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.
World’s Fair 9
This jumper is close to that number
This laugh is close to that throat
Select visitors are invited to go
Behind the bridge
The yacht’s naked body
Elegant no longer hidden
Others discuss terrorism
Their clothes almost screaming
With short-term power
These students see the jumper
Not unlike the elegant yacht
They attract a wide range
Of nature and elevation
They freeze in yoga
Pants / positions / swing-the-statue
This is an amazing thing
A husky laugh
The jumper sees the students
Any other person would have
Been frozen in the speculative voltage
And thus have overemphasized
Their interest in the supernatural.
Nature has its vein of gold
Cheese its bleu network
This feeling will never survive
Without a secret hiding place
The bee has its hive
Mind its subconscious
Face its subcutaneous tissue
On has its off
The cough drop box
Its odd bearded brothers
Cod its liver oil
Hat its tin foil
Lonely alchemists hide
In the alley
The only place
Their ongoing research on hiding
South of here
There is work being done in the canebrake
On the afternoon shadows
Cast by silos
Expose any aperture
And that other world
Also click here to read A Brief History of Meat at Sparks of Consciousness
Bio: Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit and Cloudbank.
Aesthetic Statement: There’s a certain finality to a story that I can never quite achieve. Narrative seems so damn sure of itself, and that’s most likely why I lean toward the lyrical. The fragmented and broken still hums. It still resonates with the blow that destroyed it. Certain grammatical units remind me of my birthplace, Pontiac, Michigan, where there are scraps in the streets too abandoned and too interesting to waste time rebuilding.
Weekends at Woolworth’s
For $18.49 a week
I got to spend my Weekends at Woolworth’s:
Sundays not included because of the
Blue laws in and around Philadelphia.
Friday nights and all day on Saturday
To avoid a conflict with a school night
And ruin my grades, or so the folks said.
Actually I would have had the choices
Anyway of Penn State, Temple, or Nam.
Mr. Fox, the cool assistant manager,
Told us about his tour of duty there
As we waited for customers to come
And check out so they could beat the traffic.
Heading both ways along Germantown Pike.
Miss Fogg, her frosted blond wig attempting
To disguise her five decades on this earth
Handed out our pay envelopes with cash
And told us where we were supposed to work.
Fridays on the upper level, two men
Regularly bought lots of plastic flowers.
Saturdays spent on the lower level
Talking with Linda from the Ancilla
Domini Academy wondering
If Vatican II would help me date her
And learning men’s wear from suave Mr. Knox.
Friends would stop by sometimes or I would see
Them during my hour-long meal break as
I passed on the 10% lunch counter discount
To head to Sal’s Steaks and Wee Three Records
Who had much cooler albums anyway.
A few weeks after the Mall fire
Water damage closed the lower level
And the upper level became crowded,
A real shambles for the next couple months.
Fully expecting they would lay me off,
On Saturday night a petulant man
Fired me for the inability to remove
Slushy black scuff marks without use of solvent
From the speckled linoleum floor.
Trudging to my Dad’s station wagon as
The first one in the family to be fired,
In adolescent anger I told him.
Dad suggested that the manager
could go to hell; much relieved, I concurred.
Thus ended my last weekend at Woolworth’s.
Observation Point 13, Ft. Drum, New York
Tree stretching toward Canada
Wispy clouds hover in summer sky
Vacationer’s paradise unfolding
Except for the large orange circles
On a small, man-made hill
Surrounded by the rusted wrecks
Or yesterday’s automobiles.
Radio transmissions crackle
Over in the Fire Direction Center
As bratwurst and kielbasa sizzle
Over on several hibachis.
Fire Mission! All human activity stops
As the hundred-pound rounds
Slam into the circles from a distance
Of classified information.
The plates have already been passed,
And as an FM rock station plays “Tommy”
By The Who, the howitzers blast away
At a few more wrecks.
Every shot has been in the box
And everyone his happy.
Like if good on OP 13 as
Lunch continues and I regret
Having taken so long to enlist.
Had I known the Army could be
This good, I would have joined earlier!
People along the way
Going half-way across the country
Thousands of faces flash by
In rest areas, attractions, streets, businesses.
Some of them stand out
For one inexplicable reason or another.
Shuffling from their SUV,
A family heads to the Lone Star
Leaning at the Sabine River Rest Area
Standing in front of thick gray clouds
So they can take each other’s picture.
Far from Hessen, in the Hill Country
German cuisine is served in a frontier house.
For a moment her native language
Floats in the air amid the Texan drawls
As it used to not so long ago.
Praying silently in the cathedral
With arms stretched along the railing
Her daughter converses as well
Discretely, impatiently speaking
Into her I phone.
Couple of our approximate age
Unhappy at everything
She fusses at restaurant hostess
Then unleashes a torrent of spite
At his day-long negativity.
Later I intentionally walk by them
As he slowly eats while she
Sits clutching her elbows
Not even caring to look at him.
From several feet away from the fountain
Tawny-tressed girl and mother standing.
Daughter appears to want a drink but refuses an offer
As her mother expresses her thanks anyway.
through the muzzle infused with lag
squawked counterclaims incorrect
assumption at bona fide onset
even marauding randoms were
shard birds beneath multi-track
sky i ushered in such provocation
spruced up allegiance to white hot
parallel triggered a languish
harsh negotiations helter-skelter
into union camouflage these sample
impressions spaced like obstinate yoke
envoy desire obtain neglect so many
hybrids barely elbow room fabrications at
their most copious urbane sift
through imprudent splatter deft
vitalization signing off as
undercooked throughout splice
influx pandemonium maintain
rhythm of complaint so steady
light don’t get translated as mend
my illuminated zone peers free thinking
& elongated switch to neutral background
the question who amongst us unmodifiable
low pitched entanglement ornamental
conceit profound barrier dismal permutations so
overzealous surveyor lords it indeterminate
distance where fools lurk babble doddle
subnormal framework their expectations of strange
happenings in meadowlands meanwhile
imprudent bootlick myriad in active
thrive beneath alienation heavy stresses
sex then fatigued stalemate addlebrained sprawl shit
hole no trigger masqueraded humble as
we approached casual metaphor luminous
this smear founded upon radiating blotch
skewered rampage meticulous
abandon skewered abandon deferred insipid recontextualised
essential i floated through convalescence exemplification
spin floated through ballistic moonshine contaminated
blossom hardly a biscuit trip at theatre of science
was out of joint mimetic representation didn’t know
wind picked up chlorine leak vagueries pulsed something about
future abundance remember me i tried to turn off chemical valve
either way turned this room bright oink it is today undercut
by some uncommitted double your worm eaten ships coming
apart so come on all you crazies ferry leaves in 10 that was luke warm with
ferals vs. imports one of my
favorite artists out of the short lived
cancelburg haze core scene his new
album pitched camp with swine is
out on frost surf & you can catch
him live on the 22nd at
g spot supporting i kind of
how to outflank the suburbs dvd bonus disk
moon glued top left wide of dwellings worked towards
passion circuit reroute accumulated gaps in the
narrative bastard flourish synced me up why
i came gauze eyelids detritus swirl snake
the road brittle accumulating beneath digital sky
well groomed scrawl unparalleled interrogation
did you facilitate mash-up cut ribbons
into shine? or was it based up bemoaning such
disengaged patterns holding a lantern up to pensive
background sweet abundance of
whistleblowers strained rapport i can see festooned
with climbing ivy me with co-workers team
building at alligator church each avenue
remorselessly turned towards production out
of red grey
zag try to
fashion collisions something
dropped by the hunt hangs on
i am unglued
from the world
a bit of cosmic dust
the moorings i fly past
limned with thorns
my hands are still
You’ve been here over and over and over again.
This place is so familiar it almost feels like home.
It’s the hell behind your eyes,
the goblin-made cathedral in which you worship –
unwillingly, it’s true, but faithfully nonetheless.
And it’s not even hushed as a cathedral should be.
Screams follow you down the aisle,
echoing endlessly off the arches crowning you in bloody thorns
that tangle in your antlers and slide down your corded neck
to rest against your much-decorated chest,
inside which your heart beats an arrhythmic conquista.
No one awaits you at the altar where the thousand skulls grin,
mercilessly mocking sleep as you kneel unshriven
and know you’ll make this pilgrimage again.
Dorothy Gale, B-Girl: The Real Story
Did I ever tell you about
how I met the Wizard
and how there was nothing
in that black bag for me?
Because there wasn’t any black bag.
You think you know this story
but you don’t.
There I was,
hanging out all innocent
in my farmgirl jumper
and dorky ankle socks.
I kept my hair in the braids
to keep it out of my face
while I was bushwhacking
my way to The Emerald City,
but yeah – I was wearing
those killer red shoes.
I ditched the damn dog
because he just couldn’t seem
to get with the program –
to get the hell out of Dodge
(and never back to Kansas).
the dog was always nervous.
He peed in the basket,
yapped like a springsprung
ate grass and puked it back –
once almost on my shoes –
so I left him with the strawman
and the clinking, clanking,
of calliginous junk.
More on that in a min…
The lion – that pussy! –
had run off ages before,
back to whatever hidey-hole
he inhabited before that lousy
halfhearted attempt at courage.
He was more trouble
than he was worth anyway,
all the time sniveling and shaking
and hiding his eyes behind
that stupid plume on the end
of his tail.
By the time I’d got within
spitting distance of the Wizard
the other two had decided
they’d had enough of
sleeping in the dirt
and talking trees
and pelted apples
and that hag on the broomstick
with her underwater face
always showing up and yelling
about something or another.
They settled in a cottage
on the outskirts of the city,
for all the world like any
old married couple.
Lemme tell ya, though,
somehow i can’t see
either one of them in an apron
and I bet they fight about
who does the dishes.
‘Cause let’s face it –
wet straw is no fun
and neither is rusty tin.
I sashayed alone
through those monster gates.
I never had a problem
with a guard.
I’d smile and flirt
and give ’em a little
of the good old wide-eyed admiration
I was wherever I needed to be.
When I’d cleaned up some
and gotten a new dress
and traded those socks for silk
and found a shoemaker
to put some higher heels
on those killer red shoes
i didn’t look half bad.
All that folderol
about the Wizard
and killing the witch?
There was no curtain.
There was no loud
and angry voice.
He was a regular guy,
sitting there just bored to death.
He took one look at me
and he was mine.
And funny thing –
I kinda liked him too.
He asked me what I wanted
and all of a sudden
I wasn’t sure.
It’s been a few years now
and I’m still here,
just the Wiz and me,
living it up in this huge
We play cards and we dance.
We take bubblebaths
and never have to worry
about bills or housework
or any of the stuff
that eats away
at most people’s lives.
And on Sundays
we take the carriage out,
all decked out in our best.
We ride through the city,
waving and smiling
and getting hit in the face
with flowers tossed by
I don’t know how
he got these people
to put him in charge
and I don’t care.
I’m sitting pretty, I am –
good food, nice clothes
and no more slopping hogs.
And if I have to listen
to dreary stories about
and hocus-pocus hokum
that’s okay – fine by me!
I’m not even sure
where the hell I am,
but I’m the wife
of the most powerful man
ever to rule a country
that doesn’t exist,
and yet is more real
than any place
I’ve ever known.
Poetic Statement: Although the majority of my poetry to this point might be called confessional,
it is important not to conflate the poet with the poem. A germ of truth can blossom into a tree leaved with outrageous fantasy. I find exploring and experimenting with new forms helps keep perspective fresh, and I no more limit myself to one genre in writing than I do in art. Poetry is communication. If I touch one heart or provoke one mind to think through my writing, I have done my job.
Bio: RC deWinter is a photographer, digital artist, poet, essayist and singer-songwriter currently living and working in Haddam, Connecticut. She has been shooting photos for over 25 years, using both traditional and digital SLR equipment. Her digital work is created using a variety of software and includes oil paintings, watercolor sketches and drawings.
Her work has appeared in print, notably in the New York Times, chosen for publication in the New York City in 17 Syllables haiku competition, Uno: A Poetry Anthology, Pink Panther Magazine, Arts Creation Magazine, The Sun Magazine, 2River View, Poetry Nook, Garden Tripod and The American Muse as well as in many online publications.
In addition to her personal online portfolios, Ms. deWinter’s art is exhibited on of several internet-based showcases, including Saatchi Online, ARTbracket, The Art for Cancer Gallery, Copperflame Gallery, b-uncut and Artists, Writers and Photographers in the Raw. ABC has licensed several of her paintings to be used as set decor on the television series Desperate Housewives.
Ms. deWinter is honored to be the first digital artist invited to exhibit her work at an October 2011 solo show the Arts of Tolland Gallery in Tolland, Connecticut.
You can walk along side it
on a front of a wall cloud
moving through a town
you can move up to it on a
short sighted path longer
then imagined and colder someone
somewhere answered then
and went back
a forest is a lobby
a tree a sandwich
a border a forest
every thought a town a possibility of
something someone or somewhere where
pneumonia takes you or venom cures
you or a peninsula of any waiting at all
this is a deserted border
this is also a secure border and
you must move this is just so and
no one knows
why really no matter what they say
and well advanced 20 feet to know so
or not know so
now everyone said and everyone
voted coming to an end like this
sill feels so new
this is a reparation
and a variation and yet a
George J. Farrah received an MFA from Bard College, NY.
Book forthcoming from Ravenna Press, The Low Pouring Stars
His work has appeared in The Washington Review, Open 24 Hrs., Ribot,
BUGHOUSE, Fourteen Hills, Disturbed Guillotine, Tight, Aileron, Fish Drum, The Columbia Poetry Review; Caldron And Net, Moria , CROWD, Xstream, MORIA, Ampersand, Elimae, Blaze VOX, BHOuse vol.2, Blue and Yellow Dog,
Experiential-Experimental Literature, Los Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, truck,
Counter Example, Altered Scale and others.