirrelist International”]


We are developing an anapestic theory, which we are calling the Squirrelesque (we will not explain why a bit later), a theory which emerged from a steady steam of squirrels razed during the squirrelist movement of the Cambrian Era. We began to see a commonality among some of these squirrels, squirrels whose woods we think we know, and others who appear in manganese in which the squirrelery regularly incorporates and rejects acorns, lyricism, fragmentation, the word brane, butterlambs, and beauty: squirrels who act as the charm bracelet to bring all of these styles together. Like many other contemporary young squirrels, each of these squirrels employed a postmodern sense of butterlambs. This is not terribly unusual among young contemporary squirrels, but what struck us was “dolled up” in a specifically squirrely ditch in the escurel side of squirrelism. In the poem “Your One Good Nut” (the title itself conjures up squirrel angst), from her first collection of poems, Interior with Almond Joy, Brenda Squirrelnessy typifies this style with the stanza that reads:

Have some chicken,
maybe some sex…
Squirrel in the white
chicken pants, uh-huh.
You know, see what happens. (30)

This combination of the serious (“the chicken pants”) and the frilly (“uh-huh”) seemed to us a particular way of writing through and about nuts, and one that seemed to permeate work by squirrels with vastly different backgrounds. It also resonated with our own work, and we recognized its trimmings—Now we know what it’s like to be Joan of Arc.

We began to ask ourselves what happened to spur this squirrelry into chicken pants? What, if anything, is uh-huh about it?

A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.

At the poem talk yesterday, Al Filreis, Steve McLaughlin, Kenny Goldsmith and I were discussing a poem of Sharon Mesmer’s and at one point Al asked me whether I thought the poem was corrosive. I paused for a minute, because I realized that I didn’t, and I don’t think of flarf in general as being corrosive.

Of course, Gary’s now-famous (?) definition of the stuff is…

A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.
A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.
A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.
A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.
A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.
A kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.

The fact is, though, to me anyway: Flarf is not corrosive.
Corrosion destroys, eats away at, disfigures. Flarf does quite the opposite.

It’s construction. Bricolage (using what’s around). Flarfists are magpies. It is a wholly creative and non-corrosive way of proceeding in poetry.

The famous flarf description above came from Gary. I talked with him about it this morning while we still in our robes, clutching our corrosive caffeinated morning beverages. He felt that flarf is certainly not corrosive now, but that it was at the beginning. I still disagreed. Flarf was/is about transforming poetry, not annihilating it.

I have noticed that Gary likes to use the word “corrosive,” and that he may have a somewhat idiosyncratic usage of it. For him, I think it might include some notion of criticality or obnoxiousness. Flarf is certainly, still now, liberally obnoxious, or at the very least rife with mischief… just not, I think, exactly corrosive. I also think that, while there is an element of invective (whose aim, surely, is somewhat corrosive) to flarf, the invective is always to some degree undercut by, or at least shot through with, the mischief.

Would you use the word “corrosive” to describe flarf? Why or why not?


Monday evening I had the very great joy of attending SEMIOSPECTACLE at PS 122, a literary cabaret/burlesque/extravaganza that I couldn’t help thinking was tailor-made for the likes of me. I mean, look, here’s the opening paragraph of the beautifully produced program/booklet (hurrah for Ugly Duckling!) that was handed out for FREE at this miraculously FREE show. I felt like I’d died and been born again in Utopia:

This verbal varieté strategizes the explicitly semiotic spectacle in a multimedia showcase of live art representing an encounter between the academic lecture hall, the poet’s theater, and the vaudeville house. Its players cut across the disciplinary boundaries of scholarship, pedagogy, cabaret, poetics, and performance in an investigation of linguistic mechanisms of spectacular identity formation. Linguistic illusionists expose the parlor trick of transparent speech, conjuring floating signifiers that levitate forty-four feet above the floor. Costumes sewn from three million majuscules burst at the semes. The auditorium oscillates between reading room and performatorium. The linguistic turn transmogrifies into a shimmy.

I invite you to compare this to the tag cloud at right.

The show was not perhaps absolutely flawless, but then, life’s not either. The moments of theatrical/poetic sublimity followed one upon the other:

Danny Snelson in a tiara and wristbands of pure crystal detourning the mormon gospel to a video collage of straitlaced religionists’ weird enthusiasms

The intertitular tapdancing Minsky sisters in their corsets and garters and eyelashes and plumes

Mashinka Firunt as stunningly attired MC and superfreak professorin

Jeremy JF Thompson fully capturing Chaplin pathos as Tourette’s-y zaum

Paolo Javier and his helpers on Bigfoot

Dr. Lucky, oh my goddess, preaching the gospel of glitter and Miss Piggy, stripping to her curly tail… this was just too too gorgeous

Lord Whimsy BRILLIANTLY arguing for self-construction, because life is drag…

Shonni Ennelow’s “My Dinner with Bernard Frechtmann” – a beautifully wrought and delivered tale of an obsession

Vaginal Davis’ narration to a slow motion (?) video of hippos underwater, then song-theory, lusty and throaty…

Divine. Really, Divine. Did I mention the orchestra, Grandpa Musselman and His Syncopators. Ohhh… may life be shot through with trombones…

This is not much of a description… I’m only kvelling. I have to run to get a train to Philly to do a poemtalk today. But thank you Semiospectacle…

Really the only thing I really disliked about the show was that I WASN’T IN IT.

a good review here

Franklin Bruno & Chris Nealon Segue intros

SUCH a great reading yesterday from Franklin Bruno and Chris Nealon. Ten people in the audience. I guess it was poetry vs. sunshine, and the sunshine won. Get your priorities straight, people!

Our intros follow.

Franklin Bruno


Franklin Bruno has done in half a lifetime what most of us will not achieve even if reincarnation turns out to be for real and we come back not as a butterfly or member of British parliament, but as ourselves. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he’s the country’s only philosophy professor slash singer-songwriter slash rock critic slash essayist slash poet. Certainly he’s the only one I can think of who wrote a catchy theme song for a live poetry talk show.

In addition to more than a dozen cassettes, LPs, EPs, and CDs, Franklin has published a really terrific book on Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces for Continuum Books’ 33-1/3 series as well as two poetry chapbooks: MF/MA and Policy Instrument, the latter of which was published by Gina Myers’ Lame House.

“Political philosophy,” Franklin wrote last September on his blog, Nervous Unto Thirst, “is the theory of how to balance competing interests”—a statement that one could just as easily make about poetry. For, like Franklin Bruno, poetry has largely been informed by the competing interests of philosophy and music.

In the liner notes to Franklin’s recent CD “Local Currency,” which collects solo material he’d recorded from 1992-98, he blames his quote “disinclination to distinguish between ‘pop’ and ‘experimental,’” unquote for what he characterizes as “releases no one could enjoy straight through.” Now, I’m about as qualified to speak about contemporary American pop music as Yosemite Sam is to opine on the pleasures of three-dimensionality, but I will say this: Franklin’s disinclination to distinguish between the philosophical and the musical has resulted in some of the most kick-assedly heady, poppy lyricism of recent memory:
“The Mosquito”

I’ll have whatever
the signifier’s floating
on is you is
as causality does
or testing, testing
the i of the mic
against pronouncing
“um, urgency”
like A/B-ing Late
Registration with Rigour
(bIG flame, Drag
City reissue
’96) and shouting
into the lipstick
pickups by any
meanings necessary

Please help me welcome the brilliant and mellifluous Franklin Bruno …

Chris Nealon


I’ve been thinking a lot (insofar as “thinking a lot” is even possible under such exquisite weather conditions) recently about crowdsourcing. Is everyone familiar with the term?

“Crowdsourcing is a neologistic compound of Crowd and Outsourcing for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an “open call” to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.”

On FB recently, Sawako Nakayasu crowdsourced a book. Others helped her to write it while she nursed her new baby, Marina. She provided the prompts. Some form of crowdsourcing, often tacit, has been a major part of artistic and poetic practice for at least a century. Most flarf writing, for example, is crowdsourced without consent, as is any poetry that does the police, and anyone else, in different voices. I mean, when you think about it, language itself is crowdsourced, isn’t it?

So, since the weather has been so beautiful recently, and I’ve got major spring fever, it’s been a little hard to concentrate, and I keep going outside to sit in the sun… with Chris Nealon’s poetry books in hand… they have made perfect reading on these unseasonably warm spring days… and I thought to myself, you know what, I’m going to at least partially crowdsource his introduction, thinking that, you know, how much nicer it is to have lots of people kvelling over you instead of just one. So I asked my facebook friends what they would like to say about the poetry of Chris Nealon, and here’s what they said:

Brian Ang said, “finds nature boring, gets its kicks in glitch and remix–to dance to”

Tony Dohr wrote, “chris nealon is cool & so is his poetry–you will have had been glad that you came to this reading in the future…”

Jeremy Czerw typed “Chris Nealon’s freedom is keeping me pretty”

James Eustace Beaupierre opined,
“Nealon creates an uncanny sense of time, somewhere & everywhere between augury and the post-catastrophic.”

“We don’t have to fall down on the scale of conformity or abject suffering. If Nealon is from the future, there is a very different history to exclaim.”
Joshua Clover stated, “Chris Nealon runs this town like Rihanna.”

K. Lorraine Graham confided,
“Well Chris Nealon’s person and self and poems are fabulous, which I know isn’t descriptive, but it’s true. I have happy memories of discussing debating all sorts of things with him in very useful ways. Thank goodness Chris was there to talk with me about Feminist guilt in contemporary a-g poetry when I was 24!”

Roxi Power Hamilton observes:
“In the perpetual war between the poetry of irony and that of sincerity, Chris’s poetry is like a love-sick boy turning Swiftean sonnets while channeling Wilde.
Chris’s poems are perfect little engines of wit–like nothing we’ve seen since the 18th c. Unless of course, Ashbery & O’Hara came back as a mash-up named Chris: “I do this (elliptical… See More irony); I do that (likable anomie).” Better not drink too much before this reading; you’ll need your thinking cap on to catch this sly boy’s moves.”

Elisa Gabbert said (on her blog, not on FB) of his book Plummet

“Reading Chris Nealon is like walking the city with an almost-friend whose passing comments are endlessly fascinating–a bit droll, a bit brilliant, a bit tragically hip. Each line is somewhere between a throwaway and a mini-essay that attempts to describe the state of affairs: the scene, the soundtrack, the feeling. It’s very zeitgeisty. I don’t know why he isn’t more famous.”

Tony Green, who lives in London, wrote,

so, just so you’re clear on the bio:
Chris Nealon is the author of two books of poems, The Joyous Age (Black Square Editions, 2004), and Plummet (Edge Books, 2009), as well as two books of literary criticism: Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall (2001), and The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in The American Century (forthcoming 2011).

So, just to add my two cents to the other 88 that others have contributed here, I just want to add that I adore Chris’ poetry. The turns and tones of the lines are just right. There’s no unnecessary binarization of the political and personal here: the self is social, and vice versa. By the same token, he embraces langue & parole in equal measure. He has an amazing ear for speech inflections and idioms, and his cadences are flawless. It is terrifically “located” writing: in person, in place, in things. There’s no better poetry for sitting and reading in the sun. So… on this beautiful equinox day, let us welcome the brilliance of Chris Nealon…..!


… there was a big hubbub outside of Pratt: fire engines, ambulances, crowds pointing up at the building across the street, a highrise coop. Traffic was virtually stopped. A woman was shaking her finger as if to scold someone, looking up. I saw all this action from my office window. I didn’t run downstairs to check it out, but later someone told me that a baby had been trying to climb over the balcony of one of the upper-story apartments.

…I saw a young couple making out in the 14th street station. When people choose to do that I choose to stare at them. They just kept kissing and kissing. Fucking young people. Fucking spring. A little while later they were trying to make a phone call from the pay phone on the platform. I could see his semi-hard cock he was trying to hide or subdue making a lump in his chinos. Fucking spring.

…I seem to have eaten a great deal of tofu.