Friday, July 15, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011


from SHR Spring / Summer 2011:

Becoming Weather by Chris Martin (Coffee House Press, 2010)
Reviewed by Curtis Jensen

Chris Martin, in Becoming Weather, tracks between registers closely situated and theoretically distant, registers loosely coordinate with the particularly experienced the abstractly removed. Becoming Weather is significant in that it addresses the dual registers of human experience, the instant and the infinite, by poems which both contain and enact this duality. That is to say Martin manifests the dualism of Becoming Weather’s content by means of its tensioned form and vice versa. From Disequilibrium, the first section of Becoming Weather:

What we ask ourselves
Now is—What is forgivable?

I move to bare
the little splitting
inside as it

reds between
the pink on the end
of my finger

Somehow this coincides
with a faith in
the world as a place

In 6, Martin attends to that which we ask ourselves and the pink on the end / of my finger, the abstract and critical and the close and experiential. In terms of content, the compositional field of the poem is marked. Extending from 6 to Becoming Weather as a whole, Martin’s pathos-rich poetic voice traces across the book a weave both local and global, highly personal and highly public. A sort of inscape is formed, but unlike Hopkins, Becoming Weather does not explicitly intend its instresses of poetic attention to some logocentric being or trope or combination of the two. Martin calls to the reader early in the text:

I’m asking you

if it’s possible to refuse
to go blind—I for whom

the divers tones
of a mental life meld

at once
So is it

the infinite or
the instantaneous

quality of movement
that frightens us more?

Martin marks his registers, instantaneous and infinite, and he situates his poetic voice in a differential position between them, between I and for whom, between subject and object. Martin’s vocation is to voice the inspired moments of his existence, to sing the correspondence between instance and infinity, between spots of time and high virtues, between epiphanies close at hand and the void beyond what is not at hand. Romantic and late-romantic poetics are applicable to Martin’s poems, but fail to account for the formal signature of Martin’s subject/object position. Thus Martin is set with the task of both seeing and saying:

Can I say the air
is beautiful?

Can I spend my whole life
as a guest inside the eccentric

Let us release
these appearances
and in so

doing hold
fast to what burden
bodies make

thick returning
to us their
unconscious care

Can I spend my whole life as a gust
outside the eccentric balloon?

Can I see the air
as beautiful?

A follow-up question to stanza 2 could be: if not a speaking subject, then what? By inverting the opening couplet into the closing couplet, saying and seeing bind together in chiasm; Martin demonstrates the two acts’ integral interrelationship in the formation of the speaking subject. For Martin the poet must attend to both inside and outside, must attempt both saying and seeing. But how can one do both, how can someone be both inside and outside? In order to manage this duality, an ethics of instability (see Ted Mathys’s interview with Martin, soon to appear on is practically entailed and a poetics that privileges movement between registers is deployed. Across the poem and the book Martin flickers (and he must) between subjectivity and objectivity, the instant and the infinite in order to attempt both. Martin’s poetic voice tends towards a reflection of something essentially dualistic by function of its demonstrated vocation as well as its chosen subject. In this way, Becoming Weather is a rich working out of Martin’s poetics, a poetic vocation dually composite of a self-declared and content-determined set of imperatives.

I’m a man
becoming weather

None of this is to suggest that Martin aims for the expression of an imagined algorithm of nature—though the moment that one of Martin’s poems seems to alight on a mimetic perch, it just as quickly veers away. But this figure happens less in the way a finch flits instinctively about and more in the way a deliberately composed loop is shaken out from a lariat. Accordingly, as often as the poems of Becoming Weather appear to manifest themselves, Martin clearly composes them.

Now if you would
gently tip
the assemblage
I will breathe
my torrent
once more

Both contingency and composition hold places of privilege in Martin’s poetics. In Becoming Weather, perceptions follow one another quickly, but simultaneously Martin affects a subtle, tense chord between an emphasis on the open field and the particulars brought to position in that field. This tension is reflected in the poems’ movements between registers concrete and abstract. Across the book, Martin achieves the radical Disequilibrium he sets out to enact. Martin both sings, to borrow more terms from Charles Olson, from a position of objectism, and sees from a position of objectivism. Though at times the work tips too far towards it theoretical ground, threatening to topple irrecoverably into the discourses of critical thought, it does not. Thus the work achieves through form an enactment of its own content, and it does so in the pathos-rich timbre of Martin’s poetic voice. Martin’s poetic inheritances are in this way clearly present in the book’s figures (Oppen, Guest, and Berrigan are mentioned the book’s last section, Chorus); the book presents a flush document of Martin’s movement into a deeply dual poetics from a position informed by late modern poetry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Interview w/ Kevin Spenst


Through the site Precipitate, I came across the work of Curtis Jensen, a poet who has lived and worked in Utah, Wyoming, Ukraine and now Brooklyn. He maintains a blog at the end of waste and was good enough to answer the following questions:

How do you work your way through revisions? Do you have any tricks or theories to removing commas, words or lines?

I usually work through revisions in pencil, on paper, reading / speaking to myself out loud as I write.

Regarding punctuation, it depends on the poem or set of poems. Over the last year or so I’ve drifted away from using commas and end punctuation, and now I’m sort of drifting back. If I am using punctuation, I usually have an imagined hierarchized scheme for it all–certain symbols mark sentence-interior phrasal breaks, other symbols mark sentence-end phrasal breaks.

If a line sticks in my ears or for my eyes (I try and give my ears more attention as a general rule, but that doesn’t always work out), I piece the line out in a sort of hashed up phrase-level sentence diagram, or I scan it with my own mongrel version of Derek Attridge’s phrasal scansion, or I do both.

I look for points at which more syntactic energy can be built in to the poem (lately this has seemed to be a function of keeping an eye out for the chance to exploit the charge between subject and object by way of predicative ambiguity, but there’s more than 1 way to pluck a goose when it comes to this stuff) and more formal patterning or variation can be teased out of the poem.

Once I’ve moved through a round of all of that, I usually type and print a draft sheet of the poem. More often than not I try out drafts at readings–there’s something about getting a poem in your mouth in front of an audience in the charged space of a reading that can really show where poem is charging itself or not.

Most poems, after a couple rounds of all of this, settle out into something close to finished.

Robert Lowell wrote that “Revision is inspiration.” To what extent do you think that’s true? How would you rewrite Lowell: “Revision is __________”

Revision is usually for me a function more of composition than of generating text. But not always.

Any pet peeves when it comes to editing your work or someone else’s?

I’d rather not do either when I’m out in an icestorm. In fact I’d rather just avoid icestorms.

Are there any lines from an early draft of a poem that you’d like to share? What ideas, principles or gut feelings guided you through those changes?

I’m working on a longer project about John D Lee, a figure from Mormon history. Last night at Prospect 60WANU5, from a new poem I’m working on in which I sort of throw Lee’s voice, I misread

A friend is one’s second self,
& you are my third wife, loyal
To all ends the word of God is holy
As are our bodies our wealth


A friend is one’s second wife
You are my third, loyal …

The formal integrity of the stanza holds up with the change, it’s nice to have wife out of the 3rd line, and its pretty ridiculous to take on the voice of a polygamist and say things like that, so I think I’ll keep it. It was a complete moment of parapraxis–I as guided by my inability to read.

Thursday, February 3, 2011



See the homestead in white to indicate
No trees no water which is accurate
Though a map of such scale won’t explain.

How to see the homestead see its pole barn
Hand-drilled flagstones
Now there is nothing.

Where the mindeye began on the ground
Memory ends the barn roof assumes
An axon hillock.

Where the blue-blank scoria meets the open
The soma along which we run
I see the map I see us.

With open sights fire on the coyote
Fire across the desiccate flat.


—Season she's done her best to tear down
The southfence to get at the diversion
Ditch how I come to be here let alone

How here come to be
So little water I ought
To be getting in the winter wheat

I mend the line she's busted
She's torn her leg she's tied to it
If she's hurt again she might quit

Giving milk worse still push through
The southfence to the co-op field
O I know I can't hope

To pay for this was back 2 years
Snow so much the mail couldn't get
This far out they held it in town

Which was fine
Because there was no mail.


Loose flights of crows crows seen unheard move
Latidudinal across clay furrows of fields
To woods especially to spruces for their needles
Then back above houses at the road

Leading out of a village down a slope before the ponds
Which have been drained by the pondskeeper
His consorts pluck crucian & carp
From the mud in dozens they do so with tridents

As you come down the slope your legs loose-feeling
& your back each footfall gravels the myelin sheath
You pass the assemblage thin-firing the fish
Someone waves you wave back the electric sun

Dendrite trees beyond which is a station
From there final words neuron by neuron.

From there final words neuron by neuron
Dendrite trees beyond which the station
Place of departure place of reconstruction
Though 6 kilometers distant from where you run

Now out the village up the long grade
The valley itself a firing place
Firing places in unwitting shapes
Walnut trees a rotten fence chests the tread

Thin bus tire in viscous & other wheels.
Your hand is closed you are not from here
But here you have a home you leave from there
Having run your loop you’ve displaced nothing.

Loose flights of crows crows seen unheard flights
Latitudinal across clay furrows of fields.


From the left there my 1st wife
My 2nd wife agreed
To the 3rd who entails the 4th
So I have 4 beautiful wives

My 2nd wife agreed
As do I agree to The Principle
So I have 4 beautiful wives
We live together we are a family

As do I agree to The Principle
Of Celestial Marriage eternal cooperation
We live together we are a family
We are individuals we are all agents

Of Celestial Marriage eternal cooperation
Fulcrums at a hard paradox
We are individuals we are all agents
We each in agency choose obedience

Fulcrums at a hard pivot
My daughters & my sons so many work
We each in agency choose obedience
Putting up the season's hay

My daughters & my sons so many work
Don't you find it pleasant to watch them
Putting up the season's hay
One of many things we do here

Don't you find it pleasant to watch them
If you'd like I could name them
One of many things we do here
Then you'd have a clearer sense of the place

If you'd like I could name them
You could compare them to your family
Then you'd have a clearer sense of the place
We might even feel an affinity

You could compare them to your family
Experience is difficult to account for
We might even feel an affinity
In such an inventory

My 2nd wife agreed
From the left there my 1st wife
So I have 4 beautiful wives
The 3rd entails the 4th


As though a spirit or group of entrained spirits come out of the river over me leering from the blunt hilltop I see a vertical form within which as within a lightshaft are held dust particles distinct points in space & so in motion & there is a pulpit whitewashed walls dark pews & their corresponding embroidered cushions a slate roof a triptych window illuminating human forms in a vortex of flame a father & son embracing a gyre over an estuary channel this is a church in which I along with other figures constitute a complex of figures which is a figure itself that shimmers on the neuronal layer of the rear walls of my retinas & so this complex churchfigure I take onto the sulcic surface of my brain in dozens of distinct areas this reflection takes on the damp brainsmell of that place of heartwork so I have taken in the church have you in your mind’s eye achieved stabilization of an image I have not.

I see the frame broaden as the church flickers there I discern perhaps the room in which the churchfigure is worked now I see no longer only the church risen at the hilltop its interior distinct points I see also that from the spire emerges in compliment another spire from the slate roof an inverse roof from the floor a mirrorfloor so are the figures of this church oriented metonymically a complimentary nexus all surfaces intersecting every line expanding arrays of distinct points within & without constituent relational planes perhaps extending to infinity as it seems the complimentary churchfigures do though such distances myself I’ve yet to see perhaps by means of vision I am not equipped to do so I am here here is my conscious self centered in this multivalent churchfigure of distinct points flickering intersecting planes which constitute a figure of consciousness as there at the retina & correspondingly at the unfurling braintopos shimmers the churchfigure as would retinotopically shimmer other figures come there from the hilltop or some field of view or a pane of glass extending in all directions at once

Which the church does hold its center which is composed of distinct points the windows pulpit slate roof pews & so forth which has been discussed which is the center of this church where this began which I see shot through with multiple panes of glass the church-on-church figure intervaled by the infinite glasspanes of projected linear time & on glass is light so the figure takes further shapes as accordingly do the retinotopic figures I discern the panes of glass constitute pairs I discern the pairs of panes move out from the center of the churchfigure which I discern expands & the figures of my experience emerge in the interelational space between the glasspanes now I’ve come into light flickering between the glasspairs that widening space bares something of the external world’s relation to the active topography of the brain.

So. There is light now on dozens of distinct areas of my brain. Dawn shines through words cut through a steel scallop words in color of infinite gradation color beyond the measure by which I could ever hope to discern though there nonetheless are the figures of the words constituted in light these words of Benjamin Britten’s: I hear those voices that will not be drowned. Sulcic in its form is the vertical scallop which shimmers in the dawnlight as is the brain sulcic & as is also the shingle sulcic & iced-over this morning the shinglestones in the ice hold their surface then the ice gives way the stones of the shingle composite of the beachberm these stones move out one foot comes to be between them & on the stones & ice again another foot holds then also comes to be between them again again again as she & I & her father make our ways out of Aldeburgh towards Thorpeness which drifts away.


& steel mesh there is dung there in the shed
Is shadow galvanized hare-brained feather fibers
Soiled cellulose nestbowls yellow as Father’s
Watchchain elktooth steel to his watchpocket shadow

Beneath the makeshift palletfloor there voles
& mice are beetles too after which hens jab
June grasshoppers vibrate or a worm warm dab
Of sun in the coopshade a wasp growls

From the eaves from empty space thin & freckled
Her fingertips, wrist, forearm plunge out the light
Dab to the nestbox the shadow below a churl-white
Hen slips to darkness in hand she takes mucus & blood

Splotched an oval a keratin-knobbed egg
A warm oblong enfoldment of circles: behold.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011



A reading with poets Jen Bervin, Corina Copp, Abraham Avnisan, Gracie Leavitt, and Curtis Jensen
Date: Thursday, February 3
Time: 8 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by the Hollow Earth Society

PROSPECT 60WANU5, a collective effort, promises one vivifying night of poetry, all sorts. Presenting works centered in/around language, our readers explore, perform, inform other fields (the canvas, the stage, the actual tilled or untilled field), are curious about each other, and ask/invite questions throughout the evening. On Feb. 3 we make available a host of new/exclusive print and sound offerings. Past Prospect readings, changeable and with a budget of $0, have taken place, in all weathers, at pop-up stores, parks, and living rooms. All afterward have migrated from these locales to bars where continues casual, vital conversation, plus general merriment, among readers and audience members alike. More at:


* 8:00 PM Works presented (short breaks between presentations)
* 10:00 PM Further casual social interaction at Canal Bar
* 12:00 AM Gowanus burns

About the presenters:

Jen Bervin is a poet and visual artist whose work brings together text and textile in a practice that encompasses artist books, poetry, large-scale art works, and archival research. Her poetry/artist books include The Dickinson Composites (Granary Books 2010), The Desert (Granary Books 2008), A Non- Breaking Space (UDP 2005, web-only), The Red Box (2004), and Nets (UDP 2004), currently in its fifth printing. Her most recent work,The Silver Book, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse. She recently finished a geocentric scale-model of the Mississippi River, 230 ft. long, composed of hand-sewn silver sequins. Bervin will teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts and Harvard University in 2011. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Corina Copp is a playwright, poet, and wishful thinker living in Brooklyn. Recent work includes essays on Jean Day, Hannah Weiner, and Sarah Ruhl; a chapbook for minutes BOOKS; and texts that can be found soon or now in Cannot Exist, The Brooklyn Rail, Jacket2, SerieAlfa, Supermachine, Aufgabe, and Antennae. Plays: Tell Only One (Small Press Traffic Poets Theater Festival, Jan. 2011); WALTZ (CSC/E. 13th St. Theater, July 2010, dir. Meghan Finn), and A Week of Kindness (Ontological Incubator/Brick, 2008). She’s performed her own work and that of others in London, NYC, and elsewhere. CC is the editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter and co-curator of The Twenty-Five Cent Opera of San Francisco at Barbes.

Abraham Avnisan is a poet, visual artist, and would-be psychoanalyst living and working in Brooklyn, NY. His work explores the space where poetry and the visual arts exchange furtive glances. He has been published in the Brooklyn Review, Boog City Reader, Onesies: a Chapbook Anthology Project and eoagh: a Journal of the Arts (forthcoming). His work has been exhibited at Centotto Gallery in Bushwick, Arts in Bushwick’s BETASpace Festival, and the Figment Arts Festival on Governor’s Island. He received his M.F.A from Brooklyn College.

Gracie Leavitt (sick about the market, charmed by invention, for whom syntax is a function of the soul) is an MFA candidate in poetry at Brooklyn College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Sentence, Word/For Word, Sugar House Review, Washington Square, Caketrain, 2River, Fourteen Hills, La Petite Zine, and elimae. She recently collaborated with Kolekt::f to stage the original full-length play PITCH at La Mama E.T.C. and has further designs on such multidisciplinary productions.

Curtis Jensen’s work has appeared in Try!, The Sugar House Review, No, Dear, Precipitate and The Equalizer. He has lived and worked in Utah, Wyoming, Ukraine and now Brooklyn. He maintains a blog at