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

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Relentless is the theme and modus operandi of my relationship with the local print and broadcast media. I worked for a publishing house for about a year and a half as a publicity director. I learned a lot, most importantly the value of unceasing effort and volume. In my experience, most media folks have a pretty high ability to ignore any attempt to contact them. I really don't blame them for that -- imagine that you are a news reporter and you cover books. Now imagine that there is a population around you of about 500,000 to 1 million people. Now imagine how many of those people are either book lovers, book writers, or book haters. The amount of noise and yammering for attention media folks must have to put with is pretty intense. So as a promoter or publicist, one just has to keep at it relentlessly and methodically. Eventually through repetition, the walls come down, and folks start paying attention.

Happily, I and the series have been lucky recipients of some media attention.

A key part of this strategy is the fine art of the press release. It is a form, and a form designed to deliver information quickly. It is also designed so that print media folks can cut and paste the press release and run it without by-line as a "news" item or with a by-line with slight revision. The use of press releases varies from place to place of course.

At any rate, so I write up a press release and send it out to my contacts in the local Triangle area media. I usually get at least a little something here and there -- sometimes the readings end up as "best bets" and such things (Brenda & Marcus's reading was a best bet last week.)

The press release -- if it isn't already clear -- is largely boring. When I send out reading announcements to my actual audience, those announcements are quite different, sort of silly, abrupt, and -- I hope -- catchy. I always post those announcements here on the blog (see a few posts ago for an example.) I've never posted a press release on the blog before, but what the hey, you know?

Somewhere somebody teaches people how to do all this stuff -- I learned it mostly on my own on the publicist job and in my work with the series since. I hope other folks find some of this useful for their own efforts.

So, in all it's boring glory -- here is the press release I wrote up for the Brent Cunningham & Tessa Joseph reading coming up on October 8th. (Try to) enjoy......


Ken Rumble, Director
Desert City Poetry Series
Internationalist Books
rumblek at bellsouth dot net

“Former Student of Robert Creeley Featured Reader in Desert City Poetry Series”

Chapel Hill, NC, September 27, 2005 – A student of Frost Medal recipient poet Robert Creeley and founder of San Francisco’s Poets’ Theatre Jamboree, Brent Cunningham will be featured in the Desert City this month to celebrate the publication of his first book, Bird & Forest. Reading with Cunningham will be Tessa Joseph, Carolina Quarterly editor and doctoral student at UNC. Cunningham and Joseph will read Saturday, October 8th, at 8:00pm. The reading will be held at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill. A two dollar donation is requested.

After growing up in North Carolina, Brent Cunningham traveled to Buffalo, New York, to earn his MA in English and study with the late Robert Creeley. Since 1999 he has worked for Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. A board member of Small Press Traffic since 2001, he was a founding curator of SPT’s “Poets Theater Jamboree,” a now-annual ritual of amateur experimental theater. His poetry, fiction, plays, vagaries and reviews have appeared in Radical Society, Chain, Rain Taxi, 580 Split, Kenning and elsewhere; he will soon appear in the Faux Press Bay Area Anthology. His first book, Bird & Forest, was published in June of 2005 by Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn. In its review, Publishers Weekly wrote that “Cunningham here resembles his peers less than he resembles Helene Cixous and Maurice Blanchot, attempting at once to convey a vision and to deconstruct it.”

Originally from Maine, Tessa Joseph lives in Durham, NC, and is working on her dissertation in contemporary American poetry and poetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to her studies, she teaches creative writing and literature and has organized the English Department’s Creative Speakers Series. She is editor-in-chief of the literary journal Carolina Quarterly and a member of the Lucifer Poetics Group. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Sulfur, Seneca Review, Cold Mountain Review, The Displayer, Talisman, and others. In 1998, she received her MFA in poetry from Cornell University, where she also worked as an associate editor for the journal Epoch. At Cornell, Joseph was the last student of the great North Carolina poet A. R. Ammons. For three years, she served as the Coordinator of the Philosophy and Critical Thinking Program at the North Carolina Governor’s School.

Directed by local poet and 2005 Indie Arts Award winner Ken Rumble, the Desert City Poetry Series brings the best of contemporary poets to the Triangle for monthly readings of their work. Featuring a local poet and a visiting poet, the series begins this year on the heels of the highly successful 2nd Carrboro Poetry Festival. Past readers in the series include winners of Guggenheim awards, Fulbright Scholars, Poet Laureates, as well as recipients of numerous other writing awards.

Funding to support the fourth season of the Desert City Poetry Series has been provided by generous grants from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Orange County Arts Commission.

Brent Cunningham and Tessa Joseph will read their poems Saturday, October 8th, at 8pm at Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill. The event is open to the public; a two dollar donation is requested.

Ken Rumble, Director
Desert City Poetry Series
Internationalist Books
rumblek at bellsouth dot net,

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Slease Reviews Marcus's Reading

He's done it again -- one of my favorite reading reporters reviewed his own reading. Thanks, Marcus -- it was a terrific reading, and his report is really insightful. The part about young contemporary writers imitating early Raworth and Marcus's renegotiation of that tendency in himself was apparent in the reading Saturday night. Phew -- what a long sentence.

Anyhoo, enjoy the review -- thanks again, Marcus -- and if anybody is willing to help do the computer part of it, I can put all these great readings up on the web someday......

Coming soon:

October 8th: Brent Cunningham & Tessa Joseph

October 22nd: John Taggart & Randall Williams

November 12th: Sarah Manguso & Julian Semilian

Monday, September 19, 2005

From Monday

And like that, the first reading has come and gone, fleeting, fleeting......

It was a terrific beginning to the new year -- thanks to Brenda and Marcus for kicking it off, Laura and Todd for hosting another great after-party, Fay and Ezra for providing the post-show entertainment, and everyone for coming.

Hot damn -- here we go again.

Next Up:

October 8th: Brent Cunningham & Tessa Joseph

October 22nd: John Taggart & Randall Williams

November 12th: Sarah Manguso & Julian Semilian

So below is the intro I wrote up for the reading -- see everyone in October.....

Brenda Coultas & Marcus Slease Intro

1. Announcements
a. Blue Door tonight featuring Fay Dacey & Ezra Cruz
b. October 8th, Saturday, Desert City with Brent Cunningham & Tessa Joseph
c. October 22nd, Saturday, Desert City with John Taggart & Randall Williams

2. Welcome
a. Thanks for coming
b. Introduce yourself
c. A little about the Desert City
i. where started, name, moved around, ended up here
ii. this year first to receive funding
iii. thanks to all those poets that visited in the past who made the series worthy of such funding.
d. non-profit, volunteer run organization – please make a donation to support the series and the poets
e. buy books to support the Internationalist
f. sign-up sheet in the back for future information

3. Thank yous
a. Internationalist
b. Brenda & Marcus
c. all of you
d. Debbie McGill
e. my parents
f. Violet
g. the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
h. the North Carolina Arts Council
i. the Orange County Arts Commission
4. Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

5. Tonight, though, we’re here to see Brenda Coultas & Marcus Slease

6. Brenda Coultas writes, “Something brown, square, and made of fabric, can’t remember what it was: clothes on hangers as if for sale and hanging on gate in snow, tilted firescape held up with rope, mail cart with bucket inside, lump under cover next to shopping cart chained up” and so opens her poem “Sightings.”
7. Like many of Coultas’s poems, “Sightings” concern is with the physical, with cataloging the detritus of our lives: the contents of dumpsters, trashcans, junk yards, dumps, and, in “The Bowery Project,” the contents of New York City’s flophouses. The “lump under cover next to shopping cart” described in “Sightings” is likely one of the many thrown away people drifting at the edges of our periphery that Coultas’s work rigorously documents.
8. She writes, “Some will say it’s all been done before, and that other have done better but still I stack things up. I don’t think about it, I put blinders on but hope that through accumulation they’ll form a pattern out of chaos.”
9. Coultas is the author of A Handmade Museum which was selected by Lyn Hejinian as the 2004 Poetry Society of America’s First Book Award winner. This year she was selected as a Fellow by the New York Foundation for the Arts. A former farmer, carny, taffy maker, park ranger, waitress in a disco ballroom, and the second woman welder in Firestone Steel’s history, Coultas is also the author of the short story collection Early Films.
10. “My own tale is of walking and observing, of imagining. I was not homeless or passed out on the sidewalk, but maybe I was drunk on the Bowery once… I must have been drunk and fallen asleep and must have gotten a blanket or newspaper out of the trash and must have found a box and curled up in it and I must have built a shelter just for one night … I must have hid my face from people, which is what I do when I feel ugly or unhappy and I must have been ashamed and so although all this time I was living in full view of the public, nobody saw me.”
11. Coutlas reveals what a radical act the placing of attention can be, how we choose what we see, that our attention is incomplete. Her work cannot be reduced to something as simple as “One man’s trash another man’s treasure,” instead she is interested in the much more compelling project of revealing what happens when we see another person as trash, what is lost in the act of overlooking.
12. From this exterior, material world, Coultas travels inward: she writes in “Seedhead” – “Are we on time for the mixed breed competition? I entered as a hybrid. My human gene was spliced into a watermelon. The melon cries when cut. My sheep are organ trees. // Mr. Sheep I’d like to get to know you. Hey, I mean we’re gonna be close, like really really close. Hey you who bear my spare liver, put down that whiskey!”
13. In “Memory Jar”, she writes, “Proof exists in the smallest and most mundane of gestures. Shadows, the smell of flowers, electrical shorts, mirror reflections. It’s the most rational and common acts that yield evidence of the spirit.”
14. And so Coultas’s Handmade Museum is enacted: piece stacked on piece, word on word, the most forgettable parts of human experience documented and brought into the account, a collection of evidence meant to map the intangible human spirit.
15. She writes, “To you the reader / Be sure to carry a rose to a fire house / to carry a lit candle down the street / to hang a banner / to wear a ribbon / to visit a hospital / to walk by the wall / to read the wall // The to follow the plume of smoke as close as possible to the source.”
16. Please welcome Brenda Coultas.

17. “dame demon dunce / elf ego / lame larp latty / mangle mame / natty narp nana / oana oana / paddy paddy plarp” writes Marcus Slease in “Dandy Flap,” “voanna voanna / wana wana wance / zoanna zatty” – indeed.
18. Marcus Slease was born in Northern Ireland, moved to Las Vegas, educated in Utah, and landed a few years ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a penchant for the frayed edges of language, the places where tongues get tied on the edge of the unspeakable.
19. “the president / is an accident-prone Afghan puppy in a series of / children’s checkers / w/sham ex- / pressions of / false grief / in the / silent city.”
20. Slease does not have a puppy, but he does have some kitties, and he is a member of the Lucifer Poetics Group, has read in the Carrboro Poetry Festival, been published in Fascicle, GutCult, Octopus, Backwards City Review, and is a veteran of two cross country reading tours.
21. “Get out of words, if you can. There’s not nothing when no one speaks. Here we are on an island of unthinkable closeness.”
22. There is no getting out of words for Slease – the language of the world is always intruding into these poems, the language of commerce, of pop culture, of advertising, of philosophy, of the surreal, of history, German, English, Latin, and slang – all these tongues joust for position within his poems.
23. “the Latin for seethe. the German for broken. the Spanish for upsurge. in other in otter we trust. rough house & bed living. the Russian for clock. the Irish for bell.” “have rug: will bum. have soap: will rub. have socket: will poke. have saint: will faint. have choice: will voice. have claim: will amp. have humps: will bump. have prong: will wrong.”
24. With all these tongues at his disposal, Slease creates freakish worlds that often seem eerily like our own world except that in his worlds oxygen has been replaced with nitrous oxide.
25. “My mother gave a hoot and knew the stakes. More and more men headed toward the lake and formed a daisy chain while others welded jazz into the ceiling. This is getaway wreckage for the not so physically fit. Inside the house: a model 1 bed with a lime green sheet and some nervous toiletries. Unfortunately the landlord was besieged after a supernatural attack.”
26. Slease has been a great presence in the local poetry community despite his uncanny ability to find and buy any book worth owning within a two hundred mile radius of whatever position he might occupy.
27. He writes, “I used to be / very funny but / now I’m / very beautiful”, which is not, of course, true: Marcus is very funny and very beautiful.
28. Please welcome Marcus Slease.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Coultas & Slease, This Saturday, September 17th, 8pm

Please spread far and wide......

Who: Brenda Coultas, author of A Handmade Museum, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, former carny and welder with Firestone Steel, can find hay in a needlestack without getting stuck.

Who: Marcus Slease, native of Northern Ireland, mind behind the Nevermind the Beasts weblog, Greensboro resident, collector of Jesus figurines that have been chewed upon by animals.

What: Inaugural reading of the Fourth season of the Desert City Poetry Series: Can't stop us now, baby.

When: This Saturday, September 17th, 8pm, 2005.

Where: Internationalist Books, 405 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, under the sun--between the breezes.

How much: $2 donation requested to support the readers & series.

Why: "Good weather in the Texas Fried Chicken restaurant across from the jobs and the works. Good, clean mirror in the bathroom, a light mist rose from the mashed potatoes, a little precipitation of Coca-Cola overhead" "Can you blame your bad memory on butter and bacon?"

See you there......

Upcoming readings all at Internationalist Books:

October 8th, 8pm: Brent Cunningham & Tessa Joseph

October 22nd, 8pm: John Taggart & Randall Williams

November 12th, 8pm: Sarah Manguso & Julian Semilian

*Internationalist Books

*Brenda Coultas

*Marcus Slease

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

The Desert City is supported by grants from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Orange County Arts Commission.

"Bum Stash: Early 21st Century"
by Brenda Coultas

The lot had been emptied by the police/city who put up a new fence and padlock and took down the trees and crops, and replaced soil with gravel. This year some crops pushed up again. Objects returned, this time under plastic, a long low stick of furniture with nine drawers, one missing, a yellow mustard color. Someone built a lean-to of mattresses, not steady and positioned a hubcap to shelter a plant from sun. Someone collected the brass number 5, strung it on a wire, and someone added a brown chipped water pitcher.

Later observed in secret, a man with magenta hair adding objects he found on the street. I saw him sitting on a broken rowing machine and then on a broken stationary bike; the exercise equipment rested on the gravel. When he left he locked the gate with his own working lock.

Bum stash tore apart. Lean-to pushed over, same objects but did the police or the magenta man tear it all down? (May 15 , 01)

Lot cleared and new gravel laid down, an orange shopping cart chained to fence. ( May 25, 01).

Orange shopping cart unchained and rolled to street corner, miniature boxed pie and particle board inside basket. (2nd & 1st, June 10,01).

Two white 70s appliances/ On one corner, washer with an oval window in the door, laundry inside w/ brown mold/ on the other corner, dryer./ No one can write much nowadays because it takes money/ in the 70s people wrote all the time, now/ we don't have room to lay it all out, so lay parts at a time, pick them up and then lay some more/ I iron and bake that way and try to think of things to do for money/ crochet and knit/ sell blood and hair/ pick garbage for copper and aluminum. When my husband left, I thought I could start to lay it out, move it around, until an alchemy took hold. /So I laid it all out: 2 super 8s, a 35 mm, found photos, books of the Bowery, poetry, and there was lots of poetry. / Artifacts, flattened bottle caps, rusted cans, early tin cans, many interesting screws and bolts, sometimes found machines in enamel green, and sometimes, bobbins and thread. / I laid it all out/ stared at it/ moved it/ talked to myself about it/ read it all again/ waited/ nothing happened. / I put it all back. (July 27, 01, 75 E. 2nd St.)

by Marcus Slease

walking energy gaps
clean and cool
satisfaction envelops the sage
and nostalgia bags
the body

birds eat seeds
sweepers shovel waste

who doesn't have
a closet
full of
clothes w/nothing
to wear?

old sap
Oak Street a fine
old house of
colossal mysteries
besides yr
so heavenly droll
I hang
upon yr lips

lax and foolbound
healthy and wholesome
and buxy and brave

I don't fuck

I used to be
very funny
but now I'm
very beautiful

Sunday, September 04, 2005

After Some Sleep and Coffee: Hocquard

Okay, I think I've managed to corral my enthusiasm a little bit here so that I can be a little more informative about the reasons behind my excitement.

I've pasted a series of Hocquard links below, but as a quick and general sum of his writing, Hocquard's work operates often with the most simple words and direct expressions in language. His poems aren't "poetic" in the tradition of lyricism, imagism, or objectivism (though I think there are some similarities in spirit with the Objectivists, between Hocquard and George Oppen for example but not so much WC Williams.) In some ways the same fixation with simple, abstract language that is often a part of John Taggart & Juliana Spahr's work is also in Hocquard's work. Whereas in the work of Taggart & Spahr there's a lot of emphasis on repetition to make this simple language uncanny, in Hocquard's work it's much more about just simple, semi-strange sentence put on top of another simple, semi-strange sentence, and on and on until a couple sentences like "I see a leaf. I pick up a leaf." sort of explode. He also strings in sentences that are quite directly philosophical; the odd thing is that usually these sentences don't end up being prescriptive. There's a lot of discovery being transmitted via the poems and documented within the poems.

At any rate, here are some links:

Here is his biography with a couple links at the Duration Press site.

Here is page one of a series of pieces from A Test of Solitude translated by Rosmarie Waldrop.

This page is in French which I need to learn now, but it's also got a picture of the man with cigarette akimbo.

is a link to an organization he started called Un bureau sur l'Atlantique.

Here is a press release for a reading he did at Barnard.

Here is a good, brief essay about the bigs in contemporary French poetry: Hocquard, Anne-Marie Albiach, Claude Royet-Journoud.

Here is an interesting essay about contemporary French poets by Cole Swensen.

Steve Evans on Hocquard.

And that's probably enough for now -- enjoy.....

HOLY CRAP! Hocquard!!!


Emmanuel Hocquard is coming to the United States to read in the Desert City!!!!!!!!!!!


This is so freaking cool -- Hocquard is really a genius. He's also been a huge influence on me as a poet for about a year now -- totally changed my focus with language.

This is really, really hott. I wish I could be more articulate. He's one of the greatest living French poets.

AND AND AND!!!! He's going to be reading with ROSMARIE WALDROP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WOW! Forgive my over the top enthusiasm, but it's really late here and I've been trying to get in touch with Hocquard for months!!!!!!!!!!!!


Can I say? can I claim? that this is sort of really freaking big??

Anyhoo, I'm going to try to arrange a series of readings around the US for him while he's here. I'm thinking DC, Philadelphia, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Providence, and ????

If anyone is interested in trying to get Hocquard to their town, let me know.


Good night.