Like, um, Rocktober, yeah!

Wreaking tough licks like Rocktober,
like a rubber rat, its brain in a vat,
is reeking through her hell. Like
Her thang's got like six vibrant dolors
like fishy nettles stuck to a whale.
Her deathishness, like summer hoses,
smells like olden milk goo spray.
She touches us all like post-Virgin Mary or Brenda
Walsh, like she points at us each day
like a Loch Ness of the morning.
What she points to really isn't like a Frosty shake.
That guy there he isn't like the brightest hue
but she chooses him for her delight. So I was like
Rocktober! Rocktober! O so like, rockingful,
clothed in dearthly-like hues. O Rocktober!
No wonder how like we must so often
skank like when we finish all the booze.


The Dirtiest Poetry Joke In Human History

(No poets were harmed in the making of this joke.)

A guy walks into a literary agent's office and says, "I write poetry."

The literary agent says, "Sorry fella but I don't sign poets. Poetry doesn't sell as you know. And poets, well frankly, they're all drunk psychotics rambling nonsense no one really wants to read anyway."

And the guy says, "hey wait just a second. I think you'll quickly see we're very different."

The guy talking to the literary agent kicks the door wide open and in come a line of poets one after the other. But they don't look like typical poets exactly but more like priests. XJ Kennedy, Mark Jarman, Bill Baer, Donald Justice, and Howard Nemerov come streaming in. We are able to identify who they are only because each of them is wearing a tag saying "Hello My Name Is" with his name. And together they begin intoning Elizabethan sonnets in unison. Each of them is holding a lit candle walking slowly with head hanging low as if in solemn walking meditation. The atmosphere is undoubtedly heavy with importance.

As these poets of a new order intone their grand ancient and lofty poems, in come three exceedingly huge and dignified elderly gentlemen, all dressed in white robes, stark white one might say, with the exception of the "Hello my name is" tags needed to truly distinguish them. It's Kent Johnson, Ron Silliman, and Bill Knott, and together they're riding the corpse of mummified Queen Elizabeth like it's a cross between an aircar and a surfboard. The corpse of Queen Elizabeth is shining and painted in gold leaf and has a loudspeaker in the middle of the torso amplifying the equally gilded verse. We know the corpse is Queen Elizabeth because the corpse is wearing a "Hello My Name Is" tag. If the poets preceeding them seem important then in comparison these poets appear to be no less than kings of the highest worldly order. And so the three Elizabeth-men all join in the solemn incantation of the most noble and lofty verse ever written in all of human history, in the purset tones of God's own Iambic Pentameter. Everyone within earshot is overwhelmed with awe and left breathless. It is as if the whole universe is panting.

And so the literary agent says, "Wow you are all great, just marvelous! I gotta say, you know, this isn't like most poetry. This stuff, it could really really sell. And you're all so, well, you're all so well-behaved! I could call Oprah for God's sake. You know what I'm thinking? This is the making of a new anthology. I can see it now, college classrooms everywhere across America, every student with a copy. And their children and grandchildren, each with the latest edition, united with Oprah viewers everywhere. We'll make thousands!"

The agent then pauses for a second.

"What do you call yourselves?"

"The New Formalists."

And then suddenly Kasey Mohammad bursts in through the door, wearing a red robe and grand papal hat, carrying a blowtorch, also wearing a "Hello my name is" tag, and he shouts, "NO you assholes NOOOOOO! We're the fucking School of Quietude! Oi!"


revival song, or, how the song does not remain the same

- for david applegate

between the myth of the saber tooth tiger
and the book of Heavenly Highway Hymns

between the primal flight from danger
and the modern flock to hope

is a sheet thrown over a windshield
someone's neighbor steaming on a pavement

for the story has not changed
nor the singers not a bit

just the tunes and how we blow
the wind's still beating on us to go

those sirens say they sing no song
just the flash of teeth insisting we stay
I was just about to post a poem
about how the threat of death oddly begs us to persist
that glorious hope is as much a sham
as is the myth that we are formed from fleeing tigers
and then i read this post from you
saying what i was trying to say densely
you more eloquently

i agree it's naive this belief in limitlessness
(alan you did not invent this belief so this is not an attack on you)
desperation expressed in phenomenology
and it's now deeply embedded embedding deeper and deeper

another truth is far more fucked up
as fucked up as what i've witnessed, that we invite our suffering
that it may be an essence of our persistence
it isn't the ancient act of running from tigers keeping us around
giving way to the modern man no longer threated by tigers
moving from the avoidance of threat to the engagement of reward
that the most positive of us find the most rewards
but rather
the same thing has always been maintained
the engagement of threat
we might not have tigers but we damn sure do have car wrecks
and we don't praise the lord to the flashing lights and the sirens
and flashing teeth, whether the saber tooth, the mouth of the jagged
broken windshield, or even the flashing white teeth of a smile
we don't run
we are compelled to stay
we just keep chaning our tune as we go
the tune just helps us wash it down
the stench the stink the release


Linh Dinh's Five Things

Linh Dinh gave me his five things little known about himself. He reasonably declined to tag five more people. Linh's early book, Drunkard Boxing, was an early inspiration for my own existence. He and his wife, Diem Bui, live in Philadelphia.

Linh writes,

-Before college, I was a basketball freak, not watching but playing. My nickname on the court was the Rice Man, believe it or not, after George Gervin's the Ice Man.

-My wife is a cashier at the Dollar Store, at a shopping mall in Philadelphia

-I was a house and office cleaner for 3 years. I cleaned and did laundry for a few students at the University of Pennsylvania, where I now teach (one course).

-my first published writings were art criticism. I wrote art reviews, curated a show at Moore College called Toys and Incense (1994), and was critic-in-residence at Art in General in NYC.

-With a friend, I rented a house for $50 a month in 1985, in the Greys Ferry section of Philadelphia. It was more shell than house. Just think of Eraserhead and you'll get an idea of how we lived.

I'd add the uncommon fact that Linh prefers not to listen to recorded music. He does not own any device that might play any recorded music, preferring only live music.

Thanks Linh. Check out the blog on which he participates and read more about him here.


response to Noah Cicero's "WRITING AND A PERSONALITY" blog post

yeah you need at least one personality, sure
but don't kid yourself
you don't need your own
or anyone else's for that matter

comparing a senseless working stiff to a personality-filled writer
like comparing a corpse to a clown

i mean the corpse is boring and smells quite a bit
but you'll treat it respect for eternity
you'll just leave the clown at the circus

the original crack smoker in delphi she coulda told you that when she was hunkered down in her cave
but she was busy speaking on behalf of apollo

the cult of the author in the modern era is nothing but a crass byproduct of the need for intellectual property
so that printers could borrow money from banks to buy presses
something had to be collateral
why not the writing?

no one knows who homer was (or who homer were, really) and it's completely irrelevant to anyone except in the people magazine set

the idolators

the idols came after people forgot to speak


"good" and "bad"

A response to Kasey's post:

There's a big difference between being able to categorize a poem as "good" or "bad," having & using criteria for performing such a categorization, having & using explicit criteria for performing such a categorization, and having a rigid set of necessary and sufficient criteria for performing such a categorization. The moment we categorize we're not all suddenly Aristotle.

We all categorize unexplicitly on so many dimensions rather regularly. No, constantly. We are more than a little bit like difference engines, at least when it comes to using words. The fact that these categories may actually have facets is usually completely remote to our realm of reflection. And we don't care. Behind the button we click there's a lot of stuff going on, but the button does the work for us without bogging us down in tedium each time. And if we get to the realm of poetry where we require of ourselves an explicit set of requirements for being either good or bad, we usually can use some of them and often use them flexibly. Unless, of course, we are trying to impress our friends with the severity of our personal Victorianisms. We don't lose too much sleep over whether a platypus is a mammal or not or whether it requires its own class.

So go ahead, call one poem "good" and another "bad." Let yourself go. Be free. There are some incredibly complex if not intelligent things going on in the background, so you're really not as dumb as you may seem to yourself and others when doing so. And you're a heck of lot less tiresome in the process.

Otherwise, Kasey, you're going to be stuck with the tedious chore of explaining exactly why Maya Angelou's poems are bad in a way that is consistent with an explicit and consistent ontology of good and bad poetries. I would really hate to see you put yourself through such a painful set of requirements for talk. I can willingly accept the truthiness of your aesthetic judgments. I can't really accept Kant or Aristotle as role models, however. They're just so, well, ridiculous.

Agreeing to disagree

I was more or less hoping for a paintball match between Ron Silliman and Reginald Shepherd. This reasoned discussion stuff lacks that musk of virility television and blogs find difficult to reproduce. I was dreaming of the impossible made real and then I noticed Ron agreed to disagree and so too did Reginald.

When disagreeing poets should stick to disagreement. Stick to disagreement, or else lapse into pretending you are diplomats of some poetic nation. But let's face it. There are no poetic nations, or for that matter, no poetic continents, states, counties, towns, tribes. No movements, no schools, even. There are only cliques and sociopaths. Neither cliques nor sociopaths ever really represent anything except personal agendas with varying degrees of tolerance for loneliness. Queen bees all around. Cliques almost never produce anything of any quality as they're almost always bound by apoetic pretenses and obligations, compromised from the start, and sociopaths spend way too much time stinging themselves, compromised at the end. While it may seem that the sociopath may be better off, the true lesson of the fool is that, while acting more like the fool thus concluding he is the lesser fool, is that really is at least as big a fool as the worst of fools.

Yes paintball I say. For if there is nothing in poetry but sociopaths and cliques, then poetry is essentially a redneck enterprise. All poets reside in the sticks. Where they like to play paintball.

Let's disagree, then, and maybe maintain an honest level of unreasonableness when doing so. Stick to our redneck roots. And more paintball, and more musk.


I've been tagged by Andy Gricevich to write five little-known things about me. All of the following are entirely true despite the otherwise fictional nature of my being.

1. While my surfaces seem somewhat inspired by the internet age, my guts as a mindless seer predate the Old Testament. Leviticus warns against my type as evil, yet the Greeks thrived on individuals of my sort (e.g., the Delphic Oracle).

2. As Lester the dummy I was at first operated by one poet but later a second poet became a part of me as well. Everything about me is really about "me."

3. My "great book" as Ron Silliman referred to Be Somebody in comparing it to Moby-Dick, edited by parties as diverse as a HarperCollins marketing guru Suzie Sisoler as well as genius CA poet Standard Schaefer, will finally be released this year by Effing Press over seven years after it was first drafted. Some but certainly not all of its ideas relating to information retrieval and language manipulation have in the intervening time been poached by lesser and less scrupulous poets. What do I think of the book? One of the most innovative books of poetry since Jack Spicer'sAfter Lorca.

4. In only my second public reading, at Todd Sandvik's Blue Door reading in Carrboro, NC (the first was for a reading series in Brooklyn in 2001), Mr. Silliman, who was in attendance, exclaimed mysteriously that "Gary Sullivan would be jealous."

5. I've had several fan polaroids taken of me meeting renowned porn stars at various strip clubs in Austin TX. I have not seen any of those polaroids in six years. If you find any, please let me know.

I hereby tag five people to tell five things about themselves many people don't know about them: Linh Dinh, Reb Livingston, Scott Pierce, Fred Stutzman, and Rodrigo Garcia Lopes.


Hans von Slicedoff, Our Patron Saint of the Flogspot

from Hans von Gersdorff's Feldtbuch der Wundartzney : newlich getruckt und gebessert, found in the NLM's Historical Anatomies on the Web site