Posts Tagged ‘Redactions: Poetry Poetics & Prose

19
Mar
17

On Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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Knowing Knott: Essays on an American PoetMy first encounter with Bill Knott was reading a review copy of The Unsubscriber (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004) in a yurt in or nearby Newport, OR. I was dazzled and amazed at his wildness and technique. Next to the collection’s third poem, “Neckognition,” I wrote:

He has mystical line breaks. They do what we try to make them do. Give them a split-end quality. One line is appearance A, the next line changes appearance A into B and into C, until you’re left with A+B+C=an action or event of fluidity. He’s stopped time into discrete parts, but by the stanza’s end, the fluidity of the act is realized. See stanza one. Harmonies in the last stanza.

Here’s the poem:

     In love the head turns
     the face until it’s gone
     into another’s where
     it is further torn

     from its own mirror
     and grows even more
     erased and lost and though
     the former still yearns

     to be his/be hers
     it sees these lovers
     over your shoulder show

     whatever disappears
     can also go as verse
     whose shape’s nape-known now.

This is also a sonnet-variant. I feel in love instantly with this master of forms, language, style, Surrealism, and freedom to explore unlike any other poet, at least any poet I’m aware of, since Gerard Manley Hopkins.

In Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet (Tiger Bark Press, 2017), there are essays from 16 other poets and friends of Knott, who also write about their love for him. The essays are short, and vary in length from three pages to 35 pages, most of which tend to be around five to six pages. The essays are mostly filled with anecdotes that portray the complexities of Knott’s personality, his generosity, and self-sabotage at success. There is also some analysis of his poetry in Michael Waters’ essay “What Had Made Us So Whole: ‘The Sculpture’ by Bill Knott” and in Stuart Dischell’s “On Human Stilts,” but mostly the essays are sketches of Knott as complicated human being. The book also includes six color images of his art, as Knott “was as serious about his painting as his poetry” (113), as Robert Fanning notes in “May Eagles Guard Your Grave.”

In Thomas Lux essay “Bill Knott: Can My Voice Save My Throat,” Lux asks, “do you think Knott’s self-deprecation, his self-denigration, his self-abnegation, might have anything to do with his childhood?” (84). In the 83 pages prior to this, I was realizing much of Knott’s actions are the classic traits of someone who suffers from abandonment trauma. According to some of authors with varying degrees of detail, when Knott was young, his mother died giving birth (though Knott “always suspected she might have died during an (then illegal) abortion” (91), then a few years later, his father sent his sister and him to an orphanage because he couldn’t take care of them, and then the father committed suicide. I believe this contributes to what Jonathan Galassi in “(Not) Publishing Bill Knott” identifies as Knott’s “serious self-esteem issues.” For instance, as Star Black in her essay “Loving Bill” points out, Knott:

[s]omehow felt betrayed by his own accomplishments and connections, as if to be a self-published outside was not quite satisfying, yet to be an insider was fraudulent. Making a decision and then reversing the same decision after he made it was one of his traits. (44)

There are consistent stories throughout the anthology about him pushing away his success (and sometimes pushing away others before they could push him away) as if he wasn’t worthy of it or them, a classic defense move by someone who suffers from the trauma of abandonment.

Perhaps this is why he started to self-publish numerous chapbooks in small print runs, sometimes even only one copy. Knott published at least 11 books of poems with publishers such as “Random House, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the University of Pittsburg Press, Sun Press, and the American Poets Continuum Series at BOA Editions” (Dischell 71), but he was so prolific and printed so many self-published chapbooks that probably no one knows how many books he really released, maybe not even Timothy Liu or John Skoyles who tried to collect everything Knott published.

Knott was a poet’s poet. He was a master of the craft and was always revising, and was even known to put “errata slips into books of his in bookstores” (Lux 85). Despite his constant revisions, Knott’s poems arrive to the reader with the energies and wildness of a first or second draft, which to me is a major accomplishment.

Knowing Knott is a pleasure to read, and can be read in one sitting because it is so engaging and only 114 pages of essays (126 total pages), and it’s very inspirational, too. Prior to reading this collection of essays, I thought Bill Knott was a semi-obscure poet, as not many poets I have met who are my age or younger know of him. After reading this book, I realize how important he was to the generation of poets before me and the generation before them. According to Robert Fanning in Knowing Knott’s last essay, Thomas Lux declared “Bill Knott our greatest living poet. ‘Bill Knott has more talent in his pinky finger [. . .] than Any Poet of his Generation” (115). I believe this book, in some degree, is a calling to future generations of poets to not overlook this poet whose “art lies, in part, in living inside the language, and lies, in part, in viewing it from the perspective of enduring outsider” (Waters 13), and whose poetry is so “hard-core surrealist” that, according to Lux, “If Bill were French and born a few years generations earlier, he would have kicked André Breton out of the [Surrealists] group for being counterrevolutionary” (80). I believe after reading Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet that Knott can teach poets how to be unique, wild, energy driven, as he fully embraced and triumphed in the many forms of poetry, and perhaps more importantly, Knott’s actions will inspire us to be generous members in the poetry community, as he was consistently helping poets with their poetry or helping them financially. In the words of Skoyles, “When we lost Bill, we lost a person with an uncompromising integrity and an enormous compassion for the underdog. [. . .] When we lost Bill, we lost what could be called the conscience of poetry” (97). Knowing Knott will keep reminding us of this and Bill Knott.

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Huff, Steven, ed. Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet. Rochester, NY: Tiger Bark Press, 2017. Print.

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22
Nov
14

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose 2014 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose has made its nominations for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. The nominees this year are all poems. In the order of appearance in issue 18 are:

  1. Andrea Spofford’s “Tundra.” Page 8.
  2. Mary Stone Dockery’s “The Idea of Brad.” Page 23.
  3. Paul Allen’s “For the Spoken-Word Poet-Friend Who Drove up to Baton Rouge to Tell His Girlfriend to Get Lost and After 36 Hours of Both Crying, She Didn’t Get Lost, and He Was Glad.” Page 29.
  4. Robert Gibbons’s “Experience & Art.” Page 54.
  5. Ed Schelb’s “Portrait of Five Composers.” Pages 56-59.
  6. David Lloyd’s “What Remains.” Pages 70-71.

To read these poems, stories, and more, order a copy of issue 18 from here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/redactionspoetry.

You can also read the Pushcart Prize nominated poems here: http://www.redactions.com/pushcart-poems.asp.

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07
Jun
14

Modernist Style, Contemporary Play, and Ecological Lament: On Betsy Andrews’ The Bottom

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose. //

Betsy Andrews – The BottomBetsy AndrewsThe Bottom (42 Miles Press, forthcoming 2014), winner of the 2013 42 Miles Press Poetry Award, opens with the 48-page long poem “The Bottom,” which consists of 48 juxtaposed smaller poems varying in length from poems of 12 short lines to poems of 21 long lines. The poems feel like they arrive from a life experienced, or should I say, these ecological poems don’t seem a step removed from experience, as if written from only studying, or appropriating information from, texts about pollution, ecology, marine biology, etc. At the same time, this long opening poem, which is rooted in the Modernist tradition of long poems of disillusionment, exposes what lies behind the illusions from the denial of ecological harm or future ecological harm. And like a Modernism poem, the language is of the language spoken by everyday people (especially people from the United States), but unlike some Modernism poems, Andrews’ allusions are shared allusions of the American populace. Along the way, we encounter mermaids, Martians, and even Mr. Limpet (the Don Knotts character from Disney’s The Incredible Mr. Limpet.) With that in mind, this long poem is also very playful, which is a difficult endeavor to do in political poems without being didactic or heavy handed, but she succeeds by way of her playful allusions, irony (another Modernism device), and music – rhymes, internal rhymes, assonance, consonance, word repetition, etc. In addition, this music, unlike music in Modernism poems, feels like it is discovered or is spontaneously composed rather than imposed or purposely created to frame the mood of the poem. As a result, Andrews is able to entice the reader with the sugar of music and play and then deliver the ecological medicine. Fortunately, the medicine doesn’t arrive in one dose. Rather, it’s an accumulation of 48 little doses. And even though there are 48 different doses of poems, there is cohesiveness about them. Unlike some  long Modernism poems that often hope for a cohesiveness to be discovered, the cohesiveness is 48 different ways of looking at the harm to marine biology and ecology in ways in which a reader can experience – whether the experience comes from the real, the imagined, or the intersection of both.

If the poems are enough or aren’t enough to move the reader to an ecological empathy, The Bottom has, like The Waste Land, a notes section (which might also be a poem depending on how it is viewed) at the end titled “Tributaries.” The “Tributaries” lists the sources I assume Andrews read in composing this long poem or that were influential to her and fed into the making of this ocean of a book. “Tributaries” starts with The Oxford English Dictionary and then moves into newspapers, National Public Radio, national parks, books of myth and symbolism, books and articles about seashells, books and articles on marine biology, books about the aftermath of unrecoverable ecological harm, and then concludes with books, stories, songs, and writers that I assume are inspirational to her, such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Saxie Dowell’s “Three Little Fishies,” Anne Sexton, W. B. Yeats, and T. S. Eliot.

Betsy Andrews’ The Bottom is a short book that playfully moves in the imagined and heroically moves in the unimagined, and by the latter I mean that it moves heroically within the unimagined that is real and the “dry page of fact” and within the unimagined (or suppressed imagination) that exists because of the denials of ecological harm “when we go still and are quiet.”//

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Andrews, Betsy. The Bottom. South Bend: 42 Miles Press, 2014.

13
Jan
14

On Kelly Cherry’s The Life and Death of Poetry

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose issue 18, due out July 2, 2014.//

Kelly Cherry's – The Life and Death of PoetryThe Life and Death of Poetry (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), is an ambitious title to fulfill, especially in 68 pages of poetry. I could write about how Kelly Cherry manages to achieve this, but instead I want to think about beginnings. I want to mainly focus on how this book of poems opens and then moves, because after my first reading, I wasn’t convinced the book’s opening poem was the best poem to open the book with. I thought it a good opening poem, but I thought there was a better choice with the poem “Underwriting the Words”:

   Ousted from heaven,
   we crashed into language.
   Incomparable music
   gave way to words.
   Authors filled auditoriums
   with their friends.
   Orpheus wrote a novel.

   Some days we try to climb back.
   We search for the word that sings,
   the sentence that sings.
   It’s not the same.
   Remember the music?
   It lifted you up to the light
   and endowed you with understanding.

   None of us understands anymore.
   Commentators baffle, words
   reinvent their meaning, every voice
   contradicts another. In a city
   of deserted streets, where people hide
   like turtles, in their houses,
   silence is the one common denominator.

   The hidden theme of the book is silence.
   Between the lines,
   underwriting the words:
   silence.
   In every line we read
   the absence of perfect sound,
   the severed head with mouth sewn shut.

   The hidden theme of the book is our obliteration:
   that we are swept away
   like fallen leaves from the front steps,
   insect shells from a sill,
   drafts from a desk.

Bob Dylan – Blonde on BlondeThat’s a dynamite poem and it covers some of the themes of the book: language, writing, singing, relationships, silence, death. (These aren’t the book’s only themes, as it also explores nature, poetry, and love.) “Underwriting the Words” could deliver some of the necessities of opening a single collection of poems as it’s strong, it introduces themes, it gives a beginning (we fall from heaven), and anticipates the end (“obliteration”). I wondered why the book didn’t begin with this poem, and then I thought of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde – both the double album and its later reincarnation as a CD. If you haven’t noticed, the order of the songs is different on the album than on the CD. I particularly like the album’s order better. But why are the songs ordered differently on the CD? Not all the songs are rearranged, but enough are. The CD version still opens with a defiant, partying youth celebrating getting stoned in “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and it still ends with a deeply in love, fully-matured adult who is singing one of the most passionate love songs “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Even the tones of the songs are completely different. The former is quicker paced, playful, and in a higher pitch, and the latter is slow, contemplative, and in a lower pitch. But back to the order of the album. The album is ordered so that each album side (all four of them) crescendos into a higher intensity. Each of the four sides starts at lower intensity than where it ends, and, overall, the album’s intensity reaches its maximum in “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” The CD, since it only has one side, has to rearrange the songs so the crescendo is more gradual. Oddly, one might think the CD’s order would work better than the album as it moves from song to song, but in my opinion, it doesn’t. It seems a little jerky. I think Cherry had a similar idea to the Blonde on Blonde-album crescendo effect when she chose to start The Life and Death of Poetry with “Which Is a Verb”:

   We fell out of eternity
   into time, which is a verb.
   Life was rushing past us,
   and we began to rush too.
   Everything was a blur. In the confusion,
   some things got mixed up with others.
   A loaf of bread drove a bus.
   A longleaf pine swam in the pond.

   We grew so dizzy, light sparked
   beneath our closed eyelids, like rescue flares.
   We lay down on the red grass
   and clung to the world as it whirled.

   Wind whistled past our ears.
   Tears flew from our eyes.

This is a dynamite poem, too, but it lacks the powerful intensity of “Underwriting the Words” and its end. If the book started with “Underwriting the Words,” it would decrescendo not only in intensity but in facility (for lack of a better word, as some poems are more powerful than others, though I wouldn’t remove any one poem from this collection). “Underwriting the Words” is probably the strongest and most successful of the poems in the book, a book that certainly has many very fine poems. So the book, as a result, would descend (though subtly) on two fronts. Still the first poem needs to get the reader excited, it has to act as a frame of sorts, and the one Cherry did choose to start the book does.

The book opens with the fall, but not the traditional fall or the fall from heaven, but a fall from eternity. We are falling gods. Only gods are eternal, and non-eternal beings (like angels) can fall from heaven, as in “Underwriting the Words,” but they cannot fall from eternity. And we, as gods, fell “into time,” and time makes us mortal, human. But time is not an abstract noun here. It’s a verb. Time is active and acts on us, with us, and through us. Time is so active, we couldn’t see straight. We ended up in surreal world where bread drives busses and pine trees swim in ponds. We were pre-linguistic with one verb we didn’t yet recognize. And here is our and the book’s beginning. We are going to go through the evolution of language and poetry in this collection of poems. We are going to live and die in this whirling world and transform wind and tears, what we hear and what we see, into poetry. And that’s where it all begins. And this is why “Which Is a Verb” comes first. This is an effective opening poem in framing the book, leading us into the book, and establishing energy levels from which the three sections of the book will build on.

And so section I, “Learning the Language,” and the book begin with “Which Is a Verb” and crescendos into the section’s penultimate poem “Underwriting the Words.” In between, the section moves into steadying the world that was whirling by in “Which Is a Verb,” to discovering music, to vowels, to the first word (which is also a person’s last word), to more words, to singing, to language, to signified and signifier, to fiction, to poems, and to gods and heaven. During these poems, the section crescendos from crawl to dance in the gathering of experience and the development of poetry, which climaxes in “Underwriting the Words” and then gently settles in section one’s denouement “A Voice Survives,” which is a quiet meditative poem.

Section two, “Welsh Table Talk (A Sequence),” moves into using poems to create a land, a place. Not recreating like Olson in The Maximus Poems, but creating it much like I remember Robert Graves writing about in The White Goddess, the goddess of birth, love, and death. When I’m in this section, I feel Graves in the silences, or perhaps I feel the poems arise from analeptic thought, or unlived and forgotten events recovered/created through intuition, as this Welsh land often feels ancient, or with the echoes and hints of the ancient. This section then crescendos into an emphatic yearning that echoes the end of The Waste Land and its wondering what to do, but Cherry has an answer – “Carve.”

The book turns to section three, “What the Poet Wishes to Say,” which is a natural progression, because even if carving is the answer as to what to do, there is still the question of what to carve, as the opening lines of the opening poem, “On Translation,” indicate:

   Be warned, I tell my students.
   A writer with nothing to write
   is in danger of falling into
   one or more of four
   pitfalls: drink, drugs,
   adultery, and translation.

The book’s concluding poems, including the one just mentioned, or essays in verse about poetry, help the reader arrive to the final realization that “A poem can move to love,” and love, which is a verb, is the ultimate crescendo and the last line in Kelly Cherry’s The Life and Death of Poetry.//

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Cherry, Kelly. The Life and Death of Poetry. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013.//

22
Nov
13

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose 2013 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose has made its nominations for the 2013 Pushcart Prize. The nominees in the order of appearance in issues 16 and 17 are:

  1. Nicholas Wong’s “Meteorology.” (Poem). Issue 16. Page 26.
  2. Allan Peterson’s “Say the Causes.” (Poem). Issue 16. Page 43.
  3. James Claffey’s “Ordinary Time.” (Fiction). Issue 16. Page 58.
  4. Donald Illich’s “Surgery.” (Poem). Issue 17. Page 33.
  5. Ben Berman’s “Droppings.” (Poem). Issue 17. Page 35.
  6. Angela Woodward’s “She.” (Fiction). Issue 17. Pages 54-55.

To read these poems, stories, and more, order a copy of issue 17 from here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/redactionspoetry.

You can also read the Pushcart Prize nominated poems here: http://www.redactions.com/pushcart-poems.asp.

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15
Sep
13

Celebrating 100 Years of BLAST: Call for Submissions

BLAST coverJuly 2, 2014, will be the 100th anniversary of BLAST, that “great MAGENTA cover’d opusculus” of the Vorticists. Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose will celebrate the 100th anniversary in Redactions issue 18, due out in time for the 100th birthday of BLAST. We are looking for people to participate in this celebration.

Redactions is asking for Vorticist poems, stories, short essays (500-1000 words or fewer) about BLAST, Vorticism, a specific Vorticist, or how BLAST or Vorticism affected you, etc. If you have anything you would like to contribute, please email a piece of writing as an attachment to redactionspoetry(at)yahoo.com between September 15, 2013, and January 15, 2014. Be sure “BLAST” appears in the subject line.

For more information about BLAST, visit:

For more information about Vorticism, visit:

We are also looking for non-themed poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction submissions. Send poetry submissions, essays on poetry, and poetry book reviews to redactionspoetry(at)yahoo.com. Send prose submissions to redactionsprose(at)yahoo.com.

See complete guidelines here: http://redactions.com/submission-and-ordering.asp.

For more information about Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose, visit: www.redactions.com.

Please share with your Vorticist friends.//

15
Jun
13

On Ingrid Swanberg’s Ariadne & Other Poems

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in the future issue of Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose issue 17, due out in fall 2013.//

Ingrid Swanberg – Ariadne & Other PoemsIn today’s poetry that is often self-conscious, ironic, clever, ambivalent about its self while trying to be serious about its self, and/or closed off, it’s a pleasure to find poems, “within their greeting song,” the honest and clear experiences of image and language. In Ingrid Swanberg’s Ariadne & Other Poems (Bottom Dog Press, 2013), there are many images. There are images with substance that satisfy the mind and the belly, images moving between intellect and intuition or existing in between, and complex images that stir emotion and thought.

The poem “the body of Dionysos” is an example of images moving between intellect and intuition.

   nowhere have I
   been so shaded

   than bearing your weight

   hidden from the world

The first line indicates the speaker is lost or homeless or without purpose, but in the next line this gets taken away, as the speaker is some place, and it may be a comfortable place as it has shade. The first two lines also move from a possessive and passive construct of being nowhere to a passive construct with the implication that the speaker is somewhere, but the place is the shade, which has no weight or substance. In line three’s active voice, we receive the “weight” with the implication of substance, but that substance is taken away in the concluding line. The experience is moving from things that don’t exist to things that do exist and in between. Additionally, in the last line the reader also realizes another movement. A movement of meaning.  The word “shaded,” the reader will realize, may also come to mean something like “deceived.” She lives under his (Dionysos’) shadow in both protective and deceptive realms. There’s also the movement between myth and today’s world. I personally like to read these poems with a deliberate ignorance of Greek mythology to ensure the poems speak to me today in my now experience, and they do. But with a knowledge of the myths, more meanings are had, new perspectives of the myths are created, and more movement is created.

In the poem “the river is rising,” the reader can experience this bridging of two worlds and experience the complicated image building I mentioned above, as well. The second stanza provides a good starting place to observe this complication:

   the white orchards
   of your city
   where you dream me
   bloom

What’s blooming here is “the white orchards.” Or that’s what at first seems to be blooming. When I leave that stanza, however, I feel overwhelmed because it feels like there’s more that’s blooming. In fact, the city blooms and the “me” blooms. It’s all blooming, which is why “bloom” is on its own line yoking the previous three lines into it. This complication continues into stanza three, which begins: “inside my heart”. Here, “inside my heart” acts as a pivot. It concludes the previous stanza – white orchards, city, and the speaker bloom inside the speaker’s heart – and it begins the third stanza:

   inside my heart
   rain pours neon calligraphy
   onto the night street

Inside the speaker’s heart, rain pours. Inside the speaker’s heart there is city imagery with neon lights and a street at night.  In fact, this poem keeps building like this. It’s able to build because there are only two instances of punctuation (both commas) after the opening line that ends with a period: “I have looked everywhere.” If this were a conventional poem, there would be more punctuation, but the poem limits the use to two commas to indicate time shifts or shifts in thoughts, like leaps. For instance:

   I have searched everywhere
   the syllables and unyielding ciphers of riverbanks,
   your name pressed into the bitter clay
   inside my heart

Here, the speaker’s searching turns directly inward because, perhaps, of the conscious leap into language: “the syllables and unyielding ciphers.” Here the image mixes abstract and concrete. And in the next stanza, the speaker finds the person with another woman:

   o leave her
   turning in her black dress
   where you lie adrift in her arms
   and you dream my
   blue

Where one might expect hostility or resentment to follow after this discovery, the poem stays in its passionate tone because, as we soon realize, both the speaker and the other person are in the dream world. They were both looking for each other in their dreams, or at least the speaker was searching for the other person. We then realize the period in the opening line was the end-stop to consciousness. The poem turned inward after that, and at the end it blooms outward from the dreaming world into the conscious world:

   we will ride into the city
   of white blossoming trees
   under the night

This poem is also a modern-day re-rendering of Ariadne’s dream involving Theseus and Dionysos.  The reader should keep the Ariadne and Dionysos myths under consideration when they read many of these poems, especially the “Ariadne’s tomb” section, but the poems are written so well that they speak to two worlds: our world, especially those with limited knowledge of the myths; and the mythic world. The poems in this section exist in both those worlds, and I was caught in the middle like waking from a dream I didn’t want to wake from, but I did wake. When I did wake, there were more poems where I did not need the knowledge of myth but where “the door between worlds / swings open.” And that door is swinging between poem and reader and swinging between poet and poet creating the myth of a self. I enjoyed going in and out of all the worlds in Swanberg’s Ariadne & Other Poems, which often felt like contemporized deep image poems.//

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Swanberg, Ingrid. Ariadne & Other Poems. Huron, OH: Bottom Dog Press, 2013.//




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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