The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly by Vachel Lindsay

Once I loved a spider

When I was born a fly,

A velvet-footed spider

With a gown of rainbow-dye.

She ate my wings and gloated.

She bound me with a hair.

She drove me to her parlor

Above her winding stair.

To educate young spiders

She took me all apart.

My ghost came back to haunt her.

I saw her eat my heart

~~~

image
Considered one of the first modern performance poets, Vachel Lindsay was born in Springfield, IL in 1879 and died there in 1931, having spent much of his career traveling the country performing his works.

He is credited with reviving poetry’s oral traditions in the early 20th century with his “singing poetry”. He was a friend and mentor to many fellow poets of the time, including fellow Midwestern poets Sara Teasdale and Langston Hughes.

Mississippi stuntmen by Raymond Nat Turner

   Mississippi stuntmen

THANKS

to

Nina,

”Everybody knows about

Mississippi goddamn, Mississippi goddamn!”

But who knew about Mississippi stuntmen?

Hey Hollywood, get hip, headhunt,

Hire stunt men from Mississippi jails,

Recruit from backseats of Arkansas

police cruisers, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout-

like men, prepared to off themselves—

wizards using everyday objects; hanging them-

selves

with

dental

floss

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, men with sick skill-

sets, leaping up in jail cells, NBA hops and hang-

time

men making Michael Jordan, Dr. J, LeBron look like

weekend-warrior/couch potatoes, defying physics,

gravity, logic, performing impossible physical feats!

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, superb actors, too—

acting normal, hiding severe depression, recurring

suicidal thoughts, until the scene shifts behind bars

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, made for mysteries,

thrillers, whodunits, horror flicks;  Masters of the

suicide scene, hanging themselves with anything

on the set—gaffers tape, super hero’s cape, head-

phones, chicken bones, eagle feathers, trailer tethers—

Garbage bag geniuses!

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, …”everybody knows about

Mississippi goddamn,” but who knew about Mississippi

stuntmen? David Copperfields in orange jumpsuits making

Handguns appear out of thin air, making dash-cam video dis-

appear!

Hey Hollywood, get hip, headhunt,

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, one take wonders

who’ll bring your blockbuster in under budget!

Independent contractors in right to work states

of mind: No pensions, 401ks, no social security,

no

Insurance.

Mississippi stuntmen travel and teach in Texas,

Arkansas, in fact, all over the U.S…. Up south,

Down

south,

Out

south,

Anywhere south of the Canadian Border!

Mississippi stuntmen come certified by CWS:

Crakkkers With Stars!

***

rnturnerRaymond Nat Turner is a NYC poet privileged to have read at the Harriet Tubman Centennial Symposium. He is Artistic Director of the stalwart JazzPoetry Ensemble UpSurge and has appeared at numerous festivals and venues including the Monterey Jazz Festival and Panafest in Ghana West Africa. He currently is Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report. He’s also a frequent contributor to Dissident Voice,  Struggle and other online and print publications. Turner has opened for such people as James Baldwin, People’s Advocate Cynthia McKinney, radical sportswriter Dave Zirin and CA Congresswoman Barbara Lee following her lone vote against attacking Afghanistan.

RNT’s Website: http://www.upsurgejazz.com

Whips, Cossacks and a Flashing Torso by Paul Handley

(this essay previously appeared, in a different version, in The Cossack.)

For me, the lasting image of the Winter Olympics is Pussy Riot (PR) getting bullwhipped by Cossacks.  Like most of you, I had to read this twice when I first saw it. They say there are no frontiers left, but apparently these women have achieved time travel pre the technical ability to achieve it the boring scientific way.  Cossacks summon up images of the Crimean War and long boring movies based on Tolstoy novels.

The terms Pussy and Riot in combination sound threatening.  Do we want to breakdown the threat level when those terms are broken apart?  No, we already know.  The Pussy Rioters are not so much into music as for using it as a vehicle of political expression.  Which is another way of saying their music is god-awful or horrible because they are Russian, hence atheists.

Back to the important stuff.  What kind of cooperative venture is required to get Cossacks on the payroll?  Where do you find them?  Are they like our modern cowboys?  Out on a sprawling, government subsidized ranch in Wyoming, contemplating the abs of a certain bunkmate?

Wait a second.  That’s a work of fiction.  And Putin has outlawed gayness, but certainly not the flashing of abs which sounds a little contradictory.  Except that Putin is a topless ingénue and has taken the concept of Russian icons and dictators another evolutionary step.  How much more exciting would it have been to watch a video of that giant statue of Saddam Hussein being dragged down and cracking a pectoral in half?

I admired the Pussy Riot setup and I believe American bands would do well to emulate them.  Enough of the endless plunking of one string for a sound check with intermittent one, twos, and three’s or some silly substitute.  PR all donned ski-masks, which given the rest of their scantily clad outfits was incongruous.

From a scene out of a Tarantino movie one of the Pussy Rioters made the eyes too far apart on her ski mask and her nose and eyes were peering defiantly out of the mouth hole.  That alone would scare the hell out of me, although, I give her credit for the tie-in with the Olympics.  Years from now people watching the video might forget the context but the ski-masks would create recall.  Maybe that was another statement.  “Skiers are one step away from being terrorists.”  Just give them a bullwhip and who knows how far they will go.  Maybe some of the Cossacks were disguised as skiers to blend in.

The Russian Defense Minister said something like “They want what they get and they get what they want,” which makes sense in a certain sing-songish playground bullying way.  He said the attack was provoked.  Of course it was.  You’re in Sochi, the Olympics; the center of the world for a couple of weeks.  Weren’t the Cossacks given bullwhip restraint tactics?  If I heard Pussy Riot was in the neighborhood and the world’s cameras were also in the neighborhood it might be prudent to come up with a plan.

In the end, Pussy Riot made U.S. Riot Grrrls look like playboy bunnies from the sixties.  Give PR the gold medal.  Talk about performance art that you can’t pay for.  What Bob Dylan wouldn’t have given for some Cossacks with bullwhips to kick his ass while playing “Maggie’s Farm”.  Ever see Once, the multimedia semi-hit about Irish buskers?  If they could have added that scene to the musical version it would have made Book of Mormon money.

***

paul picPaul Handley’s work has appeared in HobartMetazenGone LawnMonkeybicyclePulp Diction IIIAptMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency and is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine.

The Yikkest Yak by Mike Nagel

         Before Yik Yak we had bathroom stalls. Public restrooms were our original location-based anonymous messaging platform. Taking a shit while writing shit down has been common practice for millennia, since the Roman Empire. There’s an academic term for it. “Latrinalia.” I asked Yik Yak users what percentage of their yaks were written from the bathroom. They said 90%. Most of them were in the bathroom right then. And that’s where I was too. Taking a shit.

I’m taking a shit right now. Just kidding. Maybe not. (Does it change the way you read these words?)

Reginald Reynolds (1943): “Stereotyped and crude, our lavatory inscriptions are the measure of our social fixations…[they] should reveal more of the truth than all the bombastic historians who will so soon be clothing our grotesque society with dignified phrases…”

In other words, we get the poetry we deserve.

It’s possible that our desire to write things down while taking a shit comes from a primitive impulse to smear shit on the walls. And that our desire to read while taking a shit comes from a primitive impulse to replenish what’s being lost. More likely, though, I think we all just feel a little bit lonely when we finally get a chance to sit down and think about it.

I went looking for Dallas’s latrinalia to compare it to Dallas’s Yik Yak but after six or seven bathrooms I still hadn’t found any. Either the city has improved its graffiti clean-up program or we have found another outlet.

In his landmark study, “Here I Sit: A Study of American Latrinalia,” [1965] Alan Dundes identifies five forms of latrinalia: 1: Advertisements 2: Requests or Commands 3: Directions 4: Commentary 5: Personal Laments.

Similarly, I have identified 5 forms of Yaks: 1. Solicitations (for sex or advice) 2: Confessions 3: Jokes 4: Missed Connections 5: “Should I tell them how I feel?!?”

The most obvious difference between latrinalia and Yik Yak is that latrinalia is gender-segregated whereas the whole point of Yik Yak is talking to the opposite sex. Rather than a major difference, though, this could be seen as simply an improvement on an ancient form of communication. (Men and women are passing notes behind enemy lines.)

I have written things on Yik Yak that I’m embarrassed to admit. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed because these things are so not me or because they are so me. But now I’m asking a very old question. Who am I when nobody is watching? Or, more accurately for an anonymous location-based messaging platform: Who am I when nobody knows who I am?

One theory of anonymity, Deindividuation Theory, claims that people lose their sense of self and society when given anononimity. There is no depth to which we won’t sink. But another theory, SIDE Theory, suggests that once people lose their self-identity, they adopt the identity of the group. New norms are created. Our standards drop, but then things level out.

On Yik Yak you not only have no identity, you have no history. Every time you post something you are somebody new. Everything has been forgotten. And so: forgiven. Which isn’t to say that people on Yik Yak don’t know anything about you. They know one thing. They know where you are.

More than what Yik Yak can tell us about who we are I am interested in what it can tell us about where we are. What can an anonymous location-based messaging platform tell us about our cities? I’ve been thinking about that. And I think it can give us an impression of our city in reverse. A negative image of our repression. In Dallas: sexuality, feces, racism. The things we can’t talk about in real life are the things we talk about on Yik Yak all the time. So maybe Yik Yak doesn’t tell us what our city is but what our city is not allowed to be.

Right now somebody at BLVD wants to fuck. Somebody wants to know where them bitches at. Somebody is pooping. Somebody likes black girls in red dresses. Somebody is just honestly not that attracted to Asians. Somebody has an open tab at Twisted Root. Somebody loves a good midnight wank. Somebody wants to eat you out.

Every morning I check Yik Yak to see what I’ve missed. What went on without me. I scroll down. Always the same things. People looking for sex. People looking for interaction. People testing the limits of what they’re willing to say out loud. And always that one post, unanswered, sometime around 2am. Anybody still there? The faint squeak of marker against a wall.

***

Mike Nagel’s essays have been published by The Awl, Apt, Curbside Splendor, Crab Creek Review and elsewhere. He and his wife live in Dallas.

July by Kyle Harvey (Book Review)

July_Catalog3July (a poem by Kyle Harvey). 36pp. Lithic Press. Lithicpress.com

I love the way Kyle Harvey opens up July. He lists off dozens of poets (and also Zapruder) and at the end, calls it “an offering”. That it is. It’s an offering that doesn’t make sense when you first read it, but continue because you are intrigued.

One of my favorite parts of this book comes very early on. Kyle adds in a parenthetical aside to a line… with an unexpected and jarring juxtaposition. The theme of this book is a mythical place, or time, or mindset, called July. Each page gives us an impression of what July is (and is not)—adding up to an extended metaphor you can lose (and find) yourself in.

Here’s an example:

July is me

as much as

I am July

The other thing that really grabbed me about this poem was how it was laid out on the page. There are words hanging out by themselves, surrounded in white space… columns of words on either side of “and”… and other formulations to keep your eyes engaged. This is fitting for a writer like Mr. Harvey, who also works as a graphic designer.

And then there is this nugget of wisdom, which might be the key to the whole poem:

don’t ask me

what I mean

meaning

is the murder of process

I enjoyed the elliptical nature of this work. Harvey skirts around the idea of something, only occasionally striking at the heart. Ultimately, poets such as Kyle Harvey work with words like a painter with paint. The whole beast is the most important thing. Just let July wash over you. Let the understanding come later. (Josh Medsker)

The Near Enough by Michael C. Keith (Book Review)

near enoughThe Near Enough (Stories)

By Michael C. Keith (Cold River Press). 265pp. www.coldriverpress.com

Michael Keith writes great short-short stories. There isn’t any particular theme to tie the stories in The Near Enough together. I saw stories about a man who suffers because each of his friends dies one after the other, in the course of a couple days (“The Late”), a street artist who is mad as hell over being a performing monkey instead of an artist, and gets his revenge (“Caricatures”), and more than a handful of quirky story-poems (my favorite was “Children of Divorce”).

His dialogue is spot-on and the twists and turns in his stories are very satisfying, if highly improbable. But that is the beauty of his work. He takes a difficult everyday situation or feeling, and exaggerates it until it’s so ridiculous you have to laugh.

-Josh Medsker

The Anti-Selfie Project

We’ve been taking bad selifes of… ourselves. You won’t believe what we did next.

THE ANTI-SELFIE PROJECT

How to participate:

1) Take a purposefully bad selfie and email to tfhsubmissions@gmail.com

2) Wait for us to give the okay. We will work our magic with it and post it asap.

We will be making postcards of these anti-selfies, so head on over to our ETSY Store to grab em up!