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

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Standard's Bestiary & Some Updates

Standard Schaefer was kind enough to pass on to me the poem he read at the last Desert City reading and has allowed me to post it below: check it out -- thanks, Standard. An older version of this poem was published by XConnect a few issues back here.

But first, a couple quick wish list updates:

A bi-lingual reading with Emmanuel Hocquard and Rosmarie Waldrop
Tom Raworth
Mary Margaret Sloan

Marcus Slease
Todd Sandvik
Evie Shockley (the triumphant return)
Amy Sara Carroll
Andrea Selch (the fate of Andrea's reading scheduled for this year is still unclear, but next year for sure)

Other than that, not too much shaking around here other than the second Lucifer Poetics Group reading this Saturday, January 29th, at 8pm at Pane & Vino on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Oh, and the 29th is my birthday, so there's still time and reason to buy me that podium I been wanting (hinthint.)

Here's Standard's poem (another failing of my blogger know-how: I can't get things indented with any consistency; some of the short lines below should actually be part of the previous line; the aforementioned indented impairment is to blame):


Awestruck along a wall of mown grass
industry and diligence enter arbitrage
something of something is never apprehended
ambiguity especially amorality installs the animal
in a few faint lines over the entrance
to scrutiny, poverty, and respect
the ants dance an ambitious anodyne to the actuaries of empire
allegories leaves the antelope to its own devices, don’t yours?

But like another beagle of a century through a screen door
that beats at night to avoid its creditors
symbols of motherhood, formerly of feeding and flight
why must beauty ask, “do beasts have any behavior
that is truly unconscious?” But there was that bat
in a lecture on the birth of the galaxy
who presented as a peptide chain and stirred
the tinniest, percussive music through fraying light.

But how could the beagle’s analysis make so much more sense
than chewing the cud or dining on camel’s meat
why are the clumsy so much closer to pulchritude
clearly both are capricious if not vacuous, especially the camel
who’s in the habit of getting shot up in the Ottomans
or occupied by an algebra of clones and calamitous nuance
when all that was needed was a little constraint.

As the deer pants after the water’s brook, so go those who call the shots
though rarely they take them further than dear lord,
don’t those dark eyes require discipline to message
does the medium undertake its own divine derring-do
does it scramble through the bug mesh and dive for the divan
or does it content itself with a sandwich on the sidewalk
where the deer most certainly are not, either way it seems
a little distracted
so probably no protection from the department of defense.

E is for error so not quite exalted, often associated with eels
along the highway oozing toward the exemptions, heels
to Egypt, Ethiopia, even the East Coast seem too exuberant
in embracing the mangy eagle with its eye on the zephyr of height, width
possible remuneration, easily conflated with intelligence
but even error leads to often to exoneration, odd elongations
and emanations from the poultice over take the disequilibrium
between equity and justice.

A fish drawn on the door of a house was once invitation to mass
the Greeks drew fish on the tombs of those who were strictly fishermen
few have found the lesson in the two or embraced the faithless
beauty of fatigue
a far too furious many have forgotten the fabulous accounts of mobility,
in which the falconer does exactly as he is told—a function of
fright, fire ants or figurations until the fissile materials were not
quite a figment,
certainly not a false memory, for memory is only a phase of sadness
with a fickle theory, and a tendency toward fanatics.

Enough with the goat-songs and their alleged depth, enough with locusts,
goddam the gravamen of these comic grievances— that guns
make great soup,
that the letter G is most grating when gallantly silent.
so bring on the gophers with their gratuitous groundwork
tonight we shave the beard off Georgia before she flies her goat
to the Gallapagos,
no more need for your generalities of feeling, your obsequious
greed for tragedy
and devastation. So if you want to go Greek, don’t grouse. I
suggest you grock
the genius of their garrulous guffaws, and gank the obligations to the enforcers of the game.

Huge is the heron who rules over frogs who eats them
he is like history or hopelessness however less rude, less exhaustive
hierarchies never hail or concern me so much as the hippo
or the herons falling into my bed and don’t flap. They move through glue
like the mind of the honest, hallowed be the haphazard
the audience of hemoglobin and hobgoblins
anchoring their handiwork to no headroom, no engine, no hood
where no hereafter could possibly hide.

Indigenous to impotence and imperialism, or anywhere else
all the eyes are beady
like an ibis who turns up in a poem illegally, the Indian or
innocence are never welcome,
except as insistence, but when mine fails I become impolite,
almost as if the ineffable were a plausible idea—an ibis or an Indian is, after all, plausible—more so when incomplete even as it comes to represent idle, hazy, indelible illumination—
that’s why the I is rarely recommended in “art” though
required in “crime”
and “imbecility” the impossible immanence— never leave it
in the ignition,
if the intention is never to compete.

Just us june-bugs, jay-birds, just as jack-rabbits certainly no jackals
could ever be justified given the tactics of our jaunty,
jack-booted creator
so why mimic the old man’s jargon, then again why judge our gin-soaked precinct
or take a jackhammer to our own jar? There never was any
justice in the jukebox
or this jerkwater animal pen, so why expect it from our jobs or
jumps in logic
why get jaundiced about the shape we’re in—we were never Jerusalem
and we won’t be again, but I keep going back and you do too.
Or is that you just jogging?

Thinking and tinkering kisses your book shut, a car ride and kennel up
waltzing civilization on the way to culture, an ice chest full of pesticide
over the shoulders, and offering to the invisible hand throbbing
over the campfires
through the knotgrass until knowledge is a Kodiak between your knapsack and courage though it is presented as the Kreb’s cycle or an appeal to the Koran
the timid join the kookabura kvetching about the cyclone—
the worst kill for it
and think they’re cooking—the best drink it and start to sparkle,
others simply duck—
very few are kind about it. Out here, even the Kodiak knows enough to keep its head down.

Like the lynx, love leaves a precious stone in its urine. Lambs eat them
in a bath of lion-sauce to cure jaundice, epilepsy and mental illness—
only too often it usually causes them. Certainly it provides scant comfort
especially when rendered in harp strings, carved as they are
from cat’s gut,
and still little less is more important than lassitude on the lips
little more so difficult to climb or find than my leader,
back from his seal hunts and already with another head start.
Poetry, he says, is about little else but loss.

“Merely blind but not born yesterday” says the mole on why
he won’t go metric
or meander the fourteen hills between here and the Middle East.
Even monkeys would talk if they thought they wouldn’t be put to work
But it’s a metaphysics of melodrama, like this squabble about the mission of the UN.
“It makes no more sense than how man became
the measure of too much.”
Certainly, it’s not even worth mulling, much less mewling over
when each morning you got to get behind that mule or how as if standing
on the tail of a mouse, these mountains meticulously swagger.

The newt is the enemy of numbness, north or south, always
with an eye on remuneration.
It used to be associated with novels that made the nose dirty,
now there is no negotiations, all interest is on the invoice,
never mind accounts received or that nature is holed up in a stone.
So if you need roots, the recommendation is rancor, even vindictiveness
because nothing is left of near extinction, except its pronouns
on a no longer scandalous page—the void and
its nightingales not withstanding:
the newt that stays newt makes not not a nickel’s worth of difference.

Opinions are omens of obituaries to come, and order, the owl muses, only attracts them
who but Odysseus could coordinate our travel plans given the otherworldly nature
of our dependence on the optimism inherent in officiousness?
And how can this orphanage orbit what’s left of the ocean
when only the owl knows the empty boundaries of the stars’ halo?
Who knows how low the echo oppugns us, who has seen the asteroids oozing through it, where is the officer on duty or more importantly who has not taken the oath
and who but the oyster can swallow such old, obstreperous scores.

Pleasure does not please me, says the phoenix.
Wherever it is permitted, the parents are probably dead,
possibly born that way, then pampered until resurrected,
purportedly, by the offspring who plead the plural to palliate the princes.
Thus the parakeets pander to politics and politics returns the favor,
although at a reduced pace. A purl, then gradually
the whole pig is served.
Thus impulsiveness is rendered preamble to provocation, or
as the parakeets put it,
“Poetry is impossible. Why plead its case?”

Because we are not qualified even to quail before such questions
because the quacks running this bestiary can’t keep quiet
because quips are not literature, no matter how quotable
because in and of itself, quackery quaffs very few longings
because democracy is no cure for the quotidian
because of Iraq and Qatar and Kuwait
because quality is usually quantity plus a queue.
Who dare coo “Quiet, please!”

Raised on raw varnish with a taste for riddles
reason is a rodent who hums a robin song
with a raven’s thirst for craven lust
it rarely has room to speed and rarely has the time of day.
As a relative of the rat, its revelations are ravishing only to fleas.
Lately it seems brazen about its low regard for catharsis or rejuvenation.
Reason, the ram believes, likes its reading light.
Reason, however, refuses every ramification.

“Sounds means so much to me, so say what you
mean,” said the swallow
who was wearing the long spoon . “I like things that go
down smooth like spiders,”
said the stork. And “I like things verified by observation,”—
this from the sphinx
who works occasionally in customer service. But what is splendor
if not surface tension
and who believes skin has ever been anything but pages.
Just as a halo is only a lack of spears, ecstasy requires loss of balance,
just as jokes told backwards reach us like stillness— in stages,
often with stingrays
until snobbery is just philosophy by other means.

In the velvet tooth of a ticking kitten almost too embarrassed to survive,
truth is a tarantula softly fessing how it buried its treasure
in the tiger’s river,
behind the silent T in “sentimentality” or in the tender moisture
in the stolen grain
always one more flight down, three bolts into an old tire, maybe it’s the can of condensed milk teetering on a friend’s book,
so entitled to the extra line.
“Tigers do not burn bright,” wrote Bob, for once not in the transitive
as if to say nothing is as trenchant as once it was,
but you gotta get active
if you’re planning a feat. No, a feast, Bob would have said adding
“I don’t like terrorists.” He would have wanted us to try on the cat pants, but not very fast.

Understanding is unbecoming and should rarely be unleashed
unless by a unicorn and under agreement. The powdered
horn, it goes unsaid,
is something of an aphrodisiac. Dappled on peasants,
they light up the bridge
and sing the world of the unhappy is an unhappy world, built on
eat mes and brick walls.
It’s better to undo the sunlight up your body in a small room,
lie down, steaming,
light dappled side of then wake up. Though through it all and
under every circumstance,
it is of the utmost importance to remain unctuous,
if not utterly unapproachable.

Vultures or voyeurs it is never the voyage. It is only verbs looking
for something to do.
Victims recite their last volitions. One vagrant remark feasts
on the virtues of others.
Until the voice is full of vivacious viruses, one of the few things
that keep us warm
as we keep vigil beside our vacuum tubes.
It is not the votaries or the vigor implied in another voter drive.
Certainly it is not the vanishing herds. Though it was
a privilege to have known
the vibrations in them all. It was much more vital and
would have been far better
to have had the veto instead.

A lone wolf is a lonely wolf, but upward the wand forward with the whiskey or not.
It is a lonely world but when it is quiet and the water is a mirror,
method is reflected.
A lot is riding on the writing
with or without any dark vowels wilting in the wisecracks
or swerving the wildly too white lines of newspaper the wolf
buys already unwrapped
even he knows it is unwise to ever unwind when there is nothing
to do but wait
since what good is a wolf without warm blood, san time or sans world,
what would there be about which to woof?

Xiphosura are too esoteric to be so exultant, especially since
what’s left is the most extinct and even then not exonerated
but driven more exotic by the excisions and dissections,
by the ox-like excavations.
It doesn’t get any more foxy or extraneous than anthropomorphizing the over-examined. Perhaps what is extant is only the proportions and relations, after the examples
and animals after the hexes mark their spot, after
xenophobes of the barest life
are finally exasperated—the xiphosuran rolls over on its back,
a horseshoe crab with nothing to exclaim or explain.

About as lean as a yak, the yolks continue their yodeling
the young seem oblivious to the yellows of their pages
concerned chiefly with yardage, they overlook the yeasts
yawping to cover whatever the yesmen don’t eat
yin and yang are yesteryears’
yarns won’t cut it and yippees are yore’s
mere yo-yos like me go off over yonder
where our yearnings cause no yucks and yield less damage,
where no whys will siphon off our yahooed days.

So what if philosophy is snobbery? says the zebu
bet you were hoping for the zebra, the subspecies of zilch,
but given its high profile as the end of history
and its zealotry for ambiguity
how easily you can be forgiven—but he’s not here.
He zoomed off to bore people with his fuzzy accomplishments
This is a zoo of dividing by one.
So, no, I am not the Zeitgeist or an exalted zygote of your salvation.
I am a zebu. I don’t zing and I don’t horse things,
am even maybe a little boring with the one hump in the sizzling heat.
Maybe you’ll sit there waiting for your appointments.
Maybe you’ll have some zucchini while the days and nights will fizzle out
Maybe you’ll be a zombie when we’re finished,
something precociously unspecific like Zion or Zaire or Zoroaster
and maybe we were always nowhere
but at least we zeroed in on our zip code of indistinction
how many but zillions can say as much?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Chris Vitiello on January's Reading & A Wish-list

Hot damn -- I love these guys. Chris just posted his own review of Saturday's reading (the ghost of Ken Rumble, indeed - is that a line from Anchorman?)

Thanks, Mr. Vitiello.

So I promised the wish list -- here's a beginning (in no particular order):

Nathaniel Mackey
Brenda Coultas
Claudia Rankine
John Taggart
Jennifer Moxley
Ed Roberson
Emmanuel Hocquard
Harryette Mullen
Ron Silliman
Brent Cunningham
Chris Murray
K. Silem Mohammad
Juliana Spahr
Christian Bok (how do you make the umlaut in blogger?)
Sarah Manguso

The DC season follows (surprise) the academic year, so readings happen Sept, Oct, Nov, Jan, Feb, March, & April. Once a month, so seven readings in a season. It's not very many. This year, as you may notice, I've got a couple months with two readings. Last summer, I put together another wish-list of folks and emailed invitations to them all. I figured I'd have a hard time filling the slots, getting folks to come.

Within a week or so, nearly everyone I invited had accepted. Yikes. There was no way I was going to say "sorry I'm booked" to Cole Swensen, Kent Johnson, Brian Henry, or any of these people. So I didn't -- I doubled up a couple months, and I don't regret it at all. It's been a terrific season so far. And even more to come.

So I'm not sure what to do about this coming year. I suspect I won't change the approach -- I'll invite everybody I want and then work it out once the acceptances start coming in.

Having more than one reading isn't really such a big deal. The real issue about scheduling is that I run the series out of my pocket and on donations from friends and family. I do it because I love to do it, of course, but I've got work that folks pay me for, a family I love, various communities that I'm part of, my own writing to do, etc. etc. So it takes some work to run the series, and my time fills up pretty quickly.

What surprised me (and makes it all worth it) last year is the enthusiasm, graciousness, & interest the people I invited had for the series. I worried that an independent, non-university affiliated, unfunded reading series would not seem appealing. It did, and folks (both the poets and the audiences) have been really enthusiastic about it. Running the series is a great pleasure for me.

Anyway, please feel free to suggest other readers for next season -- you can post a comment or email me.

So I'm going to sign off, but another idea I'm toying with is to let some of the local folks do the intros for the visitors next year. Currently, I do all the emceeing/introducing. My vision for the Desert City, though, has always including involving other people in its production. If Evie Shockley, for example, wanted to introduce somebody that was coming, I think that'd be super.

In other reading news, check out the new Durham 3 series.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Tony Tost on January's Reading

Just saw that Tony Tost also has a great little wrap up of the weekend's festivities. Thanks, TT -- check it out here.

Also Chris Vitiello has a key to his recent appearance as Chris Murray's poet of the week at Texfiles and a little mention of the reading.

Coming soon: DC's 2005-2006 wishlist.....

January Reading Wrap-up

The hits keep coming as they say.

Another great reading by Standard, Marcos, & Rachel -- thanks to the three of you; thanks to Todd & Laura for hosting another great Blue Door, and Tanya for a great reading there; thanks to Kathryn for helping so much to make it all happend; thanks to everyone that came.

Check out Marcus Slease's notes and pictures from the evening. Thanks, Marcus.

Next month: February 19th: Cole Swensen & Chris Vitiello.

Also: January 29th, 8pm, Pane & Vino, Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC:
The Lucifer Poetics Group.

Below is the introduction I gave for the readers. As usual, minor revisions were made at the scene:

Standard Schaefer, Marcos Canteli, & Rachel Price Intro

1. Announcements and welcome
a. Tonight: the Blue Door w/ Tanya Olson.
b. Friday, January 21st, there will be a reading in Durham hosted by Tanya Olson – get details from Tanya
c. Saturday, January 29th, at 8pm, the Lucipo Group will read across the street at Pane & Vino
d. Saturday, February 19th, at 8pm, Cole Swensen & Chris Vitiello reading here at the Internationalist.

2. Welcome
a. Thanks for coming
b. introduce yourself
c. The Desert City is a non-profit, volunteer organization, please make a contribution in the back to help us keep going and support the poets.
d. Sign up sheet in the back for more info and announcements about the Desert City.

3. Thank yous
a. Internationalist
b. Standard, Marcos, & Rachel
c. all of you
d. Kathryn

4. Tonight, though, we’re here to see Standard, Marcos, & Rachel.

5. “azoradas / imagenes fijas // cobran un punto de claridad sobre la nieve / al reunirlo todo /// cuando se ajustan incluso mis / ojos lo advierten: luz sombra fisicamente / enrejadas // esta atencion / del cuerpo / ensambla lo mirado” writes Marcos Canteli in “pespuntes” which is dedicated to the great American poet Robert Creeley. Or as Rachel Price has translated the poem, called “Backstitches” in English: “astonished / frozen images // assume a pointed clarity on the snow / gathering all together /// when they adjust even my eyes / take notice: light shadow physically / latticed // this bodily / attention / assembles the seen.”
6. Marcos Canteli has had an eventful few weeks recently: he passed his graduate school preliminary exams at Duke, he got married (congratulations), and his third collection of poetry Su Sombrio was awarded the Ciudad de Burgos award, one of Spain’s premiere literary prizes.
7. With Rachel Price, Canteli has been working on translating his work into English. Tonight we are lucky enough to hear both the Spanish and English versions of the poems.
8. Canteli and Price met at Duke where she is also in graduate school. Price is pursuing her doctorate in the Literature Program and just yesterday finished her own preliminary exams. In addition to translating Canteli’s poems, she is working on a translation of the Brazilian poet Francisco Alvim. Her translations or poems and short stories and her own critical essays have been published in magazines and journals including the American Poetry Web.
9. Like those of Robert Creeley to whom “Backstitches” is dedicated, Canteli’s poems “assemble the seen” through “bodily attention.” The world of the self that is felt and the world of the other that is seen are connected by a mirrored physicality. He writes further in “Backstitches”: “that an air arise in the exterior on par with / this lung / the fall a cross / of eyes and ears as it fades.” The thread, the stitches, is thought: “the skin / lit up, its creases seared in / thought.”
10. The persona of these poems is an explorer, a searcher who opens layers of ambiguity. He writes “Morning and night I would hear birds to find myself trembling in the road with the corpses of the smallest of animals.” Later, in “Morning: Hintz Road” he writes “or the faces / on the sidewalks, they say we were once / like that was there / another morning like this one? your / anorak comes suddenly to me / or mine / on your body.”
11. Knowledge is concrete in these poems; while the mind ponders, events unfurl despite the mind’s grasp or lack of the significance. He writes “a traffic / of images that would come to be / real not here but on / their way, doubling / that time / when the real perhaps may be only / that time.”
12. The bind, finally, is that between the delicate images that Canteli suspends within these poems he writes “Passing into breathing I understand that my place is this gathered skin, exempt from words.”
13. Please welcome Marcos Canteli and Rachel Price.

14. “After an evening spent splitting quarks to quills, one solitary oval grew weary and slipped his fingers between the covers of a crude and common book.”
15. Standard Schaefer is not an oval, though he splits quarks to quills in his poems.
16. “The angel of history is the power to retaliate, possibly to disappear / if even into little sweaters stitched for birds, but I’m sorry to disturb you - / I thought we might share this – nothing to lose except our conundrums.”
17. Standard Schaefer is the author of Nova, which was a National Poetry Series selection, and Water & Power, which is forthcoming for Agincourt Press, both of which revel, in fact, in piling conundrum on top of conundrum.
18. “syllables whistle / decimals escalate / refuse to be partient or have anything to do with still or silt / on sideways afternoons in a vacant republic while letters float through the slit in the crown but end at concrete and crickets / as they collide in the cortext / where an alphabet begs to go on”
19. Standard Schaefer works as an independent journalist, contributing regularly to; he works as a teacher of creative writing and also as the non-fiction editor of the New Review of Literature; his syllables do, in fact, whistle and will collide in the cortext.
20. “a fugue state where figuration is saturated and not a big dark carpet / but a satellite of blue becoming a habit / of sight // while, we, like satellites / orbit the other side of the broom / a kind of vindication against science, / and its secret, immutable ballet.”
21. Standard Schaefer served as the editor of the literary magazines Ribot and Rhizome; his poems have appeared in Fence, New American Writing,and Aufgabe; his poems are, in fact, an immutable ballet in which the company is composed of characters derived from an intellect that rarely lacks something in which to find interest.
22. “The impossibility of giants and generals in the same room, much less the same man.”
23. Standard Schaefer lives in San Francisco with his wife, Paris, and their two beagles; his poems prove the possibility of giants and generals, astronomers and starlets, historians and alcoholics, Bacon and Beckett.
24. “it’s never too soon or early to begin”
25. So we shall begin now.
26. Please welcome Standard Schaefer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Desert in January: Bi-lingual and Bi-loving It

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

Who: Standard Schaefer, author of the forthcoming
Water & Power and Nova, 1999 National Poetry Series Selection, freelance journalist, former babysitter of Twinkles and Turquoise, will make you love him.

Who: Marcos Canteli, author of
Enjambre and Su Sombrio the winner of Spain's Ciudad de Burgos award, current Duke University graduate student, newlywed, taught Dan Flavin everything he knows.

Who: Rachel Price, translator of Marcos Canteli's poems, Duke graduate student, scholar w/ flavor, sang "You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog" on Stein's 90th birthday.

What: Desert City Poetry Series, Spanish-English Poetry reading, two languages are better than one.

When: This Saturday, January 15th, 8:00pm, 2005.

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC.

Why: "Too much agreement ... kills the chat" "when / arrival was return / finding the finest / shortcut"

See you there.....

Next Month: February 19th: 2004 National Book Award Finalist Cole Swensen with Chris Vitiello

*Internationalist Books

*Standard Schaefer

*Marcos Canteli

*Rachel Price

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

by Standard Schaefer

no, smoke

but I appraoch as an equal,
three miles, all mountain

set on devouring
if not the setting, then certain accommodations

modestly burnt off--

the marine layer
and the alleged force of beautiful things

a visual discourse suppressed by the frivolous
refolds as geological upheaval

voiciferous shafts of light above all

a burdened archipelago
of bad options and enthusiasm

not quite wavering between not quite nowhere

and not quite with nowhere left to go

from "Morning: Hintz Road"
by Marcos Canteli, translated by Rachel Price

or that moment among
the snow
fording the depth in its hardness
the heart deepened
under the highbeams, as did
a wound in the absence of that


a traffic
of images that would come to be
real not here but on
their way, doubling
that time
when the real perhaps may be only
that time


and the tang of innocent animals skins
decomposing, nor
will the reek remain

this last heat knowing all the same that in
some sense something human they have


when the traversed
takes root


in any event
the warmth
was already a sediment, sitting

there or in the form
of saliva skin of hospital a
very simple emotion
from inside


or this boy
who in hugging the tree trunk carries
us off
everything he knows.