Monday, December 15, 2014

December 7: Laura Moriarty Live!

Poet, novelist, teacher, and Deputy Director of Small Press DistributionLaura Moriarty joined us on Sunday, 12/7, for our final in studio live show at Light Rail. Laura's recent Nightboat Books' collection, Who That Divines  was our focus, followed by her soon to be published Volcanik--and divinely Laura presented, enlivening the studio with her richly layered and sound-driven poetry, her signature bracelets dangling along to the pace of her rhythm. She opened with three poems: "Who That Divines" (the title poem opening the first of five sections, Divination), "Who That Speaks" (from Destination), and "Two Modes" (from Blood Subject), which opens with a Luce Irigaray quote (as does the entire book), "Two modes of representation are tearing time apart." The titles of these poems (like many of her poems) are active and jumpstart what follows; once inside, the reader becomes active participant navigating through the poem in a maze of sounds, compact and columnar lines, sudden shifts, riddled with multiple meanings. The conjunction "or" offering possibility is ever present and "you" and "I" as readers/listeners become co-conspirators in the play of poetry. "Hunter haunted/" with "you as reader," we move forward in a "waltz," "In the Game," where to "play is an assertion or a decision" and to "play is to ply or capture,"--as in the making of a poem!

We started the first half discussing the book's general five-section structure, which includes a Prelimn and Notes. Responding to Delia's comment on the "diversity of tone," Laura referred to visual artist R.H. Quaytman's show at SFMOMA, citing how varied the work was and how that inspired her to be "multiple" while putting together her collection. To "sustain a particular impulse," as she did in A Tonalist Laura added, comes with age and time. Taking "different approaches" which have a "lack of consistency of form" and combining them in "thematic ways or other ways that aren't usual" helped Laura construct several parts of the book; the poem "Departures 1-11/War in Heaven" and the section An Air Force (also a Hooke Press chapbook) are older pieces and Laura noted how the book functions like a "2nd Selected" collection, covering a ten-year range. Who That Divines, however, as Jay pointed out, overall has an immediate voice whose tone, despite time travel to the past event, is set in the present Right Now!--a kind of chronesthesia that, in regard to her writing, Laura described as the "immediate expression of those thoughts in that moment in relation to whatever material you're deciding to deal with." A "real nostalgia hater," Laura's ability to traverse back to her past (including past lives) while keeping us stirred in the rhapsodic present all in one single line is in itself: divine. Next, Laura read "Green Lady" with words from Elizabeth Robinson from the Lady Bug section (also a chapbook), which was written during Laura's lady bug fascination. We then discussed the book's "playful" approach, its use of rhymes and Laura's interest in "fairy tales" deepened with a "passionate felt feminism." After declaring herself a fan of "Schoenberg," Laura talked about her interest in Tonalism (in art) and how, for her, that would become A Tonalist in writing. Call it anti-lyric or experimental lyric, Laura called her preceding Nightboat Books collection (A Tonalist), "a conceptual gesture of group formation," and that similar style of collaborative writing is  also celebrated in Who That Divines. Originally entitled Divination, Laura shared how the book's opening quote by Luce Irigaray, "Divinity is what we need to become free, autonomous, sovereign," prompted the project, making her reflect on "gamesmanship" and "magic" (tarot cards) and "divining" in general--attracted to it all, she admitted, "in a sleazy way!" Sleazy or not we're happy that Laura has "divining projects" which create "chance constraints" that make her poetry exciting (she often has "five feeds" going on at once while writing), as well as give her the insight to teach a "Vampire Poetics" course at the Bay Area Public School collective.

We began our second half with the Schoenberg quote-driven poem "Non Tonal," followed by discussion on Laura's use of quotes (to "indicate a different level of speech"), italics, and names--often included when attributing the poem to someone. Biographical in its approach, an online text generator helped create the poem "Waltz of Memory and Doubt" which Laura read next, calling it "an avalanche" that falls forward and forward in time: "It's 1968. It's 1969./There's a war on./Waltz is bored." Concluding our discussion of Who That Divines, Laura described her Air Force family growing up and how that, along with her interest in memoir, fueled the poem An Air Force. While listening to her read a few pages from it, we appreciated the poem's "linearity and plain language" and mix of poetry/prose--furthering our understanding of atonal writing a bit more. Ending with a sampling from her forthcoming Volcanik--from the notes of her travels to volcanic sites with husband Nick Robinson--Laura shared raw work in its making and you could hear the poem rise up, stretch out, and overflow off the page. Some lines form volcano-like silhouettes on the page; some words in all caps (SPACE) float over the page, while others ascend domelike. Having traveled to various places during various times (including somewhere near Mt. Pelée), we were thrilled that Laura took time out to fly into Poet as Radio on "wind driving flames" and grace us with her poetic divinity on our last day at the studio! Click here to listen.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

November 23: Kevin Killian Live!

On 11/23 Kevin Killian, one of the original "New Narrative" writers, dropped by the studio to share his Tweaky Village with us, a recent prize-winning collection (The Wonder Prize) of poetry published by Wonder books. Tweaky Village contains 7 sections whose serial poems were written during the recession, the spiraling economy, and President Obama's ascendancy to power.

Kevin began with "Speak Right," the book's final piece, set on the "enchanted forest floor at Barbara Gladstone" (gallery), reading the poem and interrupting himself to share asides about the poem (i.e. written while he was experiencing a "stroke-like" condition). "Words fall down" or "words drop out" of the poem as a result; "Frankenstein" even drops into the poem for a visit! Kevin calls his collection "an anti-gentrification rant" or a "war between bohemians and plutocrats." Tweaky Village takes its name after S.F.'s Castro district and Kevin employs the use of appropriation (from George Kuchar films, but also from a chorus line in a Kylie Minogue song, "Wow Wow Wow Wow"--the title of the chapbook/section in the book), repetition, and the series poem--contents of one poem enter into the next quite seamlessly. Kevin is the Master of Segues!

Next, we performed a poem (scene) from the 1956 film Autumn Leaves with Kevin playing Joan Crawford, naturally. We discussed the effects of screenplay dialogue in poetry; and then Kevin jumped into his history as a "New Narrative" writer, when he first took a course taught by Robert Glück in the early '80's. Named by Steve Abbott, the new narrative movement sought to place a poem in "non-objective language," using the insights of contemporary poetry (at the time, Language Poetry). A "radical reclaiming" of the personal narrative (esp. of Queer voices) which celebrated little distinction between the poem, the screenplay, or the novel (all in one "mass expression") was/is the result.

After reading "I Lost Me to Meth," which Kevin explained is an "informercial" poem whose title comes from the old anti-drug billboard slogan, we moved into Jack Spicer's poetics and Kevin gave us his take on opening up the mind to reception like a "radio," picking up on the voices of the living and the dead. Poetry, indeed, is one way of "bringing back the dead." Kevin next shared, "Fetish Photography," a photograph installation and poem was installed in NYC (2012) that incorporates images of mostly male nudes with poems printed on wax paper placed over the images. Toward the end of our show, Kevin confessed that he has written over 2500 Amazon reviews, which spawned from a period of illness (inspired to do so by Dody Bellamy) in an attempt to get back into writing and to "find a new vocabulary." One just has to Google "Kevin Killian" and "Amazon" to enjoy some of these reviews--and to find out more on Kevin and his writing! Click here to listen.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 16, 2014 Nick Piombino recordings

On November 16th we played poems recorded by Nick Piombino. Nick's work was sent to us by Sara Goldenthal of Strawberry Books in New York. Nick is a poet, essayist and psychotherapist from Brooklyn, NY. He has been associated with the New York School poets of the 1960s and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets of the 1970s. During the first half of the show we played eight shorter poems and during the second half we played a long piece called "Contradicta." If you would like to read more about Nick, you can find him on Wikipedia. If you would like to schedule an interview with him, you can email at

Click here to listen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 Stephen Vincent Live!

Today Stephen Vincent joined us in the studio to talk about his book After Language / Letters to Jack Spicer (Blaze VOX Books, 2011). The book includes letters to Spicer interspersed with poems, which  were created when Stephen took Spicer's language and reversed the words. Stephen encountered Spicer's book Language, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the 60s just prior to their civil war. He found Spicer's language 'solid' and he kept this book with him while going through this tumultuous time. He addresses Spicer in the book about also encountering him in Ireland, Scotland and San Francisco. Place plays a prominent role in this work. Stephen critiques Spicer but also speaks to him from a place of love and sadness that Spicer was not able to endure his own life and continue sharing his words with the world.
After the break we talked about Stephen's 'poetry without words,' Haptic art. He finds himself 'pushing my pen around' while listening to poetry or experiencing a place. He is interested in 'how you get inside space.' This art takes the form of singular pieces or accordion folded books (one of which appears in the After Language / Letters to Jack Spicer). As he is in a place, inhabiting it, listening to it, an 'inner solo ' takes over. While we may be channeling outside material when we create art, we also 'bring out own ingredients.' This is 'all about partnering with the world.'

Click here to listen

Saturday, October 25, 2014

December 10, 2011- Poetry, politics and chapbooks

On 12/10 we talked poetry and politics, as inspired by a paper written by Marjorie Perloff, critiquing the letters between Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, dealing with poetic reaction to the Vietnam War. To find this paper, go to We discussed the different ways that writing can engage with politics. We were not able to come to any conclusions, so if you feel inspired by our discussion, please include your comments here or email us!

For the second half of the show, we had Candy Shue join us to talk about the process of creating chapbooks.

Click here to listen

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 Joseph Noble Live!

Today, Joseph Noble came to Lightrail Studios to talk about his book Antiphonal Airs (Starlight Press, 2013). This three-part book of poetry is heavily inspired by both early Baroque Italian music and American jazz. In the first section 'Innvenzioni e Stravaganze,' each of the poems is dedicated to a musician/composer and each has locations and dates when the musician was most active. Joseph states that these pieces are investigating temporality and 'tenuous cultural memory.' The second section 'At Sound' focuses on the death's of Joseph's parents and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The first two sections are followed by an 'Afterward' and a 'Post Face,' in which Joseph generously shares his inspiration and his process with his reader. The third section, 'Correspondences,' which begins with a lovely quote by Hazrat Inayat Khan linking creation and sound, employs more improvisation and foregrounds an attention to rhythm. Joseph, who is also a flute and saxophone player, closely links music and poetry and states that poetry is closely tied to time and sound. This led us to a discussion of how Joseph listens when reading poetry, and also pays attention to phrasing when composing music. Indeed, this work is deeply aware of the connection between music and the body.

You can hear albums from the Joseph's many musical projects at and more of his poetry, drawings and music at

Click here to listen

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 5, 2014: Norman Fischer Live!

Poet, essayist, writer, and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer joined us live in the studio this past Sunday and read from/discussed his collection, The Strugglers (Singing Horse Press, 2013).

Norman opened the show reading six poems (13-18) from the first section of The Strugglers entitled "Sixty Five," one of two memorial poems featured in the book. "Sixty Five" was composed after the death of close friend Rabbi Alan Lew, who died "suddenly at age 65." The 65 "passages" were written not only in Rabbi Lew's memory, but as a "direct communication" to him.

Next, we looked at the overall structure of The Strugglers discussing the individual character of each section: Sixty Five, The Strugglers, Mandelstam/Stone or The Russian Mall Poems, Personal, A Young Girl, A Hierophant, and Recognition. Each of the six sections celebrates a different tone, voice, and form (ranging from prosier long lines which demand page-space to shorter stanzas demanding lyric clarity). The collection's title poem, "The Strugglers," is a memorial poem written for/in conversation (in song) with Leslie Scalapino. Scalapino's final prose work, The Diehedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, served as the source text for Norman's 28-poem (each subtitled) series; he chose key words in passages and then composed his own poem of disasters that were appearing in the news at the time of writing: war, violence, tsunamis, earthquakes.

Topping our hour, Norman shared his history with Zen Buddhism and how it has influenced his writing. Early on it was something that he would "try to avoid," not wanting any one ideology to take over the work. Whereas today, Norman shared, he feels it's inevitably present in the work--evident possibly in the practice of using formal constraints. Structurally, each section of the book seems to organically find or sing out its own unique form. Citing Kay Larson's book, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, Norman commented on how art and poetry have moved from a 20th century Modernist I/ego centered expression to a destabilizing Postmodern expression that's concerned with de-centering the self. For Norman, the one rule in poetry has become "no rules," and that's "good news" where the "self is a character"--every I in the poem is a distinct voice. His interest in the phenomena of human subjectivity informed the poem "Personal," and Norman next read from this 5-poem series (each titled, "Personal") that ultimately questions: what is a person?

We concluded with a reading from his most recent collection, Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan 2010 (Tinfish Press, 2014), a "travelogue" set in his "Japanese poet persona"--slowed down, smoothed down, and pared down to an essential lyric. Click here to listen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 28, 2014- Vorticism

Today we were without a live guest but were joined by Ezra Pound and H. D. Their recorded readings illustrated vorticism, a movement that was founded by artist Wyndham Lewis in reaction to and contrary to imagism and futurism; vorticism is an abstract and non-representational art using the greater energy of the poetic image. "The image is not a picture but a force."This poetry goes "beyond a static representation of the image to express a world of moving energies." Pound wrote about vorticism in an issue of BLAST in 1914. In the first half we played three recordings from Pound, one from the Caedmon recordings and two from Harvard. We discussed Pound's work and its connection to  Asian artists and Buddhism. After the top of the hour Jay read an excerpt from the H. D. book by Robert Duncan who also described Pound's vorticism; perhaps Pound believed that there was one true poem. We ended the show with the H. D. recordings from her "Helen of Egypt." All of these were found on Penn Sound (a great resource for poetry recordings).
Click here to listen

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2014 Gloria Frym live!

This Sunday Gloria Frym joined us at Lightrail Studios to discuss her upcoming book The True Patriot (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015). Gloria, who writes both poetry and prose, shared this collection of 'proses,' narratives without traditional narrative arcs. We read an excerpt from the manuscript in preparation for the show but the final product is still in it's final stages of completion.
These pieces incorporate and communicate with news and current events. Gloria read from the piece "Tete Offensive," which is part of a larger story weaved throughout the manuscript; it takes place in the post 9/11 era and engages with the war as well as the AIDS epidemic. Here, as in the other proses in the book, Gloria expertly uses tangent and digression to display the workings of human thought and social negotiations.
After the break we heard "Lie" and "To Whom it May Concern." We considered the differences between working in prose as opposed to poetry; as Gloria says, "thoughts have their own form," and the paragraph tends to "fills space with thought." Towards the end of the interview, we focused on the title of the book, which shares its title with a piece within, but speaks to the notion that critique is a sign of a true patriot.
At the end, Gloria talked about her past work teaching in San Francisco county jails as part of the Community Works West program. She used this work with prisoners to inform her curriculum at San Francisco State University.
Check out her book in 2015!!!!
Click here to listen

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 Laura Mullen recordings

This Sunday we had the great pleasure of playing audio recordings of Laura Mullen reading her poetry. During the first half of the show we played six singular recordings. One of the pieces 'The Plastic Wrapper' is available on Laura's blog at We discussed her use of repetition, especially the use of the term 'the war on,' which exposes how common it is for us to be at war with various entities and segments of society. We also focused on Laura's incredible performance; her tone is both theatrical and understated. Jay pointed out that when listening to these recordings, we hear a confident female voice. She reminded us of Laurie Anderson.

After the top of the hour we played eight pieces that were recorded at the annual Louisville Conference of Literature and Art.  Laura collaborated with multidisciplinary artist Afton Wilky, who sound mixed the poems. You can find out more about her, go to Given how the words are collaged over each other, we are able to interact with the language in a different way, in a possibly more meditative way. We wondered about the ways listening to this type of audio work might help us engage with our writing.

Laura's website is

Click Here to Listen

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 17, 2014 Dodie Bellamy Live!!!!

This past Sunday, Dodie Bellamy came to Lightrail Studios to read from and discuss The TV Sutras (Ugly Duckling Press, 2014), a work divided into two sections, 'TV Sutras,' and 'Cultured.' The TV Sutras were created during a process where Dodie wrote after doing yoga and meditating, culling lines and descriptions from television. These lines from television are each followed by 'commentary,' or a sutra. Sutra literally means 'thread' and is an aphorism, or original thought. These sutras are in fact wise and useful messages. We talked about engaging in a spiritual practice in an urban environment, and how both the mundane and the cacophony of SF gets incorporated into the process of meditation. The book is full of beautiful illustrations by local artist Neil LeDoux.
The second section 'Cultured,' which is in prose form, tells the story of being in a cult, and investigates the charismatic leader. Dodie did extensive research into cults in preparation for the book while also bringing in personal history mixed with the fictional. The narrative goes from autobiographical first person to a more unreliable first person, and this becomes a metaphor for the cult leader. While there is a critique of cults, Dodie recognizes that we all have 'spiritual longings.' We discussed the function of cults and how other groups and relationships can also be considered cultish, such as MFA program.
Click here to listen

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014: Jaime Robles

Today, amidst technical difficulties and incessant beeping, we interviewed poet Jaime Robles about her book Hoard (Shearsman Books, 2013). 'Hoard' is a term used for buried treasure and this collection focuses on a domestic hoard found in Hoxne, England. These poems were written while Jaime was getting her PhD at the University of Exeter. She used the act of burying one's belongings as a metaphor for the act of burying one's emotions. Since the hoard that inspired this book was comprised of the artifacts of women and domesticity, love is the central emotion investigated. There are reoccurring images of tongues, swans and a red boat. Jaime talked about how English is multi-layered in the U.K. and how this affected her interaction with language while living there. She also worked on public art installations and she shared these projects with us, including one commemorating the centenary of WWI, which will be shown on August 4th, called The Long Good-bye. You can find more information at There is also a Facebook page for 'The Long Goodbye project.' In additon, Jaime has written librettos for song cycles and one-act operas. She spoke about the process of a composer interpreting her words. Her creative projects come from a love of public art and collaboration. She ended our interview with a piece from her earlier book Anime, Animus, Anima (Shearsman Books, 2010).
You can find Jaime's blogs at and
Click here to listen

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014 Eleni Stecopoulos

On July 27th, we played our interview with Eleni Stecopolous. She sat down with us in April to record an interview focusing on her book Armies of Compassion, (Palm Press 2010). Eleni starts the interview explaining the book's title, which was drawn from the language used in 'compassionate conservatism' and faith-based politics as a way to justify war; the poetry within is an attempt to treat this language. The contradictory element of 'armies of compassion' is foregrounded in our conversation. The writing is informed by 9/11 and post-9/11 politics. The poetry is grappling with expressing and healing the body; Eleni considers how "the culture and labor warp us." Towards the middle of the interview,  we examined how philosophy informs Eleni's writing. After the top of the hour, we discussed the Western idea of somatization, that the body and mind are separated, and that the ways in which the body expresses the self is pathologized, rather than accepting that "the mind exists throughout the body." Eleni investigates the "intelligence of the body." From this interest, she curated "The Poetics of Healing" (see info below), with the Poetry Center. Some of her poems include writing by Artaud, who incorporated neologism, music and esoteric knowledge. We close the interview with Eleni's investigation of "domestic bodies."

Click here to listen

Eleni curated a series with the Poetry Center called "The Poetics of Healing," which brought together writers, artists, health practitioners, scholars, and activists to explore how healing is imagined and practiced, from the subtle body to the body politic. You can find out more at

Eleni's book Visceral Poetics will come out later this year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 6, 2014: David Brazil Part 2

In part 2 of our interview with David Brazil we continue discussing his first book, The Ordinary (Compline), and begin with David reading from the section "(economy)." The prophesied poems in this section (hint signs of Capitalism's collapse) are typed on binder paper and other found notepad-like neighborhood scraps. After hearing David read, we discussed the power of reading poetry aloud, the effects of vocalization, and using the voice as an instrument (citing Pound).

Sharing more on the overall structure of The Ordinary, David noted that each "section has its own determination" and as well its own character, especially where form is concerned. David then read from "(kairos)," the opening and most lyrical section of the book, occasionally breaking into song and Greek, "stasis is a state!" Next up a reading from the section "(vierges)," prompted by the curious line: "I am on my way to fetch the man..."

Reflecting about the importance of sound in his work, David added that the strikeouts appearing in some poems are there to "make the words sound right." In "correcting" sound, "lyric breakthrough" (song) is possible by subtracting/striking out certain words or phrases. The texts, with their strikeout inclusions, operate as visual compositions; the work is "laid bare" and as a result the reader feels witness to the poet's vulnerability and struggle. How do we make art from within this space? We then moved into Pound's concept of "vorticism"--vortex points/"patterns" or layers forming in poems that allow energy to flow into and out of the poem (suspending space/time) making things "fall into place." That's one way of looking at vorticism--maybe we'll follow up on the topic in a future roundtable show!

In the second half, we heard David read (sing) a poem that's not included in The Ordinary called "Belshazzar's Feast." Inspired from the Book of Daniel and/or maybe the Johnny Cash song, the "my soundtrack is Earth" poem was written "in one sitting" and is a polytonal/multivocal masterpiece--a documented array of the here-now and beyond: vorticism enacted! "Composed in one go" while listening to a certain piece of music and letting as much as possible in, David talked about being a "register" of the daily mundane while the "larger questions" loom above. This made us think of Zukofsky's "lower limit speech/upper limit music" and ultimately the question of making poetry accessible to everyone or only certain audiences: to be esoteric or not. Why not both? We concluded with David's service to the Bay Area Public School, where he's a volunteer teacher, and learned more about his involvement in this community-supported free school in Oakland. Click here to listen.

June 29, 2014: David Brazil Part 1

A few months back we met with poet David Brazil (previous guest Sara Larsen joined us!) who read from and engaged us with his extraordinary first full-length collection, The Ordinary, published by Compline last year.

Comprised of poems mostly typewritten and some with lines crossed out, that have found their way onto receipts, notepaper, and other found scraps, David described his first collection as a "reader" that brings together six different parts/projects/chapbooks: (kairos), (election), (vierges), (descort), (economy), and (to romans). Representing five years of work, each section has a "different contour," but a similar physicality. It's this "physicality" that makes The Ordinary a sublime experience both visually and cerebrally as the reader cascades into a series of poems that appear to have been caught in their acts of making! Poems are typed out, crossed out, taped up, or handwritten onto receipts; the objects that accommodate the poems dictate their "songs." Instead of "collaged" pieces, David likened the finished poems as "hybrids." Interspersed between the poems in the collection are other East Bay neighborhood finds such as lost pet posts and an announcement from the "Friends of Negro Spirituals" about a "Juneteeth Community Sing" at the West Oakland Senior Center and whose opposite page is "Reading Assignment #2," a translation of Genesis: 1:1-3 from the original Hebrew.

Addressing the potentially prophetic section called "(economy)," that was written prior to the Occupy protests in 2011, David questioned, "what can the poet detect that's actually going to happen in the future?" Summoning Shelley's "the shadows which futurity casts," we explored the possibilities of poetry as prophecy.

St. Paul, the "restrainer" (from the Greek katechon) and his writings occupy the central motifs and ideas holding The Ordinary together. "That which I would do, I cannot do and that which I would not do, I do," a quote from Paul, David shared, is expressed throughout the book. Using "scripture" as part of the language of the poem is something David has been interested in for some time--letting his studies of ancient language become a part of the prosodic flow in his work. We then heard a metered/poem translation of Romans I that's included in the last section "(to romans)." Asked about his interest in varied forms (form as law-giver!), David asked what is the opposite of form--of a non-governed poem? We explored whether it's anarchy or grace! In the second half, Sara asked David to elaborate on why he chose to translate the Romans and we then jumped into a discussion on the theological question of Grace! Click here to listen.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

June 22, 2014: Tiff Dressen Live!

Tiff Dressen joined us live in the studio to read from and discuss her new book, Songs from the Astral Bestiary (lyric& Press, 2014). Many of the poems in her book are prefixed "Message:", and Tiff opened our discussion by reading a selection of these: Message: periodic, Message: I come to harvest light, and Message: a theory (song). Tiff's reading led us into a discussion of dreams and dreamscapes, as well as to a quote from the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard: "The great function of poetry is to give back to us the situation of our dreams." The conversation then turned to the topic of silence and an excerpt from an essay by Swiss writer Max Picard, who suggests that silence and words are of one texture. We then brought up the use of all-caps in parts of some poems, heard from Message:, and talked about language-creation myths, the act of naming, and poetry as a site where one can create one's own mythology. The conversation moved on to readings and reading out loud, and Tiff related an inspiring conversation with poet Hazel White about the poet creating a sacred space for the reader/listener.

After the top of the hour break, we talked about Tiff's use italics and the role of generative quotations from other writers in the creative process. We then learned that the Message poems were originally gathered together in a chapbook of their own, which led us to a discussion about the differences between the intimacy of the handmade chapbook and the more formal and persistent form of the book. With regard to her book, we discussed the extraordinary cover image, a painting by Fran Herndon. Tiff then read her book's final poem, In your hypoxia dreams, and touched on the lyric, dream imagery, Lorca, and Celan. We closed our discussion on the "we" that appears throughout Tiff's work.

Click here to listen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 15, 2014 - Roundtable on Appropriation: Tinker Greene Live!

We were delighted to have Tinker Greene join us once again this past Sunday. Tinker guided us through a kaleidoscopic discussion on appropriation, sharing his thoughts on collage, cut-ups, and using quotes (in several cases an entire quote becomes a poem) from other text sources, mostly prose/non-fiction. Tinker also "appropriates" from his own well of personal memory--his autobiographical past--forming poems with the disjunctive images of his childhood: a bale of hay on a scythed field that's "melded" with a stack of LIFE magazines in an attic during WWII in "My Vermont."

Tinker started off reading "Hoagy Carmichael Reminiscing about Bix Beiderbecke," a poem from his chapbook Funeral Sentences in which he "steals" the words of the "Stardust" composer Carmichael from his (ghost written) autobiography. Also a "photographic image-maker," he explained the process of "framing" prose as a way of forming the poem; every poem is "framed," set off on the page. Williams, Pound, and Eliot were cited as modernist poets who often re-framed found language.

While it's the Romantic period (Poe and Coleridge cited) that Tinker often returns to, it was during the 1960's that he first experienced appropriation while encountering Gary Snyder's "John Muir on Mt. Ritter," a straight quote from Muir originally a section in Snyder's long poem, Myths and Texts. Next, Tinker read from The Road to Xanadu by John Livingston Lowes, a work revealing Coleridge's "mind as a well," from "the shattered fragments of memory" to "snake-birds" and "footless birds of paradise and the fauna of polar and tropical seas." We explored what makes things collect inside our memory-wells, acknowledging that much of it is not (nor ever will be) new or original thought being human on a planet full of regurgitated language. "We are born into the world and start picking up and using language," Tinker clarified. "Poetry is condensation."

Next, Tinker read "Pouring Glory" from his recent chapbook, Your Thoughts Are Real. The poem is a direct quote or "made of the words" of astronaut Chris Hadfield's experience in space that is versified and "arranged" on the page. After the break, Tinker read (by request) "Blue Flame Ring," a prose poem "written the day before a reading" and retelling his sublime dread while hiking in threatening weather, getting lost and taking refuge in a small cave. The title alludes to a dropped passage from an earlier draft which remains as a mysterious fragment, a kind of cut-up.

Toward the end of our show, Tinker shared a quote from a book that had a big impression on him as a young poet, Ronald Johnson's Book of the Green Man--a hiking trip poem set in England, studded with quotes: "decayed literature makes the richest of all soils" (Thoreau). Self-taught, Tinker has allowed himself through the decay that begets other decay, reading one piece of writing and following its resources back. "Romanticism is a theme." Tinker then read sonnets LXVII and LXVIII from Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets, cut-ups of the poet's own work.

Closing with "My Vermont" (1, 2 and 3), Tinker's sonnet sequence, we were reminded that it's freeing not to tell the truth when appropriating from childhood memory ("like Wordsworth"); readers will garner some form of truth. "I was a horrid child, possessed by the to travel as an/ ectoplasmic wraith floating through the moonlight..." We are grateful that Tinker floated back into the studio to share with us more from his personal "well," however appropriated! His chapbooks are available upon request at Click here to listen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014 Melissa Eleftherion Live!

This Sunday, despite technical difficulties, we were able to air and record a live interview with poet Melissa Eleftherion. We spent the first half of the interview on her chapbook Huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013). Many of these poems originally appeared in her thesis, as she was graduating with her MFA from Mills Collage. These poems include many specific references to insects and their parts, juxtaposed to the human body and the human condition; she sought to examine humans through the lens of systems. The poems vary in form which Melissa explains emerges organically during the writing process. She wants to investigate the 'gaps in language' and this is often reflected in the form. Jay discussed how Melissa's poetry, like a lot of poetry, can use language in a way that is unfamiliar and confronts us with an 'opaque otherness.' From this point, Melissa talked about how she compiled 'a lexicon from the gaps in her education.'
After the break we discussed her latest chapbook Prism Maps (Dusie Press Kollectiv & Quarter Drink Press, 2014). These poems were created during a postcard poem project. The lovely cover has a removable postcard and each poem is on the page facing the image of a postcard (depicting flowers or a map).
Besides these two books, we touched on Melissa's other projects. She started, and single-handedly manages The Chapbook Exchange, through The Poetry Center, which allows poets to share their work online. At this time there are over 50 contributors.
At the end of the interview, Melissa shared new work from her manuscript auto/bio.
Click here to listen

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 25, 2014 Remembering Colleen Lookingbill

On Sunday we gathered an unprecedented number of poets at Lightrail Studios to celebrate an unparalleled poet and spirit, Colleen Lookingbill, who unfortunately left us on March 30th. Besides the Poet as Radio hosts, Tiff Dressen, Susanne Dyckman, Todd Melicker, Joseph Noble, Steven Seidenberg, Candy Shue along with Colleen's husband Jordon Zorker took part in a memorial show, which included a reading of Colleen's work and a discussion of her life. We heard work from both her books Incognita (Sink Press, 1992) and a forgetting of (Lyric & Press, 2011), as well as some other pieces published in literary journals.
After the break, the group shared anecdotes from Colleen's life and artistic endeavors. Jordon told us that she was influenced by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and she liked the term 'experimental poetry.' Colleen was also a visual artist and she created visual poetry that was included in a forgetting of. Colleen was an incredibly open and giving person. Tiff introduced Colleen's relationship to Buddhism and Jordon expanded on this, discussing her interest in different spiritual traditions. Joseph told us about his experience of book shopping with Colleen, where she gravitated towards obscure texts. One of her last projects was an anthology of women poets she compiled with Elizabeth Robinson, As If It Fell From the Sun (Ether Dome, 2012).
Thank you to all the poets who took part in this show.
And thank you Colleen for your poetry, your presence and the beautiful mark you left on this writing community. You are surely missed.
Click Here to Listen

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18, 2014 Todd Melicker Live!!!

This Sunday we were happy to welcome Todd Melicker back to Lightrail Studios to talk about his first full length book, and winner of the Black Box Poetry Prize, Rendezvous (Rescue Press, 2013). This book, which is comprised mostly of work that had originally appeared in the chapbook form, is broken up into four types of sections, 'day collects,' 'nautilus,' 'rendezvous,' and 'king & queen.' Each section works with a different form, often inviting the reader to a multiplicity of readings. These poems grapple with dichotomies and pairs – the sun and the moon, the king and the queen. At the same time, there is a blurring of boundaries, where the 'I' is not always sure how and where the merger with the other takes place. Todd talked about struggling with his intuition when discovering the direction of his work and giving himself permission to trust that the poem is assembling itself as it should. Todd shared that he tends to compose his poetry for the page and that he re-encounters his work when considering how to read aloud.  He revealed the 'conversations' that found their way into the content of the work. We talked about the 'letting go' involved when we acknowledge that the reader acts as collaborator in the poem's construction. Towards the end of the interview, we compared the chapbook format to the full-length book format.
Click here to listen

Monday, May 5, 2014

May 4, 2014- Frances Richard live!

On May 4th, Frances Richard came to Lightrail Studios to talk about her book Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012). We start the interview with a discussion of how Paradise Lost was the inspiration for the title and her poetry. In reference to a past interview, we talked about Frances stating 'language is a thinking tool;' the functionality of words is investigated in the work. She is looking at the paradox of thought and action. Nicholas introduced the term 'eco-poetics' to our talk; the book grapples with landscape and the interaction of organic systems and human intervention. Jay found a quote by Frances where she differentiates the difference between the written word and the performative word. After the break, we spoke about poetry's potential communication. With this in mind, Frances creates language within her poems that best reveals her meaning. After reading a section from the poem 'Anarch,' Frances talked about being a 'poet as radio,' as well as her use of quotes. We ended our talk covering 'lyric conceptualism.'

Click here to listen

There is a co-project by Futurepoem called The Anarch Film Project which invites filmmakers to create films in responses to Anarch. You can find this at

Frances will be taking part in a symposium in honor of Alice Notley called 'Alette in Oakland' at The Public School in Oakland on October 24th and 25th.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014 Dennis Phillips Part 2

On April 27th, we played part two of our interview with Dennis Phillips, when we discussed his book Measures (Talisman House Publishers, 2013). We start this hour discussing the use of pronouns in this particular book (pronouns also came up when we interviewed Dennis about Navigation) and how these are related to the personal. Dennis talked about writing in Hawaii, which is prominent in this work. During the interview, he describes the writing processes for particular poems but also the philosophy he employs while writing in general. He showed us the actual journal he uses (sorry listeners). After the top of the hour, the interview moved onto narrative and how language is inherently involved in narrative. Dennis shared how he plays with the 'driving linear force' in his writing. Towards the end of the interview, we talked about Dennis's line and the rhythm that seems so effortless but is actually the product of his important attention to "theme and refrain,' syllables and notes. Understanding why a poet breaks the line is something he impresses upon his students.  He is very interested in the dynamics and contrasts at play within the line and within the poem. We end our talk discussing the title of his book.
Click Here to Listen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 20, 2014 Dennis Phillips Part one

This past Sunday we played part one of our two-part interview with poet Dennis Phillips. Dennis has been a guest on Poet as Radio before, and we were thrilled that he returned to talk to us about his new book Measures (Talisman House 2013). After reading some poems to open the interview, Dennis described the basic format of the book, which is organized in alphabetical order. He talked about the influence Dante's allegories had on his writing poetry. The Odyssey is also part of the 'palette' that is used to paint these wonderful poems. Nicholas introduced the idea of grounding and place in the Dennis's work.
After the top/bottom of the hour, the interview moved into a discussion of the poem as 'puzzle,' as observed by Jay, as well as the density and significance of the content. It is work that 'invites slow and attentive reading.' There is an aliveness and immediacy to this work, which prompted a discussion of music and its ability to move one to emotion without a discernible intellectual explanation as to how. Towards the end of the hour, we touched on beauty and modernism in writing. Dennis talked about how he finds beauty in difficult work, poetry that inspires a continual pondering and engagement.
We will play the second half of this interview on April 27th.
Click here to listen

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 6, 2014 Don Hagelberg's poetry and roundtable discussion

This Sunday we were pleased to read a text poetry submission by Don Hagelberg. (Thanks Don!) From reading his work we discussed how epigraphs are used in poetry and how the use of quotes illustrates a sense of community, with other writers but also other important social figures. We are reminded of the political aspects of writing and the way in which poetry specifically manifests the act of the witness.
After the top of the hour, we had a round table discussion about our own experience with Poet as Radio. In case any of you were curious, we reviewed how we were initiated into online radio. During our beginning months, we tended to over-prepare for our interviews; we have since learned to scale things down in order to interact with our guests more spontaneously. We are so grateful to have talked to so many wonderful writers. We reflected on how our interviews influence our own writing and how our writing habits have been changed through doing the show. Also, we've found that producing the show means we get to take greater part of this wonderful writing community.
Thank you to all our guests, past and future!
Click here to listen

On a sadder note, we announced the passing of poet and beautiful person, Colleen Lookingbill. We will have a memorial show in her honor on May 25th.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 16, 2014: Jean Day

On Sunday we played our interview with Jean Day, who shared her chapbook Early Bird (O'Clock Press, 2014). This work is to be incorporated into a larger manuscript called Late Human. Jean talked about how she came to the subject of earliness through considering the idea of lateness. We talked about the form of the chapbook, much of which is in a column. She also employs enjambment, often within the line, which is very satisfying. One section, which Jean read during the interview, is completely comprised of surprising questions. She talked more about her grappling with lateness and how this influenced her work as well as how writing in series provides 'safety.' After the top of the hour the interview tackles the content of Early Bird; Jean uses prompts which instigate themes or 'scenes.' Through this conversation, we heard more about Late Human and the form there. Jean educated us on the 'Jeremiad.' Towards the end of the interview, she read a section from that work. We ended the interview with a discussion about rhyme and improvisation.
Click here to listen

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 9, 2014 Steve Dickison Live

On Sunday, Steve Dickison, the director of SFSU's Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives, came to discuss his manuscript, Wear You to the Ball. This incredible collection is a collaborative work paying homage to jazz musicians, and writers, mostly notably Etel Adnan and Zora Neal Hurston. Steve was not able to join us until the bottom of the hour so we began the show with recordings of Jelly Roll Morton and Zora Neal Hurston.
We read a couple of pieces from the manuscript, which is mostly composed of prose poems. Throughout the work there are numerous references to musicians, as well as quotes from musicians and writers. In this way the work is collaborative; the poems remind one of jazz musicians creating new music together. And the the prose poems, written as long sentences without the use of commas and periods, may also remind the reader of jazz, with its improvisational form.
You can see Steve performing his poetry at

After the top for the hour, Steve joined us and added his much-needed knowledge of music. He talked briefly about how music is disseminated throughout the world, explaining how musicians influence each other. He taught us about Buddy Bolden, who was so essential to jazz music. In terms of his work, he discussed the construction of the poems, where he used a syllabic constraint while sustaining a narrative thread. Steve lets his work come in from outside; he receives his content from his environment. He ended the interview sharing the importance of music in his earlier life, as well as his appreciation of the musician's discipline in creating his/her art.

Click Here to Listen

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 16, 2014- Steven Seidenberg Live!

Yesterday we welcomed Steven Seidenberg to Lightrail Studios to discuss his brilliant new book Itch (RAW ArT PRESS 2014). Steven's book of both philosophy and narrative questions how one grasps the experience of being in the now, in the body; how language might endeavor to grasp being without the perhaps inevitable gap between words and experience. The 'I' ponders this dilemma from a place of experiencing the itch. Itch is comprised of lyrical vignettes in paragraph form, which inspired some of us to read out loud or while walking. Steven talked about his work in relevance to other philosophical traditions; how the attempt to work out a solution can then create a new philosophical question. The 'I' is continually grappling with his own 'failure' to capture what is being sought. At the same time, the itch provides an experience that is embodied and which does not require the mediator of language. Like other philosophical works, Itch employs words in very specific ways that manifest particular meanings within the context of the larger work. Since the book uses an itch as its launching point, the position and the role of the body is inherent throughout; while there is thought, there is no thought without the senses.
Keep your eye out for Steven's forthcoming chapbook, Null Set (Spooky Actions Books), from which he read in the last few minutes of the interview.
Click here to listen

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 9, 2014: Benjamin Hollander

We met with Benjamin Hollander a few weeks ago to discuss his new book, In the House Un-American (Clockroot Books, 2013). What ensued was extraordinary discussion about what it means to be both American and Un-American, and how both of those seemingly black-and-white terms are in constant flux and contestation. Ben treated us to several readings from his book, including a re-enactment of Bertolt Brecht's testimony in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Among other topics, we discussed the paradoxes one encounters in a "melting pot" society, and the use of compassionate, non-snarky irony. We ended the conversation with a focus of the extraordinary last chapter of his book which envisions the heart of Islam as American. Click here to listen.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 2, 2014: Cassandra Troyan's poetry and round table discussion

We were thrilled to accept an audio submission from Casandra Troyan, Chicago poet, who recorded two pieces from her new book  BLACKEN ME BLACKEN ME, GROWLED (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2014). (Thanks Cassandra!!!). After playing her work, we had a short discussion about what we heard there, the details of physicality and relationship she depicts so sharply. Through hearing Cassandra's wonderful and affective presentation of her work, we considered how poetry tends to get read and performed. What are the differences of reading styles between different poets and poets of different regions? What affects those differences? How does setting affect reading?
Hey awesome writers, please keep sending submissions!!!!
Later in the show, we discussed our talk with Ben Hollander, whom we met with a few weeks ago and whose interview will be aired on the 9th. Ben talked about his new book In the House Un-American (Clockroot Books, 2013). This mixed genre book investigates what it means to be American and shows us our own contradictions and complexities. By looking closely, being American is made strange. Poetry also works to make language strange; it liberates us from our language habits and unhinges us. Ben's book has been described as a 'trickster book' because it incorporates fiction and documentary styles while also being poetic, personal and political; in this way it both surprises the reader and brings the reader along as it investigates the question of this culture we think we live in. Listen on Sunday to hear Ben's interview!!!
Click Here to Listen

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 12, 2014- Stephen Lloyd Webber part 2

On January 12th, we played the second half of  Stephen Lloyd Webber's interview. We continued our conversation about his book Writing From the Inside Out (Divine Arts 2013). He talked about his work in prose poetry and 'language yoga.' We discussed how yogic figures (or different parts of our ego) can manifest in our attention and our writing. Stephen has trouble 'telling the same story' so uses different practices, like writing twenty books in a year. After our ten minute break, we talked about self-doubt as negative capability. Uncertainty does not have to be anxiety.
Stephen revealed to us how his book got published. He used much of the material he originally compiled for his Writing Immersion Retreat compendium. Through this discussion we talked about why we write, perhaps in an effort to 'affirm the world.' Having a yoga practice helps Stephen have balance in terms of what writing challenges are right for him. Stephen's philosophy of sharing his experience with others is something that emerged for him through his practice. In this vein, he and his wife are creating a home where they will invite people to share their gifts with them and the space. We talked about his wife Jade who is a the yoga teacher and holistic guide for their writing retreats. Towards the end, we heard some more of Stephen's writing.
Click here to listen

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 5, 2014: Stephen Lloyd Webber Part one

Happy New Year!!!
In the fall we recorded our interview with the lovely Stephen Lloyd Webber and on January 5th we played the first part of our talk. His book Writing From the Inside Out was published by Divine Arts in 2013. To start out, Stephen talked his past study of different spiritual practices as well as yoga, and how these are important to his writing practice. In this vein, we jumped right into discovering the writing marathon, a method that Stephen assigns the participants of his and his wife, Jade Webber's, Writing Immersion Retreats. He took part in a 24-hour writing marathon and he describes this practice as a way to 'cultivate mindfulness.' The book itself combines writing exercises with spiritual teachings that help guide the writer in the writing practice as well as through the pitfalls and negative self-talk that writers tend to encounter. Stephen outlines the writing retreats he created with his wife; these retreats prioritize three elements: being present/aware, attention to the holistic self and spiritual practice and offering of the creative self. It should be said that Stephen's wife Jade is a yoga teacher and painter and she provides yoga teaching and spiritual guidance. Many of the exercises in this book are also included in the compendium that Stephen created for the retreats. These retreats and this interview reveal the interconnection between the mind and the body.
We played the second half of this interview on January 12th. Check back here for part two!
Click Here to Listen