"To bring the poem into the world / is to bring the world into the poem."

Monday, November 28, 2011

g emil reutter


As an observer I watch as prices in the supermarket rise without notice from the media, see the young people search for jobs, one turned away after another. Seniors shop one meal at a time, skimp on prescriptions, watch the young mothers walking kids hoping for a better place, see the abandoned factories, empty strip centers and emergency wards full of people who can’t afford a doctors visit. It is the stark reality of the great recession felt by the people everyday as the politicians in Washington play fiddles.



Empty sidewalks, broken alley lights
Grates, bars, locks, empty places
16 year old mothers, missing fathers
Churches of darkened windows
Under EL screech, slide, rhythm of trains
Faces of working girls, addicts, dirty faces
Of children with no where to go, of
Jobless whose hope dissipated long ago
Limestone stalactites drip from rusty
Under grade bridges, remnants of cars
Line the curb, shadows omnipresent
Rescue not an option in this place of
Invisible walls.

"Door closed"

Something Wrong Here?

smoke stacks
water towers
in sky scape
antennas and dishes
bracketed to
old brick, aged metal

smoke doesn’t flow
from stacks
water doesn’t drain
from towers
factories, warehouses
long gone

they stand
to transmit signals
far and wide
while on ground level
quiet abounds
only ghosts travel
inside windowless buildings
that once were


The dog walkers who met at
the pavilion are no longer
here. Ducks are looking
thinner, breadcrumbs do not
fall to the ground.
Birds peck in search
of insects or a worm, fishermen
drop lines for trout that don’t

The night is quiet, the cicadas have gone.
Humidity is low, hum of air conditioners
no longer fills the air. Thunderstorm
passes leaving quiet behind, that dead
quiet in the middle of a storm, yet
it has passed.

Young mothers watch the old folks
purchase one meal at a time, learning
how it is done. Few purchase bottled
water anymore, the tap is just fine. There
are no lines at the pharmacy. Pork roll,
spam, hot dogs are in demand.

*(From the collection, Carvings)



g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He founded The Fox Chase Review and The Fox Chase Reading Series in 2007. You can visit him at www.gemilreutter-author.com


Thursday, November 24, 2011



After quitting Paris Island in 1996, taking a nap, and waking up in Long Island on 9-11, I realized that the people of which I was a part were poorly equipped to handle, even understand, the exigencies of the world and planet upon which we live. Americans tend to live upon the world, and are seemingly unaware of the planet they’re on. I am aware of the problem with this generality (“American”) but I am talking about a gross systemic relation, rather than its aesthetic valuation. We live as a dream and slurp our news from a crock of shit and you really have to dig to scratch the surfaces. As an American, I am not exceptional; I suppose that, and I hate to admit this, like everyone else who grows up here, it took me a while to remember it.

“Cows in the Field”—photograph by Alec Maslowski



Like any laborer worth his salt I’ve attempted to cultivate my own situations in which I might quit anything and everything without consequence. My art becomes life, stains; “consequences” aside, they’ve proven extremely adept. Hell, successful. Thus my slurp has been unaffected by this “recession” you refer to. The fact that we suffer in silence is at least a meaningful currency, sans coasters, for we are used to it.

What I mean is, there are several thousands of us on the Niagara Frontier who look at the Erie Canal from what was once the widest bridge in the world. Have we seen what gets trapped in this leg of the Canal? Acreage, rusty, an agricultural engineering marvel draining a prehistoric puddle of its fruit picked and packed here, a heavily fertilized contract with eventualities and elsewhere, just east of the toxic nightmares across from Canada—feed corn and the species problem, simplified. South of us Erie County sprawls around Buffalo, where the Canal ended.

Nothing is bleak about its stained signs.

“butterflies”—photograph by Alec Maslowski



                             to cultured inurement a catastrophic event
                                                                                                and old news

A. that they should do more as it tries to hammer out a draft raised the possibility of a range of actions, including but not limited to B. inherent limitations in terms of protections C. hopes to see a serious draft by Thursday or D. to approve this draft it E. would soon attack, to support and clean the city, your protective shield stay away, about thirty kilometers, outside your city they have F. been fighting in that direction for several days, television claimed they were in control of it, but journalists at the gates of the city saw G. no evidence it had fallen, hearing some say, telling others, they were fighting inside H. there was no way to confirm that claim, heavy bombardments there Wednesday I. thousands of forces gathered late outside, Wednesday, with dozens of heavy artillery, radar control weapons systems and about a dozen tanks, weapons J. carried by what appears jubilant and confident K. with white pickups covered in dirt for camouflage purposes snipers were positioned in various parts of the city, excellent vision L. and if it is taken by force, it will give access to what leads to the heart of the opposition M. it was bombing its way into the city, Wednesday N. if all (there) are dead by the end of the day they’ll call it a cowardly, murderous attack, people are not safe, it’s amazing this is happening, adding that two O. people killed, fifteen injured, and one very critically P. forces not yet able to get in described it, a forty-six year-old engineer and member of the local opposition, a rebel fighter with no weapons, fighting with whatever arms Q. are found, or captured R. the best we have, grenade launchers S. the journalist there has not been able to confirm the account but a second witness also said the city has come under sustained attack, on Wednesday T. meanwhile four journalists, covering the conflict, are reported missing U. Wednesday, the editor says they received, second-hand, news that some of the team was swept up, by forces near the city, who’d say V. that there’s nothing to say about them, who said W. that if they have picked them up X. then they should have been brought back Y. the battle, to recapture the rebellious territory, came on the day we considered closing the air, Wednesday Z. ends with no agreement on a draft

there are plenty of others to offer u2, we could repeat these here, the largest Moon in twenty-five years or so and visible on Saturday or the Gulf disaster from last year, or the way even this story has changed, where “spill” becomes an operative word, of which I prefer to Katrinas, Dubyas, a form of Exodus through Egypt perhaps like one of the Four Fukushima Reactors, my sister’s New International Version predicting Haiti’d turn out like China the Orientalist, come to blame the Currency, explains a trace of the Zombie away to a Pharmakon of leaves, the locations like a symbol would just have to show itself, and even though the Japanese can still gather in their peaceful breadlines, or relinquish it in the oceans, having experience with this sort of Thing



Jared Schickling lives in upstate New York.

Alec Maslowski is a visual artist and musician living in upstate New York.


Monday, November 21, 2011



A major part of my recession experience is that of the Irish narrative returning to emigration. The youth of whole villages has disappeared and I know it is becoming easier to count the friends who have left rather than those who have stayed. The direness of the situation is amplified by the trend for those who leave to be those with skills and abilities; this leaves the country with diminished opportunities to get back on its feet.

A fountain in the square of Liam Duffy's home town, Galway. Around it written in chalk are the names of over a hundred people who have emigrated. A student activist group called Free Education for Everyone or FEE, in which the poet is involved, collected the names and wrote them out as an act of remembrance to highlight the lack of opportunities in Ireland, particularly for young people.



My writing has become more critical of the elements of society that brought about this crisis and how they depict themselves as being innately present and necessary in society. But it has also turned its focus on the parts of society that exist despite crisis and also against the crisis--the day to day processes we engage in to get the most out of life.




Even the devil's redundant-

the wind cries:

the tea is cold.

Burnt toast

And greasy frys-

even the devil's redundant,

his knife's coated

in butter and crumbs-

his tea cold.

Sales of slippers have doubled,

he read in the newspapers-

even the devil's redundant

so the church closed;

he could sleep in Sundays-

the tea gone cold

before it’s even poured

the heat stolen by leaky windows-

even the devil's redundant

and his tea has gone cold.

("Deflation" first appeared in A Hudson View, Spring 2010)



Liam Duffy is a poet who grew up and studied in Galway. He is now compiling an Artistic Atlas of Galway, studying Urban studies and working towards his first collection of poetry. He has recently been published on the Upstart blog, the GloomCupboard and has work forthcoming in the special Irish issue of the U.S. magazine Prairie Schooner, and has also read at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland as part of a reading dubbed: "Irish Poets: A New Generation."


Sunday, November 20, 2011



My Great Recession experience has everything to do with my future. As a conscience youth and an upcoming teacher, I believe that people are so job security- and money-wary that they are only in survival mode. Teaching guidance to my students, I see they only know that money will make you live comfortably. But really it should be about moral values. In this economy I believe that’s what we need.



How the GR has affected my poetry is by me living in a neighborhood with the least income families, in a school in the middle of what feels like a third world (I'm calling it urban Honolulu)--it's all I know. To live being compassionate about people struggles, including mine and my families’. And by writing my community into awareness.

Faith and her Mommy, with their two dogs (left) Bruno and (right) Pacman!



My GR poem talks about my mother going through layoffs at work, telling her I love her regardless.


At night in my house when everyone should be sleeping eyes close minds

drifting towards wonderland,

She’s still awake in the living room flipping through memories of

what used to be,

Crying wishing her storied scrapbook past was reality again.

She reminisces over pages of smiles; compiled accomplishments enough

to fill miles of trophy cases.

She was the original dust buster dirt devil housekeeper winner of the

2006 Housekeeper of the Year award.

She remembers wanting to vacuum the red carpet something majestic;

Floors so shiny, you could see your inner child in the reflection. She

idolizes perfection

That hotel was her home away from home, her fortress of solitude and

it has been for over 16 years.

She cleans hotel rooms; finds the history in dirty laundry, closet

skeletons and linens.

Knows what happens in a honeymoon suite, and is capable to clean the

fuck out of them

She knows that business trips are filled with more personal endeavors


Seeing infidelity with the mistake of forgetting the do not disturb

sign on the doorknob; she has seen it all.

Until last fall when my brother and I watched her crumble under the

fall of the economy,

The uncertainty placed her waiting by the phone.

She’s on call for work now. Today she’s number 4 but they didn’t

even make it to 3…

This job is her first baby, 16 years in the making,

At first this job was just to pay the bills, just for now, just until…

It became her passion, found sanctuary in her pink flowered uniform,

and comfort gelled shoes

She’s my mother, sobbing solo under the single light in the living


Resisting to open her scrapbook, trying not to find a reason to be

angry at the super natural because she’s losing faith. Like a

flickering candle…

When she thinks no one is around she still tries her uniform on, this

is her battle suit;

Her idle hands turn to iron and from wonder woman to wondering woman

she feels like she lost her super powers.

My mother is an aglet, found at the tip of shoelaces,

She’s capable of keeping your sole in place,

She will tell you she loves you by just being there… but she’s forgotten.

Her paycheck is the only way she remembers her value,

That coming home without one renders her useless.

Mommy, you are not an ATM, not an automated teller machine,

Worth is not measured in money; Your amount balance will never be zero to me.

See no one remembers what an aglet is…

No one cares about the life of the housekeeper who cleaned their hotel


But mom, you are more than a source of income

You’re my monster in the closet inspector, and the detector of sorrow

and sobbing anywhere

When the shake of the money problem earthquake leaves our home, I want

you to know

I love you more than a full-time laid off housekeeper, but my full

time mother. Assuring you that even if your Faith fades away, your faith will be here.



Faith Pascua, 17 years old, is a high school senior in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The Youth Speaks Hawaii 2010 Grand Slam Champion, she is a student teacher. She also can be seen and heard presenting her poem "Mommy" for YouthSpeaksHawaii over HERE.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011



I prefer the terms "depression" or "meltdown"--

and here's my essay "Corporate Personhood and The Case For Reparations in 2012"
The core of the Occupy Wall Street and 99% Movement is expressed in the proposed demands #1 and #2 at http://atung.net/2011/10/17/the-99-declaration/

which are essentially the same as proposed demands #3 and #8 at http://coupmedia.org/occupywallstreet/occupy-wall-street-official-demands-2009. Another version of this demand exists at Dylan Ratigan’s www.getmoneyout.com. In short:

Congress Should Enact Legislation for Publicly Financed Elections And Reverse the Effects of the Unconstitutional Citizens United SCOTUS decision by passing an amendment to prohibit any private financing of elections and ELIMINATE "PERSONHOOD" LEGAL STATUS FOR CORPORATIONS, and restore the 14th Amendment to its original purpose.

Read more HERE.

And another essay "Why I Support Occupy Oakland’s Direct Action of 11/2/11":
In a statement released on 11/3/11, Occupy Oakland explains their logic for peacefully taking over 520 16th St, before being brutally raided by Oakland police, for the second time in two weeks. “ All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages.” One of these empty buildings had housed The Traveler’s Aid Society, a non-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease. “Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in maintenance of the camp (if they so choose),” on November 2nd, 2011, they decided to secure use of this building to provide the same services, at much cheaper cost to the city

Read more HERE.



I'm primarily doing music and political essays these days, trying to speak more common languages without losing any intensity....



Here's a link to a song/video about wall-street

and on HMOs



Chris Stroffolino lives in Oakland.


Monday, November 14, 2011



part of my "great recession" experience is in regards to that rather long 1980's recession .. I bought $10,000 worth of AT&T (before the split-up), WGL, Mobil Oil (before the merger), Squibb, Pan Am (my only "turkey") & one share of Berkshire Hathaway ,... now?

after re-investing all dividends, distributions and PAYING the taxes on the cap gains I am one of the very few Multi-Gazillionaire Minor American Poets !

"My “zing” will cost you, big time, Charlie!", art by Ed Baker



which recession goes with which poem ? I just don't know. I'm still trying to figure out what the hell Language Poetry is !



money money money        money money        money      mon
neu money money money money        money-money
Money Honey?      money money money money money mo
money.      "All you think about is ..... SEX !"

now? off to the grocery to buy some "day old" bread (at 1/2 price)
to use for Turkey Stiffing... I already got the turkey       at a sale Fifty-Eight cents a pound.

only need 5 days to thaw it out... I got 10 until T-Day. and you know that
a frozen turkey is fresher than a fresh turkey. frozen turkeys are frozen within 5 hours of slaughter
where as the "fresh" birds by the time they get to the grocer are at least 3 weeks old !

actually, at any price, next to hamburger turkeys are the worst garbage one can eat in or out of

              "Poets on/In The Great Recessional Crowd"



Ed Baker's got "3,221 books published & not one via a 'vanity press'. most recent: She Intrudes (Lillieput, et al), Stone Girl E-pic, (and forthcoming in Sunfish) nearly 1/2 of ARS POETIC HER"


Sunday, November 13, 2011



My feeling about the Great Recession is that it has highlighted for me two things that have always disturbed me about the American psyche: the juvenile competitiveness which is never far from the surface, and the sense that intellectuality is not valued on any level. The American media continue to represent the illusions necessary to move commodities, and refuse to acknowledge that the Great Recession is a reality. To the extent that jobs are being lost and my sector is being affected, I have noticed the polarizing nature of the Recession— that the “Occupy” movements are pulling people closer together, while weakened resources pull other social contexts apart. Living in Philly, I’ve noticed the overall morale of the city deteriorate. People go out less, and have less time for each other. Until material circumstances improve, that will probably be the case in American urban centers indefinitely.

The Schuylkill River and Center City Philly where Adam Fieled lives



The Great Recession has put me in the position of seeing levels of density and depth rather than anything crystalline. Times like these are fraught with complex realities and multiple meanings, and the poems I’ve written in the last few years reflect this. It’s also the cases that in times like these, identities have to multiply: people have more tasks, and less leisure time. Hence, I’ve found myself writing from many positions where identities are concerned, rather than sticking with a lyric “I” or the disjunctive version of the same thing.



This is a poem I wrote as an allegory. It’s meant to reflect an artist’s relationship to politics and political power, among other things:


Two hedgerows with a little path

between— to walk in the path like

some do, as if no other viable route

exists, to make Gods of hedgerows

that make your life tiny, is a sin of

some significance in a world where

hedgerows can be approached from

any side— I said this to a man who

bore seeds to an open space, and he

nodded to someone else and whistled

an old waltz to himself in annoyance.



Adam Fieled is a poet based in Philadelphia. He has released five print books: "Opera Bufa" (Otoliths, 2007), "When You Bit..." (Otoliths, 2008), "Chimes" (Blazevox, 2009), "Apparition Poems" (Blazevox, 2010), and "Equations" (blue & yellow dog press, 2011), as well as e-books like "Beams" (Blazevox, 2007), "Disturb the Universe: The Collected Essays of Adam Fieled" (Argotist e-books, 2010), and "Mother Earth" (Argotist e-books, 2011). He has work in Jacket, Cordite, Pennsound, Poetry Salzburg Review, the Argotist, Great Works, Tears in the Fence, Upstairs at Duroc, and in the & Now Awards Anthology from Lake Forest College Press. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he also holds an MFA from New England College and an MA from Temple University.


Friday, November 11, 2011



It has been the constant sensation that things (literally) don’t add up. Expenses have moved so far out of the range of normal and salaries have stagnated for so long that your income can put you in the middle class—and yet the expenses of medical care, home ownership, child rearing, and/or retirement (just to name a few) make you economically vulnerable, force you to make impossible choices, or both.

And so our whole notion of working class/middle class/upper class has become destabilized.

To me the fact that many of us don’t actually know where we fall within the spectrum of the lower 99 percent signals a kind of economic dysmorphia that keeps us from understanding how we are both victims and beneficiaries of late capitalism. Without that knowledge, it may be impossible to imagine solutions to our current problems.



Even before the Great Recession, I was working on Utopia Minus, a book that takes its inspiration from “found monuments:” abandoned commercial properties, the remains of a bull-dozed apartment complex, the ruins of economic boom and bust.

The opening poem from that book, “The End of Another Creature,” contains the lines “The Market migrates; the Market scatters across the Metroplex./ The Market dreams…” I was responding to the constant personification of the market in the news media: “the market reacts,” “the market sheds gains,” etc. I wanted to explore that personification further. Who would the Market be? I imagined this bumbling baby-boomer and turned him into the central character for the chapbook, The Market is a Parasite that Looks Like a Nest. I don’t think the market is bumbling, but in a post-boomer generation, you grow up with the rhetoric of idealism, the War on Poverty, for example. To see how far we've come from that idealism to this radical inequality suggests an impotency as well as irresponsibility that was appropriate for the character I created.

As the recession cut deeper, I looked for a way to demonstrate how the stock market seemed to lord over us all, whether we were invested or not. I began recording the closing number of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Then I plugged that number into search engines: Google, Project Gutenberg, Bartlett's, even an e-version of Paradise Lost. I let those searches lead me to texts and let those texts exert their influence over a series of poems much in the same way the closing number of the Dow exerts an influence over our lives. I am finishing a full-length manuscript from this project under the working title $INDU or Ghost Numbers.

At a time when people are in the streets standing up against the economic system, it’s important to question poetry’s role in this movement/moment. What can poetry do? Sometimes I want to call for a new confessional—an economic confessional. What’s in your bank account, Poet? Who paid for your down payment? What do you owe? It’s not about getting at any kind of smug epiphany or feeling sorry for ourselves, but we have to locate our place in an economic continuum before we can honestly define our needs, understand the needs of others, activate our sympathies, act for change.



From Utopia Minus:


             central set of 8 steps to the courtyard,
             small rock garden,
             kidney-shaped pool, 8-feet deep,
             blue flox, purple crepe myrtle,
             white plastic laundry basket
             in a parking lot beyond cyclone fence
             Apartments for Rent
             1-3 Months Free Arignon Realty,
             railroad ties, cracked foundation,
             It’s all George’s fault in black spray-paint,
             and black-eyed Susans
             to which I feel no relation

From The Market is a Parasite that Looks like a Nest

The Market scowls,
crosses the street against traffic, settles, hovers
over a spread-sheet with his administrative assistant
as if it were an infant, sleeps in another bed
after 3 ½ years of marriage,
can only sleep on half of the bed
after 43 years of marriage, sees a coffin
in shop window, grows nostalgic
for shop windows on crowded city streets
where men made picture frames, repaired
television sets, piled tools in doorways, nursed
machines to roast and grind coffee,
a press to print newspaper. The Market wants to apprentice,
cannot apprentice, looks like a nest in a tree. The Market
is the parasite that looks like a nest in a tree, howls
through the ventilation system, hairless, blind, a newborn
calf sleeping on your chest, the curdling Market
whose milk has come in.

"Sprawl"--photo came from a random google image search and later used on the cover of Susan's chapbook, The Market is a Parasite That Looks Like A Nest

From $INDU or Ghost Numbers :


I thought if I wrote it all down, if I tracked it, if I consulted tickers and windows, measured blood flow, read the rise and fall of my accounts, the tarnish of leaves,

I would see the world differently

a veil would tear, a web would sparkle dew strung, rope bridge
between dead-living-unborn

a newspaper would curl at the bottom of the driveway, inverted pyramids of morning,
to capture the innocuous day

I thought I could feel these numbers in my hands like Whitman at the rail of a ferry
gauging the vibrations of an entire nation

networks of pop and ping, 40 years of economics.

The Dow rose above 10,000.
My dog scratched his ear. Numbers lay down in their ledgers.
Rains cleared, but the cold arrived. The unborn kept their distance.
A lamp buzzed on its timer.
I made a dinner of brown rice, buttercup squash and kale.

             some [thing event] or my body in its [suchness]

(Poem first appeared in the journal 1913)



Poet, translator and essayist, Susan Briante is the author of two collections of poetry: Utopia Minus (Ahsahta Press 2011) and Pioneers in the Study of Motion (Ahsahta Press 2007). Of her most recent collection, Publisher’s Weekly writes: “this book finds an urgent language for the world in which we live.” Briante’s poetry has appeared most recently in Canteen, Third Coast, and 1913. She has also published a series of essays on the relationship between place and cultural memory some of which can be found in Creative NonFiction, Rethinking History and The Believer. She is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas.


Thursday, November 10, 2011



I have to go back to another earlier economic downturn to answer more precisely. 2003: I was in my mid-20s, and had already sunk a few years as an analyst for companies like Bear Stearns and Wells Fargo. My last “full time job” was in a small HR [human resources] consulting firm that eventually got bought by another giant financial services company. From a funky warehouse space in San Francisco’s Portrero Hill, the company moved to 2nd and Market...

Simply put, at some point, getting up to take the 8 AM express bus downtown to sit in a gray cubicle all day filled me with nothing but dread. At that time, I had only been writing for a couple of years and also wanted to start taking myself ‘more seriously’ as a writer. So I quit, with no definite plans than to substitute teach and get odd office jobs off of Craigslist. Despite a weak job market, I eked out a very modest living for the next couple of years until I started establishing more stable and fulfilling freelance work doing medical and legal translation, research, consulting for small local businesses, teaching Tagalog and in poetry-in-the-schools.

I prefaced with all of that because I honestly think I would have been more adversely affected in this current recession, as a poet and a freelancer, if I didn’t have those years when I had to teach myself to use all possible resources I have so I could have both a livelihood and a creative life. That meant learning when to choose time over money and vice versa. That meant sitting down and taking stock of what I could really do that people would pay for (working with languages and numbers, yes; writing poems full time, no, not directly at least). That meant dividing my brain and days into compartments so I could be focused and able to work on several very different projects at once, including working on poems.

It continues to be a dynamic, exhilarating, often chaotic way to support myself, but maybe that has also made my profession(s) more recession-resilient over time. And it’s been a useful training on trust, foolishness and calculated recklessness—something hopefully transferrable to poetry. I don’t think I’d ever want to work a 9-5 again.



Every day, I encounter small-mid size businesses hurting badly, friends who’d been laid off and unable to find new work, schools that ran out of money to spend on arts education. In my translation work: patients who are very sick and running out of health care coverage, families and elderly people lining up for food stamps and cash aid, Filipinos promised work here that disappeared once they’ve arrived, and now face immigration issues—it is almost inevitable that my creative work will be influenced by this recession in particular, and the role of economics in our lives, in general. I’ve been circling around poems and writing that explore ‘work’ for some time now, and I have a couple of new poems on the subject which I hope will evolve into a bigger body of work.


I’ve to include here that when I visited Manila last May (2011), I felt over there a lot more financial optimism and economic activity than I’ve seen here in the U.S. for years—as in people continually spending money on food, goods, each other (I had many gracious hosts). As in shopping places, bars, restaurants filled to capacity on many late random weeknights, sky-high condos being squeezed into already packed cities. It stuck with me and I finally heard a commentary about it on NPR some weeks ago—countries in Asia experiencing these vibrant new economies, and the long term social effects that are yet to be seen (there are now restaurants and malls that open specifically all night, and some only at night, for instance, to accommodate call center workers in night shifts)

Come November 5th, Bank Transfer Day, I knew I wanted to do something, to participate in a concrete albeit small way, somehow—but I’ve come to know the employees of the neighborhood big bank I wanted to move my money out from. So some kind of guilt, or something, prevented me from doing it in person. When I called the 888 number to do it over the phone, a call center in Manila took the call. I couldn’t do it, at least for a few days. I thought of the relative economic prosperity there compared to the relative economic misery over here, and felt that no one answer will ever be very simple. (I still moved funds to a SF credit union in the end.)

Karen Llagas sharing poems at a reading



Below is a poem in progress, a couple of years old now—

Lament in a Boardroom

            Look for me under your bootsoles...

For those who did, I’m not talking to
or about you. No, this is about those
who’ve looked along the wisps
of two hundred dollar hair trims.

For us whose here and now
is a loyal wife who packs
her husband’s bags
while he paces the bedroom,
always in heat. (Honey I have desires
only the future can fulfill)

For us who have nothing left
to say about grace,
except that it can’t be graphed—

            And to desire—we
couldn’t look you in the eye,
but we’d be happy to collect your tatters.

Here are pictures
of babies, nephews, cream-
colored shores.

Let no one say
it’s just about the money,
that slender,
grief-stricken thing,
so thirsty for company,

oh how you kept me
glued to my seat all those years
I should have been collecting
the dirt under my shoes.
I can still hear your soft voice—

(The world? Someone else
will say goodbye to it.)



Karen Llagas is the recipient of the second Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize, and her first collection of poetry, Archipelago Dust, was published by Meritage Press in 2010. She has an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and a BA in Economics from Ateneo de Manila. Also a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, she lives in San Francisco where she works as a Tagalog interpreter & instructor, and a poet-teacher with the California Poets in the Schools (CPITS).


Wednesday, November 9, 2011



The Great Recession

Steadily employed for more than twenty-four years.
Then one day, my supervisor called me into her office.
I was laid off.
Let go, downsized, RIF’d.
It all means the same thing.
Kicked off the Cube Farm.
Funny how those dusty rose plastic walls that felt so confining suddenly
seemed so comforting, as I took a last look at them,
and hugged my banker’s box to my chest.

Terror. Shock. Cautious optimism. Crushing disappointment.
I had to make myself take a shower.
I scanned the want ads online, every day.
I pondered how to fix chicken yet another way.
I lived lifetimes of anxiety in an hour.

I became a part of the quiet crowd haunting the unemployment office.
One day I was told, no more benefits.
I emailed every recruiter I knew and said OK, I will take ANYTHING…
that doesn’t involve illegal activity or nudity.

Contract assignments came and went.
It’s a buyer’s market I was told, again and again.

Year one, we didn’t buy new clothes or eat out much.
Year two, we didn’t get the car fixed or go on vacation.
Heading into year three of uncertainty,
I prayed, please let me keep the house…

Finally, two years down the road, a real permanent job, but only part time,
And making far less money, but still -
To have somewhere to go, every day, a reason to bathe?

The front patio at Dee's house, for which she "prayed, please let me keep the house...", with "my flowers I put out there every summer. I like it because it looks peaceful."



The recession hasn't affected my poetry negatively, since I now have more time to write since I'm not working full-time.



[Note: The recipe within this poem is a real recipe.]


Who is not comforted by eggs and cheese?
The following should be cooked on a Sunday night,
When food is about comfort.

Take an onion and chop it up fine.
Throw it in a pan of butter, salt, and pepper.
Saute away, til it’s translucent and soft.
Smile as the delicious smell wafts through the house.

Heat the oven to Hi broil. Crack open the door.

Look in your fridge for veggies on the verge
Of rubber horror.
Open the veggie drawer.
Pick and choose.
What to use?

Mushrooms – yes.
Ham or turkey lunchmeat – yes.
Cauliflower and carrots – no.
Broccoli? No!
Lettuce – don’t even think it.
See a beer?
Drink it.

Chop. Throw it all in with the onions.
Add some garlic powder, seasoning salt, a drop of Tabasco.
Hum your favorite song.
How did that tune go?

Pull out the eggs. Crack four in a bowl and beat them
with a fork, until foamy and subdued.
Eyeball the simmering veggie mixture. Inhale.
Throw in another egg. Pour it over all.
Cook over low medium as the mixture sets.
Don’t walk away and forget.

Open the fridge.
Look for cheese. Not feta. Not blue.
Almost any other kind will do.
Preferably grated.
Place the skillet into the oven and watch.
Pull it out –
before you really think it’s done.

Cover everything liberally with cheese.
Abundant cheese.
Put the skillet back under the broiler, briefly.
Stand and watch.

Pull it out and serve it on paper plates, with a dill pickle garnish, if you must.

Put on a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers before eating.

Frittata. Free-TAH-tah. Savor the sound.

It’s a one dish meal



Dee Thompson was born in Augusta, Georgia and raised primarily in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has been writing for more than twenty-five years and her first published poem appeared in a national magazine at the age of thirteen. Dee holds a degree in Drama from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. She is a published author of three books: a personal memoir Adopting Alesia, a children’s book, Jack’s New Family, and a juvenile adventure e- book The Warrior's Box. One of her essays appeared in the award winning book Call Me Okaasan, [Edited by Suzanne Kamata.] She also has an essay in Snowflakes: A Flurry of Adoption Stories [Editor Teresa Kelleher], and her poetry appears regularly on the Vox Poetica website. Additionally, Dee has been a daily blogger for more than six years and her blog [The Crab Chronicles] has a wide readership. Dee lives with her son and her mother in Atlanta, and enjoys gardening, cooking, knitting, reading, and movies.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011



I have three jobs.

I am an adjunct professor, and this semester, I teach two classes: Filipino Literature in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco, and MFA workshop at Mills College. I teach two late afternoons/evenings a week. Next semester, I will teach at San Francisco State University and USF. These positions are offered to me, and I can’t say no. Discussing Filipino literature with young folks and teaching poetry workshop are a joy to me.

I have a M-F, 9-5 job, a non-profit, public health job where I’ve been for over 11 years. I worked elsewhere before this, and have worked full time while in college and in grad school. Balancing poetry and economics has always been a part of my life. I am an administrator, auditor, paper monkey in a fluorescent cubicle.

The benefits of a full time job are a decent salary and, yes, benefits -- health insurance and a 401(K), which I have not looked at since before the recession, since I withdrew all kinds of money from it to make a down payment on my home.

I bought before the housing bubble burst. It was my mom’s insistence and expectation that, upon finishing grad school, I buy myself a home. She helped me out immensely.

I am a poet. I make very little money as a poet; honoraria and royalties are insignificant to my annual income, and this is fine. I am married to a poet, who, like me, also has a job outside of the arts. We’ve just bought a Prius, because it made more sense to do this, rather than continue to succumb to the increasing costs of gas, and for regular and costly auto repairs on the old hooptie.

We have been able to contribute to our favorite non-profits arts orgs.

We’re doing better than alright; our life is stable, safe, comfortable, quiet.

In order for us to do better than alright, I have three jobs, and this is not a complaint. Sometimes, I feel like I’m being greedy, given the nation’s unemployment rate, and that many have been out of work for a long time, something I just could not bear.

We live in Oakland, where the world has just witnessed the OPD brutalize thousands of peaceful Occupy Oakland protestors. Now that Occupy Everywhere is happening, now that a general strike has been called, I am torn, wanting to support, needing to work.

I don’t want Poetry to get lost in all of this.

I don’t have an answer yet, where my own poetry fits. I write when I can, and submit to publications when I can. In lieu of expensive travel, I Skype to talk poetics with classes who are reading my books.

I try my best to open up venues and opportunities for writers and artists as a working board member and readings/workshop series curator for PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists), as co-editor of Doveglion Press, as a letter of recommendation writer, book blurber, book reviewer. It’s challenging to have artists constantly asking for, demanding, or expecting stuff from me, and posturing when I don’t have the time or energy to take something new on.

I believe that surviving this recession as an artist requires that artists do away with a sense of entitlement, and that we not treat one another merely as resources/contacts.

I continue to believe in gift economy, e-publication, and digital print, and am thinking about zero capital models, whatever means of mutual support and reciprocity for artists, in order to keep Poetry in the world.



I will pass on the poem, since I don't think I have anything specifically related.



Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. She teaches Philippine Studies at University of San Franciso, and Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University. Find her online at http://www.barbarajanereyes.com/


Monday, November 7, 2011



Hi Eileen, This is a not-quite-poem/hardly essay that I wrote in some frustration last year as a stay-at-home/underemployed (ha!) mom, after turning down an invitation to the Women's Innovative Poetry & Cross-Genre Work Festival. Thanks for creating this space. Elizabeth

on not going to the conference in London

I’m tired of talking about women.
I’d rather talk about men.
How they are coddled creatively.
Their absurd, obtuse visions.

And, more sympathetically, how
male dominance obscures
the true contributions of men
as well as women.

Also I don’t have enough money,
and even less affiliation.

And I have two girl babies
who need me closer to home
these years.

And I love them.


Elizabeth Treadwell with her daughters



Elizabeth Treadwell's books include LILYFOIL + 3 (O Books, 2004) and Birds & Fancies (Shearsman, 2007). Virginia or the mud-flap girl is forthcoming from Dusie Books in 2012. She is online at elizabethtreadwell.com.


Sunday, November 6, 2011



I'm looking at people differently, trying to have more compassion when someone is unkind in the grocery store; maybe this is a hard trip, full of difficult decisions. Feeling blessed for having food stamps while I'm unemployed; making fancy dinners is now a routine, it never was before. I'm writing differently too; having to take on more & more awful technical and bland article writing jobs to pay the bills, which will be going up (heat in winter in the Rocky Mountains is tricky; we collect a lot of firewood too). Technical writing feels more like long division than actual writing, so I keep my real notebook close at hand throughout. Oh yes I should mention I've been without a real job, that you go to every day, for two years and change. I finished my MFA last December, am around $80 grand in debt and have just applied to an art education BA program, because it seems like federal aid to students is about to implode and this may be my last chance to take more classes. And I do need them, to drag my life's work of collage and book making somewhere else, out of boxes to a more joyful place, a high school classroom maybe. And also, I'm desperate for health insurance, like some fifty million other Americans.

“corporate personhood,” 2011 gouache painting by Erin Virgil



It's affected my poethics more than my poems. I was just in Washington DC visiting an old friend, and we passed by and talked with many people camped out, Occupying. I wanted to embrace everyone there, for being so brave—I can't stay out in a public place overnight, old neurosis and flashbacks return quickly: run-ins with authority, juvenile offenses, etc—I really feel that people standing up and shouting, especially across generations and other social boundaries, is the crucial path out of this corporate owned hell we're in. A nice older lady in our co-op yesterday: "It's going to be just like the French Revolution, I can't wait!" Writing is important too; letters to the editor are still extremely useful mind openers, and so are poems. I just haven't written that many yet, maybe because I've been so weighted down with technical writing junk jobs.



I wrote this one a few weeks ago:

Yellow aspen

are the only visible evidence of the month.
The heat and exhaust are the same
as they were before Solstice
fear & worry lines all around the grocery store
    no aisle without a pursed mouth.
Afraid of the transition, not the end. The lessening, what will
    be lost, caught on a nail and abandoned.
On the sidewalk a woman with a basket rushes by:
relief when it’s empty. This is a new reckoning. Babies never made me sad before.
    Scarcity means less things and more time to miss them.
    September means ‘seventh month’ of the Roman calendar
which further confuses the chronology this afternoon.

I want to report that as the aspens slowly went bare
the people too, changed gradually

Calming pushing back
against all that is unnatural.



Erin Virgil is a poet and collage artist living in northern Colorado. She's got one book ("Poems, Volume one") published and available at Amazon, and has a little blog too, http://emvlovely.wordpress.com.


Saturday, November 5, 2011



There was a lucky part of the Great Recession; it made the poetry part of my life much bigger. In 2009, a notice went around work (I work at middle-sized public university in financial aid and do all sorts of financial literacy counseling for student borrowers in order to keep the default rate low) that asked people to volunteer to reduce their work hours as a way to save the campus money. I’ve always been good about living below my means and socking away money into my retirement, so I raised my hand to participate. I now work a four-day workweek (in exchange for a 20% pay cut), and get to keep my health benefits (which is important as my husband is self-employed). I don’t save extra retirement money anymore (which is somewhat worrisome), but it seems like an okay swap for now.

I worked this new schedule in 2009 and 2010. When my assistant had to take a medical leave in 2010, I went back to five days for a while, but now it’s back. It’s been a fluid win-win for my workplace and me all around.

I now have three uninterrupted days in a row every week to go down any poetic or artistic rabbit hole I choose.

The schedule leaves me with time to pursue all my “poetic feast” activities (the idea being that if we all add something to our poetic world, to our poetic feast, we have all sorts of amazing and delicious things to dine on – Reb Livingston is just one of the many generous poetry people who teaches this by her example). So I can curate a reading series; co-curate an electronic journal; and co-edit (with Deborah Poe and Sam Truitt) an anthology-in-progress of local innovative poetry. I’ve also been working on a longterm collaboration with the architect and visual poet Scott Helmes, and finally got around to making a blogged archive of my visual art. I am also President of Century House Historical Society, home to the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, NY, where we have all sorts of arts programming in this natural amphitheater space (including 21 years of the “Subterranean Poetry Festival”).

And of course, there are my own poetic and visual adventures: poetry, artist’s book and object making, encaustic painting, printmaking...

The Great Recession set up a situation where I can say “yes” to many, many things that make my own work bigger.

Detail from an "Untitled BookBoxObject"; more info HERE



"We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ....You can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
- Hunter Thompson

I live near the Hudson River and have spent a ridiculous amount of time trolling its shores, collecting all sorts of things it tumbles and spits out. Hundreds of broken blue insulator pieces, pieces of dishes, odd glass. My best find ever was a single porcelain doll’s arm that I wore on a chain for many years. I also spent many summers on the Jersey Shore doing the same thing: searching for the beautifully seaworn and broken.

This rogue financial wave that broke over all of us left a flamboyant and appalling wreckage that we can play with in our work. I am definitely exploring new things, shaped by new tools since the Great Recession. Its wave washed in, and now I’m faced with all this incomprehensible flotsam that bobs around the internet and I’m making found-object art out of it. I know the Flarf folks have been doing this for years, but now I’m compelled to work with it too, spurred on by my friend Lynn Behrendt’s honest and challenging work with these materials.



Elvis was an electric zoo, burnt belly fat

(after my poem “Ella Etruscan Olives Burnt and Sien(n)a” – as suggested by Google)

Moss enchanted language tombs
The gods wear jewelry on their museum visits
What were their origins?
What was their outlook on the afterlife?
Oracle ointment, pentacost, Orientalizing periods

How many calories are in New York?

The tongue offers a sugared money, a sienna-ed sun
Indifference burned and smelled like antifreeze
Angulate tortoises, blistered lips
Peace bruised sin in the dictionary
This shocking story was shattered and soggy with virgin swimmings
And since you can’t escape me, do I ever cross your mind?
And since I am dead I can take off my head
My name in math, in nougatine
Nouvelle vague, a bias generator
Birds mimic the sympathetic nervous system
Matter is classified as a pair of boots
Her fact practice, shards of vinyl spirits donate their bones

The day passed like a chapter summary
Only steers and queers come from Texas
Only straight girls wear dresses
Only one state has no McDonalds
Only one state has no national park
Only stupid cows text and drive
Time became stale with stunt bikes
There are online stuttering activities in maroon
Morale-grey, cyber-November is the color of noodles

Nightingales weep at the consequence of meaning
How do I capitalize the moon?
How can I keep from singing? Or slapping?
How can I get taller? Or make more money?
How clean is my house? How could my hair grow faster?
Could my saucepans bring on menopause?
Black sunburned purple yellow
Closed, washed out, blurry, watering, beyond seeing, bleeding
Are your eyes too small for contacts? Can your eyes be transplanted to a friend?
Pawn stars, recruited and funky, be my escape

Facebook is a tickfree field

When bored or reading, dieting, ovulating, raining, running
the weather is thirsty for Adderall
When they are caught, they are thrown away
Do our jobs reminisce over us after we’re gone?
These lines should be caged at night
Flying dramawiki noble masters made of meat
Eggmen tucked into cannons
Zombie imitators are also sons of god

Charming gardeners of the underworld
Are thongs comfortable? Are the seasons capitalized?
Are the Poughkeepsie Tapes real? Are the Knicks in the playoffs?
Are the colon and the large intestine the same thing?
Coyotes are moving to Winnipeg

                  Stars from hottest to coolest
                  Star Trek uniforms
                  Starling eggs

Starless and sunless ballrooms, and their failed light

Smoothing methods, statistical manifold, sampling theorem
This is a notational form of decay
He subtracts from her surface brightness
Optic citation, meridian, her belly her skin
On Monday or in Monday grammar
Throw best price thresher shark
The miles are threadless, thrillist
Let’s throw knives and throw pillows at her cancer
Struggle tabs, her blood was silver
Sloe slip rings, sliding doors, slant drilling
Dressed in slats, strangle wisteria
What materials are your fingernails made of?
Widows weaving wreathes, wattle whistle, wide brimmed
She said, “Money is like us”
Mooncake phases, a sonata, a palace filled with chattal
Swoon, sow, sorrow
Two slowniks sewn together – what is their moonsign compatibility?
Snow White, her salted lovesickness, wings and roots
Curating Tanya’s disasterous electric circuits
A taxidermied alchemist teaching lesson in Go
Bourbon under the stars
A halophile is responsible for spoiling juices
Egyptian agriculture, washing pictures, Moses wasps

                  A traveller’s anthology
                  A god
                  A history
                  A novel
                  A river

Turner painted the water in our bodies as
porcelain graphite castles
There is an ossification in Bone Lick Park
An ivory orchard full of oracles, possibly tucked in
Wig runescape, cracked wasabi, glass powder
The rain on your skin and you do it anyway
This song is sick and this why you are fat
It might be that I’m holding your hand but holding it a little too loose
Fossils and towels, the smell of shade
A town called Alice or Panic
A cocktail of sand, brainticket black, pineal gland
Lightheaded, sequential type unconnected, sensebowl
Surroundsushi, superfood suppression
Both atomic bombs, 4 years on an island, his wife, a tornado, rabies
Neverland necrotizes, an unmediated decay
The 10 commandments or 10 things I hate about you or 10 ragas to a disco beat
10 raw eggs, 10 raw potatoes with a longjaw mud snapper
Linseed oil and lemon bars and lettuce wraps

There are some letters spacing out in every word
There is a white heart whispered in every story
Name when all the continents were together
Name when you die
Name when I arrive
Name when a bowl is not microwave safe

A billion Chinese jump and one body part is injured – which one?
Lemons, white rice, pebbles and moss, cherries, onions
Her arms amputated around me
Heavy weak numb tired tingly on fire, like home
They are asleep, they are burning,
Something is stuck in my throat, in my eye
Somebody is stuck in my chest, is crawling on my skin, is staring at me, is biting me
The structure of falling asleep, in my rearview seas



Photo by Elizabeth Bryant

Anne Gorrick is the author of I-Formation (Book One) (Shearman Books, 2010), the forthcoming I-Formation (Book Two), and Kyotologic (also from Shearsman Books, 2008). She collaborated with artist Cynthia Winika to produce a limited edition artists’ book, “Swans, the ice,” she said, funded by the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Images of her visual art can be found at www.theropedanceraccompaniesherself.blogspot.com


Friday, November 4, 2011



On a dark, snowy morning in 1985 I stood on a picket line in solidarity with the miners of Wolstanton Colliery, Staffordshire. By then, the strike was crumbling, and the miners and their various groups of local supporters were helpless to stop the trucks rolling into the colliery. I had spent the previous year, in London and Staffordshire giving miners accommodation in my flat in London and organising food deliveries to the communities around Wolstanton after I moved there. As day broke, the shift of strike-breakers had passed through the lines and the crowd drifted away. As I looked back I saw a group of three miners warming their hands at a brazier before they also wandered away. The final defeat of the National Union of Mineworkers happened just a month or so later.

On a late summer morning in 2008, I sat at my desk at work watching the cars on the busy road outside our office, while the newsfeed on my screen flashed up the unimaginable amounts of money that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was handing over to the the privately-owned, failed banks. Twenty billion? Forty? Eighty billion. The figures kept rising. It seemed unreal. But I remember thinking "this money's got to come from somewhere". Now we know it's coming from schools, hospitals, museums, libraries—you name it—even from small poetry publishers.

Since the defeat of organized labour in the form of its most powerful union, Britain has been governed by the right; by Conservatives, and the neo-conservative New Labour. Of course, in the period since 1985, there have been things to celebrate and be encouraged by—the recent student protests, for example, and the current occupation of financial districts around the world. Nevertheless, for me, and many like me, living in Britain since the defeat of the miners has been like living in occupied territory. So, the world hasn't felt much different since 2008. The process of dismantling of the Welfare State had begun, and now that process has accelerated. Along with friends who work in the public sector (I'm in the private sector) I've been on demonstrations and marches, my daughter, a university student, took part in the recent student protests (and the teenage son of one friend was kettled and beaten by police in London). A younger generation has been politicized, and a sense of solidarity has been created.



Around the time that the banking bubble finally burst, provoking the current crisis, I had coincidentally entered a phase of using found text and borrowed language in my poetry, and, as the world around me became affected by the events following the crash of 2008, this was reflected in the language I used. Events also tend to influence what we read, as we turn to texts that may help make sense of our situation. Did I say 'what we read'? I meant what we read, watch and listen to, or overhear. These discourses, in turn, find their way into the poetry. The poetry I wrote at this time may be a reflection of how we can't escape the knowledge of events, and of the bigger political forces acting on us; they are on the airwaves and digital pathways, and intertwine with, and maybe define, our more personal thoughts and concerns. I didn't set out to 'include history' in my poems, but history and contemporary events became part of what they reflected.





possible worlds
revolve on the ring-road
between gear changes
and ferocious word-play

unprecedented steps
by the Bank of England
what time will I get home
to revive the economy

though he wonders
when he'll see
his family again, yet
the stars are grinning

in a speculative
but benevolent way,
watching his lonely progress
through the dancing traffic


roadworks on the M5
occasional sun,
the finance minister
being inflammatory

cows flashing
past, the day brightening,
thoughts straggling
the structure of the brain

how much petrol's left
and is desperately sorry
and happy by turns,
in limbo or the Elysian fields

in the green and pleasant
not one to spoil things,
but, of course,
there is no 'present moment'


the walkers are walking
their dogs in the dusk,
the park is a fair
field full of folk

and such is the irresistible
nature of truth,
that all it asks,
and all it wants

is the liberty of appearing,
in justice and plain dealing,
not king-waste and delusion,
England's lamentable slaverie

the kettle’s boiled,
the shops are open,
the street-lights are shining
in the english night



Alan Baker was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1958, and now lives in Nottingham. He founded the poetry publisher Leafe Press in 2000, and is now co-editor, and editor of its associated webzine Litter. His translation of Yves Bonnefoy's Début et Fin de la Neige was published by Bamboo Books, California. His poetry is published on-line at Shearsman, Great Works, Shadowtrain, Stride and others. His most recent collection of poetry is Variations on Painting a Room: Poems 2000-2010 (Skysill Press, 2011).


Thursday, November 3, 2011



All historical events have an impact on the financial world. What Guernica did to the economy certainly had an impact on today's Great Recession.




To back to 1937
when Picasso painted Guernica
is to go back in time,
but not in space,
not in touch,
not in sight,
not even in history.
Guernica is there.
It was and is,
and history is not over.

It is and begins.
Its waste lingers.
There are no outcasts in history.
We are all in its throes.

[First published in Colorado Review as well as in the poet's book, Light Light or the Curvature of the Earth (Marsh Hawk Press, New York).]



Harriet Zinnes is Professor Emerita of English of Queens College of the City University of New York. Her many books include Whither Nonstopping (poems), Drawing on the Wall (poems), My, Haven’t the Flowers Been? (poems), Entropisms (prose poems), Lover (short stories), The Radiant Absurdity of Desire (short stories), Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts (criticism), and Blood and Feathers (translations of the French poetry of Jacques Prévert). She is contributing editor of The Hollins Critic and a contributing writer as art critic of The New York Arts Magazine.




Neither of my books accepted for publication in 2008 will be issued. Three books I accepted for publication on my own press have yet to come out.

We are selling our books and CDs, and trying to sell collectibles and art and antiques. We have to sell our beautiful house -- the second in a row I've restored as GC [general contractor]. We sell as soon as I finish, not because we're upside down, but because we have to cash out our equity. I'm so tired.



I haven't written since this Spring. There seems to be no point; I have more than ten unpublished manuscripts. My husband stopped writing and publishing fiction. After his novel came out, I did the p.r., and couldn't get him a reading tour. I spend most of my time sleeping; I blame it on the cancer, but that's not true (although it is hard to come to terms with that in the poetry). I have to start medication again tomorrow, and I will go crazy again. When I was crazy on the medication in the Spring, I filled four notebooks with writing I have yet to transcribe. I did start to revise a lot of poems toward addressing cancer, and submit them to presses, but they were pretty soundly rejected. But now I have to be crazy and get the house ready to sell and find a job.



I haven't written anything recently, and I have to fix my computer to access anything old. I'm using my husband's old laptop to type this. I missed BKS' California Telephone Book deadline, as well as the Dusie chapbook deadline. I didn't even finish August postcard poetry month.



This Anonymous is author of eight books published on well known national and international presses. As editor and independent scholar, she's specialized in women's writing, technology and writing, and innovative poetry.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011



“Hard Times in the Land of Plenty”

Source: YouTube/Sesame Street, New York Daily News, 4 Oct 011, where the caption reads: “Lily, the newest muppet on 'Sesame Street', comes from an impoverished family that is food insecure. Her character will be introduced in a primetime special.”

Once you have made yourself comfortable and visualized the flamingo, still your mind, soften your heart, melt your muscles. This is not an authoritative directive; for example, stop thinking!—lighten up!—relax! This is simply a very gentle suggestion, a reminder, if you will, to still your mind, heart, and body in the way that a plastic pink flamingo is still. Quite still. Once your restless totality quiets, and the flamingo is center stage, then quietly say, “Pink flamingo one.” If you begin to smile, that is great. (If you don’t, don’t worry about it.) Take a breath. Say out loud, “Pink flamingo two.” Again, take a breath. You should feel a little calmer. (If you don’t, don’t worry about it.) Now say, “Pink flamingo three,” and take another breath. Feel peace descend. Your job is off-shored; doesn’t matter. You go to college but get a job in retail for eight dollars an hour; doesn’t matter. Your house is foreclosed; doesn’t matter. “Pink flamingo four.” Worry fades away. Visualizing a plastic pink flamingo has a way of helping me let go of little irritations and complaints.
—Renée E D’Aoust, “American Flamingos & Road Kill: A Monologue in Six Parts”, at Drunken Boat 14

Dear Eileen, everything is connected to everything else: every bit of our history since we stumbled into agriculture, capitalism’s neoliberal / financialized stage (our epoch), income inequalities, poverty, immigration, all the wars that are being waged everywhere, a broken healthcare system, massive starvation in the South, ongoing planetary destruction, the list is nearly endless, I won’t try to be the least bit comprehensive, but I do want to include the 147 million orphans you speak so eloquently about. Their lives and fates are intertwined with all of the above and then some. I know you’re not asking for a polemic; the emphasis, as I take your first question, is on the word “your.” But if I wander a bit it’s because I am utterly certain that the Great Recession IS connected to everything else. Therefore so is my Recession experience.

But I promise to try to stay focused on my sense of the intent of your question.

I suppose my first “Great Recession” experience took place in 1980. It was the day after Reagan was elected. Burt Lipman, next to whom I worked at the time, turned to me and said (and this is an exact quote), “Now it begins: the rape of America.”

Burt was so right. I remember the bust of the 1980s, out of which we climbed via the looting of the Savings & Loans industry. Next came the downturn of the early 90s; the dot com bubble saved us that time. We were all going to be millionaires, remember those days? There was a recession when that bubble burst, from which nothing saved us. Our problems since then until the meltdown of 07/08 and forward you have called The Great Recession.

I only mention all this because I didn’t “need a weatherman” to have known this was coming for a long time. Tho of course I knew nothing of subprime mortgages (I thought subprime had something to do with the prime rate!), CDOs, etc. But it was obvious we were doing something unsustainable, that we were living in a house of cards: wages had been flat for 40 years, wealth was concentrating into fewer and fewer hands and … well, I could add and mix a million metaphors, but I’m guessing there’s no need to.

Attendant upon the foregoing is a sense of great anger and great sadness. We’ll be trapped in this mess for a long time. Not forever—neither Badiou nor Žižek would forgive me ;-) if I said forever, and I don’t believe in forever, myself; we’re not at the “end of history”, and this sense of horrid stasis-at-best is “just a buzz, some kind of temporary”; something unexpected will happen, and then, and then, … who knows? I have my own crazy ideas … some of them are even positive … but I know what they’re worth … Anyhow, things will change.

But even this other and hopefully better future won’t be particularly personal. It’ll affect all of us. Or those of our descendants living several generations from now.

But tho I will try to keep this writing as personal as I can, per my perception of your intent, it won’t get all that personal. Why? Because I’ve been lucky. The only way that I’ve been directly affected is that my partner in publishing has had to bow out, so we shut down Leafe Press. I still have a job (tho my benefits are getting worse). My kids have jobs. Their spouses have jobs. We all eat. We all sleep indoors …

So what I will talk about is my experience of how the Great Recession, or at least they way it’s being used (cf. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine), is affecting, and effectively destroying public higher education. I’ve worked in a public university system for 25 years, but I won’t just focus on my system, at least not at first, since what I know is true in much of the Western world.

First of all, universities are more and more putting their dollars and emphases on programs that generate revenue. I’ll give an example: certain industries, such as biotech, depend on universities to do the basic research. The universities, using essentially unpaid grad student labor, do this research, patent it, and then sell the patents to industry, which of course turn a profit on the whole transaction when they turn the basic patents into viable products. Then they send some of that money back into the university, so that the cycle will continue. But that’s not all; note that I said some of that money. I should have said “not enough”. Why? Because industry knows that the federal government and private foundations and student fees, etc, will cover the rest of the cost.

Now I could imagine someone saying that this is all very logical, but what they don’t consider is that this bodes very ill for funding adequately the parts of the university that don’t generate revenue. I sat next to a very successful investment banker at dinner a year or two ago (he ran a bank in NYC til he retired recently), and, because he had been called in by UC Davis to help them find ways to more fruitfully invest their capital, he was quite aware of this problem. He too was worried sick about the fate of the humanities and some of the social sciences.

Since that dinner, we have watched our fears play out in the closing of e.g. philosophy departments in the UK, the comp lit dept at SUNY Albany, etc. I have read official UC documents noting that revenue-generating departments and colleges will be privileged going forward over those that can’t show ROI.

Additionally, and now I’m speaking of the UCs in particular, I have watched the cost to students rise significantly. While it’s still cheaper to attend a UC than it is to attend a private, that’s only on paper. The privates have known for ages that students can’t pay $30-50-odd-thousand; very few people have that kind of money. So they have a long tradition of serious financial aid programs. Not so for public universities, the UCs included. To give just one example, it was cheaper for my officemate to send his son to Harvard than to Cal.

Now I’ll focus on something I know intimately: libraries. I’ve been a librarian for 25 years, and a collections librarian for the last 10 or so. I’m the librarian at UC Riverside responsible for the Humanities and Social Sciences collections at present. Though there was a recession at the turn of the millennium, the budget for humanities monographs was probably $500,000. My own budget for my own specialty disciplines (history, English, philosophy, religious studies, creative writing) was over $250,000.

A decade later, the monographic budget for ALL disciplines, including sciences and social sciences is not more more than the humanities budget used to be. In fact, the last few years it’s been less. The only reason it will be as much as it is this year is because the chancellor has mandated that it be so, even though the result will be a significant number of layoffs. So we may be able to buy books, but we won’t be able to process them in any timely fashion.

What does this mean? It means that we will no longer be able to build collections. We will no longer be able to buy a book “just in case” (meaning so that someone get it from the shelves because they read about it in another book, or can stumble across it serendipitously—and I doubt I have to explain what this means for collecting poetry); we now buy books on a “just in time” basis—meaning because someone has asked for a specific title.

In order to mitigate the effect of what to every librarian and student and researcher is a, shall I say, “less-than-ideal” situation, I have been very involved—in fact I’ve been the project manager—on something called Demand-Driven Acquisitions. This means that we will load lots and lots of records in our library catalog for stuff we don’t own, to help library users discover it. If it’s an e-book, they can just click the link and start using the book. But if it’s print, we’ll have to place an order and they’ll have to wait a week or two. Since we have to make sure that we don’t exceed our budget, we have to very carefully vet the titles that we choose to load. The standard way to do this is by publisher. You don’t need to be told that there will be lots of records for Stanford University Press, and Oxford University Press, and Routledge, etc,—the publishers which are important to academia and academic advancement—and very few if any for Action Books and Kelsey St and Meritage Press…

The other way that the UCs libraries have attempted to cope with diminished-and-unlikely-to-be-replaced resources is via what’s known as Shared Print. This is a systemwide effort in which I’ve also had involvement. The idea is that one or two campuses will buy a title, rather than five or seven or ten. I am trying desperately to get SPD as a whole picked up as a shared print project, so that at least one copy of every SPD title will be purchased. That’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. But in any case, shared print will result in a harder row to hoe for publishers, as well as the students and researchers who will have to borrow books held on other campuses.

So all in all one could say that the Great Recession is affecting the ability of the arts and humanities to sustain themselves, assuming that the university’s been a somewhat supportive player, in terms of teaching, research and purchasing of materials.

Why is this important? Why does this make me sad, why does this make me angry? Well, I saw a graphic in the NY Times a week or two ago. It linked education level to voting. The lower the level of education, the more likely a voter is to take seriously racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-science, religiously fanatical, etc etc candidates. Now, I’m not a strict believer in enlightenment-only values, and I know there are all kinds of problems with higher education, but I surely don’t want to live under the Taliban.

I hope that goes some way towards answering the question.



I’ve been working on a long poem cycle called "Zeitgeist Spam." This poem is designed to “get it all in.” I think of it as an altar-piece or a fresco. The “panel” I started a year ago, in the midst of the recession and all its attendant ills, is called "In the House of the Hangman." The title derives from a Theodor Adorno quote that goes something like this: “In the house of the hangman, it is impolite to speak of the noose.” By the house of the hangman, he meant Germany, and by the noose, he meant the Nazi past. Well, it seemed and seems to me that we all live in the hangman’s house now. And I at least feel compelled to speak of the noose, which in this case is not the Nazi past, it’s the everything I mention above that’s connected to everything else. It’s the “postmodern condition”, I guess, which I interpret to mean something like end of, or at least the putting on hold of, what Ernst Bloch called hope.

So this is the “hell panel.” There’s a special focus on “the noose.” Why? I’ve been asked why I write about all this horrible stuff. The answer is really simple. I have grandchildren. I am afraid they will inherit a world much worse, much more difficult to live in, than the one in which I grew up. If they ever read my work, I want them to say, “Grandpa was paying attention. He was on the job.” I don’t want them to say, “What was he thinking … useless old man …”

But I don’t want them to think, “Wow, Grandpa didn’t have any fun,” either. So the challenge is to find a balance, and to not leave anything out.



From "In the House of the Hangman"

Can Europe be saved? No underlying goo will be found. Period. Any juicehead will get some nut shrinkage. Ironically, the corpse was deposited just across the road from where I once encountered a big, mysterious pile of dead carp. Large carp–the orange kind you find in garden pools, swimming around lazily. These had been dead for maybe a couple of weeks, and had lost their color, and most of the smell. I could see ambulance spelled backwards, I could see the eels spilling out of the horse’s head, we are seeing proposals for urban-scale fortresses made from freshwater injection wells, artificial troglodyte homesteads in Long Beach constructed with from rocks harvested from debris basins, crawling bagpipe-machines (actually built!) that walked around London powered by bike pumps and bleating like sheep, pollution-harvesting devices in the skies of southern California that will collect dust and carbon through electromagnetic attractors, future climate-prediction mechanisms and the networked sensorscapes that make them possible, synthetic orchards, mobile well heads, resistance-powered lamps in the chaparral monitoring seasonal windspeeds, “kit architectures” for unstable landscapes, “cloud dispensers” and other augmented climatologies, machine-cowboys overseeing herds of hydrotropic robots on the dry bed of Owens Lake, groundwater filtration interfaces for sites where the hills hit urban flatlands, open-source bio-fuel experimentation labs run by amateur genetic engineers, urban oxygen gardens, experimental greenhouses running test-climates for a future earth, a new studio for Ai Weiwei, and a dozen other projects, all of which will continue to be developed, tweaked, or abandoned etc. as the workshop moves on. “Go straddle a narwhal.” We're all forever indebted to a stranger for sharing that gem. Also, whaaat? He knows Pi to the 46th digit? This guy sounds awesome. Why was he the assistant manager of a Domino’s to begin with? You’re better off, man! Nobody wants to mix lava cake for some humorless jerk who spells narwhal “narwhale”. Necropastoral, eh? Contaminatory and ripe for contamination. Insane in the membrane which, famously, Death (and Art) can easily traverse (Hence, Eot in Arcadia Ego), like, like, fraud, counterfeit, ventriloquy, and necromancy – four of my fave genres! She walks into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs. A group of exobiologists wrangle half-heartedly in an empty Pret a Manger. Travelers will see stones in animal shapes. Losing it—the young woman was crying on the phone. She wanted her blurb back. She was saving it. They all passed out naked in the motel room. I Am One of an Infinite Number of Monkeys Named Shakespeare, or, to quote Gopal Balakrishnan on Alain Badiou’s The Century: History was never, then, the actual condition of the innovations associated with modernism and revolutionary politics, but merely the rhetoric of temporality deployed to protect a fragile, innovative present from a menacing past by enclosing it in an imaginary future. Another way to put that: a dark television is a lost opportunity, when you could stuff it with 77 million paintings. An Italian man shot in the head on New Year’s Eve sneezes out the bullet on 11 Jan. When the Immigrant first appears, there is an excess that seems to scumble beyond the light. Something intervenes where the self, itself, affixes itself. There is always something touching, something moving, but out of hand … In all cases, color begins in a matrix of information. But in one group of works, it goes directly to a printer where it is mixed on a fabric substrate in 3 successive passes. Nowhere in this procedure is there a reified screen image. What can be said to be at stake, rather, is the movement from pure quantity to the output of the printer without the mediation of design. 1 + 1 = 3: “The point is that abstraction, which never looks quite like itself, is always lacking (decorative, senseless) while also seeming to be ‘too much.’ It is the handmaiden of emptiness as well as the herald of excesses. And it is always the seeming-lacking that charges the feeling or presentiment – the vague expression of a judgment – that somehow, threateningly, there is too, uh … I dunno … too … well, fucked-up power relations. Doesn’t this crooked pathway of suspicions and avoidances bespeak a passage in the terrain that we presume to call the unconscious? And is ‘abstraction,’ then, a name for little traces of migrant affect?” It’s a blank swan thing. Here is Beatrix Potter, describing the action of a rolling pin on a kitten pudding: roly-poly, roly; roly, poly, roly … This is hardly language at all, and perhaps for that reason there is no latitude in its interpretation. So someone is named named One-Half-the-World’s-Population,-Approximately-3-Billion-People-on-Six-Continents,-Lives-or-Works-in-Buildings-Constructed-of-Dirt. Atmospheres include dankness, smoke, gas, and exhaust; Matter contains dust, puddles, mud, and debris; and Life includes weeds, insects, pigeons, and crowds. During the day, they’d give lectures on altered consciousness, the double kingdom, and the line. Ecclesiastes or Buddhist “only don't. as luminous shit. comet’s path of

If you feel no forget to get some

What then is poetry? have two questions:

FIRST. You me repeatedly

as you seem Sounds to me those of? Dark and to be “splendiferous” in your least?

What is (and painful), as you will force again:

“I have learned the measure of our cacophony What else
Could it be? What is the relationship between gushing-forth of love affairs and chemical spiritual discontent, but that is a present, and a true traveler’s curiosity you will have a you will have a for it.

And do shall swallow and expel as being … pure. Except densely detailed, thickly textured, richly imaged beautiful sunset melody on one cannot speak, thereof one (to be?) the measure of to do with once believed, The day I cease burning, the Absolute, you might want to

take (to be?) the us? the

Full disclosure: when I which
one is to amid the “only don't know” (as a are? The people wishing you something so seemingly usual simplifying “time” into visionary self—whatever Oh, Bite me, Tongue …



John Bloomberg-Rissman is somewhere towards the middle of a project called Zeitgeist Spam. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making, and Flux, Clot & Froth. The third section, In the House of the Hangman, is underway. In the House of the Hangman is a mashup. All sources have been documented, and citations will be included upon publication. In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, he has edited or co-edited two anthologies, 1000 Views of 'Girl Singing' and The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, and is at work on a third, a collaboration with Jerome Rothenberg. He blogs at Zeitgeist Spam.