To Grieve

Every day I'd stop
at a corner-joint,
buy water ice, take
it with me down St.
Marks Place
, guitar
slung over shoulder,
nose-ringed, blonde,
ripped shirt, jeans.
Washington Square
would be the place
to kill time before
the studio— jams,
joints in dim alleys.
Yet when I'd scan
the horizon, I saw two
buildings a lot less
securely affixed then
they seemed. In my
stoned haze, I was
convinced of a kind
of permanence in them.
On bus-rides in, they
told me a story that
I wanted to believe.
New York, 2015,
is to grieve. 

That Bruce Nauman character... ('09)

When Bruce Nauman was working under the direction of Leo Castelli in the late 1960s, Castelli bequeathed to him some video equipment. Nauman used the equipment to make short, pointed films like Art Make-Up. As minimal and potentially arid as the film is (it consists of Nauman smearing white and black paint over his naked body), the ideas it presents raise questions that seem to be products of a fecund mind. Who can say what art is? Is creating art as artificial (and potentially perverse) as smearing paint all over one's body? Who is capable of "making up" art? Perhaps most importantly, the video makes clear with great lucidity the artist's dilemma: having to wake up every day and "make up art" all over again. This is relevant to those of us who work (one way or another) on a daily basis. The Sisyphean nature of the project (call it Project Art Make-Up) is a major theme (often implicitly, sometimes explicitly) in Beckett, as in Nauman, and I tie it in (on a routine level) to how it feels to wake up in the morning, and not know exactly what you want to do. Of course, often I wake up and know exactly what I have to do, but even then I have a hard time coping if I can't create something on a daily basis. If Art is the paint I smear myself with, then I am an obsessive-compulsive smear-fiend. Yet there is always a sense of emptiness, of the incomplete, of loose ends and un-mined territories. It is exciting and torturous in equal measure. And Nauman's short film exteriorizes the whole dilemma.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has another interesting Nauman piece. Nauman, early in his career, often worked with neon lights (as did Dan Flavin.) Nauman's neon, that hangs in the Modern Art wing of the PMA, is a circular neon sculpture that reads the true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths. I first encountered this piece in my early 20s (largely through Matthew Collings book It Hurts, and then I realized by accident that it was actually situated in Philly), and I saw in it a "marijuana consciousness of absurdity." There's a good chance that this was a projection; I was smoking a lot of pot at the time and the neon seemed to evince a kind of stoner wisdom (most easily appreciated when one happens to be stoned.) As I've grown older, the neon hits me with a mystery on several levels. The first level to clear up: how much of irony is there in the piece? Nauman is not a naive man and not a naive artist; he works with questions of absurdity, alienation, and anger. Given the piece's place in the context of Nauman's oeuvre, it seems fair to wonder if the piece is meant to be taken straight or not (which leads us, unfortunately, straight into the very Beckett-ian abyss of whether or not "artist intentionality" is relevant or not, but whether it is or not, one can't help but wonder, and that "can't help" says something about our humanity.) Let's say we do take it straight: then we have to decide whether we agree with Nauman or not. Does the true artist help the world by revealing mystic truths? First, we need to know what a "true artist" is or is not. Of course, we don't. It's an individual decision that each of us has to make. Then, we need to decide whether true artists reveal mystic truths. Not all of us even believe in mysticism (I do, but that's beside the point.) In one phrase, we get "true" and "truths," but the context makes the artist's sincerity doubtful. So you see, this piece, as glowingly serene as it is, actually presents a quandary that is fathomless, dark, and troubling. Yet, to get on the Warhol level: it's a really nice-looking piece, and fun to look at. You could pass it without thinking twice, or say "Hey, cool," or (as I once did) look forward to more inebriation and feeling the "vibe."

Now, I am willing to admit that Nauman's paint is my paint and (not to be kinky) Nauman's naked body is my naked body. I am consumed by my art while knowing that art is, possibly, artificial. Yet if you want to do it right (assuming there is a "right"), you have to be in it all the way (cover your whole body with the paint.) Nauman loves puns: we see the pun between make up (as in create) and make-up (women's cosmetics), and more than a pun, this is a metaphor/ implied comparison. Works of art enhance appearances, just like cosmetics; put a gloss or shiny finish on reality, just like cosmetics; hide the real nature of things, mislead, distort, and potentially disorient, just like cosmetics. Yet Nauman uses cosmetics to get beyond cosmetics; in a "meta" way, his "make-up" is a demystification of the "making up" process. He shows us the illusion being made, so that there is no illusion. Or, the process of the illusion being made demonstrates to us that everything, on some level, is an illusion. What is the poetry which does the same thing? One of the first things I published was an ekphrastic rendering of Nauman's whole ethos. It was in a UK journal called Great Works, which in and of itself could be a Nauman-ic pun. Anyway, for me the foundation of Nauman's relevance is just this: truth. Human truth, human realities, human attempts to make sense of a meaningless/confounding world. Good art is just this, and Nauman knew it and expressed it just as Beckett did. One man, one vision, one room. A snake, perhaps, eating its own tail; or just the feeling of having to make life up all the time.

Hunting for Loren ('06)

I imagine when you think
of me, it's huddled over
a toilet bowl, puking my
guts out. You called it "character
building." We didn't fuck
that night, but you held
me. There was something
missing- a "felt" quality
in your hands on my back
(paws, I called them, your
thick fingers), a not-to-be
sucked tilt to your breasts,
an awful blue limpness in
your thighs. I knew that
all of you wasn't formed in
me; nothing changed, you
stayed somehow out of
reach. Now, I have no clues,
no trail to follow. It's a
hunt through the astral plane,
with lonely, evanescent brains.

Two Apparition Poems: 1301/1477


This Dada shaman ready-made:
to give ambulance drivers
a good mind-fucking, my 911
call, which was just a prank, &
my eyes were so black I could
kill anyone in any unit I might
enter, so that’s what I did, sashayed
right past, then made a bloke
walk into a car, you should’ve
seen his mug, and took the longest
route possible to buy Pall Malls,
which I smoked with great
savior faire, spirits in cahoots.


Terribly open spaces I can
only take with eyes closed,
“wedding of animal brides,”
depth in pits of guts, fists that
are phalluses, bliss callous to
repercussions— it’s just that
you goaded me to be here,
pushed buttons I didn’t know
I had, now ships have sailed to ports
manned by ghosts, prows
point down, tackle aborts—

Open Library: Equations '15 (Scribd)

Open Library: Apparition Poems '15 (Scribd)

Critical Work : Links

“Disturb the Universe: The Collected Essays of Adam Fieled” in PDF form locked in on Internet Archive.

“Wordsworth @ McDonald’s” in Jacket Magazine 28.

Review of Jordan Stempleman’s “Facings” in Jacket Magazine 35.

Peter Philpott's evaluation of the American avant-garde poetry scene from the UK, with block-quotes and feature-space for me and others.

Peter Philpott's catalogue of journals, presses, and forums for international avant-garde poetry, including a brief write-up on PFS Post and Stoning the Devil.

Tears in the Fence #s 47 and 49, which contain four "Waxing Hot" dialogues (with Steve Halle, Amy King, Barry Schwabsky, and Robert Archambeau), can be purchased here:

“Century XX after Four Quartets” in The Argotist Online.

“On the Necessity of Bad Reviews” in The Argotist Online.

“The Conspiracy against Poems” in The Argotist Online.

“The Decay of Spirituality in Poetry” in Word For/ Word #17:

My "Waxing Hot" dialogue with Gabriel Gudding from PFS Post linked on Gudding's Wikipedia page:

My review of Karen Volkman's nomina from Stoning the Devil linked on Volkman's Wikipedia page:

“Anything with an Edge: Rethinking Post-Avant” on Stoning the Devil:

“Post-Avant: A Meta-Narrative” on Internet Archive:

“Stress Fractures” (print, containing “Post-Avant: A Meta-Narrative”) for sale in the UK:

Charlotte Newman’s review of “Stress Fractures” in Horizon Magazine:

“Stress Fractures” for sale in the US:

David Kennedy’s review of “Stress Fractures” in Stride Magazine:

"On the Possibilities of Multi-Media Readings" in Otoliths:

“Contextualists and Dissidents: Talking Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons” in Cordite Poetry Review.

“Contextualists and Dissidents” reprinted on Michael Blackburn’s blog:

“Composite Ideologies” in The Argotist Online.

Interview with me by Jeffrey Side in The Argotist Online about online publishing.

“Benjamin’s Desktop: Unpacking the Phenomenon of Literature Online” on Internet Archive:

Vanessa Vaile's repository page for "Benjamin's Desktop..." on the poets and writers picnic blog:

“Twenty-First Century Poetry and Poetics” on Internet Archive:

“Loving the Alien” in Word For/ Word #9:

“Pleasures of the Post-Avant Text” in Word For/ Word #11:

“Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Abstract Morality in Post-Avant Poetry” in Cordite Poetry Review.

“Twenty-First Century Poetry and Poetics” originally appeared in print in Poetry Salzburg Review #18.

Pandora : National Library of Australia : Jacket Magazine

This NLA Apparition Poems archive page from Jacket Magazine 40, is held under the aegis of Pandora, as part of the Australian National Library's online archiving program. Thanks again to NLA and to Jacket.

British Library : Wayback Machine : Great Works

The British Library Wayback Machine also has covered the entirety of Peter Philpott's Great Works, including these Apparition Poems. Thanks again to Peter Philpott and BL.