Information about the Desert City Poetry Series, contemporary poetry & poetics, and poetry readings & events in central North Carolina.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Reading Review

Thanks to Marcus Slease for posting a review of Saturday's reading. He's also got some pictures up there: Randall, Tony, and Aaron looking hottt, and me looking ..... I dunno ..... like the little jaws of the alien are about to pop out of my mouth??

Coming November 13th to the Desert City: C. S. Giscombe and Jon Thompson.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

October Reading Wrap Up

Wow, what an incredible reading last night -- Tony and Aaron were a powerful combination. I want to send my thanks out to both of them, to another good audience, Todd & Laura for the Blue Door, and Randall for closing out the evening.

Below is the intro I wrote up for the reading; reading reviews will come along shortly. Stay tuned for more info on November's reading featuring Jon Thompson & C. S. Giscombe.


Aaron McCollough & Tony Tost Intro

  1. Announcements and welcome
    1. November 13th, 8pm – C. S. Giscombe & Jon Thompson
    2. January 15th, 8pm – Standard Schaefer & Marcos Canteli with Rachel Price translating

  1. Welcome
    1. Thanks for coming
    2. Introduce yourself
    3. The Desert City is a non-profit, volunteer run and funded organization. Both of the poets are appearing tonight without the promise of compensation. Please make a donation to help support the poets and the series. Thanks. Please buy books to support the internationalist.

  1. Thank yous
    1. Internationalist
    2. Tony & Aaron – great to have them here tonight, two good friends, first time they’ve read together.
    3. And Kathryn

  1. Tonight we’re here to see two of the nation’s most talented young poets: Tony Tost and Aaron McCollough

  1. Throughout the various forms – and there are many -- Aaron’s poems take runs a belief, a faith really, in love. These are not love poems, though at times they are; instead these poems examine the ethics of love, the mandate to love one’s neighbor, and the fragments of prophetic vision one receives when walking through the world with love. Aaron writes in his poem “Having Rooms,” “I may not say my love is light // my love is light / I cannot see” and later in “Democrack Pistols,” he asks “make but one body / perfect; so every particular human is but a member or branch of humankind living in the light … a fit and compleat Lord of the Creation.”
  2. Aaron is a southerner by birth and inclination who is currently on hiatus at the University of Michigan. On, as he calls it, the “thinking man’s dole” Aaron is working on his doctorate in Elizabethan literature and theology. This is the last, perhaps, stage in his education which has also included a Masters from NC State, a bachelor’s from the University of the South, and an MFA from the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
  3. In addition to his own writing Aaron is the editor of Gut Cult magazine, the mind behind the Flowers that Glide web log, and genius, some might say super-genius, behind Good Gog records. He is the author of Welkin, winner of the 2002 Sawtooth Prize and Double Venus. His third collection, Little Ease, is forthcoming.

  1. “The pieces of a day hang like mirrors?” writes Aaron in “Hence These Alarms,” and it is from these day pieces that he creates poetry, in a nest of jumbled fragments held together often by a delicately constructed iambic line.
    1. The poems move from fragmented vision to fragmented vision as if we are seeing, as he writes in “Common Places”, “through breaks in a screen.”
    2. He describes a torture room in “National Hotel”: “steel and leathern / fixings // touching / the battery and bedsprings,” to the German town of Mainz where Gutenberg began printing, to a quiet morning breakfast: “we reach us generous endive / we make us coffee.”
    3. Aaron’s eye sees value in the combination of disparate images: the cherry tree in the yard: “not a lot of sunlight on the cherries; / orange almost to the stem then deep red / aureoles”, to bee hives “letting go some bees today / the old man kept in slatted wooden crates / obtaining to the husbandry of bees.”
    4. The drive to encompass vast ranges of landscape rises from a profound understanding that it is in the entirety and unity of creation that one finds beauty and purpose. The title of his second collection, Double Venus, highlights this belief in the fundamental and simultaneous singularity and multiplicity of us all. Aaron’s goal in his poetry is to help us reach the point where we are, as he writes in “Having Rooms”, where we are “understanding / ourselves as / one presence / beyond the shadow.”
  2. Please welcome Aaron McCollough.

  1. A highly esteemed critic of poetry once described Tony Tost’s first book of poetry as “a congeries of brazen worlds, inhabited by wide-eyed lost souls.” These souls are weeping animals, irate mothers, a narrator who “lives in the clouds, only to find [himself] thirsty”, another that thinks “being nice did not always work like magic” while flying through a windshield, Friedrich Nietzsche, a blind dog regarded “as most would a storm”, semi-sentient beards, and a woman named Agnes who at times is an airport waitress, “the sign pointing up the road”, and a Delphic oracle.
  2. We’re quite fortunate to have Tony living here in the Chapel Hill area. As one of the most intelligent and talented young poets writing today, Tony has been an exciting part of the literary community. He is generous with his intelligence as demonstrated by the candor and vigor that he brings to his entries in his web log, the Unquiet Grave.
  3. Tony came to the triangle from Missouri via the University of Arkansas where he received his MFA. He also picked up his wonderful fiancée, Leigh, whom he will marry in early June.
  4. Tost’s first book, Invisible Bride, won the highly coveted 2003 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. He is also the editor of the poetry journal Octopus. His own poems have appeared in poetry journals like Fence, Spinning Jenny, Typo, among others.
  5. Like the surrealists, Tony’s poems seek truth in experiments with the strange, in a derangement of the senses that might lead one to the universal truths. The uncanny images in which these poems traffic are haunting because we see something almost more than real in their irrationality. Such that when he writes “I was once a small place filled with hats” we can understand exactly what he means; that this is not a metaphor, but a true statement that can be said no other way. And so it is that Tost’s poems feel inevitable; each move from image to image, line to line seems like the inexorable movement of the sun.
    1. He writes, “We talked (and bruises had been sprouting on our legs like light-green dandelions)” and later “I was born holding a demons hand. This is why I always enter a room dancing” and even later “winter absorbs a man in such a way as to nearly dissolve the wolf inside him.”
    2. In each line of Tony’s poems a new cosmology is formed as when he writes in “Unawares” “If two objects are neaby in one direction, then a world separates them in the other: the ghost distance” and then “He walks into the bedroom. Agnes is asleep; before him is another Tony. This one looks like a ghost and patiently writes in Tony’s notebook.”
  6. The original title for Invisible Bride was Unawares and it is this idea that both titles express: the shadow world, the ghost world that exists a half step behind the world we think we live in – this other world that creates the one we think we inhabit. He writes “I, too, shall wear my own howling. But tonight I am dressed like a man.”
  7. Please welcome Tony Tost.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Bold Vs. The Beautiful

Please spread far and wide.......

Who: Aaron McCollough, author of Welkin and Double Venus, winner of the 2002 Sawtooth Poetry Prize, manager of the Ann Arbor Martyrs, world champion waffle spinner.

Who: Tony Tost, author of Invisible Bride, winner of the 2003 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, Man-About-Carrboro, statistician to secret set of super smart groundhogs.

What: Desert City Poetry Series October reading, the Bold vs. the Beautiful.

When: this Saturday, October 23rd, 8pm, 2004.

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, 919-942-1740.

Why: "As I flew through the windshield I knew being nice did not always work like magic." "dear, if you want to get to heaven on time / lord knows you've got to [ ]"

See you there........

*Internationalist Books:

*Aaron McCollough:,,

*Tony Tost:,,

Contact the DCPS: Ken Rumble: rumblek at bellsouth dot net

Next Month: November 13th, Saturday: C. S. Giscombe & Jon Thompson.

Aaron McCollough
"Eklog South"

". . .golden address"

physician check my circulation
golden address I mutter more and louder
in this telephone the anchorite
taps barcodes out longshort
the end was coming 'til we missed
the end / is coming

". . .gasstop"

red clay i am on
in red clay i am
coming to account
though track in track out
my place (this was valdosta)
of minor rivers
if i'm too old for this (have been)
then i'm being too old
why in the inlet fiddlers
but the sea
carnivorous trunks

". . .ephphatha"

that is be opened
the second is this
keep awake
keep awake
in all this biblical heat
the way likened to a two-lane road
compressor touch and go
. . .I can see people but they look like trees. . .
. . .I believe; help my unbelief!

". . .let man's soul be a sphere"

column of dust
like a thread like orange lips foreshortened
/god laid out
draft me
winding lines
*flapping crowns of skin torn out of the feet
resolve me molecular
converse me electric
let us talk about whatever
tangere tangere
lapping the milk on the floor
even as it's water
passing thirsty, friend
as water thinning milk
as said all miracles have stopped
and living is skimmed
take down all curtains
we've nothing to hide

". . .in the house of mary & martha"

in the palmetto state
at the running tap
sands and clays and the source
in the rock that'll follow me
we are in our place
in the ear of mary
the hand of martha
in a glance as it's gone
like an audience in the soul
which contains them
so loved
to be made
a guest
come in let us in
come in
the sea inside the house
we go across all day
in remembrance of the sink
the hinged face of the holy body

thus we look into the face of god
floating cupboard of each face
let us in come in
let us in, we'll rest
come in, we'll travel together

Tony Tost
"Men return from the dead"

Men return from the dead / the mortgage is due / suddenly & it's hard

Harder to sleep with the dripping of ether

Men return from the dead
Not more dead / more silent

What I fear is that I too young have already found
The four or five verbs that I will keep
When I am dead. Men return from the dead
Not more dead but more strange
Spitting (strangely) birds visible to humans / only

We are isolationists tonight & I am unsure why I am afraid
To call you woman. Why I put you under the bed to translate for me

Men return from the dead not more but
Spitting birds & not to the dead who read us / to us

We who say just enough to keep from rising

We whose dead children our women are praising

The impulse is for threading, weaving, making the blanket

The good thing. We whose tubs are full of pissing

Still glad we got out of Phoenix, the cul-de-sac
"the coldest little circle in Hell"

We whose tubs are full of we. Firecrackers
In the tub & now the tub is full of artless glories

Our glories now. I live for __(noun)__

I would die for _(noun)_ if its existence were ever threatened

Our water rising in the tub & drowning in the noise

The firecrackers. We spit / at our women
Who spit onto the children who are also in the tub

Our arms are just sitting there like the sun
For we are also all action / we who do not have to move our arms

About a mile down, as they say / it is wonderful

I live for Mexican food, etc.

Women are heavy, etc.

Nights cold enough for a thicker lover (thank you Paul)

Our women are heavy in our arms, their bellies engorged
Knots of children / wrapped like kites / around a fist or an eye

The _(noun)_ full of the once-dead. Their bellies en-gorged

Knots of children (already dead) unseen therefore human
Angry. These strings that lead an ordinary _(noun)_
Into ordinary light. Children wrapped & baptized, in string

A verb finds form not in their ether but here / in our real- / m, the once-was

A man of action (he who all day traveled
To find his father's grave filled with string) follows a thread all morning

Leads him back home to his daughter's mouth

If ever a string was also a fuse . . . Rolls her into the river

Wraps the string around his finger

When the girl returns from the dead the children
Throw blankets & bones. She paddles backwards / broken wing

The mother weaves a blanket from the children's hair

The father all action. Rubs his thumbs, his eyes
Props the girl (all animal) onto the balcony wall / broken wing

Sets off a firecracker beneath her & then he jumps, with her
Off the balcony into his contemporary bag of skin

My current job : I stand near a long table
With a magnifying glass in my right hand, a latex glove on my left
& I look though you

Years & years for the sun to go down

The children are years & years

We compare their indifference to a machine
A machine is a poem / made of metal. A car races around the hospital

A dog is a poem / made of bones. The children
Each placed on a leash. Lovely, suffering years. Compare the rain
To a machine / made of scissors. To dig is to think

Years: "A machine which does not consider this leash
Will not continue to work"

The Blue Door

So I want to take another quick minute here to announce one of the best parts of the Desert City readings this year: The Blue Door.

Here's an announcement about the event sent out by the peerless hosts:

THE BLUE DOOR is an object, a name, a place, an idea. It is a monthly
Carrboro soiree in honor of The Desert City reading series and its
illustrious poets. The object will unlock and open after things conclude
at Internationalist. All are welcome. Enjoy a reception for the poets,
replete with an assortment of hors d'oeuvres & tasty beverages. Mix,
mingle, discuss, gossip, gawk, share. Hear a short performance and
browse a featured installation/exhibit/film from a variety of regional
talent. Witness DC & Lucipo's own Ken Rumble verbally spar with
challengers to his bocci ball throne and spew profanities when he
realizes the jack is really silly putty bearing his likeness...
directions will be provided at the DC readings. Walking distance to the
OCSC for those looking to close some place down in the wee hours...

Laura & Todd Sandvik host this after-reading reception, and they do a killer job. Last month's Blue Door featured poet Marcus Slease and painter Ethan Smith. The festivities, conversation, and camaraderie went long into the night. This month's BD will showcase Randall Williams, a terrific local poet, veteran of the Carrboro Poetry Festival, and an unnamed visually oriented artist.

Come to the Desert City this Saturday to see Tony and Aaron, and follow along to the Blue Door.........

Thanks a million T & L.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Saturday, October 23rd, 8pm: Tost & McCollough

Aaron McCollough, reading October 23rd Posted by Hello

Two of the most promising and talented young poets of the day, Aaron McCollough & Tony Tost, will read in the Desert City on Saturday, October 23rd, at 8 pm. The reading will be held at Internationalist Books -- 405 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Aaron will be joining us from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he is currently getting a doctorate in English literature. He is the author of Welkin, Double Venus, and the forthcoming Little Ease. He is also the editor of the poetry journal GutCult. Below are several of his poems.

"Columbia" originally published in Drunken Boat

The family goose
beside the road – a yard of windows – panes all broken out and frames all laid upon an-
other. Long grass and crazy plantain.

If winter comes.
The rain for hours in the wood and greasily on the wood, which goes at a joint:
rail creeping away from rail along an iron dowel.

The road bears hard
around the rise. The grass succeeds from roadside under foot and the goose’s feather
slick to one wide leaf below a rachis and through the cover.

The trees aligned and unaligned – the live-oaks knotted into one – fill with ticks and
resurrection fern.

"The Seventh Poem of Jan Vandermeer" originally published in Drunken Boat

The gusting snow in streetlight swarm of bees
Tonight to all the decaying mantles

Old wobbly world tearing down you make me hate me
You flinging light around your dark flung fill

Love comes up—my heart’s late leach

Come work on me come draw me out to work
For years are coming even absent ones

"Eros, Ethos, Economuos" originally published in Word/For Word

The air is good in here
we say of the pine-tree

and breaking twigs to move
the soul with what we have

to stick against the fact
of empty sky.

Just look! Cardinals
have nested here since fall

as we have come to rest
and raise our young

in a dangerous
and tangible wilderness.

Secrets inside we can't
quite name. Hopes. Shapely wants.

The silhouette of cones,
which don't resemble cones

in silhouette but trees
upended. Dear, we lease

the stem alive and smooth,
though tearing the bark off --

the wet, green, denuded
careen of this not ours

to love.

And here is an essay he wrote on the poet Ronald Johnson which appeared in Octopus #3.

Coming soon: October's second reader, Carrboro's own Tony Tost........

Tony Tost, reading October 23rd Posted by Hello

Monday, October 11, 2004

DCPS Board Members

I'd like to take a brief minute to announce the current members of the DC Board of Directors. Their names should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog. Why have a board? Well, I hope that in the not too distant future (which is to say "soon") that the DC will become a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation; it's my understanding that 501s have to have certain official hierarchies and positions to adhere to the rules governing such groups.

The other motivation for having a board is that I got to pick such cool people: friends, compatriots, fellow poets, brothers & sisters in arms. They've each been a big part of making the series such a success; putting them on the board was one way to express some of my gratitude.

So here they are

Joseph Donahue

C. S. Giscombe

Evie Shockley

Chris Vitiello