Saturday, January 11, 2014



Z”L: For The Family Of Cj Martin And Julia Drescher edited by Ash Smith
(n.p., Summer 2013)


On 23 May 2013 Michael Cross blogged the following:

My very good friend and comrade, CJ Martin, who is also one of my favorite poets in the world, just experienced an incomprehensibly tragic loss. His father Tommy … and grandmother Ann were victims of a tornado in Texas on May 15th, and his mother, Betsy Davis … was just released from ICU. Betsy’s injuries are serious, and to make a tragic situation worse, she does not have medical insurance.

There are currently three ways to support Chris and his family:

1. I plan to donate 100% of the proceeds from Chris's mind-shattering Compline full-length, Two Books, to Betsy’s recovery fund. If you haven’t engaged with this crucial book, buy it now and support Chris while you’re at it. If you already have a copy, and you know how important it is, please consider purchasing a copy for a friend or colleague to support Betsy. Make it happen here.

2. You may also choose to donate to an online fundraising effort in Betsy’s name …

3. Finally, the poet Ash Smith is producing a limited edition chapbook of brand new work from a wide variety of poets that should be available soon. When it's ready, I'll certainly promote it ...

Please take a moment to support this family!

By October 7, Ash was able to write me that, “Betsy Martin has asked that proceeds from the book go to Poets in Need, as a way of saying thank you & giving back to the poetry community.”


Again lifting from Michael Cross, included in Z”L are “Kate Greenstreet, Sueyuen Juliette Lee, Shin Yu Pai, David Hadbawnik, Taylor Brady, Erica Lewis, Carter Smith, JB Beck, Karen McBurney, Dan Thomas Glass, Brenda Iijima, Divya Victor, Hugo Garcia Manriquez, Jessica Smith, Chad Heltzel, Sarah Mangold, Kevin Varrone, Marcella Durand, Pattie McCarthy, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Steve Wilson, Laura Goldstein & Nikki Wallschlaeger, Thom Donavan, Sarah Campbell, Carolina Ebeid, Paul Klinger, Dan Coffey, Pablo Miguel Martinez, Kathleen Peirce, Jeffery Pethybridge, Michalle Gould, David Abel, Dawn Pendergast, Bonnie Emerick, Rob Halpern, Michael Cross (though I think my piece got cut!), Alison Cimino, Michelle Detorie, Paula J. Smith, Jeff Sirkin, Amanda Ackerman, Rosetta Ballew-Jennings, Deborah Poe, Rosa Alcala, Roberto Ontiveros, Crane Giamo, Drew Kunz, Stephen Novotny, Jeremy Ballard, Norma Cole, Susan Briante, Julia Bloch.”

Before I discuss any of the contents, I want to talk about how perfect the production is. Each page appears to be a photocopy of an elsewhere-prepared text and/or illustration and author’s/artist’s names often appear in somebody’s neatly scribbled-calligraphied hand. In other words, it looks like someone gathered up a bunch of supportive scraps and passed them on to the family as quickly as they could. And then gathering them into this chapbook. For me, this has the effect of foregrounding the human hand, and what comes thru its actual touch, and, at a time of great disaster (not to mention all other times), who needs anything more than they need the love that comes with touch?


The poems are brief, very few taking up more than a page, and the long ones aren’t much longer than that. A few have been published before, but most not. None, in my reading, necessarily refer directly to the tornado, but all seem to tonally approach what I might unsophisticatedly refer to as love and life and gain and loss.

I will just pull out some “highlights”, to let you taste a bit:

I thought the room
was breathing

but it was me.
Kate Greenstreet

Express this through the words that choose to drop from my lips.
            Sueyeun Juliette Lee

Nothing but bodies. Nothing but words. Nothing but sounds. Missing each other or touching each other with greater impact before moving on. Nothing but glances. Nothing but gestures. Nothing but gaps. Fitting together roughly or rudely, nicely or not. Nothing but waves. Nothing but smiles. Nothing but nothing.
            David Hadbawnik

I sent a script to my agent – a pilot for a new historical drama
called The Walking Living. I told her you’d have to be dead
inside to be unmoved by the characters’ desires and
            Dan Coffey

Tide is my love, is my laundry detergent, my dove
Vicks is my love, is my balm, is my dove
Wella is my love, is my mousse, is my dove
Whisper is my love, is my panty-liner, is my dove
Dove is my love, is my body soap, is my dove
            Divya Victor

Beauty is unavoidable. Salvation is totalizing but
salvage is pulled and put back into your heart.
            Sarah Mangold

When I wrote leaving I meant loving. Flyers fall from low planes should read flowers fill the wide plains. And the grackles that lift in battalion precision over Guadalupe Street were not the Congress Bridge bats …          
            Carolina Ebeid

a newborn gazelle wobbling
swiftness soon enough
            Pablo Miguel Martínez


 Z”L reminds me of another recent publication. This is Trenton Oldfield’s The Queen vs Trenton Oldfield: A Prison Diary (Myrdle Court Press, 2013), which was also produced and released to raise funds for a family in need. Is this a trend? Is this something we will see more of as “the new austerity” extends its nasty grasp, leaving more and more of us in vulnerable positions? While this has been a brief review of the Ash Smith-edited chapbook it’s really only posing as one. What it is really is a shoutout to kindness and generosity, whether it be manifest via production and purchase of a chapbook like this, Poets in Need, Sandra Simonds’ letter to the Poetry Foundation re: it actually using some of its massive profits to help poets with their healthcare, etc etc. Though there is always heat within the community of poets and poets’ friends, as there should be, there need not be fire. Certainly not as in “friendly fire” and “collateral damage”. We CAN take care of each other. We ARE in this together. For the foreseeable future. Like it or not. I like it.


John Bloomberg-Rissman has about a year and a half to go on In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life project called Zeitgeist Spam. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making (Leafe Press, 2007), and Flux, Clot & Froth (Meritage Press 2010). In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project. The main other thing on his plate right now is an anthology which he is editing with Jerome Rothenberg, titled Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Anthology of Outside & Subterranean Poetry, due out from Black Widow Press autumn 014. He's also learning to play the viola and he blogs at (Zeitgeist Spam).

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