Publication: Wysihicken [sic]

I’m a little behind in announcing this, but you can get your hands on my chapbook Wysihicken [sic] through Furniture Press. I recommend reviewing subscription options, which gets many other lovely books into your hands, too.

Wysihicken [sic] cover

Publication [teaser!] [#2!]

NOTE from Furniture Press Books Publisher, Christophe Casamassima [get your subscription on]:

I revamped the FPB Subscriptions page. Since you’re publishing with us this year, your book falls within a very lucrative [for the reader] offer of a 2014 subscription for only $75. Please promote the press and these subscriptions (along with your book) at every possible, feasible juncture.

Also, if anyone subscribes at $75 or higher by March 31, they will receive a copy of the 4th annual FPB poetry prize’s winning book, which is selected by Elizabeth Robinson and will be released in early 2015.

And this is the list of books and chapbooks we’re publishing this year:

Jared Schickling, The Paranoid Rader: Essays 2006-2012
Thomas Devaney, Calamity Jane
Ryan Eckes, val-u plus
Kevin Varrone, Box Score: An Autobiography
Dan Thomas-Glass, Daughters of Your Century
Chris McCreary, NEÜRO/MÄNTIC

Jacob Bennett, Wysihicken [sic]
Alicia Puglionesi, Views from the National Forests
Andrew Klein, Bluemore
Erin Dorney, Feather Tracts

1X4 winner: Joseph Cooper, The Caves of Ice [chosen by j/j hastain]
2X4 winner: Nicole Steinberg, Clever Little Gang [chosen by Ryan Eckes]
3X4 winner: Caroline Crew & Chris Elmslie, Your Stupid Fortune Gives Me Stupid Hope [chosen by Joshua Ware]
4X4 winner: [Iris Cushing will make a decision soon]

Publication [teaser!]

In anticipation of the imminent publication of my chapbook Wysihicken [sic], by the phenomenal folks at Baltimore’s own Furniture Press, I am posting two little teaser texts:

1. Remarks I prepared to introduce my reading of Wysihicken [sic] at the 2013 Conference of the Pennsylvania College English Association:

History, in the sense of a record of human events or events impacting humans, as written by humans, is always an attempt to organize, to manipulate, to concretize, the alinear, simmering, fragmenting structures of aging, forgetful memory. This is logical, as sequence holds great sway over meaning. This is true in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and also in narrative, and in testimony. What happened first? What happened next? Who knew what, and when? Who did what, and in what order?

Landscape, as sequence, also holds great sway over meaning, as any historian of any settlement, or battlement, as any geologist or ecologist, plainly knows. Embedded in the human events on and around the Wissahickon Creek is the fact of the landscape. The particular geologic makeup and shakeup of the steep ridges, which, with ambivalent chaos, determine the course of the small yellow-brown waterway, also determine patterns of animal habitation and migration, growth and abundance of plants, and behaviors of the people who rely on them all for sustenance: flora, fauna, terra, aqua. This poem is an attempt to mingle those interlocutors, past and present, in a topology that takes note of sequence and landscape in order to merge them.

2. A re-posting of some of my responses to questions for that “Next Big Thing” blog-meme:

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From solo bike rides up to and into Wissahickon Creek Park in northwest Philadelphia, and from research about the geological and human history of the creek and its banks. The title comes from William Cobbett’s Rural Rides (1821), a post-Enclosure survey of British farmland in which he remembers, in a witchy weird way, a visit to the American creek. Halfway through Wysihicken [sic], there is an edited erasure poem drawn from Cobbett’s text, but most of the composition happened in my head as I cruised the gravel path alongside (above) the yellow-brown stream, as I splashed in the water to cool off, or sat on a big flat rock in the sun to dry and warm up. After getting home again, I’d stretch, rinse off, and then type up what I had been repeating over and over to myself.

What genre does your book fall under?

Landscape demagogy.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ummm…New Zealand. Vermont if we’re on shoestrings. And a young Rutger Hauer as Johannes Kelpius. (Spoiler: his scenes get cut.)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

We don’t need no stinking sentence: “at the schist there / is unpried // a big old book / left in the rain / to sog / a big / old book left / out in sun / to cement // what nationstory / if the pages / would lift”

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The shapes schist and water make in their slow revision. (I could mention the beauty of the place, but I don’t want to give the impression that this is a work of idyll or bucolic pastoral.) And I owe a lot to the placards along Forbidden Drive – they provided just enough information about the ravine to whet an edge for what I wanted to carve out. Later, I began to owe a lot to Cobbett and Poe, and Sidney M. Earle, and especially David Contosta and Carol Franklin and Gunlög Fur, authors who’ve previously written about issues related to the Wissahickon.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Embedded into the poem is (or is not) a set of very careful directions leading to TREASURE.

On Deck (vol. 1.3) audio

Here, finally, are the audio files for the three readings at On Deck (vol. 1.3), from way back on 10 Aug 2013:

On Deck (vol. 1.3) Brandon Holmquest [10aug2013]

On Deck (vol. 1.3) Jacob A Bennett [10aug2013]

On Deck (vol. 1.3) Nicolas Destino [10aug2013]

On Deck is a three-part BBQ-and-reading series, a kind of “summer salon en plein air.” The host, Jacob Bennett, has invited one reader for each installation, and that reader has invited one more reader, who has invited one more reader, for a total of three per event. This invitation process mimics the various networks of friends and acquaintances that a community creates and recreates, organically but conscientiously trading and sharing information and tastes. The third event features Brandon Holmquest, Jacob A. Bennett, and Nicolas Destino.

Pardon Chelsea Manning Update

Join the Pardon Chelsea Manning Facebook group.

The permit has been granted by the Nat’l Parks Services office. I’ve attached the permit here, with the first page “redacted” since it’s got my address and number on it. (Irony rarely escapes me.) Now, I’m wondering: how many of you are planning on meeting up next week in DC?

The time-frame (despite a contradictory indicator on the permit) is from 11am-4pm on Wed 27 November. The map (see attached file) indicates the West Side of Lafayette Park, where the event will take place. I think the Bernard Baruch Bench of Inspiration is as good a HQ/central meeting spot as any.

If you plan to bring a placard or some other prop, be sure it conforms to the guidelines stipulated in the permit. Otherwise, the bobbies just might take your toy away. I will bring a handout with information about Chelsea, as well as other notable figures in this asymmetrical battle of and over information. Feel free to do similarly. I think we’ll have some baller graphic prints on hand, too. (Image by Atom Burke.)freechelsea-11wide

I’m not a pro organizer, so I’m probably forgetting things. Keep an eye on the FB page, and let me know if you plan to join us – a rudimentary headcount would be nice.

Thinking of a Kill List

If you haven’t read Josef Kaplan’s Kill List, click that link and take a minute to browse. You won’t need much more time than that to read the piece, even if you scan all the pages looking for your name, or that of your old professor, or your friends.

This is a simple-looking text. This is not a dig. The context is much richer, and a great deal of the fun in this text is in finding and reading reactions to the piece. (That’s rich.) Conversations about and responses to the text abound. Some defame, some defend, some dismiss, some uplift, some demean. I’m not sure what verb I’m doing, but I believe that all texts are sites for learning, even and maybe especially when a text disturbs me. Even when I really really loathe a text (and that is not the case here; nor is it love I feel – more like prickly curiosity), I can find something to learn from it. This is why, when I write about a text, I ask myself: “How does this seem to work, and in what contexts, and is it problematic for me, and what might I do with it differently?” This requires informed presumption – it seems to me that Kill List is not “about” the named poets, but about the supposed levels of “comfort” afforded to poets, maybe especially those who earn livings (mostly) within or through academe. It’s possible that the adjectives “comfortable” and “rich” have nothing to do with financial stability – as Joyelle McSweeney writes, “these could be financial terms or refer to perceived social assets or even how interested the author feels in these poets–or it could be random.”

Page 23 of Josef Kaplan's text.

A screenshot of the text on one page from Josef Kaplan’s Kill List.

Whatever the matrices Kaplan had in mind, the fact remains that this is a list of people (or the scritches and scratches that represent them in the form of names) under a heading that calls to my mind Sarah Palin’s use of rifle crosshair reticles to “target” political opposition (remember Gabby Giffords?). And that makes me uncomfortable. And not like “speaking-truth-to-touchy-subjects” uncomfortable, or at least not entirely. I think poking touchy subjects is a good practice – taboos are strictures that need occasional investigation and review. I say uncomfortable because I think the targeting mechanism of the text is misguided. Perhaps I believe this because as a pacifist I disagree with the implication of directed violence. Maybe I’m a thought police. Not my call.

"We’ll aim for these races and many others. This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to and join me in the fight."

“We’ll AIM for these races and many others. This is just the first SALVO in a FIGHT to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington.” [emphasis mine]

I guess what it is that I keep tripping on is that focusing on poets and their relative comfort (financial or otherwise) seems to me to frame issues of comfort (financial or otherwise) in a way that is small potatoes, if not exactly irrelevant. I’m not bored by Kaplan’s selection process, but I’m bored by the idea of poetry as deadened or devalued (a rich brace of puns) by commercial forces, of poets or poetry as so important as to be fodder for a kill list to begin with, as a gag or as a solemn conceit. We needn’t take ourselves so seriously that we resort to cannibalism to make a point or to counter-point.

What if, instead of listing poets, this text listed the names of big international corporations and the kinds of laws and legal loopholes that those groups push through our legislatures with the liberal and lubricating application of campaign donations?

Goldman Sachs is a rich corporation.
ExxonMobil is a rich corporation.
Tax shelters are comfortable.
General Atomics is a rich corporation.

Whatever the intention, or meaning, or interpretation of Kaplan’s text and its title, I say it is better (richer in so many ways) to target not-people, like corporations and the bully-pulpit afforded to aggregated capital.