Monday, October 23, 2006

Publishing Blues

It is a curious fact that my own poetry will see print in Russia, and possibly Argentina, before it will in America. Of course, the reasons for this are obvious --I haven't submitted anything in the states. When asked why I don't submit I kind of mumble around the question. I think the question "Does anyone need pay for my writing?" has something to do with it.

Also, when I worked as a stacks jockey at a university library I had my favorite, and least, favorite sections. One of my least favorite was the PR section. Sure it started innocent enough with some Chaucer and Shakespeare criticism, moving smoothly onto Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, but it ended in the Canadian literature section --a stacker’s worst nightmare. There was no free space on the shelves. This created a disarray of small paperbacks, which were placed horizontally on top of other books, strewn on the ground, or simply put on adjacent shelves. There was a lack of space, and every time I shelved the end of the PR's there were always new books that were magically supposed to fit on the crowded shelves. And what were these books? Many of them were poetry collection put out by small presses. Conceptual poetry with clever covers, books dedicated to Egon Schiele paintings, a Sahara village's struggle against the encroaching desert, a hip coming of age story that bridged the gap between...

The experience of the PR's made me think twice about publishing. Now this isn't to say that I'm a potential Kafka keeping his talents from the world because of post-library stress syndrome, but I wonder if there are great writers out there not publishing for this reason. Maybe a 23 year old Joyce is pushing americanos thinking "better this than the stacks."

Here is a novel about the workshop:

And Richard Foreman's blog:

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I feel this image represents me quite well when it comes to writing something substantive about contemporary young Russian poetry. More on this later. But for the moment I would like to direct you to the exchange about Mayakovsky on Ron Sillman's blog:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


God it’s hot outside. Just twenty minutes ago I was twenty minutes away from home. Now I am here. But I am not me am I? Because I was there, and how could I be there and here simultaneously? I often think about this; that the person typing this can’t possibly be the person who typed the previous sentence, because how could I be typing both at the same time. W.V. Quine talks about squares of time. Parts of time with parts of rabbits, stages of rabbits… Was it Quine? Well, everyone has heard the term time-space or is it space-time? Whatever it is “I” cannot inhabit all this space-time, if I could then I would be immortal, omnipresent –God. And I am not God.
When I walked to get my film I noticed a girl crossing the street in front of me. I crossed with her, behind her. She had headphones on, which reminded me that I too had headphones and wouldn’t mind listening to the news. I have an FM transmitter in my mp3 player.
So when I crossed the street I took out my player, and put in the headphones. At this time the girl had stopped for some reason. Then just as I began walking, she began as well, still in front of me. We walked for several blocks. I was walking to get my film. She turned the corner and I followed her, i.e. this was the direction of the photo shop. She then walked into the parking lot the store was in. It was as if we were going to the same place. “Strange,” I thought, “Gunman takes several hostages in Amish school killing three and wounding several others,” said the news woman. “Several others,” I thought, “That’s pretty vague. Are they still trying to figure out who exactly was injured by the gunmen and who just ran into the wall in a flight of panic? And wouldn’t that flight of panic still be the result of the gunman and count as an injury caused by him? That’s the problem with the liberal media these days. They can’t take a direct stand on anything, not even the number of causalties caused by the paranoid delusions of an Amish man. What could be easier to take a stand on? Who could possibly object if the final count was a little off?”
She walked into the coffee shop right before the photo shop. I picked up my photos. They were bad. Most of them were of a kitchen sink and dirty dishes. One was of a ceramic coffee cup with marks of lipstick, another was of a dirty pot, another of the same ceramic cup in the dirty pot, the next distinguished itself from the previous by showing a blurred fly sitting on the rim of the pot, etc. I didn’t remember taking the photos, but I could imagine myself in a sudden wave of romantic appreciation for the simple things in life, taking twenty black and white photos of my brother’s dirty dishes. Mr. Cheng, the photo clerk, didn’t say anything when I handed him the new twenty dollar bill for his service. He silence embarrassed me. I imagined him looking over the photos to see if they turned out, rolling his eyes, and sighing. I wondered how many attempts at art this man has witnessed. But the subject of the photo shack operator has been scrapped by many authors before me. I’ll leave that one alone.
I have to admit that even though the photos themselves were terrible, despite the fact that I felt embarrassed for spending $10.78 to get them developed; the photos made me smile. They were simple, or just bad, but the person who took them really thought that at that moment the most beautiful thing in the world was a sink full of dirty dishes. I have noticed, as I grow older, that these moments become fewer and fewer. The romantic lens through which I saw the world at the age of 19 has been dirtied, and scratched, taken off, and forgotten. The lens I used now was better, it could do more things, represent the world in a more accurate way, but something was lost. As I thought about this metaphor I realized that I knew almost nothing about photography, and started to question whether someone who was a photographer would find my lens metaphor naive, or simply wrong.
I thought back to when I was 19. I didn’t have a girlfriend, and was constantly crashing on someone’s couch (I have to thank Paul and Sara for being particularly generous with their blankets and beer). My love life culminated in an unrequited infatuation with a girl who worked the check-out counter at the university library. But I truly did love her. Every piece of my space-time corpuscles knew it. I loved her so much that it didn’t even matter that she didn’t love me back. I could never love anyone that way again, not even her.
Of course, this sort of denial can be dangerous. For instance, my infatuation taught me how to maintain the course even when the course was obviously a really bad one. In future relationships this cost me dearly. I would show up on the door step of a girls house in the middle of January without calling, to have her new boyfriend answer the door and give me one of those “So you’re that guy” looks. I maintained the course time and time again when the course time and time again, and although this may be an admirable quality in a general or president it’s just plain pathetic when applied in courtship.
At at 22 I finally learned what most people learn at 16 –just because you love someone doesn’t necessarily mean that they will love you back. Or the revised version: Just because someone loved you in October doesn’t mean they are going to love you five months later on Valentine’s Day.
It is also at this age that I began to “change the lens” so to speak. I realized that I could sleep with someone and not have a strong emotional attachment. I learned that people really do want to be lied to, and that a little basic courtesy will get you a lot farther than a random act of kindness. As I learned these rules (which seemed to just be programmed into most people) I also felt my romantic ambitions begin to wear and fade. Suddenly I didn’t feel comfortable crashing on someone’s couch, eating strangers’ food, doing their dishes, and leaving a poem on their kitchen table with a basket of fruit I picked on my walk around the neighborhood. I slowly stopped giving people burned cds and books, and began picking up the tab.
Now looking back I realized that at the age of 19 I had sustained (maybe for too long) an approach to life that is completely impractical, pathetic, and well, magical. I was completely enamored with things like the changing of leaves. I could come to tears sitting under a tree thinking about photosynthesis while listening to Bill Evans or a solo by John Coltrane. What happened? Is it true that knowledge leads to disillusionment, and that not only does ignorance mean bliss, but also reverence and love?
I stood there on the corner looking intently at a blurry black and white close-up of an ant crawling along a spoon. “With elections just a month away how do you think voters are going to react to this new set of allegations? Well, Ron…” I turned off the radio and found a guilty pleasure –Kid A by Radiohead. I remembered the girl at the check-out desk that told me to listen to the album more carefully. I decided that instead of going grocery shopping, like a responsible adult, I would just get a burrito and read Eugene Ostashevsky’s Iterature instead of the articles for the translation seminar.
I got in line at the restaurant and noticed the girl from the street. She was standing in front of me. I studied her intently until she looked at me and seemed a little surprised. She turned around a little nervous and I remembered how I was accused of being a stalker when following around the girl at the check out desk, or another girl after a party. I smiled to myself, almost giggled. I’d done it again. I realized that looking at someone, paying attention to someone, loving them, is not something a person can just do –you need permission to love a person. A person isn’t a tree or a sink full of dirty dishes –a person doesn’t necessarily want to be loved or appreciated; most of the time a person just wants to be left alone. I guess this is why libertarians do so well, even though they are actually bad for the people who vote for them. On the surface everyone just wants to be left in their own world –to be allowed to exist like an autonomous city state. And it is only when we want something from someone, be it a few bucks or a hug, that we turn our attention outward.
I watched the girl make her order. When the cashier asked the girl to stay or go she hesitated, and then almost glancing over her shoulder she decided to stay. She took her number and sat down at a small table in the corner of the dim restaurant. I ordered a vegetarian burrito, but saw the cashier mark chicken. “Ve-gi-ta-ri-an,” I said slowly. “Que?” I blushed as I always do when I am confronted with my complete ignorance of Spanish. The girl looked at me from her corner. “That one,” I pointed to the little check box next to the word “vegetarian”. “Stay or go?” I glanced over at the girl, who was now reading. For some reason I was convinced she knew Spanish. She looked up and then quickly looked down at her book. “Stay or go, Sir?” “Go,” I said.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Master and Margarita

I recommended The Master and Margarita to S. (individual in picture)... You should all read it. I just finished the new russian film adaptation of the novel. It is rather silly -the black vodka drinking tom cat Bigimot is a puppet that reminded me of the one used in ALF. Also, OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism (1926-1942)is finally out from Northwestern University Press;including writings from Kharms, Vvedensky, Zabolotsky, Oleinikov, Lipavsky, Druskin; edited by Eugene Ostashevsky; co-translated from Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich, with Ilya Bernstein, Tom Epstein, and GenyaTurovskaya. It's not cheap, but it is a long awaitedrevelation (revolution?).You can check it out asfollows....<>

Sunday, October 01, 2006

400 Words

also read a story about someone else on this site
we do not have enough personal accounts from the strange live's of ordinary people.

Poem #3

I know he said that it has past
but we have been walking for 25 years now
and I still haven’t seen M. or Jack

we have left the proper amount of stones at each pass
the animal skin burned at the end of each month
the fifth season a time of fasting

my night, sleeping
I lean over to your breaths
my name written on your forehead

the dissolved ocean takes my children
who cautiously walk along the sandy cliffs
in the mornings

the garrets ark
the nameless drunk who calls us God
fucking our daughters while we walk

singing his bard
counting saturn’s rings
pressing that horn to his chapped lips

when we began
my shadow
fell like a wingless bird on the needles

now I possess only these words
these ballads
that I carry naked with this pile of tribal taboos

By S. Izenberg

Robot Poetry