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

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Robert Creeley, Goodbye -- Best Wishes

Robert Creeley is gone. 1926 - 2005.

"For Love"

for Bobbie

Yesterday I wanted to
speak of it, that sense above
the others to me
important because all

that I know derives
from what it teaches me.
Today, what is it that
is finally so helpless,

different, despairs of its own
statement, wants to
turn away, endlessly
to turn away.

If the moon did not...
no, if you did not
I wouldn't either, but
what would I not

do, what prevention, what
thing so quickly stopped.
That is love yesterday
or tomorrow, not

now. Can I eat
what you give me. I
have not earned it. Must
I think of everything

as earned. Now love also
becomes a reward so
remote from me I have
only made it with my mind.

Here is tedium,
despair, a painful
sense of isolation and
whimsical if pompous

self-regard. But that image
is only of the mind's
vague structure, vague to me
because it is my own.

Love, what do I think
to say. I cannot say it.
What have you become to ask,
what have I made you into,

companion, good company,
crossed legs with a skirt, or
soft body under
the bones of the bed.

Nothing says anything
but that which it wishes
would come true, fears
what else might happen in

some other place, some
other time not this one.
A voice in my place, an
echo of that only in yours.

Let me stumble into
not the confession but
the obsession I begin with
now. For you

also (also)
some time beyond place, or
place beyond time, no
mind left to

say anything at all,
that face gone, now.
Into the company of love
it all returns.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mike Snider's Reading Review

Mike Snider recently posted a review of the Johnson/Herron reading which can be found here.

Thanks a lot, Mike! Mike's a new regular in the Desert City/Lucipo scene and a very welcome member of it. I very much admire Mike's willingness to consider, experience, and read through a wide range of poetic styles. While his own writing is focused exclusively (I believe?) on sonnet writing, he nevertheless engages aesthetics that are sometimes far from his own. We need more people like Mike in all the poetic "camps" out there -- we'll all benefit by accepting the idea that there are things to be learned from all the various approaches. So thanks, Mike.

Spring's springing.....

Sunday, March 27, 2005

KJ/PH: The Post Game

Kent Johnson and Patrick Herron were a powerful combination last night: thoughtful, political, challenging. Really great reading. Patrick started off with an homage to his long-time friend, mentor, and fellow reader, Kent Johnson, and then gave great readings of poems from the range of his work: some Lester poems, some political work, some more personal work, and, one of my favorites, his poem "Rwanda" from his The American Godwar Complex. He closed his reading by reading the list of people who are likely to be reading at the Carrboro Poetry Festival that he is arranging for the second year to be held this May 21 - 22 in Carrboro, NC. It's an impressive list -- the CPF is really a jewel in the poetic landscape down here. Kent then read three longer pieces. The first was one of his translations of Jaime Saenz's work from the forthcoming volume The Night (I believe it was the title poem.) Beautiful, beautiful poem that moved lyrically between considering the speaker's, the listener's, and the night's bodies/body. The next piece was a more recent poem he wrote on the occassion of reading a poem of Ange Mlinko's in a copy of The Poker. With Kent's work I'm frequently gripped, ripped apart, and reconstituted by the emotional and intellectual range his poems encompass. This poem demonstrated that skill thoroughly. He closed, I am happpy to note, with "Baghdad Exceeds Its Object," a poem originally published by the lit journal Octopus.

We adjourned, as usual, to the home of Laura and Todd Sandvik for the Blue Door after reading reading where Eden Osucha read her poems against a backdrop of propaganda posters from the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Eden also has an ability to match emotional vulnerability with intellectual analysis: poems that make you laugh and cry and think about the crying and the laughing. The chatting, hi-jinking, and lollygagging went long into the night....

So thank you Kent, Patrick, Todd, Laura, Eden, and everyone who came -- thank you.

Stay tuned for details about the next two (and last two) readings of the third season of the Desert City:

April 23rd, 8pm, @ Internationalist Books: Lisa Jarnot & Andrea Selch

April 30th, 8pm, @ Internationalist Books: Lee Ann Brown & Carl Martin

Below is the introduction I wrote up for the reading (note: much of Kent's introduction contains random bits of text found while searching Google for "Kent Johnson"):

Kent Johnson and Patrick Herron Intro

1. Announcements
a. Tonight: the Blue Door w/ Eden Osucha
b. April 15th at the downtown Durham Culture Crawl Durham 3 presents “Call What You’re Thinking Poetry” – throughout the evening, local poets will read their work in various places around Downtown.
c. April 23rd, the Desert City will host Lisa Jarnot & Andrea Selch
d. April 30th, the last Desert City reading of the season will present Lee Ann Brown & Carl Martin.
e. Carrboro Poetry Festival, May 21st & 22nd.

2. Welcome
a. Thanks for coming
b. introduce yourself
c. The Desert City is a non-profit, volunteer run and funded organization. Both of the poets tonight are appearing without receiving any compensation. Please make a donation to support the poets and the series. Please buy books to support the internationalist.
d. Sign up sheet in the back for announcements of future events

3. Thank yous
a. The internationalist
b. Kent & Patrick
c. all of you
d. Violet and Kathryn

4. Tonight, though, we’re here to see Kent Johnson and Patrick Herron.

5. As the American social critic H. L. Mencken once wrote, “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.” By this definition, we have fewer better examples of a radical poet than Carrboro Poet Laureate, Patrick Herron, and few finer documents of such radicalism as Herron’s recently published The American Godwar Complex.
6. Herron writes, “Damnation! Freedom is not the right to put asunder the views / of any one star that glows and stands in one nation under”
7. Among a variety of things more and less sordid, Patrick Herron is the poet laureate of Carrboro, a position which under his leadership has become a life-long appointment. Herron also established last June the Carrboro Poetry Festival, an event which was so successful it has quickly achieved the status of legend. In addition to starting the Poetry Festival last summer, Patrick found himself the father of a lovely Herronista, Sophia.
8. While Herron’s poems often attack our country and culture’s failings – such as in his poem “Anus II: The George W. Bush Rap” where he writes in the voice of our president “Deceit is what I bring, and what I excrete is right-wing / crap. I’ll bitch-slap your ass if you don’t make me king” or in his poem “Rwanda” where he writes “America: your mind mauls the earth, strip mine the plain with plain strip malls, your time yet another vulcanized tread on another mother’s back” -- alongside poems such as this are Herron’s poems that explore the fear of our increasing inhumanity in our technological age.
9. He writes, in a section of his manuscript Be Somebody, “you pass right through 01 / whether ghost or spirit. Degrade me / Force me to digit your binary spine. / Can you hold 01? 01 is infinitely // less than air.” In another poem “If” Herron writes of the death of a friend, “if you filled empty picture frame cut from ash you built me / if you died friend but carved me no mask I may wear to face these calling stars.” And then in “Zero Zero” he writes, “sometimes you get to wondering too late / just how it is you are born to a certain life / one day there you are you are there whereever it is, a / dirt floor, a hospital bed, in front of a television / to the tune of a brash jingle. place x. or maybe you wake up / decide to join a monastery and find a new family because you are / lonely.”
10. It is Herron’s passion, whether expressed in his poems as anger or fear, that makes Patrick such a worthy and dedicated advocate of poetry and authentic human interaction.
11. He offers the following advice in “Politiku 1”: “Word from our sponsors: / please place your television / on the ocean floor.”
12. Please welcome Patrick Herron.

13. About Kent Johnson, Stanton High’s Coach Bob Mason said: "Defense and rebounding are two of the foundations in our program. Kent epitomizes how we value these aspects of the game. He never backs down from a challenge and is always ready to go after opposing post players." It is this exact persistence which Mason describes that has launched Johnson into the winner’s circle of American Poetry time and time again. Or to use Dr. Johnson’s own words, “Form**emptiness (Buddhism, blah, blah, blah.)”
14. When Kent, a 6’5”, 200 lb power forward with an average of three rebounds a game, isn’t busy teaching “Spanish and remedial English” at Highlands community college in Illinois, he dedicates himself to the safety of his fellow poets. He writes in a poem titled for his contemporary “Peter Gizzi”, “And I always / want to wave my arms and yell, really loud: / "Watch out Peter Gizzi, you young and handsome / minstrel, watch out-don't be like Michael / Jackson and let your hair catch on fire!"”
15. Though allegations exist that would cast doubt on the content of his real intentions towards his fellow poets – see the appendix to The Miseries of Poetry his Traductions with the late, single-horned Alexandra Papaditsas – Dr. Johnson is reknown for his “intriguing ideas for creating realistic ground cover, trees, bushes, rocks, water and other scenery details which are ideal for beginning model railroaders.” Or in other words, “I got drunk with Kent Johnson in Monroe, Wisconsin, and I'm one of the publishers of this book. So maybe those two things will disqualify anything I say here. But for the record, which erases itself every 15 seconds, these little Miseries are to die for.”
16. Kent Johnson established K.J. Transportation in 1973 with one tractor-trailer hauling tomato paste for Ragu Foods. It is in the midst of these long nights, that his work for Ragu Foods became the inspiration for his study of the Japanese form of poetry known as the Renga, the resulting mastery of which he put to Stygian use in his editing of the moving volume Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada. Quoting that volume: “She told me then that the master of the house had left for a certain location in town and that I had better look for him there pronto, if I desired to speak to him // everybody was fucking overjoyed to see him, as if he had returned from the dead.”
17. All is not grey in the life of Kent Johnson, however, to quote his obituary, “He worked in construction and cement finishing. He loved fishing and living near mountains and rivers.”
18. In addition, Dr. Johnson has written some of the most memorable poetic critiques of the current war in Iraq. His poem “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz: Or Get the Hood Back On” powerfully invokes our complicity with the atrocities committed in that conflict; he writes, “Hi there, Madid, I’m an American poet, twentyish, early to mid-thirtyish, fortyish to seventyish, I’ve had poems on the Poets Against the War website … I voted for Clinton, even though I know he bombed you a lot, too, sorry about that, and I know I live quite nicely off the fruits of a dying imperium … And because nothing is simple in this world, and because no one gets out unscathed, I’m going to just be completely candid with you: I’m going to box your ears with two big books of poems … and I’m going to do it until your brain swells to the size of a basketball and you die like the fucking lion for real. You’ll never make it to MI because that’s the breaks; poetry is hard, and people go up in flames for lack of it everyday.”
19. Finally we might imagine, now, Kent sitting at a bar, cigarette in hand, watching a thick perfect smoke ring floating away, while he intones, “Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.”
20. Please welcome Kent Johnson.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Johnson & Herron This Saturday, March 26th, 8pm!!

Please spread far and wide.....

Who: Kent Johnson; translator of
Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada, The Miseries of Poetry: Traductions from the Greek, and Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz; winner of an NEA Fellowship; inventor of the mustache.

Who: Patrick Herron; Carrboro Poet Laureate; author of
The American Godwar Complex; wicked good at the Full-gainer.

What: Desert City Poetry Series: March squared, double your pleasure.

When: This Saturday, March 26th, at 8pm, 2005.

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, third planet from the Sun.

Why: "Not to mention that the one whose name is Love is in the form of a faucet." "I am sprung / atom / by / atom. / I am / decomposed, / I am / stirred / into / root / and / softly / charged / clouds."

See you there.....

Next Reading:

April 23rd: Lisa Jarnot & Andrea Selch

*Internationalist Books

*Kent Johnson

*Patrick Herron

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

"Poem Upon a Typo Found in an Interview of Kenneth Koch, Conducted by David Shapiro [1]"
by Kent Johnson

1. First of ill, I fell in love.

2. I could, of course, go on and on.

3. The gapeseed trees leaned down; the humors of a flying thing broke swith in a deafening whoosh.

4. Well, certes, this just shows our tholen souls have been braided everywhen as one.

5. And therefrom, the sun shone down thro the missled hole upon the praying ones and.

6. It was full of smoke in that dome, fore the days of no smoking.

7. I remember those good old days, whilom it was me, and Will and Ben and Chris and the wholesome lads of the laste avant-garde.

8. And always, eke, that tother, the girl whose number was a misterium to me.

9. She blew out some rings and did say: It seems I am losing my trellis of thought, rushing with you through this tunnel of trees, whitherward our fate we canst know, nor whencesoever we have come, nor usward what speeds.

10. For there are coins where once there were our eyne.

11. I liked the little hussy that way, naked but for a brassiere, how she could say the darndest things and with such casual mien, as if a kind of chord falling from her spine were plugged into some vast background dump of language.

12. (Exaltingly, eftsoons, I sawed her in the sweven of the flowering trees. She was a plane girl, really, ilke, fain and yare, with wings all swoopstake on her thorax plus eyne of tinsel shillings. Stilled, I lived her with all my might, chasing a horse amain into the sun. You’d never know it now from my face. It was more archaic than it now seems, was more like the sun. Stained and morning-breathèd, we woke in Atocha, to puissant concussions alow the ground.)

13 (a). My nickname at Christ’s College was “Beuys”; I spent five years in its crucifixed sanatorium, whence, a foil upon my temples, great voltage did floode my soiled bodie.

13 (b). But, anyway, to continue and for exemplars: Please observe how in this amber light the prints of the figs are perfectly preserved and.

14. Not to mention that the one whose name is Love is in the form of a faucet.

15. And should it seem at the end of every verse that I am washing my hands of the people and cranes whom I have hammered into this foil for fun, well, then that is the way of the silly sun.

16. Lit from within, as if the fractures in the loveliness were intentionally stressed to the point where it all might just come apart, but not yet quite.

17. Peradventure, as if to illustrate, the giant exchange student from the colonies, entered the foiled room.

18 (a). Roman and ebonied, eyes whited by the burn, he cried forth and broke the spell:

18 (b). How come is a bus in a desert on fire, he did say, gardyloo. [2]

19. Prithee, thee, quickly, now, break thro this water! (unidentified female voice in the room)

20. For don’t you know, dude (the giant continued), that’s what your hair will be: Flames shooting upward until you wouldn’t see because it were so high up there.

21. I know it sound incredible, somedeal, OK?

22. And I know you be sad and happy at a great flip-flop velocity.

23. But I shit you not: Stop clapping, hug your kin, and look immediately at the sky.

"Tough Going?"
by Patrick Herron

Tough going?
When your week is over, you’ll be closer to your goal.
Everything is a part of learning to live in a different way.
While it is critical to note some mistakes, it is also essential not to dwell on them.
Just move on.
Toward the end of this week, take a look at yourself in the mirror.
Compare yourself to your “before” photo.
Do you see yourself now?
Chances are, you’ve already lost some memories.
Your beliefs have begun to sharpen.
If you’re analyzing yourself or trying to recall last week, you may notice that your numbers are improving.
Yes, it’s happening.
You can believe more and remember less.
Now keep it going.
Assess, adjust, and move forward.

There's a war on.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Henry & Rebele Reading CANCELED!

Hello all,

Unfortunately Brian and Tara have had to cancel their reading scheduled for tonight, March 19th, because of a non-life threatening, but serious, illness in the family.

Sorry to have to cancel the reading last minute -- we're continuing to talk about rescheduling the reading. I'll keep everyone updated.

Don't forget though!! Kent Johnson, award winning poet & translator, and Patrick Herron, author of The American Godwar Complex and Carrboro Poet Laureate, will be reading next Saturday, March 26th, at 8pm at the Internationalist in Chapel Hill.

It's going to be a great reading, so see you there.....

One last note, today (March 19th) is the two year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. I ask that we all take a little time today to think about all the people that have died in the last two years because of President Bush's decision to invade that country.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Brian Henry & Tara Rebele, This Saturday, March 19th, 8pm

Please spread far and wide.....

Who: Brian Henry; author of
Astronaut, American Incident, and Graft; editor of Verse Magazine; Robert Redford's stunt double.

Who: Tara Rebele; performance artist, poet, black belt; author of the forthcoming
And I'm Not Jenny; can change truck tires with her bare hands while blindfolded.

What: Desert City Poetry Series, bigger than last year.

When: This Saturday, March 19th, at 8pm, 2005.

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, directly above the center of the earth.

Why: "Bless the conceptual artist for his brazen images / Know there is no knowing here" "It isn't unpleasant as one / might expect / sitting up late / on the sofa / with the ghosts / preferable even / to years spent / refusing / to be / haunted."

See you there.....

Next Reading:

March 26th: Kent Johnson & Patrick Herron

*Internationalist Books

*Brian Henry

*Tara Rebele

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

by Brian Henry

Nothing rhymes with ‘pizza’ here.

The girl is walking up my leg and back

to jump over (not on) my head.

She rhymes what she is with ‘floral.’

The blood on the carpet from my

bloody bloody nose will come out

if I attend to it vite vite!

A yucky cricket, a lot of ladybugs.

He was not a bad hat, just bored.

Did not burn the beasts in his menagerie.

It does not occur to the girl to skin me.

To wonder if I’m rabid, behaving

erratically. At least the wallpaper

is not florid. Stripes asserting order

and direction. I color the mermaid’s bikini

top silver, her crotch and the tail beneath it

silver. Of course I linger. There,

and where the fairy’s cleavage.

The other princesses are all human.

They do not interest me.

At least when I get out of here

I will have a family to go home to.

While it might be more than I deserve,

it is more than you can say.

from "In Penumbral Flats"
by Tara Rebele


Lucia: live performer

Mother: video projection

Mental Health Professional (MHP): cardboard cutout with audio feed

Note: Lucia begins in the light in order to look back at her shadows. The initial Summer section of the piece chronologically follows the final Spring section. This should be indicated in production.

The movement sequence between seasons is indicated in {} and should occur in a circular, perhaps spiral, pattern. The movement sequence at the end of the initial Summer section should break from the pattern. Percussion rhythms may accompany the movement sequences, paced according to the speed of the movement; if percussion is not used, some noise would be appropriate.




It isn’t unpleasant as one

might expect

sitting up late

on the sofa

with the ghosts

preferable even

to years spent


to be


One could blame

the wind

were there any

to be had.


Lucia. Turn off the lights. It’s late.


Late but not


Medication compliance.


every second



the heaviest of


Lucia. The lights. We’ll have a fire. I’ve read about those lamps ...


Breakthrough episodes.


Every second.

So when you stand

in the light

your shadow


Lest you forget


you were

Yet when darkness

there’s no shadow

of the shadow

no trace

to long

and long

it lasts

if one




point A erased


This is the better


Maintenance is crucial. Regular patterns. Monitor moods.
Continue treatment. As directed.


You haven’t taken your pills. Here.

Aren’t you warm with all that?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

From the "It's all about me" File

A big thanks to Reb and Molly who are featuring me in their journal this week.

Thanks, Reb & Molly!!

No Tell Motel

Stay tuned for info about March's two readings and four readers:

March 19th: Tara Rebele & Brian Henry

March 26th: Kent Johnson & Patrick Herron