Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poems by Thomasin Alter


I’ve confined myself to knowing nothing.
I’ve built this cage of wires and hair,
I can’t escape it.
But it’s mine, and that’s something.
I don’t mind being lonely.
I don’t mind being empty.
I’d rather pretend that this is vacant
than know that it is occupied.
Please, please,
don’t mind.
Don’t spend your time.
This cage is impenetrable,
you’ll never break through.
I’ll catch you in my web.
I’ll eat you. I’ll have you.
The ground is heavy with
new beginnings, you slip your
fingers under my skin,
and you suck on the blood
flowing wickedly
through my veins.
I sit here, soggy,
hoping you’ll forget.
But you don’t,
I can see that,
I can see it in
your teeth and
your toes. I know.


Static of frog noise, 10 pm walking
Back from pruned hands, fixer fix
ing gray. I expose. Cracked lens, crooked
eye vision lop
sided. Warts, slimy telling sorry tales of
Yesterday, tomorrow, to
day. Machine, over and over,
static of repetition. Fixed time fixed
aperture, fixed f stop
ing down. I stop at a pond. I grab at a


We lift our feet in the same place
One step ahead, you
you guiding leading foraging
you in the act of deception
casting shadows where they do not belong
making strangers of branches
lifting my lids too high stretching too hard
making a fool of this night.
but I still lift my foot here,
I still listen for the rustling of your leaves
and my ears
wait impatiently for the creaking of your bones


My legs hurt
That familiar ache
Childhood is thrust back
wards, four words--
‘this pain is old’
knee is raw’
‘my mother loved me’
‘my father
hasn’t yet’
but it’s not that simple and
age has taught me that, experience
shows me
the truth. Or some shade of it.
Some hue that tells me, ‘no
this is not’ ‘no
this can not’
‘no, it never has’
but it’s still a dull gnawing,
this pain, static of it-- might i
be growing,
still? stretching my bones
into possibility

[Thanks to Thomasin for sharing these poems with us.]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

thank you for maxireading

Kurt (at left) was big at the mega-reading in school meeting yesterday, and he didn't even read - he was part of Ian's arresting time-machinelike slide show of b&w images.

Many thanks to the fantastic crew who did read, some for the first time: Joe Mashburn, Sam Funk, Maisie Theobald, Ian Engelberger, Clark Johnson, Kristi Bojdani, Tom Hart, Kirsten Bouthiller, Amanda Kloth, Nellie Simmons, Dan Goldberg, Alex Lizotte, Will Obilisundar, Frank Agli, and Lulu Rutt.

Look for their work in the Stray Shot in June.

Here's a poem Dan Goldberg read:

Alphabet Soup

Poems aren’t always short, they aren’t always sweet
They don’t always repeat, or have a beat
Poems don’t always rhyme, or have a special form or a line
They don’t always have a moral or a theme—
No story it seems.

Sometimes, the best poems are the ones that make no sense
The ones with no purpose
no pretense nor context
no focus nor logic
Just words—
Strung together by the stroke of a pencil
Straight from thin air—
Bare – naked – words.

They can mystify, glorify, retell history or a Sherlock mystery—
Words have the power of power,
they are almighty and all-encompassing
Words move people to fights and countries to war
They lead the world through the bible
They lead us through the Constitution
And they lead you through identification
Words – Control – Everything.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two ghazals by Genny George

She sat there, unsure of what to do, sitting there, nothing but silence
Glancing at the face of the grandfather clock that broke the silence

The moon stared blankly at the stars, the night sky, and even the people
Illuminating everything in a yellow glow, savoring the moment in silence

Seeing, searching, seeking, sighing, no singing, nothing
He looked at her from afar. Nothing, but stifling silence

What to do? Noise was not an option. But neither was living without sound
It was time to break out of the shell, time to break the ever-present silence

The sun slowly rose over the vast horizon. This was the moment of truth
The boy stood up, walked to her, and started talking. He broke the silence.

Addicted. That’s what she thought, what they all thought. But they were wrong
She wasn’t addicted to it, to anything. It was something she loved, was that wrong?

Peace, love, truth, happiness. What garbage. Filling innocent minds with lies.
And they said she had problems, and needed help. They couldn’t be more wrong

How was it possible to feel this way? To keep wanting something more than anything else?
There wasn’t an accurate explanation for the way she felt. Words were so insufficient, so wrong

Which will it be? To keep living the way she currently was? Or to find another way of being?
She didn’t know what to choose, which one to pick. She didn’t want her final pick to be wrong

There are rarely any redo’s in life, the girl thought. I had better make this decision count
She looked deeply in her mind, picking the path to walk. She chose, and knew it wasn’t wrong

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our trip to MOMA

Mira Schendel's work was the high point: here's an excerpt from Roberta Smith review in recent NYT:

But, striving for something less rational and more ephemeral, she found her true voice in a Zen-like visual poetry. It was created by pressing down - often with only her fingernail - on Japanese rice paper laid on glass laminate covered with ink and lightly sprinkled with talc. The technique unleashed an immense range of seismographic marks, symbols, letters, word fragments and phrases that soon spread to the imposing two-sided works she called Graphic Objects. Here multiple sheets of rice paper dotted with regiments of little marks and letters, as well as big press type, are sandwiched between sheets of plexiglass. The disembodied, translucent patchworks and textures suggest different layers of sound caught on scrims - black on white, red on white and white on white.

By 1964, Ms. Schendel was using her rice paper sculpturally, evolving forms that, concurrent with Eva Hesse's, achieved a resonant fusion of organic and geometric. Weaving and knotting twisted strands of it, she made odd, flexible forms that she called Little Nothings. These spheres and irregular nets evoke brains, vines, relaxed bodies and collapsed grids; they hover eerily between animate and inanimate.

Full review is here, if you're signed up for the NYT.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Poems by Hai Zi translated by Yuze Sun

The shades

In the shades
I have three agonies: Drift. Love. survival
I have three happinesses: Poems. Throne. The Sun

The Sun of Arles

Down to the South
Down to the South
There’s no spring or lovers pulsing through your veins
Not even the moon
Not even bread
Not even friends
Only a group of starving children
Consuming everything
Oh, Van Gogh, my thin brother
Fir and Rye
Belched recklessly from underground
Or it is you
Belching the unwanted life
In fact, you can light this world with one eye
But you used your third eye----- The Sun of Arles
It burns the sky into a rough river
It burns the earth till it starts to swirl
Raising your yellow twisted hand, Sun Flower
To invite all those people
All those people who pull the chestnuts out of the fire
Do not draw a Christian olive orchard any more
Draw a fierce fire
To take the place of the old man
To purify the life
My red hair brother
After drinking the vermouth
Set your fire

Two poems by Hai Zi (1964-1989) translated from the Mandarin by Yuze Sun, a young man from the northern part of China.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Poem by John Alter

Pray tell

tell, let little words swim through this net,

let crepuscular crawfish
crawl through, each

with a
tiny sword & the red badge—pray

a measure of peace, not this beating

ploughshares into swords, this rough weather,

not this shit, not this raw
rough cheating, these

of tin—pray for an affirmation

& not this
nitpicking; a firm footing

not these huge cracks in the pavement. Pray.


I search the library shelves
for poems

written about or
during aerial

Badly disorganized as

if Dewey had
lost his temper or his

Intelligence-seeking missiles will

do that
to a bibliotheque. Books burn.

I reach a place where
only the bottom

of a
perpendicular consonant

remains intact. A young
boy wanders through

the rubble, dragging
Thelonius Monk

along in a
red wagon; they whistle

Crepuscule with Nellie
together. The

ensemble assembles.
Some minor keys,

the body of the bass like a

a voiceless saxophone,
Art Blakey drums

on what remains of what may once
haye been.

William Blake
is the bloke who shuffles

the picture, holding in his hands

what little remains of
the important

questions. If
you must know, he says, it is

only partially like a game

scrabble; you must use
your mind like a pitch-

throw out the old verities, then find

somebody to whom
you can give ashes

of what has not
been imported; forget

what I
have said before about thought &

volition. The
ensemble plays Abide

Me as their answer. Smart bombs whistle.


I used to play the drums
after I failed

to master the classical piano.

What remains
is my affection for Art

I have been known to hear drumming

in the cascade of
waterfalling on

rock. To hear Well, You Needn’t

the song of early morning birds today.


It is
attentive today. Trees, water,

the place where
famous writers congregate

when they are
dead. A library of rock.


Allow me to
underscore that point. Pine

growing up out of granite boulder.

John read this poem, from his book, Hanuman's Home, at the gathering tonight in the Reading Room. Join us there for informal readings on Monday the 13th and the 20th, from 6 to 7.