Editorial selections from 'Combo'

Combo no. 4 detail

Culminating in an all-Flarf twelfth issue, Combo is known to have been the first print publication to gather a full collection of Flarf poems. Published in the same year as K. Silem Mohammad’s Deer Head Nation (poems from which were also first published in Combo) the magazine stands as the original print vehicle for the listserv-generated poetry movement. Magee’s Flarf manifesto “Mainstream Poetry” is first published here, and the editor’s and contributor’s notes are ideally suited to the collection (see Combo no. 12). As Jordan Davis writes in his 2004 Village Voice article “O, You Cosh-Boned Posers!”:

Magee's small-press magazine Combo broke the flarf story first, in early 2003. A significant finding in that issue, currently required reading for Charles Bernstein’s literature students at the University of Pennsylvania, is that Google searches on the phrase "aw yeah" yield more socially acceptable results as the number of w's in "aw" increases.

From the fascinating mixture of emerging poets in the early issues to the formation of a group aesthetic in the last issues, Combo is essential reading for major developments in poetry around the millenium. Magee's own manifesto poem "Mainstream Poetry," as timely today as when published in 2003, can serve as the best introduction to the moment.

Publishing new poets in each issue, the magazine features an impressive roster of works by Bruce Andrews, John Ashbery, Nathan Austin, Amiri Baraka, David Baratier, Eric Baus, Bill Berkson, Anselm Berrigan, Daniel Bouchard, Jules Boykoff, Taylor Brady, Lee Ann Brown, Nicole Burrows, Louis Cabri, Fran Carlen, Nate Chinen, Jessica Chiu, Barbara Cole, Clark Coolidge, Yago Said Cura, Rachel Daley, Catherine Daly, Maria Damon, Jordan Davis, Jacques Debrot, Katie Degentesh, Albert Flynn Desilver, Ray DiPalma, Mark Ducharme, Patrick Durgin, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Laura Elrick, Andrew Epstein, Brett Evans, Bill Freind, Romina E. Freschi, Heather Fuller, Kristen Gallagher, Sergey Gandlevsky, Drew Gardner, Alan Gilbert, Michael Gizzi, Loss Pequeño Glazier, Laura Goldstein, Nada Gordon, E. Tracy Grinnel, Carla Harryman, Matt Hart, John Heon, Mitch Highfill, Jen Hofer, Mytili Jagannathan, Summi Kaipa, Alex Katz, Vincent Katz, David Kellogg, Rodney Koeneke, David Koppisch, Susan Landers, David Larsen, Sara M. Larsen, Alex Lavigne-Gagnon, Ben Lerner, Carl Lombardi, Lisa Lubasch, Carl Martin, Pattie McCarthy, Chris McCreary, Mark McMorris, Paige Menton, Sharon Mesmer, Phil Metres, Ange Mlinko, K. Silem Mohammad, Jonathan Monroe, Harryette Mullen, Christopher Mulrooney, Sheila Murphy, Jason Nelson, Alice Notley, Jena Osman, Eugene Ostashevsky, Gil Ott, Ronald Palmer, John Parker, Bob Perelman, Kristin Prevallet, Dmitry Prigov, Randy Prunty, Rachel Raffler, Tom Raworth, Kit Robinson, Lev Rubinshtein, Mark Sardinha, Standard Schaefer, Prageeta Sharma, Lytle Shaw, Kerry Sherin, Rod Smith, Katherine Steele, Brian Kim Stefans, Chris Stroffolino, Gary Sullivan, Abigail Susik, Sara Thacher, Lorenzo Thomas, Edwin Torres, Rodrigo Toscano, Elizabeth Treadwell, Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop, Shawn Walker, and Mark Wallace.

Find the full run of Combo available for download here.

Selections from Combo

Kristen Gallagher, from Combo no. 1:


Editor's Note (Michael Magee), from Combo no. 2:

In thinking of how this second issue of COMBO took shape, I'm reminded of something Nate Mackey wrote: that "creative kinship and the lines of affinity are much more complex, jagged, and indissociable than the totalizing pretentions of canon formation tend to acknowledge." Good. There's hope then for a community which doesn't resemble a club. I wanted my own editorial predilections to be mediated as much as possible. It wasn't cacophony I was looking for but some pattern based on antiphonies. The community implied by our first issue was a place to begin and then maybe we'd just see what happened, what sorts of conversations developed post-dlistribution. Not to imply passivity — O'Hara's warning: "One must not be stifled in a closed social or artistic railway station waiting for the train." Creeley's prescription: "any 'we' must, willynilly, submit to the organic orders of its existence." [...]

The missing element now is audience. These are difficult poets who care about readers — a contradiction to those who do not see the poem as a participatory arena. But I would say this: any static between interpretation and intention is less like scraping friction and more an issue of distance between radio and signal; one imagines space being the variable and deciding factor between noise and reception: music becomes a matter of moving on, adjusting the dial, directional guesswork. Difficulty, then, is related to poetry's potential agency, its ability to affect, set in unanticipated motion, an audience: the difference between "eating that fig newton changed my life" and "eating that wrench changed my life" is what I have in mind. Let there be a few wrenches between us, a series of necessary adjustments, in the getting there.


Clark Coolidge, from Combo no. 3:


Loss Pequeño Glazier, from Combo no. 3:


Eugene Ostashevsky, from Combo no. 7:


Editor's Note (Michael Magee), from Combo no. 9:


Lytle Shaw, from Combo no. 10:


Editor's Note (Michael Magee), from Combo no. 11:

I had wanted to touch on so many things here: on the poems which have begun to articulate a politics valuable in its refusal to meet the rational, euphemistic obfuscation of mediaspeak on its own terms. I thought again of something Frederick Douglass had said, "At a time like this, scorching irony, not convinc- ing argument, is needed." Thought too about those poems which seem to eschew politics, willfully, for the invented spaces where, to quote Bemstein, "the mouse chases the cat," testament, perhaps, to the poems prophetic role, the extemporization of altematives. (The ghost of "traditional" — formal, canonical? — poetry seems everywhere in this new issue. A salvaging, a writing through? Make of it what you will but look too to the answers Kasey Mohammad provides in his wonderful review essay.) [...] Again, I feel as if I am merely talking around the real significance of the work. So much the better, I guess, "go find out for yourself' — which, as Creeley once pointed out, is the meaning of historein, root of "history."


from Combo no. 11:


Michael Magee, from Combo no. 12:

Mainstream Poetry
After Baraka

Poems are, like, total bullshit unless they are
squid or popsicles or deer piled
on elk in the trunk of David Hasselhoff's
Cutlass Sierra. Or black ladies dying
of men leaving nickel hearts
beating them down. MAINSTREAM poems
and they are USEFUL — Great if you like
having a Popsicle stuck in "I love George Bush," like,
the popsicle squid goes "gong" when all the other
dishes run out of toilet paper, how far can Bush go
with a squid up his motherfuckin ass - see what I mean?
We want LIVE world wide words of the MAINSTREAM ready
to sink her teeth into the flesh of our Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz when the napalm in his blood
starts cooking. I could kill an entire day
with a popsicle stick and a small jar of insignificant
brain cells lost in the 70's by George W. Bush. We want
poems like epileptic Pokemon fits on Walmart's
lingerie racks, MAINSTREAM poems to smear on
a photo spread entitled the "Women of Enron," to showcase 50%
Chance Of May Rate Hike whose numbers are
Glycerin Suppositories between the ass cheeks of
Justin Timberlake — Check it out! Photos, Soundtracks, Video Clips,
Fan Boards and More! Fucked-up poems that everybody understands
like "The Morality Of Money 4:46 pm CD Sludge UQ
Wire: Kissinger - Bloody Hands," cavity searching the man himself
with the broken off end of his Run-DMC glasses and
sending the swab sample to the Olson Twins for analysis.
Knockoff poems for Sindhis and Baluchis, Kurds, hundreds of
Brittany fans, some in full cowboy dress with a smattering
of applause from the Tekken Anime fans doing
their 5 Kick Massacre sidethrow, clutching their throats
and puking themselves into eternity "as TV Heroes
safe from these Viagra rimshrooms proceed
to kick the Bard's ass in a Tom Hanks Bison-Death" — sub-
way poems like, "Aw yeeh, got my NASDAQ petunias
AAWWWL mixed up, woah, thass nice, flufffy lil
mestizo couch doing the ROLAID smooch in my NAWSTRils,
hhuh hauh ,,, Mkaeing some TYPos, cuz i wasnna be PRASSident of
the Ungdidtyedf Stsnaatesand go to coleege with a ANDROiD bitch!!!!!!"
Our Greatest Poet is pinned to a comfy chair at his favorite
hangout spot, a Barnes & Noble Cafe in Louisville Kentucky
reading a poem that begins, "I love shopping
in Brooks Brothers, oh, / and I found the cutest
sheer / cappuchino colored button" . . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .
In his award-winning epic poem he revisited
Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, relocating to
Gap Kids . . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .

Aggghhh . . . searches Google . . .
Put it on him MAINSTREAM poet!  Strip him nayKlD
to the world wide world. Another MAINSTREAM POEM cracking
squid tentacles upside the tea-stained skulls of the
FAKE-ASS MAINSTREAM . . . poem scream
Son ecologistas; y Jorgito Bush es todo, "izquierdosos, moros,
Archienemigos," — Que puta mierda. Me cago en Bush
y los 365 santos del ano!! Llego tarde a la iglesia!
EI jodido televisor no funciona!
Tongue-kiss the MAINSTREAM world for love.
Let their be no non-mainstream poems written until
love can exist freely on the headstones of Nixon's inner
circle.  Let MAINSTREAM PEOPLE understand
that they are the lovers and the daughters and sons
of lovers and workers and children
of workers Are poems & poets &
all the loveliness here in the world

We want a MAINSTREAM poem. And a
Let the world be a mainstream poem
And Let All Mainstream People Speak This Poem