Friday, January 8, 2016


On a night when the Number Of Casual Snake Stories rivaled the Number Of Fine Pints Held Up To The Light, it had come time to sock Rod Smith in the shoulder. I say sock, Dear Reader, but clearly you can judge for yourself the Swiftness & Stealth of this maneuver, as the camera could not capture any small smidgen of its express delivery. Let us note the various aspects of the No Nonsense Reply. The affixing of reading spectacles as if to declare: Thug Life. The Crane Technique aka Looming Machinery Of The Poetry Hammer honed on the Mean Streets of Gallipolis, Ohio. And the Shock Swoop (French: chaque swoop) of the Final Descent. By the final frame, Dear Reader, neither of us could remember what had prompted us to offer the Substantial Ruckus of our Essential Conflict and so, you know, we just took a Regulation Photo, there, as if to proclaim Great Ambivalence about All Things That Squander Our Hopes in the pursuit of what we might call Medium-Tight. Amen.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Imagine a world in which you’re no longer a professor of literature, teaching the canon, but a professor of cannon, teaching the cannon. You realize that more sophisticated methods of delivering ordnance have arrived on the battlefield (and on the briny) (and in the cobalt, cobalt sky) yet you believe in a simpler, more classical war. “These implements”, you lecture, “might become requisite again, given the many catastrophes that may befall humankind, returning us to a more primitive, and enthralling, imposition of will.” A proper professor of cannon should teach the architecture of the device—the solid spaces and the negative—as well as the intellectual aspects of field artillery. Angle of fire and rate of fire, to be sure, but also the type of spark and type of propellant that ultimately lob the ball toward the fortifications. Your specialty, “Collateral Damage”, has yet to become unfashionable: the howling cannon-fire gone astray, and the ensuing despair of the unintended targets. Every so often, you congratulate yourself on completing a dissertation in this area, as this specialty provides you with a renewable means of presenting papers at conferences and pursuing promotions at your institution. “Fire!” you shout at your students. On cue, each of your students takes a turn shouting “Fire!” at the blackboard, where you’ve sketched out replica lip, muzzle, neck, and all the rest. As a special treat, you surprise your classes by playing the R.E.M. song, “The One I Love”, in which the singer croons, “Fire”, every so often. A very postmodern debate ensues about the intent of such a lyric, some students arguing that Michael Stipe must’ve been kindling a fuse a couple paces behind the chamber, so to speak, of a modern artillery piece, and yet other students contend that the song, “The One I Love”, belongs in another can(n)on altogether, the meaning of which troubles you, haunts your sensibilities. Perhaps you repair to the comfortable trappings of your office with a takeaway mug of decaf, noodling around in a canonical way: filing cabinet, bookshelf, computer, window, armchair. You relish the thought that, next semester, you will be on sabbatical, rising when you wish and working when you wish, if working means to grind coffee and peruse the Sunday funnies. In your absence, you realize, your students may be taught a thoroughly different cannon, but of course you, too, could consider teaching another cannon—or rather no canon, at all.                        

this post is part of a double issue. also see: TOPICAL PARADISE.



My Pop. . . . as himself

Dan Gutstein

Running Time:

Advance Praise:
“A Common Sense cocktail of ointments.” —Thomas Paine Relief
“A whale of a numbing combination.” —Freeze Willie
“FYI.” —For Your Inflammation

Other Films You Might Enjoy:

this post is part of a double issue. also see: TEACHING THE CAN(N)ON.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Are you left-brine or right-brine dominant? It would depend upon which ocean you await. The Atlantic always approaches shore from right to left whereas the Pacific always approaches shore from left to right. Oceans force you to adopt the same stance, no matter how you might strive to politicize an issue. Our centrists must reside in the middle of the continent—they count both the artist and the analyst among their ranks. An apple, can the centrists paint, a standard deviation, can the centrists compute. Would you apply Right Guard to your right-side armpit, or in general, to conservative body odor? Oh, would there be Left Guard for the left-side armpit or for the perspiration of liberals, who continue to perspire, apparently, without remediation. Personally, I blame this problem on our two-armpit system. Not that a third armpit could stagger the current political impasse, except maybe in a matted hair environment, where an alternative might break the dreadlocks. Do you think that the famous French bell-ringer drives the Hatchback of Notre Dame? Maybe he prefers to ride the Quasi-Moto-Cycle. In France, the Atlantic always approaches shore from left to right, forcing citizens to be right-brine dominant, les droitiers. There, the donkey brays, the chefs braise, the Frenchies tilt their berets.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


If you can’t pay in dollars, then you might as well pay in pathos.

They’ll take just about any currency down at the Five & Paradigm.

So, a guy walks into a bar along with a huge growling grizzly, and the maĆ®tre d hollers, “Oh my god! Table for two?”, and the guy replies: “Thanks. I know this grizzly situation may be difficult—bear with me!”

Meanwhile, the insect had been dead for such a long time, rigor mantis had set-in, but more than that, it’d gotten fashionable to be a dead insect, it was de rigueur mantis.

I like to sit in the portion of the aircraft where ordinary passengers receive self-help lectures, you know, motivational coach.

A fellow once sat next to me in motivational coach, a famous baseball slugger traveling to attend a Jewish girl’s coming of age ceremony.

He would be, in fact, Casey at the Bat Mitzvah.

How to explain, but the animated character suffered a ritual humiliation at the hands of an angry mob, in the new moving picture, Avatar and Feather.

The village crier scrambled into the town square in a state of alarm: “The Scot is dead”, he shouted, “the Scot is dead.”

“Oh no!” someone called back, “how’d he die?

“He was kilt!”

In an unrelated development, an Irish pop-rock band had to fill out so much American employment paperwork, they changed their name to W2.

“No more leads”, lamented the police detectives, as they chowed-down some lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

“Yep”, they lamented, “it’s a real cold case-a-dilla.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Lost Civilizations, from left to right: Leah Gage, 
Mike Sebastian, Patrick Whitehead, and Ted Zook

I hope that listeners will pardon my loud “Oi! Oi!” at the beginning of the first set, but I borrowed that riff from the Sleaford Mods song, “Middlemen”, in order to quieten our garrulous audience at the Black Squirrel, November 15, 2015. A fabulous renewal of the Lost Civilizations + Duo Exchange collaboration ensued. For each gathering, Rod Smith and I provide the words (the “Duo Exchange”) amidst the music, and we always label the most recent outing “the best”, this one without hesitation. Connoisseurs of our collaboration may recall that we script nothing in advance. The music as well as the poems find their own order as the event flows forward.

For a free listen of the first set (39 minutes) click [HERE]
For a free listen of the second set (33 minutes) click [HERE]

Ted Zook (basscello) and Mike Sebastian (saxophones) form the core of the Lost Civilizations Experimental Music Project, to which they invite guest musicians. On this night, Leah Gage sat-in on drums, and Patrick Whitehead joined on trumpet and flugelhorn, making us a six-member outfit. Rod and I attempt to build a city—many voices and humors—every time Duo Exchange sets out, and yet, no matter how much we may anticipate the evening’s trajectory, the music inspires us not only for its abiding quality, but also for the many surprising ways in which the musicians might push, embolden, and shape our performance. 

At times, we might’ve noted the manipulation of silence and the occupation of part-spaces. At other times, we might’ve caught the discordant caucusing in advance of one instrument prevailing. The Big Sound might’ve staggered us, the declarations of agreement that fronted and trailed synthesis. Did Lost Civilizations swing? Oh yeah, I think so. The musicians answered questions—with brassy, reedy, thumping, sawing language—in need of responses, only we had no knowledge of these questions before the performance began. We broke the surface of the evening, vastly replenished.

Rod Smith (left) and the blogger as Duo Exchange

Lost Civilizations reminds us, aptly, that counter-culture hasn’t yet suffered permanent misplacement, and that art, if untethered, represents our best avenue for salvation. Two writers had to fit together, and four musicians had to fit together, and six people had to fit together, in music and verse, and we did, fit. If you attended the show, if you listened to one or both sets, if you read this little review, thanks, and on behalf of Lost Civilizations and Duo Exchange, in the spirit of Duke Ellington, we love you M-a-a-a-dly!