I walked through Borough Park today as an ethno-tourist. Is is still ethno-tourism when, strictly speaking, it’s one’s “own” ethnicity? I wonder. Well, I certainly do feel like a different breed of person than the denizens of Borough Park, but I was sort of admiring them today, in their crazy Purim finery (I saw several pirate hats and cowboy hats, one green dinosaur, one “gangster” in an electric blue suit, one tall male youth in a slutty blonde wig, several children – boys and girls — dressed as cops and soldiers [what’s that about?], a couple of small girls dressed as grandmothers, lots of face paint: charcoal eyebrows, hugely rosy cheeks). When I told Gary I was going, he said, “but they’re dressed up anyway!” He’s right of course, but the ebullient expressiveness of Purim costumes is so perfectly bizarre; if I were Hasidic I’m sure I would live for this day. Well, of course I wanted to take photos, but they seem not to welcome that. They seemed once to even think it odd that I was taking pictures of signage, so I thought, well, I won’t be intrusive, I’ll just carry their images in my mind. I did, though, sneak this one, from the back.
I’m worn out, winter will never end, I’m thinking, but Segue is galloping along beautifully, and I apologize for my lapses in reports.
Last weekend was Jeni Olin a.k.a. Truck Darling and Steve Zultanski. Here is my intro for Jeni, who wore, as you may be able to get some sense of in this lousy iPhone photo, a red sequin tank top over a white boybeater, false eyelashes, 70s jeans, those “foot” things that surfers wear as shoes, a wooden cross, and sometimes designer-y black spectacles with dragon shapes on the sides:
I saw the Who play San Francisco’s Winterland in 1976.
In 1978, I was there for Patti and Bruce.
In that same year, I saw the Ramones live at the Old Waldorf.
I saw the Rolling Stones live in Prague a year after the Velvet Revolution.
In Tokyo in 1990, I was there for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, when she wore the now-iconic gold metallic Gaulthier bra.
And now, devoted listeners, I am here today, with you, at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, to hear… the amazing… Jeni Olin.
Jeni’s poems are as crisp and powerful as pop songs, but more surprising. That’s a rare thing. They are fearless in their total embrace of affect. As she writes in a facebook update under the name of her Alter Ego, Truck Darling, “My idea of Heaven is feeling absolutely everything to an excruciating degree but nothing hurts.”
If she carries the torch for the New York School (she authored, after all, A Valentine to Frank O’Hara, published in 1999) she does so better than anyone else, without a trace of Sha Na Na-like nostalgic reification. Instead her poems are time capsules of contemporary New York, transposed into her own mode of the boyish feminine, infused relentlessly with wit, compassion for self and others, and an endearingly mannered sort of melodrama. As she writes in another update, “I want to be a holder forever, dropping everything, so when we swallow we choke a little & feel things like clumsy reindeer grace.”
Her first book, Blue Collar Holiday, with art by Larry Rivers, was published by HL in 2005. Her new collection, Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems, forthcoming from HL this fall. I urge you to put in an advance order.
And now, with almost inexpressible excitement, I bring you the jewel of our city: Jeni Olin.
Kids sway finchlike in the breeze
Are you so strong, or is it the Black Russian in me?
You cannot bring sexy back without a receipt
I feel virile, like an alpha lemming shouting “next!”
I’m all about silly cavorting here on earth
The agents of chaos grow glammier
I love you more than you love me just by loving you at all
Steve actually read first. Gary wrote a conceptual introduction for him:
Steven Zultanski is the author of the chapbook This and That Lenin (BookThug), plus the forthcoming volumes Pad (Make Now) and Copkisser (BookThug). He edits President’s Choice magazine, a Lil’ Norton publication.
Close observers of the steve project may have noted that the project’s first paper was entitled “Social Terminology Enhancement through Vernacular Engagement,” a bit of an in joke, but not (as some have suggested) the source of the project’s name.
Steeve. Etymology: probably from Spanish estibar or Portuguese estivar to pack tightly, from Latin stipare to press together — more at stiff. Date: circa 1644.
Go steeeve. My first planned project is to paint steeeve three metres high on a large white board near my residences. I’ll be purchasing the paints in four weeks: Night Black and Verdant Sunrise. He shall be rendered in total glory.
Steeeeve wrote: I don’t mean to be insulting but it’s just not that hard to grasp. Yes the Sun is small if you compare it to something much bigger. That doesn’t chage the fact that the Sun is still incredibly large (trying to avoid the word massive since we’re talking about size).
Did you mean: steeeeve.
Hey there! steeeeeeve is using Twitter. … Join today to start receiving steeeeeeve’s tweets.
Haaaapy Biiiiiiiirthday dear Steeeeeeeve.
NASCAR definition by Steeeeeeeeve. I’m sorry, but I would rather watch competetive elephant ejaculation than a NASCAR race.
Re: The biggest whores in Hollywood. Nickyboy mentioned a giant of a contender today, a truly mammoth name in Hollywood whoredom. A once talented guy who dropped his strides and wrote “get it here studios” with lipstick across his buttcheeks. Who can it be? Steeeeeeeeeve Martin!!
And yeah, if you really want a bit of a meet, then Feb 5th is the time. Woo, Colin! Woo, hanging out with Steeeeeeeeeeve again! Woo, awesomness!
Please help me welcome the awesomeness that is Steve Zultanski.
Sadly, I forgot to take notes, but here’s what I remember about his great reading: he read a sizeable chunk of My Pad, his conceptual work listing all the things in his apartment he can and cannot lift with his dick. Each line begins, “My dick can lift/ My dick cannot lift” and catalogues every object in minute detail. The section he read focused on a bag of garbage in a garbage can in his bathroom, and we learned, for example that he could not lift the garbage can with his dick, but that he could lift the Q-tips in the bag, even the ones with earwax on them. This poem occasioned some pleasantly racy aftertalk at the bar, during which someone said he wanted to remind Steve that there might be better tools and appendages for lifting, and I told Steve, making sure to preface my comment with a disclaimer that I didn’t mean to be coy, that I appreciated the radical, self-reflexive masculinism of the poem. Blushing banter! Love it! OK, but it was the next poem he read that everyone seemed to agree was his tour de force. It was a kind of psychedelic list poem involving Lenin… stuff was shooting out of Lenin’s mouth or eyes… there were different sections… oh I wish I had notes… it was a terrific poem. Then he read a poem called “All My Women,” which was a list of women’s names preceded by “my.” I’m sure there was a trick to the poem, because the names sounded very much like pop star and actress names, and there were some repetitions, and I wondered whether he had gone through, perhaps, a magazine? or a CD/DVD collection? to compile them? Well, I was interested in how many of the names themselves, such as Brianna and Tiffany, had, for me, semantic/generational resonances, were somehow, without needing anything else to determine that: they were always/already superficial and diminufying. Steve dives into the wreck, I think. I’d be curious to know how other people apprehend possibly provocative gestures like this poem or My Pad.
Yesterday’s reading was, wow, the incredible Dana Ward. Look at him, with the kewpie hairdo! and the deep powder blue skinny jeans! And those frosty looking Timberland boots: what would you even call that color?
Here’s my intro, which was so absolutely connected to what he read that it was almost spooky:
I keep hearing people say it: Laura Moriarty, Brandon Brown, and just last week Sharon Mesmer, in a phone conversation: prosody is what we live in, the shiznit, if you will it’s all there is: we’re soaking in it. Dana Ward’s poetry I hold up as exhibit A. Let’s say prosody is a crimson peony as big as a trampoline, its petals all satiny and crenellated, and in the center of it, like a latter-day Momotaro, is this bioluminescent being, poetry’s beatific firefly: Dana Ward. Dana and I, who magically share both a birthday and a first name, have been having an on and off correspondence around the notion of lyric. I think, you know, there’s Stepford lyric, a kind of zombified moldy twinkie of lyric, precious and myopic and self-important, and this might be what prevails, has prevailed, in the popular idea of what lyric is, an what has caused much discussion, even contention, amongst avant-gardistes about whether or not lyric is useful, valid, worthy of interest, and so forth. And then there’s lyric, which, like porn and beauty, I know when I see, and which Drew Gardner usefully reminds us, basically just means “guitar.” Not only is it not dead or dying, or in need of resuscitation, but it in itself is a resuscitator, an inflamed liquid fearless exploration into forward moving thought-as-song, born, like Dana, of prosody’s giant peony. Dana writes, in his Notley-infused poem “How Spring Leaves,”
every rapturous word pulling through naming nature
as if saying “lambent” acquitted my fear
in the timbral wing of the house of possession
the mouth making sounds toward the tree
It’s luscious, right? I’m reminded of how the Beatles in Nowhereland in Yellow Submarine SOW a path in NOTHINGNESS with magically arising foliage in the wake of their forward movements; they clutter an empty world into exuberant being. But lyric, real lyric, is more problematic. It’s not just pretty; it’s pernicious, too, and alarming. Dana writes in our correspondence, “A lyric then is… a struggle, with our inability to know it, skin-grafting our bodies on a topos for which there isn’t any map, an a temporal space contingent on a series of temporalities—prosody then of the living unknown.” So… the living dead (faux lyric) vs. the living unknown…
If, as I said two weeks ago, Anselm Berrigan’s poems are a little like carnival rides, Dana’s seem to more like slides, their temperature-conducting metal rubbed smooth by sliders’ gleeful bodies, their shapes and twists designed for both the unexpected and for whooshing momentum. That acceleration is part of the brilliance of their prosody. When they stop and I come to that bump at the bottom of the page, I find I wanna climb up the ladder and go again.
He read fast and I couldn’t stop to write down many lines, but here are a couple I fished out of the stream:
I summon my inner Snow White
babies dressed as ladybugs and spiders in the twilight
milk thistle flows through the tunnel of love, at the end of which is just intensive care
[and my all-time favorite ever]
the marriage of Watten and Watteau
Jordan read next, having made it down from Briarcliff where he’d been roughing it with no power, and looking very countrified indeed in red fleece, brown check shirt, jeans, and oldish black socks. No shoes.
Here’s Gary’s intro:
Jordan Davis’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Nation and The Poker. His chapbook POD: Poems on Demand is forthcoming from Greying Ghost.
When I think of some of the more memorable or defining quotes of the last half century of American poetry:
Frank O’Hara’s “Grace to be born and live as variously as possible”
Philip Whalen’s “Continuous nerve movie”
Ted Berrigan’s “Feminine, marvelous & tough”
Rod Smith’s “Take what you need and leave the rest”
Jordan Davis’s work feels to me like the most successful embodiment of all of them. This is, after all, the guy who, in the late 90s, promised the world he would write a million poems and who has, since then, acted as though he meant it, producing, in addition to the lyrical and buoyant Million Poems Journal
(1) a handful of chapbooks, including A Little Gold Book; Poem on a Train; Yeah, No; Upstairs; and A Winter Magazine
(2) a translation-version project, My Orhan Veli, which takes English translations by Murat Nemet-Nejat and Talat Sait Halman of a poet—Orhan Veli—internationally known for his off-handed candor and makes him actually, finally read in English as off-handed and candid
(3) conceptual poetry projects, such as Poetry on Demand, wherein he writes poems in response to searches that have led people to his Million Poems blog over the years (e.g., “Poem for a Sixth Wedding”; “Pictures of Bugs Bunny Dressed Like a Thug” and my all-time favorite, “Turtles Generate Poems”
(4) some of the greatest flarf classics of all time, including “The Influence of Anxiety”; “Not Enough Pussay”; and the equally anthemic “Stupidity Is Eternal.”
I’m out of time and I haven’t mentioned even a half of Jordan’s projects—his numerous and insightful sweeping essays on major avant-garde poets for the Nation, his several-season running Million Poems talk show here at the BPC, his eye-opening wholesale lifting and relineation of biographical citations from a congressional Web site, his typing up and editing of all of the voicemails left to him by a certain former New York poet which resulted in what some might go so far to argue is that poet’s best book to date—the list goes on, as long and as various as life itself.
He is one of my favorite poets, and it gives me great pleasure to invite him now to the stage.
He read first a piece that appeared to be responses to war and violence, a frustrated musing?…. then some shorter poems “eagles nesting in the gargoyles,” “I stayed up writing a report on the sphinx…. then what he called “blues poems” from 7th/ 8th century Japan… it had been a long time since I had thought of the Manyoshu, and these poems were hugely pleasurable: “the ruined castle/ they unfriended it,” “ so much better than committing all this bullshit/ is this sake,” “oh my god , I better do something good ¬– I’m a man!”
Favorite title came next: “The bright ages”
and this line: “as for me, I like liking. There you have it, I’m a liker.”
Thank you, poets! Now, this is my Sunday evening, and I must try to wind down, in hopes of slumber. I would like to dream at the very least of crocuses, if it’s too much to ask for wisteria…