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
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.
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.
My Life in Art
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.
Matina L. Stamatakis
(with KJP Garcia)
– kept aside
while sweeping from cell
driven back to center
-clarified edges exposed
as indefatigable limitations
* * *
of infinite spaces
rapt in lush circuitry
in the tumult
* * *
for every longing
evolution / sin / violence
purity + deeds
* * *
[a doomed conception]
of alien sentience ─
throat spilling-out accursed
ejectamenta (im)pulse, a quiver
* * *
:all – foreign to imminent
of thrust – throb – set
aside with missteps
of speech yet to attain (a)trophied silence
* * *
incommunicable language ─ exasperating
shape of open
mouths─ illusion’s desperate
trigonometry // a priori: as tongue, refracted
[un]wavering crux, thus Being
* * *
humble rivets – know trivial confusion for slack of steel
. time bends light with/in gravity’s tru(e)st
stains are false brands stubborn – undisturbed by wash and play
= only age (befri)ends ultimate options
e +/- legibility
* * *
the mind’s errata,
cognition: a synaptic labyrinth ─disappears between
oceans of membrane [un]familiar portals in a dream
mechanized & extraterrestrial
only exists in/complete
* * *
nothing(ness) posesses an indisputable perfection
corridors are heavens between disconnective voids – space unto space
of emptiness is resemblance – in likeness is always an image cast
to describe is to steal details from abstract almosts
equal = equal – alone
all + one
together is own make up of parts formed from (a)maze[me(a)nt] to be
* * *
synthesis── needs flesh expect no answer ──depend on distances/instances
breathing tomorrow comes knowledge
& question rearranging patterns of usual places
displaced in con/text + elements + soft texture
obscured [by] teeth
sensors behind senses
sense[less] // structures set up to collapse
* * *
what detach meant was to say – give it time. and it is standing in for what?
it detache(s/d) from meaning, past occurrence, infinitives, speech
. in future’s tutorials examples, systems, and designs are ennobled unseen gases kept under bell jars filling in for(eign) core responses of familiarity disjointed observed
insistent upon bonds broken in death and half-life
* * *
a dimming beacon, this half-life, a cling to improbable senses wavelengths bodies
endless exploration of dire conditions─ volition, non-present & all the wilder, studying it
through liquid air, its immortality only a mortal mark on blue matter──dissolution, suddenly
emblazons it──aether disperses corporeal space, the observed half-life radiates a permanent
dystopia, detach//collapse: organs wild flowers malfunctioning & uncertain── wet
as nothing, nihil in its skin calls to speech through the bell jar, hollowed-out ghost-air
abyssal [ as endless] algorithms
* * *
inches gamed – gained
askew – a slant measured in available degrees
– misfired on demand – on target insides out –
by want – need – have – control is bought borrowed sold
echoes in chamber push other voices to sleep
phantoms sacrifice death in total for glimpse = mired in local conditions of
staying housed/coursed where curving bells contain deviations derived from models
(A portion of this poem originally appeared in Barzakh)
I. And the ice floe became endemic, because the water was cold
And it was thin
And it spread everywhere, all around.
Standing in the backroom of a noisy petshop, waiting to drown,
Imagining Cocteau, a film (a shimmer) on the storefront window
Orpheus: Le Sang d’un Poete
As the rain came down.
Leaving dirty streaks in the dust, dusty streaks in the dirt.
II. And composition suggests death.
The boundaries are set and they are smooth.
The periphery is set and it is smooth.
It is a casket-aperture to let in the light,
Because life needs random.
Because vitality is chaos.
And all we see are borders
Fill them in, fill them in, we fill them in, fill them in.
III. And then it all gets old, it gets old
And all you have left is bones and soul, bones and soul.
The cars idling in the streets,
The roar of engines
The clouds of smoke.
IV. “Greetings and welcome to Jaipur.”
The bathroom smelled like soap, old ratfaced brown towel hung over the railing.
All the way back to Earth, were lines, full spectrum bright lines, like sunglare, lines streaking back.
Trusting the burst behind them, the rushing crushing transfer of light, the blur between them,
Weaving around them, the dangerous-shaking shapechanging
building images in my mind, the images my mind will come to commit to memory, outrageous
namecalling, tracking mud through the room, confused feeble little mind,
The last second reflection of light (fluorescent) in a passing by mirror, sheen of the glass, corner of
V. And don’t ever be afraid, there is nothing to fear.
And don’t ever be ashamed
Of what it takes to get back home again.
Busted blind, or deaf and lame,
All the bended bent outside in, dim lit,
Rushing rivulets away,
To get back home again.
Amphibian reptilian paraphyly
Air-filled-lungs, expanding gills, words falling out of ash like scales off of eyes.
Plague, pulque, fire, flood, and gramophone.
VII. and we sat in schools, in little classrooms, bounded in by glass, bounded in by glass.
And we listened,
James Fenimore Cooper, Max Planck, the dreadful XYZ affair.
The devils on us that hide in every subject, behind every pause.
Deconstruct the clause, graph the sentence out.
IIX. Fire-pimps that hide behind the tinder.
Lightning-skies that hide behind the storm.
Reckless are the curtains torn, the rattle of the steel.
The storms behind the clouds
And this is what the tuhunder says as it begins to pour,
Rushing rivulets, rivulets away.
IX. Dans cet abime, abondance.
X. and the fire became endemic, it was far too hot,
The blood so warm and the skin so flushed,
And the rain come spilling out.
The noise so quiet and the light so bright,
The visions so blurry, the lines so static, the colors so fade.
Fill them in, fill them in.
There are stars up over the ocean
And I know because I have seen them.
Like words written mutely in the sky
And I know because I have read them.
Tiny sea beacons to guide all who between the waves still malinger,
Little dots shining bright
That the darkest of night
Cannot cleanly obscure.
Molly Wilmes, is a BFA Sculpture candidate at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Late Afternoon: the Pilgrimage Church
You asked me to explain to you a past
the always-correct Party had chosen
to hide from you. Yet in a new place now
you wondered about the saints and angels
within and without of Maria im Sand.
Willing I went with you over the
hills on that grey day, October fading,
winds bringing in clouds into the valley.
I pointed out the Virgin’s deep blueness,
the smooth apostolic face at the cross,
the font, pulpit, altar, sunless stained glass,
the mixture of styles, depending on time.
In the cemetery an old man spoke
about previous warfare’s heavy toll;
we exchanged a glance thinking of new deaths
and walked the streets of the closing-down town.
Interest does not always lead to belief.
But each November you light a candle
for your mother. You are a pilgrim
pursuing an uncertain goal as you
seek for answers to your unvoiced questions.
I think back to this day, and wish you peace.
Sunday Morning at Beech Island
Sunny morning on the crest of the hill,
Slightly-cold wind in this January
Blowing down the slope toward the Savannah.
Red-doored neo-classic chapel readied
For weekly glimpse of transcendent grandeur.
Uncertainties hover here over us,
Somber occasions, enduring concerns.
During flow of familiar devotions
Light transfixes heavenward-pointed Host
Suffusing unveiled glory over all.
Some linger later outside on the porch
Viewing the landscape with improved vision,
Savoring the moments they wish would endure.
A View Backward from the Bend
Every now and then, my path will bend.
If no mists fill the valley, if cloudless
Skies permit, I can gaze where once I went.
On ribbons of path straddling the ridge
Were elusive apparent destinies
Downward sloping toward sunset beaches,
That so thinly disguised a cul-de-sac.
Stretching to the sky, several towers,
Some unfinished, others now collapsing,
Their classrooms with closed windows preventing
Fragrant air to alleviate the staleness,
Not knowing the land where lemon trees bloom,
Scholars scour the text repeatedly
For some non-existing enlightenment,
Refusing to look at the external.
Occasionally a face that I see,
Or a song wafting melody to me
Reminds me of my travels on that path,
Reconnecting me to what I had loved
Even if no longer can be found
Even if it no longer can be loved.
As quickly as it comes, it disappears
And I follow the bend to straighter paths.
Bio: Arthur Turfa lives in the South Carolina Midlands, but his poetry contains influences of his native Pennsylvania, California, Germany (where he has also lived), as well as other places. He is working on an e-book of his poetry, scheduled for release later in 2014. Published in the Munyori Literary Journal and South Carolina English Teacher, he also maintains a personal blog, Some Poetry at aturfa.blogspot.com
Poetic Statement: Essentially I think Wordsworth had it right, although I do not always find long-lasting tranquility. Something or someone grabs a hold of me, and lingers until I recapture the moment, the glimpse, or the time from my life. My poetry attempts to include the reader into what I experienced, rather than telling the reader all about it or me. At times I strive for a sense of closure, at others I want to preserve something (more as a Symbolist than an Imagist). Whom do I read; Eliot, Auden, Rilke (in the original), Frost, Updike, Shakespeare, Bukowski, and others.Language that sings is more important that language that rhymes.