Commentaries - July 2013

Translation from Spanish by Cole Heinowitz

                                                 To the memory of Infraín                                                       

                                                   Vibrations - whips
                                           1 sound comes from the shadow
                                                  quickly forms 1 sphere
                                                            1 farm
                                                            1 group
                                                          1 armada
                                                1 universe of Universe 

                                                                  Henri Michaux

Some grubby pants & death in the chest
              Right on man!
I’ll see you there by the wall
/ just past the loading zone /
winds crystallizing on the left
fins of the dust : your fins
1 oasis harpooning the dryness in us
In the daughter of your eye / the graveyard
 : Mezcalito casting posies :
Earth & its opposite : deer silent as the noises at their weddings
You shouldn’t go / but you should go 

(In this shadow this strange fruit nestles
that’s the heart of the amphibious & precocious infrarealist becoming)
Sons of Pablo de Rokha are we
Before writing this / we were already flying
Then the continuum of the written was less patrolled
Breath danced on the tip of the tongue
We transformed caressing the ayayay of every wound
          We’re poets
          Cymbals of the black sun
          that magnetizes us
Neither lumpens nor proletarians
The wage-earning demigod
not 1 pen bursts in our abysses
 : The infra-dawns in the spider’s House of Usher :
Sweet clitoris plays paddle ball / embarks as for the 5 mountains in 2 lutes
At tender gallop & flowing mane
          Rubayat is in love
Our tongue has been barbed
It’s watermelon / dripping deep-laughing vagrant
Adventure that’s torn open our abrasions
What we’ve been we are in the crescendoing of echoes
          For such shoulders : such thighs
          For those ankles / those steps
Lessons of cleansing by the scalpel
...Gray is the Theory...
Red the fuzz of Cannabis / The Wireless
The fight? / Against the power of phara$aical $ign$
                      (Mask vs Longhair)
10 years later we’re still being tribal
                      / lubricous wherever /
In Jalapa : Minneapolis : Iquitos : Ivry-sur-Seine : Gerona :
                      Glen & Canyon
Dogs inhabited by voices of the desert
Aztec priests blinded by the flame by the song of the body
& the flame of the body that’s the song
                      Reality sandwiches!
The compost of language doesn’t germinate
if it isn’t in deeds already poverty incarnate
The Marabu triumph in Nahuatl lands
—How much for the singing rabbit? / With wings?
—Happy Un-Birthday
Infrarealism isn’t some scouring-word
Our nights have anthologized us
Every texticle in its place / that could likely be our nomad’s miracle
It’s Zero Hour again
Jesús Luis scratches Songs for Thugs in its light
There are stars like there are desires
there are abysses & there are roads
The piranhas of the day before yesterday
are iguanas of the future
Waves : waves : waves of thirst
—What’d those tv employees say about us?
/ sons of the happy service & prosperous benefits /
—Oh Holy Satanic Laughter
—Billy Burroughs doesn’t even know?
              The lowlife jumps for joy
              / They’re fireflies in the dawn /
—Would that be 1 Sirian haiku?
1 water poet in the sierras?
Delirium’s orgasm?
   Edgar Allan & Black Sabbath’s little sister
      dickfaces & fucktrarians
        what a lot of trenches
          plowed in the guts of the guts 

          I touch wind
: turgid chance :
Our root’s talking
/ not the laundering of Power & its ticket-booths
its taxes : its punishments : cynical grins : its wheezing of vanities /
Let Tin-Tan burn his zoot suit
The roads are full of other beings
          / not the cubicle or charge /
Remember body how much you lived
     How much gospel of the open heavens
          / Subterraneously : sovereignly /
Because it won’t be the fear of any fear
  that makes us set at half mast
  the igneous geyser of our indignation
& this numeral 13 says it well:
Mexican poetry is divided in 2
Mexican poetry & infrarealism
          / 1 Tula River to stir up / 

[TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.  In 1975, the Mexican poet Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (1953-1998) and Roberto Bolaño co-founded Infrarrealism, a poetry movement that drew inspiration from Dadaism, Surrealism, Stridentism, the Beats, and the contemporary Peruvian movement Hora Zero. Their project, at its core, was to explode literary, social, and political conventions through a radical reconception of the poetic imagination and the poetic life. As Bolaño put it in the “Infrarrealist Manifesto:” “The true imagination is the one that dynamites, elucidates, injects emerald microbes into other imaginations…Perception opens by way of an ethic-aesthetic taken to the extreme.” Bolaño’s novels (especially The Savage Detectives, in which Santiago appears as Ulises Lima) are now well known in the U.S. and stand as a profound testament to the extraordinary daring and energy of Infrarrealism. But Santiago’s large and astonishingly powerful body of work has yet to receive the recognition it deserves outside the Spanish-speaking world. To date, only Santiago’s first major poem, Consejos de 1 discípulo de Marx a 1 fanático de Heidegger (1975), has been translated into English. The poem presented here, “Already Far from the Road,” was originally published in the collection Beso eterno (Al Este del paraíso, 1995), and gives English readers their first taste of Santiago’s later work.  -- Cole Heinowitz]

Diane Wakoski and Jerome Rothenberg: A Joint Portrait
Diane Wakoski and Jerome Rothenberg: A Joint Portrait

Diane’s Personal Ghost Ranch

I imagine riding a ghost-stallion, my
hair in braids, pinned on top on my head,
just like it was when I was seven, and sitting on the
school bus, with yellow ribbon-bows on a comb,
tucked under the braids to make a little crown. 

I imagine that on the Ghost Ranch I
will meet the Bluemoon Cowboy,
his silver-toed boots, glinting
under my bed.  Read me a story.
Read me one with poetry.  Please. 

On my ghost ranch, we will occasionally feel
the moonflower spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, but actually
she won’t be there.  She’s moved back to New York City,
to Brooklyn, where it’s hip and cool and edgy. 
My ghost ranch is too quiet now,
and my ghosts way more misty than she’d crave with her bone sonnet vision;
we all give ghost sighs of sadness for ourselves because we know

Georgia never got old.
Her body parts are still mushroom-fleshed,
orchidious, and voluptuous enough
to live successfully in Brooklyn. 
She sends us
Marianne Moore’s spritely but mourning ghost
because, of course,
the Dodgers aren’t in Brooklyn any more.
At my ghost ranch, Miss Moore wears a crown
of moonflowers.  “They are actually ‘datura,’ she
would tell me. 

Sea Thrift & Gorse

                         “I saw myself in watery sunlight, divested of all obligations
                         and connections, walking without luggage along a narrow road
                         by a sandy bay, with sea thrift and gorse and a solitary pine.

                                                            From Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan

 As if the sea is not the most extravagant
of all distributors, scattering everything that falls
into it!  Sea Thrift: an oxymoron, not like a pinched, Spartan bookkeeper
but growing exuberantly pink and sweet in marshes
or rocky gardens. 
                                                                                     And Gorse,
yellow ragamuffin gypsy king, taking over
wherever it grows.  Yes, it’s life’s dessert:
to romanticize oneself as Sea Thrift and Gorse.
Life’s sugarplum.Its yellow jellybean.
Names that are wishful, even deceptive, the satin slipper pinkness
of Sea Thrift, the melting-butter yellow flower
of Gorse cradled in brambles, or the royal cloaking purple cascade
of late spring Wisteria all suggest that    to name
displays our urge, not to be honest but  to  transform
the plain or ugly – a beautiful name, if not a beautiful body. 

My name, Diane, declares
Moon Goddess, it too an oxymoron
as I control nothing,
not tides, or madness, not lovers,
or night blooming flowers.  My name,
like so many names,
extravagantly, ironically, belies my organic or
celestial natures. 

I read novels and watch film
to become invisible, I suppose because I am not beautiful.
Instead, I am grasping, urgent,
the way wisteria vines twist around
spruce columns
holding up a covered deck, becoming
instead of sinew,
and gripping terrace wood
until it disappears without seeming even to splinter. 

Call me Diane, I say, wanting you to think of moonlight, not
not of a vine that crushes.  If I were a jellybean, I’d be the
green one that nobody likes.

The Diamond Dog Follows Me to the Court of Ponce de Leon

They announce me as a princess,
my little Diamond Dog tapping beside me,
unleashed, and I am wrapped and shod in silk tissue,
Curtained as if by dragonfly wings.  And someone says,
“Enough, give her the gift.”
I am from Southern California,
the desert, yucca-belled, adobe-roofed, bougainvillea-cascaded, ice-
plant barricaded, so water is the gift
anticipated.  Lizards, a coach drawn by lizards: my favorite
detail from Cinderella’s transformation, but now I offer
my hand, waiting for a glass of water
so clear it will hold Youth, it will taste like
orange blossoms.
First they call the Diamond Dog
and he runs to the king with a red crown.  Then,
they unwrap my dragonfly silks
and ask me to step out of my rose petal shoes.
Naked, I wait for my gift.
The shower.
The Waterfall.
The geyser or
A sprinkle of drops,
A glassful?

But the gift is not water; it is
invisibility.  Not Youth,
but infinite age.
I vanish in the court of Ponce de Leon.
No one believes the Fountain exists, but if it doesn’t,
what was the gift?
[NOTE.  It is now a few months over fifty years since the publication of Diane Wakoski’s first book, Coins and Coffins, by Hawk’s Well Press, the small press that I had established in the late 1950s along with Diane Rothenberg & David Antin.  Newly arrived in New York Wakoski was the first poet from the outside to truly join us, bringing with her an extraordinarily developed sense & practice of a poetry of the everyday that, in Robert Duncan’s words, “might be fantastic life.”  It was in this way, as I later wrote of her, that her work, while striking a note of the autobiographical — even to some ears (but not hers) the “confessional” — asserts the truth of an imaginal life that moves (at several of its remarkable [cosmological] peaks) toward what Keats spoke of as soul-making or world-making & Wallace Stevens as a “supreme fiction.”  Wakoski, then, in her own words: “I feel a body of poetry has its own separate and organic life, just as a human being does.  Conceiving of my poetry as a living organism, I began to conceive of it as a life.  Of course, what it was representative of was my fantasy life.  It drew from my own real life, but it began to have its own identity, its own life, and I felt that any life must have in it other people.”  And again: “In some ways I think of myself as a novelist in disguise, a mythologist — at least a storyteller, or a user of stories." Or, in a still larger frame — & as an indication too of what's stacked up against it: "Poetry is our history. / We study the stars / to understand temperatures. / Life and death are the only issues; / we often forget that — arranging our furniture, / washing our cars.”

                More of her recent poetry, which continues & progresses in the same vein, was posted earlier on Poems and Poetics & can be found here. (J.R.)]

The Boise State University MFA Reading Series

Downtown Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise. Image from

Rather than highlight a specific poem, poet, reading, or series this week, I want to showcase a city. And  this isn’t just any city. This is Boise, Idaho — my hometown. Mentioning the city elicits many of the same questions and reactions, so let’s get those out of the way right now. Yes, there are potatoes, but no, we don't eat them all of the time. The city is actually in the West, not the Midwest (Boise is further west than Las Vegas, and you probably mixed it up with Iowa). And yes, Boise State University has the blue turf, and we all saw the 2007 Fiesta Bowl game. The one question I never get asked, however, is “How is the poetry in Boise?” It's a shame that I never get to answer this question too, because there is a strong and vibrant poetry community in Boise, with BSU as its center.

I have to begin my profile of Boise with the Boise State University MFA Reading Series,  a series which is crucial to the poetry community in Boise, and is the largest collection related to Boise on PennSound. Recently, Ron Silliman featured a few of these recordings on his blog, almost as a testament to the importance of a series that features prominent writers in a city that is otherwise largely ignored in the literary world. So far, this series has brought a number of poets to Boise, including Susan Schultz, Forrest Gander, Charles Bernstein, Bhanu Kapil, Tom Raworth, and Alice Notley, among others. And it will continue to bring writers in the years to come. Already there are approximately 17 hours worth of readings on PennSound, and even more recordings featuring visiting novelists can be found on the MFA Reading Series iTunes U page

The director of the MFA Program at Boise State is Martin Corless-Smith, who received his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and his PhD from the University of Utah. His most recent book of poems, English Fragments A Brief History of the Soul, was released in 2010 by Fence Books. Several poems from this collection can be found on Corless-Smith's PennSound page. He is a truly fantastic poet, and the poems in English Fragments come from the intensely personal and lyric modes while using postmodern composition and linguistic emphasis. All our secrets... and Dark Matter are excellent examples of this. Corless-Smith also appeared in a number of episodes of Cross Cultural Poetics, a radio program hosted by Leonard Schwartz.

Also appearing in an episode Cross Cultural Poetics is Janet Holmes, poet, professor, and editor of Ahsahta Press. As Ahsahta Press describes their history:

A not-for-profit literary publisher, Ahsahta was founded in 1974 at Boise State University to preserve the best works by early poets of the American West. Its name, ahsahta, is the Mandan word meaning Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and was first recorded by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition...Soon after its inception, the press began publishing contemporary poetry by Western poets along with its reprint titles. Ahsahta editors discovered and initially published a number of widely popular poets from the West.

These works of contemporary poetry include Noah Eli Gordon's most recent book, The Year of the Rooster, Brian Teare's Pleasure, and Sandra Doller's Chora. Ahsahta is one of my favorite presses, and is not one to ignore.

Of course, all of this is part of the institutional poetry world of Boise, and in many ways ignores the poetry community that exists alongside Boise State University. For a taste of that community, I encourage you to visit CA Conrad's Jupiter88. Conrad visited Boise for a reading in late 2011, and used the opportunity to record a number of Boise poets, comprising episodes 66 through 72 of his video magazine: Genna Kohlhardt, Julie Strand, Charles Gabel, Torin Jensen, Megan Williams, and Janet Holmes. When Conrad announced these recordings on the Buffalo Poetics Listserv almost two years ago, he said something that has stuck with me ever since: “BOISE is one of my new favorite poetry cities!” I hope that after exploring some of the resources for poetry in Boise that are available, it might become one of your favorites as well.