Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mark Young, Three Poems

Baron Münchausen, image by Daniel Y. Harris

A line from Willem de Kooning

Baron Münchausen looked
on & sought for symptoms
& synapses. At first glance an
absurdist point of view, but

those earlier drafts have now
been shown to have significant
economic benefits. Bayern München
opened with a performance of

Palestrina's famed two-part
motet, Sicut cervus. Then they
played a leading role in New
York's antislavery politics

during the early years of
the war. Ended up winning
everything there was to
win. They were so lifelike.

Robert Creeley enters the water

of the time

the line
goes taut

but I am
beaten to the
body & left
with a grab-
bag full

of glassy-eyed


“…the last day the sharks appeared.”


                                           painted my
                                                 self into
                                                     a cor-

using the
first line of
an other's
poem as the
last line
of my own

now I'm in


out of breath / out of my depth


sharks real-
ly do appear

Analectical Chemistry

K’ung Tzu wrote that the
scrutiny of connective tissue,
when coerced, should only be
accepted if supporting evidence
such as large marine eels living
in the mother’s birth canal could
be found. It was a patriarchal
attitude, like so much of The

Analects. A kind of ancestor wor-
ship, extolling the Superior Man,
the fabled father of the people. Un-
fortunately for K’ung Tzu, the eels
whose presence he prized so greatly
were animists, & showed no filial
piety when they emerged one night
& conger lined up to eat him.

—Mark Young

Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. He is the author of forty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are Mineral Terpsichore & Ley Lines, both from gradient books of Finland, & The Chorus of the Sphinxes, from Moria Books in Chicago.  A new collection, some more strange meteorites, is due out from Meritage & i.e. Press, California / New York, in early 2017.

Monday, February 13, 2017


 Birdland, NYC, 1957; © Francis Wolff, Mosaic Images, LLC 


I started glancing at Downbeat magazine, around 1951, when I was a sixteen years old & a student at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. While I had been taking piano lessons initially from a neighborhood piano teacher & later from the concert pianist Ozan March, I was only vaguely aware of the existence of jazz. I taped two quarters to a Downbeat order form & mailed it off for a 45 RPM recording with Lennie Tristano’s “I Surrender, Dear” on one side, & Bud Powell’s “Tea for Two” on the other.
  The simple armature of that tune engulfed in improvisational glory roared through my Presbyterian stasis, sinking a depth charge into my soul-to-be. I listened to it again and again, trying to grasp the difference between the lyric & what Powell was doing to it.  Somehow an idea vaguely made its way through: you don’t have to play someone else’s melody—you can improvise, make up your own tune!  WOW—really? You mean, I don’t have to be my parents? I don’t have to “play their melody” for the rest of my life?
   The alternative—being myself—was a stupendous enigma that took me another six years to begin to approach. I had to get completely bored with all the possibilities my given life had prepared me for (including playing the piano) before I could make a grab at something that challenged me to change my life.
   Later I realized that Powell had taken the trivial in music (as Art Tatum did with “I’ll See You in My Dreams”) and transformed it into an imaginative structure. William Carlos Williams, I noted, had done something similar in poetry. Alan Groves has written: “From 1947 to 1953 Powell was the supreme jazz pianist. These mature years produced some of the most startling piano ever recorded. Most of the best of his high-speed linear improvisations build toward a continuous driving climax. His lines would be based on a tune’s chordal structure but flowed independently of it.”
   While reading the Sunday newspaper Comics on the living-room floor was probably my first encounter, as a boy, with imagination, Powell was my first encounter, as an adolescent, with the force of artistic presence, and certainly the key figure involved in my becoming a poet.
   In my book The Gull Wall (1975) I wrote a poem which brooded about Powell’s tragic life and about what he had offered me in 1951 which, in the writing of the poem, cut all the way back to the neighborhood piano teacher lessons my mother started me on when I was 6:

          Bud Powell
          locked in his Paris bathroom so he wouldn’t wander.
          Sipping his lunch from the cat
          saucer on the floor.
          I see him curled there, nursing his litter,
          his great swollen dugs,
          his sleepy Buddha face
          looks down through the lotus pond,
          sees the damned, astral miles below,
          amongst them a little unmoving Clayton Jr.,
          placed by his mother on a bed of keys.
          Powell compassionately extended his tongue,
          licked my laid out senses.

Concerning the imagery in this poem: in 1954, Altevia Edwards, nicknamed Buttercup, became Powell’s common-law wife and manager. She & Powell lived in Paris from 1959 to 1962, during which time Bud’s alcoholism nearly killed him. During this period, Buttercup collected his earnings, held his passport & papers, & denied him any real degree of independence. I read somewhere that when Buttercup would leave her & Powell’s hotel room she would lock him into the bathroom & deposit what she thought of as his lunch in a dish on the floor. This story was the source of some of the imagery in the poem just quoted, which also included my improvisation on what I understood to be Powell’s pathetic situation as well as his extraordinary gift to me.
   In bebop, musical structures and performance events shift between fixed or unfixed aspects, sometimes occupying both simultaneously. For a pianist like Powell, rapid melodic lines in the right hand would be punctuated by irregularly spaced, dissonant chords in the left. Fixed aspects would include pre-existing harmonic sources, such as the chord progressions in “I Got Rhythm” whose original harmony became the basis for Powell’s “Bud’s Bubble,” his new improvised “melody”, so to speak.  Other examples of well-known original harmonies & new, improvised melodies are “Cherokee” as the basis for “Koko,” and “How High the Moon” for “Ornithology.”

          Rounding the gym track listening to WEMU.
          Suddenly Sonny Stitt entangles “Koko” with my mental vines.

          “Cherokee” lyrics, schlock “Indian romance,”
          pulled inside out by “Koko,” “Cherokee’s” vital ghost.

In the mid-1980s I wrote a sestina fantasia based on Powell’s eleven month hospitalization in 1947 in the Creedmore State Hospital where he was administered two series of electroshocks. It is said that he drew a keyboard on the wall of his cell so that he could mentally keep up his chops while incarcerated.  In my poem I used material from the Odyssey as my “original harmony,” & envisioned Powell as a kind of Tiresias in the Odyssey’s Book Eleven as my “new melody”. Since a concert grand with raised lid resembles (from the position of the audience seated before it) a headless bison, I had Powell in the poem attempting to imbibe blood-like sustenance from his sketched “bison keyboard.”

     Onto the keyboard of a concert grand Bud Powell shot his fingers
     Was he, elbows flexed, a kind of Tiresias drinking from a trench
        beheaded bison blood?
     Are we not, at birth, like bison, deposited on a terrestrial keyboard?
     Each depressed key makes an omen trench.
     Thus does the earth become grand
     & we suck, with Tiresias intensity, as did infant Powell, to prophesy.
     Powell is face to face with a bison apparition, a lacquered black
     Unlike Tiresias, he must draw, through a keyboard, directional sound,
     & even if he has a grand it is hardly a trench of warm blood.
     To be a seer is to re-enter the trench out of which we emerged.
     Powell made contact, but failed to drink.
     For a grand, in profile, lid propped, evokes a headless bison,
     whose chest cavity, the keyboard, releases sound Tiresias needed
        blood to utter.
     And Tiresias, who re-entered the essential trench, did guide
     At the keyboard, Powell clawed for blood, as if stabbing at a bison
     Thus he proposes a grand dilemma: the living, no matter how grand
        their C chords,
     lack the Tiresian recipe: to be all soul & bison vivid, a
        cunnilinctrice of the goddess trench.
     On his cell wall in Creedmore asylum, Powell is said to have
        sketched, in chalk, a keyboard.
     Powell, now the ghost of a grand, stared at this keyboard.
     “O how get home, Tiresias? How drink bison music in this hellish

The word “hybrid” comes from the Latin hybrid, defined as “the piglet resulting from the union of wild boar with tame sow.” This hybrida root stresses that the incongruity of the fusion derives not from different species but from the intermingling of wild & tame states. Translating these states into anthropological terms, it defines aspects of both shamans & witches whose identities & activities are comprised of wild & tame, or wilderness & cultural, experience. Translated into bebop terms, tame is fixed, wild is unfixed. To hybridize is to improvise, and the earliest examples of improvisation are to be found in the Upper Paleolithic cave images of southwestern France.  One of the most remarkable which I discovered while doing research on Upper Paleolithic Imagination in the Dordogne in the 1980s is to be found in the cave called Les Trois Freres (or, in English translation, The Three Brothers):  seated inside of a prancing, bison-headed man, is a young woman. This image is dated at around 14,000 years ago.
   Bebop, from this point of view, appears to be a marvelous 20th century extension of hybridization, the creator of imagination in folklore & the historic arts.  

   —Clayton Eshleman

Saturday, February 4, 2017


Fembot Fatale of the Hivemind, image by Daniel Y. Harris



Only 46% of our world cultures enjoy
this phenomenon—the majority bored
or repulsed by oral contact. In Europe,
one-percenters were the innovators, as
Kings and Queens and courtiers tried

Kissing. Commoners (always eager to ape
the antics of their oppressors) gave it a try;
found it good—and kissing became the fad.
In case you think I’m mad—I read this in
National Geographic! For that 54% I feel



The wren and the small gilded fly don’t need
royalty to urge them to go to ’t. Darwin 101!
Nature’s first mission, survival—not of you, or
me, but our species. America agrees with King
Lear that if we’re to thrive—we must promote
Copulation. Lear ordered England to teem with
bastards so he could stick it to Goneril & Regan.
But the more we cheer the orgy on—with Viagra,
Hip-Hop, Sex Education, In-Vitro-Fertilization,
the more we abhor & deplore—the steady rise in



72. No more. No less. “Promise, large promise,”
Johnson says, “is the soul of an advertisement.”
At 16, hormones raging, the only female bodies
he’d seen were burkha’d from head to toe. How
provocative those eyes!—HUGE, that promise.

Virgins! In heaven! Unburkha’d! 72 of them!
So he strapped a vest to his own virgin body
& blew himself to bits (with 26 infidels: men,
women, children). 72 virgins? Caveat emptor!
Too late. This deal’s done. He didn’t even get



Isn’t just a mankind thing. Take pigeons: 38 in
a coop in Plainfield, New Jersey (circa, 1952).
Homers, Trumpeters, Jacobins, Fantails, Kings.
They made love; sat on eggs; raised their kids,
multi-culturally—with deep respect for birdly

Ethnicity. I never saw a Jacobin slight a King—
a Homer cluck a slur at a Fantail. Still, when it
came to mating, Kings only had eyes for Kings;
Jacobins—for Jacobins. So much for kumbaya
elation. Pigeons don’t give a flying shit for—



Not created by 5-star chefs, but 50-lira whores
whose mama mias taught them that the way to
a man’s pants is through his nose. That aroma
raised the eyes of many a hungry Napolitano—
to 2nd story windows, offering 2 for 1 delights. 

Puttanesca. Olives, garlic, anchovies, capers.
Perfect recipe for busy working girls bent on
cooking up a cheap but savory dish. Easy to
put together on the fly. Still sooo delectable!
Yet, I suspect, even tastier, before it became



Lays guilt trips on whatever goes awry—
Should’a done this... Should’a done that…
(always followed by—Sorry, it’s too late).
Swears to be Angel of teachable moments.
(Don’t be fooled. Should’a’s full of hate.)                

Should’a’s relentless; will rat-tat-tat away
till you shout, why didn’ t I make him wear
a condom? wish I never married the creep.
Only way to end the bullying—play the IF
card. If I could’a, you know damn well, I


—David Alpaugh