Archive for 2017

“City of Fish” Poetry Chapbook (2015) by Chris Way

April 22nd, 2017

 

 
 
Hi all, my poetry chapbook “City of Fish”, which I published as a limited run paperback edition in 2015, is now available for order online here for just $11 (inc. free shipping).

City of Fish is a collection of 19 poems by Manhattan-based poet and musician Chris Way, with colored pencil & ink illustrations (including cover and back cover) by Brooklyn-based artist and writer Jonah Shore. The poems, composed between 2011 and 2013, range in tone from the visceral and immediate to the confessional, dreamlike, meditative, playful, and suffocating.

Way’s verse is anchored in vivid imagery & painted with a clear emotional line; complementing the text is Shore’s illustrations, which speak to and draw from the poetry with their rawness, simplicity, and symbology. The book itself is handsome, with saddle-stitched binding, silk-finish paper & felt-finish covers.

Other details:

Publication Date: February 2015
(4.375 x 7.25, 39pp, paperback)
 
 
 
For more of my poetry, click here.

[posted by: C Way at 10:10 AM]

[file under: poetry]
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Abandoned Storage Unit: Whirling Around

April 9th, 2017

 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      (Some serving plate I found online on Polish shopping site)

 
 
 
     Hello snailers & crowers. Time for another whirled-up blend of crap, such is thee fun of the Abandoned Storage Unit.

     It’s a beautiful Sunday and the sill-cactus flowers are beginning to push up their sweet buds of lemon & fuchsia. People are blowing themselves up in two beautiful Coptic churches in Egypt. I just cooked two beautiful sweet potatoes until the peels began to sweet sugar. The depraved Brian Williams is yoking badly-understood Leonard Cohen lyrics to the “beautiful” sight of Tomahawk missiles launched toward Syria. I just steamed two beautiful heads of broccoli until they turned that delicious rich green.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
        The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
        BY ROBERT BLY 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     What a poem, written in 2005, by the great Robert Bly. It encompasses all of life, it is stuck in the mud around your feet and it is up on a mountaintop watching the world burn and cool, green and die, burn and cool, green and die. Become a soul and go. But before you do: whirl, dance, sigh, rise, reach.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      C.W.L.
       UNTITLED, 2017

 
 
 
 
     Here is something my daughter made to celebrate Spring. I love how she draws faces. Our red front door is festooned with her bright flowery paintings and drawings and it makes me happy whenever I see it.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 

 
 
     Here’s “meditations after shock therapy” by worm girl; discovered this lil gemstone on SoundCloud. I like the eroded ghost-reverbed vocals, the synth pads, the recessed drum machine beat. And the lyrics are strong, & exactly what they should be given the song’s title. The piece feels rough-hewn and tossed-off, but the attention to detail, the melody, the understated vocal delivery and pacing are anything but. This is a combination that always works for me in art, that feeling of casual paired with the obvious fruits of discipline, talent and skill. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     “A great work of art is like a dream. For all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: ‘You ought,’ or ‘This is the truth.’ It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions.” This is from Jung in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933).

     This is not universal and simply reflects the Jung’s personal tastes. Any work of art can be mute and ambiguous; an art object’s ambiguity is no assurance of its worth. And there are great works of art that are unequivocal — say, “Guernica”, or Dylan’s “Masters of War” (war on the mind today folks, for good reason). They are blunt in their message and motive and that informs their power. Humans just can’t refrain from trying to sum up a phenomenon as complex and variable as art (across all its manifestations and media) in a pithy saying. We’re just addicted to trying to shortcut around the universe and tie it up quickly in language. We’re just wired to do it. We all do it. Geniuses down to fools, we all want to sum up our lives in a tidy bow. Why? It makes us feel we’re in control, we’ve mastered a Thing with an aphorism. We’ve learned it, known it, owned it. Can stuff it in a drawer and mothball it away; no further discussion needed. Such silliness, such transparent folly. But so fucking irresistible.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     (click to zoom)
ALT 
 
      Pablo Picasso
       Le Crapaud, 1949
       Lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19.5 x 25.75 in.

 
 
 
 
     Be sure to zoom in on this friend, so many diablos deliciosos in the details. The frog’s little circly warts, its wee grumpy eyes, the Cubistic intersects of the hind legs and face, the flowing linework tying together its body and limbs, the effect of decorative little Christmas lights along its body, the impression of smudge and mud combined with modest, reluctant ornament. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
    I just finished Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society (2017, Norton). Before reading this book, I would have considered myself something of an essentialist when it comes to the sexes. I believed in sex differences in the brain and in the body, changes both prenatal and post-birth. And I believed these differences were permanent and inherent to humans and were directly responsible for different behavior in men and women everywhere, past present future.
    After Testosterone Rex, I still believe physiological sex differences exist. The science is clear. But I believe now they are just the starting point, and not an excuse for the gender gap. They are merely one factor among many in explaining why men and women do what they do, believe what they do, and think how they do. As Fine demonstrates, physiological differences between the sexes may or may not become amplified or nullified or nudged into being altogether depending on a whole galaxy of factors, not least of which are cultural, environmental, parental, marketing (especially marketing!) and institutional forces.
    In other words, there’s room for adjustment. There’s nothing hardwired in mens’ brains forcing them to forever be universally aggressive risk-tasking non-parenting and promiscuous. There’s nothing hardwired in women’s brains forcing them to forever be universally passive, cautious, caretaking and monogamy-seeking. There is astonishing variability in the animal and insect kingdom, as Fine exhaustively details, in how males and females of species behave sexually, and this can exist with humans too (and in many cases, as the research shows, already does). We’ve just grown accustomed, over the millenia, to a certain way for men and women to be, and we like it that way — that is to say, those in control, older white men, have always liked it that way (whether they realize it or not).
    The research seems to support the theses of Fine and so many other writers: it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. Men and womens’ physiological differences, says the research Fine exhaustively brings to bear, do not strongly correlate with massive differences in behavior and attitudes both sexual and non-sexual. In citation after citation, Fine shows compelling research that suggests the gender gap exists for far more complex reasons than the presence or absence of testosterone. This passage of Fine’s is crucial in understanding this point: “It’s true that we don’t, as a rule, tend to think that the scientific facts of nature dictate how things should be. Just because a scientist says that something is “natural” — like male aggression or rape — obviously doesn’t mean we have to condone, support or prescribe it. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to contribute to societal debates or aspirations. Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfill those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible. [...] rejecting the [view that gender gap problems are solely due to evolved sex differences, such as testosterone in men] doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology.”
    I also really like this passage by Dalhousie University philosopher Letitia Meynell, which Fine quotes in her book: “Biologically speaking, our actions and dispositions are developed and could have bee otherwise, given the right mix of developmental inputs at various points in our lives. If one wants to change the distribution of a given trait in a population, the task is not to overcome nature but to rearrange the developmental system.”
     If we want to address gender inequality, we have to abandon essentialism insofar as we lean on it to explain and justify and excuse perceived differences in how men and women think and act in and out of the bedroom. We have to accept malleability in terms of how the sexes develop. We have to stop framing issues in terms of “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” We have to realize as a species we’re in control, not the hormones, the gametes, the glands, the gonads. Culture, society, developmental input from parents, media, religion, schooling, marketing those are the forces that take those inherent and verifiable biological differences that do exist between the sexes, and truly activate them and transform them into vast gaps and gulfs. Gulfs that become, over generations, seemingly impossible to cross. Seemingly. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more information about Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, please check out The Guardian’s great review.

For more Robert Bly stuff, please check out his entry at the Poetry Foundation.

For more worm girl stuff, please check out Her Soundcloud page.

For more Picasso, please check out the Musée National Picasso (Paris).

[posted by: C Way at 1:04 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry]
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Little Boxes of Glowy Fake

March 12th, 2017

 
 
 
     Great post the other day by Ross Douthat in the NY Times (“Resist the Internet”) about what it would look like to put some controls on our largely unfettered use and abuse of the internet (which means our use and abuse of handheld smart devices, since that’s increasingly what the internet means for most people). Made me think about these little portals, these glowy rectangles that have increasingly assumed more and more power in our lives.
     (Warning: Old-man get-off-my-lawn screed approacheth; back out now if you’ve had your fill of this kind of thing) It used to be on the subway that, at any given moment, a handful of people would be staring at their little gadgets. “Handful” turned into “some”. “Some” became “half”. Now, most mornings, it’s a depressingly clear “most”. Most people standing or sitting, necks craned, staring at their pocketsized diminishments of reality, these dinky sheeny holes displaying their dinky sheeny objects. Compulsively caressing, petting, stroking their screens. Like they were wee flat beasts that needed constant reassurance. And these are capable, smart New Yorkers who know better, who deep down know that it’s basically an erosion of the human spirit to choose to live in the thrall of these overpriced little gadgets, huffing and puffing away on the consumer hamsterwheel, chasing after the next upgrade & OS & Yosemite this and Lollipop that. Capable, smart New Yorkers who know all this but give in anyway, shrugging & grinning “can’t help myself” gotta like/retweet/follow Bejeweled triple bonus Flappy Bird double swipe zoom-in zoom-out look at my favorite photos scrollscrollscroll.
     (Just like smart people who knew better than to binge-watch shit reality shows and humiliation shows when they started to creep into the collective unconscious years ago. Who helped create our current debased cultural moment by consuming & thereby normalizing that televised pustulence. Who knew better but did it anyway because it’s “a train wreck” that they “have to watch”; because it’s their “guilty indulgence.”)
     Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not against technology, or mobile smart devices. Tech is a tool, it’s neutral. I’m against the irresponsible over-use of all this crap, the voluntary submission to them so that they are no longer just helpful tools, means to ends, but ends themselves. I’m against handing our lives over to smart devices while doing little more with them than using our fingertips to scroll through Pinterest galleries, mind-deadening Facebook feeds, and shitty video games (all the while gifting our privacy and life details to third party data brokers and, really, in this age of WikiLeaks and infinite data persistence, anyone else online who wants them).
     So, case in point. This guy sits down next to me the other day, healthy looking jogger-Dad type, smiley. Seemingly good disposition. White earbuds in. Instantly, upon sitting, he whips out his glowy portal and starts racing through imagery. Not pausing once. Just swiping through his family photos, kids’ photos, cars, motorbikes, Hallmark animal card greetings, landscapes, images of inspirational quotes, 1-2 seconds of random video clips. Zooming in and out of shit super-fast. Rapidfire unthinking supercaffeinated whizzing through so much visual data.
     I was dumbfounded. Was this guy registering anything? What could he possibly be doing with all this visual info whizzing by him at such a speed? Just channel surfing gone mad, but it’s not even like he was cycling through TV channels with the reasonable chance of stumbling upon developed content offerings, maybe a movie or a televised drama, i.e. something external and with possible redeeming intellectual and cultural value of you that can communicate back *to* you. No, he was just media surfing his own fucking life, not even using his $700 device (with $100 monthly plan) to do something other than stare back in the mirror at himself.
     And that, in a nutshell, as I’ve observed it, sums up many folks’ usage of mobile smart devices (which is another of way of saying: that sums up what many people do for alarming chunks of the day). I.e., curating & living within sprawling unedited virtual galleries of the narrow world of selfies and selfies of loved ones. And favoriting Instagram brunch shots.
     I will be accused of curmudgeoning hyperbole. I will be reminded that, in using portable smart-devices, not everyone on a morning NYC commute is wasting time, running away from something more important or growing disconnected from external reality with time-wasting junk-tasks. I will be reminded that some are watching movies or TV shows. Maybe movies or shows of high aesthetic merit. Movies or shows … displayed on a screen the size of a fucking playing card. Which of course invalidates the entire experience. Like listening to a symphony through a cheap transistor radio with bad batteries: you’re cheating yourself and the art. Don’t do it.
     What else do people say to justify their gadget-addiction at 730 AM? “Reading” documents, online news, digital books, digital textbooks. Indefensible right? How could you slag on that. Easy: to read a digital text is a sad, impoverished experience compared to holding and reading an actual book or magazine, and only excusable in the pained or infirm (hardbacks are heavy). As for viewing 8×11 documents on a smartphone — the absurd, painful process of zooming in and around a work PDF on a dinky screen bears so little resemblance to the practice of reading a printout in your two hands that it becomes some other alien activity altogether. It’s such a bizarre, sad, self-imposed hobbling. Print the fucking page out and take it with you and read it. Seeing someone zoom in and out of a PDF by breaking it into quadrants in order to view it piecemeal on their micro machine is like seeing someone buy a pair of ash-covered glasses and get excited that there’s this little teensy corner of one lens where the light can shine through. “Holy cow, this is so cool, my shit-lenses let in a micron of sun! Check this out man! Wanna try em on?”. Take off the glasses and live. And hold something in your hands when you want to read.
     Now, smart devices used in moderation can do all sorts of obvious good. The potential for edification and meaningful interaction is limitless. Good things to do with your very expensive little glow-portal: a) use the voice memo function for journalling or music composition; b) use the notepad function to jot down notes; c) use an electronic dictionary and/or thesaurus; d) use the camera and video-camera (to take occasional, selective photos and clips, not to document your every waking hour); f) listen to good music (full quality audio files, no garbage mp3s); g) communicate via SMS (communicate, not spray out stupid abbreviations and LOLs and TTYLs).
     See? Never let it be said that I’m a total luddite asshole; asshole I am, I just like mobile smart-devices to know their place, which is as non-essential accessories to actual living (notice how none of the functions I listed is irreplaceable via some low/non-tech means). They are merely optional helpers that are designed to be turned off and put away when we’re talking to people, walking around in parks, sitting down in front of your stereo listening to a full record, having fun at a party, hell, being OUT IN THE WORLD. The second you start feeling you “depend” on your fucking $700 card-deck “second brain”, the second you feel like your life would “fall apart” if your phone got stolen, is the second you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself whether your dignity is worth your convenience, and if it is, don’t have kids, and if you had them already, for Pete’s sake, teach them a better way to be.
     So back to nice-seeming jogger-dad dude. There I was, next to this entranced super-swiper, & I felt like a prick judging him. But judge I did, because that’s our job as humans: develop principals and boundaries and hold ourselves and others to them. And so I wanted to ask this dude, “Hey, hey man, are you okay? Can you slow down and breathe? Can you look around a little? Do you know where you are? Look, look up, look at that design on that dress, look at that beautiful kid’s face in that stroller, look at that shitty MTA poem on the placard on the wall, look at that badly carved graffiti from 1987, look at that woman’s gorgeous ass (be smart about it), look at that dead roach, listen to that train conductor’s weird voice, listen to the weird, cool drones and grinds of the speeding train, listen to the conversation of the teens a few feet over, breathe, feel your feet on the floor, feel your ass on the seat, listen, feel, smell (okay, don’t do that, it’s an NYC subway after all), look, but for fuck’s sake look anywhere but down at that rectangle. Because that’s not life. That’s fake, that’s a debasement, that’s a reduction, that’s a cheapening of you, that’s could be your coffin.”
     But, of course, I didn’t say shit. I was too busy isolating from the world in my own way, failing to pay attention to its beauty, and running away from my daily stresses in my own little special way, safe & sound in my crappy low-tech solace bubble: trying to solve crossword puzzles while getting melodramatically worked up over a stranger’s habits.
     Man … I’m going to be in subway commute heaven when the intra-ocular Google View-Field implants arrive.
     Oh and get off my goddamned lawn.

[posted by: C Way at 10:03 PM]

[file under: non-fiction & essays ||| SLAGS]
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Kalief Browder (poem) – C.Way

January 24th, 2017

 
 
 

KALIEF BROWDER


Unscrew the bolts anchoring your A/C to the wall
           
          I stand behind
          Words rise up & crowd my throat
                    like a clump of blind baby piglets 
                    smelling the teat
          All swallowed back down

Work the air conditioner, deliver it
    to the bed of pillows you've prepared on the floor

          1,000 days

          I picture you in your box
                    unfed, filthy, dreaming of a loaf's end-pieces
          your hand through the slot, waving your completed worksheet
                    asking for someone to grade it
                    "Miss! I got work for you!"

Squat down, peer through the new hole
    Noonday sunlight slides in
    Watch a green bottle fly
          swoop in, swirl, leave

          Summer nights with the heat vents baking
                    your 12 x 7 oven
                    Kevin next door with the disintegrating laugh
                              slamming his forehead into the wall

          Thirty times told: No trial, Soon, Soon
          Half of your mother's words over the phone
                    blotted out by sobs 
          And your hand still holding the slot, 
                    waving, waving, always waving 

Stick your arm out, checking clearance
    Feeling drips from an A/C above

          Over and over, you work on bedsheet nooses
                    using your teeth to make strips
          getting a little better each time
                    And when they cut you down they beat you
                              because a hang-up means more paperwork
          And when they don't cut you down
                    they say "Jump, Go ahead and jump" 


Gather your yellow braided sheet cord
     from its cache in the closet

          You're out
          but no 3.5 GPA or donated MacBook Air or Haldol
          can stop you from waking
                    at 4 AM, sweating through your clothes 
          punching holes in your wall
          trashing your TV because it's watching you

                    Because your hand never got out
                              of that slot 
                    Waving, waving, always waving

Take the sheet-cord, start to gauge its length

          Biking home from school last summer
          Beats in your ear, crisp loving night
          Sweet hour when the black wave 
                    was ebbed
          When the white swarm 
                    was quiet
                    a hive of cold bees 
	
Wind it, cinch and pull, blood starts to swell your cheeks

          Kalief
          I am hungry, hungry, always hungry
          I don't know what to do with this hunger
          But talk to you
          And say that it is not justice I ache after
          I burn for us all 
          To stop choosing fear & shame 
          Over love

          I am behind you
          The words become unstuck

          I am so proud of you 
                    for not taking the deal 
          For sharing what happened
          You did not get to learn what you should have 
          But I have learned 
                    integrity and courage from you 
          You fought 
          You are good


Crabwalk up the opening
    launch yourself feet first
    get stuck, scrape your back, shimmy through
    drop, hear yourself gasp like it's someone else

Other sounds

Plane way overhead rumbling through the sky

Your sneaker heels skittering the brick

Rosa's pink-dyed poodle
          barking at nothing in the hall

That new kid
    Playing video games next door
    Throwing his controller against the wall again
    Screaming


                                          Chris Way, Nov 2016
[posted by: C Way at 11:03 AM]

[file under: Writing]
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