In Lincoln I slept on the deepest couch, 2010. Jeff tore limbs from trees and positioned them in mailboxes. They were gone in the morning when we marveled at the spectral sign of the League for Human Dignity and did wheatgrass shots to prepare for our reading at sp ce, but it was OK, because Jeff was soon to be wed, and there was a lot of public sculpture/spaghetti house around. We called it circling the drain, and the clouds affirmed. See the palatial phallus where JD once lived? Wanna Vietnamese sandwich? So Kyle took me to the kind of house show I saw every weekend in Olympia and haven’t seen since, and when the police came we were unafraid because have you seen Kyle’s beard? He traded me shirts and told me I should’ve been taller. I tore shingles from the roof and reassured the comedian I had once been a roofer, so it was cool. Then it was Hitler’s intended capital. Then we offended another comedian who’d saved up his heckle retorts, and Paul had to get back to some pizzas. I met Carlin! Jeff’s best heckle was “boo,” and Kyle showed me a stage that could’ve been for peacocks in powdered wigs infiltrating the Gatorade-shaded park, and the mosquitoes weren’t bad. I read poems in this sp ce seen below [videos of readings], ate things in burritos, really loved meeting all these people making a sp ce amazingly and with more rough verve than most who speak of “community arts” typically understand, adored Justin’s hoodie, tried to help a spare change guy from the corner where dudes were messin’ him and got talked to by an undercover community op cop. The jokes I’d make here to please Jeff wouldn’t please anyone else (before I said it, he understood “spare change” as a “sp(are) c(hang)e” “joke”…). I have spent years making them, and now there is a sadness in it Jeff you will understand I am trying to capture the spirit of our lives together but in a lexicon two or three others might also sled toward? Jeff and I lived together in deep Massachusetts with a weight bench and two hundred books of puns and once made enchiladas three nights in a row with increasingly better ingredients. Last night my actual wife and I made ‘chiladas with seiten we (she) made at home and wetting our hands in some sauce spoke of Jeff Downey, and of Lincoln, Nebraska, and of the photographs of Jeff Downey, father famous for vistas and you eat the snake you kill, of which this last week’s Lincoln poets also to me now in their brilliance seem. Because we didn’t have Jeff we were short two tortillas to fill out the pan, and the latent sauce reminded us of the absence of not least his strong eye but his two tree-ruddy hands. Oh, but in Chicago this month there was Kyle and Paul! A common friend called Kyle “that soft-eyed poet.” Who is anybody right now I don’t miss. Invite us back to anywhere though not a moment too soon. ZS
Archive for the ‘Lincoln Nebraska Poets’ Category
Innate Nebraskan Jeff Downey, whose poems once appeared in Thermos, edited and introduced this week’s poets who’re associated with sp ce, the Lincoln, NE, gallery/reading space/beer palace. Here he’s interviewing two of them, Paul Clark and Kyle Crawford, re: poetry, destruction, community, and Georg Trakl.
JD: The first time I met with you guys to talk about poems you were calling yourselves simply “Writers’ Group” and convening mostly in basements. That setting, its punk feel, seemed important then. (I remember vividly the reading you hosted in an unfinished basement that ended with everyone smashing old electronics into the wall.) How do you see sp ce gallery as an extension or departure from that place and time?
PC: Well, we still call writer’s group “Writer’s Group.” The room we convene in currently is smaller and shittier than almost any of the places we have convened in regularly in the past. Things have been destroyed in sp ce, I count a bookshelf and a laptop as casualties to the studio. Oh ya, and a gigantic fluorescent light that I personally smashed in a drunken rampage. As far as talking about poems goes, we still do that a lot, too.
KC: “Punk” is an interesting term to use here. I think that one could certainly look at what we were doing and consider some of the elements therein “punk,” but I don’t necessarily think we ever set out to be perceived that way. Punk insofar as DIY and a general disregard or indifference toward anyone who didn’t “get” what we were doing, or those who may have seen it as illegitimate. I do, however, think it’s important to note that no one outside of our “friends” really knew what the hell was going on in the first place. It wasn’t as if we set out to create something for any sort of recognition, we just wanted to do something outside of the academic setting. So we did. Meeting in basements and giving readings in basements was simply the result of availability of a space that wouldn’t annoy any of our roommates. It was an excuse for us to be overtly supportive of each other and drink booze and to be merry.
The initial “readings,” as I guess we’re calling them for the sake of this discussion, were house parties with poetry going on in the basement. They were thrown together sort of last minute as I recall, and Dan (whose house we were having the party at) had a really dank, shitty basement filled with junk he didn’t care about. I think he saw destruction as an added incentive for people to show up. It certainly worked. I didn’t really take part in destroying things, I think I may have thrown a record at the wall, but who wouldn’t? There was a sense of attention within those early readings, though. Most people did actually pay attention to the work being read. Everyone was drunk and slightly intrigued to understand what the hell was going on. It wasn’t stuffy. It wasn’t academic. It was fun, and people saw that and came back time after time.
sp ce came about because I thought we could do something at least as interesting as whatever else was taking place in the community artistically at that time. Part of me probably wanted some sort of validation or legitimacy for my friends and their work. Hosting readings in basements only goes so far, and only reaches so many people. I was definitely curious to see what a more public reaction would be. The readings have certainly tamed over the years, but the vibe entered a new kind of seriousness once sp ce began. At least for me. But honestly, I’m not really sure if meeting in and giving readings in sp ce legitimized what we were doing within the community. It made me feel good about what we were doing only because we were still having fun and we had a consistent venue to promote things we supported and enjoyed. It also gave us the opportunity to branch out into other art forms and establish a wider sense of community with people who were sort of on the outside looking in because they weren’t necessarily into writing poems.
JD: What have you been working on lately, individually and at sp ce gallery?
PC: At sp ce I recently moved the purple couch. Justin described the new layout as “ZEN AS FUCK.” I’ve also been sweeping the floor more when I’m there. As far as things that matter go, we try to scrape together some art, some music, and some poetry every First Friday. Credit goes completely to Justin for that, although I have lined up some readers. We also have Writer’s Group up there twice a month, and that is going pretty well.
As for me, for a long time I rarely wrote poems with titles. In the past year titles have become dominant. I’m just going to list a bunch of titles I’m infatuated with: KIDNEY LUST, VAST AS FUCK, WILL YOU WRITE ABOUT THE WHEEL?, I LOVE TREES & I LOVE SCIENCE, A PEEBLE FACIFIST, YOU’LL BE DEAD IN A DAY, YOU ARE MORAL AND I LIKE THAT, I LIKE IT IN THE CRAFT WHEN SHE SAYS “WE ARE THE WEIRDOS, MISTER.”, SOMBERTOWN, FLORIST OF THE YEAR, FERROZARA, EYE SOCKET, I WISH I HAD A MONTH, DO YOU WORK FOR THE C.I.A.?
KC: I moved to Boise, Idaho for graduate school in August of 2010. I gave my key to sp ce to Justin or Paul and headed West with the hope they would continue working toward whatever they wanted to work toward. I am fully supportive of what they’re doing, and think they’re staying as true as they can to whatever it is they believe in at this point. I don’t really have much, if any, input on what goes on in sp ce these days, but I definitely miss having the opportunity to be a part of something with my best friends.
As I said, I moved to Boise to start my MFA in poetry in August of 2010. Since moving here, I’ve been working on poems poems poems (surprise!). At this point I’m trying to establish some sort of poetic identity for the poems themselves. I get the sense that my poems are very closed off to the world in relation to their available access for a reader. We’ll call them closed shells. I’ve really started identifying myself more and more with poets who operated in this mode. Georg Trakl specifically. Rainer Maria Rilke said of Trakl,
“In the meantime I have received ‘Sebastian in a Dream’ and have dipped into it a lot: deeply moved, marveling, divining and perplexed; for one quickly understands that the conditions of this swelling and fading of music were irretrievably singular, like the circumstances from which a dream might arise. I can imagine that even someone close to him experiences these commanding views and insights as if pressed to panes of glass, as one excluded: for Trakl’s experience moves as if in mirror images and fills his entire world, which no one can set foot in, like the space in a mirror. (Who can he have been?)”
Intriguing for sure, but I also find this mode to be somewhat frustrating and limiting. I recently read an essay by Robert Duncan called, “The Self in Postmodern Poetry,” where he articulates his process in a way that I would, humbly, try to describe my own:
“I work with what is the matter with this life in an alchemical operation seeking not the overthrow of the matter–though increasingly the theme of letting it all go comes into the works–but the transvaluation of that matter. I read and write, gathering darkness, I would say, deepening the rift. Here, this matter of self must be seen not as undergoing change–the word itself is in question. But I work only in question; mine is a questionable work.”
Establishing an identity for a poem has been very difficult for me at this point. I’m trying to experiment with different approaches, reading poets who I haven’t necessarily identified with as much, Mayakovsky, for instance, writes poems very differently than I do. Along with Trakl, his work is very important to me at this point in my life. Separating myself or my Self from the poem’s Self has been a struggle, and I would assume will always be one for me. I think it’s important for poets to remember Duncan’s position where he said, “The poem, not the poet, seeks to be immortal and must go deep enough into its mortality to come to that edge.”
Warmly rounding out our Lincoln feature is sp ce co-founder and poet Justin Fyfe. From Schuyler, Nebraska, Justin is a free espouser of the body and its couches. His blog WHISKY IS FOR FRIENDS (at justinryanfyfe.blogspot.com/) is the most enduringly updated blog RSS can feed. Stay soon for an interview with Paul Clark and Kyle Crawford.
controls out of my factor
pen and paper haves
my wrists are horse knees too
i love you times infinity
clay nipples for the shaping
the way you mountain over pacific
and i wish my legs were arms
and i cant see you with my hands
pinching at sex like a chore
my sweeping or hiding everything under a bed
where gods cannot see
a lead mattress with stains from a body
from when the roof leaked or the cat died
or when i swam into you etc.
i’m struggling to understand my own existence
in the poem, where there is no poem
a wall there, pressing my face against it
to feel the cold move from metal into skin,
teeth become magnetized to what should be said
in the poem, where there is no poem
and questions are just words i don’t understand
because my mouth parts won’t stop talking–
things fall from things thinging, and scared me
in the poem, where there is no poem
then lightning, then thunder
wind, wind, and the storm forming
thoughts on the night when there is no storm
in the poem, where there is no poem
A poem by Kyle Crawford, co-founder of sp ce gallery and third poet in our Lincoln series. One (forthcoming) interview with Kyle bios all.
In a word, yes. Although here it wasn’t.
The village square met in the middle there
where all eyes were its focus—a steeple
rising above the tree’s shadows, above
the bells sounding hymns for time keeping,
keeping courage for tomorrow’s waking,
tomorrows ago remembered and todays
This was before the water rose. Before
the chunks of rock were heaved upon the
A single boat directed me, then.
Directions weren’t actual directions, there, where
my east wasn’t east as west wasn’t your west, too.
Despair isn’t ever despair without itself there,
and it wasn’t. Because rain makes want makes
us listen to its coming on or stirring about. It
considered us lucky, then, to live without it, or to
live with our made rain as we did or do or are
doing or have done now for days or days and days.
Still, it stood. Not a symbol but a steeple. All glass
but not glass, a steeple.
And then came the sacrifice. A village a village of
saturation for better days to come. To build higher.
To build stronger and higher than. A bubble of glass
swallowed it all up and up. The steeple not sad but
sinking. Not so much sinking but rising with
the water, then. Now look down to it, now look
down. Its glass is still glass but a broken steeple’s
just that same broken steeple.
Village ghosts are the lucky last ones lucky. Sing it with
Words aren’t glass but are. A boat is a boat and is.
We continue our series of Lincoln poets with two poems by Rachael Wolfe. After four years of studying gender and creative writing, Rachael graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Afterwards she snagged a job with State government, and is currently plotting escape to a poem commune of Amanda Huckins’ creation.
He is mine and I am caught
in a stew pot.
You pull out a glass and think
mother. You pull on a dress. It’s been cut
too low. You only
think you could wear it To the movies. Around
It’s beautiful the way
we are dumb to each other.
It’s this and it’s then.
Where the rabbit got under
You like vowels like they’re organs like they’re worth money.
Here’s your body liquid here’s
your money. Drink a little water
or spit it back up
in the plastic. We are
we are animals. It’s something
to laugh at.
Here’s a little piece of fat
put it in your mouth. And thank
the television Thank
the entire department. Six
inside two aluminum trays.
You didn’t make it fast
you didn’t leave it.
Continuing our place-specific, hale younger poets series, over the next week we’ll be featuring four poets from Lincoln, Nebraska. These poets are part of a group of writers, most graduates of the University of Nebraska, known towardly as Writer’s Group. They are all associated in one way or another with the sp ce gallery in downtown Lincoln. Paul Clark is our first feature. He grew up in McCook, NE and is co-founder of the sp ce gallery. The poet Greg Kuzma, serving as a reverence, once told a potential landlord that Paul has “the most acute sense of justice” of any writer he has ever known. He lives in Omaha and has more to say about the sun at paulhansonclark.blogspot.com.
what if we couldn’t swim to glaciery glaciers.
there are parks for not seeing what you are.
it’s irrigation. it’s fancy. it’s such a obvious
extension of thirst. firstwise: why enter
into an agreement with the sun if the sun is
gradually becoming 10% more luminous every 1 billion years.
why tell a story about those who committed
& were not more. & sand isn’t more. sand isn’t glass.
glass isn’t stained. it’s raining. there’s a TV on.
& none of those things will always be true.
i don’t think that joke “you don’t count” is funny, really.
but really, i know.
i could chew chewing gum for years,
& i could blow bubbles,
& you could watch the bubbles,
& you could pop the bubbles,
& you could wear the bubbles,
& the bubbles could be a life for us,
& a life made out of chewing gum bubbles is a life,
until it isn’t.
“Really, you’re very special to cry when things get broken,
to cry when you have broken things.”
that’s a line.
the next line is about everything breaking.
1. breathing through bronze is impossible.
2. i hate you & declarative statements.
3. heard on the radio: “they were plundered
by the plunderers who plundered them.”
4. a stranger sent this message on Facebook: “I’m handing it over to you. Keep up the cause. Thank you for your kind comments.”
5. this is where the poem really begins,
think of everything else as a conceptual title.
6. the level of alcohol
directly correlates to the frequency of thoughts re: ‘obtaining a rope.’
7. i don’t look like a cantaloupe,
but i feel like cantaloupe.