book reviews with michael basinski

Poems for Peace - Compiled by Tom Hibbard.
Structum Press, 31390 Hill Road, Hartland, WI. 53029. $7.00. contact Tom Hibbard

Peace, certainly. Yes. Even in these very strange times. Peace is a non-support for this non-leader. I have been around long enough to know that war is the enemy of poetry and that poetry must, it must even for the sake of the poem, stand against war. Bush=War. So that other poems and poets can get on with the poetry, so be it some must write against it. It (here)=Bush’s War. So be it – I have resolved that the anti-war is the realm of the poem and the poem must walk the talk. 5 young people who could be poets died here in Western New York – one with an obviously Polish name; two Blacks; a kid with an Irish last name; and kid from Lackawanna (rust belt once steel town). Others to come - probably. It is a poor area. We export poor kids. Some of them lived on streets that I hung around on as a young working-class pig. These poor poet people, the working class giving their flesh to Bush’s Kenny Bunk Port jack-off fantasy of grandeur and frat masculinity. This pisses me off. The poor dying for Bush’s cowboy fantasy. How many from his street dead? Can you guess? I am honored to be in Hibbard’s collection and honored to be among others who hold the stick of writing and draw it in the sand. To stand if only by dumb word to say no. I want to say thanks to those who have courage. True loyalists to the poem in capital letters: LARRY SAWYER, BRETT EVANS, BUCK DOWNS, LUC FIERENS, MARK DUCHARME, DEL RAY CROSS, AUGIE HIGHLANDS, HEATHER FULLER, LANNY QUARLES, WILLIAM ALLEGREZZA, JOHNATHAN MINTON, LARRY BLAZEK, MICHAEL ROTHENBERG, MARK WALLACE MIEKAL AND and TOM HIBBARD.


Liquid Jesuit - by Andrew Gettler.
Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books. Compiled and built by Dave Roskos. At: P.O. Box 54, Manasquan, NJ. 08736. Check it out and write Roskos for price about $10.00 or $7.00. 48 pages with illustrations by Angela Mark and Michael Shores.

Andrew Gettler has died. Raise the glass. Celebrate because he no longer suffers each day on earth as I, and you. And this is a fine celebration of his energy line of poetry in the tradition of Bukowski, Kerouac, and urban throbbing jazz. There are works dedicated to Buk and Kerouac. Linda Lerner who loves the poem and loved and still loves the spirit of Andrew G. writes a more than splendeid introductin to the poet who left his flesh for the real realm of the poem. It speaks it all and sets the stage most nice! Gettler leaves the poet cadence of his life cascading over the page, pig iron and sparrow feathers in some magical brew of his poetry here to gulp. He left but he leaves knowing that his poetry and poetry will not surrender.


Typee - by Robert Head.
Bookstore, 104 S. Jefferson Street, Lewisburg, WV. 24901 Write him for a dozen other or so of his books and prices.

A short series of poems revolving thematically around Melville’ novel Typee, which you need not reread to join the wonderful sarcasm and clear logic of Head’s poetry. In this work, Head re-imagines various words, (hwy for WHY and valuabl for VALUABLE), in his short and pointed poem works which keeps the reader reading closes and slows the space of the reading of the work so that his poetic twists bury in one’s chest like a barbed Polynesian arrow. The relentlessness and insensitivity of invading super-culture on indigenous people or people like you and me is a facet of the poetry. Obviously, power is the tool used to bludgeon the confused natives. I feel like I was hit by a savage WALMART as I contemplated this work. Let me quote a short title-less poem, which I believe sums well the poetry’s perspective:

The English must hav eaten
Joan of Arc
Because hwy else
wd they cook her?


The Same Corner of the Bar - Poems by Timothy Gager.
Ibbetson Street Press, Diane & Doug Holder, 25 School Street Somerville, MA. 02143. Write for prices and endless other worthwhile publications.

This collection begins with a poem called: Bukowski’s Tavern after the Boston Marathon. It is a poetry of desire that floats above this poem like the exhaled smoke of the HER that is the poem’s goddess. This then is a theme in this collection. Seeking love in taverns, bar is the better word, is half the pastime maybe all the pastime of people in bars. The smoking and drinking and feeding of these various addictions are afflictions of the heart in need. Working class in perspective, the poet Timothy Gager does not linger endless in bars because there are other events of import, like a child’s birthday, divorce, and the contemplation of life. Sensitive and pondering the poet deals with these instances. And they are poems. Still, it is the grail of love that this poet wants. And his seeking touches our endless thirsting hunt.


Trading Futures. - by Nikki Rosko.
39 pages. 2003. Slipstream, P.O. Box 2071, Niagara Falls, NY 14301. $7.00

From Slipstream, one expects a poetry of what we understand to be urban, and we are here justly rewarded with a fine first time book offering to the god Steel Eros or goddess Concrete Venus. I am thinking the poetry tragically hot. There is a form of veiled copulation (and not so concealed) going on everywhere throughout this poetry. As in living in a city, when you walk by a building, a multi-dwelling, who in there is in the grasp of sex? Here is a pulling back of the wall and inside, it is humid and dank, gray and sensual, not harsh but motel, not romantic, but not without allure. Tart yet so teasing.


The Cause of Daylight by Sheila Murphy.
Published by J. Lehmus/EXP Office 2003: J. Lehmus, Kauristie 24, 02860 Esporo, Finland. Better write and check cause Finland is far away and who knows about price: but ask to check out all of the Linguablanca Chapbooks – they all way coooool.

One sometimes needs a taste: Section 17 of Shelia E. Murphy’s The Cause of Daylight:

from afar
the scoop
neck of

Isn’t it like Cage, in the sense that there is this silence that surrounds these words, which is not at all part of these words at all but must be part of them to be – so there is this balance which is then music. This is Murphy at her best. While these are short lines I love reading all of S.E.M.’s lines. You will too. They are real lines of poetry. She has a sense of the line as a unit of measure in the poetry. The sections, there are 30 of them, clash with the reading mind, like constellations of sound. Once you get to the end of the note, there is no beginning of the next note, only the note’s next beginning. The work is always pulling at you. Back. Forth. This is a tension one enjoys. A startle in the silence of all of the endless sheep jumping sleepy poetry. And while I like the wonderment and the play of sound upon sound, clashing and measured breath and breathing, beneath all of these words is a life and this proves that a new poetry can have genuine heart as well as lung.


Death Text Book 5 - by Jim Leftwich.
2003. Xtant books. 50 or more unnumbered pages. Jim Leftwich, 1512 Mountainside Ct., Charlottesville, VA, 22903-9707. Write for price.

Someone enters who might be a reader. There are these pages of color images of women in bikinis, provocative, erotic. And they are wearing and merging, emerging from the letters. So it is Eros that pulls me to the page and I read with that arrow in my heart and Leftwich creates a communion of language and image, with metaphors of hieroglyphs and petroglyphs and texts layered upon created and found text, juxtaposing meaning upon meaning, Eve and Gilgamesh and this horrible American fiasco in Iran, in that place of our original sexual sin energy. And what is wonderful about this text is that the text is not obliterated but coaxes with enough meaning to force a reading, an enter-gizing not by meaning but by imagination. Jim Leftwich, I am happy to see that he has leaped to yet another other place. I’m comin, I’ll be there. Come-on. Let’s leap.


A Little Sand - by George Pavlopulos.
Translated by Darlene Fife. Published by Bookstore, 104 S. Jefferson Street, Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901. 64 pages. Write for price.

I ponder the fashion in which memory and poetry interact. And was pleased to find this a theme of George Pavlopulos’s poems.
He writes in TORTURE

I am not the body you loved
but that which you want to remember
and that which you can’t remember
and that which you think you remember.

Memory and sensuality and love, longing and desire are ripe here in this poet who understands that poetry resides in an other place, a place of only the poem. And in that place of poetry is the seat of love. Darlene Fife’s translations from the Greek, which is also provided in the text, more than adequately captures the emotionally lush language of the original intent, intensity. This is a poetry of the pounding, longing heart. On my shelf, I place with book next to Mary Barnard’s translations of Sappho and Pound’s Love Poems of Ancient Egypt. One's faith is restored by the fact of love and love’s music, which is love’s poetry.

Bathtub Gin. Issue 12 (Spring/Summer 2003 - Christopher Harter – Editor.
$5.00. P.O. Box 2392, Bloomington, IN. 47402. or

Checked into Bathtub Gin for the first time, albeit I somehow knew of it. I read first Christopher Harter’s: Editor Sounds Off… another one of us against the Bush Way of War. How the living rubber band does Bush get away with it? Those people who are other than poets must be pretty stupid. Well, that is no insight on my part at all. So the first poem in BG was Kyle Miner’s To Be Your Throat Lozenge. And I said, OH! This is the poem that must open the magazine because it is a poem, a real poem! and it works, the language and music comes Banana Boat Sunblock Lotion squirting out of it. I read it twice. And I never heard of Kyle Miner before. Nice. Nice that Harter finds the real poets among us – us eating chicken at the fire hall or playing BINGO. And a few pages later Suzanne Walker’s poem: Masturbation. Another solid poem! I mean hard to write about jackin off without being stupid. But Walker isn’t stupid and her poem isn’t stupid. And she jacks. Transgression lives! Takes a lot to – never mind. She comes through. And delightful Harland Ristau arts! And Alan Catlin’s contribution: The Hands of Antonin Artuad. A different kinda Catlin poem – metaphysical and meditative. He showed me here the expanse of his literary horizon. And I wanna read more of it. Gotta hand it to Harter again, on a plate on a tray, on a ruler, in a bottle of Tylenol. Harter’s a damned good editor. Good work. And I like Dan Raphael’s poem: Grazing the Elements. I read it twice. I read a lot in this magazine twice. I don’t do that much. And as I sit here writing, I read again the last line of Raphael’s poem– “standing naked in a windy gully til im to full to dress.” The line is in me mind now. Ah. And there is a whole section on Mark Terrill. More on him later. So, wow, I was pretty damned impressed with this bottle of bathtub gin. Really surpassed me and moved I by the care that the editor obviously took and his concern for the poem and poetry. The hard work is there. I hope the next pumpkin he sees turns into a pair of slippers and a hundred-dollar bill. Or finding good wine on sale. P.S. Christopher Harter runs this entire grocery bag of candy and beer called PATHWISE PRESS. And he published this book called Living Room, Earth by Carmen Germain. 2002. $5.95. Do it.

The United Colors of Death> - by Mark Terrill.
Christopher Harter – Editor, P.O. Box 2392, Bloomington, IN. 47402. or $5.95. 47 pages.

Mark Terrill lives in Germany and he is out of work. He has a bit of experience, like cook, postal worker, and welder. But for now, wisely, the poem is first. And in his poems he has life and death in each of his poetry hands and there they are and God in between and there you have the powers about which Terrill’s poem orbit. If he didn’t do it with balance, and grace, with humor and shocks wonder, I would have tossed the poems to the walrus. But let me give you a title: WHAT GOD SAID TO MICKEY MOUSE WHILE JAMES DEAN WAS TUNING UP HIS PORSCHE. It goes on. There is this beautiful sense of humor in all of this tremendously important philosophical pondering stuff, which makes the poems so human, so absolutely human as to be those blossoming sparks of treetops and mountain-tops, hot dogs, light bulbs, nail polish, post-its and cured cancer that makes it a wonder to be living in the fall of the year.

michael basinski
Michael Basinski
The Associate Curator of The Poetry/Rare Books Collection SUNY at Buffalo

     He performs his work as a solo poet and in ensemble with the EBMA and BuffFluxus. Among his many books of poetry are Heka (Factory School); Strange Things Begin to Happen When a Meteor Crashes in the Arizona Desert (Burning Press); Cnyttan and Heebie-Jeebies (Meow Press); Un-Nome, Red Rain Two and Flight to the Moon (Run Away Spoon Press); Poemeserss (Structum Press) and many more. His publications are available through Small Press Distribution:
     His poems and other works have appeared in Dandelion, BoxKite, Antennae, Unbearables Magazine, Open Letter, Torgue, Leopold Bloom, Wooden Head Review, Basta, Kiosk, Explosive Magazine, Deluxe Rubber Chicken, First Offense, Terrible Work, Juxta, Kenning, Witz, Lungfull, Lvng, Generator, Tinfish, Curicule Patterns, Score, Unarmed, Rampike, First Intensity, House Organ, Ferrum Wheel, End Note, Ur Vox and many others,  

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