Thursday, October 21, 2010



Numbers Game

I used to be somebody.
Had the figures to prove it.
Five nine six four on red
That’s Mister to you
Confirmation one F E and eight and eight and G
EMC zero zero four zero four three in LA
Eight two zero seven in gold
Get out of my way
Nine two double three to clear
And bigger numbers too
Ten pass to the Euro set
Channels on the satellite
Back door code
To the Diamond Lounge
Pins and passwords everywhere
Dot com planets at my fingertips.

Cashed in all my chips
On a Degas whim one day
For a place in the woods
And a river bed.
Now I’m off the screens
In a green ballet
Out of the loop
Up the creek
Without a mouse
I’m the man without a number
On the Quay D`Orsay
No more front row seats
No more safety net
No more cable TV
I’m disconnected
I’ve lost my place in line:

Add it up Bobby:
I get treated like I’m nobody now
Like I am just
Another name.

Thrill Ride 
(Greetings from the Mouse)

This amusement ride involves
High speeds
Sudden drops
Sharp turns
And unexpected stops
In underground torture cells.

True believers
                        Move forward now.
Gates are to the left
                                For those with heart conditions.
Persons prone to motion sickness
                                                      May board the special train.

We’ll get the rest of you later.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

MADE IN AMERICA by Robert M. Zoschke

A somewhat belated review

Street Corner Press
corner of Armitage & Clybourn

     I like this book a lot because it sounds like no one but the author. Zoschke doesn't pose: when he's pissed off, he's pissed off ('Bored on the Fourth of July, 2008); when he's tender, he's tender ('a dog of a poem'); and he's great at painting the Wisconsin landscape he lives in with words ('Ides of March sarong'). How often do you get that sort of range.

     He's a poet of place without the sentimentality that usually involves. We know exactly where he is -- what it sounds and smells like, who lives there with him ('the swords are in little hands'; 'are you a...';'Listen') -- and we know how he got there ('Elegy for the Pistol', among others). You could make a movie out of that last poem, no problem. It's almost an elegy for a better, bygone America.

     Rob's a poet of ideas too, maybe without wanting to be: Lawrence Ferlinghetti is quoted at the start of the book as saying, 'I'd rather be writing love poems'. The very fine and scandalously unacknowledged Dave Church is remembered in 'when the pen is the needle and the paper is the spoon', which contrasts Church's remarkable poetry with that of an English professor taking a workshop in 'rotgut academician flatulence'. Why's Dave dying at the wheel of a taxi when a poet not fit to shine his shoes thrives and prospers? Anybody who has read Church or been to a university poetry workshop will know Zoschke is telling the truth.

     But the centrepiece of 'Made in America' is the love poem he would rather be writing. 'What Matters Most' tells beautifully and forcefully of the birth of Amelia and Hannah, Rob and partner Joie's two daughters. You're there in the delivery room with them experiencing every nerve-wracking, hair-raising, heart-wrenching, joyful moment of the double birth, and the description never slips into bad taste. What a generous and brave man he must be to share the most personal experience of his life like that; and what art, not to let it get awkward for one minute.

     An extensive collection of pictures of family and friends completes the book nicely: he's a proud man and why not? Too many poets in the small press and the mainstream hide behind postures, and self-conscious trickery. As a squeamish Buddhist I could have done without so many photos of dead fish, but it's a small price to pay for these treasures.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Gerald Nicosia, poet and legendary biographer of Jack and Jan Kerouac, will be in England at the end of this month to talk on Jack and take part in a poetry reading.I quote Gerry himself:

My talk on Kerouac—called “The Writer Kerouac, the Mythological Kerouac, the Popular Kerouac, and the Real Kerouac”-- will be at the English Faculty lecture hall, 5PM, Friday October 22.  The address is 9 West Road, Cambridge.  For further information, contact Malcolm Guite at St. Mark’s Vicarage, Cambridge, 01223 694249.  The next night, Saturday October 23, at 8PM, I will give a poetry reading along with Malcolm Guite and Keith Dersley, to the accompaniment of a jazz group called RipRap.  This will take place at the Memorial (Unitarian) Church in Cambridge, Emmanuel Road, near the bus station, in central Cambridge.  Again, Malcolm Guite would be the person to give more specific details.

I'm sure anybody who's in Cambridge that weekend will be glad to support these events. It isn't every day a writer of Gerry's calibre makes it over here to good old Blighty.