Friday, October 18, 2013

We've Hit 30,000 Views!

I tried to find the right flag but each one I posted ended up with me getting carbombed
Although the hits could just be from my mother...or yours. No matter. In honor of this historic milestone I have seven poems you can read in A New Ulster (magazine headquarters pictured above). I'm right next to Walter Ruhlmann, who has published my work before.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Black Wire Magazine has a poem of mine in it. The Illustrated Civil War. In care you're bored with words the issues has some nifty pictures in it to look at instead! And now, in quasi-honor of the magazine, I am going to listen to Backwater by Brian Eno. Ciao.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lacking Lips of Time: A Book Review

I read this book back in August and I have waited several weeks to review it. That should give you some taste of the problems with this work, since it would require me to revisit its horrors. Who knew 86 pages could make one doubt the entire enterprise of verse so mercilessly? I have managed to resist the philistine machinations of the invisible hand so far but Shaghayegh Farsijani makes me really doubt the purpose and presentation of poetry in a world gone prose.

But for your sake, dear readers, I have finally worked up enough courage and boredom to share a warning about this work with the rest of the world. But first, I think it is important to summarize all the things I did instead of writing this review. First, I worked for a company processing insurance claims on behalf of colleges and universities. Then I wrote a novel. It’s only 68,000 words long, but that is decent. The Great Gatsby only clocks in at 48,000 words. After that I got drunk a few times, mailed biohazardous materials through the mail, read want-ads, chained myself to the endless ride of the Red Line, got a haircut, clipped my nails, harassed Tea Party congressmen on Facebook, applied to a job at Simon and Schuster, froze on top of a pizzeria in Adams Morgan, and looked at paintings with proto-hipstersin them and others ripping off Michelangelo in the National Gallery of Art. All of these were infinitely better than reading and trying to review Lacking Lips of Time.

I do not believe in Cartesian dualism and all subsequent theories of the soul, but if there is any argument for a mind-body distinction, this book is evidence for it. Something inside me was crushed while trying to read the lines poetess Shaghayegh Farsijani assembled. It obviously was not my body which was harmed, since my skin seems pretty good. Irish Spring fresh and clean and all that. Maybe I incurred irreparable damage to my liver and brain cells while trying to assimilate these words. It is entirely possible. In which case I deserve more free drinks from all poets everywhere. I read this collection while riding the subterranean rails of DC and after every enjambment, I felt like hurling the thin volume across the train. Thankfully I had the restraint to keep from injuring poor taxpaying commuters who would be furloughed soon enough. If the work was any longer though, I would not have had the temptation at flinging it. The book would have been too heavy to toss.  A real tome. It would have just been an anchor around my neck and sunk me to the bottom of the burnt orange carpets of the Great Society-inspired train.

I would advise the purchase of this novel for educational purposes only, which of course is no endorsement at all. A person should just read better books and assimilate lessons about writing that way. But I am trying to be kind here and come up with some redeemable feature so we can go on with the illusion that all will be saved in this universe. That Pelagian dream: all will be repackaged and no feelings will be hurt. So sayeth me. I guess I just feel bad for the trees involved in making this book. I wonder if any chipmunks or other woodlandcreatures lost their abodes over these poems. Their blood in on Shaghayegh Farsijani’s hands. I say that in all seriousness because these poems are a blight that only needs curious hands to open the pages and reproduce.  

I should have realized I was in trouble right from the start. You cannot judge a poetry book by its cover, but an obscurantist dedication is a warning sign of future horrors. When the author writes “Dedicated to the natural jewels of love in my life: H2O and the Emperor, AKA my Mother and Father,” you can be sure you are dealing with someone who has no regard for the reader, and who thinks their parents are too dull for simple names. There must be a whole mythology built out of them, least the poet be seen as dull by extension through some kind of genetic fallacy. Decent poets do not do this. I should say, confident poets do not do this. They do not mention their parents at all and if they do, they state it in direct terms. Mother. Father. Mom. Dad. Perhaps they go into ethnic territory, Madre. Padre. Valide. But that is it.

I could have realized I was in trouble when I read the biography on the last page as well. Shaghayegh Farsijani is a Persian American, which is no trouble in and of itself. But then the bio states she decided to embark on a journey to “write with a deeper focus.” Anyone who declares they have to do anything for the sake of focus, especially poetry writing, only admits they need to focus some more. And what does this poet need to focus on? It is hard to say, I suppose everything except symbolism. That could use less focus in this work. There is nothing but symbolism. There are symbols within symbols and when you open them up to find another meaning or some kind of reference to the outside world, guess what? There is another symbol sending you back to your search on wobbling ground.

Poetry can be divided into the good, the bad, and the ugly. One thing that can be said in the favor of ugly poetry is its honesty. You look at it on the page and itjust falls apart. It is nasty. It is not composed. It is even beyond simple defenses like “raw,” “primal,” and “experimental.” Ugly poetry has no direction, no music, no understanding of how to handle the page. The lines have just gotten out of bed and beg for forgiveness. But ugly poems rarely band together and form books. That is another one of their redeemable qualities. An editor is not lead astray and given the illusion of a possibly decent work. They see a wreck for what it is right up front. Bad poetry like this Lacking Lips of Time is different. Bad poetry makes you hope for some pay off at the end. It leads you to believe some kind of subversion is in store. Irony will come raining down and the previous problems will be washed away through a clever twist and radical subversion. In the end though, there is no twist. There is no salvation. There is no subversion.

Bad poetry turns you, the experienced reader of poetry, into the average person encountering modern poetry for the first time. You begin asking yourself all kinds of tenth-grade falling asleep in the back of English class questions. What is this? A poem? Why does this stuff not rhyme? What is going on here? Why is this line written that way? Why is this so strange? What does this mean? Bad poetry’s chief sin is pretension and the chief sin of pretension is it makes the audience see the strings holding up the actor pretending to be an angel. Bad contemporary poetry like Lacking Lips of Time, tries to imitate Rilke and Ginsberg to poor affect. Everything is murky. The poems make vague comparisons and its images fail to advance anything. There is no depth and not enough framing before descriptions get surreal.

Here is some evidence of the crimes which Shaghayegh Farsijani’s work embiggens:

She speaks of a “Mango time” which has a “spell” that can be “unlocked.” I am not sure what this tie might be. Letting my powers of free association roam, I know that Seinfeld showed us how Mangos can cause erections and that there is a house on a Mango Street. I suppose erections are a kind of spell and that houses on Mango Street can indeed, be unlocked.  Farsijani mentions “The geranium ocean of your hips,” which I have nothing for. Or “Here your cardamom sonnets have no shouts.” I have mixed cardamom with tea, which is good. That is all I can grasp here. Why the sonnets should or should not have shouts because of the cardamom is not clear. This onslaught of reason continues onward and produces monsters which bring forth such phrases as “The Bohemian moon passes through your cellar of pregnant sadness.” WTF was invented for these kinds of turn of phrase, first to express shock and then to condense it without wasting more time.

At other moments, the book gives the reader, that is me, lines like “The justice of pocket love” which has a very different meaning for me than I think she, the author, intends. In addition there are neologisms which are completely unnecessary. “De-clothes,” is an instance of this. We already have undress and disrobe, which were probably radical words when lazy monks churned them out in medieval monasteries. At this point they suffice without any need for further fruitless experimentation. This of course, only applies to Farsijani’s work when she is experimenting. When Farsijani is clear, she is dull. Overall the work is monotone in mood with no variation in perspective or energy. The line breaks and line breaks show very little difference. I am willing to entertain the idea this might be the fault of a printer who has taken liberties to double space everything.  

Besides the images in the poems which are confused and tired like a typical Tea Party voter, there are actual images in the book to contend with. These just might be the worst thing about this collection. They come in three colors: black and white and blurry. They just sit there across from the poorly crafted lines without adding anything. The poor things. They were born from an earnest pen, and then copied for the public to see despite being obvious and clichéd. Eyes, roses, and bottles of wine predominate. Each illustration raises an important question. Who really needs pictures in a poetry book? These images belong in a high school art show, especially after a lesson on Magritte.  

How the hell did this get an ISBN?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Cartoon Shape I'm In

I have poems in the Avatar Review. I believe the picture I sent is the first one Josh Barajas, my Carl Van Vechten, ever took of me. Hopefully more links to more published work will be forthcoming. I just sent out a hundred or so poems today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sharkopedia: A Book Review

            Some of you might be looking at the title of the blog post and think I’m reviewing a book of ironically titled poems which is trying to cash in/mock the current obsession (a sharknado of interest as it were) with sharks in our country. Rest assured, this is one book you can judge by its title. However, if you want to read shark-themed poetry, you can do so here. Anyway, back to the basics. Sharkopedia is 192 pages long with over 400 photos of dozens of different species of sharks. In case you were wondering, it is published in connection with Shark Week by Time Home Entertainment. Thankfully the book only makes a small mention of the program in the credits section. Its main link to the Discovery Channel’s offering is the inclusion of tidbits from shark expert Andy Dehart, who has appeared on the show.
            Now, this Sharkopedia is meant for readers ages 8 and up, so in this review, I had to consider the full range of people the book is intended for. I would not recommend it for anyone younger, unless they understand that most sharks cannot live in freshwater and that none can live in a chlorinated swimming pool. Otherwise, the pictures would give them unfounded nightmares of being attacked.  I remember when I was young and I thought it was possible for a great white to wiggle its way up a drain and start chomping away at me in the wave pool at Cameron Run. For some reason, I assumed it would only attack me right as I was leaving the water. Hey, that’s sounds a good idea for a TV movie. Get on it Hollywood. Sharks in sinks! Sharks in tubs! Sharks in baptismal fonts!
            Of course, a kid 8 years or older might have similar fears after reading this book. However, they will be easier to reason with. For instance, they will learn that bull sharks are the only shark to worry about when they are in freshwater. More importantly, they will learn that shark attacks are few and far between and they are rarely fatal. Only about 5,000 shark attacks have been reported in the whole world since the 1500s, resulting in roughly 500 deaths. In turn, half of these shark bites were provoked by humans. More people have probably been killed in hippopotamus attacks. While Sharkopedia does do a good job of stressing these facts, it tends to focus too much on anecdotes of shark-on-man violence, which makes it hard for the mind to accept sharks as nothing more than an ever-present threat lurking in the ocean, hungry for human flesh and thirsty for our blood.
            The bulk of book is colorful and informative. All the major sharks are heavily featured: the infamous great whites, megamouths, hammerheads, nurses, makos, and tiger sharks. In addition, there are dozens of other species pictured and hundreds more listed by name. Sharkopedia does a good job showing the great variety and diversity of all eight orders of sharks. There are small sharks, giant sharks, colorful sharks, sharks that look like carpets, sharks smacking into seals, and sharks basking for zooplankton. However, there is precious little information on sharks loaning money at prohibitively high rates of interest and breaking legs in lieu of seizing collateral.  
            I admit, when I started to read the book, I was put off by looking at these creatures up close. I am not sure what it was exactly. Sharks do seem to be a strange mixture of other animals, a chimera of the seas. In a stereotypical species one sees the body of fish, the fins of dolphins, and the wide toothy mouths of lions or tigers. The dark eyes are reminiscent of what one finds on a massive cephalopod or one Allie Brosh’s characters from Hyperbole and a Half. Gradually, I warmed up to these creatures, aided by the discovery that some of them are capable of thermoregulation. It was also difficult to feel threatened by the pictures of blue, sharpnose, or goblin sharks. If schools of sharks were capable of dances, they would be the perpetual wallflowers unable to land a date or a partner for a song.
            Sharkopedia passed an important test expected of any book meant for a younger audience. It kept me up past my bedtime, albeit one which I have set in accordance with the dictates of health and reason and not school or parental controls. Whenever I finished one page, I immediately wanted to go to the next one, eager to look at more pictures and learn more about this collection of animals so misunderstood by the general public. No matter what section of the book I turned to, there was plenty to learn. While any of these facts might be found online, nothing beats the way a book like this can appeal to the curious reader in all of us. It also provides an enlightening and entertaining reading experience for a parent looking to take a dry and safe dive together into the world of sharks with a child. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Get Lucky with Blurred Lines

I haven't posted anything in a while and I haven't posted poetry in an even longer time. But seeing Stephen Colbert using Henry Kissinger for his much praised performance, I don't know. It just disturbs me, along with the way everyone who is supposedly leftist and liberal looks past it. Then again, without amnesia, how could we expect Hillary Clinton to be president in 2016? She'll be making history then, as long as we can ignore the history she helped make in Babylon. I dread the day George W. Bush gets to trot out his imbecilic grin and give voice to it on the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror LVII. It will be heralded, maybe even nominated for an Emmy. So it goes. 

Get Lucky with Blurred Lines

You tell yourself he cannot be an Eichmann, no,
He is a Jew and an old Jew at that,
An old Jew could never commit such terrible crimes
Not for the banal reason of an promotion, a desk,
Evil always has an ideology behind it, at least
Evil in America needs a cross to rally behind or burn.

And he can easily go along with the joke, evil
Never jokes, never makes a cameo,
Evil demands the spotlight, it demands to be a star,
Of course you are a star too, with a show,
A show where you dance with him while an audience
Too young to remember a secret bombing laughs.

The script calls for him to call for security
To escort you from the premises,
Decades ago, he called on friends in other countries
To overthrow their presidents, fill stadiums up
With folksinging hooligans and gun them all down,
Perhaps you want to highlight the contrast?

Here he is now, harmless like an urchin,
A buffoon who might even drop his glasses in a toilet,
An elder statesman with his gravitas swinging
Like a snood tucked under his pale chin,
You are old enough to remember beauties hooking
Their arms with him to promenade down  red carpets.

He gives off no aphrodisiac now, not for you, no,
You dance too quickly for him to catch you,
Even if the camera lingers, the smell does not reach you,
You are too busy, you must go embrace an actor,
Meanwhile, the urchin leaves his desk behind

To sway a would-be candidate waiting in the wings.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some Links for the First of June

Hey, look here, I'm mentioned in a review at New Pages AND here's three poems by me at SNR.

Now go out and enjoy the heat.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Let's Just Say This Is In Honor of National Poetry Month

Thanks to Jeremiah Walton, I have a poem up at his guest blog called "A Clip Show."

And thanks to Tina Hall, I have a poem in Van Gogh's Ear. Inhabitants of Falls Church may enjoy it.

There are also two poems of mine in Yellow Mama, for good measure.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

With Apologies to Arshile Gorky

I have a new poem up at Collective Exile, titled "The Adventures of Colonel Saturday Night." With Saturday night in the title, you know it's going to be crazy!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

When the Hard Meets the Moist

That would make a lovely titled for a volume of my poem, wouldn't it? "When the Hard Meets the Moist: Collected Poems by Ben Nardolilli 1979 - 2005." Or it could be the title of my Memoirs. "When the Hard Meets the Moist, Ben Nardolilli in Montclair, New Jersey." Either way, I'd have to clear the title with Walter Ruhlmann. His latest collection of poems from other authors (including me) is out.

MungBeing has three poems of mine about books. It's the theme of their latest issue.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not Waving but Drowning in My Own Fears

In honor of National Poetry Month here's a poem that I wrote. You can't see it here. You have to go to Drown in My Own Fears.  In terms of genesis, this one I think I can explain. I was inspired by the Wichita Vortex Sutra. I obviously expanded on a theme form there, sort of the same way the classical composers would work off one another's opuses. It might have been a cut-up. I'm not sure. It's been a while and I've written a hell of a lot of poetry since then. Roughly 3,500 pages. Anyway, read what I've linked to and enjoy it, or be disgusted, either way be MOVED by it people.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Message from Bank of America

I guess it lends a whole new meaning to the phrase: "Too big to fail." Also, judging from the picture it looks like Brian Moynihan really let himself go. Or Charles Holliday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Stare Deeply Into the Cosomos

With a new poem published in the Social Poet. In case you need a little time to think about what you find, there's a poem for that too.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tea Leaves? Read the Leaves of Ink Instead

Put down your tasseography, stop it with the tasseomancy, and stay away from any more tassology, read a poem I wrote posted at Leaves of Ink earlier this month.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Buy My Book (Part Deux)

Go to issuu, go to calameo, go to Lulu, and what will you find? Copies of my brand new poetry chapbook, Defense Mechanisms and Other People's Poems. Thanks to my editor Walter Ruhlmann of mgv2>publishing.

This collection of poem features original work by me loosely organized around a search for personal truth and satisfaction against a world of changing fortunes. You know, heady stuff (not to be confused though with Heidi Stüff). It also includes work by other poets in addition to mine:

Jeff Grunthaner
Shenan Prestwich
Michael Damilola Aderibigbe
Joanna C. Valente

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let's hit 22,000 Blog Views

....By the end of January. I know you people can do it. If you need to be entertained while here, I have a poem within the cyberpages at Carnival Magazine. Here is a poem on the lighter side from Dressing Room Poetry as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is It Prose? Is It Poetry?

Actually it's a prose poem up at the Prose Poem Project. In case you are wondering what prose poems are, here's the Wikipedia article on them. If you're still confused, well, then you might be a poet.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Poem On MLK Day

From the Onion
Here's a poem of mine that was published today at Leaves of Ink. Since it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we can all pretend it's about him, somehow. I mean, in the end, isn't there a little bit of MLK in each and every one of us? My poor understanding of quantum physics says...yes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gay Press, Gay Power: A Book Review

Order it here
Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America
Paperback: 468 pages
Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America Paperback: 468 pages Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 24, 2012) 
Edited by Tracy Baim 

It makes sense that the history of America’s Gay newspapers is in many ways a microcosm of the history of the community itself in the twentieth century. In an era before blogs, social media, and academic journals friendly to LGBTQ issues, newspapers run by Gays and Lesbians served as one of the first safe spaces to publicly present and discuss Queer issues. Of course there were bars, clubs, and private parties, but newspapers offered a way to take the discourse of the community public and provide a means for recording what was going on for future reference. Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America is a clear beneficiary of this archive. This collection of writings, edited and co-authored by Tracy Baim, tells the story of the Gay Press but inevitably reflects the advances achieved and setbacks felt by the LGBTQ community in America as well. However, it is more than just a presentation of headlines that mirror this experience. It deals with the specific history behind a variety of publications, controversies within their staffs, and the nuts and bolts of making the Gay press work. 

The book is divided into several parts that each deal with an aspect of Gay newspapers. Part One covers their history from the start of the twentieth century up to the present. It begins by covering the challenges of producing newspapers for homosexuals and homophiles in an era of obscenity and sodomy laws and an outright hostile mainstream press. The book demonstrates the need for these newspapers when the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times would refer to Gays and Lesbians as nothing but “perverts” in their pages, if they were mentioned at all. Part One details how the most common expression of homophobia among newspapers in those days was their silence and not overt condemnation.

Part Two is written by men and women who were involved with the Gay press as writers and editors. They discuss issues with funding, discrimination, and the bitter infighting within the publications. One of the strengths of Gay Press, is that it does not shy away from depicting the problems faced by Lesbians on Gay-dominated staffs, GLBTQ people of color in having their issues heard, or the struggle for transgender and transsexual Americans to be recognized by these newspapers. Part Three continues by focusing on individual publications in ten different cities, such as the Philadelphia Gay News and the Washington Blade. Meanwhile, Part Four deals with the business of the Gay press and Part Five focuses on issues raised by the rise of the internet and social media. 

Having all these parts written by different authors about different subject matters is both a strength and a weakness for the collection. It does mean that a wide breadth of materials and the media for different communities among the GLBTQ crowd are covered. The pieces not only deal with racial diversity but also regional diversity as well. A history of the Gay press might be excused for focusing primarily on San Francisco and New York City, but this volume goes beyond expectations and deals with Gay newspapers across the country. In particular, it focuses on Chicago (which makes sense since Tracy Baim co-founded the Windy City Times.) The history of Lesbian papers is well-represented by telling the story of such figures as Lisa Ben who founded Vice Versa, the first Lesbian newspaper in the country. 

This method of division allows for pieces which detail the running of these newspapers and their funding, an aspect often overlooked in consideration of any history on print journalism. Advertising in particular gets a deserving amount of attention in this book and not just because it keeps the Gay press afloat. The growth of companies willing to advertise to in these newspapers is representative of changes in public perception and acceptance of GLBTQ Americans over the course of the past fifty years. Of course, the issues of “pinkwashing” and a lack of advertising featuring Lesbians and Gay people of color are brought up as well. 

However, having so many writers turns the book into a hodgepodge of reviews, essays, memoirs, and predictions about the future of the Gay press. Each section feels more deserving of its own separate books because of these incongruences. There are several downsides to having so many different sections in the book with different authors thrown into the mix. The first is that many details and histories are repeated through the work. Another problem is that an extreme focus on the minutiae of a particular publication can be a drag to get through. Anyone looking for those specifics will be in luck but a reader seeking a general history will find it difficult to get through. A major issue for anybody looking to use the text as a source is a lack of clear citations for many of the passages. In addition, there is little focus on the bisexual press or the bisexual experience within the Gay press. Maybe there was not enough material at the time of compilation for it to warrant inclusion. 

Perhaps the work suffers from the same kind of problems the early Gay Press had, having to be everything for the community in the absence of other publications and other outlets. As Gay Press, Gay Power points out, early newspapers had to serve as a place for news, but also provide opinion pieces, conduct advocacy, produce bar and nightlife guides, showcase a social register, and post various literary offerings. As time went on these separate functions were taken over by other groups, leaving the Gay press with the main task of covering current events from an GLBTQ perspective. Maybe future books will come along and provide a similar function, for instance producing a volume of memoirs from Gay journalists separate from a more formal history of the newspapers they served.