Tuesday, May 31, 2011

an interview


a magazine of many e-things

ISSN 1833-623X

Tom Beckett

An Interview with Kirsten Kaschock

Tom Beckett: Where did/does poetry begin for you?

Kirsten Kaschock: Where did it begin? Second grade, a haiku—the idea of compression combined with the idea of power. My haiku was hung up in the hallway beside my drawing of a willow tree, and the school counselor called me out of the room to tell me how deeply it had moved her. She was foreign—an adult—and my memory is memory and thus, inaccurate, but my memory tells me she was tearing up as she told me this. She had brassy hair clearly done up with large rollers and big, thick glasses that magnified her glassy eyes. This story continues to define my writing: my first poem gave me an intense face-to-face audience-experience with a heretofore stranger. The potency of that.

Where does it begin? Need. The need to rework experience with tools. I’ve learned two tools in my life fairly well, my body and my language. I’ve worked through all sorts of experiential knots with both. Living with others (my husband, my children) is also a working through. I wish sometimes I could just be, but then I don’t think I’d make as much. Probably if I were okay with just being, I wouldn’t mind that—but as it is, I’m not. My need to make is not shelve-able. I find it odd that the things I make are not concrete. Like maybe this is an accident. Like my choreography, and especially my poems, should actually be small carved blocks of would. (That typo is probably more accurate than its correction).

TB: To know one’s body and one’s language well strikes me as huge. And, in our culture anyway, rare. It’s a large part of what attracts me to your work—your ability to entwine these realms. Could you speak to how this works in terms of your practice?

KK: Experimenting with language and with movement is something children do until they are told to use those tools “more appropriately.” The disciplines of dance and writing as I learned them were about going deep enough into technique to earn that experimentation back. Later, I began to question if one needed to go through the rigidity to get to the freedom, but for me that path provided me with a sense of confidence as well as a needed attitude of surrender. Both. I know now I must be confident enough to surrender, to trust in unknowing.

Dance and writing have beautiful divergences, but retaining some of each while inside the other is my way to threaded-ness. So when I give a prosepoem circular or inverted phrasing, it is a formal device I’ve used in choreography. Even better are strategies that can’t be translated directly: to try to repeat a poetic phrase at different levels; to attempt a poetic line with a different facing; to attenuate the phrase in time. In dance, one might try to tighten-the-gestures, or to use the white space, or to converse, or to pun. Really, the crossovers are endless: form, content, approach, theme, philosophy. I don’t know if I write coherently about my desire to fuse these worlds.

TB: Tools and moods, beside having the commonality of double ohs, seem to me to be what we—as artists—don’t talk about enough. I really want to explore your sense of process. I get the sense, in reading your work, that motion and emotion exist on the same plane. I don’t know if this is a coherent observation, but it’s my excuse for something like a continuation of our conversation.

KK: Motion and emotion on the same plane—I like that. And the double oo (I have a list of double oo words that will eventually become parts of a poem). Making lists of words is part of my process. Insistent ideas are easier to express when I have a formal constraint—pressed through a narrower tube things flow more forcefully. Of course, I both create the tube and discard it if it proves unhelpful.

I like tasks. Games. So these small exercises (tools) I use to help me get into a state (mood) where what could be termed the content of my work is not so heavy, so molasses... I noticed in your aphoristic work, “Andswearving Fragmeants” in Otoliths, that short, almost-didactic statements seemed to send you flying forward into ideas that proceeded one-on-another’s heels. There is so much momentum in these numbered questions, answers, statements of belief. The form, in this case, not only allows but propels one into a contradiction of self—a way “to contain multitudes.” Of course, that’s just my take.

Form is not something I am precious about... it is the paces I put myself through to get beyond the formal. How to use words to try to break/get beyond language, to use movement to get beyond the body. By testing the specific limits of the media I try to find where those media are porous—transcendent...

TB: There’s a lot of stuff going on in your response, but I’m going to be a little reductive. On the one hand, you’re extolling the practical value of constraints—of creating, say, a constellation of vocabulary as a basis for establishing boundaries to react to/against. On the other hand, you’re trying to get beyond materials/media to something unknown, something beyond what you know. What I think you’ve described is the foundational dialectic of poetry writing—at least the kind of poetry writing I care about.

What makes you itch to write poetry? What gets you going?

KK: Frustration. Pain. I wish I could write out of joy, but usually when I’m joyful (I have brief spurts)—I don’t do much writing. Poetry is also a place where I bash heads. My own. Meaning: I find I disagree with myself often, and that I carry associative links around with me that bother, nay, obsess me. I sit down with these internal conundrums and try to play out a rhythm—multiple rhythms—hoping they will overlay into something I can live with. Right now, I am working on this connection that has been with me for a decade: domesticity and rectangles. I’ve written 26 poems so far about the shape of the rectangle (book, window, room, computer screen, Volvo, stage proscenium, bathtub, the family unit...) and how this elongated square relates to... women? the family? capitalism? I swear there is something there. I haven’t hit the root yet (another double oo—a favorite), but it’s lurking. I write also because when I stop writing for any length of time I am not myself. Writing accesses and coalesces thought in a way I am incapable of without it. I am a devotee. An addict. I don’t think I know any writers who do not suffer from this need. Are you free of it?

When I am not writing, I dance more. When I am not moving—my writing is more tortured. Balance escapes me. I am constantly making peace with my own asymmetry.

TB: I suffer too when I can’t write. I note in “Andswerving Fragmeants” that poetry is a form of substance abuse and that connections can’t be found often enough.

Domesticity and rectangles. Wrecked angles/angels? Is it a matter of exploring the ways in which our experience of the world is framed? The ways in which we are framed?

I love the way you create generative contexts to work from, the way you worry a line into revealing its rich associations. Your piece in the most recent Otoliths worked with the sentence “Time is a quality of movement.” Somehow I suspect you’re not yet done with that line of thought.

KK: Yes, framing. All art is incompletion. That is how art works for me—either by sculpting (a revealing by removal) or collage (revelation by juxtaposition of fragments). Creating something and saying “this is done” is an illusion and an act of violence, of isolating things/objects/ideas and pretending that they are whole, can stand on their own. I feel the same way about the concept of family in our culture. How family is used as a credo for greed rather than as an impetus for connection with a larger world. And yet I participate in both art and my family with fervor. I am a violent animal.

“Time is a quality of movement” is science (I am married to a scientist—an act of generative collage?). Meditating on this statement is yet another act of accretion—trying to think through its anti-intuitive ramifications on my life. On others’ lives. Physics is personal. As you wrote: “Lists and collage are my syntax and grammar. I come alive within active juxtapositions.” This is perhaps the fix. Finding the connections... how they light up when we do our work well... how the synapses crackle. You are right that I am not done with this phrase—I am in fact worrying it to death, as part of an attempt to braid my entire fragmentary life together: movement, motherhood, language.

TB: You have a novel coming out in a few months. What was its impetus?

KK: The impetus?—an art form that doesn’t exist: sleight. Sleight has no content (or at least none of which the creators nor performers are consciously aware). The art form is empty. There is no there there. Sleight is the setting, and in some ways also the main character. The novel is about the people who take part in such a thing, whose lives it is. It is about how everything they do, all their relationships, their identities—how all of it is colored and altered by something they can’t ever quite define or capture or understand.

It’s a tad autobiographical.

TB: I’m looking forward to reading it.

Do you see your writing as, in any sense, a social project? Are politics and/or philosophy important to you?

KK: Very important. I’m an unhappy capitalist. I think our democracy is failing, but I don’t know the remedy. I’ve read more pages of philosophy than poetry or fiction in the past three years. But I have a problem with philosophy, politics, and art— the creators of it do a hell of a lot of preaching to the choir. And nitpicking. And infighting.

My politics and philosophy provide of course a substrate for my work, but I try not to speak out of ideology. I’m not even sure what mine would be... transcendental-empathy maybe. I try not to be paralyzed by ideas. For example: any categorical word I know to be inaccurate at best (a box that bleeds), but I don’t want to fear using words. Break them a little bit, so that I can see the blood, smell it. But not shatter them beyond use, because I believe in communication. Imperfect though it is, any faith I have is in our ability to learn from one another and our world. (I just used the first person plural—daring, no?)

How could putting out ideas not be a social project? I do not want a boutique audience. I like engaging with people different than I am, who think differently than I do but also deeply and with love. Those people are not only poets, so I make an effort not to sequester myself inside my poetics.

TB: Who do you think of as your artistic forebears?

KK: Caveat: our ancestors do not always provide us with dominant traits but are inside us nonetheless. Some of mine are Rilke and Ponge, Basho and Bausch (Pina, a choreographer), Robyn Hitchcock, Marguerite Yourcenar, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, and Bill Knott. I have many other, current influences—but these are some of my longest standing associations, and they have marked me in the way family does.

TB: What, as an artist, worries you the most?

KK: Everything. Or, everything that worries me at all worries me as an artist. But I also find hope in art—art provides a skill set for re-invention when things go terribly curvy.

I worry sometimes that the art-I-love is invested in freedom-without-limit, in contagion and plague-states. Wanting to “make something happen” so badly it doesn’t matter what the something is. (This freedom seems akin to a new enlightenment-rationality—unquestioned in that way.) I worry about the ethics of artists, about my ethics.

I believe in mindful action, but I desire reaction. So I worry about contradiction, and being paralyzed by contradiction, and also, of course, I adore contradiction.
So I worry about madness, I guess—and the tyranny of sanity. And how to balance action with thought. And how to raise good people... and be one... everything.

TB: Thank you, Kirsten, for taking the time to do this interview.

Tom Beckett lives and works in Kent, Ohio.


Sunday, May 29, 2011


those of you who noticed and responded to my two recent posts (now deleted),

thank you!

I have found an editor to help me with that project.


Monday, May 23, 2011


from my COLLECTED SONNETS 1970-2010 (which like all my other books can be downloaded free via the link atop the sidebar here):



Military sculpture is
to sculpture as
military food is to food,
if there are

any sculptors or chefs
left who have not
been conscripted, since
military verse

is to verse as
military noon is
to noon, the hands
straight up in rhyme.

And music—
music of course is war.

Anybody who reads poetry can see the ubiquitous self-doubts poets evince regarding the validity/value of their art. Compare that to the smug self-satisfied attitudes exhibited by the advocates and practitioners of music. They take it for granted that music is the highest art, the universal art, the only art that transcends all borders and biases. They never question that given assumption. The arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable. They really believe Pater's dictum that all the other arts are inferior, that all the other arts "aspire towards the condition of music." But every military that ever marched out to murder rape and destroy was led by what art: were those armies fronted by poets extemporizing verse—by sculptors squeezing clay—by painters wielding brushes—actors posing soliloquies? No, the art that led those killers forth, the art whose urgent strident rhythms stirred and spurred their corresponding bloodlust, was the art to which they felt closest, the art that mirrored their evil egos. That's why they have always put music up there at the vanguard of their war-ranks, because not only is it the emblem, the fore-thrust insignia of their purpose, it is their purpose: it is the condition to which they aspire. But if music is what its hucksters continually sell it as, 'The Universal Language', what that means is that before the Babel Discontinuity there was no music. Music did not exist before Babel, and will cease to exist when a true universal language (and a true universal peace) returns in the form of digitaldata/pictovids exchanged instantaneously by androids cyborgs robots. Music will soon be as obsolete defunct extinct as humans are.


After I wrote the above, I was intriqued by its ending, and this short poem came about as a result:


Before the Babel Discontinuity
there was no music, only poetry—

when we return to that prior state
as androids cyborgs we shall hate

this falsity called "music"; solilovids
will provide our numbered heads

with much truer means of commune.
Attuned we'll be without a tune.


As I tweeted the other day:

Not until the last musician is strangled with the entrails of the last composer will we be free from Walter Pater.

But going back to Pater: think how very different our (contemporary) relation to music is from his, compared to his experience of it. How often would he have heard music?

I ask that literally: how often and under what conditions would he in his daily life have physically heard music, ie real music as opposed to any tune humming in his head?

I would guess to answer that question by saying : not very often: on special occasions, concerts, recitals, probably church bells more than anything else, a street musician perhaps, though it's hard to imagine Pater walking on streets where such creatures thrived . . .

Now compare that to our current experiencing of music, how it ubiquitously presses in on us relentlessly from every medium, you can't make a phonecall without being assailed by it, every store you go into blasts your ears with it, every street is boomboxed and car-stereoed to death with its intrusive noise. . . in many cities you can hardly find any public space not polluted by amplified "buskers"—

there is no escape from it.

It greases the gears of consumer capitalism as much as the oil our government is currently killing as many as it can to gain control of.

If Pater had to hearsuffer what the average USAer is deluged with on a daily basis, I doubt he would reverence music quite as highly as in his pre-massmedia'ed cloistered Oxford. . .

Anyway, my poem above (with its note) is in the mode of hyperbole, and not meant to be taken entirely unsatirically.

But I can't be the only poet in the last hundred years who has chafed at Pater, and has resented the fact that poetry is not ranked first among the arts.

And yes, I would say it again, the complacency and arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable. Poets are constantly questioning the value and the validity of poetry; do composers and conductors ever do that?

I have had no personal acquaintance with those in music—my view of their smug arrogant attitude is based on what I've read and heard them say in various media.

another sonnet on the subject:

Granted every poet "constantly aspires
towards the condition of music," that sphere
of perfection which Walter Pater declares
the other arts must humble themselves before:

so why shouldn't I kneel by the podium
and beg the conductor to leave her baton
propped upon my proselyte head like a sword
knighting me until I can hardly rise from

that ideal sill: one could have no grail beyond
that grace; could never long for that pated wand
to guide your own quest: its shadow bids us toward

the stead path still, sticking out over the brow
like some penile spitcurl: so why not die there
while maestro Mater makes his lowest bow?

"In music, then, rather than in poetry, is to be found the true type or measure of perfected art." —Pater.
Title: Trans(from poetry to music/from Pater to Mater)hendec(-asyllabics)ulous(ridic- of no-brow me to adumbrate the Great Pate).


Sunday, May 22, 2011

repost from January 13, 2007


Today's NYTimes reports a connection between the C.I.A. and The Paris Review. One of its founding editors has been revealed as a C.I.A. agent.

No word yet on how many of the other names which have appeared on its masthead over the years were also "undercover."

How many other of our most prestigious litmags were founded and funded by the C.I.A.?

Do their editorial decisions and directions come direct from Langley?

(I think this explains the rise of Elliptical poetry, don't you?)

Which literary journals are currently receiving support from the secret intelligence agencies of the the U.S. government?

I always suspected Rat Vomit Review had a hidden agenda.

Makes me wonder about one of our local mags here in Boston. Maybe that's why they named it The Nixon-Agnew Review.

If you've read anything at all about the U.S. Intelligence community, you know how heated their inter-agency rivalries have always been.

—So if the C.I.A. has its own private litmag, each of the others is going to want one too,

the NSA, the FBI, the DIA, the DEA et al,

and that's not even including Area 51.

They're all going to want a piece of the pie.

So who's running what? Any guesses?

Which acronymic clump of spies is behind that magazine that publishes all those "spiritual" poems?

Whose Black Budget is supporting that overspend journal of avantgarde non-absorptions?

Which evil group of faceless killers is sponsoring YOUR brilliant breakthrough verse?




Mallarme's Commandment:
"Everything that wishes to remain sacred must surround itself with mystery."
Poets must surround their work with an aura of obscurity.
A moat of mist.
Like the mouth of Avernus they must exude a miasma.
They must remain unapproachable, hidden amid the cloud of their strange verbiage.
Skulking there behind their verbal herb-hedge.
Here's how D. H. Lawrence describes the nameless Christ-figure in The Man Who Died:

"So he went his way, and was alone. But the way of the world was past belief, as he saw the strange entanglement of passions and circumstance and compulsion everywhere, but always the dread insomnia of compulsion. It was fear, the ultimate fear of death, that made men mad. So always he must move on, for if he stayed, his neighbours wound the strangling of their fear and bullying around him. There was nothing he could touch, for all, in a mad assertion of the ego, wanted to put a compulsion on him, and violate his intrinsic solitude. It was the mania of cities and societies and hosts, to lay a compulsion on a man, upon all men. For men and women alike were mad with the egoistic fear of their own nothingness. And he thought of his own mission, how he had tried to lay the compulsion of love on all men. And the old nausea came back on him. For there was no contact without a subtle attempt to inflict a compulsion. And already he had been compelled into death. The nausea of the old wound broke out afresh, and he looked again on the world with repulsion, dreading its mean contacts."


Given the world of "mean contacts,"
the mania of societies and hosts to compel a mass mindless allegiance,
is it any wonder poets recoil in self-isolation from that "mad assertion"?
Better the dreamstate of our semi-somnolent rhymes,
our hallucinatory lulls of glossolalia,
our REMpoems,
than that "dread insomnia" . . . .


Noli me tangere, unless you're a disciple:
didn't Mallarme say somewhere he would be content with a readership of 12?
(Every poet gets to be his own Judas, of course.)

brilliant enders


Jonathan Mayhew is currently trashing Charles Simic in a flashback rehash of the whole Simic/Creeley question.

I thought then and still think Simic has a good point about how much/how little, what quantity, of a poet's work will finally be distilled down to, his figure of 80 pages is close to the 90 I suggested was feasible in an earlier post here.

But don't take Simic's word for it, or mine (or Mayhew's)— take RJ's:

Randall Jarrell, in "The Third Book of Criticism," page 65:

"Stevens's poetry makes one understand how valuable it can be for a poet to write a great deal. Not too much of that great deal, ever, is good poetry; but out of quantity can come practice, naturalness, accustomed mastery, adaptations and elaborations and reversals of old ways, new ways, even—so that the poet can put into the poems, at the end of a lifetime, what the end of a lifetime brings him."

(Creeley to me has always seemed a very readable poet, comparatively easy to read. When I say a poet is readable I mean it as a compliment, as an admirable virtue—)

Speaking of writing a great deal: in this same book, Jarrell devotes 18 pages to The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens—

and an equal number of pages to the The Collected Poems of Robert Graves.

Is Jarrell right (and can one apply this to Creeley and every poet):

"Not too much of that great deal, ever, is good poetry . . . ."


One of my observations in that earlier post was that by restricting her output Bishop was closer to Larkin than to Lowell . . .

add the pages of their Collected Poems and get a total hundreds less than the latter's Collected . . .

Count the pages. But who's counting, and what counts—

Not too much of Lowell's Collected is good poetry: according to Jarrell, that is.


Speaking of Larkin, I came across this recently in Peter Levi's biog of Tennyson:

"Tennyson (like Auden) is one of the most brilliant beginners of poems, as Larkin is one of the most brilliant enders . . . ."


Monday, May 16, 2011

any suggestions for my demise?

I promise to try to make a splash when I die,

to help increase the value of your knottart—

I'll jump off the Weldon Kees Memorial Bridge, or something . . .


Friday, May 13, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If anyone reading this has followed my posts on respectively my poetry blog and my art blog,

they may have noticed a decrease in the former and an increase in the latter.

I currently devote almost no time to poetry, and the meager creative energies I still have, sapped as they are with age, are spent on my sputtering artwork . . .

As I've pointed out many times on this blog and perhaps elsewhere, it has become more and more clear to me that my poetry is and has for the most part always been a failure—

I wish it were otherwise. I wish my poems were in the anthologies, but they aren't. Go look at the walls of Contemporary American Poetry anthologies—there have been hundreds of them published during the 40 or so years of my active career as a poet, and while I was fortunate to appear in a few anthols in the late 1960s/early 1970s, as time has passed my time has passed—you won't find my work in hardly any of the thousand relevant anthologies.

Maybe "thousand" is hyberbole. But hundreds isn't. It would be interesting to see a complete bibliography of anthologies published in the past half-century which include poetry by contemporaneous USA poets.

In any case, I don't think I will write any more poems. The law of diminishing returns, old age, the loss of any valid hope, the failures that pile up and crush the soul— I can't go on trying to write poetry which no one wants, which no one (with the exception of a few scattered delusionals) respects.

And as for my "artworks", their success rate is bound to be even less than that of my verse. But since I'm not trying to sell them, because I give them away free, their acceptance/rejection will hopefully never become the inhibiting and hurtful issue it was for me in poetry.


Monday, May 9, 2011


Thanks to Kyle Minor for hosting a "Bill Knott week" last week on HMTL Giant blog—

and thanks to the contributors who took the time to write something for it—

I wish they had concentrated more on the poetry itself and less on the ways I have packaged and presented it to the public over the years,

but I'm grateful for any notice of my self-publications,

and hopeful that the attention drawn to those books will encourage a few more readers to give them a look.

And while I'm considering myself, let me boast a bit about my work:

Whatever their merit may ultimately be reckoned at, the 400-plus pages of my COLLECTED SONNETS 1970-2010 show an sustained engagement with and serious commitment to this form which is (I think) unique among contemporary USA poets.

I think I am (correct me if I'm wrong) the only living USA poet to have published a separate volume of their own political verse: SELECTED POLITICAL POEMS 1965-2010.

My collection of short poems—ALL MY THOUGHTS ARE THE SAME: COLLECTED SHORT POEMS 1960-2010—: I ask you, has any living USA poet published a similar volume? The most recent one before mine which I'm aware of is The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons (1990)—but other than that?

Has any poet other than myself put out a selection of their seasonal poems? A SALT OF SEASONS: WINTER SPRING SUMMER FALL POEMS. Which like all my books of poetry can be downloaded free via a link atop the sidebar of this and my other two blogs—

My POEMS FOR DEATH—have any of my contemporaries published a selection of
their poems about death? Not to my knowledge. Again, my book is unique.

And: my SELECTED SYLLABIC VERSE— where are the similar volumes by other living USA poets? How many of them have published a selection of their syllabic verse?

How many poets have put together a selection like my POEMS FROM CHILDHOOD?

What about my (ACTING) POEMS: "Poems about acting—about performers of whatever sort—movies, TV, theater, et al. Poems in which an act of public (or private) performance (real or imagined) is central."


And my book of HOMAGES—?


I think my pride of book publications (see the complete list via the link atop sidebar)

is unique and unparalleled in contemporary USA poetry.

No other poet is putting out volumes comparable to mine.

Whatever their quality, whatever their provenance, whatever the defects of their packaging and presentation, whatever their shortcomings,

they are distinctive.

AND they are downloadable free through every modem in the world,

available at no cost to any reader who wants to have them:

help yourself.

With my thanks and best wishes.


Friday, May 6, 2011

revealed truths versus involved terms

from The Aeneid, Book 6, lines (approx) 100-106:

Robert Fitzgerald's trans:

............. These were the sentences
In which the Sibyl of Cumae from her shrine
Sang out her riddles, echoing in the cave,
Dark sayings muffling truths, the way Apollo
Pulled her up raging, or else whipped her on,
Digging the spurs beneath her breast. . . .

John Dryden's version:

Thus, from the dark recess, the Sibyl spoke,
And the resisting air the thunder broke;
The cave rebellow'd, and the temple shook.
Th'ambiguous god, who rul'd her lab'ring breast,
In these mysterious words his mind express'd;
Some truths reveal'd, in terms involv'd the rest.


Apollo presumedly expresses his mind as he wishes,
being a god. When he wants to speak truths, he does,
and when he wants to speak what,—mysteries? dark sayings?
ambiguities?—when he wants to speak the latter, he
does that too: presumably he knows the difference between
"truths" and "terms" and when he speaks he is consciously
choosing to use one or the either, given his olympian
powers. . .

Ein Gott vermaggs. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier? (Rilke)

A god can do it. But how, tell me, shall
a man follow him through the stringent lyre?

Involved in terms, wrung in the contorted serpent
ingenuities of his own terms, how can the poet speak
truths when truths and terms seem so irreconcilable,
and how would he even know when and where and with
what power his lab'ring breast was ruled, if his terms
could express truths, assuming he even wanted them to. . . .


Thursday, May 5, 2011

the craft

It's funny how seldom those who ostensibly undertake to write about my poetry, actually do it—

instead they often fixate on absurd secondary matters like the "presentation" of my books, or data re publication formats and irrelevancies like that—really, what's the point of swotting around such trivial minutiae. I appreciate all honest straightforward appraisals of my work, but if commentators focus on side issues other than the merit (or lack of merit) of the poems themselves, I'm insulted.

I can't force anyone to take my poetry seriously, and if they want to indulge in gossip superfluous crap I can't stop them—

But in case anyone is interested in my verse itself, and would like to see a critique which directly and thoughtfully addresses some of it,

I recommend the new book by Stephen Dobyns, Next Word, Better Word / The craft of writing poetry

in which he offers close detailed readings of three of my sonnets.

(But even if I was never mentioned at all in the Dobyns book, I would still recommend it—it is a first-rate handbook/guide to poetic craft, and everyone involved in writing (and reading) poetry would benefit from it.)


Monday, May 2, 2011


reprint from my old blog: 08/25/08

Ashbery's Visit to Pahlevi, 1972 (after James Wright's "Eisenhower's Visit to Franco, 1958")

The American poet must kiss ass
The forces of darkness.
He has flown here first-class
And come down in the oil fields
Of Iran.

Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi stands in a shining circle of CIA.
His wallet opens in welcome.
He promises all USA cars
Can gas up forever now
And live like Beatniks "on the road."

His police fill the prisons
With dissidents. Ashbery follows
His fellow celebrants to the banquet
Of the Avantgarde Arts Fest
Where Her Royal Empress Queen Farah
Gilds to their honor.

Smiles glitter in Shiraz.
Ashbery has touched hands with John Cage, embracing
For the Cultural Attache's report.

Clean new tankers from America
Glide along gantries now.
Their prows shine in the docklights
And their hulls swallow all
Of Iran.


As everybody knows, and some knew at the time, Pavlevi's reign was a CIA op from the start——

they ran the coup which put him into power,

they trained the gestapo forces he wielded to keep his people in terror and suppression——

and I assume they advised him that putting some of his swindled billions into an annual "Avantgarde" Arts festival would pay off as a publicity stunt

to help counteract international outrage and protest against his police state regime——

I assume the Avantgarde artists invited and paid handsome sums to attend this yearly farce-stival

were vetted and chosen by the CIA's Cultural Committee——

carefully selected for their a-political esthetics——

See this for more about the 1972 gathering: http://thefaleslibrary.blogspot.com/2011/04/downtown-arts-in-pre-revolution-iran.html