Monday, August 29, 2011

Out from Otoliths — Tom Beckett's PARTS AND OTHER PIECES

Now out from Otoliths

Tom Beckett
80 pages
Front cover image by Rosaire Appel
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-6-1
$13.45 + p&h
The difficulties that language presents have their analogues in life. Whether posed, or proposed, or just tenuously poised on the thin line that divides articulation from understanding, the phrases and phrasings of Tom Beckett's elegant and nervous Parts and Other Pieces challenge the givens of experience. The excitement and beauty of this four-part book are the product of a mismatch between words and worlds. And it is, indeed, a beautiful and exciting book. Variously witty, angst-ridden, melancholy, sweet, Beckett's parts provoke a powerful whole. —Lyn Hejinian

If Tom Beckett cares about anything, it’s everything. “Are you with me, Columbus?” Why yes, you are, we naturally reply, since Beckett has asked us a question he already knows the answer to, since he loves and respects the durability of our imaginations, desires, impulses and anxieties. Our answers, in substance and scope, are the very near silent dialogues that Beckett hears in the thought acts generated by poetry: openness taken from the shadows of openness alone. Beckett’s poetry has always reminded me that we are all in the process of our obsessions, where “What I might be able to do for you and not myself is to/mirror you,/establish your presence.” Tom Beckett is the poet in all our poems, goofing off when we harden in our terrible seriousness, and in the next moment, attentively concerned with how loud we just laughed. —Jordan Stempleman

Tom Beckett writes from the lab. His work, in its observational acuity, gives back to us all the stuff we see floating in the peripheries – of language, of social order, of identity – and places it smack dab under the lens. Where it pulls us in, performs for us, makes us marvel at its range, occasionally repels us, often makes us chortle. Parts and Other Pieces is alive, emotionally raw, self-effacingly hilarious, and ultimately quite beautiful. Beckett is the master; we’re damned lucky he’s got the white coat. —Jessica Grim

Tom Beckett's Parts and Other Pieces bristles with a fierce, rhythmic relentlessness. These are poems of urgent self-reflection, caught between the demands of everyday life and a consciousness haunted by spikes of piercing perception. —Charles Bernstein

“As a writer,” we read in an interview with Tom Beckett, “it can be more important to pay a lot of attention to a few things rather than a little attention to a lot of things.” Touché! Beckett’s new collection begins with a sequence of questions posed on the Ohio State campus (Goodbye Columbus!) and responds with a series of answers—not quite to the original questions and hence all the more pertinent and mysterious. The connection between A and B is provided by the middle section, “Between Asymmetries,” whose maxims, written under the sign of Emerson, enact the truth that “Language grids support the inexplicable.” The final poem, the minimalist “Parts” provides the “break (brake)” that makes everything that precedes it come together in one radiant whole. —Marjorie Perloff

Also by Tom Beckett & available from The Otoliths Storefront:

This Poem / What Speaks? / A Day

& the three volumes of the classic interview series:

E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The First XI interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Second XV interviews
E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: The Final XIV interviews + One

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Living next door to Alice Nature

1) The downside

Had hoped, now that the flood is receding into history, that the snakes would have also disappeared. I mean, three close encounters—two indoors, one outside—are at least three too many.

No such luck. Watched the 7 p.m. news, went outside to have a cigarette, & there's a fucking black snake sussurued on the front porch. Smallish, but enough, these days, to frighten the living crap out of me. Besides, they're poisonous. No implements around, no way to smite the serpent, so, close the door, headed downstairs for my nicotine fix. Looked outside an hour later. Still there. Had gone next time I looked, but I'm still twitchy, though the nauseous fright-laden feeling has passed.

2) The upside

We have a lot of what my bird book describes as "Diurnal Birds of Prey" around. Usually at a distance, overhead, circling, too far away to easily identify.

The close encounters we've had are generally not that close. A bird on a fencepost on the other side of a lagoon, or feeding on roadkill & then flying away as the car gets near. There was one quite freaky experience when we were driving home from up north, coming over a rise in the road to see a wedge-tailed eagle attacking a carcass not that many meters ahead, thinking we're going to hit it, the bird rising slowly, its wings outstretched & flapping, filling the entire windscreen so we couldn't see beyond it, thinking we're really going to hit it, & then it was up & over the car.....

Last week, though, a genuine close encounter. Again as I went outside for a cigarette. A bird flying from the tree at the front of our place to the palms across the road. Large tail, causing me to first think it's a cuckoo, then turning & I could see a curved beak, a tuft on top of its head, stripes on its breast. Flew back across the road & into another tree, maybe 10 meters away from where I was sitting. Looked a bit unsteady. Then another similar bird arrived & perched a bit further away, from where it could keep an—dare I say?—eagle eye on the other. Not sure, but I think was probably parent & offspring, one seemed a little larger than the other, though they could have both been young. Beautiful to see.

Looked up my bird book, identified them as crested hawks, aka Pacific Baza.

The photo above comes from a namesake's blog, Mark Young's Birding Blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


the anniversaries Google decides to depict with its banners. Not so much the people, but the numerical values. I mean, the 112th anniversary of Jorge Luis Borges' birth? I would have thought something like the 111th would have more potency.

Or is it that in their capture—captcha?—of everything on the Web, they've come across a Nostradamus lookalike, in whose books there resides a quatrain:
Find ye a blind bibliophile in the New World. On the
112th anniversary of his birth, broadcast that fact wide.
Thousands of leagues away, reverberations. Amongst the
flaming fountains in the sand, the Tyrant of Libya will fall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

He did not ask
for permission to
come aboard. The
bar was open &
he was thirsty. A
country band. Sweet
Home Alabama
, just
like in that Reese
Witherspoon movie
he only ever saw
the end of, late
at night, on cable
tv. He drank. It was
raining. The credits
ran down his face.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Out from Otoliths—Alex Gildzen's The Arrow That Is Hollywood / Pierces The Soul That Is Me


Alex Gildzen
40 pages
Front cover photograph by Kevin McCollister
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-5-4
$10.00 + p&h

Subscribers to the Otoliths list know Alex Gildzen (It’s All a Movie) as historian of the film-going experience. In this new collection of poems he plumbs the mythology of Hollywood. Taking on stories both familiar and obscure, Gildzen gives close-ups of legends such as Chaplin and Welles. But he affectionately offers star billing to many of Tinseltown’s lesser-known characters – from the woman who may (or may not) have been the first Native American movie star to character actors Victor Kilian and Percy Helton.

A video of Alex Gildzen reading a poem from the book can be accessed at

Tom Beckett's interview with Alex Gildzen can be found here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The faces of Keith Moon

This ran into me on TV today. Knocked me over, as always.

One of the great rock bands. One of the greatest drummers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

geographies: Duluth

                      Blame the oil 

companies! Toy
dogs made from
synthetic chicken
feathers are
lyrically un-
ambitious &
need a heavy
dose of organic
fertilizer before
they sing like
tigers in the sun.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Stage 4

Bono appears with Oprah Winfrey. It's a commercial venture, but still qualifies.

The Dalai Lama reciprocates, & manages to score a few bonus points through the hint of shapely legs on both participants in the photoshoot.

Then Oprah appears on South Park & immediately joins the coterie of CotWOs, Celebrities on the Way Out. The adjudicators of The Great Race hold an emergency meeting & declare Oprah persona non grata, meaning this stage of the race will no longer be included in the final points tally.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

from topaz

"Had he mentioned the trams, the public baths nearby? Ernst’s elephant? The last typewriter factory in the world has shut its doors. He remembered the Alamo. Insouciance. Pietà."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Is being

able to recite Wordsworth's Daffodils from memory

confirmation of a misspent youth?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Issue twenty-two of Otoliths is now live.

front cover image by Rosaire Appel

Issue twenty-two of Otoliths has just gone live.

As always, it presents the broad church of creativity the journal is renowned for, with new work from John Martone, Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney, Richard Kostelanetz, Philip Byron Oakes, Karen Neuberg, dan raphael, Márton Koppány, Martin Burke, Stephen Nelson, John M. Bennett, Morgan Harlow, Sheila E. Murphy, Anny Ballardini, Raymond Farr, Ray Scanlon, Marco Giovenale, Ryan Scott, Tom Beckett (interviewing Kirsten Kaschock), Kirsten Kaschock, Erica Eller, Jim Meirose, Howie Good, Enola Mirao, Jean Vengua (on Dion Farquhar’s Feet First), Walter Ruhlmann, Jill Jones, David James Miller, Michael Caylo-Baradi, Catherine Vidler, Jillian Mukavetz, Zachary Scott Hamilton, Jill Chan, Glenn R. Frantz, Felino Soriano, Iain Britton, Mark Cobley, bruno neiva, Brenda Mann Hammack, Toby Fitch, Tony Rickaby, Grzegorz Wróblewski, Lisa Samuels, Kevin Opstedal, Gustave Morin, Rich Murphy, Laura Wetherington, Jeff Harrison, J. D. Nelson, Charles Freeland, Rosaire Appel, Ann Vickery, Isaac Linder, Bobbi Lurie, Sam Langer, Rose Hunter, Spencer Selby, Jason Lester, Michael Brandonisio, Bob Heman, Keith Higginbotham, Connor Stratman, & Marcia Arrieta.