Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where the Light Is, Part 1

"Oscillating and how": Elizabeth Guthrie’s Yellow and Red: A Poetic Play
(Black Lodge Press, 2oo8)
A Review by Andy Peterson

Pre-faces: Stages, and Codas of no after-thought. Of thought itself, as in: august and autumnal humming, warming orchestras with audience noise – a bright fit of laughter here, a dry cough there, mouths around popcorn going munch-munch – of definable objects and indefinable gestures, of being within feeling, to which only the imagination holds; without her, imagination, really, where would we be?

The cozy theater of the mind that stages the world, as in: "All the world’s a..."

we, who trust this, settle in to that familiar soft command, the conductor’s tap-tap-tap upon the stand, and we begin...

Poet Elizabeth Guthrie’s chapbook, Yellow and Red: A Poetic Play, released with elegant and loving craft by Black Lodge Press, 2008, creates a dreamy real-state site of hybrid-ditty, a calmly surreal series of performances/stagings/happenings, a confirmation that art becomes life becomes art becomes life becomes art. Difficult to summate such a uniquely inventive work, so to quote the text, in its most approximate descriptions of Self: a ""Lyric Touching Realic", or "The surface of reflection as precursory indication of the actual."

Y&R moves through four organic stages of constructions, represented by the elements of the four seasons ("an experience of phenomenon"), the abstractions of the titular colors become speaking characters alongside the inanimate – instruments, "Empty Paper Cup", and the centrifugal stage construction of an autumnal dandelion – and the animate – Conductor Ren Juffalo and Concertmaster Barry Alitzer, whose dialogues and movements explore the mysteries of moments – that is, the Eternal Moment– in change, the constant creativity of life, with the image-nation of ethereal word play.

Guthrie draws upon such happily varied avant-garde philosophies of performance artists and poets like Andre Breton, John Cage, Meredith Monk, Yoko Ono, and Gertrude Stein, who one could argue pioneered the form. The poetic play: more than just a narrative drama set in verse; a postmodern hybrid akin to the prose poem, which raises the stakes of relationships between language, page, and stage: a tuned stand-in for the physical world.

Y&R puts these elements in motion, elevates language from the page and into space, like music, and like feedback, reflects and inflects of change there occur. The finale, like all great art, asks us for our own answers to its tantalizing questions as we leave the theatre, marveling at compressions, voices in wires, constructions and reflections, and alerting us to possibilities of the lyric in everyday life, "oscillating(,) and how."

. . .

To order, visit our friends at Black Lodge Press

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Hey everyone....Touch Me is out, but Blazevox has not yet enabled the purchasing site (you can find blurbs and cover image in the soon-to-be released area of blazevox catalogue) so i thought i'd offer to anyone interested...send me a check for sixteen dollars to

19 Chateau Terrace So.
Amherst, NY 14226

...and i'll send you a copy of Touch Me, no shipping payment necessary, plus this allows me a bit of a payoff which is always nice...thanks to all who encouraged and endured this crazy text...much love goonnation

Friday, March 06, 2009

Tim Armentrout joins Livestock Editions as Co-Editor

Welcome, Tim!

from "Pioneers of Modern Poetry" Edited with notes & a preface by Robert L. Peters and George Hitchcock (A Kayak book, c. 1967)

Measurements of Large Mammals


Circumference of neck
below the head
Circumference of neck
in front of the chest
Circumference of body
behind the fore legs
Circumference of body
before the hind legs

The circumference
of the
is always recorded
also of the head
in front of
the ears

Humerus and femur
for the knobs
of the humerus and femur
and measure
the distance
between them

feel for the knob

of the femur
and then
the center line


feel for the knob

should be taken again
after the animal
has been skinned.

Length of the back
is made by beginning
at the base of the skull
along the line of the back
to the base of the tail

Length of tail
is always a

a mammal
is to be
by the dermo-

(from "Methods in the Art of Taxidermy", 1894.)
"The Measurement of Large Mammals" deals with a problem which so far as we
know is entirely original in poetry. The subject matter is so basic that the work
might well be a part of a longer poem on Noah appointing the specimens for the
ark, or on Adam and Eve taking inventory in the Garden of Eden. Oliver Davie
writes with a marvellous unenigmatic sureness; he knows precisely where the
various measurements of these mammals are to be taken and exactly how one
detects say the position of humerus and femur by feeling the living, as opposed
to prehistoric, animal. There is absolutely nothing blind here; Davie is not another
of those legendary Orientals mistaking the physical parts of the elephant for
entirely incongruous things. He knows his craft intimately, whether it be writing
or taxidermy. On of his delights is the superbly handled repetition of key words
and phrases. The opening stanza is a structural marvel based upon repeated motifs
combined with sentence units of approximately the same length and syllabic
arrangement. Further, one is impressed by the neat logical progression of parts
from head to legs to back to tail. There is something clean and neat about this
entire performance. We feel assured in the hands of this master, and are nearly
willing to allow him to take our own measurements along the lines he describes.
In fact, his gentleness is so appealing that we may even crave to have ourselves
stuffed by him. Is this illusion, however, or is it delusion? A quality does emerge
slowly from these lines not entirely unlike lust, and one comes to wonder whether
sodomy isn't the writer's true subject. In fact, the more one considers it, the more
anxious one grows. See the material in part 2 which advises repeated feelings of the
knob, striking the center line, and feeling the knob again. And doesn't one detect a
sort of lustful snigger behind the block capitals of "ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
MEASUREMENTS / WHICH CAN BE RECORDED" ? Davie seems to be cruising for
contacts. The last line of this section -- we blush to say it -- may refer to the nasty
business of drawing back the prepuce of the horse, bull, tiger, elephant, etc. Finally,
there is absolutely no concealment in section 3: by "the dermoplastic method", the
affixing of skin to skin, the "mammal" (note the wonderful equivocation here -- as we
suspected, humans are included) "is to be / mounted". Penetration is, of course, one
such "dermoplastic method". If it were not for the consummate artistry of this
exceptional poem we would surely have excluded it. Our criterion has been through-
out that quality of execution supersedes content; and we can only hope that the vast
majority of readers will agree that we are justified in allowing this disturbing poem to
appear in print. Finally, it does illustrate a contemporary principle -- that no subject
matter ought to be excluded by the poet, no matter how potentially disgusting or perverse.