ah DC
what a grand gig!
Burnett Thompson
pianist & wag
& wizard
put together
a cadre of brilliant
who went the limit for us
at Busboys & Poets
a celebrated cultural center
in DC dedicated to the memory of
Langston Hughes



in a cultural space called Zeitgeist
w/ half a dozen of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
got us out of the French Quarter
& into the reality of Katrina

how it always goes
inside the Vegas
no plan no loss
no thought no pain

loud hall space
used primarily
for movies

we’re okay
but it’s the other end
of the Albuquerque gig
yet really dug the bari
Roger Lewis & we
in duet did “Brother”

wonderful re-connecting w/
Rodger Kamenetz & his wife

like no other place



the last entry swept away


I got back to my apartment, my room, the bed, the debris, the habit, routine, the weight of ordinary after elated extraordinary, clumped & clamped back into daily rites, dorky, dumbfounded.

Came home filled w/ many mixed-up teachings I’ve got to learn, or question

As always, & ever, it’s the musicians who enlighten, teach me w/ their dialogic moments

It’s always about focus
listening to each other
supporting the moment’s opening

have been struggling &
puzzling over
what I

what we do
doing our poems
w/ your musics of the moment

we’re brothers
we’re strangers

have been performing words
w/ jazz musicians
since 1958
& still learning
what it is & isn’t

& is it?
geezer echoes of
Armstrong, the first jazz poet,
through King Pleasure
Eddie Jefferson
Slim Gaillard
Lambert Hendricks & Ross
Amiri Baraka
Jayne Cortez
into now Kurt Elling

where are we
Rockpile poets
in the beginning of

the paradox is
the page
the voice

reject the page
yet require it
for mnesomy salsa

always always what one
one alone
has to say
in order to sing

how to work w/ music
& music work w/ us?

got a sense of it from
Kurt Elling

more to know
to learn

—- D.M.

St. Louis “Next Installment-DM”

Little Walter in my earphones: But someday, baby, you’re not going to worry my life anymore

First of all, Howard Schwartz is there, post-stroke, the only noticeable clue is the cane. Am so delighted & elated to see him; was so worried. He’s done so much remarkable work as scholar of the Jewish folklore traditions — his penultimate work, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, is essential. What’s often forgotten, is that Howard is a poet & parable & dream maestro, all of those deep skills employed in this grand work. May have embarrassed him by touching him to be sure he was still alive. At the same time, Zimbawi, great improvising musician on the m’biri, who signed up for Rockpile 2 years ago at a loose sweet meeting at the Castro’s, also suffered a stroke which was more serious & was still in hospital. Howard takes the stage & tells us a great teaching tale from the Jewish bag of shticks.

From then on, it’s a procession of impassioned performances. Old friend from old days, K. Curtis Lyle, in full regalia, white griot robes, cornrows, intones a magnificent tribute to Michael Jackson, back up by stalwarts: Dave Black, guitar, & David A. N. Jackson, on a myriad of percussion possibilities. Phil Gounis proclaimed Buddhism. Shirley LeFlore kicked it. Anarcho-punk-hip hop poet — Jason & The Beast — kicked it out of the park. Michael Castro (backed by Black & Jackson) was consummately in the groove, The glory of it wouldn’t stop. Maria Guadalupe Massey . Sean Arnold. Alex Balogh. Whew. The energy in the room was palpable. Then Bob Malone’s trio amped it up beyond. Singing some of Michael Rothenberg’s deep songs (cante hondo), with his out-there brio. The most satisfying compliment I got that night was from Bob’s bass player Christa’s son; he was maybe seven or so & she brought him up to me because he really dug my performance. St Louis was all acme; it was a signal & sign of what’s possible in arts communities in touch w/ the necessity of shared & embraced realities & alert & constantly awake to the imaginative possibilities.

Long as I have you, baby
Nothing I won’t do
Little Walter in my earphones


St. Louis Part 2 from David

Fast forward 40 years & there’s the Rockpilers back in St Louis at the end of an 8 week tour across the States staying at a recently opened hotel — it had a full moon globe atop its roof. I think it was called the Moonrise Hotel on the same street leading to the legendary Blueberry Hill bar & eatery where Chuck Berry makes an appearance on a regular basis. Also one of St Louis’ great record/CD stores, Vintage Vinyl, where I picked up Zimbabwe Nkenya & ZIYA’s CD “In Concert.” Zimbabwe was going to play with us but suffered a stroke & was in the hospital. On the road, days before we arrived, we heard that Howard Schwartz had also suffered a stroke, but was on the mend. Yet I worried.


One of the great joys to me was hanging out w/ Michael & Adelia Castro. Being a passenger & listening to Michael & Adelia negotiate directions was by now a familiar pingpong. The deep coded bond of coupledom is its own poetry, performance art.

Doing late lunch at Duff’s brought all the years back. The place hadn’t changed, glorious Karen Duff was even more radiant. Our waitress (whose email address I lost) was a daughter of one of Karen’s staff & she was the future w/ both guarded & open questions.



one more time/blahg/part 1

Yesterday I was trying to celebrate our gig & homecoming in St Louis on my computer — BUT my iMac chewed it up & shat it out into some kind of cyber limbo — how can a machine be such a cruel editor? — I sang & soared 2 hours of praise songs erased by a what? a glitch? an omen? juju? —
yeah yeah, I got the St Louis Blues —

have been going & performing in St Louis for over 40 years — why? because it’s the realized integrated arts core community that many other urban palookavilles can’t fathom or realize — you can kill each other or embrace & learn to work together — that’s what was so rewarding about our last gig —

OK — back-story:

1969: Tina & me & our 3 daughters (Amanda, Maggie, Jennie) in a funky white second-hand Plymouth station wagon are driving across the US of A towards permanent exile abroad, we’re headed to the Old Country & we want to show the kids some of the landscape they’re leaving. I’d set up readings along the way by contacting poet friends & academics who arranged readings & sometimes their apartments or houses for the Meltzer brood. When we arrived in St Louis — on one of those numbingly hot moist times of the year — our host was Howard Schwartz, a recent friend & contributor to Tree, an irregular journal I edited focusing on kabbalistic themes like Shekinah, Yetzirah, Evil, putting ancient texts in dialogue w/ modernist writings. Howard was devoted to dreams, parables, Kafka, jewish folklore, & ECM Records. He was a professor of Literature & Writing at UMSL & belonged to a vibrant cultural nexus of poets, musicians, Donald Finkel, artists, congenial eccentrics. Buddhist artist & poet, Michael Corr, gave up his apartment to the Meltzers in one of those 3 story brick cubes lining the streets. It seemed every night there was a gathering at someone’s place, but the one I remember best was at poet Michael Castro’s digs. In the basement people were playing kora, mbiri, xylophone, all kinds of drums, guitars. Poets reading, chanting, burbling & babbling. Our daughters loved it. A good sign. Then Howard, maybe Michael, & I read at marvelous Duff’s, a bar & restaurant that to this day flourishes thanks to Karen Duff, indefatigable, & generous to creative types like us. I met not only teenage prodigy Marty Ehrlich, but the wonderful jazz guitarist Lyle Harris, who we’d work w/ over the decades. I remember one night we stealthed into East St Louis to read poetry at a local “underground” radio stations. Remember, this was the ’60s & “revolution” & “free” was in the air. St Louis was the apogee of our road trip & we’ve staid in touch over decades!– DM

Larry Sawyer Visits Rockpile

Just Don’t Call It a Symposium, Rockpile Visits Chicago

Having seen many a poetry reading in the city of Chicago over the past 8 years and being immersed in curating the Myopic Poetry Series as well as editing a long-running literary magazine and as I was reading Alfred Jarry and Vicente Huidobro (and if that weren’t enough as a cold, sloppy rain set in on the city as winter approached) I looked forward to the Chicago visit of Rockpile.

Rockpile (being David Meltzer, Michael Rothenberg, Terri Carrion, Bob Malone, and on this occasion poets Art Lange, Larry Sawyer, and Francesco Levato accompanied by Spider Trio led by Dan McNaughton and also Dan Godston’s band Calligraphy) was on a collision course with the city and for weeks I’d been in the planning stages for their visit. Because I was in the mood for something different — something that moved.

The collagist, hybrid techniques of the Chicago poets that I know (many of whom were recently dubbed a New Chicago School by poet/critic Kent Johnson) are a volatile mix of sensibilities and the buzz and interest in the Chicago poetry scene of late was (and is) palpable. Of course, Chicago already had a long history of poetry that extended even farther back and the tent is large indeed, (saloon poetry, slam poetry, hispanic poetries, black arts movement poetries, surrealist poetries via the legacy of the Rosemonts and all else I have unintentionally overlooked) but since the days when Ed Dorn and Ted Berrigan lived in this city and imbued it, somewhat, with an imprint that was somehow a bit more poet maudit, a bit more bohemian I had not seen anything like what I saw that night at the Hideout as Rockpile took the stage.

My relatively short time in this city didn’t allow me to be a part of much of what was mentioned previously but as I book readings for the Myopic Poetry Series I’m in a unique position, as I’m able to hear some of the most exciting innovative poetries as their authors come through Chicago. With Rockpile I had hoped that I’d see an event that encapsulated something different and I was right.

I knew after speaking with prime mover and Rockpile poet Michael Rothenberg, who also edits the well-regarded Web site, that music would play a primary role in the upcoming performance at the Hideout. This was what gave the idea the edge that I looked forward to.

It is possible that these simulacra for Rimbaud and Verlaine on their travels in this Facebook age had a plan that was a bit too far reaching and that bringing disparate poetic communities of each respective city that they planned to visit along for their ride would be such a difficult task that it would be tough to pull off effectively, but I knew once I saw David Meltzer, Michael, and Terri Carrion (accompanied by Spider Trio, Bob Malone and Calligraphy) that they’d really done it. The audience knew.

Francesco Levato, who is the director of the Poetry Center of Chicago, along with Art Lange, who edited the seminal poetry anthology Moment’s Notice with the poet Nathaniel Mackey and who from 1981 to 1987 was editor of Downbeat Magazine, also performed that night in what will be remembered as peak performances. Levato read from his recent book War Rug, accompanied by Bob Malone on piano and Lange read as Calligraphy backed him with angular grooves that sharpened Lange’s staccato aural jabs. Both wowed and I knew that I was up next. Bob Malone backed me and I was glad to be a part of such a weighty event and the Hideout was the perfect locale. (We missed poet Tony Trigilio who couldn’t make it that night because of an early winter malady and poet Ed Roberson who was knee-deep in editing a forthcoming collection of poetry.)

Perhaps it was the proposal that was most difficult indeed. Poetry as an art has covered much aesthetic ground in the past 10 years and poetics as a field of study has reached a level of importance on par with the poetry itself, but Rockpile, on their retro/futurist, open-road walkabout, was on a mission to spread a funky new word that begged, borrowed and stole from some postmodern anti-tradition but also blew it apart. (As David Meltzer described in conversation to me they were driving cross country and from that front seat all seemed somehow like one big corporate plantation. Awareness therefore being the prime concern and David, you’re right, complacency is the real enemy.)

The key to this improvisational poetics might be that, in large part, the work comes into being during each performance and that’s what gives it such prescience. The audience then bears witness to the creative process firsthand (that will be somehow different during each subsequent performance).

One thinks of the dada experiments at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich circa 1916 and the work of Langston Hughes and Kenneth Rexroth during the 1940s and 50s spinning words to jazz accompaniment, where risks are taken and mistakes left in. Sacrifices are made for the sake of the performance, which had such a fresh-air breath that night at the Hideout.

Seeing Dan Godston’s band Calligraphy and being able to read a few of my own poems with pianist Bob Malone made for a mofungo that night that provided a few new ingredients that might have been lacking in Chicago. Something with a few rough edges. It was more than just a passing glance from David Meltzer in his long and storied career that includes kabbalah scholarship and years of editing poetry anthologies and writing the poetry that helped to define the New American Poetry alongside his contemporaries such as Robert Creeley and John Ashbery.

Defining the nature of existence, ontological and esoteric concerns: Too dicey for a cold and rainy night in the city of big shoulders? It all went off without a hitch despite the long weeks of planning when it seemed questionable whether it would really come together and I feel truly lucky to have witnessed these poets and the culmination of their craft.

During Terri Carrion’s performance as she was up on the stage that night at the Hideout smiling I realized that the details in these poems have a West Coast exuberance and provide a unique, multi-faceted awareness of elements that I would like to see more often in the poetry written here in Chicago. Sensory details that ground a poem, yet no lopsided concern for realism. Frenetic panoramas of travels across what these United States portend.

Rockpile’s journey thankfully allowed me to witness something profoundly new and with each stop along the way I have no doubt that their vision restored some sense of ecological/political/aesthetic awareness to all those with whom they collaborated (and I am also sure that during their travels all with whom they spoke realized that these are poets and musicians who are doing nearly the impossible, using creative music to broaden the concept of what poetry is and does but ultimately just enjoying themselves). Imagine that!
— Larry Sawyer


So much of the road trip has been richly & accurately detailed by Michael & Terri, whereas moi, Meltzer, the old fart, finds the blahg form unfriendly & impatient.

My fragments, shards, snapshots, are indicative of the delirium of the road. Michael & Terri drive. I don’t. As a Brooklyn boy, never needed to. Even when I landed in Hollywood with my dad in the ’50s. Took public transport which in those days was somewhat epochal. Was always in the passenger seat as we went from place to place. Each driver had (duh) their own style of moving our Rockpile vehicle through USA, & each had their own way of relating to the grouchy guy beside them. Not that I was always festering or pestering. All of the journey was like a weird wedding; we became a family. A weird family, but a loving one.

Watching Michael grow as a collaborator, improviser, & foot-tapping ecstatic was a delight, a joy; seeing Terri unfold on stage into a delightful & constantly delighted performer was inspirational. It was an 8 week crash-course in releasing & realizing what we could do & how to do it better.

The musicians were our teachers, guides, our obstacles. W/out them, nothing would have happened. I’m so deeply grateful to reconnect w/ my musician brothers & sisters. In the ’60s all I wanted to be was a musician. In a small way, I was part of the SF folk-rock scene in the ’60s & loved working w/ others as a musician, including my late collaborator Jim Gurley. Nobody knew I was a poet. I was a guitar player. Jim & I & sometimes, when he was there, J. P. Pickens, the Coltrane of the 5-string banjo. We drove the folkies out to the bar but we knew more than anybody in the house those nights.

The musicians we encountered in our 2 month journey were always willing if not able to work w/ & for us. I can’t thank them enough. This kind of work is utopian in the most realized sense.
Utopia means no place, but on the stage & in performance it’s all in place. Everyone listening, allowing, giving space for the soloist to arise, then shifting back into the community support of the group. It’s more than a gig even when it’s a gig.

St. Louis begins…and continues!


I dedicate this blog entry to Zimbabwe Nkenya, a good friend and wonderful musician, who was scheduled to join us for the show but could not make it. He had a stroke a month before the scheduled St. Louis performance. Our Love to Zimbabwe and his family.


Gather up & gather round
a poet’s rap
is going down
ain’t nothing new
the evening news
colorfully true
st. louis blues
aching thru
& snaking round
the mystery
& shaking apples
from your tree
to lift you from
your gravity

Poet’s Rap
It’s a killer
Poet’s Rap
It’s a killer


The Moonrise Hotel is a trip.

I am not sure what it is about that place. Maybe it’s the stairs flashing and flickering colors wired to tone and tempo of funky music piped into the lobby. Or red, white, and green plastic cubes and bulbous white plastic chairs and sofa set up in the driveway for a Fellini fashion shoot.


Or the busboys and girls with Madonna-style headsets roaming the halls and grounds, all cute and smart and glad to be of assistance. There’s the multi-mirrored convex mirror collage installation in front of the lobby elevator, perfect for a re-enactment of The Beatles’ Help!, and the huge framed Dali-esque mirrors outside of the elevator on each floor, bending as you approach them. Or the 20 dollar hamburger and excellent Margaritas at the European modern Eclipse restaurant and bar attached to the lobby. (I passed on the 20 dollar burger.) Spacious and newly decorated rooms were totally up to speed. You could plug your computer into the huge flat screen and get wireless surround sound (maybe). But the beds were just way too soft. It was like lying in a grave, I swore I was being swallowed up for good. It gave me the mini-terrors.

times are hard
careening fast
& each new day
could be our last
more reason to
use heads & hearts
& not abuse
our natural smarts
cause any answer
we can find
delving deep
in heart of mind
down in its depths
& still as stone
we understand
we’re not alone

Poet’s Rap
It’s a thriller
Poet’s Rap
It’s a thriller

Here’s the list of poets & musicians who joined us for the ROCKPILE performance at the “weirdly amusing” Regional Arts Center across the street from The Moonrise: Jason & the Beast (Jason Braun accompanied by Jerry Hill and Mic Boshans on drums) were high all the way, hip-hop poetry and beat par excellence; Alex Balogh, our friend from Untamed Ink read a perfect tribute poem to Papa Meltzer; the awesome anarchist Sean Arnold drove a steady rhythm, intense and sublime .

Many thanks to Paul Nevenkirk, of St. Louis, MO, for letting us use his great photos of the poets and musicians to accompany the performance videos.

Jason Braun

Mic Boshans

Jerry Hill

Alex Balogh

Sean Arnold

Phil Gounis showed us The Way (has a great cd collaboration with Rich Kruse–who graciously lent us his PA system, said, “I never thought I would be a roadie for poets”– reviewed on Big Bridge. Maria Guadalupe Massey gave us her bluesy all. Harry Sky Campbell was sweet and beautiful. Howard Schwartz taught us about lineage and justice. Shirley LeFlore possessed the mighty elegant soul and flow.

Phil Gounis

Maria Guadalupe Massey

Harry Sky Campbell

Howard Schwartz

Shirley LeFlore

K. Curtis Lyle roared like a lion, his verbal claw on the heart of America.

K. Curtis Lyle

Michael Castro knew “The Poet’s Rap” (he was the ONE in St. Louis who got this whole show together, thanks for everything Michael, wow!) He wrote after the event: “Our audiences were inter-generational and diverse, as were the participating poets & musicians. It demonstrated the vitality of the arts community here, an impression that will be spread by all those involved.”


yet in our time
we separate
& seeds get sown
of fear & hate
this rap reminds us
life’s unity
that underlies
our lonely separate
transient me’s–
our individualities–
& know
what we need
to full-fill life
not self-ish greed

Poet’s Rap
it’s a yearning
Poet’s Rap
It’s life-affirming

Head’s up, America!!! St. Louis knows how to celebrate poetry and music!!!!

And Dave Black was great on the guitar.

Dave Black

David A.N. Jackson was always on the money with percussion, his curtain of bells.

 David A.N. Jackson

And the Bob Malone Band was at it again, with us in Chicago the week before, sang the songs Bob and I wrote together. To end his solo set Bob played some major Jerry Lee Lewis rock and roll while Adelia and I danced at the back of the room. Then The Malone Band, David A.N. Jackson and Dave Black took the show home with The ROCKPILE Trio.

(More video coming soon!)

Who says poetry readings are boring????!!!!

We had the largest audience on the ROCKPILE tour in St. Louis. The night before the RAC ROCKPILE event, at the celebration for Untamed Ink reading at Lindenwood, we matched the RAC Crowd, 140 bodies (TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW!!!!)

Beau Jesus says so
Buddha too
& Martin, Malcolm
& Lao Tzu
& every animal
through whose eyes
a soul cries out
we recognize
each still small voice
says, to be free
we must express
our unity
& bathe each self
in selfless bliss
as lovers do
inside a kiss

Poet’s Rap
Thou art That
Poet’s Rap
Thou art That

Did I mention that pizza joint after the Lindenwood gig? You could get New York Style, Chicago Style or St. Louis Style pizza. The eggplant parmagiana was awesome. We went for the New York style, the large was more than enough for 4 people. Homemade sauce, gooey cheese, crispy crust, maybe not New York but yummy.



We ate a few times at Blueberry Hill Café. Cheap and reasonable portions. The cheeseburger was my favorite meal there. The late night breakfast was very average. I couldn’t get fried eggs because they only had those pre-scrambled pourable eggs. Ugh. David seemed to agree with their Caeser and chicken, but one day we went over to The Blueberry alone (Terri stayed at the Moonrise to download a backlog of footage) and we had a heart to heart about sobriety, morality, propriety and ultimately too much cheese! We both ordered a salad. There was so much grated cheese in the bowl you couldn’t find the lettuce. It’s just wasn’t right. Thick and sticky and flavorless.

One midnight I took a look around the Pin Up Bowl, a bar/bowling alley, it was a great idea , but the music was so loud and everyone was drunk so I dashed out and sat at the bus stop to collect myself. Floating above me…The Moonrise has its own moon.

We went to Duff’s for lunch and Karen Duffy, who has hosted literary readings at her Central West End restaurant since 1974, joined us for a mellow afternoon.


Thanks Karen for your camaraderie and generosity and the best Cobb Salad and awesome chocolate ganache desert I had on the whole ROCKPILE tour…


so expand that
& understand
“I’m” not just “me”
& that the inside
& the out
is what we’re finally
The universe is
where we are
more near than far
the final Word is
All is One
So now you know
The rap’s undone

Poet’s Rap
It’ll haunt ya
Poet’s Rap
It’s a mantra

it’s a mantra

it’s a mantra

-michael castro-

* * *

So this was the last stop of the ROCKPILE on the Road tour. But be forewarned, David, Terri and I are not calling it quits. Yes, it was a long, exhausting trip but the high of collaboration and making new friends is all endorphins. Sure, we had our squabbles and I wrecked the car a few times but the ROCKPILE TRIO has achieved a perfect dysfunction. ROCKPILE, is an addiction that’s impossible to cure. It can only get better. We can only get higher. We hear rumblings in Dublin, Berlin, Great Britain, Amsterdam and Victoria, BC. Calls to return to Rochester, Buffalo, and Toronto. Joe Cunliffe  is poking around DC for another gig. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band wants to hook up in the Bay Area in the Spring. What about Hawaii? Alaska? Don’t forget The Rabbles! We’re supposed to do a Grand Finale in the Bay Area in 2010. Yes, we’ll do a big show but Grand Finale? I don’t think so…ever….


* * *



Rummaging thru four-fold papers of road scrawls. Out-of-sequence like this Rockpiler in the aftermath of our odyssey.

Signage like splattered shattered colored glass chips:

“Embryos Are Babies”
Fill Up With Freedom Gas
in Normal

Shut up
& write a fucking haiku

Bubba truck tire flaps


Most of all, the musicians were the adventure. Sound was ambix. How to listen to each other in the moment. How to hear & respond. When to be silent. When to weave w/in the fields of sound. How to transform, merge, create a momentum of sounds into the air. Moons ago, the composer Peter Garland edited a magazine called, appropriately, Soundings, where contemporary composers wrote about their work, the process of composing, also providing the music on the page in its own language. We were creating within the sounded-out mystery of improvisation. Composer R. Murray Schafer (in his essential text, The Tuning of the World), coined the keyword “soundscape” for the acoustic realms we inhabit.

Now I will do nothing but listen . . .
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night . . .

— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

We worked w/ wonderful players & their mantra of “it’s a gig” said it all about the life of poetry. Feel a great kinship to musicians & to their art & economy.


-David Meltzer

Jazz Poetry (Four articles by Kenneth Rexroth)

A little short of two years ago, jazz poetry was a possibility, a hope and the memory of a few experiments. Today it runs the danger of becoming a fad. The life of fads is most often intense, empty and short. I feel, on the contrary, jazz poetry has permanent value or I would not have undertaken it.

When it is successful there is nothing freakish or faddish about it nor, as a matter of fact, is there anything specially new. At the roots of jazz and Negro folksong, especially in the Southwest, is the “talking blues.” It is not much heard today, but if you flatten out the melodic line, already very simple, in Big Bill Broonzy or Leadbelly, you have an approximation of it, and some of their records are really more talked than sung. This is poetry recited to a simple blues guitar accompaniment. Long before this, in the mid-nineteenth century, the French poet Charles Cros was reciting, not singing, his poems to the music of a bal musette band. Some of his things are still in the repertory of living café chantant performers, especially the extremely funny Le Hareng Saur. Even today some rock ’n roll “novelties” are recited, not sung, and they are some of the most engaging, with music that often verges into the more complex world of true jazz. It has become a common custom in storefront churches and Negro revival meetings for a member of the congregation to recite a poem to an instrumental or wordless vocal accompaniment. I believe Langston Hughes recited poems to jazz many years ago. I tried it myself in the twenties in Chicago. In the late forties Kenneth Patchen recited poems to records. Jack Spicer, a San Francisco poet, tried it with a trio led by Ron Crotty on bass. The result, more like the Russian tone color music of the first years of the century, was impressive, if not precisely jazz. Lawrence Lipton has been working with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles for almost two years. William Walton’s Facade, Stravinsky’s Persephone, compositions of Auric, Honneger, Milhaud, are well-known examples of speaking, rather than singing, to orchestra in contemporary classical music. Charles Mingus and Fred Katz, two of the most serious musicians in jazz — to narrow that invidious distinction between jazz and serious music — have been experimenting with the medium for some time. The music has been impressive, but in my opinion, speaking as a professional poet, the texts could be improved.

What is jazz poetry? It isn’t anything very complicated to understand. It is the reciting of suitable poetry with the music of a jazz band, usually small and comparatively quiet. Most emphatically, it is not recitation with “background” music. The voice is integrally wedded to the music and, although it does not sing notes, is treated as another instrument, with its own solos and ensemble passages, and with solo and ensemble work by the band alone. It comes and goes, following the logic of the presentation, just like a saxophone or piano. Poetry with background music is very far from jazz. It is not uncommon, and it is, in my opinion, usually pretty corny.

Why is jazz poetry? Jazz vocalists, especially white vocalists and especially in the idiom of the most advanced jazz, are not very common. Most Negro singers stay pretty close to the blues, and there is more to modern jazz than blues. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, there are not many singers whom all schools of jazz find congenial. Curiously enough, the poet reciting, if he knows what he is doing, seems to “swing” to the satisfaction of many musicians in a way that too few singers do. I think it is wrong to put down all popular ballad lyrics as trivial; some of them are considerable poetry in their own right, but certainly most are intellectually far beneath the musical world of modern jazz, and far less honest. The best jazz is above all characterized by its absolute emotional honesty. This leaves us with the words of the best blues and Negro folksong, often very great poetry indeed, but still a limited aspect of experience, and by no means everything, translated into words, that modern jazz has to say. In other words, poetry gives jazz a richer verbal content, reinforces and expands its musical meaning and, at the same time, provides material of the greatest flexibility.

How is it done, in actual practice? Kenneth Patchen has been working with Allyn Ferguson and the Chamber Jazz Sextet. The music is composed; it is actually written out, with, of course, room for solo improvisation, but with the voice carefully scored in. There is nothing wrong with this. Far more of the greatest jazz is written music than the lay public realizes. Some of even the famous King Oliver and Louis Armstrong records of long ago were scored by Lil Hardin, a very sophisticated musician. Duke Ellington and his arranger, Billy Strayhorn, are among America’s greatest composers. For the past year I have been working with my own band, led by Dick Mills, trumpet, and including Brew Moore, tenor, Frank Esposito, trombone, Ron Crotty, bass, Clair Willey, piano, and Gus Gustafson, drums. Recently in Los Angeles, I played a two-week engagement with a fine band led by Shorty Rogers. In each case we worked from carefully rehearsed “head arrangements.” The musicians had each in front of them the text of the poetry, and the sheets were used as cue sheets, scribbled with “inners and outers,” chord progressions, melodic lines and various cues.

I feel that this method ensures the maximum amount of flexibility and spontaneity and yet provides a steadily deepening and thickening (in the musical sense) basis, differing emotionally more than actually from a written score. The whole thing is elaborately rehearsed — more than usual for even the most complicated “band number.” I would like to mention that jazz, contrary to lay opinion, is not just spontaneously “blown” out of the musicians’ heads. Behind even the freest improvisation lies a fund of accepted patterns, chord changes, riffs, melodic figures, variations of tempo and dynamics, all understood by the musicians. In fact, they are there, given, as a fund of material almost instinctively come by. Even in a jam session, when a soloist gets as far out as possible, everybody has a pretty clear idea of how he is going to get back and of how everybody is going to go off together again. Then the major forms of common jazz are almost as strict as the sonata — the thirty-two bar ballad, the twelve bar blues — bridges, choruses, fillers, all usually in multiples of the basic four-bar unit, in four-four time. Needless to say, the poetry is not “improvised” either. This has been tried, but with disastrously ridiculous results, and not by me. On the other hand, several poets have read over their things once with sensitive musicians and then put on a thoroughly satisfactory show. I have done this with Marty Paitch on piano or Ralph Pena on bass — both musicians with an extraordinary feeling for the rhythms and meanings of poetry. It all depends on the musician.

I hope the faddist elements of this new medium will die away. The ignorant and the pretentious, the sockless hipsters out for a fast buck or a few drinks from a Village bistro, will soon exhaust their welcome with the public, and the field will be left clear for serious musicians and poets who mean business. I think that it is a development of considerable potential significance for both jazz and poetry. It reaches an audience many times as large as that commonly reached by poetry, and an audience free of some of the serious vices of the typical poetry lover. It returns poetry to music and to public entertainment as it was in the days of Homer or the troubadours. It forces poetry to deal with aspects of life which it has tended to avoid in the recent past. It demands of poetry something of a public surface — meanings which can be grasped by ordinary people — just as the plays of Shakespeare had something for both the pit and the intellectuals in Elizabethan times, and still have today. And, as I have said, it gives jazz a flexible verbal content, an adjunct which matches the seriousness and artistic integrity of the music.

Certainly audiences seem to agree. Wherever it has been performed properly, the college auditoriums, the night clubs, the concert halls have been packed, and everybody — musicians, poets and audiences — has been enthusiastic.

In the past two years it has spread from The Cellar, a small bar in San Francisco, to college campuses, to nightclubs in Los Angeles, St. Louis, New York, Dallas and, I believe, Chicago; to the Jazz Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where Lawrence Lipton put on a program with Shorty Rogers, Fred Katz, two bands, myself, Stuart Perkoff and Lipton himself, heard by about six thousand people in two weeks. Kenneth Patchen and Allyn Ferguson followed us, and played there for the better part of two months. Dick Mills and his band have performed with me at several colleges and at the San Francisco Art Festival, and we are now planning to take the whole show on the road.

If we can keep the standards up, and keep it away from those who don’t know what they are doing, who have no conception of the rather severe demands the form makes on the integrity and competence of both musicians and poets, I feel that we shall have given, for a long time to come, new meanings to both jazz and poetry.


Things are beginning to get out of hand. The other day Ralph Gleason, the jazz critic, said to me that he expected any day to see ads in the trade papers: “JAZZ POET: blues, ballad, upbeat, free verse or rhyme. Have tux. Will travel.” And T.S. Eliot touring the kerosene circuit with Little Richard and the Harlem Globetrotters. Crazes are usually pretty empty, sterile things. It would be a pity if incompetents looking for a fast buck turned this into a temporary social disease like pee-wee golf or swallowing goldfish.

I, for one, take it very seriously indeed. I started doing it long ago in the Green Mask in Chicago to Frankie Melrose’s piano and anybody else who wandered in to blow. The music was pretty gut-bucket usually, sort of paleo-funky, if you dig, and much of the poetry was Service, Sandburg, even Swinburne, but some of it wasn’t. The Waste Land was read to jazz, all of it, shortly after it appeared. Bert Williams and Bert Savoy were both in the audience and thought it was a gasser . . . the cat’s whiskers it was then.

I read poetry to jazz because I like to. I like poetry. I like to read to people. I like jazz. The people like the combination. But there’s more to it than that. Poetry and jazz gain new and different dimensions in association. Poetry has always gained by association with music . . . ancient China, Japan, India, Greece, the troubadours and minnesingers and scalds. Not just as lyrics for songs, but also as recitation. The Homeric poems were recited in this way. There was a special profession for doing it called rhetors. In a sense poetry and jazz as such began about mid-nineteenth century with a friend of Baudelaire and Verlaine, Charles Cros, who recited his poems to the jivy music of the three-piece bands of the bals musettes and cafés chantants. He was a very great and very wise poet as well. This should set to rest the cooked-up dispute as to who invented it. I am sure I didn’t and, as I say, I started in the early twenties.

Why to jazz specifically? Well, I, for one, don’t make any distinction between jazz and “serious music.” Jazz is serious music; some people think it is the only American music worth taking seriously. Not in lush or brutal clip joints, but in the best jazz rooms and concerts, poetry gains from jazz an audience of widely diversified character, people who are seriously concerned with music, but who do not ordinarily read verse and who care nothing for the conflicts and rituals of the literary scene. The audience poetry has today, its official audience, is what is killing it. And, of course, the poet himself gains by the test of popular presentation. Naturally all poetry is not, nor should it be, able to meet this test. But we could do with more. Jazz gains by a new vocal content which can match its own seriousness, depth and complexity. Some jazz is “abstract” like Bach, but most of it is a kind of “program music” like Stravinsky, and obviously the better the program — all other things considered — the better the results. I might mention that Stravinsky’s Persephone does not differ formally from what we are trying to do. Poetry and jazz is not a gimmick, a freak gig, something for the sockless cats and the unwashed chicks of the marijuana circuit. It is not new, but as old as music and poetry, and to be treated with the dignity and respect, by performers and audience respectively, which those ancient expressions of mankind should always merit.

I think that, by and large, poetry is a dying art in modern civilization, dying for lack of a significant audience. Kids who can’t make the team or build a hot rod or toss chicks around in the air jitterbugging tend to gravitate to “The Lit.” and thence to the reputedly adult literary quarterly. Poetry won’t get the chicks that even the poorest hot rod will, but in extremity it will serve. And like poet, like audience. It is not just the Babbitts who think there’s something odd about people who read poetry. I think so, and I know. Odd, and very, very few. And so poetry itself has become insufferably odd and cranky. I think this is due to the lack of living contact with the audience, as well, of course, as to general social and economic factors. There isn’t much to be done about the big factors by any one individual anyway, but it is possible to keep plugging away at putting the poet back into actual physical touch with a live audience. In San Francisco we have led the world in that effort. Today, more than anywhere in the world except possibly Japan, poetry is a real factor in the life of the community and poets enjoy widespread influence — not on literature, but on life.

Jazz poetry reading puts poetry back in the entertainment business, where it was with Homer and the troubadours. Even Victorian epics like Idylls of the King and Evangeline were written to be read to the whole family around the fire in the evening by papa — not, certainly, to be studied for their ambiguities by a seminar of five Ph.D. candidates, conducted by another poet.

The musicians get a chance to work with words that mean something, something approximating the really profound levels attained by much modern jazz which certainly does not belong in the banal world of the Tin Pan Alley lyric. Also, the rhythms of modern poetry are extremely complex and the problems they set the musicians are comparable to those he sets himself when he “takes off’ from the hackneyed rhythm structure of the popular tune. Actually, much modern poetry is too complex for jazz, which, aficionados to the contrary, is not as complicated as much quite ordinary classical music.

There is a widespread belief that real jazz is just blown, spontaneously, out of nowhere, and that if it isn’t improvised it isn’t jazz. Nothing could be less true. The most spontaneous improvisation works with an immense repertory of stereotyped patterns, melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, which every musician knows, and into which he pours the new life of the immediate performance as he goes along. At any given moment everybody in the band has a pretty clear idea of what is going to happen next. By very definition the great swing bands were elaborately arranged and exhaustively rehearsed. So the idea that you can just get up in front of a band and everybody blow poetry and sounds out of dreams is just plain silly.

We have found that the effects we want are obtained by making sure that each musician knows exactly what the poet is doing — what he means, and what technical effects he employs, for instance the rhythms of his speech, to put his meaning across. Each musician has a sheet with the text in front of him, which he also uses as a cue sheet and for all sorts of other marginal musical notation. Then comes plenty of careful rehearsal, each one taped and played back and carefully analyzed. Rehearsals are pretty elaborate, far more finicky than the average band rehearsal, but the constant effort is to increase spontaneity, not to limit it. We find, like all artists, that you have to work hard to earn freedom of expression. One thing, there is very little room for the intensely competitive self-expression of the bop era. We don’t try to blow each other down. We find that jazz poetry is an exacting, cooperative, precision effort, like mountaineering. Everybody has to be perfectly coordinated; there is no place for the bitter musical dogfights immortalized on some bop records; everybody has to be as socialized as six men on a rope working across the face of a cliff.

I, for one, have tried to treat the voice as another instrument in the band. Whenever the voice takes on the character of a solo singer or the band sinks to background music, we feel we have failed, and we scrap that effort and start over. You can readily see that, contrary to popular belief, this poetry and jazz combination is harder work than either of the arts taken separately. So, as a warning to other poets and musicians, if you don’t work, but hard, you are going to fall on your face. It’s time and trouble, but the final product is worth it; what they call the creative satisfactions are terrific, a real joy, and Lord, Lord, Lord, look how it packs them in!


Over a hundred years ago the French poet, Charles Cros, the man who invented the phonograph, recited his poetry to the hot music of a bal musette band. Some of his pieces, especially the very funny “The Dry Herring,” are still in the repertory of café entertainers over there. In the twenties Langston Hughes, Maxwell Bodenheim and myself recited poetry to the jazz of the time. A few years back, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Patchen, Lawrence Lipton and I revived it in California. For a while it was a fad. The Beatniks took it up. Some pretty awful stuff was committed in joints around the country. Now the fad has died away and the permanent, solid achievements remain. The form is not going to revolutionize either jazz or poetry, but it is going to stay with us, and both jazz and poetry are going to have one new way of expressing themselves, and so are going to be just a little richer. This is as it should be, because jazz poetry is fun to listen to, and it is even greater fun to do.

During the past four years I have worked around the country with all kinds of top-notch bands. Every one of these dates has been a sheer joy. But always at last I have come home to San Francisco and “my” band. Somehow we seem to go together like ham and eggs. We know each other thoroughly. We are always with it. It’s not just that nobody gets lost too far out. We know perfectly how to bring out each other’s best points. We know what we are doing.

What are we doing? Nothing freakish. Nothing outrageous. Nothing really new. Not just the people I mentioned before, but the “talking blues,” recitations of poetry as part of the service in storefront churches, highbrow music like Stravinsky’s Persephone and Walton’s Facade, there is nothing strange about the form, it has a long history in both jazz, spirituals and classical music. It is not singing or chanting. It is not matched to the notes in the strict way a song is. The point is that is gives a freer relationship, one which gives the musicians more chance for invention, for individual expression and development. Again, modern jazz is much better stuff than many of the popular lyrics that go with the tunes on which it is based. Some of these are pretty silly. We think that good poetry gives jazz words that match its own importance. Then, too, the combination of poetry and jazz, with the poet reciting, gives the poet a new kind of audience. Not necessarily a bigger one, but a more normal one — ordinary people out for the evening, looking for civilized entertainment. It takes the poet out of the bookish, academic world and forces him to compete with “acrobats, trained dogs, and Singer’s Midgets” as they used to say in the days of vaudeville. Is this bad? I think not. Precisely what is wrong with the modern poet is the lack of a living, flesh and blood connection with his audiences. Only in modern times has poetry become a bookish art. In its best days Homer and the Troubadours recited their poetry to music in just this way.

How do we do it? We certainly don’t just spontaneously blow off the top of our heads. Most of these pieces are standard tunes, carefully rehearsed many times with the poet until we’ve got a good clear rich head arrangement. We don’t write it down, because we want to keep as much spontaneity and invention as possible, but at the same time we want plenty of substance to the music, and, of course, we want poet and band to “go together.” I have chosen poems which are about the same things as most popular songs and blues and which are simple enough so that they can be put across to the average audience in a jazz room. Maybe now that the medium has caught on, as it certainly has, we can go on and try “deeper,” more complicated poetry. I use poetry from all times and places, again to show that nothing is foreign to jazz treatment. Poets of all times and places have always sung, “I loved him but he went away.” “Come to my arms, we ain’t a gonna live forever.” “I wish I’d never met you.”

Why do we do it? No theories. We do it because we like to. It’s fun.


[Village Voice editor:] The other day Kenneth Rexroth, in town for some jazz-poetry readings at a local bar, dropped by these offices for a chat. Urged to commit his remarks to paper, he said he would write The Voice a letter. Here it is:

Pursuant, as they say, to our conversation, the Village hasn’t changed much. I grew up in it and sat in high chairs at the Brevoort and Lafayette. There’s more of it, and it’s sharper. I don’t think there’s much doubt, for instance, that The Voice is a more civilized organ than Bruno’s Weekly. The place is full of uptowners; it always was. It is expensive; it was in 1920. As a way of life, it goes on unchanged, amongst the call girls, customers’ men, aboriginal Italians and Irish. But where one girl wore colored stockings in 1905, thousands wear them today. Where Floyd Dell read Nietzsche, untold numbers read Beckett in the dim light of cold-water walk-ups.

As for the Beat Generation. Let’s all stop. Right now. This has turned into a Madison Avenue gimmick. When the fall book lists come out, it will be as dead as Davy Crockett caps. It is a pity that as fine an artist as Jack Kerouac got hooked by this label. Of course it happened because of Jack’s naïveté — the innocence of heart which is his special virtue. I am sure he is as sick of it as I am. I for one never belonged to it. I am neither beatified nor pummeled. I’m getting on, but I’ve managed to dodge the gimmick generations as they went past; I was never Lost nor Proletarian nor Reactionary. This stuff is strictly for the customers.

As for Jack himself. Yes, I threw him out. He was frightening the children. He doesn’t frighten me, though when he gets excessively beatified he bores me slightly. I think he is one of the finest prose writers now writing prose. He is a naïve writer, like Restif de la Bretonne or Henry Miller, who accurately reflects a world without understanding it very well in the rational sense. For that, Clellon Holmes is far better on the same scene, shrewd and objective; but, as I am pretty sure he himself would be the first to admit, not the artist Jack is, and lacking, because of his very objectivity, Jack’s poignancy and terror. One thing about Jack and Allen Ginsberg, who, I might remind you, are Villagers, and only were temporarily on loan to San Francisco: I had to come back to New York to realize how good they are. They have sure as hell made just the right enemies.

Now about jazz poetry. Let anybody who wants to have started it go right ahead and have started it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t. But Lawrence Ferlinghetti and I did first start it off as public entertainment before concert and club audiences. For better or worse, I guess we started the craze. It is a lot more than a craze as far as I am concerned. I am not interested in a freak gig. I think the art of poetry in America is in a bad way. It is largely the business of seminars, conducted by aging poets for five or six budding poets.

Jazz poetry gets poetry out of the classrooms and into contact with large audiences who have not read any verse since grammar school. They listen, they like it, they come back for more. It demands of poetry, however deep and complex, something of a public surface, like the plays of Shakespeare that had stuff for everybody, the commonalty, the middle class, the nobility, the intellectuals.

Jazz gives poetry, too, the rhythms of itself, so expressive of the world we live in, and it gives it the inspiration of the jazz world, with its hard simple morality and its direct honesty — especially its erotic honesty. Fish or cut bait. Poetry gives modern jazz a verbal content infinitely superior to the silly falsities of the typical Tin Pan Alley lyric. It provides people who do not understand music technically something to hook onto — something to lead them into the complex world of modern jazz — as serious and as artistically important as any music being produced today. And then, the reciting, rather than singing voice, if properly managed, swings more than an awful lot of vocalists. As you may know, most jazz men like two singers — Frankie and Ella. With a poet who understands what is going on, they are not at the mercy of a vocalist who wants just to vocalize and who looks on the band as a necessary evil at best. Too, the emotional complexity of good poetry provides the musician with continuous creative stimulus, but at the same time gives him the widest possible creative freedom.

All this requires skill. Like if you just want to blow a lot of crazy words, man, if you think jazz is jungle music while the missionary soup comes to a boil, if you believe in the jazz myth of the hipster, you are going to fall on your face. Charlie Parker, or many younger men, are just as sophisticated artists as T.S. Eliot, and in some cases better, and have a lot more kinship with Couperin than with the King of the Cannibal Isles. And the combination of jazz and poetry requires good poetry, competent recitation, everybody in the group really digging what everybody else is doing, and, of course, real tasty music. Then it’s great, and everybody loves it, specially you, baby.


The first of these articles originally appeared in The Nation (29 March 1958) and was reprinted in World Outside the Window: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth (New Directions, 1987). The second appeared in Esquire (May 1958). The third appeared on the back cover of the LP Kenneth Rexroth: Poetry and Jazz at the Blackhawk (Fantasy Records, 1960). The fourth appeared in the Village Voice (23 April 1958). Copyright 1958, 1960. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.
Four poems from the Blackhawk LP can be heard online here. Rexroth’s powerful reading of “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” which originally appeared on the LP Poetry Readings in the Cellar (Fantasy Records, 1959), has recently been reissued as a CD, available here.

Welcome to Chicago

I didn’t get a lot of video or pictures of Chicago. It was rainy for a few days and then I was stuck working on the computer the rest of the time. Here is a little short made with what I did get… Terri


Chicago was a big breakdown of things, sort of deconstruction (if you must).

Poooo et treeeee…

Pooooo… ems


Spoken Word.

Hip Hop.

What’s the difference?


Cultural Identity.

Cultural Differences.

Different cultures singing the same exact tune with the same tone and inflection. What is that about?

Politically Correct poetry. Too political. Too obvious. Too sentimental.
Too, Too anything.

When all that spoken word and slam talk came around I was out in the cuts growing bromeliads and none of it made a difference to me.

There was the “language” and experimental stuff and that didn’t mean anything to me.

There was a lot of talk about Beat Poetry.

Meat Poetry.

Street poetry.

What about get up and dance poetry?

Poetry of the outriders, inroaders, dieharders, decoders…

What about multi-media poetry and art?

Thank God or Mammon for the internet.

Anybody could put up stuff and all the stuff they wanted on the internet. The game changed. Everyone was a publisher.

But the whiners at the gate, gatekeepers, critics, whined “there’s too much poetry, too much art on the internet” and “nobody can control it” or “tell us what is good and what is bad.”

And man, those critics sure could publish a whole lot of “sanctioned” crap. Everything published had to be “affiliated”, so they could fund it with grants, advocate it in university classrooms, study it at backslapping literary conventions.

Cocktail parties with wine and hummus.

“Sour grapes” is what they say, if you complain about it.

None of that added up to anything for me. I had my own way of figuring things out.

But, nobody gets anything done without a little kindness from strangers (see Philip Whalen).

Still, I created my own doors, all ego, and walked right the fuck in.


Whitmanic, Democratic, a Big Tent Party! Come on in!

* (Video of the performance at The Hideout is at the end of this blog entry...)

Welcome to the inside of The Hideout.


The Hideout, Chicago, before the show.

We finally had a sound person we could count on to run the sound board and do the mixing. The Hideout is a performance venue with a long history of great performers. So we were in good hands.

Bob Malone Band and Spider Trio showed up early to do sound check. We waited the customary 45 minutes after the announced show time before we began the show.



As far as I’m concerned we owe the success of our Chicago visit to Larry Sawyer and Karen Ivanis.

First, Karen, Angel of the Pineapple, hooked us up with hospitality at the Hotel Allegro, so we had a place to camp out in total comfort for the week. It was Kimpton room service that inspired us to have a ROCKPILE party in David’s room, I think we had two. Terri filmed it. We tried to do some shop talk, but the party slowly broke down in blabber and blather as was our custom and so it was perfect. Maybe Terri will post some of that footage. Terri and I had a view from our 15th floor room of the city, and the train station below. And an enormous plasma screen TV. Again, the bed was a little too soft, slightly crooked, but it was plush and encouraging. We got an “amenity” the moment we arrived, a bottle of red wine, which we passed on to David. That was also encouraging.

The bellman, from India, who took our bags up to the room was very curious about what we were doing there and when he found out about ROCKPILE he was all gushing about Walt Whitman. He said there wasn’t enough poetry in modern life, and wondered about all the other great American poets. I tipped him large. He explained that he had had a very bad day and that we had turned the whole thing around for him. People had been mean to him, detached and cold. “See, that is what I am saying, we need more poetry.” Ironically, Karen thought the
Kimpton would be interested in ROCKPILE because it was artsy, but she didn’t realize fully that poetry is the poor person’s art and the art/fashion that inspired the Kimpton is a rich (or wanna be rich) people’s art. Is that possible?


And then there is our true friend Larry Sawyer who set up the venue at the Hideout and moderated the symposium at Columbia College. Larry is an old friend. His work with milk magazine has been an inspiration, his poetry series at Myopic Books is landmark, and of incredible personal importance to me. Larry introduced me to Ira Cohen. So on some cosmic level Ira Cohen is the mad guiding spirit that drives this gathering in Chicago. Larry got the venue, Larry got the readers, Larry moderated the symposium, Larry set up Facebook pages and sent out announcements.

And there were other very important contributors who made the Chicago leg of ROCKPILE great, who should be acknowledged, like Dan Godston, who helped gather some musical forces and spread the word of ROCKPILE, and Francesco Levato who gave us voice and notice through the Poetry Center, and Art Lange and Tony Triglio who set up the Columbia College venue for the Symposium. And then the musicians who worked with us at the Hideout included the awesome Spider Trio with Dan McNaughton on bass, Bryan Pardo (saxophone) and Tim Keenan(drums). Also on the ticket was the perennial Bob Malone (piano) and Bob Malone Band with Marc Singer (drums), Christa Hillhouse (bass). We were honored to be joined by surprise guest Ellen Miller (harmonica).


Marc Singer

Christa Hillhouse/>

Guest readers at the Hideout and panel members at Columbia College included, Larry Sawyer, Art Lange, Dan Godston, Dan McNaughton, Francesco Levato, and Tony Triglio. Joe Wetteroth and Tom Hibbard were our “surprise” guests at the symposium.

More about the symposium later…


Back to Larry Sawyer

Though there was a ton of people in Chicago who helped put the show together, it was Larry who put Chicago together. Larry is a revolutionary force and viva la revolucion!
Check out milk magazine and
Myopic series


We checked into the Hotel Allegro, agreeing to pay 45 dollars a night for parking, and stopped in the lobby for a couple of complimentary glasses of red wine. Then we started looking for dinner. Problem with dinner around the Allegro, in the Loop (theater district) is that many of the less expensive restaurants are closed after 10:00pm, so we ended up in the Kinzie Chophouse, a fancy steak joint, , and blew a couple days food budget. My steak was great, huge, tender, and actually tasted like steak. Terri was not happy with her seafood and pasta. The mussels were huge and bulbous and looked like they had been grown hydroponically on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy by some mad scientist and this grossed her out. She was also expecting a fresh, chunky red, tomato sauce and got a creamier pink sauce. She doesn’t care much for creamy or pink. David had all of the fancy wines and liquors he could desire on his menu so he was not worried, nor feeling any pain, so ventured beyond the chicken or salmon Caesar and took a shot at the waiter’s “highly recommended” (first sign of a problem) mahi tuna. He should have stayed with the Caesar. The mahi was skimpy, tough, and overcooked. (Most likely old, which is why the waiter was pushing it)
.Did you ever imagine this blog would turn into a Food Channel moment?

As David remarked several times, he was always hungry, even after meals. He was eating more food on the road than he ever ate at home. Collectively we gained 20 pounds on the trip.

Talking about food, we had a great visit to The Portillo with The Bob Malone Band. Chicken parmagiana for me, another disappointing mahi sandwich for David, and Terri ate a huge slab of lasagna smothered in a bright red sauce. I am still thinking I should have ordered the Italian sausage sandwich but tried to protect my road weary stomach from a miscalculation of spices. The Malone Band ate Chicago hot dogs in unison. I was jealous.

We also ate at the Greek Islands Restaurant with Larry Sawyer and Dan Godston after the Symposium at Columbia College. That was a treat. Though I got so excited by the bread that by the time my lamb came I was already for desert. But the lamb was good. David had sea bass and Terri had red snapper. I don’t know what anyone else had. I was too busy eating. This dinner was a blur. There is a great picture of all of us full and bundled up for the cold outside of the restaurant waiting for a cab.

Dan Godston, David Meltzer, Larry Sawyer and Michael Rothenberg

Again, no pictures of Terri.

Why do women always carry the cameras on these trips? I think of Joanne Kyger’s poem about her trip to India with the big shot Beats.

Poison Oak for Allen

Here I am reading about your trip to India again,
With Gary Snyder and Peter Orlovsky. Period.
Who took cover picture of you three

With smart Himalayan mountain backdrop
The bear?

–Joanne Kyger

(I think we need to do a Terri Carrion photo portfolio to set the record straight.)

We ate in the restaurant downstairs and it was mostly bad but not too expensive. One night we did get to watch some Church raffle for an electric car, a Tesla, from our seat at the booth window. The server comped the margaritas because they lost our dinner order. I ordered a pizza with extra cheese and it injured me for most of the next day.

Another time, at lunch, I sent back my salad because it was all spinach and tasted too green and I asked them for something with crunch and not all those nouvelle lettuces but they brought me soggy spinach. I sent it back for salmon Caesar but by the time I got it I wasn’t hungry.

Food, food, food, forget about it.


We were in Chicago for The Hideout ROCKPILE performance and symposium at Chicago College. That’s what I should be talking about. Right?

Okay, The Symposium, nobody came to it except Tom Hibbard and Joe Wetteroth. A great audience but spare. The panel was deftly moderated by Larry Sawyer and included David Meltzer, Terri Carrion, Art Lange, Dan McNaughton, Tony Triglio, Dan Godston and me. So we talked among ourselves and invited Tom and Joe to join the panel from the audience.

This was the fourth symposium of the tour. The first was at Institute for Policy Study in DC, hosted by Sarah Browning and Split This Rock, the second was at CUNY, hosted by David Henderson and Ammiel Alcalay, then one big gathering at  St. Mark’s Poetry Project in NYC hosted by The Poetry Project.

I can see why I have taken so long to write about Chicago. We had a lot going on in Chicago.

Okay, so here we were with nobody in the audience but Tom and Joe and a highly qualified panel of speakers. Why didn’t anybody come? Does it matter that nobody came? Maybe nobody was interested in the subject. Here is Larry Sawyers blurb on the subject:

“About: Since Kenneth Rexroth and Langston Hughes first collaborated with jazz musicians (but then Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have collaborated with authors, as well) poetry and music have enjoyed a special relationship. The subject ranges far and wide: Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Allen Ginsberg’s manic rock combos, modern hip-hop, the singer-songwriter tradition of troubadours such as Bob Dylan and Lou Reed–the relationship between music, specifically jazz, and poetry has been percolating for generations. Sit in with these artists as they discuss this tempestuous relati . Panelists include: David Meltzer, Michael Rothenberg, Art Lange, Dan McNaughton, Tony Trigillio, Ed Roberson, Dan Godston, Larry Sawyer, Francesco Levato, Terri Carrion, Bob Malone, and others.”


Ed Roberson and Bob Malone had to cancel.

Or maybe it was booked for the wrong day, or wrong time.

Maybe the professors didn’t blackmail their students. Or maybe, as is often said, “You can never tell with these things”. A vague but adequate enough answer to the question: “Why didn’t anybody show up?”

I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
I’d of said the right thing
But I must have used the wrong line
I been in the right trip
But I must have used the wrong car
My head was in a bad place
And I’m wondering what it’s good for

— Dr. John

Does it matter that nobody, but Tom and Joe, showed up? Isn’t it good enough that we got together and had an interesting discussion about a subject WE cared about?

My opinion is this. If you are going to put out the effort to get people to come then you ought to want people to come and if they don’t come you feel like you put out your hand and nobody took it. That feels weird.

Okay, so nobody came and it felt weird. But we had a good talk amongst ourselves. Most interesting part was when Larry Sawyer asked each of us to recall our earliest and most profound moment when music figured in our lives. I recalled my mother and father singing “Sonny Boy” to one another. That was memorable. And I remember dancing around the house to Harry Belafonte singing Banana Boat Song over a recently installed house-wide Hi Fidelity system. I could have danced for ever but eventually my mother discouraged that as being a little too “gay”.


And then we went to the Greek Island Restaurant where I immersed myself in pita.


Terri took off one afternoon to photograph the Chicago skyline. Some very cool architecture in that city. Some very cool pictures.




After the Rochester, Buffalo, Toronto hiatus, Terri spent one “free” afternoon in Chicago trying to resume uploading footage from the videocam to her computer, so she could convert it and upload it to Youtube or Vimeo, her imovie function gone awry somewhere between pastrami and edamame in NYC.


I am learning how to create run on sentences and unravel my dyslexic syntax. Terri still goes over my blog entries to make sure they are not all screwed up.


Does Terri ever get credit? Does she ever ask for it?



The cab ride to The Hideout was interesting. The cab driver got lost. Terri and I agreed to go by taxi separately to buy her and David a little extra time in personal repair. So we paid twice for taxi drivers who insisted that the shack nestled in the cold shadows of industrial blight could not be The Hideout. But then what better place to hideout than in a shack in the shadows of industrial blight? The Hideout had no “Hideout” sign, just a beer sign?


When I stepped out of the taxi a stranger walked up to me and said, “Are you Michael?” “This must be the right place”, the cab driver said. “Yes,” and “???” I never saw this guy in my life. It turned out to be Patricia Donnelly’s brother and his wife.


Patricia is friend of David’s and ROCKPILE who lives back in Berkeley. She won David in a raffle. I will let David explain that if he wants.

Inside The Hideout.

A funky place. Warm and friendly home to some of the best music in Chicago. I feel like I’m writing copy for the entertainment section of the Chicago Tribune.

First big personal news at The Hideout was that I got to see Joan DeLott, an old friend of mine from Miami Beach whom I haven’t seen in 40 years.


She brought Ellen Miller, an awesome harmonica player, to join in on show.


More news. I met a cousin I never met in my life. It turns out we have the same great-grandfather. I am not sure what kind of cousin that makes him but he was a really nice guy and thoughtful to come out to the show and say howdy. (Weirdly, he came with a friend who heard about the show from Danny Kerwick in New Orleans. )


ROCKPILE AT THE HIDEOUT (we started an hour late so everyone had a chance to arrive and get settled.)

Art Lange began the show with w/ Calligraphy, Dan Godston’s band with Dan Godston (trumpet, percussion), Renee Baker (violins), Satya Gummuluri (voice), and Jimmy Bennington (drums)


Confused, and missing
Mars’ rumored red
in a black sky, eyes un-
reliable, unbelievable

cold, hopes blunted
by false assumptions no
new moon renews, the need
to reinvent the wheel, feel

the fist of April fall
causing compromise, convulsions,
ominous echoes of an early
Ellington orchestra, rude

tunes, tumult, rare air,
a trumpeter named Bubber.

–Art Lange


Calligraphy is a band brought together for the first time by Dan Godston. A great group of musicians and a vocalist. They tore things up and so redefined space and time.


Then the great Bob Malone and Band took the show to another place. His performance was dedicated to the singer/songwriter, another way of looking at poetry and music. Bob sang “Chicks” by Dave Cantor from Dave’s True Story, and the title track from his new CD, “Ain’t What You Know” (you can buy it from Bob at He also sang three songs we wrote together, “Caught Up In Christmas”, “Morning Desires” and “Raydaddy’s Blues”.



It’s the same twelve notes
No matter how you use them
It’s not what you play but how
These notes are only noise if you abuse them

But you can’t get to the mountain top
Just riding on technical perfection
You can only get there if you’re
Traveling in a soulful direction

It don’t matter if it’s soft or loud
If it’s new or if it’s old
‘Cause it ain’t worth nothin’
If it ain’t got no soul

Like making love
But music is your lover
You got to do to the muse
Just like what you do under the covers
Play it like it’s for life
Not like it’s just for the night
‘Cause you won’t last long
If you don’t do it right


Get out of your own way
Let the music take control
‘Cause it ain’t worth nothing
If it ain’t got no soul


The first time I ever put my hands on these keys
That rhythm took possession
That’s when I learned that music
Is more than just making sounds
It’s more like making a confession

—Bob Malone and Michael Rothenberg


Francesco Levato, accompanied by Bob Malone, read from “INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT”.

Joe Wetteroth took us back to earth with “Soul Eyes”, “Two Drunks and Me Waiting For the Bus”, “On Grand Lounge”, “Save Me Somebody Save Me”, and “Gita Revisited”.

Joe Wetteroth


Listen to Coltrane
Like how some people read the bible
And speak in tongues.
Feet laid flat.
Skin shed like garments.
I am a being dweller.
Attempting to understand

Music burns from this tortured soul.
Deep, Dirty stomp melody
That will cry at inappropriate times.
Lost to crowds
In subway corridors
Where workers’ whistles
Echo and multiply.

–Joe Wetteroth



Larry Sawyer, with Bob Malone, read “Bohemian” and “Moon Act”


The moon as regime:
Matterless arms hold that distance
Where within you ventures
Slim shadowy sails

(Closure withheld, the notes of
This kept in the lagoon of a blue

And the script is stoned
And never coming out of its trailer
No matter how many autographs, or
Well-respected directors
Promise to blockbuster it.

By writing of these hours, their
Golden Floridas, we pirate these
Moments, plunder

Chiaroscuro pouring its life out
Through telephone eyes.

Of payphones: the endangered species.
Sing to me of those last few calls

Because my heart is a dime
And the moon wails.

— Larry Sawyer


Terri Carrion, accompanied by The Bob Malone Band read “When I Was In Love” and “What’s Happening Now”.


A Saturday night much like any other
Patty, Johnny and I gather under a streetlight,
a dark and tragic version of the Three Stooges.
I squeeze into Patty’s Pontiac Fiero,
squeeze in between Johnny’s hip
and the stick shift, and shove myself
down far enough, so it looks like I belong there.
Then Patty says, “Let’s take off!”
We’re going to Baja.
We take the long way,
east through the desert,
past churning windmills,
life-size, illuminated plaster dinosaurs

In Palm Springs we see Dwayne and Dee
from the sitcom What’s Happening
cross the street. Patty and I hang out
of the windows scream “What’s Happening”
They’re not amused, but wave and smile
like good little Hollywood stars.
“That show went to shit when Dee grew up
and lost her sense of humor.”
We make it to Ensenada by morning,
have Tecate con sal y limon
and steamed clams the size of soup bowls
for breakfast.

Ensenada, where the desert meets the sea.
Where fish fly over cacti.
Where mountains lean to the west
Where the air is sucked dry by noon,
like our gas tank and our skin.
By one o’clock we have lost our sense of humor
Our buzz. We scream at each other
on a dusty road, throw clamshells
into a sky the color of internal organs.
We decide what we need is to camp out, get out
of the city, sleep under the stars.
Everything’s gonna be all right.

And it is, for a while, stealing hotdogs
and firewood from the supermarket
in town. On the beach, sharing a joint,
a tattered plaid blanket, talking about
the universe, death, and the moon.
Sparks on the water lull us to sleep,
curled up together in our blue dome tent,

But soon, the soothing moon is gone.
Children play in the sand,
ATV’s rumble, speedboats rush by,
mothers and fathers and uncles lounge
in striped canvas chairs and it’s all just too bright
The whole world well on its way without us.

— Terri Carrion


Then Bob Malone, The Spider Trio and Ellen Miller, joined me. I read a few poems including “The Jet” and “Angels Sleep in Peace”.


Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past midnight

listen to Paganini
Pretenders, King Of America, Heartless Liars

Have you heard them playing 8-ball while reading Ziggy’s Dream?

Did it matter when the Army closed
imagination’s terrifying halls to Strategists of Art?

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter
No explanation needed for transfer of funds

from one pocket to another

For those Charlie Chaplins entering data,
boiling nouvelle shoe leather soup

Supping on Valentine’s Desires and Therapeutic seasonings
It makes sense

Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past insomnia

Possum scud across the roof

Listening to accusations of the trite and trivial
from Fashion Fascists

Reveling in accusations of the ideal & naïve

soaked in gross dependencies & mother

Have you heard them in their drunken dance
on granite floors,

In the rhythm of Sisyphus?

Would it matter if Superman
disappeared in his glacial fortress and forgot about Lois Lane?

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter
No explanation is needed for the transfer of sperm

from one pocket to another

For Cryogenic Automatons taking surveys & grants,
boiling eclectic dialectics

Gorging on Cornish hens & Sweet & Low

It makes sense

Angels sleep in peace!
Devils stay past gunshot

& sweat soaked orgies
& tender whisperings

Have you made up your mind,

in those white silk gowns,
hair loose on freckled shoulder,

licking your own nipples,
raising your naked ass to four impossible walls?

That I should be persuaded by repressed exhibitions of genitalia
Does it matter when crisis rings

the death of a poet & saw-grass fires kiss his naked guilt?

No, it didn’t add up to verse, or wake the angels to salve
the clawing innocent

No, it doesn’t make sense to matter longer

No explanation needed for the transfer
of one fish from one

Amazon to one aquarium
on a bookshelf on one hill above Pacific shoreline

For Game Hunters tracking down genuine
tears & renderings, boiling conceptual logic

Mounting vanquished language of invisible
jaguars & hornless rhinos

On walls…

It makes sense

For those lazy drifters beneath the stars

— Michael Rothenberg


” The Breaks (Variations inadvertently on a theme by the Ohio Players with a nod to the Brothers Johnson).” by DAN MCNAUGHTON and The Spider Trio

Dan McNaughton had a composition idea which he tried out for the show. He describes as follows:

”The piece we did with you and David was originally to be called “The Breaks”–a break is when everyone in the band stops (this could be a blues or jazz tune) except for the soloist (which could be a singer), who continues on unaccompanied for a short time. The alternate title I came up with is “Variations inadvertently on a theme by the Ohio Players with a nod to the Brothers Johnson.” So the full title would be: “The Breaks (Variations inadvertently on a theme by the Ohio Players with a nod to the Brothers Johnson).”

This is how it goes:

“Spider Trio plays—poet reads—poet reads/Spider Trio plays—poet reads—poet reads/etc. My sense is that the basic unit (ST–poet–poet) could be repeated 4-8 times. Within the unit, each segment would last 15-30 seconds. Trading fours is meant to be a back-and-forth with each participant making a relatively brief statement. It’s up to you guys if you want to read previously written poems or improvise. We will be doing a theme and variations kind of thing. My sense is that this would not run too long, 7 to 15 minutes.”

We did like Dan suggested until it kind of broke down and spread out and then Dan gave us the go to continue improvising. David and I went back and forth with the Spider Trio in the mix, exchanging random lines, kisses, grunts, sighs, songs,
stardust, weather reports, blues, jingles, jangles, shoe sizes, orchids, a dance in the street, a generic merlot, sometimes just one word at the right time, whatever seemed to belong in the moment, and the audience had a good time which only encouraged us to indulge ourselves further.

Thanks to Dan McNaughton for creating an environment that enabled David and me to do what we had all along promised to do, according to our grant, perform work composed on the road. This was it, kinda.

Terri said, “The David and Michael show, great!”


David took over to read with The Spider Trio, Bob Malone and Ellen Miller. He read/sang some blues, “Brother”, “When I Was A Poet”, and read excerpts from “No Eyes, Lester Young”,

Dan McNaughton says, “I think we did play rhythm changes behind David’s poem about Lester Young. “Rhythm changes” means playing the chord changes and form of “I Got Rhythm” (by the Gershwins).”

from NO EYES, a sequence on Lester Young

if exhaustion were an ocean
I’d dive in head first
& forget how to swim

down to the deepest deep
creep along bottom’s bottom
& sleep w/out dreaming

turn blue in salt cold
shrink old prune grey
water filled folds pop open
on sunny days

no more sweet or sour
just hour after hour of no time
is nobody’s time w/nobody around
to keep time

if misery were the sea
& blues were sky
I’d still sink & fly
& cry w/out anyone
being around to spy
on Pres & say shit

the suit fits
the wood fits
the earth fits
dark fits
worms fit right in
& out & who’s to know
who’s blowing what elsewhere
who cares
in the rare fit
of return

if blues were shoes
I’d walk a million miles
& still not be through
my map of trap
run changes not my game
chords afford hills I climb
in time to sing a song
lambs lap up & love sap
fills the meter w/sweetness
hearts hold no glass fills

paradiddle tap delicacy
clicketyclacks on glass bridge
over skin abyss drum
of slaves stretched
beyond break &
beyond your kiss

if lips were song
I’d never go wrong
& stay stuck on your breath
mouth to mine in a circle of fifths

if blues were shoes
I’d be barefoot before I start
walking in or out of
your life

if blues were news
the dailies would take eternity
to get through

when I go I go there without you
solo in transit
through back door
blue light blink exit
out of frame tilted

just a gigolo a photograph
an 8 x 10 print a postage stamp
passport ID
get me gone
out the door & into night

what I saw & you saw
never the same
not even close
where I looked in
you looked out
saw only skin

was light for a colored man
was colored for a light man
nobody wins the skin game

bells bells bells
smoke a carillon
thanks a million

eyes high beam
can’t see nothing but
atoms & ladies
movie through
cloud shadow snacks
spines of light on shades
slides of reverie
in clubs Speed Graphic
shots of booths filled
with suits & skirts
ashtrays & shot glasses
washed in flash
look through time into
shutter’s petals

(if snaps were real
nothing’d get anywhere
if past was future’s fingerprint
love’d go nowhere
& if each note froze before it went out
there’d be nowhere to go
if you is or you ain’t my baby
I’d still blow words you couldn’t hear)

Lester led the band with his eyes
he hardly said anything except
hey baby or you know

hello goodbye
bells ring
when eyes see

in ’42
in L.A.
Nat Cole
Red Callander
& Pres do
Tea for Two
breathless Lester

not brushes but
acetate fluster
sizzles through digital

Bean & Byas did wood
Pres does air
Bean & Byas push it
Pres lets it

what’s delicate
rejects bruise
accepts blues

Bird learned from me
from Trumbauer’s C-melody
Dorsey’s alto

skin’s secondary
pilfer from source
to become source

asked me who I was
who they were
why we were
how I did it
who I got it from
what’s the secret
I told them everything
& they heard nothing

28 viii 97

1909 died in 59
now it’s 97
you’d be 79
on jazz cruise ship
hunger artist
bypass dip
go for distilled curl
a Pilipino pours into
extra deep shot glass
knees push into leatherette
bar puff facade
elders scarf up dinner
at captain’s table
drafted Berklee school kids set up gear
hey where’s the chick singer

Then David read “When I Was A Poet”, a solo piece to conclude the evening.


After The Hideout show, after settling high finances with the Hideout management, after many sweet goodbyes to old and new friends, after squeezing into Dan Godston’s very compact car, Terri, David, crutches (he likes to call sticks), violinist and violin, trumpet, books for sale, camera equipment including tripods, briefcases, back packs, winter coats and wool caps and slightly claustrophobic me, THE ROCKPILE TRIO was birthed outside of an all night greasy spoon diner, soaked in the afterbirth of poetry and music. I don’t remember the name of the place, and after too much bad wine, soggy French toast, biscuits and gravy, fried eggs, French fries, “remember American fries?” with Joe Wetteroth and Sarah Hogan, we said some more goodbyes, climbed into a taxi to the Allegro Hotel, with books, bags, and camera equipment, grateful to know the next day was a rest day, a sleep late day, another day in Chicago to sort things out before we headed south to St. Louis.


ROCKPILE at The Hideout- Chicago Part 1 from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

ROCKPILE at The Hideout – Chicago Part 2 from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.nbs

New York, New York!!!


We checked into the Gershwin Hotel, a tribute to Andy Warhol.

The Gershwin Hotel…my mini movie tribute. from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

I remember I ate a huge corned beef sandwich at the Carnegie Deli.

New friends, Amy and Sean, from Australia who we met at the Black Cat in New Orleans showed up at our ROCKPILE performance at the Gershwin.

Ira Cohen was there too, with his nurse, Micki, his sister Janice and brother-in-law, Charlie, and Will Swofford, Suzi and Allan, Ellen Geist, Bonny Finberg, Joy Lau, Steve Ben Israel, the ghost of my grandpa Sam,
Martha and Basil King, Allan Graubard, Joel Lewis, Jake Marmer, my cousin Bill and cousin Lisa and cousin Margo and her husband Adam, a young poet friend of theirs.

Suzi Winson, Michael Rothenberg, Ira Cohen, David Meltzer, and Terri Carrion

And there was Terri’s “sister” Isabel…

Isabel Rivero and Terri Carrion

and her old (and first) friend, Avi, from her Miami days.

Avi (aka) Evan Frishman and Terri Carrion

Jim Feast, Vincent Katz, Manuel and Ronnie DaRocha, Tom Savage, Christopher Winks, Arielle Guy, David Henderson, let me know if I left you out, and of course
The Band…Marty Ehrlich (multi-reed), Bill Zavatsky (piano), Lindsey Horner (bass) and Michael Stephans (drums). Marty Ehrlich was a great bandleader.

Marty Ehrlich (multi-reed), Bill Zavatsky (piano), Lindsey Horner (bass) and Michael Stephans (drums).

Marty Ehrlich (multi-reed), Bill Zavatsky (piano), Lindsey Horner (bass) and Michael Stephans (drums).

The sound system sucked but we did the best we could. I think the people in the front of the room enjoyed the show more than the people at the back of the room.

Terri Carrion as "The Entertainment Vampire" and Michael Rothenberg performing...

Ellen Geist said it was the best “music and spoken word extravaganza” that she ever heard. Manuel was amazed it was so good.
But friends are often biased, my cousin Margo explained.

Baz said, “Now that’s poetry!”
Thank god for friends!!

The audience at the ROCKPILE, Gershwin Hotel, performance

Earlier in the day John Sasgard took pictures of us (Thanks John! Beautiful photos. I am home now and found the pictures in the mail) at CUNY, after the symposium on “Art and Activism, Poetry and The Troubadour Tradition” hosted by David Henderson and Ammiel Alcalay.

David Henderson, Michael Rothenberg and Ammiel Alcalay At CUNY NYC

Get more information on the Humanities Center
at The Graduate Center, CUNY (The City University of New York)

The audience had some great stuff to say. Tonya Foster was especially lucid.
Anne Waldman showed up to add to and join in on the discussion.

ROCKPILE CUNY NYC Discussion from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

There was another great ROCKPILE symposium at St. Mark’s with Jim Christy, Harris Schiff, Suzi Winson (she provided refreshments too),Wanda Phipps, Murat Nemat Nejat, Ammiel Alcalay, moderated by Jim Feast. Steve Ben Israel, Tom Savage and Chris Winks
had a lot to add from the audience side.



St Mark's Poetry Project


ROCKPILE Symposium at St. Mark’s Poetry Project NYC from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.


Terri and David and I were on the move all the time, a la New York, ate a lot of edamame, shop talked over cold sake, met up with the great sports writer George Kimball, in the coffee shop off the Gershwin Lobby. Talked about boxing, Chris and Angelo Dundee, folk music, and poetry.George took David out onto the street for a smoke. Exhale. David was grateful for this encounter.

We got in a taxi that took us to the wrong place and we got out of the taxi without realizing we were nowhere to be found. We walked a block through a street fair, rummage sale, and took another taxi back to the Gershwin.


There was this Irish bar we went to for lunch one day
where I was able to get a cheap, honest, mediocre chicken sandwich.
David ate his perpetual Caeser salad with chicken
(alternative salmon which he describes as “virtuous”).
I haven’t seen a virtuous piece of fish since I was 7 years old

A walk

There was this fancy restaurant that got on my nerves.
I was tired of being the third wheel (sober) and everything was tiny and way overpriced.
Terri wasn’t hungry so we shared an average desert. I just wanted a tuna sandwich and a good night’s rest.
It was not going to happen. Wah! Wah!.


New York City is a kind of home for us all. Though I’ve never lived there it has always been part of my neighborhood. I am an east coaster, born and raised in Miami Beach, and many of the people I grew up with were transplanted New Yorkers, or it was the New Yorkers who created the seasonal snow-bird backdrop for us Beach kids every year, or it was the New Yorkers who inevitably retired in hordes to the sunny cracker jack retirement condo mausoleums stacking up along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.
There is something in the New York sensibility which is both annoying and endearing, just like family.

Pushy, intrusive, honest, emotional, noisy.
Ya gotta like that!

Terri was born in NYC and lived there until she was 4 years old, then she spent half her life in Miami (a NY suburb?(( forgive me mom …she “hated New Yorkers”)).

David was born in Brooklyn and his whole being lit up as soon as he hit the NY streets.

He swung down Madison Avenue on his aluminum sticks,
“I want a cigarette, I want a drink, I want to party all night long!!”

If he didn’t say it, he was thinking it…


I finally ended up in David’s wheelchair and Terri pushed me down the sidewalk
while David skipped down the cold night streets
looking for a memory, a passion fix!


Stay tuned for video clips of the Gershwin Performance soon, as well as more from Chicago and St. Louis!


As you have probably figured out blog entries from this trip have been posted erratically and wildly out of order. We definitely didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we promised to blog daily. Next time we are going to have roadies. Anyways, our apologies for falling behind and note that we are now doing what we can to catch up. Some entries have been squirreled away in our computers for weeks and we are just finding them, others are being written right now in reflection of the tour. Eventually we should have enough stuff written, filmed, and photographed from the ROCKPILE on the Road Tour to give you decent documentation of the entire journey. These materials will become part of The ROCKPILE Journals which will be published by Big Bridge Press in 2010. So check the blog regularly for updates and comment freely. Thanks for sticking with us. – MR

Just Buffalo- Big Night!

Just Buffalo
Big Night Menu
November 12, 2009

Buffalo was cold but Mike Kelleher took excellent care of us.

Just Buffalo @ WNYBAC Western New York Book Arts Center 468 Washington St. @ Mohawk Place 2nd Floor Buffalo, NY 14203

The jazz trio, Other Side, with Kelly Bucheger on sax, John Werick on bass, and Doug Dreishpoon on drums was scheduled to open for us and provide some complimentary musical entertainment but it took only five minutes of talk with Doug Dresishpoon to decide we wanted to play together.

The ROCKPILE tradition of collaboration went into full tilt.

Just Buffalo Big Night from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

Terri was great, great, great. Her second time reading with musicians, now she was really having fun. “Layovers”, her poem of snapshots from air terminals in the USA totally had me on the edge of my seat. It was composed in short shots, explosions, impressions, that allowed for lots of space between shots. It moved. And David was a proud papa. Teaching his kid to swing!

Then I stepped up and had a go with The Other Side. These guys know how to have fun. I read a few pieces that I worked with before but because I trusted the band and the atmosphere of the room tried a new one. “Be More Dying” is a poem that about Philip Whalen and the hospice/zen/health care reality I thought was too real, too much reality for a music collaboration but I guess because of it’s dark comedy, drama aspect it came off fine.

Then we broke for a magic buffet prepared by chef Geoffrey Gatza.

Snacks & Breads

Rice Crackers Rounds
Spicy Indian Bhel Mix
Persian Flat Bread & Roast Garlic

It’s simple. All readings should include great food, lots of booze and music. Don’t tire me out with overheady intellectual considerations and hypothetical expositions. Sometimes I want more than hermetic contemplation, sometimes I want poetry to make me want to get up dance. Ever since the New Orleans ROCKPILE Dirty Dozen performance, when people got up to dance, while David performed “Red Shoes” , oh that sousaphone had a groove! It has been my passion to see poetry happen this way again. “Gotta Dance!”


Roast Autumnal Vegetables With Rosemary And Thyme
Curried Potato Salad
Golden Beets, Caramelized Fennel And Leeks
Pear Tomatoes, Yellow Peppers And Orzo, Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
Carrots, Parsnips And Chipolini Onions With Pickled Ginger

Good food (I went back for seconds) and music and good conversation…

I met Dave Hadbawnik for the first time in person. He’s working on a feature on Diane diPrima for Big Bridge online. And James Maynard from The Poetry Collection was a delight to talk to. I made sure he sat down with David and got a chance to chew the fat about his project on Robert Duncan. Jonathan Welch, proprietor of Talking Leaves, was there selling books, and keeping poetry alive.

Fruits of the Season

Asian Pears And Cranberries California Tart
New York State Macoun Apple And Bosc Pear Crisp
Watermelon Squares And Pomegranate In Spice Syrup

The Other Side played for a little while and then David took the collaboration to another place. David worked with some familiar pieces but when he got to the Lester Young selection the band just never started playing. The bass player tested a few notes but backed off. As far as The Other Side was concerned this was a solo piece.

The show was a great success. But David got so wrapped up in conversation he forgot to eat.


Chocolate And Blonde Pizzelles
Pineapple And Guava Wafers
An Assortment Of Fancy Biscotti
Colorful Gumballs And Jaw-Breakers

So Mike Kelleher, Terri and David and I headed over to Pano’s for a little fuel.

As soon as we walked into Pano’s I crashed. David ordered a glass of wine. Terri ordered a beer. I had a club soda. Mike Kelleher was drinking decaf. The main topic of conversation was alcoholism. Who does, who doesn’t, the do’s and don’ts. It was 2 am. I am a non-drinker, what’s there to talk about. Then someone mentioned some movie, some philosopher who fried eggs on some art critics ass. All I could think of was the movie Brazil, and pick at Terri’s falafel sandwich. Someone rescue me quick, David just ordered another glass of wine and Terri another beer. We had to get up early the next day and drive to Toronto and I wasn’t going to skip Niagara Falls. It’s 2 am, I’m tired. I’d never been to Niagara Falls. Please everybody, don’t hold it against me but I just have to go to sleep. I’m tired, I’m tired. “Everybody’s tired,” says David. “Yeah,” I replied, “If you’re so tired then why don’t you go to sleep already.”

I had an awesome time in Buffalo, I want to go back soon, but I am very tired.–MR


Toronto Moments from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.


Look, we were running late
because we lingered too long at the Falls.
Traffic backed up for 40 miles outside of Toronto
Road work and rush hour
We had a reading at This Ain’t Rosedale Library,
guests of Charlie Huisken,
with poet friends, Jim Christy and Robert Priest
who we met in Victoria last year
at the Pacific Festival of Books,

After hours of sniffing tailpipes
we found Spadina Ave but couldn’t find the Super 8
The little Super 8 sign was tucked
inside a mall and lost in so many neon signs in Chinatown
Then we couldn’t find the garage
So we drove around the block
to the back of the mall hoping to find the garage
There it was. But the electronic garage door was locked
and there was no call button to get someone to open it

When a car came out of the garage
we shot through the open door but the roof rack
full of books was too high and couldn’t make clearance
so we had to back out of the garage,
empty the roof rack, take the roof rack off the roof
and put it in the back of the van
and wait for the garage door to open again.

It was one of these 5 story underground garages
with weird cobwebs of black asbestos type insulation
on the walls and ceiling
We entered the garage and followed a sign with an arrow:
“Super 8 Motel/P3”

We followed the arrows down and down and down
through the circles of a spidery apocalyptic hell
Down and Down
P1. Down
P2. Down
We found a parking space

We were going to be late for the reading
So we grabbed essentials from the van
And took the glass elevator up
You could see the insides of the mall closed for the night
Everyone was gone or dead
Empty offices where nothing was ever accomplished
Hit with the plague or some other disease, skeletons of cubicles
We walked out into a hallway but no sign of a lobby.
David, Terri and I pushed on down the silent hallway

We finally found the lobby
Three stories above the main street.
I had no idea where I was or how this all worked.
What floor were we really on?
Where is the earth?

We checked in
There was a separate elevator from the lobby to the room to the street
This was not the same elevator that went to P3
We took the lobby elevator up to our room on the 85th floor
Which was weird because there were only 5 floors in the building.
There was the ground floor which was street level.
The Lobby which was on the second floor
And then 84th floor
85th floor
86th floor.

The elevator won’t take you anywhere
unless you swipe it with your plastic magnetized room key.
Before we ever got to the 85th floor we rode up and down
in the elevator wondering why we couldn’t get to our room
Eventually we figured it out
Swipe, swipe, swipe (it should have worked the first time but
I had the card in backward and upside down)

We got David set up in his room with wireless
Then we ran down the hall to our room and put away our bags.
But Terri had to go back down to the van in the P3 level
to get her poems for the reading
She said she would meet us in the lobby
Which I thought was on the street level but it wasn’t, it was on the 3rd floor
If you take the street entrance elevator

I washed my face and got David, got in the elevator, swiped the card,
We landed in the lobby
Terri wasn’t there so we went down the elevator
and waited on the street in case I misunderstood her
but she wasn’t there and it was cold so we got back in the elevator
and went back up to the lobby and sat down and waited.
Sometimes it is best to sit in one place and let the other person find you

Terri took a while to find us in the lobby
She got lost on level P3 or something like that.
She had to take the elevator from the 85 floor to the lobby
and then go through the lobby to the back of the building
and take the garage elevator back down
through skeletons and cubicles, abandoned offices and mall
to the cancerous and furry P3
to get her poems out of the van
This took a while

We all got in the elevator, swiped the room key card,
ended up on the street amidst crazy blinking neon signs in Chinese
We found a taxi that took us around in circles because
every street was one way going the wrong way.
The taxi finally dropped us on a corner
a half block from the book store going the other way.

We trudged down the street to This Ain’t Rosedale Library
where we were greeted by Charlie Huisken
Introductions were made and then we headed across the street for a bite to eat.
Jim Christy and Virginia joined us, Michael Boughn, Victor Coleman,
Robert Priest and his wife and it was great to seem them all …

I love Toronto.

After a beautiful reading we took lots of pictures of each other
Then walked down to Spadina Ave and had a grand banquet of Chinese food.
David had clay pot chicken, Terri had egg drop soup and shrimp fried rice
and some sake. I had cod in black bean sauce

I want to go back to Toronto soon.


I missed you guys so much I went to Guerneville to see if I could pick up
any residual vibes and while I was there I entered the Guerneville Public
Library Slam, and not so take myself too seriously I signed in as “Mister
Pants On Fire.” Well, Mister Pants On Fire gave it his best shot,
including my lastest rant, ripped from today’s tabloid headlines, “I Hate
You Angelina Jolie!” but Mister Pants On Fire still came in third to first
placer a conscious digging through the crates hip-hopper from Boston
(passing through, staying with some friends in a van down by the river)
and second place a local fifteen grrl hip-hopper who asked us not to judge
her by her funksome cover. What can I tell you, baby? That’s some tough
competition! Anyway, third place still got me a $20 gift certificate from
Copperfield’s so I’m on my way now to see if I can get a complete
Petrarch! Dude, I don’t know if it’s just my IFS (Inner Female Self) or
what, but just like when the Dubs sing “Could This Be Magic,” or the
Duprees sing “You Belong To Me,” old Franceso baby gives me the pepper and
the shivers! What kind of fool was Laura to chump off Petrarca? Well, the
ho’s lost was Poetry’s gain! Can’t wait to see you and hear all about it,
David Madgalene


the punch line is that the bookstore didn’t have the complete Petrarch,
nothing–but I got an awesome selected Swinburne. On the way out, in the
new books, I saw a selected Petrarch but not to my liking and nothing
could come between me and Algie at that point! But enough about Algie-

Rockpile’s last gig on this tour should be Saint Louis–along that big
mighty Rock and Roll River and home of the “Saint Louis Blues!” Knowin’
you will be addin’ to the canon!

Niagara Falls and beyond



Push David in wheelchair
down to Horseshoe Falls
vista point

Broken rainbow!
Fatal rapids!

Blue skies

Stroll through gold light
Capillary shade of naked trees

Black squirrels

The river
Mutes impossible engine
of the mind

We disapprove
We approve

Cross Canadian Border headed for Toronto
“Do you realize that everybody
on this highway has health insurance?”

-MR November 13, 2009

The American Falls and bridge to Canada

Old Aqueduct?



Waiting for the tour trolley

Another view of the American Falls

David and Michael

The Black Squirrel of Niagara Falls

Ladybug finds David

David – Blagh 10

Terri says “Let the signage begin!”
it’s night
she’s driving along the motorway
out of Toronto heading towards Flint.

Monk playing “Just a Gigolo”
Marantha Church:
Knowing God Will Provide”

a ribbon of birds in flight
floating in the sky

The toilet at the Toronto petrol station
neatly writ on the wall:
“Graffiti Vandalism”

travel into & out of
the virtual liminal

Bubba Army
& Heil
truck tire flaps

“I’m sorry
you’re timed out”

shop sign:
“We Have Your Diamond”

“Uncork Paw Paw
A Village to Discover”


East Lansing Michigan

Rochester Rochester Rochester part 3

Part 3

November 11

“Translation with Terri Carrion” with cookies and fruit juice!

The first event in Rochester was a Translation Seminar 2pm-3pm, sponsored by the Foreign Language dept. of RIT. Hosts were Professors Sara Armengot and Diane Forbes. Terri discussed the Tri-Lingual Anthology of Galician writers she is working on for Big Bridge., translated from Galician to Spanish by F.R. Lavandeira, and translated from Spanish to English by Terri. It was a lively discussion of the complexities of translation, the different ideas about literal vs interpretative.

Then 4pm-5:15pm, off to the RIT’s Center for Innovation on campus where we joined up with Carl Atkins (saxophone) and Jay Alan Jackson (drums) for an afternoon performance of ROCKPILE with a light show. The visuals were implemented by: Hung Hsin Wu, Brandon May, Jarrod Parker, Professor Al Biles and Professor Mitchell Rosen. Also creditworthy Dean Ian Gatley, Director of the Innovation Center, and Professor Jon Schull for helping make the event possible, and Tim Stephany for filming it.


RIT Innovation Center

img_1060Light Show

I continued with “It Has Nothing To Do With Us” amidst a electronic light show and then read “Angels Sleep In Peace” which seems to be a performance favorite. Fun to read and the musicians like the way the lines move. Lots of room for improvisation. It is interesting to note here that part of the ROCKPILE plan/proposal was to perform works composed on the road. As I write this blog entry we are down to the last two weeks of the tour and it hasn’t happened. We have been working with far more variables than we had imagined. The big improvisation has been working with the musicians and learning what each musician required to get things going. Learning to listen. (And learning to flex for each other as the road gets wearier.) There hadn’t hardly been time to write on the trip, between packing, driving, checking into motels, unpacking, organizing, symposiums, uploading and downloading, sending out performance notices, visiting new friends, accommodating physical tweaks and twitches as we made our way through the obstacles of being everywhere and “here now”! By the time we get some private time we are exhausted. E-mails to family and friends and sleep more interesting than writing… So we work with previously composed pieces and the work we are reading seems new with each performance. Musicians have their own temperaments, colors and tempos, what could happen to a familiar work once spun in a new musical storm is a mystery to be revealed in the moment. And who knows, we may yet perform works composed on the road before the tour is over!

I concluded with “Phantom, Come Hither”. I didn’t need to read “Phantom”. The vibe in the room really didn’t call for it but I had planned to read it and so followed with my plan. Not the best idea. Another lesson. I need to allow for variability in my choice of work for a reading. This is improvisation too. Though making choices at the last minute is impossible sometimes because the musician collaborators tend to prefer to get some idea of what we are going to do before the show commences. We have mostly been asked to give our musical collaborators, at the very least, a list of poems with first and last lines and some suggestions on tempos and tones. But what it was is what it was and that is what it is. Though tired from being early assault by a revolution of housekeepers and a rushed lunch, rushed conversation, did I bring my cell phone, have my credit card, will I remember your name, have your e-mail, which parking lot? I did okay…

Then David took the stage in his usually shiny way. Apologizing for his body and crutches he made his way to the stage, nodding and smiling to the audience, he was softening them up from the moment he rose from his chair. He had them in the palm of his hand before he even opened a book. Settled in with mic in hand he flashed the audience one of his cherubic smiles and threatened to read his novel. Laughter.
Afternoon poetry
David jazzing out

David set out his first piece, “No Eyes, Lester Young” , with a little bit of jazz history then struck up an improvisation with the reed player, Carl Atkins, who turned his sax sideways in tribute to Lester Young. Jay Jackson, drummer/percussionist was right in there with them. I thought I saw Lester Young at the back of the room but it was a ghost. Charlie Parker sat down to watch the show. I was glad he showed up. David moved on to the blues, a performance of one of his now trademark performances paging through manuscripts, verses, lines, in time, singing verses that seem right at the moment, rendering them as the blues. Yes, David was singing, as he seems to do more and more in each performance and the audience loved it. I saw him do this singing and improvisational versification for the first time at the Shelldance pre-ramble and it took my breath away. It seems this was something he started doing 50 years ago but hadn’t begun doing again until ROCKPILE started stacking up at the door. A long stream of lights unfolded on the screen behind David as he concluded his set. Dots of colors popped on to the screen as Carl Atkins replied to each movement and breath that David gave up. Another beautiful performance.

Rochester Performance-Innovation Center, RIT from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

And so the afternoon at RIT concluded. A good audience. Good collaborators. And the ROCKPILE Trio was on its way to Japanese food and Writer’s and Books for a no music, poetry reading.

Charlie Parker and Lester Young head out into the afternoon light content to know the story continues.

Sunset in Rochester

The engine was running backward and took us to the next place later and later. And it was cold to the bone. Winter finally caught up with us. Layers and layers of sweaters, t-shirts, hoodies, overcoats, hat, gloves, scarves hardly cut the chill. We caught a quick Japanese dinner, chaos of sushi, edamame, fresh rolls with shrimp, multiple bottles of hot and cold sake, Thai soup, hot and sour soup, dragon rolls…. I met Paulette Swartzfager, a brilliant anarchist from New Orleans recently arrived in Rochester . Gerald Schwartz and John Roche continued to guide us through another Rochester moment… I don’t know what we talked about but we talked fast, ate fast, paid the check and David, Terri and I headed off in Paulette’s car to Writer’s and Books for our first reading of the ROCKPILE tour (without music).

The room was small but comfy. Someone told me it used to be a police station, maybe the reading space was the interrogation room. John Roche gave a thoughtful introduction to the three of us. It was remarkably intimate space and very quiet. Ah, no musicians. The space belonged entirely to the voice as instrument. Enormous possibilities for improvisation. All attention to listening to ourselves. It was easier to focus. And the room was small enough to read without a microphone so no electronic interface. Terri took the stage first. Perfect reading of poems. My favorite was a poem she introduced as a “punk rock” poem. Then I read, no complaints. The flow was easy and satisfying, no pressure to get things done. Then David took over. He read poems I had never heard him read and all was good. Maybe this was the best reading of all? “With or without music?” Is the perennial question. The way I see it is that reading without music is a pleasure, lots of room to move and improvise. A relaxing change from a marathon of performances with musicians, like I say, you got to listen and listening is very hard. It is easier to read without music but not necessarily better. I would never pass up the opportunity of reading with great musicians. Mainly, I think that performing with musicians makes me a better reader.

After the Writer’s and Books reading people stuck around to talk. I got to meet a lot of people I had only met online. There was Stephen Lewandowski whose review of John Roche’s Topicalities I published in Big Bridge , Steve Tills, a close friend of David Bromige, I met on Facebook, and Steven Potter who published some of my poems in Wandering Hermit Magazine. Great to meet these e-mail/Facebook bio photo/poem people human to human. And we even sold some books!!

Then we were back in the cold, frost over everything, in my beard, on my ears, and we headed over to the Lovin Cup for a hot, raucous Karaoke night, dancing and talking about poetry and any other thing that could squeeze through the noise. Gerald Schwartz, Paulette Swartzfager, John Roche and the ROCKPILE trio were buzzed. The waitress was adorable and Terri kept on running her finger through her hula-hoop sized earrings as she took our orders for more food, more drink, more good times to roll! John Roche grabbed the manager and brought her to the table. She was all over the idea of “beat” poetry and how much she loved it. David signed a copy of Beat Thing. As we headed out of the Lovin’ Cup David and Terri paused on the dance floor for some boogie-woogie but were soon joined by a drunk college boy who decided he wanted to do the lambada with Terri. I headed over to intercede. “Uh, oh,” said Gerald. I stepped in front of the college boy and pointed him back to his table and he went without fuss. It was way late and we had a 10:30 symposium. I pointed David and Terri to the door. Greeted by the manager who hugged everyone, they lingered in the freeze. “Walk and talk, walk and talk,” had become my mantra on this trip. New conversations at every step. We would never get home to sleep!!! “Walk and talk, walk and talk.” And so we did finally get in the van and shivered home to the Holiday Inn Express.

November 12. “Editing The Literary Magazine” at RIT:

Coffee in a box

We should have gotten more sleep. But we were burning the candle at both ends and any efforts I made to get Terri and David to cut the party short were met with scowls. But we did get sleep and the motel room had been moved to the furthest end of the building where housekeeping was Indian and contemplative far from the brash sambas of the 2nd floor Puerto Rican Anarchist Convention.

Terri got up early and went to the gym and did the laundry. I tried to locate an electric keyboard for St. Louis . Scored a cup of coffee from the buffet in the lobby. Then we packed our bags and loaded up the van for the next stop, Buffalo- an hour and a half from Rochester . But before we headed for Buffalo we had one more gig at RIT on ‘Editing The Literary Magazine” at 10:30 am.

David at RIT looking for the toilet


The panel at RIT on Editing was moderated by John Roche. Participants included me and Terri representing Big Bridge , David representing Tree, and Steven Huff and Thom Ward from BOA.


These thoughts from Danielle Gatti, with her permission, a student in the class pretty much covers the discussion. 

”I had the best time talking with the editors from Big Bridge and BOA on Nov. 12 and took notes that I thought I would post. First the idea of talking about revisioning really caught my attention. -forgetting initial impulses -fresh images, idea metaphors -line breaks and line lengths -read aloud -half lost in the poem -funny maneuvers -advancing philosophical and psychological opportunities -being too concerned with what the poem was saying as opposed to how its doing The discussion of online vs print was very heated and has its benefits and its drawbacks. Ideas to consider: -permanence -tangibility -verification of identity -assumptions of quality -self-esteem -credibility -subjectivity vs objectivity -instant gratification -copyrights -convenience -availability -circulation -globality -self-published -gatekeepers -online community -intellectual property –categorization… Questions of that kind caught my attention: -First moment…best moment? -take yourself back to the place where you came up with the poem-it’s more important than what you wrote -do we prefer active editors or laissez faire editors? -learn something that you didn’t when you began writing -you can’t be the creator and the audience all at the same time -work capacity -Everything is always practice -the experience itself can be the practice -play, improvisation, attention -invisible seams. 

Looking over all of the notes I had written I remember why I wrote them down. I took so many important tips from all of the editors and one of the most enviable qualities I see within them and most writers is their confidence. I know most of them would say its a facade or the confidence comes with age, but I find being confident can help with writing and being happy with what we wrote, regardless of how it looks in hindsight.”

Thank you, Danielle!



November 11th, We meet. The great Sam Abrams, Linda Reinfeld, Vincent’s F.A. Golphin, Gerald Schwartz and the John Roche join us for convivial testimonials and introductory statements, while we gulp down salads at the Lovin’ Cup, stoking the engine for an RIT poetry and music “rave”.

It didn’t take long to figure out who the enemy was, and it certainly wasn’t us. I met John Roche by e-mail years ago, published his poetry and reviews of his work in Jack Magazine and Big Bridge years ago. He set this Rochester ROCKPILE visit up. It was great to make first contact. I always feel a little startled when an e-mail or facebook name manifests as flesh and blood. There must be a catch, I think. But John’s kindness was overwhelming and he set the record straight.

Gerald and Linda and I thrashed around topics of performance, collaboration, aesthetics, poetics. The salad was a little weak and overpriced but the conversation was lush and substantial. Tired of being bored to death by uninspired poetry and poetic renderings, all of us, someone’s ears must be burning! But we have learned to not name names. You never know when you will need a grant, or a publication credit, or some other nonsense, like a blurb. And they had tons of resource recommendations. Books to read, links online to check out to see performance of poetry and music… The transmission is what it is all about. I gladly took note and invited them to blog.

Someone said, “You guys must get pretty testy being in the car together for so long.” Seems the “reality” part of this trip has recurrent appeal. But reality doesn’t figure. I am mostly hallucinating these days from sleep deprivation and sensory overload. Reality doesn’t figure at all, but heart figures, and I am all heart for David and Terri. So what ever weird manifestations possess me/us, hysteria, glossalalia, paranoid schizophrenia, delusions of grandeur, it passes, dissolves in a Pennsylvania sunset, or in the rocky crags of an upstate mountain gorge, then moves on.

David got into locked reminiscences with Sam Abrams, a meeting of the memories. The wine was poured and secret transmission of wily weed became the sacrament of lunch. Creeley and Duncan were mentioned. John Roche, Vincent Golphin and Terri dove into the conversation. Someone mentioned “race” and the “academy” and books I never read.

The table was working enthusiastically in three directions.

Obama took the floor to speak to us. It seems we all supported him but find him bitterly disappointing, no different than any other politician. (I hear “Brazil” playing through this conversation and many other similar conversations these days on the road). Obama. Grossly disappointing, grossly part of the system that is killing us all…Obama, he reminds us, we can’t blame him for our disappointment. Just because he gave us hope, doesn’t mean he owes us anything…

David has trouble talking and eating at the same time. His glass of red wine half full. He goes back to Jazz. He killed an introductory martini in a single bound. He is an athletic drinker with refined tastes. Oh, Dad, my dad, You would love this man. Plate overflowing with Caesar Salad and chicken. Cheeks rosy and ready for love. I rose from the table first. Did I have my cell phone, my wallet, David’s poems, my poems….I stood clutching my briefcase and David’s walking sticks. Staring down David’s neck, “Take your time but it’s time to go”, I said. The point was made.

Good times have to roll and baby it’s time. Showtime at RIT! No question about it. Rochester was going to be a sweet, sweet visit.


Poetry and Music: Jazz, Poetry and the Troubadour Tradition Notes from Larry Sawyer for November 17 Columbia Talk

Panel discussion
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 5:00pm – 5:30pm
ROCKPILE at Columbia College Chicago, 11/17/09, 5 pm, Ferguson Hall

Participants: David Meltzer, Michael Rothenberg, Terri Carrion, Art Lange, Ed Roberson, Tony Trigilio, with Dan Godston, Dan McNaughton, Bob Malone

Moderator: Larry Sawyer

A Latin root is turbare, to upset or (over)turn. Trobar is cognative with the modern French word trouver, meaning “to find.” Traveling poets in the Middle Ages sang songs of love, but where we are now is a little different. For hundreds of years, poets have used song and musicians have collaborated with poets—using jazz as well as other types of music. The troubadours traveled but what did they find? Singer/songerwriters such as Bob Dylan have helped shape American consciousness, and jazz musicians and poets also have a rich history. From the time that Kenneth Rexroth and Langston Hughes collaborated with jazz musicians, writers have used music to explore the possibilities of literature and to awaken the spirit.

ROCKPILE Recap (5:00): Rockpile (David Meltzer, Michael Rothenberg, Terri Carrion) have been traveling throughout the Southwest and East Coast. These three poets bring us up to speed about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.

Troubadour Tradition (5:30): How have WORDS combined with MUSIC shaped and awakened our perceptions? From the Middle Ages to Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and beyond.

Jazz Stories: A Love Supreme (6:00): What are some first memories of your introduction to jazz? Favorite jazz poetry haunts?

Poetry and Jazz Stories (6:15): Who has influenced your poetic practice?—musicians and poets. Share some written words, whether it’s a few poems or essay excerpt. Read aloud from your work. Explain current projects.

Activism/Q&A—Where Do We go From Here? (7:30-8:00)

ROCHESTER, BUFFALO, TORONTO: A marathon of events and encounters with beautiful people in multiple blog entries… Part 1

Hung over from the big NYC Gershwin ROCKPILE show and into the morning revelations with Australian friends we met in New Orleans who finally caught up with us and Arielle Guy. After long drive out of the city, lost in New Jersey, lunch in off road diner, finally arrive in Rochester, checked into the Holiday Inn Express and headed across the street to Bugaboo Grill, a Disney style chain restaurant with talking moose and a fish that flaps on the wall every 15 minutes. Three martinis and a couple of Tequilla shots later the moose started to make sense and the monster trout on the walk had an inimitable flow. We left a fifteen dollar tip and made it back to the room. Road buzz kept me tossing and turning but finally fell asleep. Holiday Inn Express was a noisy drag. Our room, 262 for numerologists, was next to the laundry room. When morning came at 7am the housekeepers had a little party going on. Laughing and talking loud against the rock & roll of washers and dryers. I thought of Garcia Lorca but not sure why. “Yerma!” I quietly asked one of the housekeepers too keep it down. Her laughter was killing the sandman. She took offense and slammed the laundry room door in my face and the laundry room party continued on. Was this a class war? The Union of Housekeepers was setting down some rules. I called the front desk. I figured I had the bosses on my side. Terri crashed the party in her red and black Che Guevara pajamas and made her request bilingually but to no avail. So morning arrived in a sludge. Over tired and aggravated and there is no rest for the wicked. . We ran to meet our Rochester host John Roche and meet new friends at the Lovin Cup…

Blahg 8


stomach inferno
need new glasses
funky & gunky
in a massive Comfort Suite
great for post reading blast
tossing berets to the ceiling
sealing wall cracks w/
LP hot wax melted over
:boosted chianti bottles
from the ’50s Musee

DC: black lady
aims finger at
people’s heads
passing by

DC: car plate:
“Taxation Without

DC: Imperial space
abounds, surrounds
monuments & massive statuary
of mounted soldiers
bronze muscle-bound babes
hugging the stallions
Roman bridges
cops on horseback
packing Glocks &tc
black Lincoln Continental limos
w/ VIPs behind tinted windows


— DM