Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Red Rover Series
{readings that play with reading}

Experiment #28:
It's Voyeuristic


Carrie Olivia Adams & Andy Gricevich

at the Orientation Center
2129 N. Rockwell -- Chicago, IL
corner of Milwaukee/Rockwell
left side of the Congress Theater building
suggested donation $4

CARRIE OLIVIA ADAMS lives and works in Chicago, where she also serves as poetry editor for Black Ocean and Hunger Mountain. Her poems and reviews have appeared in such journals as Backwards City Review, Cranky, DIAGRAM, Lilies and Cannonballs Review, and Verse. She is the author of Intervening Absence, published by Ahsahta Press and the chapbook, “A Useless Window.”

ANDY GRICEVICH is uncomfortably writing this in the third person. He's a poet, actor, theater director and musician whose work occasionally finds the time to get itself published here and there. He spent much of the last four years melding political theater and experimental music with the Nonsense Company, and performing satirical cabaret songs with the Prince Myshkins. Andy edits Cannot Exist, a print poetry magazine put lovingly together in his living room in Madison, Wisconsin. He very rarely, and with extensive discomfort, blogs at ndgwriting.blogspot.com.

Red Rover Series is curated by Lisa Janssen and Jennifer Karmin. Each event is designed as a reading experiment with participation by local, national, and international writers, artists, and performers. The series was founded in 2005 by Amina Cain and Jennifer Karmin.

May 9th - Lisa Fishman & Aurora Tabar

Email ideas for reading experiments
to us at redroverseries@yahoogroups.com

The schedule for upcoming events is listed at

Saturday, April 18, 2009

things keep turning
into other things
such as lots

in which you
can turn on
a dime (barring

inflation) I'm
still wearing
my helmet


quoth the raven nearly nightly
"I'm a bird of some repute.
If you from my mouth won't take it
You will find it on your suit."


Today I tried to finish Ovid's Metamorphoses and failed. I've been reading it for a while. It's as good as it's supposed to be. The best poetry, I think, is in the descriptions (the place where a thing occurred). Weird stories.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

If you are some kind of wind--and you probably are--some kind of partnership is forming with the jealous tendons, see the bulb filament its way out hat. I stopped it here because it could not. Every poem is an instance of memory, also of getting in the way. The yaks wanted their revenge on the world through linebreaks. I will give up all my bulges for you, but not the gnawing insect of my heart. Its bell rings always at horizons without register. A package awaits me under the empty sign, should I die a cushion or the persistent narrative manner of a polluted stream. Question.


Today's reading: Pablo Neruda's The Book of Questions. I still haven't read much Neruda, and this late book piques my curiosity. Something a bit like an alternate Whitman in the use of repeating form (each poem composed of four or five questions, each question almost always a couplet), though the alternative is extreme (the question as contrasted with Whitman's declarative mode). Each poet employs constancy to get a wider range of possible material in than might seem possible without the formal strategy--the poem would "break" (which has an interest of its own). Neruda's questions range from jokes to childlike playfulness to surrealist impossibility to existential and political crisis. Why do I so rarely hear anyone talk about his work in the circles to which I pay attention? That fact, as well, makes me curious.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Some kind of artifact in a
suit walks in
around the wall where Hikmet
is held
shackles are a coconut
without amusement
without amount
for no particular reason
a raisin in the sun
songing weaves
abolish the heated sun

For today I almost finished the Mayer book. It's the first volume I haven't managed to complete this month, and I'll have to come back to it in what I expect to be a few "free days." Everyone who's read Mayer knows how good she is. My favorite pieces are the verse poems, many of them, especially toward the middle of the book. I like, in the prose works, the places where she, in the midst of immense catalogues of dailiness, hits on an extended historical or literary anecdote or description of a plant, etc.--the way those extended passages alter the rhythm of the work. Nearly everything about this writing is inspiring in the best sense: the palpability of the language, the stunningly prolific writing life, the devotion to it and the acceptance of poverty and uncertainty as part of that devotion. There's no better example.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


impatience impatience

i should learn
to recognize it
like a botanist

plants need attention
they have no eye


cows rub up against ogam inscriptions
erasing their dumb letters lowing


A poem should not bean
but me
carving meself
of wood
a hole
to try

I'm reading the Bernadette Mayer Reader, but didn't finish it today. April, fortunately, has more days than the alphabet has letters, so I can take an extra day once or twice to get through a book--especially when it's longish.

Monday, April 13, 2009

where to house
that lone thought

little pieces of hail
--memory slips--

fall on
and on

an un
finished basket

like a big spider

neither will ever
be a bone

people I know are going
are a loss of stories

big wars
with dumb drones

cover over
the daily thirst

to live between
moments of thirst

and state

over the dead
who've stopped

Machaut, though
seems a guarantee

or a promise
without guarantee

as the thought is a promise,
the thought that

got lost.

Then there's the thing I said
instead of asking how you were
when I knew the answer was "bad,"
though it's not the answer you'd have given
had I asked. Accidentally
I pushed the button in my pocket
and Machaut burst into my ear
as if someone were calling from
an impossible distance, near and far,
in which the thought got lost.

Today's reading: Andrew Levy's Memories of My Father, another book whose excellence I'm not sure I can explain here. The book centers doubly around memories belonging to and memories about its main subject. When it's closest to literal description (especially of the hospital as the father is dying), the point of view seems to shift between that of the author and that of the father (tilting, for example, around the "gaze" and the father's complaint (?) that everyone is looking at him). The main thrust of the book, however, is the enactment, in poetic thought, of Levy's father's ethical nature, of the relation of memory to ethics, the taking in of ethical substance through memory and the process, through writing, of keeping memory active, preserving its verbal sense (remembering, an ongoing reincorporation and renegotiation) against its freezing into a noun (a container for past images). This ethical memory spreads to address economics and war, the resonances between the Depression and the war the father was in and today's circumstances. And, returning again and again, there's the question of why one writes, and what, and how. The doubt contained in this question is a positive doubt; Levy's book is, among other things, composed of answers.

(It's especially moving for me to read it as part of the sequence of books from the last few days, to connect and contrast its humanity with the kinds of humanity in and behind Iijima, Jeffers, and Koch, their different kinds of attention and their relations to the living and the dead, these embodied social presences. Something about love.)

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

stick not,
little tots

(pint error)
(lobed stump)

races expel
or insert rats

plat maps
to a cinder

expensive friends
latrine orchestra

hornets scrape



sometimes it's messy
sometimes it's May [Mary?]

there is a curved [carved?] dark lie
where prisons have been won
in the "heart"

scrap, or
chin rattler

eat your inner orchestra
return to cinder

we advocate renown
via experiences in date race

cud hat seen in finest places
(crass resin expert love)

secret rat pulses
hated since 1957

Today's reading: Kenneth Koch's The Pleasures of Peace. What an antithesis to Robinson Jeffers, especially in the concluding title poem. Koch's poetry will never be a model for me, but his glee in writing, his energy--well, everyone who's read him knows about it. He is an inspiration as a writer. I love the moments in the list poems (like "Faces") where he seems to realize he can write anything he wants, and then does it--he can refer to anything as having a face, and say anything he can think of about it. And why not have a poem like "The Pleasures of Peace," which itself exemplifies one brilliant set of facets of the humanism we would like to have? His writing, which I've not been strongly attracted to for some time, keeps taking me by surprise in how far from shallow it can really be.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Moments hang,

to return.
Each chair is a gift.

The sun
we'll turn

in passion

curves wood
to make the string
like speech

--which these
people pour

"that they may hear."

This is simply a bit of notation made while waiting for a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, a great thing to hear live, on period instruments, with two small orchestras, two small choirs plus a small children's choir, organ, and harpsichords. The introductory lecturer claimed that the baroque bow, with the curvature of its wood away from the strings--the opposite of the modern bow--mimics the consonant-vowel sequence of speech (since it produces a strong initial articulation, immediately tapering into smoothness--as opposed to the modern bow's "all-vowel" character, which matches the irritating lack of diction in most operatic performance). The music was magnificent, especially the extraordinarily strange, sparse arias in the second half, which I'd never really dug into. I thought, of course, of Louis Zukofsky, though I didn't come home and start writing "A."

Today's reading: Robinson Jeffers' Selected Poems, the small, older edition published by Vintage. I've been meaning to read Jeffers for some time. I think he may be the most depressing poet I've ever read. Over and over there's the assertion that humankind is done for, and good riddance, the urge that we not speak about atrocity, but merely observe the idiocy of slaughter, starvation and willful ignorance as dispassionately as possible. Where many poets during and since the second World War have written that we can't speak about atrocity--that language can't encompass its magnitude--and many poets today say that we shouldn't because "it's bad for poetry," Jeffers urges us not to out of an ethical (though highly misanthropic) conviction. His most positive thought is the assertion that new culture can only arise from the burning and bloodbath of a decaying civilization. In contrast to the sarcasm and the ultimately bored, cynical jokesterism that usually accompany the antipolitical in the poetry world, Jeffers is dead serious, facing horror in poems that are often very good, nearly always gripping.

I wrote three "mirrors" in opposition to this stance, but they didn't turn out well, and so their implicit argument seemed to be "don't waste time writing against other writers who say we shouldn't, or can't, speak out." Maybe that's right, in some sense.

There's a powerful respect for nonhuman nature in Jeffers' work, but--in contrast to Iijima (see yesterday's post)--the gulf between the human and the nonhuman is vast, and the idea of crossing it is both dismissed and condemned. The radical indifference of hawks, stones and especially the ocean to our humanity is essential, for Jeffers, to what's powerful in it. It's a radical nonhumanity that I find philosophically attractive, except that I also see it as liberating, instead of connected to nihilistic misanthropy. I can certainly see what Jack Spicer saw in Jeffers. This is a poet whose work should, I think, be read by anyone who feels a crisis in relation to the question of political poetry--he presents problems to be dealt with. A worthy adversary.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

you never even hear about ford anymorelock
dam (a bird just fell
can't afford
can't afford to eat
little light speckled the wall
the bay
leaves in the light
logic without body
can handle this
two dollars
a day
would make it moot
not drown

in the absurdity of starvation,
which no-one can acknowledge.

Starvation isn't hunger.
Not required.
A diamond
Has emerged around the nests
And sticks
To the bricks
Blinds hang

Somewhere there are birds
Looked to for longing
When length is a dash
then another dash, the punct

of unshelter

A small bunny goes by in a red car
collaring any attention like a flag
then sinking in the waves

It made us laugh:
a day of invisible stars
jammed into series
by the girl whose sweaters,
flying around the room to dry,
were unemployed as she

In that uselessness
turn true

or something like true
would be
were there no lies.

lies are grains cast
by tons into the sea.



That's another improvisation, certainly in need of revision, or discarding. The point, I remind you, is to write a poem a day, and to post it in spite of embarrassment.

Today's reading: Brenda Iijima's Rabbit Lesson. It's good political poetry. Remarkable what she does, starting with the scared rabbit and the fox, wolf, bird of prey, leading from that into war scenarios and then on into strange and complex territory
. The book takes animality seriously, never demoting the rabbit/predator situation to the status of metaphor for war. Each not only illuminates, but interpenetrates the other. It's about the body, with its guts, gaze, attention, response. It's not protest poetry; its compassion is in giving each thing it examines its due, trying to see clearly what it is. (This is all pretty vague--I'm in a hurry today). Iijima's use of the page is magnificent: lots of sculpted space, the density of text varied with thoughtful composition, and here and there light grey words in a much larger font floating near or behind the main text, variations on certain of its moments or beginnings of thought that would move in a different direction. It's very precise: neither the open fields of "vispo" nor the page scoring of Charles Olson or Susan Howe (where we seem to get fragments of something lost), but the movement of attention coming repeatedly into being--and an ethics of attentiveness that comes along with it.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009


Why I wake Mary O early
I will never know

I do not--for enrichment--own
the slightest view, nor its



fulfillment capital

surplus enrichment


(two poems that each need a second section)

Lobed, mellow

Three shots

out." Blue

Add the

of the

"More to be revealed"
said the white block
in the dark pool

You have to watch

for that.
The organizational

Loss on the vertigo-

danced horizon
of calm.



says the chimera




show your stock
a good time

bond, age, cow
(tick) talk


feed us this crow
we don't know stones


Today's reading: Carla Harryman's Open Box (improvisations). It's a great book. The form is highly liberating, and suggests valuable possibilities for writing to me. Each page consists of two four-line stanzas, with plenty of white space around them. The pairs most often seem like independent poems, but often the last line carries over syntactically into the first line of the next page, and themes recur at various points, so the book ends up reading like a very loose set of serial poems of varying lengths--or one book-length work. The way it can function formally in multiple ways thrills me--particularly the way this allows multiple simultaneous scales to work, often in friction with each other. The details (individual lines and stanzas) are generally stunning. The poems above, aside from being improvisations, have little to do with Harryman's book.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

unmanned drones

pretending to be unmanned drones


I sing the body acoustic.
In this field, where becoming's pushed to such a speed
that we are robbed of the experience, the observation,
the sensation of change, and can only note that it has passed,

I write: POEM FOR--
--not a blank to be filled, but a direction of dedication, the possible
and the actual on equal terms.

The pretense here: I have not written such a poem.

For each stone from an old, old wall
meant not to mark territory, to make as permanent
as can withstand coldly the laughter at such pretense
the division within and between possible communities,

meant in quiet, forward-looking and defiant stead
to bank up the root place of the olive grove,

for each such stone--no longer in, but from--
and for the power to imagine, in each,
the memory of one now torn tree

--for each such stone a poem.

A lousy poem. Really notes toward a possible poem, for Palestine, or elsewhere. I am reading John Berger's Hold Everything Dear the best book of essays I've come across in some time. Dark, condensed responses to atrocity in the last nine years. Great writing, owing a good deal to Benjamin or the Adorno of Minima Moralia, or maybe not "owing"--it doesn't seem imitative, just unflinching and rich in similar ways.

Today's reading: Barbara Guest's The Blue Stairs. Guest's sense of form was phenomenal. I'm particularly struck by the title poem, and by the two in the middle entitled "The Return of the Muses" and "A Reason." There's a great variety here. As with many of the real "masters," I get the sense, in trying to figure out what it might have been like to write a given poem, that she "just did it," followed her compositional sense without question, but with an ongoing critical observation. It's not that there's any "ease" to the writing, or that it's particularly easy or difficult) to read--in fact, it's often upsetting, or thrilling in a kind of scary way--but that the poems seem so unapologetically what they are. Much to be learned from more reading of Guest.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The melon hides
the head
in wood. So what

is just
a faded

The new hot
pan in town
bordered by

holes. What did
the bleeding get
out. what did

you think, drink
at stars, a flagging
hoarse and guided


Today's reading: Norman Fischer's Charlotte's Way, in the beautiful edition from Tinfish Press (one long fold-out sheet, put together so well that I didn't see the seams until I was looking for them). I've found it hard to get incredibly excited about Fischer's work, but the straightforward, observant humility of this long poem makes me certain I'll come back to it for a second try. Its way of mapping daily experience and thought is an interesting contrast to Larry Eigner's.

I also read around a little in Benjamin Friedlander's The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes. I feel a strong kinship with Friedlander. His way of disrupting the poem, to fracture the smoothness in short lyrics, to introduce swift turns that send the energy of the poem off in unexpected directions, is something a lot of poets could learn from. I think he's at his best when he's not trying too hard to be "wrong"--I don't have any problem with obscenity, fecal matter, and so on, but it's less striking in his work than the other forms of disruptiveness there.

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Monday, April 06, 2009











....where we
..................................................NO DREAM



nope, loop






................at rest

........................................is its


................................you <------->it




three songs
crow pass
es hawk
in air
or wall
nut not
bud ed



(in de




or of


in chinese
no spell
spill it



form to
......give ............................sub


to the time not taken (took):

there is this false sense of own


Today's reading: Larry Eigner's Readiness / Enough / Depends / Upon. Eigner is best taken in large doses, entire books of whatever length. What seem to be notations of the arrangements of objects, the drift of phenomena into constellations over a span of time (the poems often seem to be written in a very short time--or, more often, over two days, which is fascinating for such brief works), turns out to work on the border between that sort of descriptive notation and a notation of constellations of pieces of language. External phenomena and the language that refers to them begin in strict analogy, then drift apart to varying degrees. And the subject matter drifts and shifts in surprising ways, so that we go from frequent descriptions of weather, trees, streets, sights and sounds to jokes, meditations, responses to other writing, even one pretty dark poem of historical atrocity. I wrote today's poem while about halfway through the book, after which I found, at the beginning of a longer Eigner poem dated 10.26-7.93:

...............................o n e o r t w o
in............................t h i n g s c a n b e
(to)....................................s p e c u l a t e d

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The sexual skeleton is cloyingly at wait
on the divan of darkly vandalized love.

A tarpaulin seen from two irreconcilable angles
can only have died in its sleep, too much on sale.

Kept printing out JAZZ MONKEY from the white ticker
tape machine erasing moss from a midget, page 15, raw cheat
pump deft
geisha chic
crop gran
it ick
lops side
sicle donor
hot butt
on invest
I equate it with great deeds
to put walnuts on the skin
of one's victims. She bangs an
egg against the bill of sale,
the boards that have replaced
Citizen Three with panel flips.

I'm trying to read a book of poems each day. Many, but not all, are short. Today's is Beverly Dahlen's A Reading: Spicer and 18 Sonnets. Many of my daily poems will be in some sense "imitations" of the day's reading. I don't see how I could imitate Dahlen without taking decades to do so. This one is closer to Bruce Andrews, I think.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

The melon hides
the head in
wood. So What

is just
a faded

The new hot
thing in towns
wrecked by

holes. A pleasure what
the blood got out. What

did you think, drink at stars,
a flagging house, a hoarse and
guided starve, a stab. A vine,

o vine, you most
certainly are not.

Today's reading: Robert Creeley's Words.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Are you ready to become the man
you came here to be? Why do I present
this ironic facade, instead of asking
a genuine question? What is the question?
Why is it marked thus? What's the history
of that mark?

Is that a lotus behind my head? How far
from the last question to the last one? Am I
just happy to see me? Why do these questions
keep spiraling off, instead of delving deeper?
Why do I want deeper delving? Are the sexual
possibilities lost on me? Is that a real question?
What was the question? What was the gap?

What is performance? Does it involve that
tight feeling in the throat? That lonely olive
on the shelf? The presence of anything? Huh?
What? Paint? Tea? Stop now?

This poem, which fails somewhat miserably, owes its inspiration to today's reading: Steve Benson's Open Clothes. Benson's improvisations, all of which seem to involve the setting up of situations of vulnerability, uncertainty, probable embarassment and a great deal of brilliant surprise, are a recent inspiration to me. I've been meaning to really delve into his work for years, and this most recent book has me hooked. It'd be an interesting job to compare Benson's long sequences of questions with the questions that make up Ron Silliman's "Sunset Debris."

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Thursday, April 02, 2009


.......................................................the mode.

Nude, formed, found, near-

"If you want the lens, buy the eye!"

who becomes the swell in cloud mass

(after "The Dark" in Rae Armantrout's The Invention of Hunger, which I'd not read as a book before today. This poem, like the other two I don't remember having seen collected elsewhere, is particularly chilling and strange).

Also in today's reading: Bruce Andrews' Executive Summary (I'm reading "A's" today, starting the alphabet). It collects early works that make me remember why I like the guy's writing so much. The language is packed, hilarious, full of crackly context-readiness (as in "moss from a midget").

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

ok, a poem a day for the month of april

after Duncan

come back
as if
made up

I is
not mine

but makes
what is

by delimit:
walls shadow

and that's how we know
where we are

I'm a box
of bones,

their shapes

of the way
words always squirm
inside words

so that they don't
mean what they mean. they blanket the
squirming things.

I remember--enfold--at freeze--bent grass
in wind. I own it, but don't
own I. That is

the first persimmon. O mensch. O my.

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