Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Under World - by Melissa Kwasny

I had an idea midwinter. It was ruby, glistening. It was garnet,
menstrual. I would have it on my table, centered, a red rocking
thing to measure time. Which doesn't move, they say, which is
an illusion. Unemployed: traveling to the woodpile and coming
back with sticks. I know the shrunken world is an experiment.
Bird shell caught in the teeth. So far I have waited mole-eyed, the
body puffy. What huge desperation devises these tests? I open
my eyes when I haev been asked to keep them closed. I peek and
then the fascists come down on me. I have tried to be a good
therapeutic model, to choose to be happy, that jingling of coins.
But there is no room for heart in the cold earth place.

The world circles around me with its pack of lies. Shall I give it one last
chance? And another? ...
One lives the life one was meant to, or one doesn't...

Up in the air. A peculiar phrase. What does it mean that nothing's
landed? ...

When I broke with the earth, in grief, the animals still gathered. The iris
skimmed the pond, turning it to azure. I felt the coolness on my arms.
Re-pressed. Implying the property of buoyancy. Re-petition. Implying
the king or queen might still say yes. Though the soil still clings to me.
Though I drag my bootleg pain. Though I still believe in perpetrator and
victim. Deep need, I am bending into you. Pulverized by being. Nothing
else will wake me. Bite deep my driving hand. If I am progeny of thorns,
I am also mother of a sea of roses. If I am sea, I am anaphora. Casting a
calm above the undertow. Speak to me, work, or I will be forever lonely.
Help me to remember who I am.

-From Reading Novalis in Montana
* * * * *

What huge desperation, indeed. It is not midwinter yet. I don't think I have had an idea in a long while. Even whilst I think about choosing to do this something, I am doing something else.

How does one know if one is living the life one was meant to?

If I have not landed, I don't want to. Or maybe I do. I am indeterminate, flapping invisible wings.

I am utterly defeated by being, she says. What can remember who I am?

* * * * *

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"For I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl hanging in a jar at Cumae, and when the acolytes said, 'Sibyl, what do you want?' she replied, 'I want to die.'"
-Petronius, Satyricon ch. 48

And moving on, with no connection to the above: Go Hear/Here Tomorrow

A Canadian Invasion!

Nick Thran (Insomniac Press)
J. Mae Barizo (Fields Press)
Moez Surani (Wolsak & Wynn)

8PM, Oct. 26
Unnameable Books
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
600 Vanderbilt Ave
(between Dean St & St Marks Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 789-1534

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mind and the Moon

All things were together. Then mind came and arranged them. - Anaxagoras

I came across this quote by Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher from the 5th Century BCE. He put forth theories on cosmology and celestial bodies, theories which ultimately of course set him in opposition to the established religious dogma.

His search for knowledge led him to conceive of Nous (mind) as an ordering form in the Universe, causing motion and the separation of object from object, like from unlike, creating the cosmos and distinguishing living bodies. Chaos refined into reality.

Anaxagoras distrusted the senses. Humans, animals, and vegetation sprang from moist clay created by mist and ether. This theory of creation, though, still relies heavily on mythical assumptions.

Though separated, all remain connected on some level. So your hand passes into mine, lightly brushing the skin. So your words, questions, sighs.

Near the north pole of the Moon, Anaxagoras is a lunar impact crater. It possesses a ray system, debris ejected during impact still extending visibly away for up to 900 km.

The Mind moves the Moon, my face in the window.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gypsy Woman

I am between lands, exhausted from trying to keep my head above water.
The flashing lights allure me, her voice beckons me back. Languages haunting me from across the water.

This is what she said to me:
You know I had someone ask if I was a gypsy. I said maybe.
He said he could tell by my eyes.
I said those ones are tired, wait when I wake up. Then look.
And then he gave me chocolat. I love my life. haha.

I could see her lovely laugh and the rolling out of chocolat in French, lacking an e.
Lacking. There is a line from a Jorie Graham poem, "what concerns us is luck" that I always, every time, read as lack. What concerns us is lack. What concerns me, it seems.

S. speaks in French, Arabic, and emoticons. Little smiley faces to punctuate the time.
Gypsy woman is what she used to call me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Burning Man Photos!

Please see all the photos here:
Visual Poetical Distractions, Burning Man 2009
I promise, they're great!



As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved
in her laughter and being part of it until her teeth
were only accidental stars with a talent for squadrill.
I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each
momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns
of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles.
An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly
spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty
green iron table, saying "If the lady and gentleman
wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and
gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden..."
I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be
stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might
be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful
subtlety to this end.
-T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Burning Man 2009

This is what the Playa gifted me this year:
-A rainbow bead necklace
-A game to go with the necklace ;-)
-A rainbow earring
-Many nice compliments
-An amazing massage
-A fun little contraption (!)
-A beautiful magnet
-Two Playa moments (random encounters with random interesting people)
-Incredible and engaging conversation
-Wonderful connections with people
-Burning Man and Beaverton combined silver necklace (really, really special)
-Awe at the power of the desert and dust storms
-Momentary peace
-Thankfulness for knowing these amazing people

The Playa didn't resolve all of my questions, and perhaps this is good. I will continue to wonder if there is this one thing I need to let go of from back in Oxford, and do I need to be ok with letting it go, or can it just be gone?

Yesterday when I arrived back in NYC, A. commented that I had the Burning Man aura dripping off of me...this elated sensation that everyone is caring, nice, accepting towards me and others. Which is not always true in the default world. Decompressing back to reality here...

I will put up photos shortly, time permitting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Photography thoughts

Apparently, it is a great idea to post photos on Flickr.

I have a photo included in a new online Paris Guide!

Also, in the past few weeks have posted many, many more photos on my page. These are from the final events with the Hertford College, Oxford MCR (Formal Hall and Boat Ride), London Pride, as well as an album from my trip Nowhere, the European Burning Man Regional in the Spanish Desert. Click on the link to the right, or just click here.

"My photographs don't go below the surface. They don't go below anything. They're readings of the surface." - Richard Avedon

Sunday, July 26, 2009


-The heart's affection is enmeshed in vicissitude.

-What's most real is that which we never know, yet there - mid-point, invisible - constancy comes to find itself.

Inscribe these lines beneath a portrait, in which the eyes' impress and the mouth's disposition evoke a perpetual vigil. "

-David Miller, The Waters of Marah

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You were in my dream last night.

She was standing behind him in my dream. He was speaking of people, encounters. Those that move through your life and then move out. I looked at her, she smiled, looking back. Yes, this is what we are.

Yesterday she told me that our interactions are new to her, we are both discovering them. I don't know how much to believe her - have never seen her any other way. We always talk of dreams, brains, spinning things. French words seep through in her conversation, delicious as sweets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The School of the Dead

It can also happen that an author will kill himself or herself writing. the only book that is worth writing is the one we don't have the courage or strength to write. The book that hurts us (we who are writing), that makes us tremble, redden, bleed. It is combat against ourselves, the author; one of us must be vanquished or die...

What torments me is that the person who writes and who is sensitive to this kind of danger cannot not have the desire to die. The desire to die is the one thing in the world we cannot permit ourselves to admit; I am not talking about suicide: the desire to die and the temptation of suicide are two different things; suicide is murder, suicide is aimed at someone or something, whereas the desire to die is not this at all - which is why we can't talk about it.

The desire to die is the desire to know; it is not the desire to disappear, and it is not suicide; it is the desire to enjoy.

-Hélène Cixous. Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. 32-34.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Poets, Academia

Please go here to read a very interesting article about poets, poetry and academia, specifically in light of the current Oxford Professor of Poetry saga. Highly recommend.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Go Here/Hear - in NYC

If I was in New York right now, I would be attending THIS:

My friend and brilliant poet J. Mae Barizo is reading with Frank Bidart, Matthea Harvey, and the American String Quartet. GO!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Two wonderful events I will be attending this week, that you should attend too:

On Thursday, in Oxford:
Back Room Poets present a poetry reading, featuring Brian Catling, Peter Robinson, & Vahni Capildeo. With members of Oxford Improvisers, support by Elizabeth Birchall and Josephine von Zitzewitz.
When: 14 May 2009; Doors open 7 pm, start at 7:30
Where: St. Mary Magdalen Church (opposite Borders), Central Oxford
Tickets: £6 (-£4)
See below for more detailed information about this reading and the fantastic poets.

On Friday, in Paris:
Shakespeare and Company presents Cecilia Woloch's Paris Poetry Workshop. A tradition for many local and visiting poets, this May workshop is now in its eighth year. It introduces English speaking poets from various corners of the map to one other and to local audiences and writers. My friend Jennifer Huxta will be reading.
When: 15 May 2009; 7 pm
Where: Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris


About the series and the poets:
BACK ROOM POETS has provided a valuable forum for Oxford-based poets to perform and 
discuss their work for many years, and continues to present live poetry to a wider
audience, most recently at the Oxfringe Festival and at Art Jericho, Liz Birchall
has been a member since the foundation of the group. Her collection *The Forest that
Sailed Away* pays homage to Wychwood Forest, and she is now working on a cycle about
bees. Josephine von Zitzewitz has been a member since 2004 and is currently working
on a D.Phil on Russian Literature of the 1970s at St John's College.

PETER ROBINSON has published nine books of his own poetry, the latest of which is
*The Look of Goodbye: Poems 2001 - 2006* (Shearsman Books, 2008) as well as a
collection of aphorisms and translations from Italian and Japanese. He has also
engaged with a poetry as a critic and editor. His own poetry has been described
as exhibiting 'the urgencies of new creations' (Roy Fisher) and as 'some of the
most courageous poetry written in Englsh' (Adam Piette). His most recent work has
been praised for its 'intense but nuanced detail ' , the subtlety of its syntax,
and its ' unconventional rhythmic virtuosity ' (Jacket Magazine). Having held
a variety of academic posts in the UK and Japan, he currently teaches at the
University of Reading.

BRIAN CATLING 'has been exhibiting and publishing internationally since the 1970s, haunting
zones mostly unregulated by
institutions or the art market' (frieze). He says of himself: 'I am obsessively
engaged in the collision of separate activities
that sometimes fuse together in a hybrid event -- they being the
writing of poetry, the constructing of sculptural installation
and the action of performance.' He has published
eight books of
poetry and a collection of his poetry, *A Court of Miracles*, is due soon from Etruscan Press.
He is a Professor at the Ruskin
School of Drawing and Fine Art, and a Fellow of Linacre College.

VAHNI CAPILDEO is 'one of the most exciting and ambitious young Caribbean writers at work today ' (Antilles).
Her debut
collection of poems, *No Traveller Returns* (2003), was praised for its elegance and originality.
It was followed by *Person
Animal Figure* (2005), a series of dramatic monologues. Her third book,
*The Undraining Sea*, will be published in 2009. She
currently lives in Oxford, where she previously completed a
D.Phil on Old Norse, in 2000. She will be reprising a successful collaboration with members of the well-known
Oxford Improvisers
at this year's Oxfringe Festival.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Movement of her Mouth

There are eight walls to the room. A green couch.
Tiles around the fireplace depict scenes from the bible
and her voice dropped in from another time. It's not
insistent, this distraction, this obnoxious presence
of desire. Manipulation of the mind. The hand reaches out
to nothing, confusing implications of a board game
with wine. What concerns me is lack
disguised as wanting, or the color of her shoes
under a microscope. Red to be walked on by.
It's not that she does not say anything
but that the red drips from her mouth
to her shoes and perpetually twisting time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by poeticaldistractions


Originally uploaded by poeticaldistractions


Originally uploaded by poeticaldistractions


Originally uploaded by poeticaldistractions

Shifting Cities

Traveling means never being in one place for more than 4 nights. It also means taking lots of photographs. During March/April I traveled for 5 weeks, starting in Madrid and heading down to southern Spain, then up the eastern coast to Barcelona and southern France. Afterwards, I went down the western coast of Italy and up the eastern, stopped in Venice on my way to Munich, which itself was only a stop on my way to Amsterdam. Then I went to Paris. Here I got to see the the de Chirico painting "The Uncertainty of the Poet" which is definitely one of my favorites, and which I was upset not to see the last time I went to the Tate Modern in London - because it was on loan to Le musée d’Art moderne in Paris. When I returned to London, this was the only thing I was missing.

See these photos, and please go here to see more photos.

She said something about something that suggested something else like that eternal Starry Night set in the room.

Friday, April 10, 2009


"My photographs don't go below the surface. They don't go below anything. They're readings of the surface." - Richard Avedon, 1980


Something sticky or...light. Not photographic light, light that equals weightlessness. Like a soul.

I watched an interview documentary of Richard Avedon today, after pondering his photographs. He talked about his shoots; looking. Who is in control of the photograph? The end-product? The photographer or the subject?

They said that he was able to reveal the actuality of the people in his portraits. He looked, they looked back. Yet their actuality was always the reflection of his own: questions, answers. Foam, or something like it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Firenze, Roma, Bologna...

Still traveling. 

The days get longer and the distance, too. The separation more complete, as Saskia once said about my poetry. There was never any pain, but the desire now less acute. I say these things objectively, from far away, but don't know what will happen later. I say these things after more than two weeks, more than two miles, more than two thoughts. 

You know that feeling on a train, that feeling of movement only and not actual movement? That is the trajectory of my mind, I think. 

Morte al pacifista. (Italian graffiti, Firenze)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Desire Caught by the Tail

Today I learned that Picasso wrote a play, entitled by the above sentence fragment.

I also went to the Museu d'arte Contemporani de Barcelona, and walked on broken glass:
This is Cildo Meireles and his instalation, which I very much enjoyed. I had to sign a waiver before I walked inside it.

Before that, there was a room. A red room. All red. White walls, white light.

It might make you go mad.
A sink, running red liquid·blood
with which to paint the room.
With which to paint everything.

Friday, March 20, 2009

For you.

If I was in Oxford, I would make you some homemade soup.

However, I´m not. That´s sad.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It was the song that shattered when the musicians stopped listening.

In the White Horse, a boy asking for pie and a man staring blindly into space.
Loneliness as tangible as incomplete thought or moment of time years past.

Time always. Not the right time, she said. I agreed. She wore a beautiful gold necklace.

Not that I do not want it to be.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

an appropriate definition.

So you know:
Manipulative, adj.
Exercising control or influence over others esp. in a malign, devious, or underhand way.

ex: The blonde woman, her again, in the middle, in the crux of the problem, distraction. When she speaks to you, you are the only one in the room. But sometimes you become aware of her wandering eyes, waiting for someone else to talk to, to use. She tells you only what you want to hear. Laughing, wondering how far she can push/pull, until you will realize what she is doing. Some people never do.

"The manipulative and the declarative are the twin incentives by which the development of language is fostered in the child, and remain the essential functions of language in society." M. M. LEWIS Lang. in Society i. 24 from

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pier in the Sand

My new laptop desktop background is one of those generic photos that came with the computer. Black and White, it's a photo of a large dock emerging from sand into a body of water - a large body, as there is no type of land visible in the distance. It's entitled 'Pier.'

I am in one of those moods where I want to listen to music, but from my mp3 library of 7000+ songs, nothing interests me. It's not that I have too many choices and can't make a decision, it's that I don't have any affinity to the plethora of choices. Like when you stand in front of the refrigerator, looking for something you don't know what but knowing you will eat something, but not really even hungry to begin with. Or when you can't find anything you want to watch on TV but are too lazy to do anything else besides sit there uselessly flipping channels. Or that I also put up a generic photo as my background because I knew I couldn't relate to any of my own photos at the moment. (Also note the change in this background. It will most probably be changed back next time I write a post.)

There is going to be a full moon tomorrow, and I want to burn something. Some of the Burning Man contingency in MI is getting together for an effigy burn, as a cleanser to re-begin this New Year that seems to have started out pretty poorly for many people. Hmmmm...I should build something. Should find some wood. Maybe I'll burn a poem or two.

I have done nothing all day, and this is not a good thing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Much Too Volatile

Looking at photos
it is snowing and
listening to
My Brightest Diamond.
Inside a Boy.
I don't have time
to be doing this.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Last night I watched this crazy Japanese film. It was one in the morning by the time we started it, and I was already half asleep. I had never heard of it before, but S. had it lying around and had only watched the first 20 minutes. So, Friday night/Saturday morning we lay on the couches in the basement of Winchester House and turned on what turned out to be, on reflection, an entertaining little distraction.

Five characters with seemingly disjoint story lines eventually end up relating to each other somehow, but they never really do come together. My favorite was the first character introduced who repeatedly must murder his wife because she won't stay dead. Or she's dead, but keeps appearing back at home when he returns. But the best part is that she then tries to kill him. Repeatedly. She grabs him from inside the full bathtub, pulls him in to drown him. She is able to shoot off her appendages to attack him after he uselessly cuts her into pieces in an attempt to keep her dead. She blows fire at him after he kills her again and burns her.

The colors are amazing, scenes shot beautifully. I must say, though, that nothing much happened. Interesting though, and I was really just too tired to care. Maybe I'll like it more if I watch it when I'm awake, conscious, and so can actually pay attention.

The English assassin in the film is obsessed with one question: What is your function? He asks everyone he meets.

What is your function?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


'Many things are gone, they ceased to exist long before vanishing into oblivion. Things like faces, names, words, and also a pair of scissors lost last summer, as well as a few books, the fate of which is still a mystery to this day. Unimpeded, impatience lapses into indifference, making it impossible to distinguish one from the other. According to dictionaries, "monumentality" is derived from the concentration of power apparatuses - such as military forces, wealth, intelligence services, universities, and industries - into one locus.'

'Many people have gone mad, without even realizing it, in an attempt to connect their image (in the mirror or photograph) with themselves. In the disruption between "oneself" and "self" in/on the image, the mind loses its habits of recognizing its own presence. Insomnia is capable of prolonging only a chain of comparisons.'

'We talk only because of a persistent desire to understand what is it that we are saying. As a result, we allow ourselves to speculate that, all in all, we have fallen, by change, into a distorted phrase - "here and now" - the "correctness" of which, when uttered repeatedly, despends on how we disappear into it.'

--Arkadii Dragomoschenko, from "Dust" 2008