Posts Tagged ‘Jack Spicer


Abraxas Press

ABRAXAS Crow smallWe at Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose just began a subscription swap with ABRAXAS. For whatever reason the swap didn’t happen at an earlier time because of miscommunications and whatever. And, oh, I wish those miscommunications had never happened because ABRAXAS is devoted to poetry and in a beautiful way.

When I received my package, it blossomed open with these 2″ high x 1.75″ wide poetry books. Some had paper covers, some matte, and some gloss. Inside each was a poem from poets such as Ted Jonas, D. R. Wacker, Julia de Burgos, d. a. levy, Ingrid Swanberg, Jack Spicer, and Vladimir Mayakofsky. The micro books were released by, which I first assumed was an imprint of ABRAXAS Press. Poems-for-all has this to say about their tiny, portable poems:

They’re scattered around town – on buses, trains, cabs, in restrooms, bars, left along with the tip; stuffed into a stranger’s back pocket. Whatever. Wherever. Small poems in small booklets half the size of a business card to be taken by the handful and scattered like seeds by those who want to see poetry grow in a barren cultural landscape.

There are 1071 of these little poems floating around the world giving people surprises and tiny bursts of joy. I wonder what the print run for each micro book was, especially when you consider that they must have been put together with a monk’s like meditative attention to detail.

Also included are some well-made, numbered, limited edition broadsides from Costmary Press. Is this another imprint? Anyway, the broadsides vary in size and in paper stock, but they are all consistently well made and, if I’m not mistaken, they are the result of letterpress printing, which means love, care, dedication, and quality.

Then there is the grass/grasshopper green eight-page pamphlet anthology titled Suzuki Grass. When you look at the color of the cover and text pages, you just know there’s going to be this Zen quality about the poems. The saddle stitched pamphlet is about 8.25″ high x 4.25″ wide.  This was released from Black Rabbit Press. Is this another imprint? I’m starting to doubt these are all imprints, but there must be a connection other than the love and beautiful presentation of poetry.

And they also included a few back copies of ABRAXAS.


ABRAXAS publishes contemporary poetry, with a special emphasis on the lyric mode. We also publish poetry in translation, as well as essays, criticism and reviews of small press poetry books.

Abraxas was the name applied by ancient gnostic sects to the Supreme Being, who was, collectively, all the spirits of the earth. The magical “abracadabra” was derived from ABRAXAS.

How about that?! A journal with emphasis on the lyric mode in a narrative-driven-poetry America. Ah, it’s love. Based on my previous experiences with this journal and just thumbing through the back copies, ABRAXAS has an eclectic taste and likes the poetry that explores language. All this poetry is contained in 6.25″ wide x 9.25″ high journal. Some covers are gloss and some are matte-like. I kinda like the matte more, but the gloss brings out the color cover images better. One issue even has standard paper for the poems and some gloss paper for the color photographs. Now, there’s an editor (Ingrid Swanberg) who understands the printing world. Oh, and on top of it all, issues are only $4. I have no idea how they can charge so little. I want to know who there printer is. (Ha, they probably print it onsite.) And subscriptions are only $16. It’s a deal. You can order here: I suggest you do. They are luscious.

To learn more about them, visit their About Us page.//


Writing Poetry Aloud

Sean Thomas Dougherty and I started a Facebook poll. We are asking our poet friends the following question: During the composition of a poem do you read the poem out loud?

Sean and I want to know because it seems there are a lot of “ear dead” poems out there. While we wait for responses, I am thinking about how I read the poem aloud during its composition.

I can tell you right now that I don’t read my poems out loud during composition that often, but I tend to read the poem aloud once during the composition. But why don’t I read  aloud more often during the poem’s composition? Why only once if at all? especially when I love reading them out loud at poetry readings, especially when I love the rhythm my body falls into and the trance I fall into when I read the poems aloud.

Charles Olson

Charles Olson. Creator of Projective Verse.

I used to read out loud a lot more often, especially during my Charles Olson and Projective Verse phase, which lasted about three or five years. I had to get the poem’s layout with all the spaces between the words to match my breathing, which is more fun when you try to match it to how you smoke!

I should go back further.

I have written in almost every form and every quantitative and qualitative meter that I could find in English, Latin, and Greek. And I have written at least three poems for every meter or form. The only way to write in every meter is to read aloud.

Algernon Charles Swinburne

"Algernon Charles Swinburne" painting by George Frederic Watts 1867.

Swinburne taught me the most about qualitative meter, and it was Ezra Pound, I think, and a Latin dictionary that taught me the most about quantitative meter. By the way, qualitative meters are based on syllabic stress while quantitative meters are based on syllabic length.

Back in the early 90s I heard of a guy who would talk in complete sonnets. He just made them up on the spot in mid-conversation and as part of the conversation. I wanted to do that. So I began another level of training. After a while, I was able to talk in rhyming iambic pentameter fairly well and in blank iambic pentameter with hardly any effort. I never did reach the sonnet level. Maybe once.

I also learned to read slow so I could hear each sound, how it moved, and how it connected to other sounds. Did you know that each letter of the alphabet is made of multiple sounds? That’s useful in harmony making. Did you know there are five levels of stress? They only teach you two in school: stressed and unstressed. But there are five. I even created my own five-level scansion symbol system to mark all the syllables.

Did you know that it’s impossible for the first syllable of a poem to be unstressed? It’s not necessarily stressed, but it’s not completely unstressed. This is because you are speaking for the first time. There’s an extra build up of air. More air comes out here than it would in another spot. For example:

The house had gone to bring again
To the midnight sky a sunset glow.

That’s from Robert Frost’s “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things.” That first “the” has more of an accent than the “the” in the second line. It’s because of the initial expulsion of air.

Robert Duncan

Robert Duncan

Also, in every poem there is one syllable that is more stressed than any other syllable. That’s what Robert Duncan said. I’ve confirmed it true, usually. Sometimes there are two syllables that are the strongest.

So how do I accurately explain how much I read out loud? I don’t know, but I did. Every poem I read, I read out loud. In fact, there came a point when I thought you could derive a poem’s meanings strictly from its sounds. You can. Not always, but often. In fact, there came a point when I didn’t care about the content in any poem. I just wanted sounds. Long vowel sounds especially. Like Bob Dylan’s vowels or Campion’s. Eventually I learned that in a poem the vowels carry the emotion and the consonants carry the meaning. That’s what the letters do. Go read a poem. The emotional ones have lots of long vowels or good vowel movements. The heady poems are consonant based.

T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets

T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets

Almost all my papers on poems were about sound, meter, and rhythm. What I’m trying to say is that I spent an intense twelve to fourteen years reading every poem aloud multiple times and in different intonations. The beginning of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets may be the most beautiful sounding poetry in the history of the English language.

Plus, I scanned poems. I wrote down the stresses and unstresses using my five-level scansion symbol system. I wanted to see what I was hearing. By seeing what I was hearing, by recording it, I was better able to train my ear.

Now, I don’t read out loud that much. Now, when I read out loud, I read for pitch and tone. Because of all my self-imposed training, my mental/silent ear can pick up on the vowel movements and harmonies and rhythms quite well, at this point. It’s actually like a visual and internal-audio dialogue as to how I hear most of the poem. But it’s not so good at hearing the height of the sound, or at least in hearing how the heights work throughout the poem, and how those heights affect the poem’s tone. The poems I don’t read out loud while composing are the ones that are generally flat in language and imagination and end up being to thinky or cerebral. Plus, I want to hear the puffs from my lungs. At some point in the composition, I want my lungs involved. Also, if I’m trying to work out sounds in the poem, I will read it aloud a number of times.

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

Thinking of pitch and tone. If you want to learn about pitch, read Allen Ginsberg. If you want to learn about tone read Ezra Pound or Christopher Howell.

Now, I wanna write a long Ginsbergian poem because those are the most fun to read aloud.


Everything I wrote above is true. At the same time I’m being defensive. I’m rationalizing my laziness for not reading aloud my poems during their compositions.

Jack Spicer

Jack Spicer

A poem needs energy to exist. The hardest part about revising a poem is keeping the original energies. The more revisions that occur, the less of the original energies that remain. That’s generally true. That’s why I think Allen Ginsberg “revised lightly.” That’s probably why Robert Creeley didn’t revise. That’s probably why Jack Spicer trusted the Martians who gave him his poems.

And a poem can’t have energies if it’s written flatly on the page. It can only have two dimensions that way. Writing with the voice creates additional energies and dimensions. The vowel aloud has more emotion that what I hear in my head.

A poem written on the page is a zombie.

It needs breath to be alive. Charles Olson knew that, and now I am reminded of that.

It’s time to stop being lazy. It’s time to sing aloud.//


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day eleven

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillion Villages 2008I’ve worked 33 hours in the last three days, and yet [finger pointing to the sky (which finger?)] I was still able to write two poems and read Jack Spicer’s After Lorca. An awesome collection of poems with the most original introduction ever. One of the top-five all-time best introductions. The poem I wrote last night is currently titled, “Paleolithic Person on the Burial of Art.” I love how different this version is than the original. I love when the moment occurs that you can just remove big hunks of a poem and totally change the form, as well. Forms are useful for a while, but when they start dominating the poem, then it’s time to abandon the form. I still have to type it up, so who knows where it will go next. But it seems solid as it is now.

So I hope the M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2008 is solid and rebellious and strong, too. It’d better be because it was in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines for 2009. So allons-y.

I’ll dismiss talking about the color . . . well, no, because it is a beautiful color of radiating ruby and lavender. But to heck with the nose. I need to drink.

Oh, this is lovely. Big and lovely. I couldn’t help to notice the peppery nose before drinking it. This is definitely one of the best wines on the tour so far.  It’s plumy and cherry, which are two of my favorites. It has tart raspberry finish, as well. It has a firm juiciness. There must be Grenache in there. Turn the bottle around. Yup. “Made from Grenache, Syrah, and old bush vine Carignan.” I’ve never heard of Carignan. I like it.

This is just a good wine. What else matters.//


Oh, Red Diamond Merlot

Red Diamond MerlotOh, Red Diamond Merlot how I love you. You make everything wonderful. You make my jaw quiver in delight. You put my body at ease with just one sip. Your green apples and RC Cola are a taste of joy and happiness. Did I work a 12-hour day today? Who knows? Who cares? Just give me your love.

You are my favorite everyday wine. I could spend the rest of my life with you. You are versitile and go with about everything. Nothing tastes like you.

Oh, you are not the best wine in the world. We both know that. But you and me were meant for each other. You understand my palate, body, and mind. I’m a young boy in love when I’m with you.

I’m sure I’ll write to you and about you more often. But for now, let’s just share the night. You, me, my girlfriend, and Jack Spicer’s After Lorca. For I am already in love with you and my girlfriend, but I’m starting to fall for Jack Spicer. Red Diamond Merlot create the mood for me and Jack to become one, as we are for each other.//


The Funniest Endnote Ever

Jack Spicer's The House That Jack BuiltCurrently, I am reading Jack Spicer’s The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan U P, 1998), edited by Peter Gizzi. The first three lectures were given in Vancouver, Canada, between June 13 and July 14, 1965 (almost 45 years ago). I just finished the second lecture, and I was reading the endnotes to it. The endnotes, by the way, are good reading in themselves. For instance, I learned a lot about the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz. Like Spicer, I didn’t realize the Tinman was once a woodsman. There is actually a good story  in the endnotes about the Tin Woodsman, how he became tin, his heart, and The Wicked Witch of the East. There are lots of good baseball endnotes, too, especially about Willie Mays.

Anyway, I just finished reading “Vancouver Lecture 2: The Serial Poem and The Holy Grail.” Then I began to read the endnotes that followed it. Then I got to endnote 32 on page 94. I thought the first sentence of it, which I’ll quote, was insightful, and I shared it with my girlfriend, who was reading Eugene O’Neill behind me on the couch I was leaning on. I keep having to defend the beauty of the pun, which my girlfriend and Krusty the Clown consider the lowest form of humor. Like Krusty the Clown (Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski), I consider the pun the lowest form of humor, and like him, I continually use puns. Oddly, all three of us are right when it comes to puns. Then, I read the rest of the endnote and busted up in laughter. Remember, this is an endnote in literature. An endnote to a lecture given by a poet. It’s supposed to be all intellectual and stuff. That’s the premise. Now, I will share that endnote.

32. The “I used to work in Chicago” song tells the story of someone who is fired from his job because of a pun or misunderstanding that changes an innocent request into a sexual encounter. Among sports clubs the bawdy song is still in play with infinite ad-libbed and updated verses available on the World Wide Web. The text is sung to a tune resembling “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” A sample verse goes: “I used to work in Chicago in a department store. I used to work in Chicago, but I don’t work there anymore. A lady [or man] came in for some paper, some paper from the store. Paper she wanted, a ream she got. I don’t work there anymore.” Other verses include: “a balloon he wanted, blown he got” and “a translator she wanted, a cunning linguist she got.”

The last one is classic and so now is this endnote.//

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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May 2020


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