Pageant Reviewed at Make Magazine

by on Jan.24, 2014, under Uncategorized

Erin Becker has written an insightful (at least to me, the author, and that’s pretty good!) review of my book Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate in Make Magazine.


Like a mad scientist throwing together unexpected chemicals, Göransson delights in coupling divergent concepts, seeing which combinations smoke, sizzle, or explode. Just a few examples: “luxuriant pupils,” a “soundproof pose,” a “molested parade,” a “garbled hand,” “authenticity kitsch.” Entrance is an experiment in syntax; synesthesia is the rule rather than the exception. Its characters speak in simple thoughts and grammar, like children: “I had trouble eating the food”; “Foreign bodies must be studied”; “I cannot do the Twist”; “Passengers cannot be trusted”; “I am not here”; “We want to teach him how to speak.” The relentless subject-verb-subject-verb progressions make the book a simultaneously difficult and easy read. Beneath the words there is an undulating rhythm, at first comforting, then unnerving, then both simultaneously. Layered over familiar syntax, startling images are made more startling still.

It’s not only these pattern-shattering juxtapositions and relentless syntax that create this effect of strangeness. It’s also the way the trite phrasing, basic grammar, and clichés come down with a clank against the backdrop of linguistic madness. As Göransson’s characters soliloquize on their diseases and infestations, they forefront the diseased and infested nature of the clichés and banality that infects all communication. Tried-and-maybe-not-so-true combinations like “barely legal,” “murderous instinct,” and “kiss and tell” suddenly ring false against other, less customary language. The contrast between the unfamiliar and the familiar exposes the familiar in the unfamiliar and vice versa. Göransson asks: Where do we get our lines, the words that go into our ears and come out of our mouths? And to what degree do they get us?

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An afternoon of surrealist writing… featuring conceptualist poets?

by on Jan.22, 2014, under Uncategorized

This Sunday the Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting Kenneth Goldsmith and Tracie Morris not for a presentation of conceptual poetry but, unexpectedly enough, a celebration of surrealist writing and music.


I’m puzzled about this lineup of poets for a couple of reasons.  For one, I can think of at least a handful of other US poets (some of whom write for this blog) whose relationship to surrealism is, how can I put this, actually conceivable?  I can’t speak for Morris’ work–though I loved watching her perform recently here in Philly–but I’m not sure how Goldsmith’s project is nothing less than a negation of how this ad describes the surrealist ideal:  the “unconscious mind … let loose” and “put in the service of radical conviction.” (continue reading…)

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Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

by on Jan.20, 2014, under Uncategorized

Stephen Crane is one of my all time favorite poets. He’s better known as a journalist (he’s said to have written Black Riders and Other Lines on little scraps while out reporting) and a prose writer, the naturalist author of Maggie: A Girl of the Street and Red Badge of Courage (the poems might suggest some interesting revision of Realism). But for me the poem are very evocative – at times his free verse seems so lazy that they’re about to fall apart (and this is also part of their amazing radicalness when you consider that they first poems were published in 1895); they are “lines” according to Crane, barely even poems. They are little parables or allegories. In many ways they remind me of Henry Parland’s poems from thirty years later and across the Atlantic (I suspect the connection is French poetry).
According to one legend, Crane was inspired to write them by hearing William Dean Howells read Emily Dickinson’s poetry. And there’s definitely something to that story, but Crane’s poems are quite distinct from Dickinson, they never seem loaded but instead on the verge of collapse.(Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Dickinson’s editor, wrote a negative review of the Black Riders when it was first published, claiming it was mere “novelty” and, stunted, would never grow into real poetry.).

One more thing: I went to a talk about Crane’s articles attacking the treatment of Native Americans, and his descriptions of the genocide of Native Americans, and one thing that struck me was how a lot of the same words and phrases re-occur in the poems. So whether or not this is true (probably no) or some fancy daydream on my part, I see the poems as kind of “cut-outs” or erasures of polemics against genocide.
Here are some poems from Black Riders and Other Lines:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.

Once there came a man
Who said,
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was terrific clamour among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.

I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
Running, leaping,
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!”

A god in wrath
Was beating a man;
He cuffed him loudly
With thunderous blows
That rang and rolled over the earth.
All people came running.
The man screamed and struggled,
And bit madly at the feet of the god.
The people cried,
“Ah, what a wicked man!”
And “Ah, what a redoubtable god!”

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

“It was wrong to do this,” said the angel.
“You should live like a flower,
Holding malice like a puppy,
Waging war like a lambkin.”
“Not so,” quoth the man
Who had no fear of spirits;
“It is only wrong for angels
Who can live like the flowers,
Holding malice like the puppies,
Waging war like the lambkins.”

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Ars Poetica vs. the Anthropocene

by on Jan.15, 2014, under Uncategorized

“We never tear away the earth’s skin.  We only cultivate its surface, because that is where the richness is found.”

– Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman

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Calling all contammo-fiends & beauty brats! TYTTI HEIKKINEN is in the house!

by on Jan.14, 2014, under Uncategorized

Johannes Göransson is in the cryer this morning because not enough ppl are reading Tytti Heikkinen’s THE WARMTH OF THE TAXIDERMIED ANIMAL + + + + + How can this be, ppl??? I SLEEP DROOLING ALL OVER THIS BOOK, WHICH I NIGHTLY CRAM IN MY MOUTH. + + + + + These wild, search engine-based poems make Flarf look sooooo totally last decade.

Because I feel morose when Johannes weeps and because I think Tytti Heikkinen is the best thing since radioactive fat lozenges, I’m putting up a sampler of her poems here.

All translations by the amazing NIINA POLLARI! You can buy the book here.




Fuck i’m a fatty when others are skinny.
Also Im short, am I a fatty or short? Wellyeah
I’m such a grosss fatty that it makes no sens…
My Woundedness has let the situation get
this way tht the fat squeezes out etc. Now I’m
putting distance btwn me and everything, because I’ve been so
disappointed in my self, cause from the word “greedy”
I think of a greedy fatty and then I get mad. Panic
rises in my chest, a tremor. Everything is so terrible
, outside its wet and icy , It’s cold when I
lay here and im an undisciplined fatty. (continue reading…)

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Borzutzky’s Data Bodies

by on Jan.11, 2014, under Uncategorized


Daniel Borzutzky has a new chapbook called Data Bodies. Daniel is of the Montevidayoian stripe through and through: his work is visceral, theatrical, political without being self-righteousness, and often moves with a frantic energy. His last book, The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat Books), was a fascinating exploration of the political brutality that underlines so much neo-liberalism. Borzutzky is well-known for his translations of Raúl Zurita’s work, and Bodies seems to take into itself both the horrors of Pinochet’s Chile and the corporatism of modern-day America, though places and people go largely unnamed in the work. The new book is, as the title suggests, about data, information, surveillance, networks. It is also about bodies and shit and hair. As one of the opening lines says, “We harbor data and we harbor the carcasses and we try to keep the two sets of information separate.”

But Daniel’s chapbook is about merging the two, dramatically. There’s always a Foucault-ian element to Daniel’s work: for him, history is about how bodies are controlled and regulated and sometimes brutalized. As he writes in “Non-Essential Personnel,” “We sit in our cubicles and sanitize our hands.” This is a very lively chapbook, full of an anarchic, comic spirit that’s a good reminder political poetry doesn’t have to be leaden and humorless. The book is out from Holon, a sister publication to The Green Lantern.

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by on Jan.11, 2014, under Uncategorized

Pop Corpse

“Much has been written of Glenum’s poetics’ politics. Essentially, they’re radical. ‘Feminine’ identity is corrupted. Nostalgia stapled to the mass graves. Tastefulness surviving with Shepard Fairey’s ‘HOPE’ poster as a human centipede. The pastoral bukkake-d. Not nearly enough has been written about Glenum’s poetic innovations, partly because they are, like any innovation, difficult, and partly because it’s so fun to riff on such an “avantcore” language space…

This is the mark of a Shenzen-manufactured, third-party-licensed, private-equity-firm-owned piece of future trash…

They are not novelties, or shocks, or experiments. They are of an originality that is less a call to imitation, and more a shout to keep up.”

Read more of Donald’s x-ray insight here!

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A Open Letter from RACHEL BURNS on the NYDN Controversy

by on Jan.11, 2014, under Uncategorized


[Guest post by Rachel Burns.]


regarding the new york daily news article, i have, ultimately, taken from this experience that i am supposed to be soft, so i’ve omitted all capital letters, i’m speaking in a soft monotone.

as a twenty two year old editor/poet without any sort of degree, my initial experience was a sense of empowerment, pride & excitement about this huge publication that wasn’t exclusive to the literary realm. i knew some of these poets & their work, others i was unfamiliar with, the chance to experience all of these women & their love of the craft in one article was empowering to me as a women & a poet.

seeing the unflinching negative responses to the article confused me. the mass of negativity went beyond any single article and has made me completely uncomfortable being involved in the literary world. seeing these women i look up to being attacked by other individuals whom i also look up to is heart-breaking. & the scrutiny placed on female bodies absolutely revolting, triggering, and completely fucking unacceptable.

i am now scared to voice my opinion & have found myself questioning my involvement in our community. i’m scared to respond because i’ve got photos of myself in short dresses and tank tops. that is your impact.

a mentor once told me there is more than one way to be intrusive, rape isn’t always physical, unwanted penetration is just as damaging when it’s done without physicality. in this regard, the backlash directed towards a perceived feminine aesthetic has been a vile misuse of power/voice & has created an intrusive hyperawareness surrounding female bodies. if some of these comments were catcalled from the street it would be harassment/body shaming/misogyny, creating an situation where someone feels unsafe.

as an extremely body conscious person, these responses have made me feel apologetic for having a body. is my dysmorphic interpretation of myself a positive? if i’m covered will i be successful? if i decide to wear an article of clothing i feel accentuates my torso, should i apologize? i bought this velvet skirt to wear to a reading at awp, now i want to return it & i googled ‘semi-fitted slacks’ last night because the message I’m receiving says ‘i will be taken seriously if i hide my body in ill fitting khaki.’

i am seeing feminists responding with degrading remarks, then following up with their stature as a feminist. it’s comparable to someone saying something racist & following up with ‘not to sound racist.’ had someone made a racist or homophobic remark, there would be a complete uproar. had someone who does not identify as a feminist made a sexist remark, there would be an uproar.

attacking someone because, in your opinion, they have sexed up the art, is slut shaming & justifying that with feminism is disgusting.

i’ve used the phrase ‘it was my fault’ too many times in my life, after connecting with the feminist aspect of the literary community, i believe my body is my own & no one has that right to make me feel shame. as an unknown individual in the writing community, i’m wishing my body prepubescent to maybe avoid impending ridicule. Your message is ‘don’t be the woman you want to be’.

all individuals have a right to fulfill basic human rights of self-expression & body autonomy. fashion is an art everyone , to some extent, dabbles in, as an art it has endless interpretations.

i don’t want to be in a situation where i have to be a woman poet in a dress or i have to be a woman poet in sweatpants, i want to be a woman poet writing poetry that affects readers.

i spoke with Monica a few days ago & she told me this was like being told to smile when you didn’t want to. all of these woman have presented themselves gracefully & respectfully throughout this unwarranted backlash & i admire all of them. i want to apologize to them for anyone who is using clothing as indicator for class & over-sexualizing a situation that is not intended to be remotely sexual. the terrifying part of this ordeal is it’s not specific to the new york daily news article.

i deleted my manuscript the other night because something that empowered me so much was just shit on.

i’m embarrassed by a lot of individual actions & the petty part of me wants to name specific instances where shaming was justified or blamed on the article. i’m now terrified to continue writing, but this is not okay. i really love to write, i really love being an editor & i really love connecting with poets. the absolute kindness, acceptance & willingness to mentor. i’m not suggesting any fix, i am suggesting that the current trend of combative communication, using positions of identification as weapons and shields, is creating a toxic environment for emerging writers.

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Janice Lee’s Damnation

by on Jan.09, 2014, under Uncategorized

 Unknown 1. One of the things images of heaven and hell have in common is that both are static. As David Byrne sings, “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” But hell is like that too. In Dante, the lustful ones will always be caught up in wind, Judas will always be in the pit of hell. Only on earth and purgatory is movement possible.

But what if earth is seen as static too? This is one of the principal motifs in Janice Lee’s book Damnation. As Jon Wagner says in his introduction to the book, the landscape in Lee’s Damnation is frozen, unmoored from chronology and redemption and progress. As he puts it, a place “without redemptive return.” It is, I’d argue, materialist not in the Marxists sense, but in the Robbe-Grillet sense. A world thick with things that exist beyond our desire to conceptualize them and fit them into narratives. As Lee writes early in the book, “Outside, the thickness of air, like a heavy silence or constant din of angels’ whispers.” There is a long tradition that portrays the world as a static sphere: Beckett especially, but also Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Francis Bacon, Guyotat, the harsher novels by Duras. A place of mud, rain, and repetition.

2. The title is taken from the 1988 film by Bela Tarr, though the book as a whole is inspired by all of Tarr’s work, as well as Tarr’s frequent collaborator, the novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai. I haven’t seen any of Tarr’s films — I’ve been meaning to for years — but I have read quite a bit of Krasznahorkai, a writer with a style so precise and his own that any imitation of it verges of parody, much like Faulkner or Woolf or Proust. One of the great things about Lee’s book is the way she keeps away from this danger. The spirit of the novelist is there, but not the letter. The enclosed, rotting spaces he is famous for is present, but Lee’s Damnation has a sensibility of its own, being heavily fragmented, with the emphasis on landscape and dialogue often spoken in a sort of no-place. If anything, Lee’s worldview is even more claustrophobic than Krasznahorkai’s, who has the sweep of narrative to carry us along.

I kept thinking of Guy Maddin’s early films while reading (continue reading…)

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by on Jan.08, 2014, under Uncategorized


I generally don’t get on with women. They make me feel competitive and inadequate and too-powerful and too-beautiful and hideously ugly and like I will never be able to fold a piece of paper and tear it perfectly upon the created axis with just my hands. Nevertheless I have found myself constantly in the company of women, having gone to a single-sex college and being a “woman poet” and a member of a former girl band and now working on a pastry team composed of all but one woman. Also perhaps because I bear the physical markers of the female I am labeled a woman-[whatever] and therefore grouped with other humans who are perceived by others or self-identify as women.
(continue reading…)

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