The fifth print issue of Cabildo Quarterly — featuring new poetry and fiction from Kathleen Ellis, Katie Lattari, Bruce Pratt, Mike DeCapite and Analise Jakimides — is available now for free in and around greater Belchertown MA and Pittsburgh PA.
The prospect of listening to the new Black Flag record – the first new studio LP from the band since 1986’s “In My Head” – is fraught with static from all sides. If you’re anything like me, you watched, with something between duty and determination, the videos which popped up this summer as the band embarked on their first tour since Back In The Day. What a trainwreck! No matter the city or fest from which each clip was shot, “Gimme Gimme Gimme” featured a drummer who seemingly couldn’t count to four. Guitarist Greg Ginn, perhaps in a haze of weed, missed cues, dropped notes, and fiddled lamely with a theremin as Ron Reyes –aka Chavo Pederast, aka singer number two of four – did his best to command the crowd. These live clips, of course, surfaced around the same time as those of Flag, the band of ex-Black Flag members who positively tear through the band’s old material. The new songs from the Ginn-led Black Flag which made their way to the internet sounded like they were trying to hard to be…..what? Relevant? Contemporary? Old school? They wound up confounding me.
To make matters worse, the confusion that I felt was confusing. The band reuniting and continuing to make missteps wasn’t simple. After all, this is a band who stumbled over their own ambition in their earlier incarnations: after a court injunction was lifted from them in the early 80’s, they released so much material –some of it wildly bad – that listeners couldn’t keep up, and that the pool, as it were, was diluted by ill-conceived songs and ideas. The prospect of Greg Ginn, with years to ruminate and stew, making what appeared to be another batch of dumb mistakes made me wonder how dumb they actually were, like “you gotta be smart to be this dumb,” kinda like that Rebecca Black video of a few years ago. Could it be, somehow, that Ginn’s lawsuit against Rollins and Keith Morris, claiming that they were not legally allowed to use the band’s name or logo (despite the fact that, you know, Ginn “quit the band” in 1986) was some brilliant viral marketing scheme? Or that the first passes at touring were the same, and that the subpar performances were just a decoy for a blazing show which would silence all the skeptics and allow the band to reassume their position on the throne? Or that there was something behing the album’s atrocious artwork?
It turns out I’m overthinking all this. I think the reality of the situation is that Greg Ginn, once and for always, simply doesn’t give a shit what other people think about his music. There’s no embedded virality here, no secret plan, no too-clever schemes. I think he’s just a dude who, tired of playing to meager crowds with his various improv skronk-jazz units, wanted to play to crowds again, legacy or whatever be damned – the man’s well-documented troubles, financial and personal, with his peers and labelmates have left his legacy’s earth scorched and barren, anyway, so why not?
So. Leave all the baggage aside, all of the litigation and images of flubbed intros and mailboxes empty of checks and you’ll find the best record that Greg Ginn has played on since Gone. Granted, some of the stuff since has been pretty bad (Poindexter Stewart, I’m looking at you), but if he had released this record under his own name rather than as a Black Flag record, I think critics would have had a field day proclaiming that Greg Ginn Was Back (despite the fact that he never really left). As I listened and relistened I found myself grinning at the trademark squalls of Ginn’s guitar, which bubble to the surface of his awesomely atonal solos like no time has passed. The dude is still a fantastic guitar player, despite all the bullshit, and despite the fact that some of the songs here kinda sound like other, older songs (Listen to “Get Out Of My Way,” for example, and you’ll hear the unmistakable shades of “TV Party”).
One of the main criticisms I’ve had with Black Flag’s later pre-reunion output is that they sometimes didn’t know when to quit. I’m not talking about the longer, dirgier stuff like the second side of “My Way”, which I love – instead, I’m thinking of songs where listeners reach what they think is the logical end of the song, only to find another verse/chorus/chorus tacked on. This album is almost entirely devoid of this problem – 22 songs is a lot of food, and most of them clock in at under three minutes – but the effect, strangely, is that a lot of this stuff winds up reminding me of mid-90s postpunk/emo stuff. It’s as if Ginn and Reyes went out and bought, then studied a bunch of Kid Dynamite and Moment and I Hate Our Freedom records, which is weird, because for all these years it was bands studying Black Flag, not the other way around. At no point in Black Flag’s career was there ever a need to compare their sound to anyone else’s (okay, except maybe for Sabbath, both in its Ozzy and Dio iterations, but if we’re gonna start faulting bands for sounding like Sabbath, see you later, record collection). Now, the stripped-down songwriting arrangements –the older material minus extraneous verses and choruses pushing songs past the five minute mark— lead me not to the early stuff, like Nervous Breakdown, but to melodic 90’s punk rock . Weird, right? Part of this, I think, comes as a result of Ron Reyes’ vocals, which occasionally sound like credible apes of Henry Rollins’ vocal style – hell, the first song on the rec, “My Heart’s Pumping,” sounds like Hank (with theremin!) – and other times have the same slurry cadence of the aforementioned mid-90’s bands, despite the unmistakable imprint of Ginn’s guitar histrionics (take a listen to “It’s So Absurd” or “Lies” for evidence thereof).
Since its online arrival, the easy shorthand for “What The….” has been to dismiss it outright as utter crap. Doing so is certainly easier than trying to swim through the morass of chatter around the band and record— or to listen to it objectively. I don’t think it’s horrible – again, it’s great to hear weirdo guitar blaps from Ginn again. It is strange, though, to listen and hear other newer (and —sorry, dudes—lesser) bands in “What The…” It’s like gene splicing or incest or something: the old DNA has been consumed, processed by new bands, and in turn reprocessed, intentionally or not, at the point of origin. It’s probably completely disgusting. Unless and until, like Greg Ginn, you honestly don’t give a shit.
Michael T. Fournier
Slicing into thought itself,
stringing flight noiselessly
through thick yellow light that hunkers
over the asphalt, the tall illuminations,
the pallid sky––between Interstate and motel,
unnoticed mostly, the moth-eaters convene,
ambitious, fast, exuberant––
releasing hunger into dexterity––arrows––
the elegant markings under their wings
flash with air-borne, vulnerable joy.
The Air that divides Us
I am collecting presences––cicadas––my eyes are burning,
your voices, swelling and subsiding, my composure worn
thin by this hum, this wind compressing the past.
Did the masters of cathedral windows study your translucence,
your wings, the magnificent eyes?
Dry, relentless turmoil urging the earth-time.
Under harsh desert light, I will grow pale-green skin, with nothing
but truth, a long segmented stalk for you to cling to, singing.
In the great river’s bed, a trickle of small rocks,
their colors arranged by last rain’s run-off.
My hands smell of pinyons, shade, the hum of flies.
High-up loom the mountain’s granite teeth.
I pass my time, rooted by the heat,
the way a plant finds water.
Creeping under my covers, I find a horned lizard, flattened
against the ground, concealing the shadows. His eyes blink.
I do not touch him. He waits among the straggling plants,
then burrows under the torso of a fallen cactus.
His plates and ridges, the sharp spines along the sides,
the crown of distending horns––ornaments that merely mimic
the lives of rock. Lying stiffly, I try a tongue flick, I snap
for prey. Cornered, he will squirt blood from the rims of his eyes.
At sunrise, his colors are nimble¬––the toes radiate outward
to grasp the vertical. The horned temples bask in light.
He bought the book secondhand in Las Cruces.
It is bound in leather. By the tailgate of his pickup,
he sets up his folding chair, his propane burner,
the cigarettes. Above, the rock slide bares
the mountain’s youth. He reads through
dark tobacco smoke––his cough
rips and lumbers. The creek feeds into
Copper Canyon, Water Canyon––
all the way to the ocean.
Leonore Hildebrandt grew up in Germany and teaches writing at the University of Maine. Living “off the grid” in Harrington, Maine, she is member of the Flatbay Collective and serves as an editor for the Beloit Poetry Journal. Her poetry has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Poetry Salzburg Review, and the Quercus Review, among others. Look for more of her work here and in forthcoming print issues of Cabildo Quarterly.
What is Happening?
on seeing the work of Daniel Anselmi
It is a picture of your life.
It is in this room.
It is not the heart of the wind in sweetest May;
It is not the old light of merry Vienna;
You are not the hero.
It is lace, manufactured in Boston.
Their account book had pages like that.
Moss paint from the bridge you see Thursday afternoons.
Your age, your profession,
Your name is on that list.
Is this chaos? disorder? some cast-off?
A happenstance that you met on the sidewalk?
Well, what kind of life are you living?
With what kind of eyes do you see?
It is a hero, stark on cardstock.
Not the one that saves people.
Not the one who is bulletproof.
It is the image in your head, the one you were trying to be:
A silhouette thrown by the elders, an old coin found
in the gutter.
Oh see how it shines!
When is the moment of discovery?
This little world’s all yours, whether you’ve guessed it
yet or not,
Breathing right before your eyes, but what have you found?
You tell me.
Lacette, Lagerbom, Langdon;
The leather was the cover of a thesis.
Those loops took years to perfect.
This could be huge.
Witness the cut of the coat,
The strength and the swish of the parchment:
The sable has such intrigue, it draws you along.
Follow the thread of those smiles,
The font standing strange and baroque,
A fugue-line from form to phantom;
There is a rhythm here.
These are not scraps.
The torn bits of things you know are combined almost as if
in a dream.
If this is a fantasy, it’s made of what you just saw.
Engwall. Engman. Electrolyte.
’63. ’71. ’72. Those boots were London.
Can you still picture her hat?
You cannot quite spell out its law, but you remember it all.
The pieces are not all the same. One scrap is not the next.
Another twist catches the eye, and another gray glimmers;
The grime is large, contains multitudes;
This minute will not come again. You will turn a new leaf.
It is always slightly out of focus; this almost has the shape
of an idea.
It is on the horizon of your knowledge;
It is just past the edge of your conduct;
Each relic you see was traced by another’s hand.
The silk has the shape of an idea.
Has the shape of an idea about silk.
Can this even be pronounced?
This plight is a half-told frame, its lines thick as a plot.
This is 23 Duck Street.
What does this all mean? and do the sidewalks care?
They do not make that tulle anymore.
That watermark is defunct.
This was not your idea. This is the thing itself.
Will you know the face when you see it? Or skip to the icon?
Will you feel the meat and the muscle, or tarry with notions?
If this is a riddle, then somebody is asking it.
This could come in useful.
If this is a book, read on.
Theodore, Thierry, Tortoise;
From the third floor, you can see everything.
Are we all just back where we started?
You should trace it again.
Dawson, Dynamo, Dearborn.
Where are you?
You are in this room.
What is happening?
This texture contains the whole story.
It is a picture of your life.
It is in a room, or not in a room.
This is real history.
This is your fortune.
It is right before your eyes.
Jacob Fricke is he poet laureate of Belfast, Maine. More of his work will be published in forthcoming print issues of Cabildo Quarterly.
Review: [alt] 3.3, “Horses In The Library” by Kyle Richmond-Crosset, and [alt]: music 1, Kyle Stuckey on Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city”
“If found, please read,” says each installment.
That’s the big crux in 2013, isn’t it? Not the work, and not the availability of the work, but the availability of all the other work, the barrage of information all the time on our multiple screens. So much information follows the law of diminishing marginal returns: the more there is, the less it’s worth. Voices are lost, ideas, songs, in the quick hit and the ‘success’ of virality.
So it’s with great interest that I follow [alt], a product of Springfield, Massachusetts’ Renaissance School. My buddy Ben Stein (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a contributor to Cabildo Quarterly, in addition to being a swell dude) has brought a small-press approach to the school’s writers, neatly packaging essays in chapbook/fanzine form, which affords each writer a space of his or her own, but is readily recognizable as part of a community.
The packaging is distinctive in its own right – after all, how many arty-but-samey school literary journals are out there? Zillions. And because there are so many voices in each one, the same diminishing marginal returns apply as writers are buried under the weight of bindery page counts. [alt] gives us what is needed, no more and no less, in a self-contained package which may or may not lead to pursuing other installments. Regardless, the writing is there, in your hands, whether passed to you by someone, or found on the seat of a bus, like a secret.
Installment 3.3, “Horses In The Library” by Kyle Richmond-Crosset, shows remarkable poise in its discussion of the author’s schoolby wrestling transgression and its implications, real and imagined. Richmond-Crosset’s work urgently pushes narrative forward even as it dotes lovingly on the details of its setting, no small feat.
The first installment of the [alt]: music series, which focuses on specific artists and albums dear to each author, gives us an impressive rumination on Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” by Kyle Stuckey. I know I’m sometimes guilty of believing stereotypes of the younger generation and their attention spans (or lack thereof). Stuckey gives me hope that there are still droves of music listeners coming up who have the thoughtful willingness to consider music as it is presented in album format: his analysis of Lamar’s longplayer is impressive both its scope and context, as the album is triangulated in the album landscape.
So [alt], each individual installment or as a whole, isn’t calling out for pings or hits or viral microbursts. Its form and quiet confidence ask an audience to do what’s good for it: consider each piece on its own merit, as writers, in the present, and, years later, in the long term, as we see them evolve evolve, in their own times and contexts.
Michael T. Fournier
Our foes are in our midst and all about us.
—Henry David Thoreau
Someone was found dead after someone in a turban stepped out of an alley.
Someone knew someone recited the Qu’ran in her basement at night.
Someone knew someone borrowed sugar from a Muslim.
Someone told someone to mind her own business.
Someone told someone your business is my business.
Someone told someone she loved Omar Khyaman, a Taliban rap artist.
Someone saw a lady in a chartreuse dress kiss a cop in Boston after
watching a Pussy Riot video.
Someone never answered her cellphone & didn’t text or tweet.
Someone swore someone on Facebook had stolen her image.
Someone swore someone had stolen her imagination.
Someone swore someone had stolen her name & numbers.
Someone swore someone wished to remain nameless.
Someone complained about America’s infrastructure.
Someone complained about America’s info structure.
Someone complained about America’s statesmanship.
Someone complained about America’s ship of state.
Someone complained about Americans on Mars.
Someone complained about frost heaves on the back roads.
Someone complained about global warming.
Someone complained about colder weather.
Someone complained about lack of wilderness.
Someone complained about lack of courtesy.
Someone complained about too many acronyms.
Someone complained about acrimonious salesclerks.
Someone complained about illegal immigrants.
Someone complained about dog poop on the sidewalk.
Someone complained about cruelty in April.
Someone complained about taxes.
Someone complained about T.S. Eliot’s wife.
Someone complained about the obscurity of poets.
Someone complained about the language of love.
Someone complained about the explication of the text.
Someone complained love & war were the same text.
Someone complained to somebody, and someone told somebody else.
Kathleen Ellis is originally from California and has lived in Maine since 1977. She teaches poetry at the University of Maine, Orono. Her poem “Lolita” will appear in the forthcoming Cabildo Quarterly #5.
My cousin on Facebook
today posted a picture:
Our grandmother, now 85,
on her couch with her six great-grandkids.
Her face was the same
color as her hair, the same
color as her nails,
same color as my front window,
through which I just now saw
a woman the color
of coffee and with
a tattoo of a leopard climbing
the back of her thigh. I only
saw the leopard’s body; it’s head
was hidden somewhere up
under those tiny, pink shorts.
Nurses Who Love English by Paula Marie Coomer
Paula Marie Coomer is a nurse and writer who uses poems as balm. Her latest collection of poetry Nurses Who Love English gives a diverse coalescence of lyric story and song: a soundtrack to a personal history that traces American landscapes of ghosts, rivers, mountains, healers, wanderers and the divine. The language in these poems feels authentic, giving the sense of passing through forest roads and being let into secrets near campfires, in fields and in diners.
The poems range stylistically from couplets to syllabics to found poems, all containing imagery of earth, dream, memory, presence and desire. Coomer’s use of the prose poem is notably musical and enchanting:
“He carves us pitch for better spark and hotter kindling to knit old times with folks he doesn’t even know. The fire keeps you and I tippling Glenlivet and telling serendipity tales long after he drives into the October dim.
Brook trout with strawberry bellies, fins dipped white-edged, trimmed like frosting, leave Strawberry Lake by the scores to spawn, thick enough to walk across the fingers of the delta. I think it’s a miracle and accuse you: you led us here because humans need to see miracles now and again.” - from“Strawberry Lake’s Photo Album”
One of the most compelling aspects of Coomer’s poetry is the surprising and spiritual glimpses into human relationships.
Nurses Who Love English offers current social commentary, like in “Polar Bear SOS,” which gives stark and realistic visions of polar bears drowning in the melting polar icecap, and in “A New Poetry,” where the luck of a few people is juxtaposed with the destruction of others, and the raven’s song has the final say. While using art to imitate the life of now, Nurses Who Love English keeps hold of a well-rooted foundation capable of transforming the heartbreak of loss and war with beauty and love.
The book showcases other types of transformation as well. In “On Leaving Home” the narrator describes boldly breaking free of her Indiana homeland at a young age, and how the place “never said, daughter, why don’t you/come on home, now, you hear? It just let me/go. It let me take my satchel and book bag/and follow the creek out of the woods, down/and out of my holler.” Here the narrator recognizes the need to spread her wings in order to survive, yet she is pulled by a telepathic message from her Aunt Imogene, “Smart girls don’t drill holes in the water bucket.” The poem ends. Such unsentimental telling is a Paula Marie Coomer signature, seen also in the Americana traveling poem that comprises her chapbook Road.
Coomer’s poems show us how to meld into our surroundings, which in turn become us, and give us the wisdom to love trees, sip water straight from the well, and listen to birds give blessings, “Safe journey earth daughter.”
Review by Lisa Panepinto
So, by all means, let’s talk DIY. The impulse to make a zine can come from a number of corners these days: to collaborate with someone else on a specific project; to release something different int…
A review of Mike’s zine “Kayfabe” here. Thanks to Tobias Caroll. Hit me up if you’d like a copy.