Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alex Chilton Birthday Bash and Radio One

I'll be appearing tonight at 7:30 (CST) on WLUW 88.7 FM's Radio One program, promoting the 6th Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash next week at The Empty Bottle. (Here are blurbs about the bash from the Reader, Flavorpill, and Time Out.) Admission to the bash is free if you send an email to with 'chilton' in the subject line. (Note that All RSVPs must be received by midnight the day before the event in question. All RSVPs honored will receive an “All set!” response. If you haven’t received an “All set!” response email, you are NOT on the RSVP list. Feel free to bring your confirmation response to the door. All RSVPs must be received individually and all emails should have the night’s show in the subject line and attendees full name in the email body.)

You can listen to WLUW's feed via the web. Hope to see you at the bash on Tuesday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Basil Bunting's "Coda"

One of my favorite poetry ideas is my own variation on the music poem. Click here to read all about it, and to peruse the last student poems of the year from my Solomon residency, inspired by Basil Bunting's "Coda."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ron Padgett's "Morning"

For the sixth week of my residency I had students read Ron Padgett's poem, "Morning." There were some amazing (and deep) discussions over this poem, and some great student responses in their own poems.

Read more about Pilgrim and Solomon at the blog for each school.

Hope you enjoy! These are the last posts until January.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poem of the Week

Yesterday my poem, "Lutherans" was Poem of the Week at Salmon Poetry! "Lutherans" also appears in Dogs Singing, Salmon's just-published anthology of canine poems.

Schwartz at Pilgrim

Today I was back at Pilgrim after the Thanksgiving break. Here are the 5th and 6th graders' poems inspired by Delmore Schwartz's "The Foggy, Foggy Blue."

Zenith Beast page on Facebook

Continuing my Facebook onslaught, Zenith Beast now has its own page as well. Please like if you do!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Foggy, Foggy Blue"

This week at Solomon Elementary, we read Delmore Schwartz's "The Foggy, Foggy Blue." I have used Schwartz in classes in the past, but for some reason this particular poem has slipped under the radar until now. It's amazing how poems strike us (or fail to) over time; perhaps the accumulation of personal experience has something to do with it. Regardless, I was happy to introduce this poet and his work to my students.

As I normally do, I created a rather sophisticated lesson plan (or cheat sheet) for discussing the poem, but midway through the 3rd grade class I realized that simply getting to the heart of it would work best, not just for the littlest kids but for other grades as well. I took that same approach for the 4th and 5th graders, and let their own questions and comments spark discussions in the classrooms. It was a smart move on my part.

Here are Solomon student poems. A bit more on the poem and process is also included.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Take a look (pun intended) at these poems, written today by 5th and 6th graders at Pilgrim Lutheran School in response to David Ignatow's "I Close My Eyes."

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Me Decade group page on Facebook

The Me Decade now has a Facebook page.

Please 'like' The Me Decade, and pass on the word!

Post Office now on Facebook

Another of my early Chicago-era bands is now on Facebook -- Post Office. Check out our group page and don't hesitate to like what you hear!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Folk You! 9th Anniversary

As some of you may know, I've been hosting a singer-songwriter round robin (guitar pull, showcase, or whatever) since December 2001 called Folk You! We've been in residence at a few places in the city, such as Beat Kitchen and The Hideout, but for the past three-plus years we've been happily ensconced at The Horseshoe. (Thank you, 'shoe!)

I've made efforts to more aggressively promote Folk You! over the years, but more or less we get along just swell on word-of-mouth from both guests and audience members. Still, even considering my reading engagements and band shows, Folk You! in many ways remains my most constant pleasure, whether performing to an intimate handful of attendees or a boisterous throng. As befitting my character, I've tried to make the experience low-key and loose, and while it gives me a chance to try out new material, or fumble through unearthed chestnuts from my troubadourial vault (cheat sheet required), my favorite part of each show is inevitably when I can lean back in my chair and watch the other performers. It's quite a vantage point, and enviably the best seat in the house.

So while our milestone-y 10th anniversary is still a year off, big, big thanks to Mike Felten and Chicago City Buzz for this post from yesterday -- and hope you can make it to this month's edition of Folk You!, November 19th at The Horseshoe.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fussbudgets group page on Facebook

Phase two in an ongoing attempt to migrate information previously available only on My Space to Facebook: a Fussbudgets page, about my San Francisco-era "savant pop" band. This is in anticipation of digitization of the Fussbudgets oeuvre, finally making it available via iTunes and other digital providers, as well as (hopefully) hard copy as well.

Friend The Fussbudgets!!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Contents of "Table"

Last week the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Solomon read and discussed Turkish Modernist poet, Edip Cansever's "Table." Here are their 'household object' poems, written in reaction to it, as well as Pilgrim Lutheran School's 5th and 6th graders' work from this week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poems from Pilgrim

This week's student poems from Pilgrim 5th and 6th graders, in response to Jane Kenyon's achingly gorgeous "Let Evening Come."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hands on Stanzas begins

I've had one class apiece for my two residencies now this year. Check out blog entries for Pilgrim (a new school for me) and Solomon. The students are off to a terrific start!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dogs Singing

I have three poems appearing in the anthology, Dogs Singing, forthcoming in October from Salmon Poetry. Get your copy now!

Upcoming Gigs

It's still a bit early in the semester/year for me to begin musing fully on my classes, so instead I'll add some pretty posters regarding two upcoming gigs (one of which is tonight).

More to come...hope to see you at an upcoming show!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

draconian measures: The Origin

Some people have asked about the title of this blog. (I guess any measures taken here to date don't seem quite so draconian!) The origin goes back to a temp job I worked in San Francisco. One day the underlings in the law office where I was placed received a memo regarding non-adherence to the firm's dress code, stating that "draconian measures" would be undertaken if people didn't comply. The severity of the memo was underscored by the sheer absurdity of the so-called 'dress code,' which seemed to focus specifically on shoes. My own at the time had been purchased at a local thrift store (specifically for said job) and ironically passed muster despite being a little worse for the wear. In other respects, I thought I was pushing the parameters clothes-wise but since I was a lowly temp I was that much more unconcerned.

Coincidentally, I had been considering starting my own literary zine at the same time, and since no title had yet been decided upon "draconian measures" seemed not only appropriate, but the perfect excuse for me to stop thinking about doing it and acting on the idea instead. Therefore, draconian measures was born!

To commemorate the magazine's genesis, I copied the pertinent portion of the memo and blew up the rather mundane font so that it had a cruddier look. Not just a title, but a logo as well -- perfect for my self-described "litter-ary" magazine.

draconian measures didn't last very long. Despite working many years as a freelance journalist, and being all-too-familiar with looming deadlines, it was tough for me to maintain a regular schedule for releasing issues -- and even tougher for me to decide on material to publish. I declined much more than I accepted, and after a few years it became a chore.

I recently made it out to my storage space (an essential component for the urbanite with limited living quarters who holds onto as much material as I do), and among the items I was seeking were back issues of dm. I found two, and just published them on Scribd. Check out issues #2 and #3 for a glimpse into my nascent editorial tastes, as well as some very fine poetry, fiction, interviews and art by names familiar and unknown that I think largely holds up well today.

So when I started this blog, thinking it would mostly focus on my writing and teaching, the name returned to me as the right choice. I like how it owes something to my editorial past, and carries on into the present. I hope that makes sense, or enough anyway.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hands on Stanzas

Check out the just-published 2009-2010 Anthology of Student Verse, featuring my 5th grade students from Shields Elementary, and my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from Solomon Elementary!

Two shows this week

Two gigs this week. Check images for full details. The Injured Parties play 9-ish at The Mutiny, while Folk You! begins at 8 PM sharp at The Horseshoe. Hope you can make it out to either/or/both.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Upcoming Shows

Selected upcoming musical performances...a glimpse into the fall and beyond. Hope to see you at these events!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Cafe Press

Cafe Press now features an online store for Zenith Beast, featuring official merchandise from my various enterprises: solo music and books, as well as music-related material from The Injured Parties, The Fussbudgets, Post Office, The Me Decade, and the annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash. Check it out! Be the first on your block to be gloriously betogged, and/or to quaff a beverage from an I Am Spam mug!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Your one-stop shopping for LOD music:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Revolving Door Reading

Here is an edited video of my appearance at the Revolving Door reading series earlier this month. The three excerpted poems are "The Carillon," "Circling Train Set" (originally commissioned for the Dollar Store series), and "My Penis." Thanks to Jamie Kazay and Jennifer Steele for having me read!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive now has my entire Price Charming album available. These versions have been tweaked ever-so-slightly by yours truly, so do not constitute a full-fledged remastered reissue; nonetheless, it's nice to hear these songs again after twenty (!) years. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Homemeade Music

In the 1980s and 1990s, I recorded a slew of albums that were only released on cassette. One of my ongoing to do projects involves digitizing and making available the 'best of', if not all of the music from this rather fertile period. Once that happens I will definitely make a more official announcement here, as well as through the Zenith Beast site. In the meanwhile, I just learned that Homemade Music has some of those songs posted online. Bryan Baker, Gojoob scribe, wrote about many of those releases and was quite helpful in obtaining for me some publicity for what was basically a one man operation. Check out what has been uploaded so far. Hope you enjoy!

Hands on Stanzas Citywide Reading

Here's blogs about the student readers from both Shields and Solomon who participated in the Hands on Stanzas end of the year reading a few weeks ago. Everyone did a terrific job!

Series A/Chicago Amplified

Here's Chicago Amplified's recording of the reading I gave back in February for Series A at the Hyde Park Art Center. Translator, Kristin Dykstra also reads.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Upcoming Musical Mayhem-ery

I would be remiss if I didn't point out some of my upcoming musical performances as well. Tomorrow night is my Folk You! songwriters showcase, held the third Friday every month. We begin semi-promptly at 8 PM and run until 10, which makes it an early night if you'd like, and/or opens up possibilities to catch a later show if you're so inclined. On April 29th, my band, The Injured Parties once again plays the fabled International Pop Overthrow (IPO) festival, here in Chicago. This is also an early show; we kick things off promptly at 8 PM. Hope you can make it to either of these events. The Injured Parties has another date in June coming up, and Folk You! continues its monthly residency at The Horseshoe. In the meanwhile, I'll keep you apprised of solo and band performances in the Chicago area and beyond.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NEIU Literary Bash

In addition to the other National Poetry Month readings I previously hyped, I'll be reading this Monday at Northeastern Illinois University's shindig:

The Department of English Presents SPRING 2010 LITERARY BASH Monday, April 19th Golden Eagles Room 6:00-10:00 p.m. Please join us for FOOD, FRIENDS and FINESSE The First English Department Literary Spring Bash The evening will feature readings from your beloved NEIU English Department professors, alumni and graduate students Poetry, Prose, Musical Intermezzo, Anecdotes, Philosophical Musings Readers include: Debra Bruce Michelle Steil Olivia Cronk Jen Besemer Elizabeth Marino J.J. Tindall Larry O. Dean Harry White Ryan Poll Bring your poems. OPEN MIC follows the slated readers. For more information contact Chi: Northeastern Illinois University 5500 North St. Louis Chicago FREE PARKING IN LOT F & ON THE 5TH FLOOR OF THE PARKING GARAGE Hope to see you there!

Solomon Process Poems

Take a gander at the end of the year process poems from my students at Solomon Elementary. Rather boffo, if I do say so myself!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Process Poems & European Heritage Assembly

Two recent blog posts from my Hands on Stanzas schools reflect work done in my final classes at Shields, where students created group process poems; and Solomon's annual European Heritage Assembly, for which I research work by contemporary and well-established poets to be recited by students. Please have a look at each blog.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Erasures & Elegies

After a month off from one of my Hands on Stanzas schools, I returned to Solomon last week. Our prior class dealt with erasures, so this time we worked on elegies. Student work, as per usual, was quite stunning. Please check it out. Tomorrow will be the annual European-American assembly at Solomon, for which I traditionally compile selected work by European poets the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers choose from for their students to recite. I pick new (and mostly little-known) poems every year for this event, and never know which will make the cut, so I'll post the featured poems after tomorrow's reading.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Robert Desnos, "Identity of Images"

One of my residencies, at Shields Elementary is winding down, with the other school's last classes spread out over the next few weeks. As usual, it is with sadness but also a sense of accomplishment that I contemplate another twenty weeks (almost) done. We still have this week to go, as well as reports yet to come from Solomon, so I'm not recapping the year just yet. Instead, have a look at these poems by Shields 5th graders inspired by Robert Desnos' poem, "Identity of Images."

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

My review of Tony Hoagland's new book, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, is up at New Pages. Check it out!

Mary Ruefle, "From A Little White Shadow" and Cesar Vallejo, "To My Brother Miguel in memoriam"

I'm a little behind in my Hands on Stanzas posts. Here's the two most recent from Shields: on Mary Ruefle and erasure, and César Vallejo and elegy. Enjoy!

Upcoming and Recent Readings

I'd like to thank my colleague at McHenry County College, Laura Power, for asking me to give a reading with Q&A on February 24th to students at that venerable institution. Preparing for the occasion gave me an opportunity to pour over some older work that I had not performed in a while, which I read along with recent material culled from my Brief Nudity manuscript, as well as a few new poems. The students were unerringly polite and unsurprisingly bright -- if only they could say the same about me!

During National Poetry Month, I have three readings scheduled: on April 15th, I'll be visiting Adam Heidenreich's creative writing class at Joliet Junior College for another reading with Q&A; on April 22nd, I'll be back at JJC for a featured reading that evening, at 7 PM; and on April 24th, I'll once again be participating at the "poetry cram" at Harold Washington Library Center, during the annual Chicago Poetry Fest. The fest starts at 10 AM; cramming begins at 2 PM.

Hope to see you at one (or more) of these events!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gary Snyder, "Piute Creek"

Check out these poems from both Shields and Solomon Elementary written during the second week of a two part lesson involving eco-critical poetry.

This week, a complete turnabout. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Robinson Jeffers, "The Beauty of Things"

This year, the Poetry Center received a grant from the NEA's Big Read program to work with the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. As a result, among the options for our residencies we were asked to devise a two-week lesson plan devoted to one of Jeffers' poems, as well as the work of another poet sympathetic to Jeffers' world view.

I first encountered Jeffers' poems while living in Northern California. Part of his obsession involves the Big Sur coastline, where he built his home, Tor House, which remains standing today. It's easy to sympathize with his love of that part of the country, which is truly breathtaking; but his poetry is far from easy, both stylistically as well as philosophically. (I have pulled the Random House volume of his Selected Poetry off my shelf many times before, attempting to find something suitable to use in my public school classrooms, but I always got stymied by the density and verbosity of his writing.)

However, faced with having to teach a Jeffers poem, I once again dove deep into his oeuvre, focusing on the shorter works. In the end, I decided on "The Beauty of Things," both for its adherence to his concerns over what he called man's unhumanity as well as its central evocation of what comprises "the sole business of poetry."

I'll have the follow-up lesson and poems next week. In the meanwhile, please read these poems by students at Shields and Solomon Elementary.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Short Story Reader

A quick (but BIG) thank you to Short Story Reader for the recent appreciation of my poem, "Be Your Own Boss." If I could blush in print, I would!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stephen Dobyns, "The Street" & Langston Hughes, "Daybreak in Alabama"

This past week was my first full week of the semester. Between preparing for five classes and implementing my impeccable (ahem) lesson plans, it was a bit nutty, but things are off to a good (if exhausting) start.

Since I was unable to post anything about my Hands on Stanzas classes last week, I'll be succinct here and provide links to blogs at both schools, which include more detailed information about the poetry lessons and progress in the classroom. In each instance, as is usually the case, the same poem and plan was used, but of course the results are rarely duplicative between the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Solomon, and the 5th graders at Shields. Each school has quite different and dynamic social settings and diverse student populations, and that's without factoring individual idiosyncrasies into the mix.

The prior week's poem was Stephen Dobyns' "The Street." See what Shields and Solomon students created in response to Dobyns' ekphrastic verse. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, this week's plan revolved around "Daybreak in Alabama" by Langston Hughes; peruse Shields and Solomon student responses, and hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wesley McNair, "Goodbye to the Old Life"

Last week, I returned to both Shields and Solomon for the second halves of my residencies. To commemorate the start of a new year, we read Wesley McNair's "Goodbye to the Old Life," a poem I first encountered as a subscriber to The Writer's Almanac email listerv. (Even though Garrison Keillor's taste in poetry can be maddeningly monochromatic, I have nonetheless come across many fine poems and poets this way.) Students and I discussed all the things McNair says goodbye to, looking more closely at a few of them to get at his particular intent. For example, when he writes,

Goodbye to the old life,

to the sadness of rooms

where my family slept as I sat

late at night on my island

of light among papers.

Goodbye to the papers

and to the school for the rich

where I drove them, dressed up

in a tie to declare who I was.

Goodbye to all the ties ...

I asked "what kind of papers?" (At least one student was flummoxed, thinking first of paper as a blank sheet rather than schoolwork, or perhaps drafts of poems.) Who (or what) is the them that he is driving? Why does he describe the rooms as sad? I also asked about the ties -- when does a person usually wear a tie? What does declare mean? Adding to the deceptive complexity of this poem is the manner in which McNair connects its stanzas, deftly using enjambment but also a certain chronology of thought as he considers each goodbyed item. It really is quite brilliant, yet in an offhand way. I also turned students' attention to the eleventh stanza, beginning

And to you there, the young man

on the roof turning the antenna

and trying not to look down

asking them who the young man could be, why McNair was speaking to him, and why at the end of the poem? They found the poem, and these questions to be very interesting. We had quite illuminating conversations in each of my six classes.

As for their poems, and an explanation for the prompt(s) based on McNair's poem, see blogs for Shields and Solomon.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Some winter-ings

As my semester starts off tri-tiered -- I've already returned to my Hands on Stanzas classrooms as of last week; I start a new rhetoric class next week, and two more sections of composition at a third school the following week -- thought I'd take a brief moment to mention some upcoming performances.

January 15th is my first Folk You! show of 2010. We are now officially in our ninth year, continuing the third Friday of every month at The Horseshoe. Here's the poster for next week's shindig:

On January 28th, my band, The Injured Parties returns to the Double Door for a free Rock 'n' Roll Bailout show, which begins at 8 PM.

In three weeks, I'll once again be reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center. Every year, on the last Saturday of January, over 125 poets, writers, and performers show their support for Woodland Pattern by participating in its Annual Poetry Marathon & Benefit. Each writer presents five minutes of work to a packed house and raises pledge money benefiting Woodland Pattern programming. I'll be participating during the noon hour.

Finally, on February 3rd, I'll be one of two featured readers for series A at the Hyde Park Art Center. The event begins at 7 PM.

Hope to see some of you at these events!

Popular Posts

Throw the Lions to the Christians


The Fussbudgets: Hog Wash!

The Fussbudgets: The Naked and the Daft

The Fussbudgets: Fresh Brood

The Injured Parties: Fun with a Purpose

Malcontent: Embarrassment of Riches