Saturday, July 17, 2010

27: Steve Venright

Only used once, as metaphor in poem.
Slight smoke damage.
(Serious intellectual offers only)

What can you do with a banjo? You can play, you can smash it, you can sell
it. I had to get rid of that banjo. I wrote this while vacationing at a
little lake in the Quebec countryside during a full moon. I got back to town
a couple weeks ago and was about to post it but saw that it had too much in
common with Slim Volume's entry. So I waited, and now it doesn't seem
remotely like that piece.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

26: Ralph Kolewe

Sorry this took so long. You know how it is, well, first I went and read the Heine poem. Mistake. Then I sat on this for a week.

So I decided never mind Heine, what have we got here? I rearranged.

‘I have a foolish heart?’
what does that mean
sweet, forgetful midnight words?

I never regret moonlight in my bed
a banjo, a memory, a regret
another cloying poem-thing

doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose
should be
never fully closed

Decided the other lines didn't fit anymore. Then I thought, Tercets! I like those! Rewrote a little:

‘I have a foolish heart?’
What does that mean
sweet, forgetful midnight words?

Never regret moonlight in my bed
a banjo, a memory, a violet or
another cloying poem-thing

Tendrils of thought smoke-like
as the violet and all the other flowers
burn where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose

should be. The door never fully closed.
The banjo out of tune. Maybe I'm lazy
but not too proud to sing it all again.

Next, need a title. I hate titles. "The poet, awakening from a nightmare of German romanticism, reaches for his banjo." Maybe not. Actually the banjo makes me think of Leonard Cohen. Schubert never wrote for banjo. "The Old Banjo." That's it. Let's steal a few lines as well. From Heine too.

The Old Banjo

‘I have a foolish heart?’
What does that mean
O sweet, forgetful midnight words?

A sip of wine, a cigarette. Again.
Never regretting moonlight in my bed
a banjo, a memory, a violet

or another cloying poem-thing smoke-like
as all the other flowers burn
where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose

should have been. That old door never fully closed.
The banjo out of tune. Maybe I'm lazy
but not too proud to look up the words:

with the sweet oblivion of night
in love we disappear

Oooo look, it turned into a sonnet, too! (Well, sort of.)


Friday, June 25, 2010

25: Slim Volumes


Following last month’s fire the Strenuous Administrations Committee has been reconvened, resolving to add the following prohibitions to Sub-section III of the Health & Security Segment of the Dormitory Regulations Code:

i)                    Cloying poetry, moonlighting banjos and/or burning violets are not permitted in bed, and

ii)                   Smoking brains is allowed only in area(s) designated for this purpose.

In an ongoing and earnest effort to scrub wanton disregard for residents’ mutual welfare (evidenced by overheating bedsides with moonlit brain smoking) from the halls of The Institution your Floor Representatives have unanimously ratified Prohibition ii. Regrettably prohibition i has been sent back to Committee for further research into causal links between poetry cloying, banjolit mooning, violing burnlets and smoking brains.
Effective forgetfully, spaces in the rear parking lot outside where doors eye, ear, nose and mouth should be, have been designated for the midnight smoking of brains. These spaces are never fully closed and well away from combustibles real or imagined. Residents may apply at the Strenuous Administrations Office for Special Brain-smoking Permits applicable during the term of their residence or/and to obtain Brain-smoking Day Passes while their applications for Special Brain-smoking Permits are under consideration by a Sub-committee of The Committee especially plucked for this purpose.

The Code does not require direct resident consultation for emergency amendments to the Health & Security Segment of The Code. Residents caught smoking brains in the designated brain-smoking area with neither a Brain-smoking Day Pass nor a Special Brain-smoking Permit will be subject to wretched lying.

Additional News - Tendrill practice tonight in the rear parking lot at 10:00, followed by a BBQ.



My first thought was to look up Heine and the original poem. Knowing nothing of the man and being unable to read or speak German, I felt challenged and insecure as I so often do when confronted by superior intellect, which is to say damned near always, but I quickly realized that Gary hadn’t asked me to revise or comment on the original poem. Gary didn’t care what I thought of Heine or his poetry, but rather what I would do with what Gary thought of Heine’s poem. Gary had asked me to enter into his, Gary’s, mind and to finish his thoughts, not to relate my thoughts about Hiene’s (“Heine’s” – I must remember to place the “e” before the “i”, though it appears that Spell Check will catch both this and the subsequent linking of “Spell Check” into one word) thoughts. Or so I thought.
My second thought was that Gary should be doing his taxes. For several weeks prior to sending me the above e-mail, Gary had begged off performing work essential to bumPHead, another poetry project on which we were collaborating, claiming that he had to complete his taxes before a looming deadline. Knowing how insistent the taxman can be about such matters, I accepted this explanation but with the arrival of the above e-mail new insecurities were raised regarding Gary’s commitment to the original project. In bumPHead we occasionally, casually and tentatively engage in something similar to this proposed new project, gently editing each other’s poetic ideas but admittedly in something closer to song lyrics (though not actually song lyrics) so what was the meaning of this formal invitation to do the same thing in this Heine context? With further inspection came enlightenment: the e-mail was sent to a list of names. Gary was soliciting collaboration on his Heine project from an anonymous group, probably including me only because he felt guilty about his limited engagement in the bumPHead project. He was being polite.

Still, could I afford to resist this invitation and risk being entirely left out of another intellectual exchange, however improbable my inclusion in Gary’s blog? Well hell, I was pretty much in Gary’s bumPHead already, wandering the halls and opening doors to see what perceptions lay within. For me, Gary’s e-mail was more like an invitation to come down to the kitchen and discuss what I’d found.

But it’s not that easy. Not even if Gary offered to put on a pot of tea and Beth, Gary’s wife, had something fragrant warming in the oven. Gary connects words to images and images to emotions in ways that, frankly, I do not. They make sense, you see, but not in the sense you see. At least not straight away. And I don’t think it’s just me. I seldom find evidence of Gary’s logic anywhere but on the walls of Gary’s writing. Out in the broader fields of culture it’s maybe okay to like Gary’s poetry as long as you isolate it, wrap it in mental parenthesis, label it “amusing” and lock in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet in your home office.
This particular poem, for instance, has a “stop and smell the roses” quality, a sentiment understood and accepted to the point of cliché but it’s an obvious threat to the logic of mounting hub-caps on shiny new automobiles, or getting kids to soccer practice. How can anything get done if people have their noses stuck up the petals of roses all day? And things must get done! Plus, there are ears in the walls. It’s dangerous enough to think about taking a banjo to bed, let alone be caught musing aloud about what might be done with one there.

The steaks are high, and well they might be. When I say culture, as I just did in the preceding paragraph, I mean more than poetry, opera, Hollywood and yogurt. Culture is those things too, but at the same time it is collective thought, the communication both among individuals and between individuals and their collective(s), the thoughts that circulate through all manner of media, going around and around making connections with the fragility of a minute electric spark leaping across a tiny synaptic gap in an individual human brain, until general agreements are forged about ideas like the ideal shape of a vessel for the serving and appreciation of tea, when to serve tea in the kitchen or in the rehearsal hall and when the logic of such an accumulation of decisions is sufficiently violated as to threaten the cultural security of the entire collective so as to invite violet response.

Lately it appears that western culture cannot rely, as it has these past millennia, on violets being hard-wired into the human brain. How a body responds to a flood of adrenalin is in point of fact culturally determined, probably, it turns out, most likely. And this discovery arrives just as the wiring for an extra-organic human identity proceeds apace, with agreement of thought, a common goal and a single uniting idea necessarily more important than ever. It is as if the body has abandoned us while the mind spins off on its own like a growing b-movie blob, threatening to engulf the cultural certainty of violets and fear, or perhaps it’s the fear of cultural uncertainty and inviolates that are threatened but irregardless, the culture must fight the new brain’s leapin’ logic. To survive as we know it, culture must remember to forget and sometimes forget to remember, but appropriately, and not necessarily in that order.

What does it mean to have a foolish heart? Gary asks. Alas, unless we are careful, we may learn this answer too soon, too soon.

Slim Volumes


Thanks for this, but aren’t you confusing violets and violents? Would you care to revise?
Up to you,



Oh. Sure. Typical.


Monday, June 21, 2010

24: Stephen Nelson


Pu oot yer banjo, boy, n strum
at yon fu moon

till ye nip the prood violet's
wheezy reek

fae teeth n nose n mooth.


Pu oot yer banjo, boy, n pluck
the fucker

till ma hert strings snap n whip
the raw rank erse ae the wirld

wi memory like the putrid seas ae Jupiter.


Pu oot yer banjo, boy -
lazy bam in yer lazy bed wi yer
sweetened songs n yer honey dream rhymes.

Ah wull dance, dammit! - n let the roilin waves
spill oan the frozen shore,
till midnight wurds
ir whisperin tendrils ae shiverin
ecstasy nae mair.


The note: The poem demanded to be written in Scots for some reason. It demanded romanticism, it demanded attitude. Don't know why. I had one eye on the original text while writing it. I wanted to write it quickly, while my dander was up. I now see hazy whisps of smoke clouding my vision but somehow my head feels rainbow clear.

(Image by Stephen Nelson)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

23: Mike Cannell

“loud humming lazarus”: 
a sequence of 4 small poems
based on
“Gedichte 1853 Und 1854: 
Zum Lazarus: ‘Einst sah ich viele’”


earnestness, acute prickle shroud. witch without. be to deceive. don’t can’t if you are putrid. watch our moron. full prod snaffle of the. mark scum ire. still tennis of the. thought (or… the tide see balm. stub muff – weep hebraic set the. (lubrication fitting on to the material). (or… the stump – like brandy sets the smog side view to the tape reel). i am deceptively melancholic. , and, how an old ballad born infrequently violent. head like a surfeiting hymn. never completely closed.


aperture, were more optic, rabbit ears, opening. knows should be regret never on light in my bad. a banjo, a mammary, a regret. another surfeiting poem thing has a stupid heart. what this means. does sweet, forgetful midnight s-words. veiled that you made in tore safe can. if you are putrefied and the membrane is. proud snaffle of the type like tennis of the thought. (or… tomes eye like herbier). places the point of greasing at truth). (or… the section - as does brandy of wine place the side view of smog at the reel.)


is full melange choleric in a misleading way, and, as an old poem frequently burns. fill heed in my head like reams. completely supersaturating in blocks. never doors where. my ire , ores, the moot, wood net oh not. me men on light egrets. in my bed a banjo, a meme orgy, a rug red ago them poem supersaturating. forever a stupid heart. what this average corner, forgetful words of soft midnight. wet cane yoda. white aim ban she.


wed your lacy and migraine into a full band prod snaffle. the smudge-like tennis of thought. (here …the banshee’s snag-like hebrew puts the smudge to the real). (or…the snag -like brandy puts the smog leer to the reel). i’m me, anchovy. and be guiding, like an hold puma. (often a void burns inside my head). like a toying hymen. never fully clothed. doors where my ears should be. river regress on night. no more bed. a banjo, a memo orb, a rug yet ago. there clod eying poe thing. i hate a food ash art. who at that moan. sweat, forge full mid innate words.


with this sequence of poems i ran the given text through the process of various homolinguistic techniques from the oulipo technique of n7 ( looking each noun up in the dictionary, counting down to the seventh word after it and replacing it with that.) to the strange garbling of language afforded by feeding it through babel fish ( i chose to translate it into german and then back to english) and by looking through a thesaurus and replacing words, word by word with synonyms amongst many others. You will see the occasional repetition and re-wording but the variety is in some ways surprising.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

22: Jennifer Hill

A violet burns inside my head

full moon
the brain’s proud smoulder


My revision process was this: I took out what felt like the poet speaking on the poem and the thought process, rearranged, and reduced it to the ember.

21: Satu Kaikkonen

The above image is a vispo response to the text. Then, below, first, a Finnish translation. Then, an English translation.

Kuolin eilen
syntyäkseni tänään:
....................sitoakseni banjoni kielet täysikuun säteillä,

nämä tunnit
kuin hitaasti joutuva savu
.........................kytevä tuuli, taivaan alla vain hänen nimensä
kirjain kirjaimelta katoava.

Kuolin eilen,
mutta luuni eivät tahtoneet luovuttaa, eivät silmäni luopua
eivät sormeni soittamasta:

............synnyin, kuutamon alle, kasteen pakopaikkaan
hengittääkseni kukat, kuullakseni linnut
solmiakseni uudet sanat

puhtaat sävelet.


I died yesterday
so that I could be born today:
……………… tie the languages of my banjo with the beams of the full moon,

these hours,
like the slowly coming smoke
……………….like the smoldering wind, under the sky his name
disappearing letter by letter.

I died yesterday,
but my bones did not want to give up, neither my eyes,
my fingers from the playing:

……….I was born under the moonlight to the escape point of dew
so that I could breathe the flowers, hear the birds
forge new words

pure tones.


I translated the poem from English to Finnish with a Google translation machine, and after that I picked up some words that made to me an influence. Then I wrote the new version of the poem in Finnish, and put it again into the translation machine. And after that I made a translation.
This poem is not very similar to original poems, but the most important thought to me was to keep the motion of the poem in my poem and of course words like banjo, moonlight etc. in it. The result is something that original poems really awaked in me, it's somekind of found inside the original poem - a poem in the poem.

Monday, June 14, 2010

20: Erín Moure

The brain’s smoke-like hearse
puts the smoulder to the real
The smoke-like brain
puts the smoulder to the real

the reel unwinds

Wretched and lying down
tonight I’m really old
There’s doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose
should be

a banjo, a memory, a regret

I have a foolish heart
and there’s windows where my heart, spleen, pancreas
should be
But I never regret moonlight in my bed

I move over: moonlight!


i could play with this awhile as i love revising, looking at the music of words, the effects different words and positionings have on each other... what that provokes in me, what more. or less. i tend to work by taking the first drafts and pulling out where i think language is working, and letting the strong language provoke me into generating more... i look at it all, and move things, and make new lines, and go where language wants me to go. this is a little bit of work, very modest, very quick in this case (otherwise i'd never get it done!). i kinda like the poem! it sounds like i wrote it!

19: Nf Huth

Smoke or smoulder
the moon is full and
(sifty tendrils of
proud or . . . )

(the smoulder
to the real . . . lazy, wretched, lying)
I would sing these strings
to the moon, full of

violet and doors
where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose

should be
if strings could
if I could remember or rouse

like a cloying rhyme
never fully closed

like an old poem
moonlight (in my bed) or

(or . . . )
forgetful midnight words
vibrating like smoke.

18: Gregory Betts

Plunder in the Key of G


regret moonlight

forgetful midnight

looking Gary

Plunder in the Key of A

What can a banjo
lazy and
(brain’s hearse

a head
a ears,
a banjo, a, a
a heart

what that mean
thanks and
forward Gary

Plunder in the Key of R

brain’s proud smoulder

(or …brain’s hearse
smoulder real)
(or… brain
smoulder real)

doors where ears,
memory, regret
another heart


forward Gary

Plunder in the Key of Y

you’re lazy

cloying rhyme
my eyes


Coda: Plunder in the Key of E

when the
the smoulder
the smoke-like tendrils

(the smoke-like hearse
the smoulder the real)
(the smoke-like
the smoulder the real)

like poem

often violet inside head
like rhyme
never closed

where eyes, ears, nose

never regret bed
memory, regret
another poem

‘have heart’
does mean
sweet, forgetful?

17: Kevin Mcpherson Eckhoff

“this time, I know much”

what can I do with a banjo string
when laziness fills the moon with
the brain’s proud smoulder
a hearse of tendrils of gaseous ash
carbons the real

often a violet burns inside my head
like lechery and fazzle-pop

doors in my face
never fully closed
made of smoke

I resent the streetlight in my mirror and bed
and your fume-like music


notes on the process: my style, whatever, changes or is determined on a daily basis. some days, I lean towards any number or aesthetic of mechanical reorganizations of text according to word length, alphabeticalness (or anti-alphabeticalness) or parts of speech. for today, for me, for the poem – as it was given – the images were so strange and exciting and face-slapping that I decided to laser-pointer on them and excise the “poem” references and repetitions and stuff. So, yeah.

16: Dan Waber

This is a really interesting project. And thinking about it made me realize something about my own process that I hadn't been aware of previously--I don't work through anywhere near as many drafts today as I used to go through. I was an incessant reviser for a long time. I even used a version control system normally used by software developers that allowed me to keep track of every version, so that I could revert at any time to any draft. But today I work in a much less drafty room, so to speak. I write, and then I review and revise, and then prior to submission (if it's a piece that ends up being submitted, not much of what I do goes out anymore), I'll read through once more looking for typos. So, I can't really look at this piece as if it were a draft of mine, since I'm not really draft-based anymore. However, if this fits with your vision for the project, I can show you how I'd suggest it be re-written if someone were asking me for my opinion as an editor.

What can you do with a banjo
when you’re lazy and the moon is full?
The brain’s smoke hearse
puts the smoulder to the real.

I’m wretched and lie
like an old poem.

A violet burns inside my head
like a rhyme that cloys
never fully closed,

doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose

I never regret moonlight in my bed--
a banjo, a memory, a regret,
another rhyme.

‘I have a foolish heart?’
What does that mean, these sweet,
forgetful midnight words?

15: rob mclennan

Gedichte 1853 Und 1854: Zum Lazarus: ‘Einst sah ich viele’

What can you do with banjo
lazy, when the moon is full

the brain’s proud
, tendrils

first, come real

lie, old poem, wretched rhyme

violet burns
a cloying head, my never-fully-closed

where eyes, ears, mouth, nose
should be

never regret
moonlight in bed

a banjo, memory, regret
another cloying poem-thing

‘I have a foolish heart?’
what does that mean?

sweet, forgetful
, midnight smoulders words


Note: If mine, I would read Barwin's original lines as quick scribbles, scattered throughout my notebook, to be reordered, cobbled together into a workable poem. I’ve been more interested in troubling the narrative impulse and longer lines, so my natural impulse would be there, and in altering the rhythms to more reflect a series of flows and interruptions, flows and interruptions. I would remove, automatically, repeated words, first-person pronouns, the unbearable “I,” which is difficult to remove, especially when you do (it remains, even invisible, like a stain).

Also, as I often rant to workshop groups, I would steer away from the use of “like,” finding it too passive, and even unbearable (I find removing “ing” has the same effect, for the same reason); why say a thing is “like” when you can be more direct, say simply a thing?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

14: Richard Huttel


O how I long for a banjo!
one of the five-stringed variety
all tuned up & ready
for an inaugural romp

Through maybe Foggy Mountain
Breakdown or Theme from The Beverly
Hillbillies—just slide on
my white National thumb pick

& paint me
Bill Monroe

Hard to believe there once was a time
when I knew nothing
of these things!

But here we all are, sittin’

No regrets! was once my mantra
Now it’s: no train wrecks!
Only great recoveries…

Can you imagine for even a moment
Robert Johnson’s Love in Vain played
on a banjo?
…Movie pools! Swimmin’ stars!

--Richard Huttel for Gary Barwin 12 June 2010

13: Sam Kaufman

What can you do-do
with a banjo or two-two
when you’re lazysome and crazysome
and the moon is a fool?
When the brainsies proud moulder
smokes a bucketlist of clover
and the nursie rides a hearsie
like a fairies-wheel?
I’m wretched-like and trying some
to sow some harmlessness old lying mum
but the violets of rhyming um
keep a-burbling out my nose.
Boil the doorjam of the senses
Forget incasements and tenses
Fool the memory with some moonylight
Leave the'art clogged with a resoundingbite
Log the organelles for the arkive
Leave no nictitating florets alive
The real regrets
what it refrains
to stain to steal to strangle to feign to uh full-feel-fangle


i would generally object (!) to the work-it-over-till-its-dead slope of the conceiving premise - thought your first draft was fine & live enough for a moonlit moment - anyway i moved more in the banjo direction towards sillysong and what that can do-do. S.

12: Nicholas Power

No Regrets

What can you do with a banjo
when the moon is full
and you’re wretched
and lying like an old poem?

your brain smouldering
with smoke-like tendrils of thought

a violet burning inside your head
like a cloying rhyme
never fully closed

where you had eyes and ears
where your mouth and nose should be

even when the brain
is a smoke-like hearse
never regret moonlight in your bed
or banjos, or memories,
or regrets

You have a foolish heart:
what does that mean
to the sweet, forgetful words
of midnight?


I took the approach that it was a second or third draft of a poem of my own.
Thanks for the opportunity to work with already strong material. I went for
a pared down through line of thought and a familiar rhythm (to my ear!).

11: Chris Piuma

With a banjo, you’re dumb,
the moon, the brain,
all smoulder and smoke,
what to do, what to do?

Or really:
the brain, a hearse,
all smoulder and smoke,

Or really:
the smoke, the brain,
the off-putting smoulder,

I lie, a poem purples in my head,
an old fame, an eternal frame,
badly jointed, each nail a clear clue
to its unfascinating fastening.

Burn the house down from the inside to escape.

Or really:
With a banjo, you strum,
the words, the tune,
all smoulder and smoke,
“Beware my foolish heart...”

Or really:
The brain, rehearsed,
all smoulder and stoke.


Notes: Inspired by the poem, I got lazy. I tightened up a few formal connections I saw, and made more, and decided to let the sentiment do its thing. It ended a bit workshoppy, maybe. That’s fine.

10: Robert Morpheal

Gedichte 1853 Und 1854: Zum Lazarus: ‘Einst sah ich viele’
Interpolated 2010

What can you do with a banjo
stray fingers and long tangled hair
when you’re lazy and the moon is full
the scars on her face appear erotic
the brain’s proud smoulder
injecting its drugs into sex organs
the smoke-like tendrils of thought
wrapping themselves around those desires

(or …the brain’s smoke-like hearse
wanting to push it in and get it over
puts the smoulder to the real)
the way a hypodermic enters the skin
(or…the smoke-like brain
is a melting paraffin candle
puts the smoulder to the real)
silver spoon

I’m wretched and lying
the way any prisoner becomes
like an old poem
scratched into stone with fingernails

often a violet burns inside my head
reciting my worst nightmares
like a cloying rhyme
beating into unconsciousness
never fully closed
it all tumbles through a torn membrane

doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose
cock and anus
should be
and all lured by nubile seductive strangers

I never regret moonlight in my bed
her pale white scars with no open sores,
a banjo, a memory, a regret
that her pleasures could have been more intense
another cloying poem-thing
never good enough until she begs a quick ending

‘I have a foolish heart?’
Throbbing as it does, down in my loins.
what does that mean
bruising pf flesh against flesh,
sweet, forgetful midnight words?
from such primitive and muted tongues.

Robert Morpheal

9. Pearl Pirie

What is Matter A? Banjo.
This, a denial energy.

And it approves
of what this month? Ventilation:
The ignition indication is complete.

It burns stuffily,
that brain which is fully arrogant,
the founding brains, the establishment brain,
and the Rauch-wie corpse car.

I am unfortunate, buy the elephant
which is is always in the time already ended.
Frequently, ground-to-air's empty head,
which is mined, burns the violet.

Looks like surfeiting, see?
The perfect rhyme, gate's safe tautness
The rhyme door of perfection
tightening securely

My eye, the ear and the mouth
must map that place.

(No? go back: rhyme completely:
the door which is shut assuredly
and is not.)

As for me —
with the bed which is mined
and it does not regret —
the moonlight.

Regret, the banjo has remembered.
Regretted that the banjo remembered.

The reminding east gluts if it differs.
There, from three, it has one.

Which is the heart inside I?

You forget, sweet method,
to be good.

You forgot that the happy method is good.

And the knife of midnight,
when you throw it, approves?

Does it authorize throwing? (Or, has it
arranged to forget that tender method,
and the good nearby?)


Notes on processing: to play with mistakes, machines translations. It ran back to German, then east thru Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, French, and German again. At each step going back to English and tweaking into new syntax and looking for interesting phrases to feed back into the end, taking the best of each broken language.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

8: Clint Burnham

"soon lather us"

lass D hi! I’ll goin’ pair of bowling shoes
last Dief men hype oh! S. Thesen
zouk divers Dump ten-forkin’
own oom’s fife undo’s lo! sin
warm schlepped sick blue Ellen S. end
interred cries last J. Derksen wrecked
4 end glue click Alzheimer B. Seger
trapped off homie’s ohm Ross dirt select?
Warren league’d Dee scold? Liszt oof-duh
Answer hair nicked cans all muh tick?
odour tribe to her sell-by then unfucked?
Act, that’s far need ‘er track Tigg
Also fraggin’ fur best and dig
peace man unsmitten eyin’ her handful
err de end lick stopped fit to die mauler
hey Burr pissed Dasein ant forth?


note: I took Hiene's Zum Lazarus poem (in German - found on the webnet - don't know if it's the same one you used) & ran it thru my homophonic system that I used for the Benjamin Sonnets (ie sound for sound, approx). - CB

7: Zach Wells

What can you do with a banjo
when you’re lazy and the moon is full?

I’m wretched and lying
like an old poem,


where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose
should be.


[Seemed to me to be a block of wood awaiting the adz, Gary. I'm allergic to words like "memory," "sweet," "regret" and "words," so off with their flowery heads. It now feels like a fragment in search of a sequence, I think. Cheers, and thanks for including me in this, Z]

6: Hugh Thomas

Hugh Thomas, author of most recently Heart Badly Buried by Five Shovels very quickly responded to my call with this excellent version of the poem.

What can you do with a banjo
there are a number of directions to proceed
when you’re lazy and the moon is full
what others might do with

the brain’s proud smoulder
I'd love to see
the smoke-like tendrils of thought
plus some commentary

I'm wretched and lying
I'd love to see
inside my head
never fully closed

or some radical departure from it
I never regret
what you did
what does that mean

If you're interested in
sweet midnight words
just do some work
or something more final

5: Geof Huth

Once, When I Last Saw Many

What to do what to do
with a banjo when I’m lazy
and the moon is not

I’m wretched and lying
like an old poem

like an open poem
I’m lying wretched and writing

Often a violet burns
inside my head often
in my lawn a tiny violet
like a fractured rhyme
and the sun on my neck
burns a hole open in my head
like the tiniest sound
gone wrong and opens

a wound
an ear
a winding
of word

and then doors
doors where my eyes and ears
doors where my mouth
and nose should be

I never regret moonlight
on the bed and a woman
her white voice and the banjo
I cannot play and the memory
of strumming her skin upon
white sheets and the white
moonlight heavy with regret

of another stupid poem
in a world too full of
stupid poems and moonlight

She might ask me from
the bed if I have a foolish heart
and I would answer
Yes I have a heart

why do you think how do you
think I could otherwise write
sweet neglectful midnight words
that you will only forget by morning
believing them but the outlines
of dreams you wouldn’t care to recall?

Why do you think I write?

4: Jacob McArthur Mooney

I Have Many Banjos
(after Gary Barwin and Heinrich Heine)

I have many banjos.
I play the banjos when I’m lazy,
or the moon is full.
I let my brain’s proud smoulder
pull tendrils of thought.

I let my brain drive my shoulder through the banjos.

I let my shoulder smoulder out my proud thoughts.


I have many banjos.

I’m wretched and lying
like an old poem.

There are doors where my ears
and mouth should be.

But I never regret a full moon on my bed.
A banjo. Some memories, for songs about regret.
Or a poem in my head if I’ve no memories.

I have a foolish heart. But what does that mean?
That I have many banjos.

And I play them when I’m lazy
or the moon is full.

Notes: Something about Gary’s version of the poem reminded me of David McFadden, so his was the voice in my head here. Not sure where that title phrase came from, exactly, but I ran with it. I probably reshaped the ideas of the poem quite a bit on my second draft, but that’s likely something this exercise encourages. And the central “aboutness” of poems tends to be much more malleable than people think, in my experience. I’ve always kind of made the point of the piece up as I went along. Another observation: my draft stretches out a bit more than Gary’s. I’ve definitely added some more white space to go with my English title and the circling-back to the first lines with those final two couplets. There's a casualness to the first draft that I wanted to foster with a lot of empty lines, like the words in the poem just come to the speaker as s/he speaks them.

3: Amanda Earl

why am i writing about a banjo, an instrument i cannot play
i play guitar but not very well because you see i am lazy
and then there is the moon, there is always the moon
and it is round like the face of a banjo

thinking is hard work. i can smell wood burning
there is smoke. do i smell toast
no, this is something more rectangular
but also black and not particularly edible
it is only a hearse which sounds like horse
because the title mentions Lazarus
of which there are two in the Bible
and the grave of the speaker who is
perhaps the poet Heinrich Heine
this man Heine wrote verse in the 1800s
unlike Gary Barwin who is writing poems today

in Heinrich’s poem of the same title as the title
of Gary’s poem (and coincidentally the title of this poem)
the speaker was also wretched
perhaps that explains my own wretchedness
or the reason i am lying to you now

i will distract you with a violet
because it turns out that the burning
in my brain was actually a yellow
violet and you can associate a violet
with a woman if you’d like
or if not we can talk for a while
about rhymes rich and poor,
open and closed like doors

and suddenly a list of my body parts
but no mention of genitalia
because there is no polite way
to use genitalia as a metaphor
for doors (entries and exits) or vice versa

and then we have the moon again
it never goes way
except in the daytime
which is a way of forgetting
that often leads to regret
and back to the scent of flowers
that Proust will later change
to a few spongy biscuits soaked in tea

i foolishly ponder the midnight hours
not a song by Wilson Pickett which
also involves a woman but no violets
i suppose the song could be played on a banjo


i decided to write a metapoem, that is a poem about the poem. since Gary’s poem springs from the Heinrich Heine poem, i wanted to join in on the springing and the questioning too, that is the conversation, the ongoing act of artistic inspiration from one creator to the next, Lorca’s Duende at work…

i wanted to play with the notion of the I, the speaker of the poem as well. this is always a fun routine and something you can try at home. it is something i have learned from Robert Kroetsch and am still learning.

the theme of (involuntary) memory and regret in these poems made me think also of Napoleon and Josephine, her violet perfume. Napoleon planting violets at her grave. I couldn’t work that into the poem, alas.

i enjoy the act of grave robbing from the works of the dead or just plain stealing from living writers, then layering and sampling. i imagine an archaeologist sifting through layers and looking for clues about the eras based on the artefacts in these poems. i have always wanted to be Indiana Jones.

2: Martin Avery

Martin Avery, writing teacher and author of many books contributed this:

Heinrich Heine And I Went Walking By The Fake Lake

Heinrich Heine and I went for a walk in Toronto during the G20 meeting to see the Metro Convention Centre and join in the protests against globalization and the idea that selected leaders from the richest countries on the planet could set the agenda for everybody on Earth. After throwing some eggs and spray-painting anarchist slogans on the CBC building, we grabbed a cab and went down to the CNE to see the fake lake.

Heine had been out of the picture for a long time, so I had to fill him in on what was happening. I told him Canada’s Conservative government had shelled out $1.9 million for a display called the Canadian Corridor that included a fake Muskoka lake.
The exhibit was intended to give international reporters who couldn’t make it up to Muskoka for the G8 a taste of cottage country and to provide a backdrop for television crews. The display was inside the Toronto media centre on the CNE grounds.
The fake lake had a fake dock and fake canoes and a few Muskoka chairs. The budget for the two summits that overlap on the last weekend of June has been pegged at $1.1 billion. We call it Fuddle Duddle Puddle, I told him. Or Swine Lake, Pork Barrel Bay, Piggies Cove. Lake Takenmytaxes.

He said it reminded him of Lake Lethe and of a time he saw a crowd of flowers in bloom by a lake in Germany, one summer, and how he wished he had picked them, years later, when he was dying.

“How I regret I never fully had that sweetheart in her bed,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I know what you mean, but, well, what can you do with a banjo when you’re lazy and the moon is full?”

He said, “Often there is a violet light that burns inside my head like a cloying rhyme never fully closed, and there are doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, and nose should be. What could that mean?” he asked me. ‘I have a foolish heart?’ I gave him a friendly punch in the arm and reminded him of the play he wrote, called Almansor, about the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, during the Spanish Inquisition.
“You wrote, "Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings".”
And I told him that, a century later, his books were among the thousands of volumes that were torched by the Nazis in Berlin's Opernplatz.
We talked about his conversion to Christianity, and back, and I asked him what heaven’s like, even though I know people on the other side are not supposed to talk about that.
“It’s like this scene with the lake, the dock, the canoes, and the Muskoka chairs,” he said, “in a way.”
“I knew it!” I said.
And then we stopped to buy some bottled water from Lake Lethe.
“Thanks for coming, Chaim” I said. “L’chaim!”

“Forgetaboutit,” he said with a smile. “And keep your eye on this government,” he added.

Notes: I was thinking about the G8 in Muskoka and G20 in Toront, and I wanted to write a poem about the ‘fake lake’ when I got the request from Moribund Facekevetch on Facebook. I thought I’d rewrite Ka’naan’s soccer song, “Wavin’ Flag”, but make it about the fake lake. But then your note got me thinking about Heine and how much I’ve wanted to meet him. I’ve been writing about channeling Balzac, lately, so I channeled Heine. I didn’t make up this story, I just reported on what happened, as Kafka used to say.

1: Poetry Project: The Idea

Here is a little poetry project that I've started tonight.

I sent a number of different poets the following note and poem:

Here’s the idea. I wrote this draft based on line-by-line responses to a Heine poem. If this were my poem, I’d reckon the poem is not too bad, but needs a serious edit /rework. It needs shaping, tightening, focussing or maybe an extreme rethink. Thinking about it, I could see that there were a number of directions to proceed. So, I thought I’d send it to various different writers and see what they might do with it. How, if it were their draft, they would proceed. I’d love to see some different versions plus some commentary. This text might just be the a jumping off point from some radical department from it, or it might be completely rearranged. Or else, it might just need some ‘styling’, as the hairdressers say. I think that's how my hair once got to be shaped like a dying swan.

If you’re interested in participating, I’d be thrilled. Just do some work on the poem, maybe write a few notes about what you did, and send it back to me. I’ll post the replies on this blog. I'm really interested in how different writers take drafts and shape them toward what they consider something more final.

Here's the poem:

Gedichte 1853 Und 1854: Zum Lazarus: ‘Einst sah ich viele’

What can you do with a banjo
when you’re lazy and the moon is full
the brain’s proud smoulder
the smoke-like tendrils of thought

(or …the brain’s smoke-like hearse
puts the smoulder to the real)
(or…the smoke-like brain
puts the smoulder to the real)

I’m wretched and lying
like an old poem

often a violet burns inside my head
like a cloying rhyme
never fully closed

doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, nose
should be

I never regret moonlight in my bed
a banjo, a memory, a regret
another cloying poem-thing

‘I have a foolish heart?’
what does that mean
sweet, forgetful midnight words?


Here's the original Heine. I didn't send this to the writers.

I saw a crowd of flowers in bloom,
On my way: too lazy of course
To stir myself and pick them too,
I rode on by, on my proud horse.

Now, when I’m wretched and I’m dying,
Now, when my grave’s already aired,
Often in memory, painful, mocking,
The scent of flowers I scorned is there.

One, especially, of fiery yellow,
A violet, burns inside my head,
How I regret I never fully
Had that sweetheart in her bed.

My solace: Lethe’s water can
Even now, not lacking in its powers,
Refresh the foolish heart of Man,
With sweet forgetful midnight hours.