Archive for July, 2010


Redactions Interview

DuotropeI just did a simple 12-question interview with Duotrope, my second favorite website. They asked me as the editor questions about the journal and our aesthetics. Pretty basic stuff.

You can read the interview here:


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day thirty

It’s been too hot to drink wine, especially to drink and discuss it. I even had to put a few bottles of red wine in the fridge to cool them down, but that made the wines too tart. So today is more bearable for wine drinking. However, today one of my full-length poetry manuscripts got rejected again. It’s been rejected at least 38 times in all of its manifestations, but this rejection was special. I sent out my manuscript at exactly 8:00 p.m. yesterday, and I received the rejection today at 2:55 p.m. That’s 18 hours and 55 minutes from submission to rejection. Crazy.

So now I’m having a contest. I’ve asked people, and now you, to read my manuscript and to write the most scathing review possible. The winning review will be posted here. So, if you want a copy let me know in the comments or email me, and I’ll send you a copy. Reviews need to be in by September 15.

Cupcake Vineyards Petite Sirah 2007To celebrate my 503rd rejection, I will drink Cupcake Vineyards Petite Sirah 2007. I have been hearing good things about Cupcake, so here’s hoping what I heard is right.

By the way, “Petites are anything but petite – they tend to be big, strong, muscular, and, well, purple” (Lisa Shea,

The Cupcake Vineyards Petite Sirah 2007 has a dark, dark purple color with a thin, three-layered meniscus: dark purple on the bottom, a purple-pink in the middle, and clear on top. That’s interesting. Maybe it is cupcake! You know, the cupcake, the filling, and the icing. Mmm. Mm.

On the nose I pick up leather, dark berries, blue berries, cherries really deep in, earthiness, and oak. My girlfriend also picks up crayons. This should be fun.

It has a slightly bitter finish, but that could be because it’s still a little warm in the apartment. In fact, a half hour later, it has dissipated quite a bit.

It tastes thinner than it looks, but it’s not thin. It has a medium-big body. If I were to guess, I’d say this wine came from Australia, but it comes from the Central Coast of California.

Hostess CupcakeIt’s fairly mild in flavors and is smooth. It’s not that exciting to me except for what tastes like the melted chocolate frosting on a Hostess cupcake.

For $8, I’d get it again . . . mmm, maybe. Or maybe I should let it go another year.  Maybe that’s what it needs. Another. See ya soon, Cupcake.//


The Thought-Farts in Rae Armantrout’s Versed and Elliptical Poetry’s Velvet Rope

A discussion began with a few of my friends on Facebook on Wednesday. It started because of these two PBS Newshour interviews: the interview with Rae Armantrout on the PBS Newshour and the interview with Benjamin Saenz. It’s the first interview I’m concerned with.

Rae Armantrout's VersedBut first an introduction. Here’s is the opening sentence I was going to use for an earlier version of a book review about Rae Armantrout’s Versed:

Each year there are five books every poet should read: The Pushcart Prize, The Best American Poetry, the winner of The National Book Award, the winner of The Pulitzer Prize, and your friends’ books if any of them release a book.

I ordered Rae Armantrout’s Versed about 15 minutes after it was announced as the Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry. Two months later the book arrived. That’s a good sign because it means the publisher sold out and had to print a whole bunch more. That means people are reading poetry, and that is always good. Always. However, books like Versed are a reason why people shy away from poetry.

Poetry as AlgebraYes, all of us Americans were all taught the wrong way to read a poem. It’s not an algebra equation – Symbol X plus symbol Y equals meaning Z. Nope. Poetry is an experience and the poem is a shared experience between writer and reader. This experience can be shared by way of a lyrical poem, a narrative poem, or a poem of dialogue or conversation. Conversation? Conversation with who?

Stephen Burt coined the term “Elliptical poems” in his review of Susan Wheeler’s Smokes. You can read the review here: Most of what he has to say about Ellipticism occurs in the first few paragraphs and the last paragraph.

When I define Elliptical poetry, I use the word “conversation.” An Elliptical poem is like a conversation the poet is having with her/himself or with a few other people, but you, the reader, are only allowed to hear a few random fragments from that conversation.

As mentioned in other posts, good poetry has leaps. A good conversation also has leaps. The difference is that a poem has a larger audience, so the leap must be understood, felt, or intuited by that larger audience.

Velvet Rope with BouncersWith Elliptical poetry, as mentioned, the conversation is with fewer people, and only those in the know can fill in the leaps. They are behind the poem’s velvet rope, but us readers on the other side of the rope feel left out. Some of us so desperately want to get in we’ll do anything to or for the bouncer guarding the rope. Others will realize, this is bullshit, and find a better bar and have conversations, play darts, or shoot pool – you know, do something real. Do something of experience.

Rae Armantrout also makes a definition for Elliptical poetry that I like:

Many of my poems – not all of them – but many of them are written in separate sections that are divided perhaps by numbers or perhaps by asterisks, and they are separate moments or separate thoughts that are juxtaposed, and I’m interested in the juxtapositions and the kind of friction that bringing in material from diverse situations or disparate realms can create.


This has the same problems, or can and does in Versed, as the Elliptical poets with their velvet rope.

In Joan Houlihan’s interview with Paul Lake, Only Connect: A Conversation With Paul Lake, Lake directly gets to the problem with Elliptical poetry:

Reading an Elliptical poem provides an experience similar to channel-surfing, where a scene from a classic movie is suddenly juxtaposed to a cartoon, then a crime drama, a deodorant commercial, a rap video, a sixties sitcom. “That’s exactly right,” the argument runs; “that’s simply postmodern reality, accurately rendered.” Well, in fact, it’s not: it’s only the reality of channel-surfing rendered. When we as living human animals make love, engage in conversation with friends, talk to our doctor, work at our job, watch our children compete in a race, we move to completely different rhythms, with real narrative flow and emotional peaks and valleys, beginnings and endings, with real consequences, as when your doctor tells you that you have a terrible disease or a lover tells you he or she still loves you at the end of a difficult period.


Rae Armantrout’s poems in Versed often do exactly what Lake says Elliptical poems do. The poems makes juxtapositions that can only be made sense of by a few people – those who watched the channel surfing. Or to the point,  those behind the rope.

So now I have to throw out a disclaimer. I only read half of Versed. I gave up for three reasons. One, I felt left out. There was no experience there for me to be involved in. I wasn’t in the in. I wasn’t allowed behind the rope. For instance:

A Resemblance

As a word is
mostly connotation,

matter is mostly


(The same loneliness
that separates me

from what I call the
“the world.”)


Quiet, ragged
skirt of dust

encircling a ceramic



“Are you happy now?”


Would I like
a vicarious happiness?


Though I suspect
yours of being defective,


I’d like to rewrite some of those lines: The same exclusion / that separates me // from what Ellipticists call / “the poem.”

Two, some of the poems were just plain bad. They weren’t paying attention to language. The opening poem, which tends to be one of the strongest poems in a book, is just bad. Like open-mic bad. Like a sophomore in college writing the poem five minutes before he has to read at open-mic bad. Here’s the opening poem:


Click here to vote
on who’s ripe
for a makeover

or takeover

in this series pilot.

Votes are registered
at the server
and sent back

as results.

Click here to transform

into digestion.

From this point on,
it’s a lattice
of ends disguised as means:

the strangler fig,

the anteater.

I’ve developed the ability
to revise
what I’m waiting for

so that letter
becomes dinner

while the contrapuntal
of the Chinese elm leaves


That poem is filled with ennui. It’s filled with ennui because she’s not paying attention to language. It’s like the writing of a sophomore college student trying to be clever, but the poem is not clever and it’s exclusive.

And then there is reason three – the reason the Pulitzer Prize committee gave for awarding Versed with the prize. They said:

[Versed is] a book striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading.

Velvet Rope“Thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading”?! That’s what every poem does. That’s what every comedy routine does. That’s what every piece of art does and every piece of music. How is that unique? What they meant to say was that it is clever and sometimes it takes a while to calculate and get at the poem’s meaning, which leads me back to an earlier point about poetry as algebra. Or, it means there are thought-bombs, because after you get behind the velvet rope at last call and are finally able to read the poems, you realize these poems are just thoughts that bombed.

George Carlin's Brain DroppingsWhat we need are poems that make sense to everybody on the surface-level first, the experiential level, and then the thought-bombs, the epiphanies, the shared experiences, and the common understandings will naturally come. The poems in Versed, however, are nothing more than “clever” thought-farts, and they are only clever to those behind the velvet rope. I like George Carlin’s Brain Droppings much more.

As Alissa Valles says in “Post-Homage”:

I admire the “startling new voice”
and the “linguistic tour-de-force”
but how about something to read before
an operation?
How about a few lines to engrave on a ring or a stone?


I can’t believe I just spent this much time writing about bad poetry. I think it’s wasteful time to spend so much time with bad poems. William Carlos Williams once said, “If you don’t like a poem, move on. There are plenty of other good poems to read.” But in writing about Versed and its collection of thought-farts, I realized Burt may not approve of Elliptical poetry.

In Burt’s book review of Smokes, he says Elliptical poets “are sardonic, angered, defensively difficult, or desperate; they want to entertain as thoroughly as, but not to resemble, television” and “Wheeler imagines readers who have to be won over, with games and codes, and hints and tricks, when they visit the private, satellite-dish-threatened, media-savvy house of her psyche. I wonder what it’s like after the guests have gone home?” (, I wonder if Burt actually believed in Elliptical poetry. I mean, does television thoroughly entertain? That’s a slight at Elliptical poetry. And so is “I wonder what it’s like after the guests have gone home?” I don’t know Burt’s whole history behind Ellipticism, but those two quotes make me think he wasn’t for it.

By the way, I wonder what will happen to Armantrout’s poems after the judges go home?

I wish instead the judges and Burt had pushed for “The New Thing” poems. Those look interesting. I’m going to have to investigate that and Burt’s newest book: Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (Graywolf Press, 2009).

In the two Burt essays I’ve read, I like the way he thinks. However, I don’t like the one decision he made for the Pulitzer Prize winning book.

Versed. It should be a verb. For example, after you have finished reading a bad collection of poems, Ashton Kutcher can come out and say, “You’ve been Versed!”

Versedit’s just more thought-farts from another “clever” Elliptical poet with little imagination and much exclusiveness.//


2014 World Cup Predictions

Around this time in 2006, I predicted Spain would make it to the semis, and they did. Now it’s 2010, so I’ll make predictions for the 2014 World Cup.

First, France and Italy will advance past the first stage, and America should make it to the elite eight, maybe. America is a weird and unpredictable team. They do well in the regular season of qualifiers, but fall apart in World Cup play. Though this time the refs led to some of the downfall.

Brasil, as the home team, will definitely make it to the semis. They will have the drums in the crowd beating out the rhythm they need to play good ball. The reason they didn’t make it this year is because the vuvuzelas drowned out the drums. The Brazilians had no rhythm against the Netherlands, plus they got a little ego after that first goal. But it was really the vuvuzelas to blame for the loss.

Ghana should also make it to the semis. They’ll recover after that heart-breaking loss to Uruguay, who will lose today to the Netherlands. Ghana is so talented and so young, they will only get better. I love Ghana. I loved them after their first game.

Germany, who will beat Spain tomorrow, will be in the semis in 2014, too. Germany’s always in the semis, so that’s safe. Spain could be even better if they open up the game some more.

Who else is of interest. The Ivory Coast played good ball and will advance to the second round in 2014. I like how Japan played. They should repeat what they did this year in 2010. Spain and Portugal should be good again. Uruguay won’t don’t as well unless they get a scorer. They’ve a great defense, but they need a striker. I still like Chile to do something, too.

So for the 2014 World Cup semis it will be Brasil, Germany, Ghana, and an unknown.//


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day twenty-nine

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillion Villages 2008I chilled this bottle of M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2008, which some may say is a sin, but I’ll tell what the real sin is – 91 degrees with 83% humidity. In this  third-floor loft apartment with 14 foot ceiling and no air conditioning, except in the bedroom, man, it’s sinful. So I’m chilling the wine. Thank you.

Well, it smells good cold. It kinda has that smell that all Finger Lakes wines have. I never know what that smell is. Tart raspberries? Eh. But this French wine has it. It also has cherries, plums, and flowers. Lavender?

By the way this is a Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan blend. Hm. I’ve had this before. Yes, I just checked. I wrote about it on May 26. I hate when I do that. Let’s see if tastes the same chilled. I mean, afterall, I picked up that Finger Lakes winery smell that I didn’t notice before.

It’s kinda tart. I think the refrigeration affected it. It’s still got the plums and cherries, but it has a tart finish.

Okay. I learned a lesson. Chilling the wine does affect it quite noticeably, but it’s still good. And In a little while, like in 10 minutes in this weather, it’ll be at a good temperature. When that happens, I’m sure it will be wonderful. After all, it was in The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list of 2009.

Coming soon. Predictions for the 2014 World Cup.



in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day twenty-eight

Marquis Philips Sarah's Blend 2007It’s July 4th, and I’m about to go on the roof to watch other towns’ fireworks. That’s right. Other towns’. As in firework displays from multiple towns. Last year at this time, my girlfriend and I were able to witness firework displays from 17 towns except Brockport’s. Last night, we watched from the roof and saw Brockport’s and about four other towns. Tonight I expect we will see a dozen and maybe Rochester’s, too, which is celebrating its 175th birthday. So soon I will be on the roof drinking Marquis Philips Sarah’s Blend 2007.

I’ve had this before, maybe not the 2007, but I’ve had it, and it was wonderful and juicy. So here’s hoping the country’s and Rochester’s birthday can be celebrated, in part, with a juicy wine.

Sarah’s Blend is 62% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. It’s a strong Cab Franc.

It smells fruity and juicy with plums and maybe some vanilla and caramel.

It has a slightly sour finish, but that may be the peanuts I just had, which wasn’t a wise move. The body is almost perfect for a juicy wine, but it’s slightly too thin. Nothing at all to complain about, and I like it.

The peanut taste is gone now after a few sips. The sourness is gone. There is a little dryness and pepper in the finish.

This is a really good wine filled with currants and over ripe plums and dark cherries and a subtle hint of almost ripe strawberries.

It’s yummy and jammy. It’s dry and jammy joy.//


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day twenty-seven

Tres Ojos Old Vines GarnachaMy two favorite teams are playing tomorrow in the World Cup, Brasil and Ghana. Sigh. I have to work. I’ll try to have it on in the background. But that’s tomorrow, and today is Thursday, and it feels like it has been Thursday all this week and all last week.

In celebration of Friday being tomorrow, the long Fourth-of-July weekend ahead, and as an early toast to Brasil and Ghana winning, I will drink the Tres Ojos Old Vines Garnacha 2007 from Calatayud, Spain. (I hope Ghana wins. It’ll be tough because Uruguay has a solid defense.)

Here’s a little history about the estate:

Tres Ojos is made at the Bodega San Gregorio, a cave co-op founded in 1965 that counts 160 members. The president is Gregorio Abad Gil and the vice president is Jose Maria Hernandez. They sell wine to nine different countries. The winery is located in the Ribota River Valley, some 15 kilometers north of the city of Calatayud. Tres Ojos hails from the D.O. Calatayud, located in Aragon, a province unparalleled in Spain by its variety of landscapes (lush river valleys, mountainsides, and semi-desert areas.)  The name Calatayud derives from a Moorish governor named Ayud who built a castle (qalat) at the confluence of the Jalon and Jiloca rivers (qalat Ayud.)  There has been thriving population here as far back as Roman times when the old city of Bilbilis was used as an important staging-post for the Roman legions on their way north to Gaul. (For more information about Tres Ojos, see:
Tres Ojos Vineyard

Tres Ojos Vineyard

How about that? A cave! Plus, the grapes grow in a semi-desert area. I know there’s a need for the grapes to work and struggle, but a semi-desert? These grapes are gonna be like a suffering artist who, I hope, produces something beautiful.

But first, what’s the difference between Grenahce and Garnacha? I think they are the same, but I want to make sure. I mean, there is a difference between Syrah and Shiraz. Syrah is Old World with Old World passion, while Shiraz is New World with New World bigness. Okay, my research is complete. Grenache and Garnacha are the same. “Garnacha” is Spanish for “Grenache,” which is French.

Where were we. Oh, yeah. Suffering. So, let’s see what suffering looks and tastes like. Vamos.

I love the color. It’s a bright purple, so I sense happiness is coming my way and not suffering. It’s a fun nose that starts off juicy and with berries, then it finishes dry and with dark cherries. There’s a green melon in there, too. It smells like it will be juicy delicious.

It felt cool on the tongue, with a juicy body, and a dry finish. A peppery, dark cherry on the finish. It tastes like it smells. (My girlfriend tastes Little Caesar’s pizza. I kinda get that, too, but leaning more to a frozen pizza with lots of sauce, but a good frozen pizza, like the one you’d have at 2:3o in the morning.)

There’s no suffering here. Not like the Hungarian Bull’s Blood from last night. No, this is nothing but happiness on the front of the mouth. On the finish is where the suffering comes, though, I suppose. But’s it a tasty suffering. A suffering I want to endure again and again.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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July 2010


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