Nick Piombino's blog, June 26-27, 2005

Vanitas at the Bowery Poetry Club

The readings in celebration of the first issue of Vincent Katz' new poetry and arts magazine, Vanitas, were clearly well received, and when the attendees had a chance to check out the terrific work therein and the issue's excellent production values, with cover and a section of art work by Jim Dine, the palpable excitement spilled over into the impromptu party afterwards at the Cafe Orlin. Vanitas #1 is available from Vincent Katz at The editorial address is 211 West 19th Street, #5, New York, NY 10011. Vincent, in an editorial afterword writes: "Most people in the U.S. use the word 'political' incorrectly. Politics must be an actual functioning apporoach to changing or avoiding governmental policies. This issue is reflection on THE STATE. Next, we will approach what can possibly thought of as politics. One move will be towards an investigation of current possibilities of Anarchy. Each issue will have a theme or thrust....One part of VANITAS is open it to current voices from around the world. We start in this issue with a poem from France and an essay from Brazil..."

For some reason, everything, from the magazine itself, to the reading, to the party afterwards, to thinking about it now, seems to be triggering endless deja vus. Anyone, which is nearly everyone, who has had this feeling knows how it encompasses many aspects of memory and timelessness.

I keep coming back to seeing Greg Masters at the reading. Greg is an old-timer like me, a vintage Poetry Project person. Connecting with Greg again helps heal the rifts that necessarily occur in the course of a lifetime with poets and poetry. Vanitas opens up with an article by Jordan Davis about the available histories of the New York school. He writes about David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde, Daniel Kane's All Poets Welcome, and Joe LeSueur's memoir, Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara, the last two published in 2003. Jordan appreciates these but wants more and feels the history taking of this era and its progeny is incomplete. "What would be nice to have is a not-too-long book that tells the story of the New York School of poets, identifying the common interests of the writers and sources of their work, while placing the groups as they develop in their shifting milieus."

Next comes a piece by Carter Ratcliff titled “The Anaxagoras Variations: A Note on Theory.” A fine poet in his own right, Carter Ratcliff is best known as an art critic. Once upon a time I would have been annoyed by this piece, which attempts to deconstruct & critique theory by means of theory. But, living in the heart of my own anecdotage, I can only enjoy reading the words of someone who attended Ted Berrigan's poetry workshop with me in 1967 and wrote a poem about it published in Ann Waldman's first World Anthology (1969) in which he writes:

"Disagree with anything anybody else says, especially
what Charles, Ted, Nick, and Scott say
Agree with everything anybody says, especially
what Marcel Flamm says
Figure out who likes what
Be jealous of everybody
Approve of this sentiment and its intensity
Arrive late when all the places around the table
are taken"

I remember admiring & enjoying Carter Ratcliff's first book of poetry Fever Coast, which featured an unforgettable poem titled "The Comma."

Next comes a poem by Ann Lauterbach, "Triangles and Squares (Guston, Malevich)":
"yea the geometric sun, yes the line of abstraction. o yes
monster ambition flourishing, the violent inhuman field"

Then four poems by Fanny Howe including “Empty Handed”:
"This blindness was all our fault, it was our work
until the lock of sleep"

Then four by Ange Mlinko, including “The Most Awkward Hugger”:
"It's the sort of weather Tybalt murdered Mercutio in.
I sold a dinner jacket for cash to buy a birthday present."

Three by Carol Mirakove including “substance”:
"populace spending 17 billion dollars a year on
books and a 105 billion dollars on booze"

Judith Malina, who lead off the BPC reading superbly, has one untitled poem:
"I am Kandinsky standing
in front of Monet's haystack
about to discover a simple
truth that changes everything"

Then, my #1 favorite young poet right now Nada Gordon's “_Nothing is Untitled_”:
"It fans across black as a hand (like a sassy cloud
in the ghetto of the sky) it spires an undersea

Marianne Shaneen (who couldn't make the reading because she was ill) contributes five poems including “Magnetic Memory Loss”:
"each tenderness extends into whipcrack.
war hidden in the language. by
influencing their appetites or desires."
and a collaboration with Rod Smith “tertium
"(sky) to be (sky) to be (by) to be (ours) to be (come) (&)
to rise"

Sarah Manguso contributes “Epthalamion”:
"Do not be too serious! You are part of it now!"

Elaine Equi, who helped to edit the issue, contributes four poems, including “Nostalgia For Nostalgia’s Sake”:
"...If only we had
some good, loud insults to hurl at these floats,
these mirages that pass for current events."

Three from Anne Waldman, including “Neural-Linguistically: this is the writing dance...":
"This is the trespass dance this is the way I get down for it
It's my power structure to STRANGLE Rumsfeld"

Then a Jim Dine portfolio of painted poems:
"This Morning, when I was young
I went into a little room where there was
OBJECT A big sculpture
In The Room"

Four from Jerome Sala, including “A Pageant of Agents,” a poem about beautiful spies being hired by the CIA, including Britney Spears:
"'She may be our
biggest coup (and cop)
since the days when we
backed abstract art
in Europe; hey, from Jackson Pollack
to the Back Street Boys
you've got to go
with the flow
of the times'"

Four from Carter Ratcliff including “Since When”:
"Since when did you make manners your manifesto
and rudeness your apologia? Since when

did you admit that there was any difference between the two?

Pizazz, you say, is a Darwinian adaptation,
and altruism, down for the count"

Two from David Lehman, including, “The Crown of The Evening”:
"In one drawer I kept the collages of David Shapiro.
Frank O'hara was dead but kept writing in that drawer."

One from Francis Ponge, translated by Laird Hunt, “Banks of the Loire, Rome, May 24th, 1941”:
"Never try to arrange things. Things and poems are irreconcilable."

One from Drew Gardner, “from The Fire Escape”:
"I can't afford this
to slowly turn around
it's not dying, it's just
bizarre, and true
we are in a chemical world
and we fight in a high, panicked screen-memory"

Three Haiku from me, including “Unearth”:
"a few delicate

now buried
beneath an avalanche"

Then two untitled poems from Richard Hell:
"the wack, the tang, the brassiere
the poop eye candle-flame"

One from Charles Borkhuis, “Valley of the Dogs”:
"don't talk to me about your nightmares
everybody's got 'em"

Five from Daniel Bouchard, including “Christmas is Bombing”:
"Melville tells us there is nothing
more insignificant
than having a book of poems published"

One from Michel Bulteau “The Wounded Dream,” translated from the French by Vincent Katz:
"Let's cut off our hands!
They've spent too much time under the earth....
Will you believe for very much longer
That your affirmations seal your identity?"

One from Morgan Russell, “Walk Fragment”:
"he (the tape I suspect)
shot me awake 4AM"

One from Clayton Eshleman “Autumn 2004”:
"How to say myself as an American 21st Century
exasperated person?"

Another from Nada Gordon, “Decency in the Arts”:
"Take thy bev'rage from the ancient rose,
and ram it up your dirty bomb
In order to felch its eyeball with a straw
And on John Ashcroft's breast repose"

Two essays from Alvin Curran written as liner notes to his CD “Animal Behavior”, including “Why Is This Night Different Than All Other Nights”: "...the ever-present choral hum of the Brooklyn Bridge acts as a reminder of what that monument once sounded like; it also acts like a safety net to catch the tuba spittle, the violin's rosin, the accordion's breath…"

An essay from Ricardo Abromovay, “The Brazilian Left: Far From the Night of the Ultimate Overthrow”: “The principal mission of a government of the left in contemporary societies consists in promoting conditions that open greater opportunities for social integration to the poorest citizens, stimulating productive investments, applying substantial resources in education, and above all allowing greater productivity and greater access to markets for the millions of workers who might not participate in the economic growth."

An essay from Martin Brody, “Music Like That”: "Adrian Piper suggests how an operation of 'self-confounding' might function as a poetics of intransigence with a strong formalist bent: '[T]o confound oneself by incorporating into works of art an aesthetic language one recognizes as largely opaque to one; as having a significance one recognizes as beyond one's ability to grasp... [T]he cross-cultural appropriation of alien formal devices reminds one of one's subjectivity.’”

Following this, a section of a memoir by Morgan Russell “A Girl Named Lunch”: "...she told me of a lover with a glass eye... your eye, take it out...why?..because I want to lick the membrane behind it...(it’s actually almost licking the brain: a brain job)."

The excellent issue ends with a statement of purpose by the editor Vincent Katz: "Someone asked me if the point was September 11, and I said no, it was a general dysfunction that had set in, marked by the thrusting into power of a group of figures that will be remembered as among the most destructive in U.S. and world history."