Poetry Crush (Clean Slate) Autumn Writing Playlist

14 Sep


Cool breeze/ summer’s over. I couldn’t be happier. Fuck that summer. Let’s forget it even happened. Here is a Poetry Crush (clean slate) autumn writing playlist.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Beverly Hills, Chicago
Lana Del Rey – Ride
Foxygen – How Can You Really
The Strokes – One Way Trigger
ELEL – 40 Watt
Sun Kil Moon – I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life
Maps – To the Sky
The Strokes – Chances
Lorde – Team
Zola Jesus – Dangerous Days
Cibo Matto – MFN 
Karen O – Ooo
Lana Del Rey – Fucked My Way Up To The Top
The National – Hard To Find
Gwendolyn Brooks – Kitchenette

The lyrics to this Sun Kil Moon song remind me of my long-ago teenage Hungarian summer boyfriend. Marcel, Marcel, where are you now?

I know it’s pathetic but that was the greatest night

It was backstage in Moscow late one night
We shared a cigarette, a kiss goodbye
Her name was Cayenne, so young and soft
Her hands trembled badly, her eyes trailed off
To bottles and objects around the room
My backup guitar, a tray of food

We didn’t have very much to say
She said that she’d come from some other place
A town called Troyskirt, maybe Troysworth
I was pretty distracted packing my stuff
But I did make a point to ask her to stay
But she said she had friends that she had to go see

Later that summer I picked up my mail
She sent me a letter with a touching detail
“I used up my minutes calling hotels
To find you that night but to no avail”
“I know it’s pathetic,” she continued to write,
“But that was the greatest night of my life.”


Fruitvale Station

19 Aug


With the latest senseless police shooting, I can’t help but to think of the film Fruitvale Station.  This is my favorite film from 2013 (along with Her) and I’ve been meaning to write about it for months.

Fruitvale Station is a beautiful and truthful film about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant – a not so perfect guy, trying to be better – who was wrongfully shot and killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale Bart Station in Oakland, CA in front of a car-full of witnesses.   Michael B. Jordan (Vince from Friday Night Lights and the kid on The Wire) is unforgettable as Oscar, wow.  So is Octavia Spenser who plays Oscar’s mother and Melonie Diaz who plays Oscar’s girlfriend.

This is a film that brings awareness to the injustice of the police shooting of Oscar Grant, but it does so not by dividing good guys and bad guys.  It bypasses statistics, politics and this country’s history of racism and shows us what is at stake in closeup: a young mother and a young daughter and the young father who is trying to be the man his family needs him to be.  And the film, despite the horrible inevitable outcome of its main character, is delightful, funny and entertaining …  after all, he has no reason to think he is going to die that day.

Fruitvale Station released last year when Trayvon Martin was in the news and theaters were reported to be filled with sobs when the lights turned on at the end of the film.  I’ll spare you from telling you how much I cried, other than to say that when we hear these stories in the news we get angry and frustrated and are in  Phase I of our sadness.  Fruitvale Station begins the very deep mourning process which there is never time for because there is always another news story.  This is a humble and powerful film.  It should be mandatory viewing in schools, police academies and the homes of all humans.

One of the most striking images from Fruitvale Station is this image of Oscar aiming his cell phone camera at the police officer, knowing it is his only weapon.  One of the images of our time.  Still, it wasn’t enough to save his life.


Also, this Michael Che piece on the Daily Show re: the shooting of Michael Brown made me laugh and cry in the same breath.  It’s devastatingly sad and funny and sad.  Awfully sad.


Anne Carson & Sappho

8 Aug
The use of brackets in Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter  makes what’s missing in Sappho’s text a tangible missing.  There’s something universal in the presentation, almost mathematical or primal.  One would expect our first communications with aliens, prehistoric fish and the dead to be similar when we find some common ground in language and translation.  right?



FOR SALE: Book of Crushes & Poetry Crush T-Shirts, Tanks & Croptops

3 Mar

10010427_10203331657030139_258056692_ophoto 1

Poetry Crush crops, tanks & tees are for sale.  Artwork by Todd Colby.   And Book of Crushes is for sale too.  Artwork by Sara Lefsyk.  

About Book of Crushes:  This mysterious book of secret crushes is designed to be read aloud, but in hushed voice & by candlelight.  Book of Crushes is broken up into three sections:

Poems: Poet-on-Poet Crush
Jennifer Knox on Walt Whitman, Sara Lefsyk on Federico Garcia Lorca, J. Hope Stein on Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes, Melissa Broder on Emily Dickinson, Todd Colby on Mina Loy, Janaka Stucky on Jean Genet, Joanna Penn Cooper on Wislawa Symborska, Victor D. Infante on Anne Sexton, Christine Hamm on Marianne Moore, Lauren Hunter on Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, & Jean Toomer, Maria Teutsch on Henry Miller, Joe Hall on Edward Taylor and Rauan Klassnik on Ron Silliman.

Poems: Poet-on-Celebrity Crush
Joanna Penn Cooper on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kristy Bowen on James Franco, Amy Lawless on Mariah Carey, Sasha Fletcher on the presidents, Monica McClure on Lindsay Lohan, Lauren Gordon on Britney Spears and Brandon Brown on Amanda Bynes.

Radical Essay or Short Story: Poet-on-Poet Crush
Sampson Starkweather on Weekend at Bernies & Hamlet, Miracle Jones on an orgy with Emma Lazarus & Julia Ward Howe and J. Hope Stein on Shakespeare.


Robin Williams & Good Will Hunting & Use of Repetition & I Heart Huckabees

12 Aug

The deep, hilarious and human Robin Williams.  “It’s not your fault.” — The repetition in this scene is unrelenting. It breaks down Will and it breaks me down and it will break you down too.  That is some effective use of repetition.

(from Good Will Hunting)

Sean: My father was an alcoholic. Mean fuckin’ drunk. He’d come home hammered, looking to whale on somebody. So I’d provoke him, so he wouldn’t go after my mother and little brother. Interesting nights were when he wore his rings.

Will: He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the table. Just say, “Choose.”

Sean: Well I gotta go with the belt there.

Will: I used to go with the wrench.

Sean: Why the wrench?

Will: Cause fuck him, that’s why.

Sean: Your foster father?

Will: Yeah.

Will: So, uh, what is it, like, Will has an attachment disorder? Is it all that stuff?
[Sean nods]

Will: Fear of abandonment? Is that why I broke up with Skylar?

Sean: I didn’t know you had.

Will: Yeah, I did.

Sean: You wanna talk about it?

Will: No.

Sean: Hey, Will? I don’t know a lot. You see this? All this shit?
[Holds up the file, and drops it on his desk]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Will shrugs] Yeah, I know that.
[Will averts his eyes to the floor]

Sean: Look at me son.
[Will locks eyes with Sean]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Will nods] I know.

Sean: No. It’s not your fault.

Will: I know

Sean: No, no, you don’t. It’s not your fault.
[Sean moves closer to Will]

Sean: Hmm?

Will: I know.
[Will stands up, trying to keep distance]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: Alright.

Sean: It’s not your fault.
[Will closes his eyes, he's fighting for control]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: Don’t fuck with me.
[Will shoves Sean back]

Will: Don’t fuck with me, Sean, not you!

Sean: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
[Will breaks into sobs. They hug]

Sean: Fuck them, ok?

Use of repetition in the I Heart Huckabees screenplay goes from silly to ludicrous to completely destroying the fabric of Brad’s character. As the scene unravels Brad unravels and you almost do too but it’s too funny– so you can’t. You are saved by your sense of humor and Brad who is humorless drowns in the repetition — “how am I not myself”.  Although we are saved by humor, the scene does challenge us by implying that our own use of repetition is a coping device and avoidance strategy. And the writer himself, David O’Russel, says this while also doing it.

(from I Heart Huckabees)

Vivian Jaffe: Why do you think that you tell the mayo story so much?

Brad Stand: I don’t know. Why?

Bernard Jaffe: It’s propaganda.

Brad Stand: [scoffing] For mayonnaise?

Bernard Jaffe: For you.

Vivian Jaffe: Specifically, you’re so impressive because you know Shania. And you’re so strong because you pulled one on her.

Bernard Jaffe: You’re a funny guy, a good guy.

Vivian Jaffe: Keeping everyone laughing, so that maybe, quote, you don’t get depressed.

Brad Stand: [shouting] Well, what’s so great about depression?

Bernard Jaffe: Nothing. Unless it holds the key to something you compulsively avoid, so it will never be examined or felt. Hence your behavior becomes repetitive like the story.

Vivian Jaffe: Like the story.

Bernard Jaffe: Like the story.

Bernard Jaffe: Shut up. Alright, I don’t have to tell stories.

Vivian Jaffe: What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?

Brad Stand: How am I not myself?

Bernard Jaffe: How am I not myself?

Vivian Jaffe: How am I not myself?

Bernard Jaffe: How… am I not… myself?


9 Aug
2 Scenes from the Amadeus screenplay by Peter Shaffer involving Salieri’s introduction to Mozart.  Meanwhile, we are only communicating in opera and ballet around the house and so should you.


Sra-I’m-sick! Sra-I’m sick!


Yes, you are. You’re very sick.


No, no. Say it backwards, shit-wit.
Sra-I’m-sick Say it backwards!


(working it out)
Sra-I’m-sick. Sick – kiss I’m – my
Kiss my! Sra-I’m-sick – Kiss my arse!


Em iram! Em iram!


No, I’m not playing this game.


No, this is serious. Say it backwards.




Just say it – you’ll see. It’s very
serious. Em iram! Em iram!


Iram – marry Em – marry me! No, no!
You’re a fiend. I’m not going to
marry a fiend. A dirty fiend at that.




Tub – but i-tub – but I vol – love
but I love ui – You. I love you!


The mood becomes suddenly softer. She kisses him. They
embrace. Then he spoils it.


Tish-I’m tee. What’s that?








Eat my – ah!


Shocked, she strikes at him. At the same moment the music
starts in the salon next door. We hear the opening of the
Serenade for Thirteen Wind Instruments, K.


My music! They’ve started! They’ve
started without me!


He leaps up, disheveled and rumpled and runs out of the room.
Salieri watches in amazement and disgust.





Salieri, in this vast room, is standing and looking at the
full score of the Serenade. He turns the pages back to the
slow movement. Instantly, we again hear its lyrical strains.


CU, Salieri, reading the score of the Adagio in helpless
fascination. The music is played against his description of



Extraordinary! On the page it looked
nothing. The beginning simple, almost
comic. Just a pulse – bassoons and
basset horns – like a rusty
squeezebox. Then suddenly – high
above it – an oboe, a single note,
hanging there unwavering, till a
clarinet took over and sweetened it
into a phrase of such delight! This
was no composition by a performing
monkey! This was a music I’d never
heard. Filled with such longing,
such unfulfillable longing, it had
me trembling. It seemed to me that I
was hearing a voice of God.


Suddenly the music snaps off. Mozart stands before him as he
lays down the score.


Excuse me!


He takes the score, bows, and struts briskly out of the room.
Salieri stares uncomprehendingly after the jaunty little man.


But why?





Why? Would God choose an obscene
child to be His instrument? It was
not to be believed! This piece had
to be an accident. It had to be!

Poetry Brothel Pride Edition

18 Jun

Below is a sample of what you will see at the Poetry Brothel Pride Edition event on Sunday, June 22, 8:00pm-1:00am at The Back Room (102 Norfolk St, New York).  As usual the doors open at 8pm and the festivities get under way at 9pm sharp. The show ends at midnight, while the private readings that Poetry Brothel has become famous for run into the wee hours of the morning.

MC, Co-Curator and guest reader for this event, Michael Klein, will join the Madame and Tennessee Pink in welcoming and introducing the night’s talent:  Amy King, Angelo Nikolopoulos, Saeed Jones, Carina Finn, Tony Leuzzi, Connie Mae Oliver, and Rachel Herman-Gross.  The night will also include burlesque performances from Foxx Von Tempt and Poppy Tart, as well as live music from the Hot Club of Flatbush, tarot readings and body painting.  Buy tickets here.

Thank you to Stephanie Berger for curating this issue of Poetry Crush.



I want to be where the smells are not industrial
when I lay my head on your lap for sleep
to overpower my knighted fantasies. Your internal organs
find me when I reach into your wet damp
and I know what heaven wishes it could be.
Eyes the color of sky and a heart as rabbitish as a soul
hopped up on how to coax the dark
from the hole it builds itself into.
It’s just that with all of the ways that I know you,
I want technology to tell me how else to know
what else else is and
what there is about you you haven’t revealed.
Give me a diagnosis, Godard or Djuna Barnes.
Jesus or the Seven Internet Sins.
Tell me about the ways to feel that haven’t
exposed themselves with nude release yet.
Crowd source my hive mind and be
a beautiful body-lessness. That’s the way the man
in the box deliberately disembodied his voice
to make me think against the grain of how
I’ve already thought you into the shape of thought.
In a spirit of formless hauntingness. That way,
I could have you in the fashion plastic fails:
by giving a shape that form fits me where I apply it.
A mirror of god molding me.
You are a cloud to impress, a tutu of genius light.
This disappeared, displaced light of night
is where armor claims
the most felt revolutions are intimate. I put you on.
I wear you skin deep. Waxy starlight,
in you I bear the translucent tales of film negatives.







Darn That Dream


Once, by the window of a small café, I stopped attempting to start a poem to watch you pass. In those few seconds I embroidered our life: sunny bungalow for two, gold dog, birch bed, matching parkas. Moments after you were gone I tumbled out of paradise, back to the cold rigors of a blank page. But tonight, in the balcony of an empty theatre, with a voice like dry wind through summer leaves, you whisper verses in my ear. On stage a man in a gown of green crinoline pulls one turtle after another from his big, black hat.



On the Street Where You Live


Sunday morning, Prospect Heights. On avenues of terraced brownstones, helicopters rain from ash in prodigal abundance. “Time,” I say on a step of your stoop, “is a dark curtain parting like hair from a pair of blue eyes.” “Soft,” you sigh, “is all but All to one who rolls through seasons like a wheel.” I kiss the white light of your neck; you pluck a seedpod from my shirt. Later, we should shop for hats in that weird boutique that smells like pine wax. But love, right now, as sure as shore larks in the eaves, let’s serenade life’s threshing floor with theories of recursive wind and the perishing of brick.






What is This Thing Called Love?


What is this tongue called passage? What is this wing called thought? In Nice is a coin called consciousness by which no dream is wholly remembered, in Vienna a river where truth is waltzed to collective nostalgia. Once, in Toledo, I hopped a train called accident wanting only to be whisked through gold blurs of wheat but was dragged instead past exposed pipe and acres of rust. What I would have done for a bird! Any bird, except that drab swallow landing on a block of cinder. What I would have done for a man to draw me in his arms and say, Take my heart, don’t throw it away, or some equally enchanting bosh, though there was only me asking the same old questions—What is this soup called story? What is this bead called faith?—and some tow-headed boy in back of the car strumming on a blue banjo without strings.



LAPSE by Carina Finn 


Imagine that the lamp is a lady
wearing a dress
she can be any kind of lady
and underneath the dress
is a petticoat. How much
exposure is appropriate in a film
in which the light
grows pinker then shuts
blonde meandering puddles brass?


At this point we accept that panic
is a comfort-machine
make meaning of cooling
bodies going on with huge holes
basic knowledge
Major American Museums.


Perhaps this hole clever fabrics
accruals, language limits
quivering in and out of a sad jazz
rep mortars full of humans with
hair that can’t be photographed,
terrified, miscreant, non-


The only thing missed after a long
drive west drippy mausoleums
carousel projects all dominant
unhappy then up from the roots
actual arches go archival it’s a
book like anything else can be
good to stick it in the ground wait
for another season.


CHAMBER MUSIC by Michael Klein

For some reason I’ll never know because you’re dead
and the answer is in the mind that floated above a classic face
you kissed me once, the way you’d kiss a girl
in front of a school.


I guess that summer burned some maleness out of me.
It wasn’t homosexual, really. I guess you needed
to acknowledge a look you took as beauty and the kiss
became a strangely punctuated thank-you: a time-frame.


Maybe it was an act about being in the street: dense
and loud with men mad at women; a late Saturday night – July
warm to the point nobody noticed. It didn’t matter. Along
with the kiss, I remember longer sections.


I remember drinking Hennessey and snorting speed on rooftops
signaling like the grey antenna all joy
into baffling space. I remember trying hard
not to be in love with you because you were straight


and probably needed to deliver life with a woman
into this city. It didn’t matter.
We ended night with each other anyway.
They turned like bruises into rivers of


darkness and I felt them themed with avoiding the kiss
you gave me the last time I saw you alive.
I remember its mango taste. And when I heard you were gone
I wanted more – the way we always do when life


seems to give up nothing but the next mindless death.
I wanted my hands on your back again: the long massage
in Marilyn Monroe’s old dressing room
where you lived off Central Park.


All comatose spring I was salvaged
by those hands on you and not by the hands of a steady lover
pulling me off bar stool after bar stool like a shirt
tangled in too much laundry. It doesn’t matter now.


When I heard from a fellow actor that yours was a motorcycle
spun wrong in Los Angeles, it was like hearing
news coming out of a radio that’s
too immediate to ever rationalize, the way I heard


Guyana and John Lennon – the sound of life
suddenly lowered in volume and the reception pulled away.
It felt like I was watching something freeze. And this awful
need arose to change the order of my life.


I think that I’ve had enough. But today,
it feels like we had as much as we were ever going to get
and I stopped drinking
and you’re dead from a loud, exterior fire.


And as I heard it crackle, mixed in with idle gossip
too many years later and after a night of no sleep
I couldn’t imagine you faltering on the approach
to that city without giving the world at least some laughter


miserably counterpointing a tenuous grip
on a burning motorcycle handle. And of course, I see you
more human now.
Human to the umpteenth power.


Human brought back
to a form that will not burn so finally, as
chamber music played loud
pours without rage, from a school.


SOME KIND OF ILLNESS by Connie Mae Oliver

A name that begins with J. I’m on the A train wedged in the bench. Crying and the ladies are all—what’s wrong, Spanish girl? What he do to you? Are you from Afghanistan?


My priest says I’ve got the shakes. He wakes me up to ask if I’m all right. Yes, why? Well you’re shaking. Some kind of illness I don’t really know. Papers fly around dirtily, to say it’s this or it’s that.

Emails are falling from the sky—I don’t want to answer them, roomfuls of dinner.


Cat regrets entering bathtub. Baby laughs at dog. Dog talks, dog says, “I love you” when prompted.


There are many ways to make a name. You can make so many names:


They struggle
to complete their passages; at a trespass they
are met by children–
—I shall not draw a horse for you!
I shall not!
Their horses are mechanistic and
they ask it both ways—break
the horse and start over.


The very idea
of an eternal
world comes from numbers
revealed not
to the senses
but rather to the illiterate
intellect of such
hypothetical sympathies—                        the end!


With hypothetical sympathy comes the end
of reading, it comes on horseback and is Napoleonic,
absent of artifice, you struggle
with your plotted questions
to understand Napoleon, whom the
children describe as a gardener
on a small island for the
rest of his life. Was he sad
or ashamed or anything?
No, they respond, he grew
squash and zucchini and tilled
the soil with a little rake,
like this! So I imagine you without fruits
in your stable, too, the way you tested the weight
of air. The way you said, “da club” to me, and
the way you said, “Aren’t you sleepy, now?”
You clenched the little red straw
in the corner of your mouth, “Aren’t you sleepy?”

Elvis Perkins

31 Mar


A moving song by Elvis Perkins who lost his mother in one of the 9/11 planes and lost his father, actor Anthony Perkins to AIDS.  I never get over this song.  It’s probably the song I’ve played the most in the past 12 months.  So why then,  a few nights ago, when Elvis Perkins himself came up to talk to the person I was talking to, did I just watch it like a movie and say nothing:  go home,  listen to Elvis Perkins and Beirut & write?  I don’t know.  I guess some crushes are like that.



while you were sleeping
the money died
machines were harmless and the earth sighed
through the wind, you slept sound
and gravity brought my love around
the ocean rose, sang about decay
while witches flew
and the mermaids stayed
full of dreams, you overslept
and keeping with quiet, through the walls i crept
i walked on tiptoe, sent darkness swirling
over all the kitchen in the early morning

i’ll never catch up to you
who sleeps so sound
my arms are useless
my heart beats too loud to go to sleep
my mind’s too proud to bow out

while you were sleeping
the time changed
all your things were rearranged
your vampire mirrors face to face
they saw forever out into space
and found you dreaming in black and white
while it rained in all the colors of the night

i watched the tvs
vanished to sea
can it be, my honey between you and me

so i waited for the riddled sky
to be solved again by sunrise
and i’ve made a death suit for life
for my father’s ill widowed wife
did you have that strangest dream before you woke
cos in your gown you had the butterfly stroke
did it escape you like some half told joke?
when you reached for your plume of smoke

and it’ll haunt you, my honey bee
anyone who is anyone has that same dream
were you falling
were you flying
and were you calling out
or were you dying
thank god you’re up now
let’s stay that way
else there’ll be no mornings
and no more days
cos when we’re dreaming
the babies grow
the sun shines
and the shadows flow
time flies
the phone rings
there is a silence
and everybody tries to sing


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