Shameless promotion

I’ve been published in Otoliths #45, probably the coolest & hippest lit mag on the planet. Lots of great stuff in this issue–have a look. Mark Young, the editor, is a trailblazer and all-a-around genius.



Free PDF versions of “The Salad Rhapsodies”

Below you will find the first two installments of my three-part long-form vispo entitled, “The Salad Rhapsodies.”

You can purchase a beautiful book (dead tree glossy) version  of them at my storefront here.

The Salad Rhapsodies, Volume 1

The Salad Rhapsodies, Volume 2

Lyricism and Vispo

I’ll be honest: I much prefer lyricism in poetry than what’s in vogue at the present.  We’ve seen it all over. Deracinated, denuded verse.  Poetry that reads like prose (the “prose poem”). There’s also the stuff influenced by the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets. What these sub-genres have in common is they don’t swing or sing—at least to me.  There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s just another approach, as valid as epic poetry or flarf. However, a lot of this work leaves me damn cold.

Vispo (visual poetry) and concrete poetry, on the surface, seem to pursue the same basic goals. These sub-genres eschew lyricism.  This poetry looks like it was produced by a machine, and of course it was! (Back then, the typewriter was a pretty radical piece of technology.)  The twentieth century concrete poets were, in a sense, mirroring the mechanization of industrial civilization through their manipulation of clean lines and flawless text.  Here, the human element is sometimes lacking, and the poetry isn’t always singing.

What changes the equation is the advent of the computer.  Today, we can make vispo and concrete poetry sing, with vibrant colors and exciting graphics and imagery. Our textual work can be incredibly kinetic, moving all over the page like birds in flight.  And we can do this all at the click of a mouse.

Rambling thoughts

A new mixed media genre would encompass embedding text (poetry, prose) into a visual (or patterned) environment.  This would all be formulated (created) using a computer. The reason it is a novel approach is because concrete/visual poetry was, at least historically, created using typewriters.   We are now in an age in which the creative process begins and ends with the computer.  In a previous post, I argued that the computer is opening up radically new alternatives for writing and narrative. Thus, the ascendancy of the electronic millennium may, in fact, save literature from becoming an irrelevant art form, a sorry atavism from the industrial age.

Luckily over the last few decades, our tools have  been vastly improved.  We must remember the world of the typewriter was predominantly a black and white (textual) world.  The typewriter is a limiting technology compared to the relative versatility/elasticity of the computer; it is incapable of reproducing color or graphics in a split-second. Thus, the concrete poets of the 1950s were constrained by the technology of their time.  Inasmuch as their innovations were radical—and they were quite radical—they were working with what amounts to Stone Age implements.

I believe we are in a state of flux. There is a vacuum to be filled by (textual) innovation. The conceptual poets have pointed us in a direction that is certainly fruitful.  But they seem to be more concerned with appropriation rather than creation.  I advocate appropriation, certainly, and even plagiarism.  Art is a never-ending cycle of recycling the recycled.  The problem is that appropriation for appropriation sake is a spiritual dead-end.  Art must move us in some fundamental way.  Out of appropriation must come creation.


Make mistakes, be a loser

Roughly five years ago, I began experimenting with language.  I was intent on writing a “long poem”, in the vein of Silliman’s the Alphabet.  Undoubtedly, an ambitious effort on my part.  But, dammit, my language was stilted and derivative. This had been done before, way back in the 1970’s.  It was dated and stale.  My poem was stagnant, immobile.  I was trying desperately to inject some life into lifeless verbiage.  This is what ( I know) was happening to the written word all over—despite what mainstream fantasists concluded: that literature was fine, and great books were being written all the time.  You just had to look harder.

I have been looking, and what I have found, all over, is absolutely wanting. Nothing got me off. But I knew there had to be a way forward.  Ergo, how do we become more radical in our approach to creating new narrative forms?   Only by experimenting and making mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes.  My long poem was/is a glorious mistake. Indeed, my entire writing career, such as it is, was/is a glorious mistake.  In fact, let me be frank–I have no discernible writing career to speak of. I am a nondescript, regular guy, with a nondescript, regular job, living in a nondescript, regular suburb, etc.,etc.  Truth be told,  I am part and parcel of that loser demographic our depraved elites and professionals have such great contempt for.

That, however, is the point, mes amies. It’s okay to be loser, a failure, a non-entity. This (whatever it is) is, and has been, an intellectual journey. For all of us.  And if I (we) die without finding that missing link that will propel Art (again) into a new hallucinatory, orgasmic, celebratory (etc., etc., etc.) domain—I don’t really give a damn, and neither should you. It’s the journey that counts.