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.