POETS of 9for9 
  corner   



REVIEW of 9for9 in About Poetry.com

HOME

ARCHIVES


999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999 999999999

 

April 30, 2004

 
9for9
---------
set 3 of 9


Jim Behrle
Edmund Berrigan
Jim Cory
hassen
Sofia Memon
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Deborah Richards
Molly Russakoff
Prageeta Sharma

copyright © 2004
to all participating
poets upon publication

edited by
and questions created by
CAConrad

9for9 is a collection of 9 questions for 9 poets and their answers. This is the 3rd set of 9 sets. Usually the project is conducted through e-mail, but set 3 was a live panel at the PhillySound Poetry Festival last August, organized by Frank Sherlock and Tom Devaney. After the festival each poet wrote out their answers for this online version of 9for9.

If you wish to communicate with any of the poets included, please feel free to send correspondence to the e-mail address CAConrad13@aol.com, with the subject line "9for9 correspondence". I promise to forward your message to the poet you wish to connect with.

Thank you,
CAConrad
p.s. check out FREQUENCY Audio Journal
---------

 
QUESTION 1:
You are invited to do a drag show poetry reading, what poet will you perform?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
This is a strange and wonderful honor. We don't have drag show poetry readings in Boston, that I know of. I would say Anne Waldman, who would be fun because she's so energetic. Can sing, dance, write: she's a triple-threat. I'd have to shave the moustache, though. But even more fun would be a Victor/Victoria swing: me pretending to be a woman pretending to be Robert Pinsky. That's a show you could take on the road.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
I would arrive with the top half of Anne Waldman, and the bottom half of a tank.
---------

JIM CORY
Anna Akmatova. So seductive, so intense. Noting this now makes me want to run to the other side of the room, take down her Collected Poems, and read something. In fact, I just did!
---------

HASSEN
Charles Bukowski.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
Agha Shahid Ali. How interesting to be a Muslim woman in hijab in drag as a queer Muslim man, both devout. The question is-does s/he wear hijab?
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
Skimming backwards from H.D., Stein and Dickinson, I would be Rabi'a al-Adawiyya, Sufi poet and mystic from 8th century Basra, which now finds itself famously within the borders of the modern map of Iraq. She was a spiritual powerhouse who also performed many miracles, although outwardly she was a poor servant who looked after her master's house during the day, and prayed in her room at night that would be flooded with light from a divine source. She wasn't a poet in the conventional sense of writing poems, but many of her words cryptically couched in poetic phrases have come down through the centuries, statements and verbal encounters of hers which make her a poet of wisdom and light. One of her poems, an anecdote really, that has survived, is the following:

Girl: "It's Spring, Rabi'a- Why not come outside, And look at all the beauty God has made!"
Rabi'a: "Why not come inside instead, And see the One who made it all- Of course, to perform this "poet" in drag, I would have to sit in a room so flooded with light you couldn't see me at all."
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
I said Charles Bukowski in the live version of this blog, and I think I want to stick to my first thought. Why Charles? I'd like the opportunity to be obnoxious, opinionated, and difficult. I also admire his poems for his ability to include himself in the mess of his life. My own poems and life are masked because I suppose I'm trying to find a way to be myself--whatever that is!Being Bukowski would be liberating--for a while.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
I would perform CAConrad because he was thoughtful enough to ask this question.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
Rabindranath Tagore or Byron
---------


QUESTION 2:
President George W. Bush has just decided to appoint a poet to his cabinet. You are chosen to fill that position. At your first meeting with him, what will you ask or suggest?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
I think this could be a lot of fun. The White House staff gets all of August off, which is way better than the time off I get at my job now. Would I get a tank or a bomber to use on my poetic enemies? Could I send them to Guantanimo?
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
I would ask Bush for a paltry sum for literacy, but tell him I'm just gonna give it to my friends. It fits his methods as it's meaningless, he can use it for exposure, & the old boy network is in action.
---------

JIM CORY
I might suggest that we jointly compose something, in exquisite corpse fashion, a nature poem, the subject being, say, the lust of big cats. (Did you know lions fuck up to 25 times a day? And that their range -- even into the time of the Roman Empire -- once included Northern Europe, and England?) If he's not game (no pun intended) for that, maybe we could fashion something using only words beginning with the letter Q. That would be fun. (I he got snippy, I'd be willing to let him choose the letter.) Should the President fail to exhibit enthusiasm for either exercise, I might suggest a quick round of Risk, or maybe that we jointly explicate one of Hart Crane's more dense and many-layered productions, such as "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen." That would pique his interest. I happen to know W. is a BIG Hart Crane fan.
---------

HASSEN
I'd suggest he immediately spend a few weeks with the Dalai Lama or a few months (if not years) in a ghetto without funding and without communication with anyone outside of his neighborhood. And no T.V. (unless public broadcasting?). But ghetto survival + optimism/realism takes a certain amount of wattage if one is alone and, well, he'd probably not rise to the occasion. Better stick to plan A. If that fails, make plan B an insidious (but ultimately benevolent) plot of [my] power-of-suggestion.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
I might just check him out. I'm not convinced he's a real person, but maybe I'm just naive. After all, I believed Clinton right up until the end. I mean, who could lie to start a war that has decimated two countries, have that lie be discovered by even the most ardently ignorant, and still be grinning like Howdy Doody? I'd be looking to answer the question is he evil or just an imbecile? Future political and poetical tactics would depend on the answer to that one question. I might also suggest that he might practice saying words that rhyme with Iraq (_i'roq_ not _eye rack_). I'd definitely ask Fidel Castro's advice beforehand.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
I'd suggest that, since his poor brain is so monumentally taxed by his being the Leader of the Free World and the Bringer of Liberation and Democracy to Nations He Wishes to Dominate, he take one of his very long vacations to one of those little fishing huts out on a froze lake (New Hampsire, Nova Scotia, the Arctic Circle. the moon?), with Amiri Baraka. I think a few weeks in a tiny cabin with Amiri Baraka would do him a world of good. I don't know if it would do anything for the world or the "President's" (I always have to put this in quotes) foreign policy, but the two are kind of suited to each other, on a long-term, pressure-cooker-situation basis. I admire but have reservations about Amiri's sense of things too, though I support his right to have them more than I do Bush's, since the former is more in the realm of radical and provocative motormouth expostulation pointing to a truth, while the latter is more in the realm of bloody-minded, war-mongering Empire Expansion based on lies and self deceit as well as wholesale betrayal of the American Way he pretends to represent. Of course, I consider this answer a bit irresponsible as well in keeping with the levity of the question. But how do you persuade a crusty, hardened ideologue like Bush (as I would, as a Cabinet Poet, wish to do) to really look into the peoples of the world, the sufferers, the hopeful, and see with heartfelt eyes what the world needs, instead of bolstering with tired rhetoric what peer ideologues have worked out in the migraine nights of their disgusting brains? I'd like him (as well as many of the world's leaders) to contemplate the following, a poem from my manuscript book, A Maddening Disregard for the Passage of Time:
TYRANTS DRIVE PAST STATUES OF THEMSELVES
Tyrants are fleeing their countries in
black limousines
driving past statues of themselves
huddled in back seats, counting
on anonymity,
driving past statues of themselves
erected during their salad days,
hoping against hope to get to the borders unrecognized,
their last days of iron-fisted action
backfired, explosions bouncing back
like repeated radio broadcasts
in their hectic brains,
their loyal armies shooting into shouting crowds of comrades
backfiring until
giant shouting comrade-crowds filled palace doorways
demanding
tyrant blood
who now flee by back roads, at night, in
black limousines
driving past statues of themselves.
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
My first reaction would be surprise, as I am a British citizen and not an American national. Anyway....I'm sure the President understands the power of language, yet I'd ask him to examine how words are thrown away, manipulated, and stretched to their limits within his/our world. What would happen if he spent a week listening, recording, reading, and thinking? What would happen if he didn't have to react, "do" something important, or deal with "that" threat? What would happen if each person in this country chose a week without speech? What would be the first words we would speak after this silence? I could say more, but I'll move on.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
I would probably resign because it is not in my nature to sit in a cabinet. But before doing so, I would probably suggest that he calm down, use longer breaths in his lines and not use so many exclamation points!
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I will ask him to replace every seventh word from his speeches with a word from the dictionary. No, really, just because I am curious, I would ask him to write his own speeches. It would be some sort of truth telling.
---------


QUESTION 3:
During World War II Ezra Pound openly and actively supported fascism in Europe. Does this affect how you read his poems? Why or why not?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
I don't really care about Ezra Pound. I don't read his work. But I'm not sure why we continue to single him out. There are lots of poets with asshole opinions. It's not as though we're dealing with the poems of Mussolini or Hitler. I guess if I read one of his poems and didn't know it was him and liked it and then found out it was him I might be caught up in a wave of guilt. But if we cast out every poet who had dopey opinions from being read or enjoyed, we'd become an inconsequential art.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
Though I may occasionally wonder why he did what he did, I don't look to poetry as the summation of one's entire life or actions, I look instead for whatever is helpful, and believe-you-me I find it there.
---------

JIM CORY
Poor Ezra. Won't they ever let up on him? I say this now though if I'd been alive in 1942, with the Nazis overrunning Russia and the extermination camps in full swing, I certainly would've felt differently. I would've regarded Pound with the same near ungovernable loathing I feel on viewing, say, a Tucker Carlson or an Ann Coulter, the sort of people who fashion careers defending privilege in all its various guises, using sophistry, sarcasm and spleen as their weapons. They deserve whatever the Fates dispatch. But consider: We remember Pound's vile politics only because of the great genius of his poems, which not only broke new ground but laid the aesthetic basis for literary Modernism, Anglo-American version. His work remains readable and alive, thrilling in the way only great poetry is. It was the best part of who he was, and what he was was complicated, exasperating, brilliant, ruthless, and a little mad. But only a little.
---------

HASSEN
It doesn't affect how I read his poems. However, when reading his poetry/poetics, I am often struck by elements that I imagine also shaped his politics pedantry & authority but most of all proscriptive & dictatorial undertones. &tc...
---------

SOFIA MEMON
Nothing about Ezra Pound's work ever really appealed to me. I can't help it. I never liked it. Like I never liked William Blake. Not only do I not like it, I find it sort of frumpy and annoying, even when it's trying to be vehement and universal and profound. And I read them that way before I knew Pound was a fascist. But it's very possible that the characteristics that make Pound's writing heavy handed and reminiscent of bad dark wood paneling are the very characteristics that made him sympathetic to a particularly dumb, paternalistic and racist kind of nationalism. More generally, I think poets will inevitably and should be, though not exclusively, read in the context of their lives. I think one very sound and interesting way to read poetry is like historical fiction like a very human, very visceral way to get a handle on the world as it has been and the people who have lived it. So were I to be able to stomach Pound's poetry, that might be the most useful way for me to read it.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
The first statement needs more subtlety really, since Pound in his often misguided egomania was really against war and capitalist decadence, the banking system which he sniffed was Rothschild controlled, etc. He compared Mussolini to Thomas Jefferson, hoping he was an agrarian reformer for his nation, and a supporter of the arts. There's an amusing and sad anecdote about Pound's one meeting face to face with the monster, hoping he'd read some of his poetry (alas, aren't we all prone to this all too poignant failing!), and to Pound's dismay Muss kind of glanced at it, said, "very nice," and changed the subject. But, really, if character of a poet determined reading his or her poems, fewer poems would get read than they do, I think. Knowing about a poet does inform the work (someone has said that Rimbaud was really a man of action, as evinced by his restlessness and his later mercantile ambitions, so his work, especially the later works, should be read in this light, and Season in Hell is really a manifesto of a call to action above all), and Pound isn't exempt from this angle, and yes, I think I do read his work knowing his extremism (but then, I don't like his denigration of the Taoists as ismissable "mystics" in the Cantos, nor his ignorance of Islam either). Still, Pound for me is a brave cantankerous soul, who dared to speak in the public arena and suffered for it, with all his faults and mistakes. He's not quite Ossip Mandelstam in his being incarcerated for insubordination against authority (treasonous radio broadcasts with anti-semitic overtones may not be equivalent to dangerously mocking descriptions of Stalin's moustache), but somehow there's a sad story here of the military culture and the strict severance of radical thought and the trajectory of policy. I don't know what that means, but it sounds interesting. One footnote, by the way. In Berkeley in the 60s I met Oswald LeWinter, whose website search turns up some kind of spy dirt about him, but in those days he was an older poet, I think in the PhD program at the University of California, and one afternoon in his apartment he showed a friend and I a letter about Pound from his file, then still in St. Elizabeths, from T.S. Eliot, in which Eliot said that he thought Pound was better off where he was. It was a shock to me I've never forgotten, and it really does color how I read Eliot's poetry. Here was a man who put Eliot on the map, and that prune-faced subverter of ecstatic verse in favor of the ecclesiastical rational (he disliked Blake, so I dislike him, tit for tat) turned against him when he was being asked to help spring Pound from the madhouse. It was Frost, as it transpired, who was instrumental in getting Pound freed, to live his later life in almost catatonic silence, since, I guess, opening his big mouth had gotten him into such hot and nasty water. Another ironic turn of events: Pound thought the State should support its poets, and his long incarceration in St. Elizabeth's provided him with a very nerve-racking but occasionally fruitful room and board, courtesy of the U.S. government! Though he had to keep his work hidden from the other noisy loonies who roamed the halls and tried to steal his food. To answer this question, I'm actually reading a book by Eustace Mullins about Pound called, "This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound." Olson and Ginsberg also had negative things to say about Pound, though they owed much of their poetics to his groundbreaking fearlessness and depth of scholarship. Pound's ABC of Reading is still an invaluable guide to the poet's road. Finally, as a corollary to his supposed stand for Fascism is his apparent anti-Semitism, and this is from the Mullins book: the great American and Jewish poet, Louis Zukovsky, says of Pound: "I never felt the least trace of anti-Semitism in his presence. Nothing he ever said to me made me feel the embarrassment I always had for the 'Gentile' in whom a residue of antagonism to 'Jew' remains. If we had occasion to use the words, Jew and Gentile, they were no more nor less ethnological in their sense than 'Chinese' or 'Italian.'"
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
I am affected by Pound's views in the sense I know that they exist as a layer to reading his work. Yet I am also affected by Eliot, Stein, Woolf, and whoever else you could care to name who include negative/dismissive images of black people in their works. There is always a jolt for me as I read "classic" literature and see myself belittled. What annoys me more is that often critics or friends will tell me not to be affected by this language. Back to Pound--I think that he was treated terribly when he was sent back to the States. It is always easier to demonize the individual--especially with hindsight--because we deny our own demons. Yet, I will accept that someone will feel the same jolt I feel when reading Pound, that I experience when reading Heart of Darkness.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
I was very relieved to find out about Ezra Pound's political leanings/ravings because I was never a great reader of Pound, we just did not get along. It gave me a good reason to discard him, especially in speaking with intellectuals.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I do think about it when I read his work and I think about his character.
---------

 
QUESTION 4:
Please respond to the following excerpt from Ann Lauterbach's essay "After the Fall":

"A form contains. The forms of freedom are not without restraint, as in 'free verse,' which is not the same as formless. If we do not know how to restrain, retrain, our desires, then we will not know how to align our power to the limited resources of the world. If we do not begin to re-imagine our power, we will use it mainly to constrain others...."
--American Letters & Commentary, issue #14, page 9

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
This is complete bullshit. I wish I was powerful and could constrain others. There are plenty who should be constrained. But there's nothing more powerless than a poet.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
I agree with Anne 100% & I think that she has tried very hard to use the brief national spotlight on poetry, which Laura Bush accidentally triggered in her plastic surgery haze, to great effect. Anne Lauterbach understands her responsibilities to the world.
---------

JIM CORY
Containing is only one function of a form. Form's other purpose is to express whatever's essential about content. I like poems in form which set out to, and succeed in, subverting form. I like the work of poets who create fresh forms for each new poem. Obviously anyone can write any way he or she wishes -- this is where aesthetic freedom comes in -- but conventional forms invariably signal conventional thought and conventional language. Was it Pound who admonished the writers of his time to: Make it new! Well, he was right on about that. Form is the great challenge and responsibility of the poet. It's what matters. Content's an expediency, and often a trap. People who mistake content for the heart of the poem write poems that turn to dust in an instant. It's not what the poem's about, it's what you do with what it's about, therein opportunity lies. And of course nothing interesting happens without passion and directness.
---------

HASSEN
When I first read this, I thought it about said it all. I further considered & wasn't sure it said so much but maybe implied it all. I suppose a form contains. Though I'm unsure that's always the case. Does containment imply imprisonment? If so, then I don't believe a[ny] form contains so much as outlines or suggests a pattern or contour for our senses to determine (or not). As for free verse, I agree it's not necessarily without restraint and of course not formless (anyway, can't form be found of anything if only in the idea of any thing?). Forms of freedom not without restraint -OK. I agree with the third and fourth sentences, though the leap seems great from the second. I'm sure she's talking about tyranny, anarchy & freedom & if I think about the previous question re Pound, I make a direct connection with all of these thoughts. However to summarize, I could better understand something like If we do not begin to imagine forms outside of the those we insist upon as well as understand there are forms beyond our understanding we will tend to constrain others and in so doing strangle ourselves. or: let loose the noose live and let live lucy the goose. Likely she said it perfectly and I'm just not completely getting it. But I probably agree. Form, I guess, is just a really vague term to discuss greed/abuse of power & doesn't seem to me as pertinent as something like point. How about specific forms? For example, an enforced or remeditated form may be a symptom of systemic insecurity resulting from, among other things, denial/ignorance/disrespect of self/other/intuition. I wouldn't say the overall utility of Form In General determines how or why one would seek excessive power. Or was she simply saying we all need some form of restraint so we don't constrain others & I'm, in proper convoluted form, beginning (for I am utilizing restraint by discontinuing) a mess of it...
---------

SOFIA MEMON
Ann Lauterbach, on the other hand, is very interesting. I'm understanding better now how you've put together these questions, Conrad. Are you really thinking about all of this? Freedom, structure, the limits of postmodernism, the problems of eventual nihilism, narcissism? I agree with Ann, like this:
>>>>>
form contains, restraint re-imagines: freedom;
desires, without restraint, constrain freedom.
we do not know how to retrain, align
we begin without, use power: not freedom.
our limit of resource is formlessness
forms retrain our voices versed in freedom.
>>>>>
or something like that.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
While I am not a "formalist," chaos theory has shown us that there is a persistent and consistent form even in the seemingly "formless," the greatest "formlessness" being that dimension beyond death, perhaps (from which no direct flesh-and-blood messenger has returned, alas), but while we're here we're all in some form or other, even the jellyfish, the miasma, and, I would wager, even the Imagination itself. In poetry, however, total formlessness, in the formal sense, might end up giving us all migraines, although Gertrude Stein goes a long way to the edge and peers down into the abyss (which many contemporaries seem to shinny with ease). Though we might set out eschewing the Tennysonian forms, the even-metered forms, the iambics and dactyls, and crash out of them with intensity of purpose, after the long practice of inspired writing, a sense of "rightness" comes. As Wm. Blake said: "If the fool would persist in his folly he would become Wise." A Jackson Pollock painting, at his peak, takes you inward through an explosion of traditional forms, plus a new, wild way of working, though you can spot someone else's imitation in a second, should anyone be rash enough to try, since he ended by creating a "form" by way of a certain jet-propelled yet ultimately lyrical "formlessness."
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
I probably rambled on with this question in the live version of this blog. I said that I saw this an American question. I still feel the same, and I'm probably going to be rambler here too.I have not read the rest of essay, so I can't speak for the focus of the original argument. Excuse my attempt at thinking through the meaning of power with this quotation. I think a Brit does not view "power" in the same way--there is the feeling that "we",in England, think the same, as though it is still a monocultural society. It is not. This means that we accept power relations of our society because that's the way it has always been. This is one of the reasons I am exiled (temporarily) from Britain. Of course, no one really cares what "we" think these days. So, I see this as a question that asks us to understand the systems of the poem and the world. An awareness of the system and the kinds of privilege of being part of this system--by being American or an American-based writer--is something that should be noted and examined. Our "freedoms" even when challenged (and especially because they are challenged)are accepted and expected. There is an assumption that the "we" consume the resources greedily without restraint. Note: I assume the "we" in Ann Lauterbach's quotation was the American.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
I think this is a pretty wrenched metaphor. Poetry, as it is written, is so solitary and meditative. It really has no correlation to the actual resources available in the world. I do, however, believe that free verse is not formless, that poetry itself is a form, a form of art and of speech and of communication. A poet's main restraints are the margins or edges of the page. How's that?
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I think she is discussing the possibility of linking our forms or styles to a more enlightened possibility when we make decisions in our poems-- Lauterbach has a certain integrity in her innovations that I find inspiring.
---------


QUESTION 5:
Tell us about a poem you read at some point during your formative years that woke you to the possibilities of poetry.

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
I blew this question when it was first asked. I'm enjoying my formative years right now. I could go on and on about John Berryman's "Dream Song #1." It means little to me know, there were poets in that room at the Philly Sound weekend that show me more about the possibilities of poetry. Berryman's "Dream Songs" just showed me at the time that all poems didn't necessarily suck.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
Dylan Thomas' poem "The Hand that Signed the Paper", shined a great light on my forehead when I was 15. His collected poems had the language in it between thought and articulation, which I heard and hoped to utter. This particular one was easier to comprehend, which helped for that particular moment; as well it was an antiwar poem, and the first gulf war was happening & so it joined two worlds together for me, poetry and reality.
---------

JIM CORY
When I was 12, I shoplifted a copy of the Mentor Book of Major American Poets from the gift shop at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, in Stamford, CT. It became a Bible, and I mean that literally in the sense that when I opened it up, the words on its pages seemed like sacred text. Even those I couldn't understand. (Crane's "The Bridge," for instance, reprinted in entirety.) Nineteenth century poets such as a Poe, Longfellow or even E.A. Robinson were discernable, logical, entrancing. I memorized big chunks and went around reciting it all to amused or irritated adults. But the Moderns were another story. Williams, Eliott, Stevens proved impenetratable. I gave up trying, assuming I was too much of a dunce to get it. What was happening was that I couldn't find a way to get beneath the surface of a poem, so I stuck with the poems which were mostly surfaces. Then one day I was on the porch reading this book and a guy who was painting our house, probably early 20s, with goatee (most unusual, even subversive, in 1966) came down from the ladder. He asked what I was reading. I held up the book. "Can I show you a poem?" He seemed both interested and kind. I handed him the book. He found what he was looking for and opened to the page with Stevens' "The Emperor of Ice Cream." "Here," he said, "read this." I did. "What do you think it means?" I shook my head, feeling rather ashamed of my stupidity. "It's a poem about a funeral," he said. "See here where it says..." -- pointing -- "If her horny feet protrude/they come to show/how cold she is/and dumb" and "Let the boys bring flowers in last month's newspapers." I could see how the images led with a certain inexorable magic to the final lines. What he had shown me, of course, was metaphor, and how it works. It was the key that unlocked most of what, up to that time, had been hidden behind technical mysteries.
---------

HASSEN
This poem woke me to the possibilities of a certain perspective of Life! poetry being my/a reflection of it. I'm not so interested in the possibilities of my poetry as I am the possibilities of my life. In any case this one poem contains lots of stuff that turns me on wonder, imagery, play with reality/convention, simultaneous seemingly conflicting truth, silliness/absurdity especially regarding such things as mortality.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
Stylistically, it was that Emily Dickenson poem that starts "Ample make this bed..." It's delicious how she uses words. And the cadence never fails. It's kind of amazing how urgent and sensual she can be while still being relevant to the rest of us. But emotionally, it was that ee cummings poem with a line that talks about "the shocking fuzz of your electric fur..." Who knew body hair could be so sexy?; this made adolescence bearable.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
The poem is by Mexican poet, Marco Antonio Montes de Oca, born in 1932, translated as follows:

ENTHUSIASM'S FOUNDATION
O singer enthusiasm, you pierce the crypt of trills
with loudest din and most avid song!
Your power is the sunrise that unfurls its flags above the hill,
the sky that unloads its purple baskets over a ravenous precipice,
the foliage of bells you ignite in an enchanted wood.
For you, who illuminates my trust,
I clear brush from the path and remove its verdant traps.
For you, who flows on a giant ocean swell
as frail as the bones of a turtledove,
as vulnerable as geranium-thatch on a wall,
as fragile as a warrior who defies an avalanche
with the single bright wafer of his shield,
I now braid my enamored offering.
For you, possessing the password required to rule in the Southern Cross,
the first to hurl yourself in between creaking rafters,
escaping from the night of the world by a frayed cable,
for you, unique word, solar incarnation of all miracles,
I stretch the stalactites of poetry all the way to the ground
and with strange lightnings ignite the heart of mankind.
(translated by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore)

I was 22, living in Mexico, had dropped out of the University of California in Berkeley to write poetry, had already been mightily turned on by Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Patchen, the French Surrealists, et al, but met Marco personally in Mexico City, and was amazed by his stolid and even anciently indigenous authority (yes, Indian) in the realm of the pure and fluid imaginal world. Part of the mystique was that as I was learning Spanish, romanticizing it incredibly in terms of its daily usage because of its musicalilty and the latino's love of talking, I began translating his poems, difficult because of his use of abstruse words and complex imagery, and felt I was peeling back veils from a real mystery in so doing. This poem is an example of his work, but its exaltedness, ecstatic bursting of song, and what he called "plasticidad" of image-making, where an image is in movement rather than static, really inspired my lifelong work in writing poems. He sat in his rooftop studio, drawing in pastels, drinking far too much, his long Indian face and slow manner of speaking from some deep source, and then these almost ritual poems, which seemed to come as if by miracle, were an exciting revelation to me, that even later led to Blake and Rumi, Hafez and 'Attar.
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
This was a difficult question, because I was not turned on by poetry when I was younger. I liked "The Listeners" by Walter de la Mare because I learned it for school.I tried to write my own rhymes, but I learned fairly soon that poetry was not something that people like me did. I believe that I didn't have the capacity to learn how to write those kinds of poems.

I was influenced by African American writers--Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou (she's a regular visitor to London). Prose was the answer, but I didn't seem to have the stamina for it. I ended up with poems--sounds a bit like the second prize to competition with only 2 contestants.

About the Gil Scott-Heron choice. There was a documentary I watched in England where Heron walked the streets of Washington D.C. He was the first person who gave me the poetry bug, but it was the politics, the poem, and the poet combination.

I've seen Scott-Heron perform in London, and a favored memory is exchanging a friendly glance with him at Heathrow airport a long time ago. He seemed like a nice guy.

Maybe I should have chosen him to for my drag persona. A nice mellow black man rather than a loud white guy. I'm Gemini.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
The poem that comes to mind first, as always, is "Dirge Without Music" which floored me with its audacious claim that the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, was not resigned to death. There is no other place that a thought this futile and sorrowful can be expressed so forthrightly and with such elegance.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I am not embarrassed to say that I read everything out of the Norton Anthology--it is great in high school, it's like looking at baseball cards.
---------


QUESTION 6:
What are your thoughts on creative writing degree programs?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
I wish that no other degree programs existed. That everyone would be foreced to become a poet and to teach other poets.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
I think creative writing programs are useful, but that I would die of restraint if I attended one. I'm not interested in the University route, but only because everyone takes it. It surely has its uses as it does its power structures. I'm choosing to struggle with a myriad of unrelated jobs in an attempt to get a different set of experiences. Most of my friends & family have MFA's. But University politics are ridiculous, and there's plenty of shit to wade through before you get the diamond that no one buys.
---------

JIM CORY
These programs can have value -- Naropa, for instance, is a great institution -- assuming the student learns to make his or her own judgements. Unfortunately, many teachers seem to regard aesthetic mimicry as the measure of success. They want to turn out clones of themselves, disciples. And so many who come out of those schools carry with them the virus of academic snobbery. Symptoms? Condescension, competitiveness, rank envy. Mao had the right idea, sending them all out to plant rice.
---------

HASSEN
I've never been drawn to it or taken any such courses so I don't think I can fairly say too much outside of it seems like a good way to spend time. If I were asked to say more, I'd wonder if there is danger for the creative individual in any institution if being a unique voice/perspective is important. & certainly not to say resistance is futile. Some of my favorite people/poets are creative writing program vets.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
It's nice I guess to have the excess to have such things as creative writing degree programs. Except when creative writing degree program students only have insight to offer about writing and things written and the life with enough excess to attend a creative writing degree program. I don't know. Study is useful; it does more than it ever seems to do. I like that we have (I have had) that excess. But I feel bad when writing becomes so referential to some canon or another that the rest of us louses who are trying to make a living, love beauty, make more beauty, don't know or care much anymore what another writer is talking about. On the other hand, if I were in a creative writing program, maybe someone would keep sticking Ann Lauterbach's essays in front of my nose. Maybe I would assimilate parts of her useful critique and commentary and let them shape me (without ever referring to her or her poems in a poem), and maybe that would make me a better writer.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
I must restrain myself on this question, though I have a constellation of answers, and am genuinely puzzled by the situation at hand in our present literary culture. I was counseled by a professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley that I would have to learn to write a formal essay if I wanted to remain in the department, but that, from the evidence of a paper I wrote on Walden (that was in no way formal), which he read very enthusiastically to the class, I might really want to just go elsewhere and write. So I did. The climate of the 60s in Berkeley was certainly a factor, but the idea of shouldering academic anemia and pressure, and the fact that it seemed every professor in the department was walking down the corridors with a knife in his back from one rival or another (though Thom Gunn was on the faculty, as well as Louis Simpson and Tom Parkinson), I decided to go it alone into the savage world without a safety net. Since then, I've traveled, worked at various jobs, none of which was teaching poetry or even undergraduate English in a college or university or even a high school, and have always written poetry late at night, after a day's work, resulting in over 48 manuscripts, some quite large, but attracting over the years very marginal peer or editorial recognition. I also sometimes feel the lack of an actually solid academic education, being, since then, more of an autodidact in my reading and assimilating. But then I also took another path altogether, and became a Muslim-Sufi in 1970 which led in another direction, toward Morocco and Mecca and the scholars of Qur'an and the world of spiritual realities, something I might really never have done if I'd stuck it out in the University, gotten a little teaching job somewhere, or a big one, become a more published poet perhaps, etc. etc. One of the main plusses but also minuses of writing degree programs, it seems, is that one enters a "culture" which supports, gives grants and prizes, and may even publish and make "famous" the member practitioner of poetry, but I wonder about the results. Nothing can substitute living and writing because you have to. Most poetry readings are attended these days by fellow poets. This is a cliche. Most poetry I read or hear at readings has become cerebral and inbred. The fire of the beats, who fired me up, has largely been tamed by university acceptance of wild creativity, highjacked perhaps by degree programs where students learn all the tones and voices and techniques and loosenings of inhibitions necessary to write, but may miss staggering lost in a Mexican forest at night, or falling into the London canal while working on a barge in Little Venice, or buying tins of pilchards in the markets of Nigeria, or which I don't posit as better than a degree, necessarily, but whose life experience may give a bit more grit, perhaps, than approval and applause from like voices. Do I envy the success of published works of degree holders and graduates from the warm and feathery wings of creative writing mentors and poet professors? Sometimes. Perhaps someone who wants to write great poetry should major in brain surgery or astronomy, comparative religion, or even, for God's sake, banking, and then write as if his or her life depended on it (hello there Wallace Stevens, Charles Ives). Are we in a hall of echoes where everyone begins to sound alike? Will all the poets in the audience please raise their hands? What! No janitors, aviators, marine biologists or even petty criminals in the audience? (Ach! I'm talking to myself again)
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
I learned a lot from the Temple Creative Program. I think programs work if you happen to be in the right place and with the right people. One year either way might have influenced the positive feelings I have for my program. This is a bit hit-or -miss. I like reading and having access to the libraries, so any kind of study would suit me.

It feels that a Creative Writing Degree gives you access to a writing community, and it annoints the writer as accredited and able to "teach" in the University. In my case, I don't think I would have been able to finish my writing if I hadn't studied in a formal way. There are lots of ways to be a writer.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
Oh, if people want to go that route, it is certainly available. It might be fun to be around all those people who are writing poems. I mean, it was fun when I was at Naropa. It seems a bit like an industry. But who I am I to say? I have loved many people who partook in these programs. I guess it's just not for me, if for no other reason than I don't have the time or money.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I had a wonderful time, I learned how to make the transition of writing privately to a public dialogue. I learned the value of mentors and poetic traditions.
---------

 
QUESTION 7:
Is there a visual artist who has inspired your poetry? If so who is it, and how have your poems been informed by their work?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
Tom & Jerry. And X-men comics.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
When I was 15 I went to the MOMA with my mom and looked at some cubism paintings. It blew my mind and I had to leave 5 minutes later. It seemed to be just like the way I wanted thought to work.
---------

JIM CORY
I know many visual artists, and I spend a lot of time visiting galleries and museums. I sometimes have the experience of being moved to tears by a painting. But I couldn't say one particular visual artist has provided a model for what I write, in the way that, say, reading the New York School, Beats, San Francisco poets, Black Mountain people, etc. showed me how to write poems. I love Demuth, Hartley, Maurer, O'Keefe and of course Joan Mitchell, DeKooning, Pollack and that gang. I like color and the attraction, for me, to painting, is every bit as powerful as the attraction to literature or music. But the method of creating a painting, vs. making a poem, is altogether different. Painters think like poets, but then again they don't. Then again, if I see a certain visual image that overwhelms, I tend to analyze it. I try and mentally re-create the process that brought it into existence. I do that with anything that gets past my guard. The greatest art, of whatever genre, belongs in a genre of its own.
---------

HASSEN
So far as I can think, no artist has directly inspired my poetry. However, there are quite a few who have provided re-affirmation of life-perspective I mentioned earlier/above. Immediately to mind come Cornell, Duchamp, Goya, Wyeth. C for wonder and play, D's possibility and humor, G's truth, vigilance, W?s ability to listen, reflect. Oh! another: I have a pic of a painting on my bedroom door ? Brad Eberhard?s ?My Squid Suit Brings Isolation. It's a found image - of Wyeth's Christina's World - but Eberhard painted a goofy red squid suit on her. One of the best things I've ever seen. The work of some artist friends really excites me, too. To answer the second part of this question ? my poems are not directly, so far as I know, informed by their work, but again, they likely (hopefully) reflect a certain perspective to living these artists reinforce. Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if the Crap I often frame (for coin) inspires me to subtly deride one or two specific & overrated artists in a future poem.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
I learned pottery from this beautiful woman named Roseanna Cruz. Boy, I'll be so embarrassed if she reads this. Anyway Roseanna was this audacious woman who was stunningly, but not conventionally beautiful and had this great black curling hair and didn't mind sweating. She was fabulous to watch-and she said while she was throwing a massive bowl that it was the shape inside of the pot that was most important. That insight, by analogy, informs just about everything in my life, including poetry. Poems work best for me like containers, telling you a thing by showing you its perimeter; humble, like bowls.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
I can't mention William Blake enough, it seems. He is the real Sufi English poet and illustrator of heavenly realities for me, even as his nude figures would be frowned on by the sterner and more puritan "religious" Muslims. But from the first time I saw his work, luminous, making the unseen palpable, actually radiating light as in (or out from) the paintings of Turner, I felt the breath of his multi-worldly dimension on my cheek and wanted to inhabit it. As an artist in both graphic and verbal realms, he is the model of the rugged innovator, an earlier Harry Partch (in music), certain of his mission, working in obscurity though he didn't want to (he hoped for more unanimous cultural usefulness, as did Whitman and Van Gogh), for the sake of social, political and spiritual revelation, but from the deep soul's standpoint in every case. As well as the fluidity of his figures and the amazingly otherworldly light in his paintings (seeing his paintings "live," as at the Met show a year or so ago, I was often staggered by the actual radiance that seems to emanate from within his works), his non-insipid angelic beings and spiritual entities, always Michaelangelesquely muscular and energetic, the reality of his imagination always stands forthright and strong and vigorous. As he said in the "devil's" voice in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight."

From my manuscript, Angel Broadcast:

SHOWER OF ANGELS

There's a shower of them, a downpour of
intelligent angels through the air,
landing and seeping into the ground everywhere.

They're impassive as they slide down into
matter and go, like cutouts, past its
surfaces, eyes always ahead, tinged with joy.

How could angels heed warnings? They do what they're
told, they have no
way to deny except to
burst into flame and burn
incandescently on a cloud-edge or eyelid-edge
forever, heart-edge sharp as broken glass,
their face-cavalcade showering through the air
toward and away from us

going out in a mist above the bay-waters of
human commerce.
---------

DEBORAH RICHRADS
I loved this question. I'm interested in modern art-- anti-art movements such as in Fluxus, Vito Acconci's procedures, Jeff Koons kitch, Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden project. I find that I'm energized by conceptual art. I enjoy the space of the installation, and minute detail of a Chuck Close portrait.

I would like my own work to take up space, be large, yet have the quirky detail that calls the eye to attention.

I once trained to be a volunteer docent at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, but I left before I could do real tours. I'd love to learn more and use some of the concepts and techniques in my work.

I have started (almost!!) a collaboration with Alicia Askenase on trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye)because of an exhibition I saw in Washington about a year ago.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
My sister Julie, who I am sadly no longer in touch with. She inspired and influenced me in most ways. She had a very joyful and intuitive approach to painting. She painted large cartoonish canvasses, had a great sense of humor in her paintings, lots of bright colors. They were also fairly narrative for paintings. My parents have one of her paintings hanging that is a large literal depiction of the song ST. Louis Woman.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
There are so many visual artists. I currently am loving Chinese Conceptual art as well what is happening in my generation of painters.
---------


QUESTION 8:
If L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry arrived at your door in the form of a gift, what would it look like?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
(At this point I stood up and stripped off to display the homemade Charles Bernstein LANGUAGE POETRY Wiffleball Team jersey I wore under the Pirates' jersey I had on. They will soon be available.)
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
It would look like a stone. I would love it for being a stone, and it to my collection. I have two cats who sometimes knock the stones off their shelf. They break apart. But they're still stones, and still great.
---------

JIM CORY
I think it might be one of those rubber shrunken heads people used to dangle from their rear-view mirrors in the 60s.
---------

HASSEN
It would be portable steps. & reversible.
---------

SOFIA MEMON
I don't know. I didn't know what L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry was when I was asked this question. I'm still not entirely sure what it is. But here's a gesture at an answer: I might not like Ezra Pound or William Blake, but I love playing with form. I love the freedom to play and I love the form with which to start playing. I want both and I enjoy both. So I guess L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry would be brown goo which would be nice if it were chocolate that could be scraped into bites, or if it were paint and I could take a sieve and separate the colors and start again winding my way carefully back to brown goo.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
Labyrinths in lab coats with tongue depressors or
lang. gauges like Laplanders with little lights on
talking through mazes where amazement manifests

age after age in angelic formations
though to our minds or minefields
miasmas of ams as in "I am" or "you am," (Popeye)

"I never met a poem I didn't like" (Will Rogers)

as against
"I never killed a poem that didn't deserve it" (Al Capone)

(Hey, some of my best friends are L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets)
or could (should) be?

I consider some Eskimo songs poems of this ilk
(elk)

The milk of kindness flows from poem to poem
in vessels as varied as faces or surprises
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
It would be a collection of excyclopaedia, bound in mauroon leather-look fabric with a gold trim. The pages would be fine, and the print would be small, but it should be well-written and include actual examples of texts. As I like research, it would be a perfect gift.

I'd prefer the hard back version of the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E, because I'd find it easier than browsing the C.D-rom. Though, the C.D- rom would be easier to take with me if I moved.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
Refrigerator magnets. Just as an aside, what really did arrive in the mail...was a free sample of special KY Jelly that heats to the touch. The weird thing was that it was actually addressed to my mother.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
An orange parka.
---------


QUESTION 9:
I have a bottle of pills that will physically change you into the way you feel about poetry. You take one, and when you look in the mirror, what do you see?

THE ANSWERS:

JIM BEHRLE
I quit drinking 6 months ago. This pill doesn't sound like it would jive with my sobriety. Sorry.
---------

EDMUND BERRIGAN
I see nothing, because I have no eyes. I feel gaseous and peculiar, and everything is motion. After awhile I can tell that the types of motion are different. Then I stop having human associations.
---------

JIM CORY
It'd depend on the time of day and circumstance. If I'm just back from the the big Borders on Broad St. here in Philadelphia, having perused shelves and shelves of mediocre books that somehow made it into print, your pill would change me into that creature Sigorney Weaver faced down in Alien. On the other hand, if it's a rainy Saturday afternoon and I've taken to my bed with, say, "Poems for the Millenium," or Zukovsky's Collected Poems, I would walk in the bathroom to pee and suddenly see, looking back from above the sink, a gardenia that could smell itself.
---------

HASSEN
It seems like a funhouse mirror. I can only
.focus.on.how.the.mirror.distorts.my.image , which might be, what, a
transforming sky? shadow? vapor? Hey now...
---------

SOFIA MEMON
Once an Egyptian man living in Italy made me a meal. He fried whole, finely breaded fish. It was a little grotesque as I was a vegetarian and the fish eyes were all glassy. But it was so decadent and so irresistible. He made a spicy meat stew and drained the juice into the rice for cooking. He mixed feta cheese with olives and put oil and pepper on the every green but lettuce salad. He pulled out the only table from the wall in his one room house and set it with simple white plates. That table, set with the eyes of the fish staring up at me; that's what I see in the mirror.
---------

DANIEL ABDAL-HAYY MOORE
I came of age in Oakland and San Francisco in the 60s, met and knew the old school poets Ginsberg, McClure and Ferlinghetti, was energized by massive poetry readings attended by blissed out multitudes packed to the rafters who hung on every word and waited for every new book of poems to come out?"news that stays news" (Pound), started a poetry theater company, The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, writing ecstatic texts to be declaimed to the night skies of psychedelic Berkeley, then in 1970 entered a Sufi realm where the poetry of Mevlana Rumi was the portal, and the diwan (or poetry-song collection) of our enlightened teacher in Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, became our daily reading and singing, along with studying and reciting the Qur'an, whose acknowledged sacredness of language and elevation of meaning was beyond anything I'd ever encountered. I can't be blamed, therefore, for having a take on poetry that is rooted in Beat directness but heads into stratospheric empyreans (as Jim Cory calls it) in search of new meanings and fresh inspirations. I mean, I can be blamed, of course, but I've got a good lawyer.

So when I look into the mirror, I may not see a glib or cocky self, may not see a corduroy'd poet with leather elbow patches, may not see respectable member of the poetry community looking straight back at me with confidence and even a certain self-effacing brio, but having seen a new dimension of poetry as a way toward direct, experiential knowledge of God, and as a means through ecstatic excitement and vaster dimensionality to lead others to a simultaneously experienced knowledge (as against one previously experienced and then rationally explained)?(I mean one experienced at the very writing of the poem!), though I make no similar claims for myself in terms of a station of elevation, yet having sat with someone whose "poetry" didn't come from sitting down to write, but rather from being overwhelmed with angelic dictation (see Jack Spicer?but think in terms of Sufi or Judeo-Christian mystical tradition where such ideas are assumed and expected - Saint John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, even Japanese Zen Master Dogen, for example)?

so that hopefully
if I looked into a mirror after having
swallowed such a pill
bitter sweet or bittersweet

I might see rolling hills with a strange green light splashing over them
rainbow-lit ocean waves heaving over their silvery fringes

or a hood with no face in it looking back at me

and in that open space

God's light itself
---------

DEBORAH RICHARDS
A "magic eye" picture that, with closer investigation and concentration, becomes an image. The poet is not trying to hide the image, but create another of view of a series of lines, dashes, and squiggles. In the magic eye book there are some pictures that are easier to read than others, and that's the fun, the seriousness, and variety of the form.
---------

MOLLY RUSSAKOFF
I look like a gazelle traipsing through a field of flowers.
---------

PRAGEETA SHARMA
I wouldn't see it in the mirror but I would feel wonderful all of the time.
---------

 
ABOUT THE POETS:

Jim Behrle edits can we have our ball back? and serves as Roving Poet for WBUR's syndicated radio newsmagazine "Here & Now."

Edmund Berrigan was born in Colchester, England, moved to Chicago two weeks later, and two years from then went on to New York to study rent escalation. He is the author of Disarming Matter from Owl Press (1999). Recent poems have or will appear(ed) in or on Lungfull!, Pom, 3ammagazine.com, Van Gogh's Ear, & Cock Now.

Jim Cory, a 25 year veteran of the Philadelphia poetry scene, has been a Yaddo and Pennsylvania Arts Council fellow and published seven chapbooks of poems.

hassen writes poetry & fiction & lives near Philadelphia. Her poems have been to Skanky Possum, Nedge, Barque Press' One Hundred Days Anthology, and in the current issue of FREQUENCY Audio Journal. Hassen likes summer a lot.

Sofia Memon is a poet and welfare rights lawyer who lives and works in Philadelphia. Sofia has read her work at The Khyber, the Asian Arts Initiative. Her poetry will appear in the soon to be published anthology, Writing the Lines of Our Hands. Her writing is an exploration of sound, lyric, and form as well as an expression of cultural fusion, muslim spirituality, and humane politics.

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore's poems have appeared in Zyzzva, the Citys Lights Review, and The Nation. His books Dawn Visions (1964), and Burnt Heart, Ode to the War Dead (1972), were both published by City Lights Books. His latest collections are The Blind Beekeeper and The Ramadan Sonnets.

Deborah Richards is known for her colorful wraps and her slips into British English. Her first collection of poems, Last One Out, is now out from Subpress.

Molly Russakoff has published and performed her poems widely over the past 25 years. She was a recipient of a Pew Fellowship in 1995. She currently owns Molly's Cafe & Bookstore in Philadelphia's Itlanian Market, where she hosts poetry and prose readings and tries to sell quality used books. She also is an editor of Joss, a poetry magazine, and the poetry editor of The Philadelphia Independent.

Prageeta Sharma is the author of Bliss to Fill (Subpress, 2000). Her poems and other writings have appeared in journals such as Boston Review, Agni, Fence, The Women's Review of Books and others. She lives and writes in Brooklyn.





This page is powered by Blogger.