Tag Archives: books

After Overdosing on Sean Singer

Reading Discography by Sean Singer in class this month. I was going through his book and also his stuff on From the Fishouse (AN AMAZING LINK TO SOME SWEET HONEY, GO ENJOY THAT SHIT), and I realized that this dude was blowing my head off. HE IS INSANELY GOOD. I couldn’t even hang on to some of the language he was pulling off in his work, but a week later his lines are still rattling around in my head, particularly from my favorite, “Echolocation”:
“Into a dustbowl of annihilation the rotating head/seizes its empire of blood; a storm collapses each/mouse bone as the threnody of rain crushes the air.”
But he also has a Robert Johnson poem that puts mine to SHAAAME because of the line “Doping doping all through the grape night.” LIKE. AAAAHHH.
His knowledge of jazz and blues, travel and history and his exercises in self-persona construction are amazing. So I stayed up til about 2 reading everything I could find on him and trying to soak up his tone and voice for a second. I wanted to try on his style for myself in a piece, so here’s what I came up with. Anything I do pales in comparison to his prowess though–I guess this is just a little shoutout to him for taking my skull on a walk last week. CHECK. HIM. OUT.

After Overdosing on Sean Singer

I close against this cobalt
wall of insomnia,
unforgiving in its grind.
Meanwhile
an ocean rolls off a distant ridge—
slow dope-draw of traffic
to the hypoderm
at my temple, the thinnest veil
bearing the heart’s starved
hypoxia, its
drag and ratamacue.
Meanwhile
Singer slips another
line down the gyri: jazz and
its hawkish homology
making another loop—
he wishes I were an onion
so I can feel his thumb
peel my layers.

Meanwhile
the water trembles
over, too much at the glass-rim,
darkens in ominous polygons
on my carpet—some cartography
of the dreams ahead: jaws
and cheeks and shuttering lids
rising like the hedron
in the eight-ball—what
waits in the smalt-wash
of these indigo visions
and sleepless strokes?
Meanwhile
I’ll theorize about the sounds
the animals make in my walls,
scratching wider passages
through the plaster,
their empires of arteries
pushing work in the dark.
Their bodies will fold
into some appropriate
hugeness, like how
the cavern of my mouth
cradles the bite-bruised
petal of my tongue.

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ekphrasis–my faaaave.

here are a couple of ekphrastic pieces for class. one is an ekphrastic piece based on henry ossawa tanner’s the banjo lesson, which is BEAUTIFUL.
the second is based on the life and work of david foster wallace. his 2006 commencement speech has been mentioned elsewhere as the inspiration for some of my recent work…i thought delving into his life a little would be interesting as well. i was not disappointed, but i hope my poem does him a little justice.

The Banjo
Inspired by the painting The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner

In this body there is so much pain,
can you hear it? Carried over from far-off
sea-coasts, its name dreaming of a lost lingual
land, the banjo leans into your lap, remembering
its polyrhythmic history. Your fingers find
the long paths of gut and copper, learning
to clawhammer and dropthumb, to strum
the arpeggio notes of knock-down rag ditties,
to pluck tones of the cooleset blues.
What are words to you, what is this song
you stumble to pump through your young lungs?
Against me, you are so small—a warm, beating
body as alive as the too-big organ in your arms.
Steadying the neck like a tiller, my hands
are scuffed leather and weathered wood,
resolute granite nobly crumbling back
into the land that bore me. I will guide you
over heaving seas and rolling drones,
deliver you to the truest tunes. My baby,
open your ears to the yowl yawning
through the stretched-hide drum face,
an echo resonating beyond our circling
of elbows, wrists and thighs—
to that trembling note singing deeper
than the dull twang of age and land,
bowed faces and broken hearts.

Hibernation
For David Foster Wallace

A boy from Ithaca, you knew the white walls
of snow ridges and ranges, heavy quilts
of frozen water weighing you down
as you scissored angels into the drift sides.
You were the best of them, hurling hunks
of ice from rusted car bumpers in the farthest
arcs to the point of exhaustion—burning
deltoids, numb fingers, collapsed lungs.

You followed your father to his alma mater
and aced modal logic, philosophy, mathematics—
they worshipped you. Summa cum laude,
postmodern novelist, they diagnosed you
‘a brilliant ironist,’ ‘the voice of a generation,’
earnest, intelligent, clinically depressed.

Your brain enslaves you while drugs fight
to free you: Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Tofranil,
in combination with unilateral ECT
(during a two-week voluntary in-patient course),
Parnate both with and without lithium salts,
Nardil both with and without Xanax. What

goes on inside is too fast and huge
and all interconnected for words to do more
than sketch the outlines. You want to stop
moving through your rounds: booking tours
and deadlines, bills and banking—your default
setting of solitude in a sea of humans.

From your window in Claremont, severed
from the manic pull of verbal calisthenics
and the avant-garde—of topping your keystone
with another crown—you have a vision
of a blue hole in a northeastern snowbank
where your body can rest; sleep off the hardest part,
dream, awaken later to tackle reality.

In the sling of your homemade noose, you slipped off
every fear of failure like icepacks pressing
into your skull, hard, cold, too heavy to bear.
It was easier to drift into deeper sleep than
stay awake in the winter of a writer in demand.
In your chest, the language was so barren, so tired.
You saw so little left. You had to conserve.

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what do we call poetry? an experiment.

I was writing this paper on a book of poems by Hafez of Shiraz, this mad Sufi bloke (he is so good, you should read some of his stuff). As I looked down the table of contents, I felt like each title was chosen as a line in a poem all its own. Does anyone ever notice that? Anyways, I decided to play with the titles a little, and created this. But that leads me to the following question: Is this poetry, the simple act of rearranging lines already forged by another hand? In one way, this is slightly plagiaristic. In another, its a re-conceptualization. Do I have artistic license here? Or am I just being lazy in pointing out something poignant that existed outside of me?
Anyways, it looks and reads kinda cool. Maybe I just want someone else to notice that.

The Subject Tonight is Love:

Forgiveness is the Cash
At This Party
Why All This Talk
In a Handful of God
Because of Our Wisdom
We Keep Each Other Happy
This Place Is Where You Are Right Now
In a Tree House
We Are a Couple of Barroom Sailors
No Other Kind of Light
You Say, I Say
Where Do You Think We Will Be?
The Day Sky
Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds
I Knew We Would Be Friends
That Sounds Wonderful
Your Shape of Laughter
Something I Have Learned
Narrow the Difference
The Small Table of Time and Space
The Happy Virus
The Wonderful Lawlessness
They Call You to Sing
Your Medicine
It Happens All the Time in Heaven
I Saw You Dancing
Absolutely Clear
Carrying God
Deepening the Wonder
Join Me in the Pure Atmosphere
Playing the Brilliance
And Acting So Cool
Just Sit There
A Suspended Blue Ocean

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Spring Break breaks the Writer’s Block

I have not written in a long time. Months, probably. But now that spring break has arrived and I’ve had more time to think, I thought I’d try my hand at some ideas that have been bouncing around in my head the past few months:

The Russian Firebird
Oranges
Kerouac
Mexican alabrijes

I’m kinda happy with the piece I cranked out tonight: a poetic rendition of Kerouac’s On the Road. If I can’t travel this break, why not go vicariously through the word?

Mexico City

Your feet came slapping up the weather-shined
wooden stairs in those dusty huaraches, the beat
bending with the sound of locust calls and rattling
train cars speeding away from us to San Antonio.

I don’t know how you got me here.
The memory folded up and tucked itself inside
dysentery delirium, where I shuddered and sweated
on a cotton bed roll while the cannabis and whores
streamed through our loft in an endless haze.

Oh, I needed this rabble and its coal-black depths,
needed it to fill the space where my grape-picking wife
fell out, needed it to wash over me in waves stained
with tobacco and mosquito corpses and falling stars.

But before that, there was a ’37 Sedan
with broken headlights screaming through Colorado,
a dreamless place full of card games and baseball—
that place was not for us, sleepless as we were

with our itch for the road, the bracken culverts
of the Midwest in which we laid our bum-hearts
down, the raging parties and the Zen lunatics
and the mad poetry and the jazz, jazz, jazz.

But things are stiller now. Here in the stale wake
of illness I watch you at the window, a caricature
of Roosevelt or Gotama or God. You scuff your sandals
on the red dusk of Mehico, light you cigarette and tell me

you’re shoving on. I thought this hot, flat sprawl
of swampland was the end of all roads for us, the glorious
frenzy of not-being-but-doing. But you’re headed to Frisco,
and as the sun drops behind Sierra Madre, I pray
I make it back to Jersey before the car falls apart.

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Encore: Tetrameter

Back in class. We were given an unofficial prompt to try our hand at syllabic accentual verse, which I really enjoyed the last time I tried it–so much so that I got published because of it. Now having a special soft spot for tetrameter verse, I thought I’d give it another try.
I’m also trying to write from both research and real life this time: Myopic Bookstore in Wicker Park, Chicago. It was a beautiful place for a nerd like me…and also the subject of some cool research (blindness, evil eyes, bookbinding, wicker park, etc.).
Soak it in.

Myopic Bookstore

In the heart of Wicker Park, stacked
among the packed-in, peeled-paint
panorama of boutiques and bars,
it sits like a stiff novel
stuffed away despite its stressed
seams. Its name is an apotropaic charm
like a Turkish nazar, the ‘lucky eye’—
fending off the curse of shattered
sight, where sand-shards of light
ebb away from the brainstem
through the leaky sieve of the optic line:
a fate worse than death for these bleary,
nearsighted owls, bemused
buyers bending for books bundled
like sleeping children in their bed-shelves,
oblivious to the clanking clamor of cars
rattling railway tracks. This labyrinth
literary mine holds collapsing couches
and black-lacquered catwalks
where a calico cat walks king.
Down these depths we dive,
the ladders to the rafters pulling us up
the slopes of eight hundred thousand
tomes, their seismic lines of poetry
and prose guideposts on the climb.
The aisles creak, hawking their wares:
“Mystery in the basement, enlightment upstairs,
and around you the incense of leather,
vinyl, buckram, glue and the sacred
must of uncracked spines and strummed
sheets. On the street, hipsters sit
astride their rides, legs locked
into a bike-chain glide and crushing
their cigarettes into ashy enterprises. Above
an arabasque eye with a dragon-tail
crest watches over the packed-in,
peeled-paint panorama
of boutiques and bars, beating back
another blink as amber lamps
leap onto the streets, and light limps
mournfully away from its misfiring sight.

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GOT INTO CANVAS YEEUH (and more poems)

So they decided to add Agua Honda into the FALL 2010 EDITION OF CANVAS. Hollabackk. Do you recall that piece of literary GENIUS? Well, you should.

In other news, here are a bunch more poems to keep you entertained…I would have updated sooner but I had binnez to take care of, being a published writer and all.

PROMPT: Write a poem from the point of view of an inaimate object. What would it think if it had a soul?

I’ve decided–fishbowls would be the nihilists of the material world. Such emptiness…

The Existential Crisis of a Fish Bowl

What happens to you when,
after so many days of living with
so much weight, you find everything
inside of you has died? Free-floating
fish, you were my anchor, my fixation
of all points within, flowing through
my liquid conscious. I was so still
for you, careful not to spill your
fragile flame from my basin.
When they came to me, they looked
through, into the jewel-bright
treasures my fluted flanks and
generous hips held. Oh anguish,
the day your essence was scoured
out of my depths, leaving me empty
again. How can I express my disarray?
I am a dying lung, hollow and brittle,
gasping and gaping as you did in your
final moments. I wish for the water
once more—what’s the point
of being so light? The only thing
that comes through me now is
the sun, pale and timid, shattering
into a spectrum of colored confusion
as it passes through this void.

PROMPT: Write a poem incorporating a weird/true fact and a familiar saying.

Bayt al-Hikma

After the Mongol hordes washed in waves
over the streets of Baghdad, treading
through the cobbled streets crooked and red
with trails of blood, they tore the library down
to broken stones and flung the tomes
thick and sturdy into the Tigris with flumping
splashes of paper and water. The river ran black
as the knowledge lifted away from its pages
and bled from the bloated bodies, the spines
splitting into the ether of waterlogged decay,
currents clearing words away in swift strokes.
When the sodden sheets fluttered down in drifts
to the river bottom, the silt scrubbed the last
of the pen scratches from paper in swipes
as easy as the clearing of memory. Can you
imagine the shining stream of obsidian cutting
through the ravaged land, mournful as the caliph’s
cry? Reaching through the depths, they could not
wade into the same book twice. Rambling
over the lands, the library slurred into a stream
of babble, languages lost in a raging rush of ignorance,
flashing like the swing of a jealous conqueror’s
flail. If they could, they would have collected
those ribbons of onyx like pearls of wisdom,
stringingthe lessons history taught into beads
of prayer, reminding themselves of the many
names that give shape to grief: stones slick
from the inky-smooth swirl of a turgid current.

I have another on for all y’all, but it’s too rough to reveal yet. Definitely not in my typical style, either…a prose poem describing a fantastic/surreal event. We’ll see how this goes.

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Filed under Canvas, New Writing, Poetry, Published, Unedited, Unpublished