Monday, December 29, 2008


"You know a neighborhood is being gentrified when it gets a Doggie Style."
--young man to young woman, as they walked out of the chain boutique, 12th & Passyunk.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lost and Found

from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, May 23, 1933

LOST—Dog, male, with harness; white with brown spot on
face & tail; in centre of city; answers to “Spike.”

LOST—Certificate of Naturalization No. 2, 400, 780. Rew.
Agostinho Antonio Barboza. 308 Pemberton st.

LOST—Brindle Bull. White mark neck & face, short tail
large eyes. Red collar. Vic. 28 & York. Rew. Spirit-
matter. 2230 W. Tioga

LOST—Bar pin with sapphires and Baroque pearl, going
from 20th and Locust sts. to 12th and Lycoming ave.
on Sunday Morning. Reward.

LOST—May 22. $50 bill btwn Widener Bldg & Wannamaker
Store. Rew.

LOST—Black & tan female puppy. 5 mos. old. name “Gipsy.”
Rew. 3024 E st.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

some more old news

Old News, the title of this blog, also happens to be the title of the book I'm writing, an ongoing narrative. I've posted pages of it here before, out of order. Now I'm posting pages 19-22 below, in order, which follow the page titled BRIDGE HERMIT STRANGELY KILLED, to give you some context; you can listen to the first 16 pages, in order, accompanied by music, here; these will also appear in the next ixnay reader. Later I may write on the blog a little about what I'm writing.


odd jobs

i have many hearts

one’s a stick

i snap it over my knee

can’t help it

can’t help it



a big school

publics you out

ironfist pounds a cloud’s

all you got so what

so what

jobs jobs jobs

every 20 minutes

years ago you’d walk 20 minutes

in any direction

and there’d be another dialect

frankie tells rosanna

every 20 minutes no matter

what direction you walked

frankie’s tone never changes

i can’t tell if he laments

a more integrated yet homogenized

present or if he prefers it

he whistles right past me


you said if Bush won the election again we’d move to my country, she said.

i’m not ready to move yet, he said.

if you’re not ready now, you’ll never be.

i don’t know if i can move there. no offense, but your country’s pretty racist and classist.

you say the same thing about your country, she said.

it’s not the same. this country has essential freedoms that your country doesn’t.

such as what?

such as freedom of speech, he said.

we have freedom of speech, she said.

oh yeah, what happens if i protest the government because i disagree with them about something? huh? i disappear, that’s what happens. i disappear.

why would you be protesting the government? when do you protest the government here?

the whole way i live my life is a protest.

is it? well, you can live the same way in my country.

you don’t understand – look, it’s the principle of the matter. i need to know that i have that freedom.

this is why you are spoiled. this is why americans are spoiled.




the walt whitman bridge is no cheaper

than the ben franklin

lay on the horn all you want

camden is poor

you know by looking at the dunkin donuts

america runs on dunkin

the present’s not a divider

the present’s a uniter

you know by looking at the dunkin donuts

walt whitman is buried in camden

ben franklin is buried in philadelphia

and the delaware river’s a zombie

Friday, December 5, 2008

chapbook recommendation

Check out The Reactionary Poems by Laura Jaramillo.
I posted a review of it on PhillySound, December 5th.

Laura will be reading with Cathleen Miller and Brandon Holmquest
next Saturday, 12/13 at Chapterhouse Cafe, 9th & Bainbridge.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

we are the ones we have been waiting for

Ways of Leading:

Read Alice Walker's advice to Barack Obama

And here's the late Studs Terkel, in a clip from the film Anthem (1997):

Friday, October 31, 2008

the pleasures of high-fiving strangers

In Philadelphia, baseball might be the only thing people let set them free. I’d never seen Broad St. like it was Wednesday night. Was it that crazy in 1983 after the Sixers won it all? I was a toddler then, I don't remember.

But we should do this more often. People should find more reasons to high five each other. High-fiving is good for the soul.

The video below, which I found on YouTube, shows people reacting to the final pitch inside a bar – the Irish Pub, I think (I was in Dirty Frank’s – the world champion of bars, where the reaction was about the same); then some footage of the pandemonium in the streets. Are they chanting “Phillies” or “Billy” at the end, when the camera focuses in on the William Penn statue?

Friday, October 24, 2008

collaboration with Dan Yorty

Dan Yorty is a musician who lives around the corner from me. We met at Temple a few years ago in a poetry class I was teaching (the first poetry writing class I ever taught, actually, which was something of a nightmare). And Dan let me hear some music he added to a recording of Charles Olson reading "In Cold Hell, in Thicket," and it made the hair stand on my neck - in a good way - it was a good nightmare. Dan's music had amplified this sinister, haunting quality in Olson's voice, and even of the poem, re-animating it for me without sacrificing its original essence. He'd made a whole new thing that included the old thing. Which fascinated me.

So when Dan offered to record my poems last summer and put music to it, I said sure. We hung out in his apartment, where he recorded my reading of the first 16 pages of Old News, and later incorporated percussion - which includes a rawhide drum, maracas, brushes, ride cymbal, high tom, floor tom, floor tom played with fingers, and sounds that drifted through the 3rd floor window at 13th and Moore. You can listen to it here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

some links

Brotherly Love exists in Philly (for one night) - CA Conrad reports

The Moles not Molar Reading Series has a new website

a review of the Oct 11th Chapterhouse reading

Eric Gelsinger's review of when i come here

Steven Allen May's blogs about chapbooks and books

Poet blogs:

Drew Kalbach

Sasha Fletcher

Bryce Bayer

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

people like you

I was a little surprised by this controversy that erupted last week over the huge electronic anthology of poems that were not actually written by the people whose names (including mine) are assigned to them. I don't think it's a big deal. Protest in defense of "intellectual property" puzzles me, especially if the property is art. The notion that one person can own culture while another may not seems silly. What is culture but shared expression and its resulting objects? Of course, the United States is a place where people value the object above all else. So I'm not surprised that stricter copyright laws and the clampdown on media "piracy" have coincided with the erosion of public space and the deterioration of belief in community. Shared culture is most often pop culture, which is entertainment culture, which is a culture of passivity rather than activity, a culture in which activity is a risk, a culture that breeds cynicism and money worship. Commodities, commodities, commodities.

But copyright, as Jonathan Lethem reminds us in his essay "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism," is "an ongoing social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly revised, and imperfect in its every carnation." Kind of like art, which Lethem's essay is as well - it's constructed almost entirely of other texts (which are - don't worry! - cited at the end of the essay). Lethem's essay takes on usemonopoly and illustrates "the beauty of second use" as convincingly as anything I've read on the matter. If you'd like to read it, just let me know and I'll forward you a copy. I'd post it on the blog, but I don't want to get sued by Harper's!

Those guys selling 5-dollar dvds on the subways - they don't bother me. I mean, they're not siphoning my income to the rich and greedy. Those stupid warnings against piracy that we now see before watching movies, equating the copying of music or film with snatching a woman's purse - those bother me - they make me want to steal your movie and sell it. There is theft by far more powerful businessmen that takes place on a much larger scale at the expense of almost all of us - that bothers me. It bothers me to think where all of our tax dollars are currently headed. Who owns the product of that labor? No, more importantly: who is now producing what with the product of that labor? This is where I feel ripped off.

My poems? Give them to whomever you want, sell them, give them away for free, whatever.

Poetry's largely (and thankfully) a gift economy, though certainly it's not immune from the ownership culture, and perhaps that's the point of the controversial project: to criticize the ego-driven aspect of poetry. It's not defaming anyone; it's not ridiculing anyone. If it's getting people to reconsider their values, then it's a good thing.

But I'd stop short of calling it genius, as many have (and which might account for half the controversy), if only because it's a given that any person who seriously calls himself a poet has got to have an ego pumping somewhere inside him. There is no such thing as a poet, no matter how obsessed with John Cage, who does not indulge in self on some level. A poet who claims not to wouldn't be a poet - because he wouldn't be attempting to write and disseminate poetry that's stamped with his name. And it's okay to write something and take credit for it. Because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.

And now, time for a song (from YouTube - long live YouTube!)

"Lay Down Your Arms" by Anne Shelton

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Voter Registration Deadline: OCT 6

Please make sure you are registered to vote in the November election. The deadline to be registered in Pennsylvania is Monday, October 6th. You can register online here.

Spread the word.

"If we aren't willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren't willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all. By these standards at least, it sometimes appears that Americans today value nothing so much as being rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. We say we value the legacy we leave the next generation and then saddle that generation with mountains of debt. We say we believe in equal opportunity but then stand idle while millions of American children languish in poverty. We insist that we value family, but then structure our economy and organize our lives so as to ensure that our families get less and less of our time. And yet a part of us knows better . . ."

--Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

some Old News

The Evening Bulletin, Monday, May 7, 1923:


Tells Ministers’ Meeting They're Needed to Probe Vice Conditions

the mayor’s text was “Women in Politics”

and he called upon women of the city, as well as

the men, to throw aside their lethargy in matters

political, to register, and to vote, to keep out of

power the old “combine.” according to Mayor

Moore, women “can help us materially in dope

cases, and in tracing other forms of vice. other

cities have women working in this capacity and

there is no reason why we should not.” with women

in politics, “not gang women,” he declared,

there will be less overlording of men or groups

of men whose only goal is wealth.


neighborhood watches

another guy brags his mother was a mother

before she had babies, tidy streets broke from

her hands, one man attached to a motor car,

another to a motion picture house. what’s showing?

at is-a-bella’s, COUNTER GIRL WANTED.

she rides a bike, gets honked at, gets told

to get off the road. the neighborhood watches.

if tragedy strikes who will pay your mortgage.

oh watches never worked on me, mom says,

i don’t buy them. me neither, i say. but what’s

difficult about watching reruns is the policeman

between my sister’s legs looking out. he’s got

my eyes and winks, nodding to the neighborhood

north—watch out over there, he says, they’re

animals, you know, you gotta treat em like animals . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boog City Fest, NYC, 9/18-21

This weekend I go to the big city to read my poems as part
of the 2nd Annual Boog City Poetry and Music Festival.
Looking forward to hearing things I haven't heard before
and meeting new people and catching up with friends
and just being in New York.

I'll be reading on Saturday at 2:30pm at Cakeshop,
152 Ludlow St, Manhattan, NYC

For the full schedule of events, look here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Foster Wallace

Saturday night, standing with some friends outside Brian Kim Stefans’ going-away party, drinking beer, I learned that David Foster Wallace had killed himself. Someone mentioned it, a bunch of us said no way, and then Brian confirmed it for us; and Will and Abbi and I looked at each other, offguard, unsure what to say, and then clearly disappointed as we grasped for an explanation. It was an odd buzzkill – the news was unexpected but so was the fact of its impact – why was this such a buzzkill? None of us knew David Foster Wallace; we’d only read his books. Somehow I must have assumed that Wallace was on my team in some way – and I suppose I do so with many living writers whose books leave a lasting impression on me, regardless of whether or not I’ve met them. It must be that by having invested myself in their writing, unconsciously I imagine we are moving through the same real world together, and because we share the world, because we can see it from similar angles, we will all be here a good while finding our way through it. So of course no one’s jumping overboard; we’re in it together; we’re forever overhead.

I found a transcription of a commencement speech Wallace gave at Kenyon University in 2005 – I highly, highly recommend it. Here’s a snippet of it:

"As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

"This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

"And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out."

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

poetry out loud this wknd

Tonight at 7:30 a bunch of us - which includes you if you come - will read Ted Berrigan poems aloud at Elfreth's Alley. This is called the Urchin Series, which is CA Conrad's idea. A few weeks ago we read Mina Loy poems at 2nd and Market - it was a good time.

Tomorrow at 8 at Chapterhouse Cafe, 9th & Bainbridge:
Lewis Warsh, Michael S. Hennessey, and Brian Carpenter
will read from their work.

Get there at 7:45 if you want a seat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading This Thursday Night

This Thursday night, 9/11, I will read poems at the The RUBA club, which is 418 Green Street, Northern Liberties, along with Dorothea Lasky, Ish Klein, Jenn McCreary and Frank Sherlock. This is part of the Live Arts/Fringe Festival Late Night Cabaret. Doors open at 9, poems begin at 10 - gotta be 21 to get in. Come buy me a beer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

walt whitman

i dropped a quarter in walt whitman’s cup
out front of the serv-rite

hey thanks man, he said biting into his
sandwich, slumped against the wall—

what’re you irish – irish is good people,
man, good people – you irish, aint ya

nah man, i’m american, i said, walking

well, yr still irish - did you hear me – yr
still irish!
he called painfully spitting down

the street again, offended, apparently
not walt whitman, not walt whitman

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bridge Hermit Strangely Killed

from The Evening Bulletin, Monday, May 7, 1923


Refined Recluse Who Never Begged Found on Tracks,
Slain or Hit by Train

the “hermit of high bridge” is dead
his body was found
beside the pennsylvania railroad
tracks at wallingford
examination disclosed his skull
had been crushed, one arm was
cut off but otherwise the body
was not marked he never begged
for food and never asked alms
he was always willing to work
and when he spent his money
it was with economy
he was evidently
a person
of refinement as he spoke
english fluently and appeared
educated he fitted up his hut
comfortably under the bridge
with his books, stove, table,
lamp and bed he gave his name
as george johnson but avoided
all inquiries as to his past
despite his eccentric ways
the hermit held the affection
of many people for whom he
did odd jobs and gardening
townspeople say he had been
disappointed in love if he were
possessed of wealth his garb
did not indicate it—he wore
clothes ofttimes ragged and unkempt
although he was always clean shaven
he accepted gratefully the small coins
which were the reward
of his odd jobs

Thursday, August 14, 2008


as i walked south on passyunk ave approaching reed, just before i hit rita's water ice, i passed a man as he said to another man, "somebody shoulda cut her fuckin head off and threw it at her."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


people ask, will you be around? i’ll be around. actually i like to walk around town and look inside people’s windows. things look so cozy in there with the lamp on and the bookshelf. you open a book to the middle and find the shape of someone you love, very fine droplets of water suspended in air. she calls you dear, as if that should prove you wrong. and you think, as always, deer in headlights, and say wait a minute, listen, i know what i am, i mean where i am. the couch, at least, is where it should be, jutting out from a wall like a risk into the center of the room, which you avoid at all costs usually, but sit down there now, hungover, flirting with absence. the noise loosens inside, turns to rain. you can see your wife cross herself as she steps outside this morning for the first time, in another city, and the windshield wipers waving hello to the roadkill in the margins, and goodbye.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

seesaw well

music by some guy who's got the same last name as me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The True Way

goes over a rope which is not stretched at any great height but just above the ground. It seems more designed to make people stumble than to be walked upon. --Kafka

regarding the world, which spins

I’ve always gotten a kick out of the world flag. I passed one the other day walking up 13th st in South Philly, where people light off fireworks from mid-June to the end of July. It’s not just that a world flag undercuts the whole concept of a flag (ie, nationalism), but that amid all the stars and stripes, it seems to provoke the bumper-sticker-loving nationalists, engaging them in the kind of ideological conflict which nationalists live for—Americans 1, earthlings 0. Let’s blow up some shit, yo.

Every day is independence day.

Also funny is that there are several versions of the world flag. There is not just one world flag. I like the one with the image of the globe from outerspace. But if you’re in outerspace you’re an alien.

The world-flag-waver might argue, well, the land we’ve named is going to outlast both us and the name we’ve given it; and anyway people have far more pride in the name (and the ideas attached to that name) than they do in the land, which we all plunder; and more and more of us are now helpless cityboys (such as ryan eckes) long divorced from the land – drop our children off in the mountains and see what happens to them; so why wave a country’s flag, which serves only to justify that divorce between human and earth by pointing to the historical cleverness (“greatness”) of the human; isn’t it about time we hold the earth in higher esteem?

I understand, of course, but I doubt the earth needs people to represent it. At all. So if we can be good to the earth without being righteous (blowing ourselves up, so to speak) and without provoking the jingoes (which can be awfully tempting), then I’m all for holding the earth in higher esteem, staying/getting in touch with the earth, trying to erase the lines we’ve drawn between human and earth. Perhaps that’s too tall an order, to not be righteous and provocative. But look: we can’t actually represent anything more than ourselves and our ideas, right, as interesting and destructive and meaningless as they may be. Isn’t it this whole process of representation, which is a way of enlarging ourselves (eg, nationalism), regardless of how natural it is, that leads one finally to the desire to defend the earth? When someone claims to be a defender of the earth, they’re really only defending their own identity, right? We further distort our naturally skewed sense of proportion any time we name something. I mean, we probably do so even when writing a blogpost.

Can any one of us fathom the physical difference in size between a human being and the earth? We can’t actually see that, right?

Well, least we know how to blow shit up.

Which led me, recently, to take stock of what of this human world I can say I believe in. This blogpost, after all, is not about the earth; it’s about people and their beloved conflicts, as is the world flag.

It didn’t take too long for me to take stock of my beliefs, as most things people do, especially collectively, either bore or repulse me. I thought a little about technology. People have technological minds. My question is does that mind lead us inevitably away from nature; or, where might there be a line between survival and greed? Industrialization accounts for a tiny segment of human history, which suggests that such a line is possible, that such a line can be learned, that some people have known it and know it.

Beyond survival, I believe in technology, in the most general sense, inasmuch as I believe in acting on curiosity. I think that there is a desire to know more and to see more that exists simply to satisfy those ends; ultimately, that desire is a desire to know what we are, and possibly why we are here. So I believe in what got us that picture of the world from outerspace. I believe in that. And I believe in what created our religions, as nasty as they may be now. But I don’t believe in such productions as much as I do in the spirit that produced them. I don’t believe in the static, in the image of the world, or the flag, or the holy book, at least not very seriously. I don’t believe in reproductions.

For a long time I struggled with this passage from the Tao te Ching:

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel
. . .
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

(Lao-tzu, trans. by Stephen Mitchell)

It’s those last four lines that nagged me. If one wanted to travel (or explore) did it mean necessarily that one was dissatisfied with where one was (lived)? Even reading the passage strictly as an allegory, I couldn’t buy it. A wisely governed country was one without government; one in which we governed ourselves, destroyed the tyranny within ourselves. I understood that, but why couldn’t a person get curious just because? I struggled with this because I wanted the Tao te Ching to be a grand theory of life. I discovered the book in my early 20s in search of an answer, in search of a way of being – in fact, I wanted the book to be The Way. That was my real struggle. I wanted the book to lead me to an end. And that end, of course, would be my security against the shit of life that will surely come my way, any moment.

I still read the book from time to time, but not for a final word. It’s a useful book; it informs the spirit. But I read nothing anymore for a final word. I read, I think, to kind of sing the world as I go (to borrow a line from Alice Notley).

Our language talks me and I try not to be too much of a puppet. I try to be aware of my puppetness. Puppethood?

If I have a grand theory of being, it is that we need, each of us, now, always now, to discover the world for ourselves. In this sense I am a nationalist. I believe in leading and following the nation of oneself, for the sake of knowing as you go, for the sake of knowing as a way of going, and for the sake of being good to each other. Those are the only ends. Which is to say that I don’t think it’s useful to repress that curiosity--which I equate w/ spirit--out of fear or want of security (which is an end of questions, an end of knowing the world’s spinning); so, no I don’t think it’s very beneficial to follow the nation of Christianity or the nation of Islam or the nation of Judaism or the nation of the United States or of Venezuela or of Korea or of France and thus participate in all of their attendant conflicts and destruction. I don’t think that mass suffering is worthwhile. I may learn from a religion or an economic theory, but if I pin myself to it for too long I will become so serious about it that I can’t smile at its absurdity, or its weirdness; once I’ve made it my be-all-end-all insurance carrier, moving only to defend or justify it, I’ve lost the spirit, I've become a full-blown puppet, a contributor to the conflicts I don't really want. And when this happens to me again, as it certainly may, I hope I recognize quickly what harm I’m doing to myself and others.

What’s far more worthwhile, I think, is to face one’s complicity in murder and destruction, if you are opposed to those things, which in my mind stand opposite human communication, which we all live for, ultimately (even if we don’t know it yet). That means refusing the readymades, the hand-me-down solutions, the reproductions; and that means facing oneself, paying attention to how one travels, how one goes about being a part of the world. And so I suppose the main idea of this blogpost is that the only main idea that counts is the one you can’t articulate once and for all because it’s bigger than us, like the world, which is moving, and moving us. And this is not the final word.

love poem

we biked down broad as fast we could
caught dust in our eyes and laughed
knowing the storm would beat us home
having said fuck it all lightning wind
the whole bit and we rode into total
downpour—threw my bike down finally
in rush to the door blown wide open
and got in but em’s calling from
outside holding on to the sapling’s dear
life in tears—little charlie brown xmas
tree she’d called it
—from being pulled
out the sidewalk in total downpour
go get string! she hollered i fumbled
w/ my wet shoes she burst thru the door
down the basement and back up w/ it
and scissors and i stumble out after
her soaked in dumbness dumbstruck
holding one end of the string in total
downpour while she saves the thing
tied suddenly upright to neighbor’s railing

Monday, July 21, 2008

how important is creativity (in education)?

Ken Robinson explains:

Watch the entire 20-minute talk here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Party at Molly's This Tues, 7/15 at 8pm

I was bummed to hear that Molly’s Bookstore will be closing – but it’s not closing so much as it’s transforming. It will become the site of Project 360: Self-Directed Learning for Teens.

Celebrate what the store has been and what it will become – this Tuesday at 8 – and buy books – most of the books (and bookshelves) need to go. Everything’s 50-75% off.

The Invitation from Molly:

We welcome the city’s writers, artists, crafters, actors, musicians, zinesters, filmmakers, puppeteers, DIYers and other brilliant and generous presences to help change the direction of the lives of young people by sharing what they know and love best.

Come listen to our ideas and talk about your own. We aim to connect the people who are working (or playing) in their fields with kids who are curious and interested and free to learn.

Eat, drink, buy books at ridiculously deep discounts and hear about Project 360.

Philadelphia public and private schools have become impossibly rigid and riddled with problems. Thousands of bright, creative kids are suffering because they just don’t fit the mold.

PROJECT 360 is a non-profit resource center for families of teens who would like to use homeschooling as an alternative to traditional schooling.

Project 360 is located at 1010 S. 9th Street, at the site of the soon-to-be-old Molly’s Bookstore.

For more information email or call 215-923-3367.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

plans, links

I'm going to post a few essays here this summer as soon as I finish writing them. And some poems of course too, as soon as I copy them from notebook to MS Word and read them aloud to myself for approval.

In the meantime, some links:

a history of the Republican use of "patriotism" to claim the presidency (and why it may fail this year)

Jaclyn Sadicario's poetry

Tom Tomorrow's response to FOX's racism

Violent Femmes doing Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"

Gnarls Barkley doing Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PhillySound Poets in Fanzine

Fanzine, an online general culture magazine, has just published its first installment of a series focusing on poetry communities. Read work here by eleven Philadelphia poets, including myself (click here to go directly to my poems).

Big thanks to Thom Donovan and CA Conrad for putting this together.

Note: You need Firefox or Safari to read all of the poems (Internet Explorer won't work) - you can download either of these browsers from a link on the Fanzine site (it's quick & easy; I just did it).

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Wanna read a good story? Read this one by Chad Willenborg.

A rusty barbed wire fence run through the woods behind the house. It had been there a long time, and the trees had grown around the wire in places. Parts of it were all swallowed up in bark. We picked our way over logs and through the trees, until Brian said, “Here!” and he ducked under the fence and began to pass through. Will lollygagged behind us. He swerved through the leaves like his compass was loose, and when I called his name, he bumped off a tree, made some googly sound effect, then fell down flat, spazzing with his arms out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

elsewhere, pt 2

so on this roadtrip we drove a bright yellow car, a bright yellow chevy aveo, which we were all a little embarrassed about. i bore the brunt of my companions’ complaints, as i was the one who picked up the car from hertz. we speculated what people in passing cars were thinking once we got south. in asheville it was no big deal, since asheville, as you might know, is a kind of liberal free-spirit town, described by the manager of our hostel in charlottesville, virginia as “crunchy,” which i interpreted as “place of bare feet, dirty hippies.” asheville’s fire hydrants looked like this:

and so we were comfortable enough there with our yellow car. but as i may’ve suggested in part one (see previous post below), asheville seemed modester than i’d expected. certainly it was no san francisco. it didn’t appear to take pride in its weirdness, as say portland, oregon does. we stayed in a hostel run by a not-too-crunchy guy named BJ (if you want a cheap clean place to stay in asheville, go there) and found good, affordable food and drink. to be fair we weren’t there very long – and the local paper’s police log indicated that violence does take place on a regular basis.

we themed our trip “nothing is necessary.” we drove up to the raleigh-durham area w/out itinerary, w/out having researched a thing. problem was the temperature was over a hundred degrees, which made certain things necessary. durham was a scorching hot ghost town. new signs directed you which way to which district – however there was nothing to be found in these districts. there was nothing even i'd call a district. we drank a lot of water and took no pictures. which undermines my first, feeble attempt at a photo-essay, doesn’t it.

so imagine us then in an air conditioned room in a red roof inn off the highway watching the penguins lose the cup finally to detroit. the volume was fixed more or less, as any button you pushed on the remote or tv either turned the volume down or turned the tv off.

in raleigh there were some people on the street, and we stopped for lunch in a pizza place and asked its waitress what should we see. she said y’all aren’t thinkin a movin here, are ya?

we wound up bowling in an old bowling alley called “western lanes” on hillsborough st, i believe, where you had to keep your own score. we bowled lane 2, whose corner-left pin would not fall down. we guessed they gave us this defective lane on purpose. anyway i improved w/ each can of beer and won two of three, scoring a 125 in the final game, thanks in part to theresa the bartender who’s famous, apparently, for her “sidearm sling” – she slides (or bowls) the beers you ordered down the bar to you. i cannot yet express the satisfaction i got from catching her slings.

and chapel hill of course, the oft-hyped chapel hill: a college town that looked like any other college town you’ve ever seen, except maybe a little richer. it bored us, but they had a good used bookstore and we were able to crash one night w/ my mother’s friend patti and her family who treated us with some locally brewed beer and were extremely kind. we were lucky to meet them.

we finished up in greensboro, where i caught a train (with my camera) emerging from between these two old southern railroad buildings i couldn’t stop looking at:

down the street from those tracks was a place called elsewhere. elsewhere is a thrift store-turned-living art museum run by an artist collective that continually rearranges, if you will, the decades’ worth of inventory the store had amassed until its closing in 1997. old fabrics, furniture, books, toys—masters of the universe figures, for example, and those little plastic baseball helmets you’d get ice cream in from friendly’s, jumbles of childhood objects that may trigger long forgotten memories, the endless (but possibly emotional) junk of our consumer culture—as well as the histories lodged in these things, including the mysteriousness of the old store itself, contributed to the overwhelming experience of the place, the “sensory overload” you might say. i’ve seen nothing like it—my grandmothers’ basements, maybe, but to the 10th power, with much of its material (if not all, arguably) made into temporary art installations. that elsewhere preserves the original space and contents—that elsewhere actually exists as a consequence and extension of the building, albeit a self-conscious one, one that’s curious far beyond the simple values of commerce (nothing’s literally for sale there, tho it stands in the middle of a traditional commercial district) and perhaps beyond common rationales for art, is what makes it great. i understand that some of the artists even live there. i took some pictures of the place but they pale in comparison to the ones on their website. it’s a place worth seeing.

greensboro was a real good time. we hung out w/ our friend ken rumble who took us to a farmer’s market and set up a poetry reading in his beautiful apartment for me and riverbottum and local poet matt mullins. it was a pleasure to read w/ these guys amid an intimate yet skeptical, interactive audience of which i was happy to be a part, however fleetingly. that last wknd w/ ken was all too brief, which is to say of course that it was a great time, and that i still, a week later, retain bits of the good feeling i had there, a feeling specific to the place and time that gave it to me and which is therefore inexplicable, a small feeling that's the tip of an iceberg, the possibility of a moment you will never see, never feel exactly again.

ken, late the last night of our trip - thanks ken!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


last week three close friends and i took a roadtrip down to and inside of north carolina.

after a day in asheville, brandon asked me what do i think of asheville. i said it’s somewhere else, i like it.

which wasn’t to say that i abhorred where i’d been prior - philadelphia, where i live - though it’s easy to get cooped up in one’s home, i think, be it big city or small town. but asheville struck me as firmly its own compared to most towns. it wasn’t the same old boring chain stores of anywhere america. there was obviously a history—things about it you’d have to live there to begin to understand, to sense their actual size.

also, the people we met were friendly, unpretentious. i think that in philadelphia i am friendlier than most people. in asheville – in almost every place we visited in the south, really – i felt unfriendlier than most, and so i started paying more attention to the way i moved my body, my habitual gestures and so forth.

my guess was that nobody there was ready to steal anything from me.

walking down a street w/ brandon and riverbottum.

we went to the great smoky mountains and did some easy hiking along “deep creek.” the air startled me it was so fresh, and we were all happy to be there. we debated whether the creek was deep enough to warrant its name. lots of kids were tubing in the creek. we decided not to join them.

brandon along deep creek.

ryan inside oconaluftee vistor center, margarita outside taking photo.

driving along the great smoky mountain highway we saw a few cars pull over and so we pulled over too and watched an elk eating grass. it turned its posterior to us and defecated as it continued eating grass.

we drove through cherokee, a reservation-tourist area outside the park. among the absurdities (of which there were plenty) were a couple of tepees draped with signs that said Everything Half Off, out front a gift shop.

we stayed in a cabin (see photo above) in the deep creek area, near bryson city, drank some wine and beer we bought from an IGA in bryson, watched game 5 of the stanley cup on the cabin’s little tv and took turns swatting flies. pittsburgh won in triple overtime to stay alive for one more game; riverbottum was elated.

the next day we drove up into the hills and took some more pictures of each other.

ryan & margarita.

part two later.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Reading at Robin's 6/12 @ 6pm

Come hear me do what I do
Thursday, June 12th at 6pm
at Robin's Bookstore, 108 S. 13th St
along with Plan B Pressmates Kristine Grow & Michele Belluomini

Monday, May 26, 2008

a pair of poems

odd years

a priest blessed our house and said he can tell
if you have god or not, he can see it in your
eyes, some final word grown deep into soil
that translates the stampede of rain into a distant blah

blah. roofer tells me the siding was a real hack
job. another says whoever did the siding should be
shot. how long will i live here. my neighbor
clara calls me an angel and flaps her wings. born

again, bobby says, her husband used to be mob.
he sits on their bed now watching her blow dry plastic
against the window, a hundred some odd years
blackened in the street below. wet tires roll over

them. where are we going. i like to imagine
myself in new york or san francisco in the fifties, clothes
lines crossed between apartment buildings, writing
into my wooden desk at the window, stepping out

onto the fire escape for a smoke and waving to my
neighbor, who doesn’t mind leaves falling on his roof.
real city life in a real city, beautiful promise against
motion. yesterday real city workers cut down the large

sycamore that stood guard of our block, old tree that
we loved, my wife & i at least. why are you doing this,
i asked one of them. they found somethin under there,
he said, blah blah, he said, blah blah blah, i said.


for the birds

yeah i know god is in the blah blah
but what’s that get anybody really
no benches at this bus stop
just me and a guy who looks like
gabriel garcia marquez
we wait and wait
he goes picking through the garbage
along the curb and comes up with
a large rubber flashlight
goes across the street to sit down
and mess with it but he can’t get it
open, lifts an eyeball, catches me
looking so i look down the street for
the bus it isn’t coming, it’s just me
and the guy and his flashlight and the birds
that’ve come down to feast on some chips
marquez has salvaged from a trashcan
and crunched up in a pile on the street
for them

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Modern World

As usual, Tom Tomorrow right on the money with this comic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

polish your gun

for Mike Huckabee & other hucksters & wannabes

in the idleness of accomplishment we fortified
the boundaries of our polish with morals who
must each stand between 5’10” & 6’2” tall and
whose waist-size cannot exceed 30” and whose
gloves are moistened to prevent them from losing
their grips on the rifles, which they carry on the
shoulder away from the polish. after two years
each moral is given a wreath pin that is worn on
his lapel signifying that he served as guard of the

There is really no single professional

"There should never be a time when an artist can say: I have done a good job and tomorrow is Sunday. As soon as you stop you must start again."
--Pablo Picasso

"The trick naturally is what Duncan learned years ago and tried to teach us—not to search for the perfect poem but to let your way of writing of the moment go along its own paths, explore and retreat but never be fully realized (confined) within the boundaries of one poem . . . he complicated things for us by saying that there is no such thing as good or bad poetry. There is—but not in relation to the single poem. There is really no single poem . . . Poems should echo and reecho against each other. They should create resonances. They cannot live alone any more than we can.”
--Jack Spicer, from Admonitions

And in his talk-poem “dialogue,” David Antin suggests that artists are not professionals. There is no such thing as a professional poet, he says; there are only amateurs. Antin points to the etymology of the word ‘amateur’—a term often used in the pejorative (he’s just an amateur)— to build his case. The word ‘amateur’ literally means one who loves something. At one time, Antin explains, an amateur was distinguished by his passion and knowledge for something. Exactly when and where this was I don’t know; but I like the idea. Amateurism was admired “because it was free and not contingent upon the circumstances or manner of reward” as professionalism was.

These ideas from Spicer, Picasso, and Antin, especially when taken together, push focus away from the product, off the trophy, and towards how to live, how to be. They suggest alternatives to what we know. And because often I feel pulled, forced even, in the other direction, toward the product—the fetishization of which represents a denial of life, as life is motion, moving, moving, while product after product is like stop sign after stop sign—I learn from these statements, which are acts of faith really (professions, in the old sense), again and again.

To be sure, I have at least one product fetish—the book. I love books, like to justify them as motion machines, caress them, hold them, smell them. No intentions here of giving them up. And I have my favorite shirts, too, and some other things. But if we can see these things we value, along with our reasons for valuing them, as parts of one piece, and that piece a moving thing we cannot measure, perhaps a larger book we cannot claim, while sometimes jumping haphazardly from the I to the We, then we might be okay, we might be good.

The real danger isn’t falling in love with objects, of course. It’s objectifying ourselves and each other. When I say I feel “forced toward the product,” I think not only of writing but, say, looking for a job in this culture in which teachers are simply cogs—professional cogs. Professionalism, when divorced from amateurism (as defined by Antin), is a practice of disconnect, a practice of the ‘single poem,’ if you will. Professionalism, as it’s commonly understood, underscores a certain distance from people that’s necessary if you want to climb a monetary ladder and earn respect from those above and below you; and professionalism commodifies people—a professional is a product, a saleable thing, and in a hyperconsumerist society it becomes possible to think of him or her as it. The term also serves as a class signifier, as in Condos Designed Exclusively for Young Professionals!! The professional is an attractive product; can’t say I’ve never been tempted.

This is not to say that people shouldn’t get paid to become expert at something. But your professionalism does no good, ultimately, if you abandon your amateurism—that is, your passion, which entails a willingness to sacrifice, to take risks for what you believe in and what you love.

As a teacher, I experience tensions between professionalism and amateurism every day (far more often than I do as a poet, since teaching is a job—I get paid for it—and besides, a professional poet is no poet at all). Sometimes I ditch my amateurism in favor of professionalism when it’s convenient to do so—if I’m having a bad day, for example, I might tell myself, well, at least I’m gettin paid. More often the challenge is finding the right level of formality in how I interact with my students; this varies from student to student and course to course, so sometimes I feel like a chameleon, which can be exhausting. But I know that over time I’ve become a better teacher by insisting on my amateurism—i.e., working on my own creative terms, as much as I can, for the sake of my students—not my professionalism, despite voices that say why bother, there’s no incentive, etc. To do good—a good that extends beyond oneself—requires a way of being that is not required to succeed as a Young Professional. This way of being is something I’m learning. I don’t expect the learning to end.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

First City Review Launch Party, 5/17

Several things going on this weekend. Saturday I'm going to The Philadelphia Book Festival, which includes a street fair of publishers, booksellers and other goodies from 11-5 (Sunday too) at 19th-20th & Vine. Then I'm headed over to the release party for the first issue of First City Review. Party begins at 4, reading at 6 by Chad Willenborg, Thaddeus Rutkowski, & Johannah Rodgers. Click on this nice poster for details. And finally I'll be stumbling up to Fishtown somewhere for the release party for FORGE, a Temple University lit journal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Big Big Media – it’s Quantageous. Headlines from Yahoo News, May 9th, 2008:

Americans Cram 31 Hours into a Day

Russian Billionaire Buys $36 Million Mansion

Superdelegate Will Sell His Vote for $20 Million

Judge Sends Hulk Hogan’s Son to Jail for 8 Months for Crash

Man Loses 28 Relatives in Myanmar Cyclone

U.S. Reinforces Armor to Iraq Vehicles as Roadside Bombs Surge


Bigger Stronger Faster:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

mother’s mother’s mother’s letter

a teddy bear in a sailor suit with a little american flag
in the southwest corner of the page looks forlorn, stationed
there against its will. the cursive runs northeast, kites taut across

the white space. the white space is superimposed
on the middle of an american flag much larger
than this paper. its big colors imagined out in all directions

frame the message: “i went to bed early the other night and
left all the doors and windows open—not very responsible.
the grapevine has it you will be in san francisco july 4th

which means this letter will be waiting for you when you
return—i will be anxious to hear back. all i have done for
the past 3 days: mowed, watered, hoed and pulled weeds

and bachelor buttons. my neighbors keep telling me how much
work it is and i keep telling them it beats the hell out of square
dancing. anyway, i’ve decided that heaven is a place where the iris
are always in bloom and where bind weed does not grow.”

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

for your thoughts

just once i went in junco & grouse
the shortlived bookstore and bought
A Brief History of Time and in it

found a receipt from Wawa Food Market
from 19 yrs ago, 03-02-89,

two items totaling a dollar fifty-nine
one-sixty was tendered
one penny returned