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Winter 2016

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ALTPOETICS

Winter 2016
ALTPOETIC1

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Chapbook by Francis Raven

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An Excerpt From the Chapbook:

Beginning by Spying On Cooper’s The Spy

And Ending With An Interjection from Kim

/

(Some Books I’ve Written)

By

Francis Raven

weird facts about yr neighborhood

 

so I’m reading this revolutionary war spy novel, The Spy, that takes place in Westchester county, which was a neutral ground during the war (“The county of Westchester, after the British had obtained possession of the island of New York, became common ground, in which both parties continued to act for the remainder of the war of the Revolution. A large proportion of its inhabitants, either restrained by their attachments, or influenced by their fears, affected a neutrality they did not feel.”)

 

but I don’t know much about the revolution, so I keep having to look stuff up

 

here’s the weird couple of facts: Marble Hill is politically part of Manhattan because the creek used to run north of it and there was a bridge that was important during the war, King’s Bridge (which would have been at West 230th Street) that was taken down in 1916, when the original Spuytin Duyvil Creek was filled in.  The Spuytin Duyvil Creek that’s by your crib is actually a shipping channel connecting the Hudson River to the Harlem River Ship Canal which was built in 1895.  What I’m not sure about is whether the placement of the mouth of the creek was moved…

 

 

In the neutral zone

Both sides’ irregular forces

Compete to steal

Whatever cattle are left, to plunder

swearing it

was as light as feathers.

Neutral just means chaos

In the face of a father’s final blessing.

 

 

Donald Ringe describes this demilitarized zone as a “moral wasteland where conflicting principles are at war and the only law is might…”

 

There needs to be a buffer between our intentions and the intentions of our enemy

Where we all get lost.

Click Here To Read The Entire Chapbook

Bio: Francis Raven is a Washington, D.C., based poet whose books include the volumes of poetry ARCHITECTONIC CONJECTURES: POEMS ABOUT THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT (Silenced Press, 2010), Provisions (Interbirth, 2009), Shifting the Question More Complicated (Otoliths, 2007) and Taste: Gastronomic Poems (Blazevox, 2005), as well as the novel INVERTED CURVATURES (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005). Her poems have been published in Bath House, CHAIN, Big Bridge, Bird Dog, Mudlark, Caffeine Destiny, and Spindrift, among others, and her critical work can be found in Jacket, Logos, Clamor, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, The Electronic Book Review, The Emergency Almanac, The Morning News, The Brooklyn Rail, 5 Trope, In These Times, The Fulcrum Annual, Rain Taxi, and Flak.

Poetic Statement:

My Life in Art

(my priors)

 

When I first came to art, I wanted it to be different.  I wanted it to feel absolutely strange.  I wanted it to make me feel completely different. As I’ve gotten older, songs that make me feel more like me have become much more meaningful to me

 

I have this memory of buying my first CDs: I was in 7th grade at The College School, an experimental middle school in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.  After school, I would walk down Big Bend Blvd. and walk to my friend, Elizabeth’s, house.  I don’t think we smoked pot yet, but we were close.  Actually, what I remember most was her house, a Victorian with a big wrap-around porch; I remember her porch and how we would walk down the hill to a park and read Sassy, the original Sassy, a distinction anyone of my age will recognize.  On the way to her house, I would pass Streetside Records.

 

On one trip to her house, I stopped in the store.  I didn’t know what I wanted except for a Jane’s Addiction album that I had heard Elizabeth’s sister, Rose, playing.  I bought that, but I wanted something more.  I wanted to experience the limits of human experience packaged in an easy-to-play format, which arrived, at the time, in a lengthy cardboard box.  I decided on my purchase entirely by name alone: 10,000 Maniacs, which was prominently displayed in the College Radio section (a category of music that unfortunately does not exist anymore).  Of course, I was disappointed.  10,000 Maniacs is a fine band, even really good, but they are just not about the limits of art or experience; that’s just not their shtick.  But I didn’t know that until I got home.  It was the album with Orange and Planned Obsolescence on it; both songs that I still listen to and which sound exactly like that era.  At the time, however, I had no idea that there even was such a thing as an era; youth is blissfully pre-historic.  But purchases, no matter their era, always have a way of leading to more purchases.  I didn’t necessarily have taste, but I knew what I wanted.  I wanted ecstasy in art.  And art has a funny way of wanting to be raised to the level of taste.

 

Around that time, I started reading and writing poetry; I became part of a poetry scene focused around Mokabe’s Coffee house.  I’m not sure if the poetry was any good for my age; it is still too much of its time. There was a resurgence of beat poetry, but I had no concept of such a renaissance; it was merely natural.  I stayed up all night digging on Kerouac and Lamantia and Rimbaud and Burroughs and Kabir and had no idea how anything fit with anything else.  Since I didn’t understand that I was standing in an historical moment I couldn’t see anything else as being a part of history.  It’s true, then, that the young cannot be historical materialists.  But they can feel the ecstasy of what they are experiencing.

 

I bought Patti Smith’s Horses after reading some of her poetry.  Of course, I ended up loving Patti Smith.  Just the idea that anyone could be that artistically impassioned, could be that crazy, mesmerized me.  But I also wanted the experience Michael Stipe had when he first heard her.  Stipe was an army brat who spent his high school years in Collinsville, Illinois.  Ethan Kaplan, writes of an earlier interview with Stipe where I learned of his interest in Patti: “When Stipe was 15 and in high school in St. Louis, he happened upon an issue of Creem magazine under his chair in study hall. Patti Smith was on the cover, looking like ‘Morticia Adams.’ Stipe went and bought Horses, which he claims ‘tore my limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order. I was like ‘Shit, yeah, oh my god!’ then I threw up.’”  In that instant I wanted to be Michael Stipe, not so I could be lead singer of an immensely popular band, but so that story about finding Patti Smith could be mine.  This was the story that really made me realize the power of art to transport us.

 

After a while, I became a pretty good young poet so I was blessed with some really good mentors who guided me through the history of art.  Since we only experience the present, we need others to teach us history.  This history led me through art for the next few years.

 

I am 30 now, married, sober.  I want art to be a little less strange now, a little more human.  I have gone in for the human story, for masters of the modest poetic.  I have started to welcome that human story.

The modest poetic is colored by disappointment, regret, by time passing.  Yet, it is not about living every moment as if it were your last.  It is about the choices that people make every day; that is why it is modest.  Thus, while the strange art that I loved as an 18-year-old (and which I still love now, but in a changed way) was often about the present, about the moment, about the new, the art of the modest poetic recognizes that life is long and full of consequences that matter. Thus, I want to feel more than dramatic weirdness; I want to know why I should feel this strangeness and I want to both know that others feel it too and why they feel it.

 

On my honeymoon, on Kauai, I read Updike’s Rabbit books and was moved and understood why I was moved.  That is, the story had prepared me to be moved in certain ways by character.  Updike shows the history of a disposition towards the world, which made me realize that the history of my own disposition towards the world could be understood by way of a narrative.

 

While the earlier work that I loved focused on the incomprehensibility of the moment, the later work seemed to say that the world, our choices, our lives, were understandable under the lens of a narrative.  Why has narrative become so much more important to me?  I suppose because my own life has a narrative.  I am, for better or worse, the self that made certain decisions, did certain things, read certain other things, etc.  As a 30 year old, I am no longer the sine-qua-non of my life.  I am somebody who has been some places.

 

Of course, nobody expresses the regret and hope of life better than Bruce Springsteen.  Loving Springsteen was really a turning point for me.  At first, when I was younger, he didn’t sound weird enough.  He sounded too straight, too much like somebody else would listen to him.  But then, his songs gave me stories that I could relate to; but that wasn’t really the strange part, which was that I wanted to relate to something, that relating had become important to me.

 

The increased importance of relating to others made me more empathetic in my aesthetic life.  I wanted to relate to more different ways of life, belief, and culture and I found that art was a way of doing this.  Of course, this is completely obvious, and is at least one of the main reasons that the arts are funded at all, but for me, it was a revelation that was deeply felt.  For example, I don’t know anything about football.  I’ve never played it and I don’t understand the rules.  But a show about a small town in Texas whose entire culture is completely focused on football, Friday Night Lights, sucked me in.  It is simply dramatic; nothing radical occurs, but they are human stories as they say, as I say now, as it is something I like to say now.  That is, it produced the empathy within me to care aesthetically about lives and games that in my ordinary life I would not care about.  Somehow, its emotional authenticity allowed me to recognize my own emotional life in that of the characters.  That is, it made me feel similar to others and that is what I want from art now.  I’m sure my tastes will change again, but I’m growing into these ones now.

Two Poems by Ruth Lepson

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Two Poems

by

Ruth Lepson

as if a tramp traveled along the train tracks

I listened to you in the night without a thought of myself

and the groom and the bride, night and day,

glanced shyly at each other

between the fierce winds and devil-may-care attitudes

 

if I had a thing to tell you

the end is just rain

wet endless rain

I would ask you

to soothe my brow

 

why are

dreams dark why am I

beginning to act in them with agency

 

naps, congregations, conjugations

the arrest of anticipation

all told, an improvement

 

to assuage it yet attend to another’s joy

that’s a neat trick

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The sun’s back out, better get back outside.

 

overheard:

“I didn’t want to buy anything. It’s sad when you can’t think of anything you want to buy.”

Swept the pine needles off the patio, friends coming to visit.

 

He says there isn’t going to be any winter, relax.

Bio: Ruth Lepson is poet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music. In recent years she has collaborated with musicians, and her forthcoming book, Ask Anyone, will be accompanied by musical settings of her poems on the Pressed Wafer website. Her other books are Dreaming in Color (Alice James Books), Morphology, and I Went Looking for You (Both from BlazeVOX) and she edited Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology (UIllinois). Her poems have appeared in Let the Bucket Down, Carve, SpoKe, Jacket2, Big Bridge, and many other journals.


Poetic Statement:
I can write only what I can write. Robert Creeley has been my main man, & I have learned immeasurably from him, as well as from Denise Levertov & Adrienne Rich. My conundrum is how to express emotion through sound & image in a contemporary way. These days I love Fanny Howe, Kate Greenstreet, Joseph Massey, and plenty of others—I seem to buy a book a day.

Two Poems by Vimeesh Maniyur

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Two Poems

by

Vimeesh Maniyur

Lip

Long back

He was called for making Thajmahal

A good, dirty man with talents

He Went.

One day he saw the Emperor

Heard an unknown toungue

May be he was the first in kerala

Who heard that…

It is stone not a white sun

There were no friends

In work they spoke one

They were one lettered humans

kept stone  like his letters

That day he spoke to the king

In dream… in his stone realm..

The man of palaces didnt get his stone-lip

Beheaded that kingdom

Never cameback.

Saw his rustic speech in its silence

True, It is fear not whiteness

The white geometry

As always

I looked into my android

There came a white geometry

 

Here and there roads

Here and there malls

Here and there talkies,

Hospitals, banks, A T M,

Railway station, hotels, pubs,

Café, bars, bus stand…..

Nothing but a white – haunted piece

Of barren world.

Where is this one, the road?

Hospital? Schools? army camp? Small teashops?

Loitering goats and many more….

Are they too big to map?

 

I looked again

Where I am?

 

Bio:  is an established bi-lingual poet, novelist and translator from kerala, in India. He has two volumes of poetry and a children’s novel in his credit. He has also penned stories and dramas. He has bagged for many prestigious awards such as Culcutta Malayali Samajam Endownment, Madras Kerala Samajam, Muttathu Varkki Katha Puraskaram etc. for young writers in kerala.

Three Poems by Jessica Chickering

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Three Poems

by

Jessica Chickering

Again & Again

I know your body like I my own, every muscle, tendon, freckle, atom, and before you are near
me I feel you everywhere like the wind, all encompassing.
I knew the sound of your voice before you spoke,
and in the moment our eyes met I knew that I loved you
and could not stop myself from being with you,
and could not stop my hand from reaching for yours,
and could not stop lips from finding yours,
and could not stop myself from knowing you,
as I have always and will always know you, because we are one in this moment.

The moonlight streams though exposing every ounce of your flesh like a gift.
You have been waiting and I have been waiting to find ourselves here, intertwined by a lust old
as time, animalistic and humble.
There are no words, only the beauty of the feeling of my tongue on your tongue as I explore
you again and again, (ever undiscovered and discovered and longing).
You are tuned to me, your hands make music on my body and every note that we discover
makes the birds cry out in jealousy,
And until the earth ceases to spin, and the tide ceases to rise, and the birds cease their cries, until that day we will not be apart.
For as long as I breathe, you must breathe, and as long as your heart beats, my heart must beat.

Blue Raincoat Roadside

Lighthouse limelight shines,
Cedar chest lunchbox
and weathervane wine.

Knife chopping onions,
pink watermelon
shudders in the know.

The porch boards bend and
creak under the weight
of her unleaving.

My face is her face.

Hush – when I am old,
sideways and troubled
I will absorb home,

searching my memories
for a glimpse of that light.

Tasty

Cheiloproclitic at your feet
brush, touch, taste
Cheiloprocilitic at your feet
resuscitate, breath, heat
Cheiloproclitic at your feet
pucker, suck, bite
Cheiloproclitic at your feet
lick, swoon, punch
Cheiloproclitic at your feet

Brief bio: My name is Jessica Chickering. I live in Denver, Colorado. I am 34 years. Getting old is both awesome and terrible. I hate people who say cliché things about aging. I write, (say something self-effacing about my writing followed by something redeeming). I graduated from the University of Colorado – Denver with a BA in writing and an emphasis in poetry – I pay the bills doing something that utilizes little of the talents I crafted. I have cat named Girl Kitty, I call her GK for short. I am happy to be alive.

Poetic Statement: Poetry is amazing and undervalued. This is true for so many things I find important and worthy in the world as it stands at this moment. I long for a place where I feel more at home. I feel at home in poetry.

 

Five Sonnets by John Lowther

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Five Sonnets
by
John Lowther

I never resist temptation, because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.

That will make more sense when we’re actually doing it.

This kind of judgment emanates from a hot emotional space, not from a cool intellectual one.

To whoever tagged this “gonads and strife”: Excellent.

You know, vacuum, dust, mop and help me move the furniture so I can clean behind them as well.

Certain people I imagine naked every time I see them.

Ultimately this is the only thing that interests me.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it.

*

I’m so over school.

I got my own ideas.

I like to sleep a lot.

The ethic that is never relinquished is that which embraces exploration, experiment and play.

This sentence no verb.

Clean and set this wig.

You change life for me.

If the egg sinks to the bottom, but stands on its point, it’s still good but needs to be used soon.

Nothing is possible.

You left this at mine.

Theoretically, yes.

*

You have to make retarded podcasts to keep yourself entertained because porn is so boring.

I think it depends on how much you consider humanity to be an invasive species on the earth.

Meditation on scripture is like a cow chewing its cud.

That requires a tank, and something pneumatic to run.

My life is like a glacier.

Fate doesn’t give a fuck.

Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.

As an unabashed shoe person, I gotta say that I love the blue satin pumps and am meh on the boots.

  *

 Piss off fuck face.

This is not a pipe.

We found a real gem.

I had my face done.

Get over yourselves.

You’ve eaten earwax.

Give him a blow job.

Enjoy the jewelry.

Look at her lips.

Use insecticide.

This is not rain.

A change in enunciative value is produced as a result of the new system of inscription, which because it is organized, has wide-ranging, yet regulated, effects.

Some people, though, simply do not ‘telegraph’ any information about their sexuality.

Here’s the kicker.

You should think of a lesson as a weapon in love.

 

*

 

This is my time.

In both directions at once.

I can only see the dead ends everywhere I look.

There is great disorder under heaven and the situation is excellent.

Blocking relationships are computed for local pairs of parts that are in contact with one another.

It’s a huge myth that unconditional love, or radical acceptance of someone you care about, requires you to accept them for who they are.

That’s the gist.

When in doubt, freak ’em out.

All the road signs have been pulled down.

Russian roulette isn’t the same without a gun.

Note on the Text
555, is a collection of sonnets whose creation is database-driven and relies upon text analytic software.
The frame or measure is quite mechanical. I crunched and analyzed Shakespeare’s sonnets, then divided by how many to arrive at averages for words, syllables and characters (inclusive of punctuation but not spaces). These averages (101 words, 129 syllables, 437 characters)became requirements for three groups of sonnets (185 in each).
Parallel to this I started a database for lines found virtually anywhere (though I tended to avoid poaching from poetry). Values for word, syllable and character are recorded. Typos and grammatical oddities are preserved and the lines cannot be edited, though they can be swapped out for other lines of the same value.
Line selection isn’t rule driven and inevitably reflects my reading, watching, listening and thus my slurs as much as my passions, my amusements and those things that disturb me. I espouse only the sonnets, not any one line. Some irk me, others please. Some are just off somehow. There are also intentional banalities as I think they can be made to resonate as well as horrible statements that I try to break in some fashion through context.
Sonnets are assembled using nonce patterns or number schemes, by ear, or notion, or loose association, by tense or lexis or tone. Every sonnet must match the average exactly.
The completed sonnet count as of this writing is 404. I’ll be done when all 555 make it through editing. So at the level where all this database and text analytic stuff takes place things are pretty frosty and procedural, but line selection is extremely idiosyncratic, and as the implementation is not automated inevitable mistakes creep in (which I correct if I find them). I often think of Pound’s “dance of the intellect among words” but it is less words than sentences (or units punctuated as such) amongst which I move. The dance in question tracing out a knot (rather, a gnot) that holds the lines together for me.
Poetics Statement
I’ve already said too much it seems to me, but here I go (in somewhat didactic form). All Language Is Poetry (that we do not always recognize this is due to “occlusion” otherwise known as “taking language for granted”). ALIP, a lip, All L is P, lisp. Writing from the head, by what is called “inspiration” is all well and good if that is what you desire, but we are all Systems of Low-Level Regularities (Harry Mathews), SLLR, which read upside down with bad glasses is “slurs” which works quite well doesn’t it? Just as the drunken fool tells you the same story thrice, that we are systems of low-level regularities, that we have slurs — poetic habits at the conscious and unconscious levels — requires (if one might wish to outrun these things) that we adopt other measures than inspiration with which inspiration can, perhaps, combine. Having a poetics, like having a “voice”, is something I try to stay one (or more) step ahead of. Something is following me though, I catch sight of it now and then, it means me no good. It speaks.
Bio
John Lowther co-founded the Atlanta Poets Group in 1997 and quit in 2012. The University of New Orleans Press published The Lattice Inside: An Atlanta Poets Group Anthology in 2012. Forthcoming from Lavender Ink is John and Dana Lisa Young’s book Held to the Letter. He edits 3rdness Press. He is writing his dissertation on the intersections of Lacanian psychoanalysis and queer theory with issues raised for these by transgender and intersex people. For the moment, he lives in North Carolina.