Hi- You’re a beautiful woman who worked in the Haight at a clothing store there and completely into 1920s movies and fashions.
We met at Trax on a Tuesday (neighborhood) night a while back -
I gave you my card but didn’t get your number.
Have looked for you on Tuesday nights but never saw you again.
You were wearing a 20s style vintage hat and we had a nice chat about 1920s movies.
I mentioned you looked like a 1920s starlet!
I’m the artist and am also a very serious student of film.
Your favorite movie, if I recall, is Birth of A Nation?
Just got a beautiful blu ray restoration.
Would love to see you again and chat about films- let’s go see a vintage movie as well!
Hope you or one of your friends sees this.
(N.B.: “It was a dark and stormy night . . .” - a note from the Editor
“at the movies” – a note from the other Editor
“and popcorn” – says the cat
“and chips” – says the other cat
“and huge ticket price mark ups” – says Machiavelli
“and line-ups” – says Machiavelli Jr.
“and air conditioning” – says the cat
“and ice cream” – says the other cat)
A brilliant rendition of the blues in Americana poetics, stories of the night street in rain under the Allegheny moon,
Blues: repetition of a blue bass line by D.B. Cox and Subterranean Blue Poetry. D.B. Cox (poet, musician, soldier) is from
South Carolina. He is a Marine Corps Veteran and has written five books of poetry.
This poetic offering exists in the long spaces of the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Painted in 1942 during W.W. II a certain idea of alienation and shadowland, perfectly mirrored in Blues: repetition of a blue bass line. A soldier/Angel, rolling around the streets, amongst the ragged people, playing the blues in bars, writing into the night, the stories of shadowland. After the war, still living the war. An underlying theme of ended love affair, the poet pushes the bounds of post-modernist literature with the idea of paradise lost. The Beat of the bullet delivery crashes into the darkness, in lyrical rounds. Nightmares on the edge of violence, depression, the write is a considered truthtelling that shines in. Stories of lost and found, the in sync, out of sync rhythm of want and not rolls into poetics like a night of blues.
From searching for the door:
“sad eyes filled
with junk-sick rivers
she faces another night
made of waiting
swaying in place
over her shoulder
as if she’s searching
for the door
she came in through”
An original Beat progression, the work is iconic, in night moves, as if the poet, walking through a rancid, decaying post-apocalypse cityscape, is reciting poetry up to the nightsky. Stories of taxi cabs, street people, suicide, an old war, guitars, drunks and dance halls. The darkness is an imprint of hard edges rounded by the brilliant craft of the poet’s pen.
From shades of ray
- for Ray Charles
“dark shades of ray
swaying to fatback funk
& blue indigo - incognito
comping dirges so slow
the drummer’s lost
& looking for a tempo
heal your soul”
The poetry is Kraftwerk, incredible spinning of language that creates the ambience of a nighclub with veiled lamplight, close, intimate, a night with a starlight friend. A fantastique New Age poetic jewel, Blues: repetition of a blue base line by D.B. Cox.
Available @ Amazon.com.
It is The Art Gallery of Ontario, 2005, the rooms are full of the works of Modigliani. Captures the artists/the lovers in sculpture
and portraits from Paris (early 1900’s) a long time ago, all in rhythm, although the painted hands sometimes are awkward . . . like
a song, the nude of Jeanne Hébuterne, the young art student calls at the end of the long room, her hands neatly tucked in behind
her head, the stunning nude, surrounded in golded light.
Catching Desire, a book of prose, interspersed with poetry by Carmelo Militano, tells of the life of the great painter, Modigliani, barely recognized in his own lifetime, yet well known in the Artists’ milieu of Paris in the early 20th Century, his life, his lovers, his work. Carmelo Militano is an award-winning Canadian poet, his family originally from Italy and a former journalist at the CBC Radio One Winnipeg.
The biography, in poetic treatise, was researched in Italy and Paris, as the author/poet discovers the Artist in his homes and haunts and in the Archives, providing the background from which Militano spins his craft. Walking in the streets and bistros of Italy and Paris, the author/poet often intersperses the work with poems/prose written in the 1st person, using “I”, within the biography of the write in the storyline. Also, the author on occasion assumes the different roles of the principals in first person, creating an ambience of intimacy. The poetry within the prose is experiential tells a story in classical form, with the distant influence of the Beats.
This Art Nouveau biography is the magic of the Paris concourse, the Artists, the purveyors of art, their lovers, the quiet au sauvage that claims the moment, W.W. I and then W.W. II in the background the Spanish flu of 1917, the red plumes of tuberculosis. How the Artists commune together, the soirées, the broken love affairs, often the tragic, the shadows of poverty and disease. Also, the story of light how patrons give monies, how Modi is known to people, how he is given place. A story of the Artist dilettante, consumed by drink and dark passions of the heart. The recounting of how Beatrice Hastings (Modigliani’s wealthy lover, a publicist) is thrown through a closed window in an argument with the Artist, and how Modi is shot at by her new lover Alfred Pina (sculptor) all occurring at public night soirées.
He meets Leopold Zborovski an art dealer who becomes his patron, he shuts him in a room with a model, a bottle of wine and his canvas, brushes and paints. Zbo arranges an Art Gallery exhibition at the Mansard Gallery in London, Modi sells some of his work and is given favourable reviews in the press. The living history, the stories, the days and nights of Modigliani are infused with a quiet violence of the heart, a dark suffering. When he dies there is a mad scramble to acquire his paintings . . . his painter’s palettes, his hats. And the triumph of the art of Modigliani, the nudes painted in archetypes, the golded bright that lasts long into the dark of night.
From Paris, April 1910 & May 1911
(an affair with Anna Akhmatova (poet))
“On a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg
We recited Verlaine under his old black umbrella
Delighted we remembered the same verses
Soft tap of summer rain kept the beat
At night it was his footsteps under my window.
His door locked
I toss a surprise bouquet of roses
One by one through an open window
He returned to find a formed charmed pattern
Convinced I somehow entered.”
A brilliant recounting, moving from Livorno, Italy (Modigliani’s birth place) to Paris, France, to Nice, a travelogue, a life lived in the escarpment of lovers and poverty, a certain madness, brought into cinematic with poetry and Archives notes, quotes from the greats. Capturing the life of the Artist, Modigliani lives. Capturing Desire by Carmelo Militano.
Available @ Amazon.com.
‘In opposition to Aristotelean logic is what one might call paradoxical logic … Paradoxical logic was predominant in Chinese and Indian
thinking, in the philosophy of Heraclitus, and then again, under the name of dialectics, it became the philosophy of Hegel and Marx.’
- Erich Fromm (i)
Part of what motivates the poetry of Derek J Brown is concern with the impotence and ingenuity of humanity faced with a universe that our minds seem ill equipped, as yet, to fully grasp and understand. There is wonder at the things human beings can achieve and disconsolation at human stupidity and the limitations of our senses. Within this paradox (or dialectic) can be found other paradoxical conundrums, we may enjoy consumption while destroying ourselves: we see the surface of a vast array of phenomena yet do not fully comprehend them. Where does belief begin and fact end?
This is a highly impressive first collection of poems. It asks many important questions and explores them relentlessly through paradoxical iterations: such paradoxes range from those within details of the minutiae of daily social life, to the broad, the visionary and the universal.
A Poetics of Place and Time
The setting for much of the thought and action in these poems is Brown’s home city of Glasgow. Both the city’s centre and periphery are given equal attention and appreciation. Brown brings the same concentration and focus to all parts of the city that come under his scrutiny. There are no easy categorisations of social class or urban/urbane political certainties. People are observed in their places with the same sceptical reverence wherever they happen to be. The Glasgow encountered by the reader is both a real and recognisable 21st century city and a mythical place: an allegorical backdrop for exploring such questions as -
1. What happens to us when we die?
2. Is it possible to love another human being?
3. Are we all liars?
4. What is the moral universe?
5. Where do our values come from?
6. Does scientific reason tell us the truth?
7. Is there a purpose to human existence?
8. Why do we exist in the first place?
Clearly these are big questions which may have no answers, or multiple answers, or, how ever unlikely, one true answer. Nevertheless, it is by looking at Glasgow (and the world) in this way that Brown constructs the poems of ‘A Strategy of Mirrors’. It is commonplace in Brown’s poetry to find the mythical, mystical and mysterious rubbing shoulders with café interiors, bar stools and someone smoking a cigarette outside a hospital entrance.
Underlying all of this is the feeling that Time, and its flow, is a matter of chance, of probability often so remote as to render events miraculous to the human senses. Perhaps all is serendipitous, all is random, or by way of counterpoint, perhaps all is fated under the master plan of an unknowable being (or God) and free will is not what it seems? Then again, possibly, there are junctures and hinges in history whereby in parallel realms all possibilities of every conscious decision are played out with different results: something along the lines of certain ideas advanced by Philip K Dick. What ever the case may be, it can be asserted with some certainty that for Brown, Time is a slipping thing, layered like Russian dolls.
It generates its algorithms
Despite this reader’s interpretation of Brown’s methodology, or poetics, Brown’s world view is emphatically that of a poet. The seeping of philosophy into the poetry is by virtue of attention to those fundamental poetic tools, language and language use. Language is an active lens, reflecting and refracting the light of meaning, which is in its turn ever evolving, being and becoming, negating certainty to find new ways of looking at our lives, presenting life as fresh and vibrant: even the dull and jaded is alive through deployment of notions of transience and paradox, which only just save Brown from jaundiced cynicism. While many a human being, including myself, like to think of humans as creative beings, as part of a complex and creative ecosystem, which exists in a creative universe, Brown gives us the metaphor of “The Glass Harmonica” hiding behind a curtain and if we strain our ears hard enough, or tune in properly, we can hear its call. Brown tells us:
There is no telling
what I misconceive
You call seductively
to a universe
whose ears are full of wax
you raise your holy hands
to the follies of the world
Instruct your threadbare czars
to play their dead guitars
I will pretend to listen
How can we trust in our senses to tell us the truth about the universe when we are the universe and the universe is us:
it generates its algorithm
like there was
take this body
bruise it until it heals
Take your myths,
unite them in flesh
What soul is hidden in the music of the universe is reflected in Brown’s attention to syntax, cadence and rhythm. Browns poems have subtle but pointed rhythmic patterns imbued with the resonance of song. As in the famous Gillespie algorithm, ‘What happens is what is possible to happen, drawn from a random choice’ of variables available to Brown’s observational psyche. (ii) This same principle probably applies to all generational language creation though rather than go further down this road it might be beneficial to mention that Peter Clive has written an excellent short introduction to Brown’s collection which gives ease of access to the poetry itself.
Language as Music
As I strolled, fully possessed by 21st Century wonder, through Glasgow’s Alexandra Park I overheard several groups of young people arguing amongst themselves over the question of ‘What is poetry?’ One young woman cried passionately into the Spring-like 1st of March sky that ‘Poetry is language as music’. Yet another declaimed ‘poetry is metaphor’. To which a very serious seagull answered, ‘All signifying-systems of representation are metaphors: mathematics, music, sculpture, painting, language written and spoken, but only language as sound is truly beautiful. Poetry and song are the greatest achievements of leaden-footed humanity, and I can fly, so fuck them.’
You know the kind of thing … happens every day. I was baffled by the fact that the Poetry Police weren’t on hand to keep order should anything go awry. In my day it would’ve been a swift boot up the arse… And I thought to myself, what we call metaphor is actually metaphor contained within metaphor. And home did I head to ponder. On pondering, the question arose as to what precisely are the algorithmic qualities of music? Surely modern synthetic sound production is algorithm dependent?
The magic thing is that human beings can perform such tasks of sound generation without ever having to know the first thing about algorithms, or whether the symbolic representation of sound is metaphor within metaphor. Our senses tell us. We know intuitively how to mimic the world - process our sense data. It is another of the great gifts nature bequeaths us and will continue to do so for as long as there is an eco-system on this planet, or anywhere else, of which we are a part. Brown’s poetry has a wonderful sense of music, of language as music, (and there are very few decent poems which are free from ‘language as music’). In Brown’s Strategy we find both formal and informal structures. There is close attention to the sound of the words, to the rhythm and cadence of the syllables, to line length, to stanza structure, though this does not come from counting the number of syllables and stresses in a line, but from the heart of Brown’s consciousness, from his familiarity with and feeling for music, for language as music, for poetry. It comes from something as vague as sensitivity or sentiment, yet is accurate, truthful and real. One such highly musical poem is,
The Day Gene Vincent Came to Glasgow (iii)
On the verge of almost reliving
the day Gene Vincent came to Glasgow
I linger, smoking cigarettes
in the infirmary’s dominant shadow,
following randomly time’s deceits,
bait and switch of gods,
pulse of constants in my eye,
magnetic ends and odds
furnishing this vast aloneness,
the mystifying value
of a question that can’t be answered.
Is this not the way it always is?
In the myth that never was
all happenings that happen
science of music whispers,
moonlight’s cold infractions
accumulate then zero in
on epiphanies yet to be had.
Sirius appears to dance
and with its vanities gesticulates,
every ghost is living
in this revision of revision,
this script of what passes for transience.
I fill a small yet incurable space,
same one Gene Vincent filled
back somewhere in the 20th Century
I watch lovers escape
into prisons of their visions
I am not immune, I escape into my own
Here in December’s mortal grip
I dream sounds from lucent guitars,
howls of infants born in bitterness.
words of drunkards, unseen sages,
everything subject to impulse
of thermodynamic conundrums.
It will soon be Christmas Eve,
seems the lights have burned for ages
and it feels like I was there
the day Gene Vincent came to Glasgow
There is music in its content and its cadence. The location is just outside Glasgow’s somewhat gothic Royal Infirmary, but this location is entangled with the thoughts occurring in the narrator’s consciousness, a consciousness that while located in one place (the narrator’s mind) is contemplating other times, places and ideas. There is also the location of the poem itself as ink on a page in a physical book: contained within its closed world which is “A Strategy of Mirrors”. It is winter and perhaps someone close to the narrator has just died or is seriously ill. We are “in December’s mortal grip”.
Thinking of how Time behaves in this poem is instructive: Time is not linear, Gene Vincent travels from the early 1960s into the narrator’s present consciousness, and the narrator simultaneously is transported to Vincent’s world of the 1960s- “time's deceits … all happenings that happen/happen simultaneously … in this revision of revision,/this script of what passes for transience … and it feels like I was there/the day Gene Vincent came to Glasgow”. Even the natural world itself is not as it appears, it too contains various entanglements- “moonlight’s cold infractions … zero in on epiphanies yet to be had … Sirius appears to dance … and … every ghost is living”. The moon travels in Time and is not the actual moon observed but a future moon indicative of knowledge that can only be gained from future experience. There is the possibility that dancing Sirius brings our ghosts to life and somehow wraps all of time in an eternal present, in which past, present and future are united, it is all in the one-ness. A one-ness which exists to be transcended …
Needless to say, this a deeply thought-provoking collection of poems. It is an entire world, and a worldview, contained within 70 or so poems. Each poem is executed skilfully and reads with entertainment and ease. There is a lot going on here, reflection upon reflection upon reflection. Reading A Strategy of Mirrors is a fascinating journey, by turns melodic, philosophical and abundantly rich with images.
i. Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, p. 57, Thorsons, London, 1995. (First published 1957).
ii. Stuart A Kaufmann, Humanity in a Creative Universe, p 52, OUP, Oxford, 2016.
iii. Brown, A Strategy Mirrors, p, 46, Rymour Books, Perth, 2020. Brown can be heard reciting this poem on youtube at
Available @ Amazon.co.uk.