I scooped up the moon’s footprints but
The ground climbed past with a sky
And a dove and a bent vapor.
The other half of cling together wove by
In the breath of the willows; fall in
Sang eagle ox ferret and emerald arch.
O we, too, must learn to live here;
To use what we are. O fall in now!
For only love is community! Of various likenesses, none
Unless one love! In the lionleaf, the sonshade
Spreading over a father’s road! When we love,
God thinks in us. And in that home-going time,
We see with the eyes of grass; and in the trees
Hear our own voices speak! So gently, gently, I say
That sleep is the secret-releasing key to this world.
Our lives are watching us—but not from earth.
From We Meet.
Earlier to today Stadiums & Shrines premiered what you see above—The Birth of Medusa—my inaugural attempt at combining my love of sound, motion, and poetry. It also marks the first (non-live) collaboration with audio researcher and sonic wav manipulator, RxRy as well as, the first film I’ve produced using my own footage. I hope the outcome is as much an experience for you as it was for me during its creation.
Glitter Pillsby Ben Fama
To live a serious life
that’s a fucked up thing
I would have to rent out a cabin
beneath terrible angels
if I get old wipe the dust off my tits
I should have a serious log cabin
the cabin’s name is Ben Fama.
find directions on the internet
when you want to leave you can
I’ll stay there just me and my heart
bigger than the sun
What Ben Fama won’t tell you is that he lives a serious life, and it’s fucked up. Most of us do. To live a carefree life takes a lot of business savvy. Ben’s got a lot of business savvy, but his life isn’t carefree. It’s meticulously crafted by outside forces, by fate. And for Ben, fate is a serious thing. Position oneself as best one can. Consult the Tarot like some people consult Oprah. Know the characteristics of the Zodiac as if they were family members. It’s no wonder that Ben’s wrote a collection of poems named Aquarius Rising.
“How much do you rely on planets?” Ben asks, almost capturing the theme of Aquarius Rising (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) in a single blow. The collection is an astrological love letter, read like a divination, the collection of poems being a sort of arcana: the celebrity, the paparazzi, the juvenile, the suitor, the broken-hearted, the cynic. Aquarius Rising is also a play on Kenneth Anger’s own Scorpio Rising, and its themes of idol worship factor heavily in this book. There is humor in this book too, though of a self-deprecating kind: “Woman of Tractus / I come bearing .gifs”. The pun turns the bearer into a voyeur. Other times when Ben is making light of something, it’s as though he’s cracking a joke during a break-up, alleviating it’s emotional upheaval: “o mountain, how did you become so serious?”. And what at first seems facetious can appear, upon closer examination, to be Ben casting a sort of spell to turn the circumstances of life in his favor, as in these lines from “Cub”:
If today is your birthday please
remove exactly 300 hairs from my beard
I’m dancing for fat rain
to press on the evening
so you may climb up and tear
the sky in half so it will look
the way I have secretly wanted.
Once you finish Aquarius Rising, check out Ben’s latest book of poetry, New Waves (minutes Books, 2011) It trades the horoscope of Aquarius Rising for dance shoes. Ben’s fantastic tumblr blog is also called New Waves. If you’re looking for a party on the internet, that’s a good place to go.
Though Ben is fascinated by celebrities, he is one in his own right within the poetry world. You see, Ben also runs his own poetry reading series and journal, SUPERMACHINE, based in Brooklyn. Readings occur monthly with new poets featured at each reading. No poets read twice at SUPERMACHINE unless it is for an issue release. Issues are published bi-annually and three have been published so far. To be included in an issue of SUPERMACHINE is like being on an Altered Zones mixtape; it’s carefully curated with an overarching vision in mind. Ben’s commitment to this vision will even cause him to turn down work he likes if it doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the issue (though you will still find many of the most buzzed-about young poets of a season, guaranteed). Not to mention great cover art. And issue launch parties pull all the stops: every poet included in the issue being launched reads, but only one poem apiece, keeping things lively while visuals are projected onto walls, shrines are built to give the space a mystical vibe, and afterward live musical acts perform (past groups have included Beach Fossils, Reading Rainbow, and Forma). Venues have included the School House and The Silent Barn. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a better-dressed crowd.
Perhaps Ben is aware of this double standard of slowly becoming, in a sense, micro-famous, while maintaining the purity of solitude. That’s the irony of becoming someone known. It’s easy then to imagine him lying in a cabin, dust-covered and glowing, waiting for the approach of those ghosts that chase down those who have left an impact and whose names remain on people’s lips. That’s a macabre thought to end on so I’ll finish on this verse from his poem, “Boy” –– “I bury my face deep in the front lawn / a family of magicians moves onto the block / a sequence of colors erupts from their chimney / now anyone can walk among strangers towards daylight”.
Art: Nathaniel Whitcomb
How To Hide an Elephant
by Emily Pettit
All over town footprints are flying. When walking
on tiptoes we ignite suspicious minds. Hovering,
hanging out nowhere near the ground.
I’m on my way to the end of the world again.
Thirteen red barns in a row. A story on the news.
A mouse has died in the wall. I have a box
full of porcupine quills. I have a box full of
tiny tools. A box full of bees. Becoming information
is not necessarily a choice. A chance meeting
is not necessarily enough to change things.
If your reflection went missing what would you do?
Feel like a spider who has forgotten how to weave
a web. Try to remember where you last leaned,
where you last left no trace. Here is a tiny elephant.
Put it in your pocket and it can be the elephant in the room
that no one ever talks about.
How to read Emily Pettit. There is no easy explanation. Or rather, there is no correct way to read Emily Pettit. Just do it. Read Emily Pettit. If that’s not enough instruction, Emily tells you how in her aptly titled book How (published by Octopus Books), a collection of poems with titles like “How to Stop Laughing When You Laugh at Inappropriate Times” or “How to Carefully Consider Space Travel.” If you are like me, then this is the instruction manual you have long sought in your adult life. The time has come to leave those Nintendo manuals in a Rubbermaid bin tucked away in your parents’ basement. You won’t need them anymore.
What we learn from How might be what we would learn about ourselves if we were to dive into a pool of paint wearing a football uniform. You simply have to try it to find out. Emily’s poems are like following steps to becoming telepathic. There is no right answer, but if an offered solution causes people to say, “I don’t believe you” then Emily’s How is one giant retort: “Then I guess I’m unbelievable.” Can we really find out how to find a robber by reading “How to Find a Robber”? It’s as if these poems mask a greater sense of instruction, how to mislead a world that might be after you, creep up on you, toss you a doozy. Think of the movie Commando, when Arnold Schwarzenegger breaks into the weapons depot and arms himself with a ton of firepower. Then think “what was a weapons depot doing in downtown LA? In a mall, no less?” We shouldn’t think of the sense, but of the urgency. Arnold needed a weapon’s depot, and LA provided. This is How. This is Emily covering all her bases, throwing in lines like When it comes to performing some of the most difficult and laborious operations of abstract thought, I fail when instructing us how to find robbers. This is handy information. Take for instance these sagacious lines from “How to Hide a Fire”:
The curtain is blowing though
the window is closed. People are
doing magic and blushing. It’s a bad day
for chickens. Disco is dead.
And this is why one shouldn’t talk shit.
Her knowledge and know-how isn’t limited to her own work. Emily also does double-time as an editor for Factory Hollow Press, runs the online poetry zine Notnostrums, and helps at her brother Guy’s amazing book mecca, Flying Object, in Hadley, Massachusetts. Given her exposure to so much poetry, and her love of sharing it, I don’t think I’ve ever come within handshaking distance of Emily without receiving a new chapbook. Her enthusiasm for new poetry (and by new I also mean young) is not unlike many a music blogger’s enthusiasm to post new songs on a daily basis. She carries it with swagger and keeps her tastes refined. Hers is not “A Flower in Springtime” type of poetry. Enter her world and you’ll soon know what I mean.
Art: Nathaniel Whitcomb
This time last year I was just beginning to put the final touches on my ideas for Think or Smile. Sketching thoughts on what kinds of things to share, what feelings I wanted people to take away from it and the voice it should have. For someone who gets bored quite easily, I think a year is a long time without a change. So a couple months back I returned to the sketchbook, jotting down thoughts with the hopes of bringing in some new ideas to the site. Something not only different for the site but for me too. I realize that I’ve drifted towards postings things I’m familiar with, music, art and the areas they intersect. Lately one of these areas for me has been literature and poetry, I find it’s a wonderful launching pad for creative explorations. But I know very little about the subject and typically gravitate towards the classics. Well I aim to change that, dig a little deeper and hopefully take you along for the ride. And the best way I know how to get good quality is to ask someone who lives it, breathes it. So that’s what I did.
I’m delighted to announce the addition of a monthly poetry/short prose feature curated by writer, editor, drummer, ex-acrobat, Michael Barron. Each post will be featured along side art created in response to Michael’s selection, either by myself or other guests artists. We hope you’ll join us on our explorations.
Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2011