Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adam Fieled

Chop with a Machete: Nineteenth Century Provincialism?

          It is only 2014, and already a body of work has coalesced and established itself
publicly in the higher arts in America which threatens the hegemony of the twentieth
century’s accepted, dominant strains of aesthetic theory and practice. What this body of
work largely establishes is an imperative to dismantle, disorient, and, ultimately, destroy
twentieth century aesthetic ideologies, from the inside out, and towards several foundational
recognitions—that thematics, largely lost in twentieth century avant-garde formalism, must
be reinstated as a constituent element in the higher arts, to set a well-rounded standard for
twenty-first century higher art; that, for the creation of higher art and for its dissemination to
be as rich and potentially durable as possible, the entire history of high art must be embraced
rather than discarded; and that a meaningful demarcation between high and popular art,
blurred into obscurity in century XX, needs also to be reinstated in order to acknowledge,
appreciate, and reward the seriousness, thoughtfulness, and depth-consonance (formal and
thematic) of manifestly superior (even in culturally relative contexts) aesthetic efforts.
          The quandary with the fulsome insertion of these foundational recognitions into
recognized, standardized aesthetic discourses is that the century XX old guard will consider
them “provincial”—that they are a retreat from the theoretical advances of the twentieth
century into the parochial, patriarchal, culturally homogenous nineteenth century, and that
the intellectually sophisticated cultural relativism which would be lost would constitute
a profound, emasculating step backwards from world-consonance, queer-consonance,
advanced gender-consonance, and genuine, responsible socio-political awareness. The
problem I have, as a practicing artist and theorist, with the twentieth century’s advanced
aesthetic theoretical apparatuses and those who espouse them is relatively simple—for all
that key texts bravely consolidate a sense of responsibility around issues of gender, race,
sexual orientation, and all facets of cultural relativism, the works of literary and visual
higher art produced in the twentieth century are so drastically inferior, both formally and
thematically (and in avant-garde twentieth century literature, narrow, hermetically sealed,
anti-humanistic formalism ruled the roost quite unequivocally), to what was produced in the
nineteenth century, that what has been produced of serious merit in the twenty-first century
smoothly and organically “skips” twentieth century literature (and visual art), and erects itself
from nineteenth century models.
          Looking at the nineteenth century and the twentieth, in theoretical and practical
chiasmus, each century manifested its own brand (or manner or form) of provincialism—
and I am arguing here that, despite its outward protestations of courage and a responsible,
culturally egalitarian humanism, the twentieth century’s form and manner of aesthetic
provincialism, which eschewed the rigorous and well-rounded in practice for the facile,
and did away, in many sectors, with any serious approach to coherence, cohesiveness, and
applied thematic focus altogether, letting tiny, slight formal gestures unsuccessfully pick up
the gestalt slack, is far more steep than the nineteenth’s manner of culturally homogenous
artistic production, and makes the twentieth century both potentially a featherweight one, a
laughingstock, and one easy to “dispose of” in the new century’s ambience.
          As the twenty-first century develops, many suspect that a nasty conspiracy looms
behind the vapid, vacuous fraudulence of twentieth century art, aesthetics, and other
branches of the humanities. The conspiracy has to do with narcotics, and the widespread,
flagrant trafficking of narcotics. The supposed narrative runs that high level, high
maintenance drug dealers and drug dealing conglomerates, including wealthy families, in
the twentieth century were fond, for various business reasons (of convenience and for
the purpose of subterfuge) of adopting and maintaining “fronts” for their illicit activities;
and that, by misrepresenting the business interests at hand while simultaneously creating a
veneer of cultural, humanitarian respectability, the higher arts provided both a useful outlet
and a manner or form of representing states of business affairs, backwards and sideways.
If twentieth century higher art appears to be abased and degraded beyond belief, it may be
because its primary purpose was not to symbolize or embody the heights and depths to
which human consciousness can rise or fall, but to display the wares of illicit, violence-driven
commerce—and thus, to enact the humanities’ dissolution into cacophonous nothingness.
          The suspicion that, in the twentieth century, powerful drug dealers and drug dealing
conglomerates had bifurcated motivations—both to achieve maximum profit-gain and to
destroy the humanities’ integrity in the process—is a very real and compelling one, when
a seasoned intellect is forced to take seriously what was written and published under the
high art aegis in that century, particularly the second half of that century, when the flatulent
specter of the “post-modern” was shoved, by brute force and greed, into public prominence.
The narrative of the central suspicion continues, that many Modern and post-modern artists
were not authentic individuals but “characters,” assembled by drug dealing conglomerates
to represent business interests. Thus, the differentiated, distinguished figure of the twentieth
century author may prove to have been a character actor, fulfilling a specially scripted,
particularized dossier—and the foundational structures behind or beneath these characters
would include hacks specifically hired to write books to fulfill (again) dossier scripts; and
drug dealers, prepared to send messages (“decoys”) through their character’s speech,
social interactions, and published writings, whether threats, recriminations, instructions, or
affirmations of profitable conditions in different sectors.
          I have hypothesized that the twentieth century may go on record as the “Hollywood
Century”; if this is so, it is because an abundance of “characters” occupying the public stage,
rather than authentic, autonomous individuals, assured that the twentieth century’s public
sphere was created and maintained in a spirit of drastically bad faith, reducing the humanities
to the dull-minded tawdriness of the cheapest, flimsiest popular culture and kitsch, and
for no good reason other than dope deals. This, if it is the case, even if only potentially the
case, or half the case, is as silly, sad, and pathetic a century dossier as a humanities century
can possibly have; and accounts for the twentieth century higher artist’s perpetual attempt,
from Duchamp forward, to degrade, abase, and destroy the higher arts from the inside out
(both of humanistic interest and of intellectual substance.) This “century sickness” is largely
behind us, though we see remnants of it in the American mainstream press, and many of us
are prepared to be objective about it—and what has been established in higher art contexts
in the twenty-first century by 2014 arguably trumps the achievements of the entire, oafish,
bastardized twentieth century. Thus, the sorrow of waste and extreme disenchantment is
tempered for many of us by wind filling new sails, the novel congeries of circumstances
around which must still seem, in their fledgling state, undetermined and indeterminate.

[Painting is “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Goya]


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Caleb Puckett

Weathering the Pile-up

Spray the fire extinguisher on the GPS device and stick it to those pundits in the legalization debate. The world’s largest wind farm spurs the Thames Estuary into considering a name change. All bets are off on the lifespan of bland but reliable sedans on both sides of the Atlantic. What about ships, then?  Depending on whose side you’re on, the year could end up a disaster. Go Pacific, you say? Pull out and flee with the predictable group of typhoon victims before it’s too late. All tragedies are markets to mine. Given the inevitability of such weather, you should be on the side of frigid rather than bitter. Pitch that notion. Run with it all the way to the Kremlin. According to insiders, establishing wage income can be a taxing affair for decommitted Olympic sprinters with black market toiletry deals. Cut to the chase, ye pharaoh of mummified faith. Consider the theatrics of group discounts and act as necessary. Why the metallic taste in your mouth? Have a snack. Ruin a perfectly good apple.

Empty gas cans rattle in the back of the truck beside you. You stroke your nose, exorcising an unblessed sneeze, counting your luck like mortgage payments. Should you cringe as an off-again Hollywood veteran in a hooded coat gives icy handshakes to your fellow commuters who are bogged down in the fine yellow snow of Boston? An amateur wrestler always photobombs this cherished annual event. This year, the psychic effect ripples into an atmosphere where a polar vortex dances with the sun. A black and white stray dog smells danger and seeks shelter under the radar station where cops go to trade jokes. A thrice divorced middle-aged executive at a razor company considers marriage once again as he stares at the bleak concrete structure where they all cavort. He champions a no-nonsense justice system over the objections of a talk radio host. In his sleep, the dog eyes the ankle of a disgraced governor who once made the Pro Bowl with the Patriots. He’ll have no such master even in times of great want. A strange ball of lightening turns the entire scene golden for a moment. Lawyers emerge in whistling droves from an underground parking garage.

Instincts tell you to seek singles in your area, but your car will never be a contender within the confines of this particular indigenous population. The Church’s stance on gender theory in the context of hockey is also very clear. No real territorial dispute ends without building sprawling tombs for the winning dignitaries. Don’t drink the vodka-laced Kool-Aid or pump the feud to its final dueling blast. Riches ride currents as the bank wires you money with a few taps of virtual keys. In the right light, they look like leopard teeth. You hear bones breaking as you pass the desolated pyramid of a once-chartered empire of accountancy. Convinced your transplant is faulty, you begin protesting the very existence of powertrain warranties and nest eggs. Too busy to be frustrated and heartbroken, you say? And just look at those smoky blue eyes, great white teeth and stylish cardigan. No bargain hunting, gum chewing sloth ever boxed his way onto Broadway, bud. Beyond the standstill caused by the pile-up, your soul mate, one Janus Trump, eats a jelly doughnut in anticipation of a baby. The late moon hovers with titanic force over her kitchen, causing the wind to pick up velocity. Rumor has it that the credit card company will chime in soon enough. You feel tense as your tires spin out of the slush and onto the ice.


Susan Lewis

Some Covet

          (For EM)

what others seed and sow. Still others stretch until their shoulders unblade. To swing, romance the 
trees. To medic unfair whether, shine with the butter of enough. You’re antennae, who isn’t—too 
receptive to set an example, undulant in the breeze of happenstance as diamonds strung between 
our greedy dreams. In synthesis eludes the love-child of truth & lie, its gleaming checkered path, its 
printless fingers ringing your full throat (silent). & sacrifice, virginal as lessons learned. (+ artifice, 
vestigial as quested grail). They may not cease gnawing at your infrastructure, offered as freely as 
God’s business card at a convention of lost souls. Don’t shy from this deafening light; it’s been 
parsed to persist through your boldest surrenders.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Charles Taylor

Pencil Sketches of Birds

Lucky asks his grandfather all the time why he died. 
He asks him why he died in his bed.

Lucky was a six, and after grandpa’s horrible screaming death his uncle wouldn’t buy 
him a new bed or let him sleep on the couch in the living room. Lucky slept from year six 
to year eighteen on the same damned bed.

At times his grandfather interrupted the music on the radio beside his bed. The radio is 
dead now too in a nearby landfill. His grandfather said he hated to wake Lucky up but he 
wanted to say he was sorry. 

“Why couldn’t you have at least rolled on the floor and died?” Lucky mumbled half-
asleep back to the radio. “Do you know how spooky it is to lie in a bed where someone 
you love died horribly?”

“Sorry,” Lucky heard on the radio again. “I was eighty-four and I wasn’t expecting my 
death that night. You never expect to die on Christmas.”

“You scared me to death. I get visions of your ghost in the closet or under the bed.”

“I’m not responsible for your imagination. I was a good grandpa. That’s what you get for 
wanting to be a poet. I was just a postman. In my day postmen were intellectuals.”

“Grandpa, I need peace and answers. Why did you die in my bed? What’s wrong with the 
hallway or bathtub?”

“I would have liked to die fucking your grandmother, in our own double bed up in 
Oregon, but as you know she died giving birth to your father. Do you ever think how that 
made me feel?”

“I will go through all your journals and papers. I will find the reason.”

“Jesus, kid. When you’re dead your dead. There’s nothing to say about it. Besides, don’t 
you remember? Your fundamentalist uncle burned my journals and papers down in the 
basement coal furnace. He thought I said mean things about him because I was an atheist 
and he turned fundamentalist, but I was making pencil sketches of birds.”


Sex and Divine

Sleep seems a more superior way to spend your days than working, even when the pay on the job 
is high.

Back in the early 60’s, when Lucky was nineteen, he was employed in a hospital maintenance 
shop. Lucky was left completely unsupervised and could sleep as much as he wanted on the job. 
He was good at sleep too. The cement floor of the machine room on the top floor of Evanston 
hospital, back in a corner where the machines hung low in the dark, worked perfectly despite the 

Lucky needed to sleep because he hung out late in the Chicago clubs of Old Town. He drank 
too much and watched all the gorgeous women dance alone, braless back then in tight clothes 
and filmy blouses that allowed their nipples to show through. Lucky could never find the words 
to speak to these mysterious manifestations of life. He wanted to speak. He thought they might 
have answers. He felt close to God when near them. Why were they doing what they were 
doing? Was there a smoothness behind all human fears that could be found by dancing? If you 
loved hard enough, might a man survive on air?

Lucky’s dreams lying on the machine room floor, they were cathedrals more magnificent than 
the most amazing clouds. The cathedral stained glass was filled with the infinite and tender faces 
of lovers assuming an infinity of positions. The cathedrals themselves were filled with infinite 
lush green jungles. Friendly snow leopards, each autographed by Peter Matthiessen, strolled the 
graceful, leaf-strewn paths. 

In sleep, whether on cement or back at his small apartment, he was always waiting for God to 
come. In his dreams Lucky called out God’s name over and over. Perhaps dreams are too small 
for God because in all that time God never came around. Women came though. They whispered 
to him in many languages that somehow he could translate, “Who made God a man?”


Charles Bane, Jr.

When Masai Raise Spearheads

When Masai raise
spearheads to Ngai
at his falling wordless
leave, they mirror unsheathed
swords of city heights, wavering
in the breath of the unseen.
All mystery is powerless
before the respiratory fate
of light as you wash your
face, your back to me.
It is time to admit, as
I brush sand from
your feet, of the odds
that a universe dimmed
will draw you in again for release.
You will be lost as four hundred
planets at first count are waterless,
or put in safekeeping of molecular cloud.
Somewhere distant, I will be noble
gas or fleeting charge. We will 
meet, but incorporeal as gods.


Nancy Scott

Re-enactment, Princeton Battlefield, New Jersey

The battle was already over when we arrived.
Her Quaker school just yards away, the proximity
both intrigued and horrified Leah.
Coaxed into entering the battlefield art contest,
she’d insisted, No soldiers, no guns.
Her Betsy Ross stitching the flag (extra star, stripes
running the wrong way) was displayed
with more accurate accounts at the Clarke House
on the hilltop where General Mercer
had bravely died.

The British side was about uniforms. We’re Loyalists,
men dressed in dark blue said, raccoon tails
perched on their heads. Gone familiar tri-corne hats,
because the British kept firing at us.
A tall soldier in green told us he was with
the New Jersey Volunteers, Loyalists too.
He learned down to show Leah the silver buttons
sewn on his jacket. Vaguely polite, she fixed
on the rifle slung over his shoulder.
Let’s go, she said, tugging my hand.

An errant round of fake artillery startled Leah.
Escaping from behind enemy lines, we trekked
down the hill to the Continental Army encampment—
soldiers not as plentiful or uniforms flashy.
Militia looked as if they’d just set down their plows.
Withering sense of disarray. Washington
had left on his white horse; piles of cannonballs,
chicken roasting on a spit, woman rinsing pewter
plates in a wooden bucket. Nobody paid us attention.
I bought Leah a yo-yo and we went home.


Ali Znaidi


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Edgar Gabriel Silex

Your Gravestone

your gravestone gives
birth to broken wings
long buried in herd lies

Lazarus tears toil to talk
muster of throatsongs
flowering your gravesite

scarvespers rising
from armor vaults
unbidden inaudible

silence the sermon
of sorrow circles
the sky like an eagle
gathering orisons


In My Armor Room

in my armor room
my dad’s face
hangs on the wall
here I am weakest

the memory tide
rises in the windows
and shines its exoteric light
on my father’s imago

the hieroglyphic chain
of my existence
in that blessing wound

to wait here
is to be nourished
by paradox
and inspiration

to whirl through
the dervish day
with the flame words
of unpronounceable chants


Donna Kuhn


Friday, January 17, 2014

Kenneth Wolman

In Praise of Roberto Duran

In secret, in disbelief, fearing that saying so
would make it true, people whispered
that he'd turned coward:
pictures were on back pages everywhere
and pictures do not lie.
There were the upheld gloved hands,
los manos de piedras, and
his famous risible words: No Mas, No Mas.
"Enough.  I have no stomach for this.

Who remembers the name of his opponent?

In defeat, losing his monster's mask,
he became a force in a world of the misdefined.
Roberto Duran: vulnerability, frustration,
forever hands of stone, turned into
the Commendatore at Don Giovanni's
feast of undoing, come to warn us
to amend our lives, lose
the madness of inviting
punishment to be absorbed
because it's Good For Us.


Lawrence Upton


in one flies
                 over turn be
                                            suicidal, so that airs do not
on top of following and no inching
conclusion recipe weighing 
allowing their long . . .

shrinking head jangling
dark is reasoning ludicrously clandestine rend
on blue who woman home Gaps sleep with whom she 
on blue who woman home 
                                           gapping sleep with whom she . . . 
she past, clandestine

fleeting could in which has been more significant
my boy could make 
divine nature is sunk
what returns

depths down a right turn the media pumping them
under foot further than infinite 

dust outer-minded congregates as us
the mirror has been undermined
strongly dangerous permanently that echo
were not the where being
towards communication
long focus over sweep having expansive breath 
pressure pushed is streamlets 
body lover just removed

divine nature is material, atoms of instructions

urbanise city my light admits, crashed open to sunrise, the city core; 

yourselves that crack all electronic

head into town as to an excellent world

peculiar night itself one sobriety
swerving to will

crack all word while electronic

explode themselves

lover just removed the hills
nothing glistens 
dodging to avoid the fire

winters vanishing hill time 

accosted by seeing

becoming us

scream differently tells evidence, and silently --
substance of justice it is better to be unjust than --
a victim of justice it is better to be dead than --
feel the burning ashes fall on your face --

true element of the brain
what is this world of amorous sleep
the word the world a bit confused


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bill Wootton

Lou Reed Night

A party in Balwyn one night, 1973
perhaps, Lou's 'Transformer'
on constantly. Someone just

put the stylus back on as soon
as 'Goodnight Ladies' tracked out.
Didn't sound repetitive; just allowed more

and more absorption into that brittle world.
Snookered in a basement pool room at midnight
when no one could find the light switch,

John K simply punched out the globe,
leaving tiny shattered shards on dark cloth.
Back upstairs to brass, piano, guitar, voice.

'Sa - da - lite's gone, way up to Mars ...'
Leaving the party, scenes of disarray -
overflowing ashtrays, spilled drinks

and in the corner, coiled on a beanbag,
Jim H, headphones clamped on,
still wild siding with Lou.


Harriet Zinnes


If the when becomes the then
and then recedes,
has time stopped its functioning
and allowed chaos to command?

Time is, will be, was and is evermore,
and yet and yet
when chaos endures even time's universe
time itself is a wingless bird
without motion, without identity.


Friday, January 3, 2014

James Cervantes


A mockingbird subtracts a song from the repertoire
while the press corps listens to the Secretary of Defense.


Koi grow fat in a pond with a pump and a feeding hand.
Countless neighbors strain the moat around the mall.


The commemorative beauty of tragic wreckage,the rosy-fingered dawn.
Nonetheless, the Beer Festival takes place the third Wednesday of March.


The plot is boyhood, stream, wildflowers, death in a couplet.
The poet has tea and ginger cookies, little bites on the tongue.


Our intrepid duo drinks the milk of dream-fed cows,
that which is between them, barely there when they first meet.


An idea is already a reality, likewise a basket of commodities.
American ruins are discovered in the cloud of consciousness.


but but but goes the little motorboat on the Sea of Exception.
Eggs are affected the day the sink whispers snake pits of Winnipeg.


There is a problem with a still body of water.
The poem before it becomes language.


The Michaels install sound, wingless, saintless.
Sex, death, the little and the boundless.


A war will unfold over a broken vessel, chaos spill out
as a colorless liquid, and within it, cells without intent.


The heat is white. The heat is yellow. The heat is red
and is called hateful though the star does not mean it to be.


The children we were allow the star named Sun
to be known simply for its cold light.