Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Several days after my October post, STYLING SANPAKU, a collection of my texto-visual poetry, came out under my imprint. Another publisher held onto it for two years, after which I decided to self-publish it, using Jonathan Penton's Make It New Media as the POD printer. It hasn't been reviewed as yet and I'm looking for prospective reviewers. If you're intersted, plesae contact me at vfrazer@bellsouth.net. Prospective readers can purchase a copy at Amazon.com:


Sanpaku is a Japanese term that describes a condition in which the whites appear on three sides of a person's eyes. A Wikipedia entry describes the myths surrounding it:

When the bottom part of the white part of the eye known as the sclera is visible it is referred to as 'Yin Sanpaku' by the Chinese. According to the myth, it represents physical imbalance in the body, and is claimed to be present in alcoholics, drug addicts and people who over consume sugar or grain. Conversely when the upper sclera is visible this is called 'Yang Sanpaku'. This is said to be an indication of mental imbalance in people such as psychotics, murderers and anyone rageful. Stress and fatigue may also be a cause.”

Since the reader may consider the perceived meaning of any of the collection's poems as being within the range of Sanpaku behavior, my wife, Elaine Kass, painter Ed Rubin and I gave the book the above cover, which should address the Yin and the Yang of it.

Chalk Editions has published an ebook of ANY MOMENT, one of the manuscripts that's helped to keep my file cabinet full the past few years. Until recently, the publishers experienced difficulties while posting it to their site, so I've delayed my publication announcement. I'm not sure, but I think the notion of Chalk Editions officially announcing of its publication has gotten lost in the electronic shuffle, so I'm announcing it and providing the link:


Chalk Editions is one of the major ebook publishers now giving exposure to cutting edge writers and I'm very pleased to be on board. I've often credited Peter Ganick, one of Chalk's editors, as an importantliterary influence. As editor of Potes and Poets Press in the late 1990s, he exposed me to Language and Visual Poetry, which opened the floodgate of ideas I'd stored in my head since studying bass with Bertram Turetzky and reading John Cage in the mid-1960s. Thirty-five or forty years is a long gestation period, but I'm pleased with the results that have finally emerged over the past ten or eleven years. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, the co-editor, has given my work strong support over the years, as well. He deserves credit for the cover art, as well as for guding the work into print through uncooperative software.

ANY MOMENT was an attempt to open my use of poetic form so that its structural fluidity would allow readers to determine their own sequence for reading the work moment by chosen moment, as it were. While preparing it for Chalk Editions, I discovered I had already done a number of things with text and graphics that I was telling myself I should try in the future. Once again, cliches about forest and trees apply. I didn't realize I was a “visual poet” until Michael Rothenberg told me two months after the 2005 Visual Poetry exhibit curated by Carlos Luis in Miami in 2005, where many of my colleagues had work on display. So, now I'm open to trying things I haven't tried---if I can say for certain I've haven't already tried them.

I want to give special thanks to Matina Stamatakis for her beautiful presentation of “Anchor What” in her Venereal Kittens blogzine. Presenting it as a photographic negative was a touch of genius:


To me, the page seems more vivid than the white background I used when composing it. Stamatakis also published several of my other poems there:


and the magazine features a plethora of other accomplished poets, some whose names are new to me. Stamatakis herself is a poet worth paying serious attention to. If you haven't visited Venereal Kittens at


Check it out. It's a treat.

One of my nicer critical surprises came via Jefferson Hansen's blog:


In a commentary on the work of Debra DiBlasi, Miekal And and me in the latest Moriapoety, Hansen say this about the work that appears in the issue (click on link):

3) Vernon Frazer

Writing about nonrepresentational language is also difficult. How do we contextualize a line such as “salmon feet" in "The Future Brings"? Obviously, we can't, if we try to look at it from a representational point of view. Instead, we have sound and rhythm.

How do we say this piece, and these pieces, work, as I think they do? How are they different from a child randomly putting magnetic poetry words on a refrigerator? What skill does it take?

It has tremendous energy, coming I think from all the active verbs, including some interesting ones such as "mottle." The energy itself is excessive, pushing the language and spilling beyond semantic limits and into alternative spaces. It's exciting. Finally, the poem is an event, not a meaning. It's about this excessive excitement, together with the rhythm and sounds riffing throughout.

This is the answer to why it's better than magnetic poetry: there's a controlled excessiveness, that breaks the taboo of "making sense," but does so in a musical way that keeps the poem from spinning apart.

And I don't think there is any more to say.

This explains my own work to me in what I consider a very perceptive way. A writer deeply rooted in free jazz, Hansen recognizes the role free jazz took in shaping my work. In 1966 I became deeply interested in listening to and playing “energy music,” so explaining my work as a kind of “energy poetry” sounds and feels pretty right to me.

I'd like to thank Jeff, with whom I've had infrequent contact at best, and say a few words about his own fine work. As a poet, Jefferson Hansen is one of the few practitioners who can capture the rhythms of jazz effectively in his own poetry, as he did in his excellent Lyrical Eddies, a series of poems inspired by the music of Marilyn Crispell. As a fiction writer, Hansen's And Beefheart Saved Craig incorporates elements of John Dos Passos and Raymond Federman as well as his own techniques of juxtaposition to create a fiction with visual and documentary overtones about the life of a dysfunctional family and one son's efforts to survive it. I recommend both books highly. Hansen is a fine writer whose work just came to my attention in the past year. It's been a very welcome discovery.

I would also like to thank Michael Jacobson, editor of the New Post-literate” a Gallery of Asemic Writing for publishing “Bordered Question.”


Jonathan Penton and the staff of Unlikely 2.0 deserve high praise for their anthology, Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind, a collection of the quality fiction, poetry, visual poetry, photography, essays, music and videos that have appeared in Penton's magazine over the years. Penton and his staff, in particular reviewer Gabriel Ricard, have given my work strong support. The anthology also keeps alive my 1988 jazz poetry recording “Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike (,” which also features the late and legendary saxophonist-flutist Thomas Chapin, bassists Mario Pavone and Joe Fonda, and percussionist Brian Johnson.


Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind also features work by Belinda Subraman, Martha Deed, Steve Dalachinksy, Jim Andrews and Jim Leftwich among the many writers worth your time and attention. The following link will bring you to a sample of the anthology's offerings:



Saturday, October 16, 2010


The appearance of online publishers struck me rather suddenly. Probably I was too busy reshaping my schnozz on the grindstone to look up and see them looming over me. Once I looked up, though, I saw that a number of presses were publishing ebooks by many poets whose work I enjoy and respect tremendously, but never find in bookstores, new or used. As fond as I am of the book, and the feel of bound paper in my hands or on my lap, I realized I had to update my toy collection so that I could read the books published online. Now that I've invested in an iPad, I can read writers I've enjoyed in the past and discover new writers whose work brings me fresh discoveries. I've also learned that electronic publishing is a useful publishing vehicle for my own work. Andrew Topel's Avantacular Press has published two books for me, and I took advantage of Scribd's open publishing policy to post a copy of IMPROVISATIONS


so that more people could read it.

One of the presses that made a strong impression on me was Jeffrey Side's Argotist Ebooks, a publishing arm of Side's excellent literary magazine The Argotist Online. It has an impressive and diverse roster of contemporary poets. A few days ago, Side made me part of his roster. He published Margin L, a collection of poems in which I write from the left margin instead of a variety of positions and angles on the page. The books's blurb reads:

The roots of Vernon Frazer's textual poetry lie as much in the free jazz of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and their successors as they do in language-centered poetry, Surrealism, Dada and abstract expressionism. In Margin L, Frazer's words and concepts play over the page until they create a sense that something has happened during each poem’s movement. The poems, however, leave their interpretation of what precisely has happened up to the reader.”

You can read Margin L at: http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/margin-l/13042003

While reading Argotist's Ebooks, I discovered the work of Felino Soriano, a poet whose ekphrastic poetry captures the mood of the jazz tune and the style of the musicians playing it with perfect poetic pitch.He writes with an ear finely tuned to the jazz idiom, employing space on the page the way Miles Davis employed it in his solos or Keith Jarrett in building complex lines and tone clusters. Soriano captures the music with an accuracy that many poets aspire to but don't achieve. I recommend his Portions of Conversational Assemblies very highly. Here's the link


After reading Sorianos' work, I discovered he had previously published my work in his ezine

Counterexample Poetics


When I submitted new work, he asked me for additional material so that he could present me as a featured writer. Naturally, I'm very pleased to find someone who regards my work highly enough to feature it. You can read it at:


I'm not ready to discuss the question of ebooks in depth, although their presence has made me start to reassess my earlier comments on self-publishing. But when I notice that exponentially more readers are looking at—if not actually reading—my work, I have to consider electronic publishing a positive event, considering the quality of the work Publisher's Row produces in its endless quest for a fast buck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


To attempt to catch up on an overload of old business and learn how to handle some new business, I've had to refrain from reviewing a number of writers whose work I admire. Although enough time has passed to prevent me from bringing more detail than fuzz to the discussion, I'd like to comment on the work I couldn't review. It's worthy not only of mention but of critical attention, as well. The writers might not be household words, but when the next generation of literary households appears they should be part of the updated decor. My comments appear in order of occurrence, not importance; the works are all highly recommended reading.

Several years ago, I accepted Ghost &Ganga, Kirpal Gordon's trio of intersecting novellas, for publication in Big Bridge Magazine's fiction section. Ganga was one of the most captivating characters I've ever seen portrayed in print and each of the book's pieces revealed a new, unexpected aspect of her character. During a long delay in Big Bridge Magazine's production, Gordon found a publisher. I had to accept, with some regret as an editor, but also considerable excitement for the author, that Ganga and her magical fusion of song, spirituality, beauty and sensuality would breathe first life as a publication of Leaping Dog Press, an important publisher of innovative fiction. Ganga, an Indian-born vocalist, teams up with Ghost, her pianist, in this magical realistic celebration of the jazz mystique, and easily recreates the styles of Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and almost every other renowned vocalist in jazz history. Ghost, a gritty jazz mentor, knows her voice possesses a power with origins in deeper sources, philosophical and spiritual, and continually urges her to harness the power throughout their journey through the jazz night, creating a tension between master and diva that moves the work forward to resolution on a ringing tonic note.

Gordon knows his subject first-hand from living the jazz life with his partner, Claire Daly, a baritone saxophonist who deserves Down Beat's Talent Deserving Wider Recognition Award for her full tone and fresh phrasing. Gordon, a gifted poet/spoken word artist, frequently recites with Daly's ensembles. He's the only jazz poet I know who can recite a free verse poem so that the bridge of the tune has relevance to his recitation. Neither Kenneth Rexroth nor Kenneth Patchen could do it successfully.

Several of Gordon's earlier books, such as the phantasmagorical Jazz Tales from the Ghost Realms, set the tone for his haunting tale of Ganga's journey toward the ultimate promise of the jazz night. Gordon takes his verbal music all the way out in Ghost &Ganga, a superb orchestration of style and substance. For me, the book was a joyful read, a brilliant combination of sensuality, sensitivity and advanced spirituality, all coming together under the haunting latenight shadows of the jazz life.

I suggest that you read Gabriel Ricard's inspired review of Ghost &Ganga and his interview with Gordon in the latest Unlikely Stories at http://www.unlikelystories.org/10/ricard0510.shtml. If my own words don't inspire you to read Ghost &Ganga, Gabriel Ricard's will.

Turning to poetry, Ric Carfagna's work has excited me ever since I first read it a decade ago, when a mutual friend in Worcester introduced Carfagna to my work and vice-versa. Carfagna's sense of linguistic and visual adventure combined with his sure-footed explorations into metaphysics (from the Philosophy Department not the New Age bookstore) not only impressed me, but pushed me to take my own work a little further. His tasteful fusion of text and graphics challenged my sense of how to lay out the page.

In his extended work, NOTES ON NON-EXISTENCE, Carfagna delves beyond the binary paradigm of existence and non-existence as opposites to contemplate non-existence as pure void. From the work's early chapbooks, Carfagna has embraced the paradoxical nature of Being and non-Being with an alchemist's attempt to catch lead at the precise moment it transforms itself into gold. FRACTUS CORPUS, possibly the final volume of this extended work, is a substantive longpoem in itself. It's a 383-page powerhouse of poetic exploration, the verbal alchemist at work with concepts that his grasp paradoxically captures as the same instant they elude him. As a work of metaphysical poetry, FRACTUS CORPUS explores not only Carfagna's continuing philosophical concerns, but the integration of text and graphics, with stanzas appearing on the page from different angles to comment on the main thread or supplant an alternate possibility. Challenging the manner in which the reader experiences the page underscores Carfagna's postulations on the nature of existence, its opposite and its absence. His asymmetrical graphics, tastefully rendered, sometimes resemble musical clefs that establish different tonal ranges for reading each page. As I read the work, my hands felt its power. FRACTUS CORPUS is a longpoem that commands your attention---not to mention serious critical consideration.

If FRACTUS CORPUS isn't the conclusion of NOTES ON NON-EXISTENCE, Carfagna has nevertheless turned his linguistic musicality to a new format in Symphony No 1, an ebook published by Chalk Editions (http://www.scribd.com/doc/32170981/Ric-Carfagna-Symphony-No-1.) Since my own projects and personal matters prevented me me from giving the work my full attention, I intend to reread it in the near future. But I maintained enough focus on the work to see that Carfagna has

employed a degree of restraint and returned to more orthodox techniques, using them in unorthodox ways.

Carfagna's sensibilities extend beyond the traditional symphony form, creating a work more typical of a contemporary composer. He limits the range of his literary motifs, then rearranges them to express a variety of perspectives. For the first time in my years of reading his work, he employs repetition, which gives an unexpected power and an authoritative tone to his language-centered phrases. He has, for this work, at least, eliminated the visual element, concentrating instead of the incremental climactic power of his textual materials. His departure from past practice may lead to a new stage in his creative evolution.

Argotist Ebooks has recently released his Symphony No. 2 as as ebook (http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/symphony-no-2/12297253). The publisher describes the work as follows:

Symphony No. 2 by Ric Carfagna (and a follow-up to his Symphony No. 1) is a work not to be construed as a symphony in a strictly classical sense, as is the case with the symphonic forms of works by Mozart or Haydn, but more along the lines of works by obtuse unwieldy 20th century composers such as Norgard, Nystroem, Segerstam and Pettersson. It comprises not so much of thematic elements as it does the repetition of images in differing contexts. It starts off with a burst of dissonance then settles down into a placid, surreal, disjunctive utterance. It also attempts to conjure up the ghosts of cubist poetry (a short lived and little known poetic phenomena) with Carfagna’s own idiosyncratic spin on it.”

I haven't read Symphony No. 2 yet, but knowing the consistently superlative quality of Carfagna's work, it will be high on my list as soon as I load my iPad—and reread Symphony No. 1 to pick up on what I've missed.

You shouldn't miss Barry Wallenstein's new book, Tony's World. Over the years, Wallenstein has produced an impressive body of poetry that fuses technical excellence with gritty spirit and an urbanity

that exudes hipness while poking fun at it, as well. Tony's World focuses on Tony, Wallenstein's literary alter/ego, who appears in many of Wallenstein's superlative recordings of jazz poetry. As a jazz poet, Wallenstein works from a visceral connection to the jazz idiom. His voice, sometimes grainy, sometimes high, exudes the spot-on timing that separates him from the idiom's less successful practitioners. And Tony, as narrator or subject of the narration, cruises, crashes or amuses in his efforts to live the night life of the jazz subculture or deal with a day world that sheds more light on his vanities than he would like.

In Tony's World, the protagonist experiences enough twists of fate to form a spiral. An act of vanity dyes his hair red, then he parades his revitalized image blithely through the streets until he remembers a newspaper article whose dose of bad news dampens it and even threatens the safety of his stash. When “Tony Takes a Hammer to his Head” he ponders his klutziness until he recognizes his arm as the agent of damage and determines in a mock-egocentric epiphany, “He needs a new agent.” Tony travels through a world of family with strained relations, and a life on the margins, preferring it to its upscale alternative. At one point his travels among the night's small-time hustlers and lost souls brings him to the brink of a long stay at the “The Hotel Splendide,” but he opts out because

Hotel Splendide, come by on a whim,

gave me armfuls and respite

---not cold truths. . .

The truths Wallenstein offers in Tony's World aren't cold and aren't always comfortable, but they are essential to understanding our lives, in which our vanities and the realities of life carom off each other in a never-ending quest for resolution.

Not to change the subject, but Stephen-Paul Martin's latest work, Changing the Subject, reaffirms my belief that he is the American master of the short story. Although I've often compared his work to Borges and Calvino, to try to give readers unfamiliar with his work a frame of reference, Martin's style and vision are entirely and uniquely his own. His discursive style enables him to move from topic to topic, using long, tightly-woven sentences that offer lists of analogies that encircle each while guiding the reader to the next, and smoothly segueing from one level of reality to another. Martin routinely juggles multiple elements in his work, so that the starting subject becomes one of a number of incidents leading the reader to discover the fiction's ultimate subject near its conclusion. The suspense of his work lies not in the truth of plot, as in the suspense genre, but in the dips, whirls and shifts of reality and circumstance that leave you suspended in a state of disbelief until the last sentence---and continues after you finish reading, as you look on the world with a little less certainty and a lot more curiosity than when you began. Martin leaves you with answers that provoke more questions. In the basic narrative of “Stopping,” a story I accepted for BIG BRIDGE MAGAZINE, the restless Honey Stone searches for a place where she feels comfortable, and makes a decision to come to a stop in a park near the Brooklyn Bridge. She encounters Harry Knight, who becomes a part of her life, then vanishes. She continues to live in his apartment. At a restaurant, she encounters in passing a waiter named Lance Boyle, who believes she's interested in him. Literally, Boyle tries to pick up Honey Stone's scent, and it leads him to Dawn Wakeman's apartment. They begin a relationship that continues until she gets up from her seat in the restaurant where Boyle works as a waiter. In her place, Honey Stone takes the seat and senses something in the waiter that makes her think of Harry Knight. When she returns to the apartment she's taken over, Harry Knight steps out of the bathroom and they greet each other with feelings of blankness where one expects recognition. This bare description of the narrative thread doesn't include the characters' past relationships and their attitudes about them, the depth of Honey Stone's discontent, the sense each character experiences of stopping before some moment of recognition, just at Honey Stone did near the Brooklyn Bridge, or the many other elements that add thematic depth and atmosphere to the work. Martin weaves complex tapestries of plot, character, texture, ambience and intellectual underpinnings into fluid narratives that explore the deeper possibilities of reality while stretching the aesthetic boundaries of fiction in a sophisticated style that rivals such past masters as Henry James. Martin takes the deep, the difficult, the absurd and the ridiculous and synthesizes them into eminently readable entities that challenge our assumptions about the reality of the world we inhabit.

I hope my superficial descriptions of the superlative work of Kirpal Gordon, Ric Carfagna, Barry Wallenstein and Stephen-Paul Martin will encourage you to read them. Why wait for the future of literature when you can read it today?

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Circumstances have rendered the title of today's entry appropriate in more than one way.

Immediately after I posted my new publications and recordings, I learned that Andrew Topel's Avantacular Press had published my longpoem, *, as an ebook.

* is a longpoem I wrote in 2006. Except for one page, recently published in Epidermis, the work went unpublished until yesterday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010



Although I'm not quite on the roll I wrote about in my last post, I've had a number of pieces published online in recent weeks.

DITCH has just published a batch of my newest poems. You can read them at:


I just discovered DITCH in the course of looking for places to submit my work, but I recommend it highly to readers who like cutting-edge material. DITCH has also published Kane X. Faucher, Camille Martin, Rob McClennan, Gary Barwin, Mark Young and Matina L. Stamatakis, all poets worthy of serious consideration. As a Canadian magazine, DITCH advances and enhances the rich body of Canadian experimental poetry, from which I've learned a lot, and includes an international cast of writers, as well.

Although I'm sad to learn that JACK MAGAZINE'S long run has come to an end, I'm pleased that Mary Sands Woodbury has included my work in its final issue:


The magazine has also published one of my personal favorites among my short fiction, The Post-Creativist Corpus of Astu Abalar:”


Although JACK MAGAZINE emphasized Beat writing, it also published a number of literary explorers, among them Sheila Murphy and mIEKAL aND. I'd like to thank Mary Sands Woodbury and her former co-editor, Michael Rothenberg, for their support of my work.


A few weeks ago, I posted one of my older pieces, Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike, to YouTube. It's one of the first poems I ever put to music. I wrote it in 1984, as I recall, then recorded it in 1986 with a pre-recorded bass line on a cassette titled Haight Street, 1985 and again in 1987 for my 1988 LP,

Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike. On YouTube it's referred to as one of “Vernon Frazer's Greatest Hits,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to my sales that I hope isn't too obscure. I'm told it became a kind of underground classic among the jazz DJs at some of the northeast's college radio stations, most notably WWUH-FM (University of Hartford) and WHUS-FM (University of Connecticut), where Chris Sampson keeps it alive on his Gravity and Chaos show. The jazz DJs on these stations know their music very well, so I'm pleased that they supported it the way they did.

As an LP, Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike suffered from the record stores switching to selling CDs. At the time it was being pressed, the record stores were selling vinyl. During the five weeks it took to press the album, most record stores stopped selling vinyl and sold CDs instead. Although I got good---if not always perceptive--- reviews, the change in format limited what I could do with the work.

Here's the YouTube version:


If you'd like to listen to the full ensemble version, go to


The jazz aficionados among you might recognize the musicians. At the time, Thomas Chapin, Mario Pavone, Joe Fonda and Brian Johnson were respected but not well-known. Thomas Chapin, one of my closest friends, died of leukemia in 1998. Had he survived and been healthy enough to make the headliner gigs booked at venues such as the Monterrey Jazz Festival that year, he would be considered a star today. Nevertheless, he left an outstanding legacy of recordings. For more information on his work, visit his memorial web site at


Mario Pavone, the bassist in Thomas's acclaimed trio, has continued to create fresh improvised music. His angular compositions are unique and compelling, and his bass playing drives his sidemen to play at their best.

Joe Fonda gained recognition for his collaborations with Anthony Braxton, but was always a compelling bassist. Whenever he soloed, he'd display some advanced technique that I'd ask about. With his “just plain folks” approach, he'd downplay it. Over the years, he's produced a body of provocative works with musicians such as Braxton, Mark Whitecage, David Douglas and his longtime collaborator, Michael Jefry Stevens.

Brian Johnson ranks as the most brilliant percussionist I've ever played with. In the 1990s he performed with Loren Mozzacane and tours Europe with Oboist Joseph Celli. Since he lives in Burlington, Vermont, he doesn't always get the work and recognition a musician of his caliber deserves. He was the mainstay of the Vernon Frazer Poetry Band from 1988 to 1990, when he moved to Burlington. He came down from Vermont to play with the band when he could, and performed with me on my first engagement at the Knitting Factory in 1991. Like Thomas Chapin, who played with me on most of my New York gigs, I never told him what to play; he and Thomas always came up with something far better than anything I could suggest. You can hear more of Brian's percussion work on “Demon Dance” at


Eventually, I plan to reissue my poetry-music records on CD Baby. If anybody would like me to burn copies of the three recordings on my web site, please email me at vfrazer@bellsouth.net. At this time, I'm giving them away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The number of poems published since I resumed submitting material on a regular basis has surprised me very pleasantly. Every writer goes through stretches in which publishers accept their work readily or reject it equally readily. At the moment, I seem to be on a roll. I hope it continues.

Anny Ballardini curates the Poets Corner of the multi-lingual magazine, FIERALINGUE. Her selection of poets includes a veritable thumbnail directory of cutting edge poets along the Beat-Language Poetry-Visual Poetry continuum. The link for the Poet’s Corner is:


My own poetry is at:


Felino A Soriano, editor of Counterexample Poetics, has accepted a batch of my poems. You can read them at:


But you’ll also find a number of other interesting poets on the site, including some who might not be familiar to you. Check them out.

Scott Bentley’s LETTERBOX Magazine is a publication I just discovered. I gather that Bentley compiles the best material he can find and publishes it in a box format. Bookstores such as Moe’s Books and Pegasus Books in Berkley, Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco and St. Mark’s Books in Manhattan carry the boxed magazine. The publication of the latest issue of LETTERBOX probably will probably mark the first time my work has appeared in any form in any of these bookstores.

FOFFOF, a blog of asemic writing, has just posted my texto-visual piece, “Textural War at Play,” at


Although I don’t consider my work asemic per se, I do incorporate non-textual elements into my work, and am pleased to see that editor Satu Kaikkonen sees the relation between my work and the non-textual pieces he publishes.

While talking about the asemic, I should mention Michael Jacobson’s blog, The New Post-Literate: a Gallery of Asemic Writing. He publishes many of the same writers who appear in FOFFOF, and has published two of my poems, “Ode to a Cryptic Blood Mantra,” at


and “Oracle Glyph Messaging” at:


I’m very pleased to see venues such as these emerging to publish more radical work. Aside from my personal time constraints, the closing of many magazines that had published my work in the past led me to restrict my submissions to calls for work posted on the various writers lists I subscribe to. Literary magazines are not unlike alternative performance venues. Each struggles to present the best possible and stay afloat economically. After a period of time, the drains on energy and personal finances cause the venues to close. Eventually, as I’ve learned the cycle goes, new ones take their place. It’s taken a few years for these publications to emerge, but I’m very pleased to have them available once again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


For some time, I’ve wanted to update this blog. But I’ve been too busy clearing up a two-year backlog of old projects, learning the software necessary to create new ones and sending out poems that have been sitting in my folders for months and, in some cases, years.

In the few weeks since I’ve returned to submitting work, I’ve had a number of poems accepted, but none have been published yet. When they appear in print, I’ll post the the news here. If I post the news prematurely, I might find myself counting eggs as chickens.

The most important piece of recent work that exists outside the pending file is the following:


It’s my basspo rendition of the opening pages of IMPROVISATIONS. In addition to advancing my knowledge of the software involved in making videos, it’s also given at least one colleague an insight into the way the lines of my multi-voiced texts interact. Interested readers can find the discussions in the May archives of the Buffalo Poetics List or on the WRYTING list.

Ever since I heard Ted Enslin read in Willimantic, Connecticut twenty-five years ago, I’ve maintained that hearing a poet’s voice gives readers a key to understanding the work. Even the recitation of a shy or uncomfortable performer renders the rhythm and sense of a work more accessible. For several decades, I’ve thought the best rendering of my work would involve a recitation, a screen portraying the text and a band. Although I’ve retired from performing in public, YouTube has provided me a venue that allows me to present my work in a way that will entertain others and, as I’ve discovered, help guide them to a greater understanding of my work.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Panels from IMPROVISATIONS (Series B)

Shortly after completing IMPROVISATIONS in 2005, I realized that a number of pages in the last part of the book would look good in color and explored the possibilities in three series. Big Bridge published Series A as part of its feature on IMPROVISATIONS in its 2006 issue.

Several weeks ago, Andrew Topel’s avantacular press announced that it was seeking collections to visual poetry to publish as ebooks. I submitted Series B and avantacular press accepted it for publication:


I’m pleased that avantacular press has chosen to publish my work. Again, I find myself in the company of many astonishing visual poets, including Andrew Topel, himself.

I discovered Topel’s work about two years ago, when it appeared with mine in an issue of Otoliths, Mark Young’s excellent magazine of cutting-edge literature. Topel’s use of text and image and text as image seemed to parallel mine. When I joined Spidertangle, I received greater exposure to his work and gained a greater appreciation of its breadth, depth and brilliance. His grasp of visual possibilities seems endless. In browsing his blog just now, I discovered some fascinating textual work, in addition to the visual. He’s also designed his own line of clothing. Frankly, my attempt to describe his work doesn’t come close to encompassing it. Topel seems to be a living torrent of creative energy continually finding new, brilliant and original ideas to make tangible through his expression. Instead of trying to grasp the scope of his work, I suggest you experience it at:



is a relatively new magazine I’m glad to see. Over the past few years, a number of my customary publishing venues have closed their doors, but until recently very few new ones have surfaced. Recently, however, LIE/ISLE (HTTP://LIESISLE.COM ) came to my attention. My poem, “The Hungry on Strike” appears in the latest issue:


LIE/ISLE publishes a number of writers whose names I’ve never encountered, but whose work in a variety of media deserves attention. And I'm very pleased with the way LIE/ISLE presented my work.

Friday, March 19, 2010


In response to the lack of publishing venues available for visual poetry, John Moore Williams and Avantexte Press have started The Bleed, an online journal. Recently, they published my poem, “Anchor What” at


The Bleed also features visual poetry by Andrew Topel, Marton Kappany, Peter Ciccariello and Rosaire Appel. I’m pleased to find myself published in such good company.

“Fading Melody,” my latest basspo piece, has just uploaded to Youtube:


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Surprise Along the Random Axis

Life has its share of surprises and sometimes they're pleasant. Some even make your day.

Yesterday, Gabriel Ricard, assistant editor of Unlikely 2.0 (www.unlikelystories.org), surprised me--- and made my day---with a review of my latest publication, RANDOM AXIS.

I conceived RANDOM AXIS as a sort of literary samizdat. I hand-printed and assembled 66 copies of the book, each with a different sequence of pages. It violated a number of conventions of the publishing business. Since I didn't assign a separate ISBN to each copy, most book distributors and sellers won't consider ordering it. In effect, RANDOM AXIS exists outside the business of selling books. Its random pagination represents my personal effort to destabilize text, as well.

I sent Gabriel Ricard a complimentary copy because I appreciated his deeply perceptive review of EMBLEMATIC MOON (http://www.unlikelystories.org/ricard0909.shtml). I didn't ask him to review RANDOM AXIS or expect him to. So yesterday's unsolicited review dropped into my lap as the kind of surprise that can make a writer's day. Here's the link to the review:


I want to thank Gabriel for writing the review and for his deep (and flattering) insight into my work.

And for making my day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


From 1985 to 1994, I concentrated on fusing poetry with improvised music. I performed throughout New England and in New York as a solo poet-bassist, as a duo with saxophonist Thomas Chapin and led a poetry band. When the demands of performing affected my health, I stopped and concentrated on writing, stepping out about once a year to make a guest appearance with Chapin or Richard McGhee, the saxophonist in my poetry band.

Performing with music affected my writing. Several years after I stopped performing regularly, my poetry began to incorporate multiple voices resembling the instrumental lines that weaved around me during my recitations.

Technological developments have given me the means to return to performing in a way that doesn’t tax my body and presents my work in a format accessible to the part of the general public that listens to poetry with jazz or other musical idioms. The link below will show you my first “live” performance since 2002, when I shared a bill with John Sinclair at the University of Connecticut:


I hope you enjoy it. I plan to do more of them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Thoughts on Self-Publishing

About a month ago, one of Spidertangle’s correspondents commented that the American Book Review’s appraisal of my longpoem Emblematic Moon marked the first time ABR had ever reviewed a self-published work and expressed hope that ABR

would review more of them.

Actually, in 2001 ABR reviewed the first section of my longpoem IMPROVISATIONS

and my novel Relic’s Reunions as an example of the positive and negative aspects of self-publishing. According to the reviewer, IMPROVISATIONS represented the positive aspects, Relic’s Reunions the negative. At the time, I wasn’t aware of ABR’s policy against reviewing self-published work, but I’d encountered the stigma almost from the day writing became my life.

I’m not sure I would assume that ABR will open its arms to self-publishers, but I hope their review of Emblematic Moon will open the doors for others. The review came about because one of the magazine’s editors realized the literary world had changed in ways that made self-publishing a necessity for writers whose work had merit but wouldn't turn a profit on Publishers' Row or penetrate the small press networks.

From my own observations, the literary business began to change around 1973, when corporations started to buy out independent publishers and emphasize publishing bestsellers. While publishing opportunities with the major presses have become somewhere between rare and nonexistent for writers outside the mainstream, the situation seems to be much the same as it’s always been: despite the stigma against self-publishing, self-publishers have made the most innovative contributions to literature.

In 1961, when I decided to become a writer, publishers considered themselves the guardians and shapers of literary culture. A best-seller’s profits would subsidize publication of adventurous of fiction or poetry deemed culturally important but unprofitable. “Midlist titles” that sold modestly but steadily also kept the publishers solvent. A writer could submit work “over the transom” with a chance that an editor might read it and even accept it. Having an agent increased your chances, of course, but wasn’t essential.

Publishers dismissed self-publishing, and writing magazines discouraged it. At best, they portrayed it as a bridge to nowhere---except for the totally inept, who subsidized the vanity presses. The only self-publishing author given credence was Walt Whitman, a laughing stock during his lifetime who had the last, if posthumous, laugh, when his work shaped the direction of twentieth-century poetry. Articles in the writing magazines portrayed Emily Dickinson as unpublished in her lifetime, either unaware of or denying her self-publishing activities.

In the mid-sixties, the “mimeo revolution” made publishing easier for writers and editors working outside the mainstream. Literary magazines seemed to explode onto the scene because publishing became more affordable. As with the magazines of the Pound-Joyce-Stein era, many published the work of their friends and closest colleagues, a practice that hasn’t changed over time.

Despite the stigma so prevalent in the literary world, avant-garde jazz musicians self-produced recordings that established their musical reputations and their success drew the attention of record labels large enough to offer better distribution and and increased sales. In the 1960s and 1970s Don Pullen, Milford Graves and Leo Smith received critical attention for their self-produced recordings and other musicians followed their example. Although I was following this development in the music, I wasn’t thinking of doing it myself; I believed my fiction would eventually find a home at Grove Press, New Directions or Dial.

By 1978, when I finally completed a novel, Grove Press and a number of other established publishers had stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts. If you didn’t have an agent, most publishers wouldn’t read your work

I vowed that if necessary I would publish the novel myself. But the cost of publication exceeded my available funds. The equipment of the Mimeo Revolution couldn’t produce an attractive edition of a 430-page work. So I continued to seek publication through whatever press, large or small, I thought would consider it.

By the 1980s, the proliferation of Creative Writing programs and advances in computer technology created an explosion of literary magazines as large as but less heralded than the Mimeo Revolution. Around the same time, I started writing poetry, which got published readily, although my unpublished fiction piled ever higher. In 1991 I found myself on a roll; most of my unpublished poetry and ten years of unpublished fiction found homes in literary magazines. The self-doubt generated by decades of rejection slips diminished greatly; my stories, as well as my poetry, had been good enough all along. But the major presses have virtually stopped publishing non-mainstream literature unless it fits into such niche markets as Beat, Feminist, Gay, and African-American.

In the mid-80s I began my first self-production, fusing poetry with music on home-recorded cassettes, which I sold in the jazz clubs where I spent much of my free time. My first effort at self-producing broke even because my production costs were low. By 1987 I had composed enough poetry with musical accompaniment to produce a full-length recording, Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike. While I was waiting to receive my 1,000 vinyl copies the record stores switched to selling CDs, eliminating any hope for retail distribution. I did circulate the record among the independent labels, receiving occasional praise but no offers.

The following year, I self-published a Slick Set of Wheels, my first chapbook of poetry.

The process involved subcontracting to a printer who couldn’t correct my proofs without making other errors. The price of publication meant that I paid each person to buy a

copy. I decided to do the next book entirely on my own, if I couldn’t find a publisher.

As a self-publisher, I learned that my first choice of distributors, the Small Press Distribution Service, didn’t carry the work of self-publishing authors. Although it made economic sense to deal with a small number of publishers instead of a large number of authors, SPD in effect perpetuated the stigma against self-publishing---in ways that I wold find laughable several years later.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s I self-published and self-produced books of poetry and fiction and recordings of jazz poetry. Before I self-published any work, I submitted it to small presses, receiving the occasional appreciative letter. I entered my fiction in the FC2 fiction contest several times, once finishing as a finalist in a contest whose judges couldn't determine a winner. After twelve years of self-publishing, I resigned myself to the reality that the publishing world was a closed shop, whether its location was a big building on Madison Avenue or a basement in Berkeley. Even the literary agents were sending rejection slips instead of personal replies to the work I submitted.

In 1998, I gained my first inside look at into the way the literary world really worked. A small press editor who told me he only published his friends. During the time we were friendly, he published two of my books. Instead of royalties, I received 50 copies, which I couldn't sell. But SPD listed my work and academic libraries bought it.

In recent years, several publishers have issued my books through print-on-demand. But POD publishing creates other problems. With two POD books, I was able to purchase at-cost copies form the publisher and send out review copies. Perhaps this helped the publisher increase its sales. But I didn’t get royalties or free copies. A foreign publisher couldn’t provide me with at-cost copies and paying full price plus postage to send out review copies became the line in the sand that I wouldn’t cross.

Essentially, I self-publish because I see nothing in the present literary situation that offers me a better alternative. If I’m the publisher, I buy review copies at reasonable prices. I can be sure the publisher is promoting my work. And I’m in the position to receive royalties, although I have yet to receive a payment large enough to pay for a small bottle of mineral water.

I’m certainly not the only writer publishing under these conditions. If the corporate-run literary business eliminates innovative literature from its lists and certain small presses

publish only within their circles, self-publishing becomes the only available option. Despite the bias against self-publishing that continues, I remember the long-term successes of Whitman and Dickinson, nothing to mention William Blake, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein and many others. It seems that many of the most innovative writers have self-published before other publishers paid attention to their work.

While I’d love to have a publisher take over all the work I do and pay me for it, I realize that as a self-publishing author, I’m keeping some very impressive company.