Robert Kelly Festschrift

Below, my excerpt from the festschrift collection of writing for, around &/or about Robert Kelly.


The entirety of the collection here:

Click to access RK-festschrift.pdf


Catholic Tastes

for Robert Kelly


1.) “catholic”

When I first met/became friends with Robert (as his advisee) I was at the helm of a little poetry magazine that contained the work of some old friends of his…lots of them, actually…alongside the work of my own friends. There were still many others whose work I liked enough to maybe believe its authors might also be friendly people. That might bridge the terrible inevitable gaps of time/influence/geography/faith(s): “Your magazine is very Catholic!” Robert said. “Giving a wide berth.” That sufficed for me…very well, and complimentary too…I thought that was an apt description of what I was up to, or at any rate, trying to do.


2.) “tally-ho”

The most un-useful & un-necessary word I ever conspired to place in my poems. I guess I liked the look & sound of it. Prof. Kelly was kind enough to point this out…almost too kindly…but what…was I trying to become some sort of 18th century British polo-playing aristocrat verse-ifier? Jesus, no! Almost every other word surrounding it though (luckily) in what I presented at that time made some sort of contemporary sense, had actual meaning.


3.) “fried shoe”

Gregory Corso? A tangent…but the maestro again making a point about desire vs. necessity in a poet’s language. Necessity sounds a little desperate…a bit nerve-wracking…better stick with desire! But if Greg wanted to throw a “fried shoe” into the middle of his poem he is justified. We’ll never know the need or want behind it. Could it be both? We have never even seen a fried shoe, and come to think of it now…this phrase may’ve even been a Robert original. Memorable!


4.) “the Flarf in our head(s)”

So many petty lines of conflict that pull writers away from one another. Robert & I both agreed there was enough Flarf-like mess in our heads anyway to fill a book’s worth (or two) a year. Keep the search engine in your pocket: save it for later. Randomness may also be inevitable (to some aesthetic degree…) whether or not we look to the Internet or academia or anything at all, for our own reflection, or for what’s happening/going(s) on outside our most private-colored sanctuaries.


5.) “where I grew up in Brooklyn everyone talks like this”

Is it true? The poet’s own accent…I stood once outside a bar in Manhattan along 14th Street (circa 2006) and spoke with a fellow who had a similarly interesting accent. I could’ve sworn he was from England somewhere. So I asked him, but he said he was decidedly not from there. He was from Brooklyn, and wanted me to know the absurdity of my query. I wish I could remember his name. It was some remarkable dignity of cadence and the resonance of the vowels…like Rimbaud’s vowels…that stood out to me. I don’t even remember what the name of this mythical neighborhood was, but it seems as though I’ve maybe already met two people who once called it home.



from a world of noise

these travellers like you and me

exchanging improvised customs


7.) “what is not here

        is nowhere



should live in cities


these ghostly edens of twilight


where all we have never been

mocks what we are”

— excerpt from the R.K. poem “Last Light” (1960-something)


8.) “how to let everyone in”

Names of course being the first cardinal obscenity & sin that we (poets especially) are so guilty of. Back in the good ol’ days the word was all. Less egotism that way!

Language resists possession. John Wieners removing stars from his poems for example in favor of parking lots: “Drive a great big car / into the parking lot.”

I blame the troubadours, Dante, young Werther, Villon, Apollinaire, those who put milk in their coffee, swans, Bard Spleen, Denise Levertov, Boris Vian, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, the sly post-modern eras…Bernadette Mayer, Robert Duncan, Pindar & Goya’s “quick adulterous tread at the heart.”




I grew up in a small town

where churches burned down frequently



At the hands of Irish and Quebecois

gamblers, pirates & railroad people



Their melody is the situation


10.) “a poem about time-gaps”

I is an extra. Rimbaud was just a spoiled little brat who never worked a day in his life. The quality of his dreams however could sustain him. The dumbfounded child who won’t let go of your hand…it’s The Hands of Jeanne-Marie, or a coven of woolgathering Sufi carrying around their ostrich luggage. No religion but poetry.

upcoming performances

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.26.48 PM

upcoming performances:

BOSTON 9/18 – (TOMORROW!!!) @ Le Mat First Issue Premier Launch

8pm – 10pm, Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More
541 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

NEW YORK 10/17 – @ The Segue Poetry Reading Series (alongside Drew Gardner’s Poetics Orchestra)

4:30pm – 6:30 pm, The Zinc Bar — 82 West 3rd St. NYC, between Thompson and Sullivan St.

Blaise and co.

BLAISE CENDRARS was born the same year as the oldest person alive
but he died
he would have been 127 years old today, one hundred years older than me
and as old as Leandra Becerra Lumbreras turned just yesterday
Happy Birthday(s) to them both. Happy Labor Day
“La vie que j’ai menée / M’empêcher de me suicider / Tout bondi …”
“La femme, la danse que Nietzsche a voulu nous apprendre à danser / La femme / Mais l’ironie?”


okay shameless self-promotion meets respectful obituary: maybe everyone knows this but one of ALAIN RESNAIS’s earliest film efforts was a tongue-in-cheek industrial film “The Song Of Styrene”, with narration by RAYMOND QUENEAU: i did this TRANSLATION below of RQ’s narration in like 2009 I think during my COLLEGE DAYS:


Oh time, suspend your bowl, oh plastic form

Where do you come from? Who are you? What is the story

Behind your unique features? What are you made of?

Perhaps a review of your ancestry is enough.

We begin the adventure in reverse! Observe the mold

A mysterious prototype…it makes untold

Varieties of objects, like bowls or what-have-you.

The mold is the important part of a huge

Press that injects the paste to shape the piece,

With its remarkable advantage being

That it creates a thing in one fell scoop.

The mold is costly and must be put to good use.

Vacuum shaping is another way

Of fashioning objects with a hint or two of grace.

Long before that however, the warmed

Material needs to lie gently on a board.

To enter the nozzle, it required a piston

And a special kind of heating system

In which the lively, quick and turbulent

Polystyrene hurried without relent.

The granules swarm across the vibrant sieve

Bounding with marvelous colors, ever since

Becoming a wide variety of straws

Of every imaginable tint, shade and nuance

Set to speed along through narrow tubes

Linked together by a single screw.

And so from this gelatinous mass, with time,

The rainbow-esque beads and pearls emerge to find

The pigments they uniformly mingle with

Before they tumble and rotate to dry and stiffen.

There it is born, the famous polystyrene,

A compound derived from simpler forms of styrene.

Polymerization describes the act

Of all the molecules combining in that

Dark elementary electric machine

Specially built by an engineering team.

The molecules begin to cling together

And pearls begin to form, as if for a necklace.

The styrene itself began as a colorless liquid.

Somewhat explosive, it smells stronger than you think.

Closer inspection reveals the substance to be

An obscure and most peculiar entity.

Styrene gets produced most often en masse

From ethylbenzene overheating in vats.

It used to also come from benzoin,

A tree of Indonesian origin.

And so from tube to tube, onwards we go

Through a desert of channels where the substance flows

Towards the raw beginning, the primal abstract

Circulating without end on its track,

Cleaning, distilling, and re-distilling for miles.

It’s more than just an exercise in style!

So long as the temperature is high and holds

Ethylbenzene will combust on its own.

But exactly how is it derived? It’s no sweat—

In fact, it’s a vaporous ethylene mess

With liquid benzene. Petrol and coal perform

The task of helping the gases combust and transform.

We continue along these hallowed paths to discover

How one exists in harmony with the other.

Does petroleum come from masses of fish?

Coal is equally mysterious.

Perhaps petroleum comes from tiny planktons?

These questions have controversial origins.

Petroleum and coal were all up in smoke

Before the chemist arrived with passion and hope

To render gases solid, and reach the goal

Of harnessing Nature’s awesome powers in the home.

And yet there are other materials waiting still

For sciences’ effort to help them transform, until…

Eureka! New and improved by compound mutation:

A product to purchase at your nearby location.