Here’s some small and beautiful books that I have around the house:
This Is Important by F.A. Nettelbeck.
Half a sheet of letter paper, xeroxed, cut the long way and folded accordion-style. Tiny poems.
you travel for
a distance and you
don’t see any bones,
you worry, because
then you are lost.
Okay, not my favorite poem in the world, but I like the idea of these little scraps floating around the world! Nettlebeck’s work is often amazing. This Is Important looks to have come from the 80s in Santa Cruz. Last year I saw Nettelbeck read at Art 21 in Palo Alto – he came out from Arizona or Colorado or somewhere on a visit – and he blew me away. It was like a scruffy, stinking, roaring tiger at a Persian cat show. He came complete with drunken shit-kicker girlfriend who heckled everyone and asked them if they were dead. (As it is generally a lovely yet WASPy crowd, quiet and solemn as church.) Meanwhile Nettelbeck was ranting from his novel with sort of time travelling scungy teenagers and reminiscings of the 70s Santa Cruz poetry scene and the bones of Ginsberg. There is something to ephemeral slips of paper and to experiences like that mad, mad reading in the art gallery!
Inevitable – writings by Sabrina C.
Letter paper, halved the short way, folded, and stapled on the short edge handout not booklet style, xerox.
Roller blade fire mama, spandex short and legs hard with gleaming muscle, the shine shifting, blinding ants for a second…
Sabrina tries hard to capture each moment, each person passed in the street, the blinding sweat rollerblade beauty and the “lonely aluminum wolves”, “how they cross and uncross streets in nervous jittered unlacings”. Strong fierce lovely poems… I like the roughness of the work and of the book. My favorite of her poems I’ve seen so far is the long one in Inevitable that starts:
Now the key has to be ready and accessible between fingers three and four by the time I’ve even rounded my block
right hand in my right pocket, I’ve got the lock down of my mental security in check.
She describes how she pictures the locks and the sequence of actions necessary to get into her apartment’s gates and doors; in the middle of the imagining and unlocking, she describes her enemy. It’s eerie for me to read, as I also wrote a long poem about this very thing.
I know the way they look in the sun
their eyes downcast and watching
their sideways following heet whispers as they warm you up for their licking shadows
I know the way that they plan their sentences to follow my passing like a scent
and their lingering desires that catch me like ghosts of stink perfume
I know the rooms they live in
boxes of heated sheets
stained with the imprints of their turning night bodies
their hands praying to crucifixes
while creating the beads of rosaries
in cream and liquid testimonies of faith
they are praying to something they will never get
and though I am nameless, I am it
That’s quite powerful. Do you see the roughness, but the power of the roughness? I think the power would disappear if smoothed. I saw John Lee Hooker play once, and it was like that, rough, smoky, crackling, noisy, with extra bits. It had noise in the signal.
Nonce by Cid Corman.
Small and thin. Japanese striped paper jacket. printed & stapled, 1965. 500 copies printed. The jacket goes over the staples to hide them.
As the sun
the child’s hand
lifts to its
I’m on a roll with the poems about babies and sunbeams.
if I couldnt
if I wished!
Aw yeah. Should tattoo that on myself, for when the revolution comes. Why wait for the revolution? It’s a good motto anytime. Thunder shower! Hah! It expresses such affection and boldness, an intimate relationship with the world. Like he’s saying, “Oh, you!” and patting the storm on its head. Or anything that makes a Big Noise to scare you. You don’t have to be scared – says Cid. And it’s conveyed in so few words! Go ahead and try to do that.
I’m a sucker for this poem:
sweep the fallen
away. I know,
I know. Weight of
I feel oldfashioned for liking Corman so much. I’m not sure how much of my liking is in the poems and how much is in his little books and his philosophies. I’m sad that he died a couple of years ago and I didn’t even know. We were writing letters for a while, and he gave me permission to reprint his translation of Lu Chi’s Wen Fu, a work on writers and writing.
He was the sort of person who delighted in writing to everyone, sending off little paper doves, emitting poems and interesting thoughts to anyone who might find them. Whole chunks of the letters would repeat themselves sometimes. As if he wanted to make sure it got through to someone, like repeated coded messages from a submarine… He would have had a lovely blog.