Wednesday, May 5, 2010


May 5, 2010

[N.B. You can click on highlighted names or titles to go directly to the referenced article.]

By Eileen Tabios

Crag Hill reviews SHOULDER SEASON by Ange Mlinko

Steven Fama reviews MUCH LIKE YOU SHARK by Logan Ryan Smith

Patrick James Dunagan reviews FROM THE CANYON OUTWARD by Neeli Cherkovski; THE PLEROMA by Vincent Ferrini; THIRSTING FOR PEACE IN A RAGING CENTURY: SELECTED POEMS 1961-1985 (NEW & REVISED EDITION) by Edward Sanders; LET’S NOT KEEP FIGHTING THE TROJAN WAR: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1986-2009 by Edward Sanders; BODY CLOCK by Eleni Sikelianos; and LEAVES OF GRASS, 1860: THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY FACSIMILE EDITION by Walt Whitman, edited by Jason Stacy

Kristen Orser reviews THE LAST 4 THINGS by Kate Greenstreet

Richard Kostelanetz reviews POESIE DER ENTSCHLEUNIGUNG: EIN LESEBUCH by Robert Lax, Ed. Sigrid Hauff

Jim McCrary reviews MONDO CRAMPO by Juliet Cook; SILVERONDA by Lucy Harvest Clarke; THE CONTORTIONS by Nicole Mauro; GOODNIGHT VOICE by Dana Ward; GUTTER CATHOLIC LOVE SONG by Joseph Wood; and MY DAY AIMLESSLY WALKING VANCOUVER, WASH by James Yeary, illustrated by Nate Orton

John Herbert Cunningham reviews SELECTIONS by André Breton, edited and with an introduction by Mark Polizzotti; MARTINIQUE: SNAKE CHARMER by André Breton, translated by David W. Seaman with introduction by Franklin Rosemont; HYPODERMIC LIGHT: THE POETRY OF PHILIP LAMANTIA AND THE QUESTION OF SURREALISM by Steven Frattali; and TAU by Philip Lamantia / JOURNEY TO THE END by John Hoffman, ed. Garrett Caples

Tom Beckett reviews BHARAT JIVA by kari edwards and NO GENDER (REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF kari edwards), Edited by Julian Brolaski, erica kaufman & E. Tracy Grinnell

Eileen Tabios engages BHARAT JIVA by kari edwards and NO GENDER (REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF kari edwards), Edited by Julian Brolaski, erica kaufman & E. Tracy Grinnell

Fiona Sze-Lorrain reviews NEW EXERCISES by Franck André Jamme, Translated from the French by Charles Borkhuis

Joey Madia reviews GRIEF SUITE by Bobbi Lurie

Thomas Fink reviews GENJI MONOGATARI by Mark Young

Eileen Tabios engages GENJI MONOGATARI by Mark Young

Peg Duthie engages THE FAT SHEEP EVERYONE WANTS by Bern Mulvey

Petra Backonja reviews CATALOGUE OF BURNT TEXT by Timothy David Orme

Delia Tramontina reviews MANHATTEN by Sarah Rosenthal


John Herbert Cunningham reviews CHARLES BAUDELAIRE by Rosemary Lloyd; THE FLOWERS OF EVIL by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Keith Waldrop; ARTHUR RIMBAUD: COMPLETE WORKS, translated by Paul Schmidt; and THE ILLUMINATIONS by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Donald Revell

Harry Thorne reviews BOOK MADE OF FOREST by Jared Stanley

Jai Arun Ravine reviews POEMS OF THE BLACK OBJECT by Ronaldo V. Wilson

William Allegrezza reviews AS IF FREE by Burt Kimmelman

Crag Hill engages TAKE IT by Joshua Beckman

Eileen Tabios engages DESTRUCTION MYTH and CREATION MYTHS, both by Mathias Svalina


Meredith Caliman reviews POETRY OF THE LAW: FROM CHAUCER TO THE PRESENT, co-edited by David Kader and Michael Stanford

Fiona Sze-Lorrain reviews AURA: LAST ESSAYS by Gustaf Sobin

Eileen Tabios engages EASY EDEN by Micah Ballard and Patrick James Dunagan

Emmanuel Sigauke reviews INTWASA POETRY [anthology of 15 Zimbabwean poets] edited by Jane Morris

Derek Coyle reviews NEW SHADOWS by Jon Curley

Eileen Tabios engages INSIDES SHE SWALLOWED by Sasha Pimentel Chacon; EASTER SUNDAY by Barbara Jane Reyes; and SIMON J. ORTIZ; A POETIC LEGACY OF INDIGENOUS CONTINUANCE, co-edited by Susan Berry Brill de Ramirez and Evelina Zuni Lucero

Jeff Harrison engages PRAU by Jean Vengua

Marianne Villanueva reviews THE TRANSLATOR’S DIARY by Jon Pineda

Eileen Tabios engages TIME OF SKY / CASTLES IN THE AIR by Ayane Kawata, Translated by Sawako Nakayasu

Julie T. Ewald reviews TONGUE LIKE A STINGER by Juliet Cook

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews GURLESQUE: THE NEW GRRLY, GROTESQUE, BURLESQUE POETICS co-edited by Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg

Eileen Tabios engages NINETEEN HOURS (RADIO EDIT) by Jim Warner

Crag Hill reviews GREEN CAMMIE by Crysta Casey

Tom Hibbard reviews BLUE MOUND TO 161 and NIGHTBIRDS, both by Garin Cycholl

Kristina Marie Darling reviews FABULOUS ESSENTIAL by Niina Pollari

Eileen Tabios engages A MUSICS by Carrie Hunter

Julie T. Ewald reviews MAKE BELIEVE by Thom Donovan

Eileen Tabios engages THE OTHER BLUEBOOK: ON THE HIGH SEAS OF DISCOVERY by Reme Grefalda

William Allegrezza

Conversation with THOMAS FINK


Featured Poet: ANITA MOHAN

Herman Hesse's Siddhartha: A Fictional Account of the Life of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha by Nicholas T. Spatafora

Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez reviews POEMS SINGKWENTA’Y CINCO by Alfred A. Yuson

Erika Moya reviews SLAVES TO DO THESE THINGS by Amy King

Hay(na)ku for Haiti--a Haiti Relief Fundraiser

Tiny Poetry Books Feeding the World...Literally!

Loud Buzzing...and Snores...


By Eileen Tabios

Of course, I’d like to share my son Michael’s first English-language poem, written from when his English as second language class explored the acrostic poem--and isn't it wonderful that the acrostic is introduced in an ESL-type class!):

Tables smash
Oh no!
Run, run for your life
Nobody is safe
All the houses are
Down, televisions crashing into cars
Oh my god, my
Son is safe!

Editing 101: Moi the Editor discussed his first draft gently. First, he originally wrote the second line as "Oh oh", and I had to explain that that doesn't work since the phrase is spelled as "Uh, oh" (such nuances as one learns a new language!). Then, we agreed that the first draft’s first line of “Tables move” would be better as “Tables smash” since the latter has more punch and is more specific. We’d been working with adjusting generalities or abstractions to specifics—so we also changed the original reference to “furniture” to “televisions” in the sixth line. Relatedly, his original sixth line simply had been “Down” but he thought he should add more details to that one-word line—isn’t he clever!

A close reader no doubt would glean the expansiveness of this 14-year-old’s world view—this poem is not written from a personal “I”’s perspective (not that there’s anything wrong with such) but from, moithinks, his parent’s point of view. So the ending lines of “my / Son is safe!” is him extrapolating from the loving care he receives at home. Makes this close (and unbiased) reader sniffle….

Here is the brilliantly budding poet; he is fresh out of the shower and bleary-eyed (or is it that he looks tortured by me?)—but I chose this photograph as he is also shown here stuffing a “Hay(na)ku for Haiti” (H for H) booklet into his pants for his school’s Pocket-in-the-Poem Day. It is ___ as you read this—have you ordered your fundraising H for H booklet yet?

So, to official bidness: Thanks as ever to GR's numerous, generous volunteer staff of reviewers. In addition to some wonderful feature articles, we have 64 NEW REVIEWS this issue! I like to track GR's progress, so here are some poetry-lovin' stats!

Issue 1: 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 39 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice by different reviewers)
Issue 3: 49 new reviews (two projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 4: 61 new reviews (one project was reviewed thrice, and three projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 5: 56 new reviews (four projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 6: 56 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice)
Issue 7: 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 64 new reviews (3 projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 9: 65 new reviews
Issue 10: 68 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice and 1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 11: 72 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice)
Issue 12: 87 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 13: 55 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 14: 64 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)

Of reviewed publications, the following were generated from review copies sent to GR:

Issue 1: 9 out of 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 25 out of 39 new reviews
Issue 3: 27 out of 49 new reviews
Issue 4: 41 out of 61 new reviews
Issue 5: 34 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 6: 35 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 7: 41 out of 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 35 out of 64 new reviews
Issue 9: 42 out of 65 new reviews
Issue 10: 46 out of 68 new reviews
Issue 11: 46 out of 72 new reviews
Issue 12: 35 out of 87 new reviews
Issue 13: 38 out of 55 new reviews
Issue 14: 40 out of 64 new reviews

I continue to encourage authors/publishers to send in your projects for potential review. Obviously, people are following up with your submissions! Information for submissions and available review copies HERE. Future reviewers also should note that the next review submission deadline is November 1, 2010.

As of Issue No. 14, we are pleased to report that GR has provided 776 new reviews (covering 343 publishers in 17 countries so far) and 64 reprinted reviews (to bring online reviews previously available only viz print).


As I've said before, your Editor is blind, so if there are typos/errors in the issue, just email Moi or put in the comments sections and I will swiftly correct said mistakes (since such is allowed by Blogger).


I'd like to make a special mention of only the FOURTH non-poet to appear on Galatea Resurrects as a poetry book reviewer (I exclude students in writing/literature courses from this count as I know them as students, versus poets or non-poets). Which is to say, it's difficult to spread the Poetry Word out beyond the limits of "po-world", but it can happen. Welcome to Meredith Caliman, Esq. -- a lawyer in Southern California who graciously agreed to review pro bono. And which book did she review? Well, your mischievous editor sent her Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present co-edited by David Kader and Michael Stanford (University Of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2010), described by the publisher as "the first serious anthology of law-related poetry ever published in the United States." Click HERE for the lawyer's take on poets writing about the law -- it's depressing. Actually, later in the issue is my review of THE OTHER BLUEBOOK, a novel written by poet-playwright Reme Grefalda based on her experiences as a paralegal for three "Big Law" firms -- this one is funny. Law: depressing and funny--that seems about right, says your editor...who happens to be married to a lawyer.

And I wonder what it means that of the four non-poet reviewers to date for GR (and one of them is Mom who I shanghaied outside the hallway of her bedroom into writing reviews), two are lawyers. In any event, GR would love to hear more non-poets' views on the poems being written today. C'mon, Peeps -- send your, uh, dentists, plumbers, masseuses (especially masseuses!), UPS or Fedex delivery people, etc. over to me! As regards poetry, I believe everyone's opinions can be worthwhile!


I also want to note GR's first review of Zimbabwean poetry--I like the continued expansion of GR's scope, this with the help of Emmanuel Sigauke who reviews INTWASA POETRY [anthology of 15 Zimbabwean poets] edited by Jane Morris and published by amaBooks in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Yay.


It occurs to me that you may be interested in this special themed issue on Poet-Editors which I curated for Otoliths. Since it contextualizes why I edit Galatea Resurrects, I raise attention to it...and hope you enjoy reading it!


Wait for it! One more photo of Michael, this time as he soothed Artemis aka "Botero Kitty" (her fur makes her look fat) when she injured herself and had to be in a cast for nearly two months. (Go to link if you want to see the special offer to GR reviewers with pets!)

With much love, poetry and fur,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
May 5, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010



Shoulder Season by Ange Mlinko
(Coffeehouse Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2009)

Poet Beyond Borders

Despite notions to the contrary blaring from conservative television, America grows through its economic, political and cultural interactions with the international community, importing and exporting not only commodities and resources, but also languages, customs, economic/political innovations, and, in surprisingly profound ways, transformative art. American music has incorporated the rhythms of Africa, South America, and the Caribbean into its jazz, rock, and folk music; America has infused the movement of dances from around the world into its choreography (is there a less insular art form than dance, motion translatable in ways that images and words are not?); and America has folded the indeterminacy of French literary theory into its poetry, to highlight how American art but in a few instances has been influenced from afar. Yet America also virulently excludes, flings up economic and cultural barriers, battening down its hatches. Though most of the political spectrum in the U.S. is currently recoiling from world citizenship, one side of the aisle has taken so many knee-jerk reactions in the last decade I can’t tell if that’s a kneecap I’m seeing or a bald face (lie).

In Shoulder Season, however, Ange Mlinko is no blind-folded superpatriot. Through poetry, she takes a Whitmanesque bear hug of the world thriving above and beyond the arbitrary borders of nation-states. As she says in a conversation with poet Jordan Davis, “I like poems that engage the world. I love shows of brilliance and virtuosity. I don’t share the American prejudice for modesty in poems.” In this her third collection, Mlinko is as unparochial in style and subject as one can get. In today’s political climate, steeped in bitter tea, Mlinko’s inclusivity is downright un-American. I’m going to report her to Sarah Hannity or Sean Palin or whatever their frickin’ names are.

Mlinko eschews provincialism. Her poems are teeming not only with references to places in the eastern United States, but also to myriad places in Europe and the Middle East: Paris, Gibraltar, Zurich, Venice, Breton, Azerbaijan, and Beirut, among many others. These references aren’t placed to impress; this isn’t name-dropping signify nothing. Mlinko’s details add flavor. In one instance, in “World Lit,” she quotes al-Harith passing by a secret cabaret, disclosed by the green light emanating from its transom:
if we cross that threshold
we’ll be in Agadir
with the hated Germans who go topless
as the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
(“World Lit,” p. 9)

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche is a church in Berlin that has gone topless since being bombed in 1943, a geographical reference then that both provides a humorous simile, but also speaks to how nudity, a common practice on public beaches in one culture is a grave sin in another. Mlinko’s poetic world is replete with these bridges, jarring cultural associations reaching across differences for shared spaces.

Mlinko’s global vocabulary shouts in the face of Americans who want their news to be as monosyllabic and black-and-white as possible. Thalassotherapy, synovial joints, cruets, pollards, orts, plewts, pentimentos, jacquards, urushiol lacquers, and langoustines abound. These are not strange words used for shock value; they reach beyond the common vernacular to encompass a greater means of articulation, fine gradations rather than rough, broad expressions. Americans might have to download a dictionary app on their mobile devices to parse these poems, but they better make sure it isn’t an Ameri-centric dictionary.

With a style at times colloquial and at times eloquent, Mlinko is not only plucky enough to employ a variety of rhymes (riff/if, Massachusetts/massages, clock/talk/rock), she unabashedly rips off similes and images that would make lesser poets cringe:
Love will be organized like notes from a piano
emerging like ants from the furrows of a peony
( “Peonage,” p.12 )

The sky was laced with Irish cream mist
( “A Not Unruffled Surface,” p. 13 )

You putter in the wooden shoes a lathe cut like gouda
( “X’d The Go-Go,” p. 36 )

I saw the chess players over their griddles, all the furor of thinking
swallowed like a song in a furred flute
( “Eros of Heroines,” p. 47 )

Only a poet who is in part the progeny of the New York school could have the cajones to pull off these at first glance inept comparisons.

As Mlinko romps across the globe, she closely maps the world of consciousness, of attention, as well. In the first two poems, Mlinko stakes out her cognitive ground. She acknowledges the natural world as a respite from the man-made world, or, rather, the world un-made by man (America’s leadership in this domain is only now being challenged by China). The natural world is measured against the war-ravaged streets of Beirut:
a little spa for the mind–seeing butterflies
set themselves down by the dozen like easels

on bromeliads, when out on the street the boutiques
are dilapidated, construction can’t be told from ruin
(“Treatment,” p. 1)

On the other hand, in the flipside to the opening poem, a sequel with the same title, she asserts that the projective construction of the external through the lens of the internal has its fatal limitations. When human destruction is indistinguishable from what has been made new, to retreat to the imagination is an immoral escape (as stated in the imperative “You can’t”):
The Mind is not a little Spa.
You can’t retreat to its imaginary
standard distance
when outside construction
can’t be told from ruin.”
(“Treatment,” p.2)

Intellect cannot be a retreat from a landscape the body is in the midst of despoiling.

One of the best poetry books of 2010, Shoulder Season isn’t a flawless collection. Some of the formal experiments fall flat, e.g. the two column poems “Engineering” and “This Is The Latest.” The two flush left columns with ragged caesura in between drag the poems down, a sluggish staccato that detracts rather than adds. If reading across and down the columns would have increased the number of possible readings, the form might have been justified. In one poem, “Thalassotherapy,” the italicized chorus lines–“What remains of the rue,” “What remains of the crabgrass,” “What remains of the butter-and-eggs,” “What remains of bog sage”–seem to be tacked on, an afterthought, the chorus a frail closure for each stanza, a forced connective tissue deployed in an attempt to hold the poem together.

Mlinko surged onto the poetry scene with Matinées (Zoland Press, 1999), vigorously followed up by Starred Wire (Coffee House, 2005). She was one of those few poets whose work arrived fully mature, stylistically urbane with finely-nuanced content. Have her poetics in ten years not changed, not developed? Perhaps. I’d argue that though they may not have evolved, their application as demonstrated in these poems has become increasingly robust. She now plies her aesthetic to a wider, ever-expansive canvas, carrying her aesthetic across larger spheres and concerns.

Pirouetting beyond fields plowed and sown by Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, and Alice Notley, Ange Mlinko is creating her own space in the world of poetry and more. To encapsulate her fecund body of work, the word glee keeps coming to mind. And that may be the most American aspect to her work, its joie de vivre. This may be the Shoulder Season, yet no one has to go slumping through it without some ecstasy.


Crag Hill until recently edited SCORE, one of only two journals dedicated exclusively to concrete/visual poetry. In the last three decades his work has appeared in over 100 journals and anthologies, including several available on-line. His creative and critical works in progress can be found at He teaches English Education at Washington State University.



Much Like You Shark by Logan Ryan Smith
(dusi/e-chap kollectiv, 2007)
[on-line PDF here!]

Vast are the seas of poetry, including the mighty ocean of the contemporary!

The poetry-life in these waters is so abundant that it’s just not possible to see everything, even when the currents bring so much so close. So much gets away!

Still, the ever-flowing bounty of poetry creates energizing possibilities. Keep your eyes open, maybe poke around a bit, and all sorts of wonders can come your way, even if it’s later than you’d like.


Logan Ryan Smith’s Much Like You Shark is a chapbook length poem. It has approximately 450 lines organized in 23 unnumbered and untitled sections. No section is longer than a page and each section, regardless of length (some are quite short), has its own page.

The opening six sections (about 100 lines) of Much Like You Shark were first published in March 2007 as a super-limited (50 copies) Big Game Books / Tinysides chapbook. The entire poem was then published twice later in 2007, first as a limited edition Dusie chapbook and then as part of Smith’s collection Stupid Birds (Transmission Press). In early 2008, Much Like You Shark was again published, this time as an on-line PDF in a dusi/e-chap kollektiv post.

I missed every single one of these publications when they first appeared. And missed too Jared Hayes’ August 2007 blog-rave for Much Like You Shark (“Fuck! This book is the shit!”) and C.A. Conrad’s May 2008 enthused comments (“FANTASTIC BOOK!”) on Smith’s poem.

But a few months ago, while browsing the used poetry at Books and Bookshelves here in San Francisco, I came across the Tinysides chap that prints a long excerpt from Much Like You Shark. The chap’s cover – an intense toothy Great White – was an eye-grabber, and the title intrigued me. After all, the apex predator is a kind of neighbor, given that here in the City where I live The Red Triangle is just off-shore.

And so I read Much Like You Shark right there in the bookstore. The poem’s sharp energy (sorry about this) bit me hard. I bought the chap and as soon as I made it home found the full PDF version on-line. I’ve read the poem many times since, including via the Dusie chap hard copy that Galatea Resurrects kindly provided for this review. Smith’s poem continues to put me in a kind of poetic (you know it’s coming) frenzy.


Much Like You Shark takes the form of a dramatic monologue addressed to a shark. In the poem – and I borrow here from C.A. Conrad, who I think got it right – Smith uses the shark, or the idea of one, as a way to find the world and see himself. All this is apparent right from the opening lines:
Much like you shark
I meet the world harmlessly
but in bad weather and murky waters,
in the noise of the blue open
tree-lined city street chatter
chatter-box teething
little gums ringed with blood

like you
tiger shark . . .
The poem moves with similar rhythms and energy through its 450 plus lines. And it’s the poem’s rhythm and energy – its start-to-finish propulsive movement – that’s most impressive to me. It may not totally be “the even, liquid grace of a creature completely at home with its place in the Universe” (that, natch, is how scientists describe sharks swimming) but it has a lot of that feel, I must say. The words, the lines, the sections, just keep coming. Attention stays taut.

Smith creates the motion-energy of the poem, the sense and feel of something alive in action, through several methods. One key technique is varying the length of lines, stanzas, and sections. With regard to line lengths, the look in the opening stanza above, in which medium and short are irregularly mixed, shows up in many of the poem’s sections. The shorter lines, obviously, move quicker than the longer ones, and thus insert a bit of speed the text, but the main point is that you can’t predict what’s coming next.

Similarly, the twenty-three sections of Much Like You Shark vary, both in format and length. Five of the sections are single stanzas, and they range in length from as few as six to more than two dozen lines.

Smith mostly arranges the lines in the other eighteen sections into stanzas (i.e., groups of lines with spaces in between). But these stanzas vary widely in length. Smith for example will start with a tercet, then have a couplet followed by a quatrain. Or in another section he’ll book-end couplets with stanzas of five and eight lines, respectively. Only two sections have stanzas of the same length throughout (couplets are used) , and both of those are sandwiched between sections that contain no couplets at all. There’s also a section that begins with an indented block of prose followed by a mix of stand-alone lines and couplets.

The variations of form, the changes or shifts within and between the sections, are relentless. It’s energizing, the changes in rhythm and densities, making Much Like You Shark seem alive, as if it’s constantly in movement. Not knowing what’s coming, you keep your eyes on it.


There’s also variation and unpredictability in the substantive matters observed and reported.. “I keep my eyes moving,” Smith states (twice) in a section near the middle of the poem. He also has (as it’s put in another section) “heightened senses sensing.” As such, he brings in all kinds of things. Sometimes he’s “amongst the hammerheads” but other times he’s far from the water as in the report, in the ninth section, of everyday urban traffic:
the consistent circling
signs signaling
no left turns
and lights
Through either simple references or sometimes more elaborated description, Smith brings into his poem matters as diverse as a blackbird’s struggle with a hawk in a parking lot, shadows off the coast of South Africa, memories of standing on a shore, “glorified / doppelgangers,” migraines, glass-sided buildings, “saddle-weary city walker bloody / mary shit talker,” the shadow of clouds, the Atlantic and Missouri, and the shores of Japan.


As he addresses the shark throughout his poem, Smith makes a number of assertions about himself and the world. Two of these are particularly memorable. The first is an explicit criticism of his and our way of being, of the human condition:
how sickly we all seem
crowded in the street
at a party
or in the bar
with our sick glances
and sidearm touches
how stupid we are
not owning what we hold
Related to this criticism is a recognition of forces within that can’t be controlled. Two excerpts from different sections, one short and one longer, point to the centrality to Smith of desire:
like you shark
I find my desires
overcome my will
I will
be consumed
by my needs

[ . . . ]

much like you shark
when they find my
bloated body
crumpled up
in the gutter
and they roll me over
to cut open my gut
they’ll find
a bunch of rot
and junk
a lot of things
I had no business putting in me
but I’ll speak now
I’ll speak for you and me
since it’ll one day be our innards
they’ll be judging:
I cannot claim that I didn’t know better
and I never meant to hurt a thing
but I cannot explain
than you can cause time to stop

Time to stop.
I like this focus on desire, the acknowledgment of its power and mystery. I think of Andre Breton (“the marvellous precipitate of desire”) and the theories of the 19th century French utopian Charles Fourier, who championed the role of the passions.


Perhaps not surprisingly given the instincts and behavior of the animal that serves as the poem’s central trope, there’s much that is violent in Much Like You Shark. Particularly explicit and forceful in this regard are the lines in the poem’s next to last section:
and when I rip your face from your face from your nose
and your skull
and your skin from your arms your forearms and biceps
your triceps and wrists
and when I rip the muscle from your legs the calves
your thighs and ankles
when I tear into your stomach your liver your intestines
This is unsettling, to say the least, and thought provoking. Throughout the poem – as the excerpts above illustrate – the “I” has referred to Smith (or the voice of his poem), and the “you” to the shark that’s addressed. Here, however, there seems to be a shift in that the “your” with its forearms, biceps, legs, ankles, etc. can’t be a shark, obviously. What’s getting ripped apart is us, or perhaps – remembering here the earlier reference in the poem, mentioned above, to doppelgangers, some other within Smith himself.

I can’t fully connect the meaning of this climactic rampage to the rest of the poem, and the same is true of the short (five line) final section which follows. There, Smith flashes to a moment after the above-described attack:
when standing again
we’ll watch the terns
turn and scurry

as we stupid birds
get pulled under

The conclusion here may look or read as if its neatly wrapped, but I don’t think it is. First, a poem-concluding uplifting affirmation this is not! It’s suggestion of foolish life drowned, is anything but that. Plus, the pronoun “we” disorients: I can’t pin it down. Does “we’ll” and “we” in these lines refer to Smith (or the poem’s voice) and the shark? Or the poet and his readers (including me)? Or is it instead different facets of Smith’s mind or personality? I like this uncertainty, especially here at the end: it sends me back to the poem for yet another reading, to again (yep) swim through Much Like You Shark.


Steven Fama among other things tends the glade of theoric ornithic hermetica. Previously here at Galatea Resurrects, Steve wrote about Jessica Smith’s bird-book (click here to read) and John Olson’s The Night I Dropped Shakespeare on the Cat (click to read, if you please).



From the Canyon Outward by Neeli Cherkovski
(RL Crow Publications, Penn Valley, CA., 2009)


The Pleroma by Vincent Ferrini
(Tiger Moon Productions, Bangalore, India, 2008)


Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961-1985 (New & Revised edition) by Edward Sanders
(Coffee House Press, Minn., 2009)


Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War: New and Selected Poems 1986-2009 by Edward Sanders
(Coffee House Press, Minn., 2009)


Body Clock by Eleni Sikelianos
(Coffee House Press, Minn., 2008)


Leaves of Grass, 1860: the 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition by Walt Whitman, ed. by Jason Stacy
(University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2009)


The singers of successive hours of centuries may have ostensible names, but the name of
each of them is one of the singers,
The name of each is, a heart-singer, eye-singer, hymn-singer, law-singer, ear-singer,
head-singer, sweet-singer, wise-singer, droll-singer, thrift-singer, sea-singer, wit-
singer, echo-singer, parlor-singer, love-singer, passion-singer, mystic-singer, fable-
singer, item-singer, weeping-singer, or something else.

- Walt Whitman

… if people want to get religion into poetry, fine; but poetry itself is a religion. And it too is a tradition—even when poets make breaks into Schools and Movements.

- Vincent Ferrini

A Greeting

Walt Whitman adores you. Whoever you are, whatever your occupation; nationality; whether you walk to work, ride a bicycle, take public transit, or drive yourself in your automobile, Whitman travels alongside you with the adoration of a lover pouring out from him. He expresses his expansive love for you in his great Song, Leaves of Grass, and would be delighted for you to join him with your own Song. Acknowledging his role (as it is everybody’s) as self-progenitor, Whitman puts out the call for poets of the future, filling his poems with a vast passion for the company of others. His poetry is as personal as it gets yet simultaneously never solely concerned with just his own person but fully embracing and expressing the concerns of others as well. He wants you to be his lover in and of words: the pact of the page.


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Whitman’s 3rd edition of Leaves of Grass, significant in that this is the first enlarged edition Whitman saw through the press bulking up the volume to over two thirds its size from the original 1855 edition—which also lacked titles upon individual poems (in this edition Whitman is still testing out possible titles, for instance what will later become “Starting from Paumanok” is here titled “Proto-Leaf”). With every edition Whitman saw through press over the years (and there were many until his death) Leaves of Grass and its author personae, Walt, experience an ever evolving state of presentation. As Jason Stacy, editor of this facsimile edition notes, although “The critic Roy Harvey Peirce believed the third edition to be the culmination of what Whitman began in 1855 and only tinkered with after 1860… Whitman undermines easy narratives like this: ‘Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold! / Already you see I have escaped from you.’” Stacy argues what’s probably the best interpretation over the merits of the various editions: every edition offers a different variation of Whitman’s schematic, every edition, therefore, counts.

The 1860 edition offers an interesting read given the historical relevancy of the times in which it went to print. Stacy’s introduction gives an easy-going yet rigorous encapsulation of all the relevant details, for both Whitman himself and the country, while also highlighting aspects of the design and layout (which Whitman oversaw himself through publication at the publishers in Boston) including Whitman’s numbering of his verses, so as to form an “American bible” in celebration of the “organic democracy” he believes nascent in the land and people of the United States. Stacy extrapolates upon the belief systems Whitman drew from, painting a broad background for present day readers:
Whitman incorporated popular scientism into his American bible and, in the clusters “Enfans d’Adam” and “Calamus,” drew upon the theories of phrenology—an early form of psychology based on indentations and bumps in the skull… to support his argument that nature had written union into existence itself via organic compacts…he situated the third Leaves of Grass in the heart of an American discourse…

Near the end of his Introduction, Stacy insists “Whitman’s new bible insisted that readers do their own part to bring it alive. That is as true in the twenty-first century as it was in 1860.” There is little point arguing against this claim and nothing demonstrates it better than the monumental pull and influence Whitman has had and continues to have upon poets to this day. Whitman’s omnipresence (especially in the Americas) is evident in the work of poet after poet. To demonstrate the relevancy of his ongoing influence, rather than focus on reviewing Whitman’s poems in isolation, this writing takes up recent publications by four additional later poets of varying generational/geographic and stylistic/formal concerns in order to explore and celebrate the great swath of poetic lineage that Whitman stands as progenitor of.


Vincent Ferrini, a mainstay of the artistic gut and hub of Gloucester, Massachusetts, passed away Christmas Eve, 2007. His final volume of poems The Pleroma was released shortly after his death. A fascinating book, which successfully reads less as a thoroughly well thought out construction than a hodgepodge assemblage of documents, The Pleroma (a “Gnostic term used by Jung,” which Ferrini understands as “the period of fullness before birth and after death”) offers up a tribute to the poet and man in the form of poems and letters sent to editor/publisher, Terry Reis Kennedy, and which in Kenneth Warren’s words serves as “the culminating point for the autobiography, bibliography, phenomenology, poetry, psychology and religion that informs Ferrini’s whole utopian narrative… the final telling of his desires, defenses, fusions, inflations and inspirations.”(“Preface”) In short, it is not to be missed. The immediacy and warmth of Ferrini’s writing leaps from off the page with glimmering delight, proving that the twinkle of the poet’s wrinkled visage as seen in the photograph on the book’s cover is the bedrock for the illuminated seer-like awareness his writing demonstrates for his place in the span of things.

This last publication of Ferrini’s is both a terrifically inspiring introduction to the poet for those unfamiliar and a well-spring for further meditation to readers who have long been under the spell of his ever-humorous, deeply searching cosmic vibe.
The Choir of the Forest

Long before Christ,
there was Krishna
& His cowgirls.

Whose time
are we in?
What’s the problem?

The solitary leaves
have their own

blinded by
the Soul’s

the Earth
in love
with Itself

the Peace

Ferrini passionately lives in the moment(s) of his writing. His belief in what is said via his poetry is paramount and insurmountable as is his openness to all he encounters. Occasionally, his writing has a rather pell-mell appearance, arising as it does from an experience in which he is so completely a part that he is incapable of dispensing with arrangement of words and phrases as they arrived in the process of writing. For Ferrini, to an extent, Writing is Being. This makes it difficult to imagine anything but the possibility of acceptance or rejection. There’s nothing to debate: readers will take it or leave it. And Ferrini appears nonplussed with either inclination. His writing unabashedly unmasks expectations with the encouragement usually come of familial support and love, gazing ahead and pushing Whitman’s call for future poets, embracing with sudden intimacy the call for poems to serve and benefit all.


THIS hard period
the fisherman and their families
are deluged with
will pass away
and a time will come
when the nations of the world
will farm the oceans
to feed the people
of this Spectacular celestial LIGHT
and exploitation
be a useless word in the dictionary
and sooner than


Eleni Sikelianos’ book-length The California Poem clearly aligns with many of Whitman’s grand themes with its long breath lines of land and politics, the poet’s life and lore spilling over with immediacy into the writing. In her latest collection, Body Clock, she takes up the Whitmanesque theme of the body—the writing began during her pregnancy as a measure to mark the passing of time, the image of the body literally as a kind of clock, and the book is dedicated to her daughter. Her initial impulse when writing, as she explains to Selah Saterstrom, was, “Could I quit my capitalist tendencies, stop worrying about how I “spend” my time? Walter Benjamin’s (and many other authors’) idea that idleness is one of the writer’s indispensible engagements was in my mind.” ( Sikelianos exults in the exuberant spirit of Whitman’s, “I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass!” (“Walt Whitman” aka “Song of Myself”) embracing the opportunity of being in the moment, exploring it in all its appeal.

With Sikelianos, the masculine prerogative which works so well for Whitman’s bombastic declarations is allowed to evolve further along as she writes her own experience doing and moving, forthrightly and nonchalantly occupying the space of writing.

I love it
when women eat sweet ribbon, sweet
rabbit, sweet meat, when women

are the scene
of several utopias

when the body melts back into shadow
beginning with the feet

Women are as much carnivorous and prowling poetic predators as any men. Yet Sikelianos doesn’t bother to push the fact of her being a woman, she simply accepts it as the given identity round which the writing commences, her pregnancy being no different than any other state of affairs an individual passes through and comments on in a lifetime. And she does so while still keeping the writing personal, held close to, literally of, her and hers:
in the quiet sleep of animals
from the balcony of a belly
say your speeches
no cow licked you
I do

This celebratory and sensual acknowledgment of the body is central to poets writing in the Whitmanic lineage. As Whitman bluntly states, “If I worship any particular thing, it shall be some of the spread of my own body.” (“Walt Whitman” aka “Song of Myself”) Whitman’s robust and intimate enunciation of the masculine has been well recognized and critically regarded. Sikelianos follows up on his meanderings and returns with lines of images celebrating the feminine, expanding upon practices Whitman may have been first to develop and implement, but clearly never exhausts, “The body’s stain returns to the body, a / backward pleasure / like dusted wings that refold / a lucky wounded symmetry or / the lips of the cunt closing.” (“ACHILLES ON A BALL”)

Ferrini, too, if a tad overzealously, celebrates the body, as in these lines he attempts relate a lesson to a female reader of the strength and acceptance of her own beauty.
Feel the heat flowing
up and down.
Put both hands between your legs,
sliding over the cut.

See the pleasures in the mirror.
Part your overjoying lips,
fingering your vagina’s character,
dare to be amazed
at the hidden bounties
rising to a heavenly height.

Still looking deeply into the mirror
behold this Other You
you are repossessing…
           (“At Psyche’s Art School”)

While Ferrini’s language may inadvertently be sexualizing the moment of her “repossessing” he is assuredly not attempting to possess the woman, her body, or its image for himself. The purity of Ferrini’s embrace throws out the problematical thorns which any would-be commentator might wish utilize as gloss for criticism. His belief in an eternal situation in which what matters is only what remains real in the moment, overrides such criticism: there simply is no room for it. His ideal is the same supreme equalization Whitman consistently sought to remind and embolden in his own readers.
Great are Yourself and Myself,
We are just as good and bad as the oldest and youngest…
             [ …]
Great is Youth—equally great is Old Age—great are the Day and Night…
           (“Leaves of Grass”)


Early on in his writing, Ed Sanders, embraces the beauty of an organic wholeness, finding freedom to write poems that sing out, announcing and celebrating the freedom of sexual bliss without concern for what may shock or draw scorn, lines such as:
             in to the oily crotch
                         place dick

             come into the cool grey
bark the hair-grey color of Persephone

             how difficult it is
                         to be fucked
             in the volcano!

I have given myself to the elm
I have soaked the dryad’s shawl
What a wonderful world,
a palace of gentle sexual aggression.

Let me sing
of the need to fuck
            “Elm-Fuck Poem”)

when the prick sputs
the hot come
                         into loins
& the lamb looks back
with her eye
                      & glazes me
in the freak-beams,

            “Sheep-fuck poem”)

or religious heights of unabashed sexual glee awash in anti-orthodox classicism:
Bent over           Bent down
& I flipped it to the
buns, and knew the
god-rose in the snatch
felt the god-butt
knew her &
spurted thru the
blessings, droplets
of spangled jissom
in the Red Halls of
Demeter, the Goddess.

           (“Holy Was Demeter Walking th’ Corn Furrow”)

The recent republication by Coffee House Press of a revised version of Sanders’ Thirsting For Peace In A Raging Century Selected Poems 1961-1985 (from which the above lines were taken) accompanied by his Let’s Not Keep Fighting The Trojan War New and Selected Poems 1986-2009 provides rich opportunity to read his work anew taking delight from his lively informed discursive ear. As Joanne Kyger writes in her introduction to the second volume, “this…Investigative Poet, in the bardic tradition, knows how to publicly present poems to bring about the rebirth of the voice, with songs… Poetic reality enters into a public presentation of verse.”
The Question of Self-Publishing

For 25 years William Blake
            kept the copper plates for
                         the Songs of Innocence

to print a copy or two on a need
& then he hand-painted the colors
                                                 with Catherine’s help

Walt Whitman helped set & print
                                     his own Leaves of Grass
             in the Brooklyn vastness

Woody Guthrie
a mimeographed edition of his songs in ‘39

& Ginsberg mimeo’d some “Howl”s
                                     in ‘55

& how about Chekov’s Tales of Melpomene in 1885
                         which he paid for
or Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility
of 1811?

                                    & so it goes
                                    & goes so well

Sanders picks up and continues the overarching celebration of freedom found in Whitman’s poems; cajoling, declaring and demanding the reach of the poet go on: that poems lunge out towards readers, firing up and challenging expectations of what’s possible.
Each of us inevitable,
Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth,
Each of us allowed the eternal purport of the earth,
Each of us here as divinely as any is here.
            (Walt Whitman, “Salut au Monde”)


Whitman is the giver of first permission. Writing from out Whitman’s allowances, Neeli Cherkovski found his lifelong love of poetry amid poets in California cities, as a youth hanging with Charles Bukowski in Los Angeles and later with an infinite number of North Beach poets in his adopted San Francisco. Cherkovski’s latest collection, From the Canyon Outward comes near to being nothing short of a hands down wonderful demonstration of a poet at the grip of his powers. Here is nothing but the certainty of a quiet assuredness.
Meditation Nearing Sixty

sixty years in July, It’s a bit embarrassing
I was never meant to be old
like this, just like I wasn’t meant to serve in the military, or
to sit on a jury, or to
fend for myself as other men do, the sun is climbing
in my window, it is burning a hole in my solitude, it is asking me
onto the deck and into the garden, here in the garden
I can play with my dog or read from Lorca, or
simply stare at the bushes
and the trees, I have watered my plants through two desert wars
and taken the measure of the misery
we’ve caused, the pain and suffering
we, ourselves, come in with and go out with,
I find the shadow of the blackbird warring with the bluebird and
when I listen to Beethoven, or “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis
something like hope rises
out of the doom and I think
it is good to make music, it is good to write poems, it is fine
to make paintings and to sit alone
for the afternoon
in meditation:
sixty winters, sixty dreams, one day
of reckoning, one father, one mother, one sister, one lover, one
dog, a garden, a redwood deck, a work room, a bedroom,
a guest room, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a TV room
all the ordinary stuff of the middle class…
a new born child clutching
a dream of the one poem
that rises from our common desire

In this lyrical drift of lines Cherkovski weaves in much that concerns many of Whitman’s, and those of the other poets here under discussion, poems: utter equalization of ages and time, making the most of the moment, cataloging-lists as poetic tool, and the irrevocable damnation of the waste brought about by humanity’s bent for waging war. That, while even in the welcome gladness of a serene swooning afternoon calm, there is beneath any sense of peace the persistent glare of the resistant human endurance for inflicting pain unto others and amid such unfortunate circumstances acceptance—yet of a sort that does not fail resist—is still to be found.


             The Feather of Justice

I believe in the Feather of Justice
The Egyptians
called it the Maat Feather
It’s light
             It’s perfect
                         It belongs to eternity

I believe
in the Feather of Justice

It measures our lives
                         in the World of Forms

It calls the evil
                         away from the good

It’s in our cells
It’s in the path of the sun

& sometimes the universe
cuts the Feather
                         to make a pen
                                     for the bard

I believe in the Feather of Justice
La Plume Égyptian

I’m thirsting for peace in a raging century
Thirsting for peace in a raging century

(Ed Sanders, “Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century”)

In the face of violent human conflict, the only relief that comes at times is to wake to the fact of the possible endlessness of the situation. Sikelianos writes (rides) it out with grim, biting humor which refuses not to always keep pushing against the hanging gloom.
(This was on a bottle of shampoo.)

The water evaporates from the glass,
the child outgrows her shoes, the wood
erodes, the paint chips, the painting fades,
the leg breaks, the war

What is the body’s container?
From soldiers we learn about each other.
Nothing is contained.


unstoried soul a stoned dark doll a
soul doesn’t tell stories
it’s a baby playing in
the poles of the universe              —did you mean puke?
War is how we know each other.

To live is to struggle. The further the poet confronts and questions what’s happening around her, the quicker looms the darkness behind any shimmering light-filled peacefulness. Poems are the rubble piled against the bitter war-wrought bantering death and destruction of the times in which the poet lives. And yet poems, as Whitman reminds, are not always to the benefit of all, no one and no art is purely good.
Nor will all my poems do good only—they will do just as much evil, perhaps more,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit—

Everybody (even a poem) is only human, after all. Among the job of poems, and thus poets, is to serve remind how delicately thin the balance between light and dark is. Cherkovski, in lines such as,
I take my rage by the throat
and embrace it
on the couch
in the front room
under a yellow lamp,
next to a wall
of books,
feeling helpless, yet
not entirely without hope
for a resolution made
out of a dot symbolizing
one of everything,
no more, no less
            (“The Rage”)

tackles just such edges, pulling down pleasant masks worn to fool himself and others into easy comfort. The serenity of relaxing with one’s own person and time does not come easy, but it is “not entirely without hope” if greeted with challenge. In like spirit, Ferrini celebrates a vibratory splendor assured that there is a larger order to which all belong whether or not they’re aware and struggling towards engaging with it.


Paradise is the Process
we are all ways

For Ferrini, as for Cherkovski, the realization of abiding peace is at the center of poetic engagement. It’s no surprise that Whitman inspires such shared brotherly endeavor, no doubt Ferrini’s poems such as,


I am happy
Everything’s on time

find him much at home with the North Beach poetry crowd, among whom it’s difficult to imagine nary a negative nudge against Whitman that wouldn’t be drowned out by a thousand cheers, if not a forceful shove or two.


Poets, like everybody, have to stick together. The poetryworld racket doesn’t receive much care or real interest, for that matter, from the rest of the day-to-day world. “It’s a tough life” as the Kris Kristofferson tune puts it, and all poets are always reading the same mail: bills and rejections—on all fronts. In the closing lines of “for Ted Berrigan
It is an
utter &
complete disgrace
that there was
no free national
health system
to which you could
have consulted
                         & easily

America, where bad
teeth cost as much
as a Honda

where poverty
the curse of Chatterton
& Edmund Spenser
still eats
the marrow
                         of poets

Sanders picks up the rattle-bag in favor to a fellow poet long ill-served by society not because poets are special beings somehow above others who deserve special benefits, but because poets are just as human as anybody and everybody deserves the chance to live a decent life and be cared for by the powers that be. The fact that poets often get the shitty end of society’s stick only results in them being granted the opportunity to voice concerns of those who are less privileged. This is not just petty grousing, under “poverty / the curse of Chatterton / & Edmond Spenser” untold numbers suffer and it is the alleviation of such pain towards which the writing is directed.

Reading and writing poems effects cultural change in society via effecting change in individuals, person by person, reader by reader, the poet learns from leaning out, risking and asking of her own person, willingly surprised at what she may find and bring to the awareness of her readers. The act of voicing a shared concern does not allow for any suffering to languish in isolation. Sikelianos brings Whitman’s spirit to bear in present Song, strong and clear, encouraging by way of her work his emphasis on the power of words to startle and jerk readers into active awareness of and care for the world around them. That her first intended future reader in this instance is her own daughter only increases the intensity and power of the endeavor.
Head: let the skull bones slide apart
& the brain grow big

type: orb
shape: universal

stepping on the rind of the earth
below which that trash heap Hell

It seemed impossible to tell
what country we lived in

some sad gray faces pass

a brown dwarf, a
             failed star

in the blended light of a planet & its sun
the dust & the photons rise

             Butter Princess, I saw
a huge cross of lights laid out in the land
& it was some city
between Sioux Falls & Detroit

In the end, nothing but the work yet to be done matters. And, as Allen Ginsberg (an ever faithful student of Whitman) reminds us, “what's the work? To ease the pain of living. Everything else, drunken dumbshow.” (“Memory Gardens”) May Whitman’s influence continue through each future generation coming to read and write songs of their own, that the world’s measure of joy be continually altered, increased thereby to the benefit of all, thing to thing.

As Exit

“The words of poems give you more than poems”

- Walt Whitman


To all the creatures of our precious cosmos!




Patrick James Dunagan has lived in San Francisco on and off for the last decade or so. His writings have appeared (or are expected) in: Big Bell, Blue Book, Box of Books: Vol II, Chain, Forklift, Fulcrum, Galatea Resurrects, Jacket, Octopus, ON2, Otoliths, Pax Americana, poem, home: An Anthology of Ars Poetica, Puppyflowers, Try!, and Vanitas. Recent chapbooks include From Chansonniers (Blue Press, 2008), Spirit Guest & Others (Lew Gallery Editions, 2009), Easy Eden w/ Micah Ballard (PUSH, 2009) and her friends down at the french cafe had no english words for me (PUSH, 2010).



The Last 4 Things by Kate Greenstreet
(Ahsahta Press, Boise, Idaho, 2009. Includes DVD)

What happens when you place things side by side, when even ideas become objects to put next to windows? Kate Greenstreet's The Last 4 Things connects the dots and accepts the multiplicity, the many other ways the dots could have been connected. As readers, we are pursued by the work—by the collection of inner voices, which may or may not be a singular voice; by the exterior world with familiar and somehow unfamiliar doors, dust, and teeth; and by the sense of perpetual activity, a poem that is always holding a thought, many objects, and many ways to understand the connections between thought and thought, thought and object, object and object.

Before we're haunted by the movement towards happening and away from clear and linear sense, we are invited into the most intimate landscape—the mind—and we are tempted to think through the poems instead of about the poems. Greenstreet entices us into the home, memory, cameras, and a series of collected dreams and wishes. It's almost as if these places are one in the same place; at least, distinction matters less so we are enabled to disappear. We start to think things without concern for truth value, to drop our rationality and follow the language, and to resist conclusions.

In the way Greenstreet pulls the reader, The Last 4 Things is honest. It is all honest. It is all a type of portraiture that resists setting the gaze in one place or limiting the perspective to one frame. Instead, it is writing towards truly seeing what is already seen. This honesty is, like all thoughts contained in the text, completely and incompletely like in “4 December,”
I found a small dark rug on top of a junk pile on the curb and dragged it upstairs. Scrubbed it with a stiff brush and water. “Things are right in front of us,” he says. “Why make them up?” (60)

It's easy to see this kind of honesty, this kind of portraiture. It's harder to see that “up” is down. Harder to see that this is Greenstreet tilting her head, closing and opening her eyes, or standing upside down to see and interpret what is seen and how what is seen is seen. “Gloves, hands, the representation of hands—these are the spaces / I have in mind” (66). Readers too, desire to move into the spaces that are both real and unreal, familiar and unfamiliar. It's more than vision—it's language, memory, and thoughts considered for their multiplicity, for the way they unfold.

When I sit at the table with a friend to describe the book, its ideas, I am unsure what to say. I say, “It's about ideas.” And my friend bites into her burrito and asks what kind of ideas. And I remember the line, “Things that aren't possible come to pass.” I say that. She says nothing.

Then, I sit with my students and we watch the DVD included in the book. They discuss the “film” like it is high art—like it is the combination of all ideas happening at once. And one student says, “That isn't so new.” We all ask what he means. He clarifies, “Of course it is everything at once. That's all it ever can be.” I think he is saying something here and I know I should push him to be explicit, but maybe that is what works about Greenstreet's poetics—there is something there and, in its “somethingness” it is more clear than if we said it concretely. I don't ask the student to clarify, but I ask him to “press harder” (67). He knows I mean just as much and as little as what he meant before.

As readers of Greenstreet's work, we are faced with the pleasurable task of having everything at once: memory and happening, things and ideas, poetry and stories, diaries and fantasies. And because it is always this way, there are always so many turns and directions, nothing feels completely strange. We are with the poet in understanding and wanting; we are with her when she says, “I wanted words, the look, // but everything they meant / seemed wrong” (6). Because we are with her in this investigation of putting words to ideas, we will follow her through “page after page of places” (33), things, people, and thoughts. We follow her and let the sense of the work gather.

It would be easy and clear to say, “Greenstreet explores the possibility of narrative.” It is a narrative that is after in all sense of the word. It is after meaning—both in being post-meaning and in actively seeking meaning. It is after childhood, both in remembering “Once we went under a tree...(55) and in reclaiming an integration of imagination with the admittance of difference, “'This is what I look like now'” (62). And it is after forgetting and remembering.

There is an insistence to record with dates; specifically, to record the memory of thoughts that refuse to unravel or complete their thinking. Like in “6 January”:
And then you have the little being. The little being in the world. Everybody loves their little baby. It's a lot of work, yes, but you're in a trance—you're in a trance of love. You get sick of it, sure—but you're still in the trance. Unless you hate the baby for some reason. But that didn't happen to me.

--Would you call these nightmares?
--No, they're just regular dreams. Afterwards, you forget. (80)

As a reader, we can't help but wonder what happened? Did she not hate her baby or did she not have the baby to begin with? And the refusal to give us more than what is given is part of the game of the book: we are watching a mind indulge and resist itself at the same time. We are watching everything at once: additions, omissions, perspective, forgetting, etc. Sure, we could read “6 January” and a lot of the poems as poems about poems— where the “baby” is the poem and the writer is coping with the complicated relationship of authoring something, but I think that would that would limit the work and would ignore the ghost inferred by Greenstreet's repetition of invisible, disappear, and lost. Clearly, something has happened.

If the sense of ghosting is considered, then we are returning to the poems being after something. There is grieving and sobering up, there is defeat too. “She stays behind and gathers meaning” (66) because there is nothing else to do when something has happened. There is nothing else to do “[b]ut remember when I asked if you were carrying an umbrella / and I asked you what you felt and I think there was a blind / person sitting near you” (52).

I am in the same position I was in when I was sharing burritos with my friend. I am in the position Greenstreet's entire book documents: I want to interpret the text, but I am too busy celebrating the simultaneity of all of these threads Greenstreet is pulling. Thankfully, she is here with me, in the enclosed DVD and I've come to depend on her inchworm reading. Matching the reading voice in our head and Greenstreet's candid voice on the DVD, “[We] come such a long way to think” (5) and the fragility of thinking is revered in this collection. “We're never any closer” (5) but we are clutching the stream of images in the DVD and the struggle to give language to what is unsayable in the poems.

I am worried that I am making this sound more abstract than it is. Really, it is the most forthright book I've read in a long time. Greenstreet admits to the terrible profundity of her own subject, of her own textual desires. She asks, “are we traveling?” (43) and we know we are traveling through the mind, through the attempt to give language and shape to the mind, but Greenstreet admits “[a] stair is missing” (43). This is nothing new. Like my student said, “Of course it is everything at once” and it's no surprise to be missing a stair to understanding everything at once.

Still, Greenstreet is after it all. “Let us know our end. Let us know our end and the number of our days” (43). Could it be easier than this? Could Greenstreet have written about a more human subject? She is writing about desire and any reader can appreciate the complexity of such a basic thing like wanting something.


Kristen Orser is the author of Folded into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm (Greying Ghost Press); Winter, Another Wall (blossombones); Fall Awake (Taiga Press); Squint (Dancing Girl Press); and E AT I, illustrated by James Thomas Stevens (Wyrd Tree Press). She is certain about being uncertain and she might forget to return your phone calls.



Poesie der Entschleunigung: Ein Lesebuch by Robert Lax, Ed. Sigrid Hauff
(Pendo Verlag, Munich & Zurich, 2008)


Robert Lax (1915-2000) for me epitomized the legendary small-press writer whose books appeared not because a publisher thought he could make money on them or someone at a university press had enough power to get them printed but because his publishers loved Lax's profoundly innovative work.

His work's first loyal loving publisher was Emil Antonucci, a Brooklyn graphic designer whose Journeyman Press produced classic Lax chapbooks in the 1950s and 1960s. Then came Gladys Weigner and Bernhard Moosbrugger, Swiss, whose Pendo Verlag in Zurich issued modest perfectbound Lax books from the 1970s into the 1990s. This imprint has survived Moosburger's passing thanks to Sigrid Hauff, a Munich litéraratteur, who edited and introduced this new anthology of Lax's best writing-in English translation, Poetry of De-Acceleration, or Speeding Down. Hauff also wrote A Line in Three Circles. The Inner Biography of Robert Lax (Norderstedt/Germany: Books on Demand, 2007).

Though Ms. Hauff's introduction is entirely in German, all the Lax texts appear with the original English on the left-hand (verso) pages, and brilliant indeed they are, making this German book the best selection of an American poet's work. My own new favorite is not a severely minimal poem, which was Lax's forte, but a prose text titled "21 Pages," which begins: "Searching for you, but if there is no one, what am I searching for? Still you. Some sort of you. Not for myself?" Nothing known to me resembles this.

Why is it after decades of a self-congratulatory National Endowment for the Arts that so much of this first-rank innovative American writer is still published abroad? What truth is implicit in that fact?

For many years, Lax's larger books reprinted a blurb attributed only to the New York Times Book Review: "among America's greatest experimental poets, . . . the last unacknowledged-and, alas, uncollected-major poet of his post-60s generation." Crediting the NYTBR annoyed me, whose words they were, who sneaked the encomium into a 1978 review of Thomas Merton's Collected Poems. Never has anyone else connected to the NYTBR acknowledged Lax's (or most other American avant-garde) poetry. Never. That's never.

One virtue of James Harford's Merton & Friends (Continuum, 2006) is crediting me, thanks, though the book's dust-jacket mentions only the NYTBR, dammit. Otherwise, Harford's book is a charming memoir that connects the legendary Trappist Merton to his college buddies, Lax and Edward Rice. The last published the influential liberal Catholic magazine Jubilee in the 1950s and 1960s to which the others, including Moosbrugger, contributed.

This Catholic emphasis accounts for why a fourth, equally influential college buddy in Merton's circle is slighted—Ad Reinhardt, a Protestant, whose minimalist paintings were likewise concerned with higher spirituality, whose prose was as concise as Lax's.

May a respectful publisher, perhaps Continuum, someday release a book anthology remembering the best of Jubilee, which I would review, much as I'm now gladly re-reviewing Robert Lax.

This article is part of Richard Kostelanetz's PERSON OF LETTERS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD which is forthcoming via Kindle.


Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz's work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster's Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in American Art,,, and, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.