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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Radio Archives: In Bed With Phillip. ABC Radio. Radio National One. (2011)

Clearly, one of the best and most consistent radio journalists in Australia is Phillip Adams of ABC Radio National, who for over twenty years has presented Late Night Life (LNL) Monday to Thursday between 10-11 pm. Recently, ABC has collected for the first time, a hundred or so of his most memorable broadcasts on Radio National under the heading ‘In Bed With Phillip.’ He interviews Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson's biographer E. Jean Carroll, Christopher Hitchens and hundreds of other influential writers and thinkers. Find this valuable site here:

Adams interviewed Kurt Vonnegut in 2005 a couple of years before his death. Vonnegut is darkly humorous in his views on his survival in Dresden in 1945, the stupidity of the Bush Government and on his own botched suicide. He says he was lucky in his writing career and was the only person to benefit from the fire-bombing of Dresden- having received for his novel Slaughterhouse 5 about two dollars for each person killed. Find the audio interview here:

Monday, December 19, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Charles Bukowski New Poems: THE PEOPLE LOOK LIKE FLOWERS AT LAST. Edited by John Martin, Ecco, New York, 2007 ( 299 pages).

This is the 42nd of 44 books Ecco has published of Bukowski books, and without hesitation, I  would rate The People Look Like Flowers At Last at the bottom of the barrel of their posthumous poetry collections I have encountered thus far.

The Ecco books are printed on poor quality paper and while reading, the feel of the flimsy plastic like cover can sometimes send an uncomfortable shiver up your spine. If you are a Bukophile- sure you are going to enjoy this book. And granted, there are about twenty fine poems in this collection. The best are characteristically the longer anecdotal poems from the creative bank of Buk’s great repertoire of experience, both real and imagined. My personal favourites include ‘beef tongue’, ‘the dwarf with a punch’, ‘don’t worry, baby, I’ll get it’, ‘kissing me away’, ‘two kinds of hell’, ‘contributors’ notes’ and ‘sun coming down.’

The poem ‘the great debate’ perhaps sums up this volume best. Bukowski's alter-ego Chinaski receives the latest book from a friend he used to admire for his ‘crude, simple,/ troubled’ writing. But since his friend has become a university lecturer he considers his work ‘very pale’ and ‘spread across the page/ like a mist/ filling it/ but saying/ very little.’ Although his friend is now ‘a successful writer’ Chinaski believes he ‘no longer enflamed his readers’, ‘never made/ anybody/ angry/ disgusted/ sad’, ‘never made/ anybody/ feel the rush of wonder/ while reading/ it.’ It’s probably my critical eye and my familiarity with Bukowski’s work- but it is easy to draw ironic parallels with the speaker’s views and with this sad, inferior book of poetry. Many of the poems begin promisingly but often remain sketchy or fall flat on their face. But then again, who am I to question the merit of Buk’s posthumous work? I am a mere adherent presently suffering the effects of the over consumption of his dead vibes- having closely studied fifteen of his books this year.

The best previously unpublished Ecco collection of Bukowski poetry is easily Come On In! (2006) followed by The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain (2004) and much further lagging in merit is what matters most is how well you walk through the fire (1999) and then the stolid BONE PALACE BALLET: New Poems (1997).

Compare this with  the reader survey found here where you can cast your own vote:

For the full ECCO list of books search here:

Update: Also see my review- The Best & Worst of Charles Bukowski's Posthumous ECCO Poetry Books:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Release: Howie Good Dreaming in Red. Right Hand Pointing. Lulu. 2011 (68 pages).

This is Howie Good’s fourth full-length collection of poetry and consists of fifty-two characteristically short experimental poems in which he adopts a variety of non-traditional forms, including- prose poetry, free verse, found poetry, collage and non-rhyming couplets. The language is simple but has a cut-up feel about it which can alienate occasional readers of poetry.

The overall tone of the collection is extremely varied and includes some fond personal and family reminisces but as you enter further into the territory of the collection, the more you become aware of  Good's sinister representation of a world which is twisted and full of injustice and brutality. There are numerous references to Nazis, barbed-wire and beheadings. In the interview which follows, Good explicitly comments on the overall intent of his book, ‘I’m just trying to convey some small but defining aspect of our time and place as I find it- cruel, hyper-violent, and bleak.’

There is no doubting that Good is an accomplished and adventurous poet and that much of our marvel of his poetry derives from our emotional reaction to what is difficult to rationalize in his work. As reader you must first navigate through his jig-saw, sometimes obscure experiments in language before you are offered a glimpse of what he is attempting to achieve. If you are patient and take your time with Good's work perhaps all will not be revealed- but he will open up new spaces in your head which may help shake you free from your set ways of reading and interpreting poetry.


Brief bio: Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the full-length poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011), and Dreaming in Red (Right Hand Pointing, 2011), as well as numerous print and digital poetry chapbooks, including most recently Love in a Time of Paranoia from Diamond Point Press. 

 BOLD MONKEY Q1: The imagery in Dreaming in Red is bleak and has an underlying sinister, apocalyptic tone. You make references to Nazis, terrorists, barbed wire fences, soldiers, beheadings, injustice, weeping, suffering- you explore in this book the metaphoric hell on earth. What is your overarching concept for the book and what are you attempting to express about humanity and our times?

My poetry is sometimes referred to as surrealistic. I don’t necessarily agree with that characterization. It’s reality, not my poetry, that’s surreal. I’m just trying to convey some small but defining aspect of our time and place as I find it – cruel, hyper-violent, and bleak. In a paradox typical of art, the stranger or more unrealistic one of my poems seems, the closer it may approach what’s really going on in the world.

Q2: There are numerous references to dreams and to the color red in your collection. Can you clarify some of the intended meanings/ associations you wish your reader to draw from your title and central motif Dreaming in Red?

Readers should draw whatever conclusions they want from the references and images in the book. The poet’s task, as I understand it, is to write poetry, not to explain it once it’s written. The poem itself is all the explanation there is to offer. 

Q3: Many poems in the collection appear to be cut & paste in either free verse or prose poem form. You commented in your Fogged Clarity interview (linked below) that you like to ‘keep the reader off-balance.’ Can you elaborate in detail on your fascination with the cut & paste style? 

When a word or phrase or sentence strikes me while I’m reading or even during conversation, I write it down in my notebook. There they join material that’s more self-generated. All of it becomes the mud and straw for the bricks I use to build poems. Sometimes I’ll write a piece that’s kin to a found poem. In the book, SOMEONE WAS ALWAYS DYING SOMEWHERE and OVER YOUR CITIES GRASS WILL GROW are examples. They’re sort of verbal collages created from phrases I clipped from news sources and novels and arranged in what I hope is a provocative way. If you accept the premise that life in the twenty-first century is increasingly fragmented and discontinuous, then this may be the ideal form of writing to accommodate and capture the texture of modern experience. 

Q4: Since 2004 you have published at least four full-length collections of poetry as well as 31 print and digital poetry chapbooks. You also work as a journalism professor. I understand you write between 9 to 12 most mornings- but how do find the time and why the obsession with writing poetry at this stage of your life?

I take seriously Flaubert’s admonition to writers: Be bourgeois in your habits, and revolutionary in your work. This is the antithesis of the stereotype of the poet as a wild man leading an irregular Bohemian existence punctuated by drunken binges, drug abuse, and sexual abandon. As attractive or exciting as that kind of life may seem, it’s not exactly conducive to sustained creativity. Flaubert recommended saving the wildness for your work, and not your living arrangements. Essentially, I practice the values of the old Protestant work ethic – industry, sobriety, and discipline – to get my writing done.

 Q5: Your poems are characteristically short and use simple, clear language. Considering your prolific output do you usually do much editing and re-writing of your work?

I edit and rewrite extensively. I’ll even go back and revise published poems if something about them –an image, a word choice – bothers me in  retrospect. It’s extremely rare that I “knock out” a poem. Most of the time I don’t know what a poem is trying to say or do until it’s gone through numerous rewrites. For me, writing a poem isn’t like taking down dictation. It’s more like digging for gold in hard ground with broken fingernails.

Q6: You read extensively to aid your choice of subject matter. Can you outline some of your readings which contributed to the development of Dreaming in Red?

I do read a lot, and not just poetry. I particularly find biographies of visual artists useful. It’s not so much content or subject matter I draw from them, but titles and what might be called “prompts” – phrases and ideas I can push off from. I feel a fellowship to visual artists. Maybe it’s because the creative process for poets is closer to that of painters than it is to that of novelists or essayists. When I read about a painter like Joan Mitchell agonizing for hours over one brush stroke, I recognize my own experience wrestling with words.

Q7: A good sampling of your writing touches on the political but never explicitly. You characteristically present your views in a series of puzzles and language exercises. To what extent is this an accurate assessment of your work? 

Quite accurate if “political” is defined broadly, as the struggle to find a way to live together with the greatest amount of freedom and joy and the least amount of suffering and injustice. But I don’t often consciously write poems of political protest. Rather, given the times, any poem that questions the status quo is ipso facto political.

Q8: On a lighter note, what is your advice to young promising poets just starting out?
Organize your life around your writing, and not your writing around your life. And don’t be discouraged by rejection. Samuel Beckett’s first novel was rejected by 42 publishers; he eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Thanks Howie and all the best with the book. All proceeds from its sale are for a great cause.

Thanks for all your kindnesses,

Buy Howie Good’s new book Dreaming in Red here:
All proceeds from the sale of this book benefit the Crisis Center .The Crisis Center is a non-profit agency in Birmingham, Alabama offering suicide prevention, services to victims of sexual assault, day treatment for the indigent mentally ill, and other services.

Howie Good’s blog Apocalypse Mambo keeps his readers informed of the links to the latest poetry he has published in magazines and books:

Research Notes:
Twenty of Howie Good’s  poems in Dreaming in Red were previously published in his e-book collection Love Dagger on Right Hand Pointing and can be found here:

Howie Good was interviewed by Ben Evans of Fogged Clarity: An Art Review for his first full-length collection LOVESICK. This is an excellent and highly informative audio interview in which Good discussions a wide range of topics related to his writing process and the aesthetics of his poetry:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN- Issue 6: Writing On Walls (2011)

Issue #6 of DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN 'Writing On Walls’ is now out in print and online. It features ‘found’ like poems from the walls of Paris (where the magazine is published) and beyond. As you scroll down, place the curser on the images and you will be able to read the small print. Dean Kisling makes some shrewd observations in his photograph ‘NO.’ Contributors in this issue include Sage Francis, Scroobius Pip and Kele Okereke. 

This is an innovation street inspired visual + text magazine which reinvents itself with every issue. 

                                                 Free Cheese by Scroobius Pip

Issue 7 of  Do Not Look at the Sun can be found here:

Also check out their archives for some interesting projects:

The magazine is still considering the theme for Issue 7 ‘though it looks like it may have something to do with paper airplanes.’

Make your submissions to the editor Anthony Cuthbertson: