Friday, August 14, 2009


A side-effect of being so prolific and having had the blessing of interested book publishers (and thank you all) is that I can keep re-testing my assumptions on how to put together a poetry collection. Maybe it was at the tenth or eleventh (or third) or whatever poetry book that I got bored with the constant tinkering of HOW TO ORGANIZE that poetry book. Without at all challenging the wisdom of trying to be disciplined/intelligent with crafting a poetry collection, I've discovered myself less interested in constantly maneuvering a particular poem here, a particular poem there, deleting a poem here, deleting a poem there etcetera -- for me (and I'm just speaking for myself, not other poets), the process has become precious....and tedious.

The paradox (how I love the paradoxes in Poetry) is that once I got relaxed about the whole thing, the nature of poetry reveals itself -- specifically how, like Life, the all of it is interconnected. I recall this debate about how one creates a poetry collection thematically or just as a compilation of individual poems (I've done both). And then there's the approach I tried to take to moi newest book FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA -- the deliberate non-approach (though of course that's an approach of sorts, too). I just went through the files to the extent I have "poetry files", yanked out the poems not previously published in a book, and ... put them in book form, Fullstop. I also did this process as rapidly as I could, its hours of organization a deliberate challenge against the days or weeks or months that one could spend mulling over a particular book's formation (I've been there, too). Which leads me to think:

To collect a bunch of uncollected poems is, in a manner of speaking, another test of whether a poet has, as a saying might say, done it right. Does a collection hold together under the random manner in which it was formed? I always suspected that if Poetry is inherently a matter of interconnections (what we Pinoys also call pakikiramdam and what I lately have been calling algebraic as a result of three months of tutoring a 13-year-old boy in four years worth of math), such a book can hold together -- also recall Gertrude Stein's observation (I paraphrase) about how a word arbitrarily placed next to another word will rub together for some unexpected frisson if not generate some meaning. Many poets have written under such an inspiration -- it's not that ambitious, I thought, to create a book on that basis, too.

Well, whether or not I succeeded -- whether or not FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA coheres -- is not up for me to say. It's up to you, Dear Reader. So, hopefully, you will read my new book -- INFORMATION HERE. At the moment, it's mostly available through though it should appear in the future at other places like SPD.

(A Special Offer for this Blog's Readers: Email me, at, proof that you ordered my new book and I'll send you a free copy of my prior 2009 book, NOTA BENE EISWEIN--slightly dinged copies, thus unsellable by the publisher, but still viable copies.)


FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA includes a triptych of poems written during the summer I hung out with Philip Lamantia. These poems, like many of my poems, probably would have evaporated in the ether if Sam Rasnake, had not solicited me for poems in his wonderful Blue Fifth Review (thank you Sam -- many a poet knows that editors matter!). Stumbled across one, which led me to the other two....said Triptych has the only blurb I solicited for this book, from none other than the Ideal Poetry Reader himself, Steven Fama.

And speaking of editors who matter, thanks as well to John Bloomberg-Rissman which took one of the poems in the book to generate 151 multi-genre responses or translations from 47 poets worldwide to create the anthology 1000 Views of "Girl Singing", which is being released (possibly now as we speak) by Leafe Press (U.K.). The anthology should be out soon.

I cite these two examples of the continued algebraic connections Poetry makes possible. May you all experience those connections, too, in loving ways.

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