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Thursday, December 18, 2014


from La La Land: A Novel by Damascus Dammings 

You have heard it said, “grammar is a poet’s instrument.”

I say to you, “grammar is a police baton. A poet sculpts brutality.”

Here is how the baton works, I will tell you how the baton works. 

First, learn to call the baton-crack 'music,' become adept at absorbing the sting, translate its blunt ministrations thru the medium of pulped muscles. Carry the purple echo home, without complaint. Lurch thru the hallways of yr bruises. Speak properly. 

Soon they will give you a stick.

You have said, “it is good to be open to learning, rather than dismiss it,” and I agree.

It is very good to be open to learning, and here—I bring you the fruits of great learning: a poet is a police baton. Grammar is a blunt instrument. It calls the baton-crack ‘music,’—and look! I hear the precise sharp tempo, I see the rise and fall.

You have said, “to throw away our tools and call them ‘police batons’ is foolish.”

I say to you, you do not yet have a baton. You do not yet have a stick. I wish to God all poets were cops. I wish every one had a baton and a stun gun. As it is, we are sheep led to the slaughter.

We learn to fear the shepherd’s stick, and believe that we are thereby shepherds. We learn to call the baton-crack ‘music.’ Where the music goes, we follow, or flee, according to the tempo. It leads us to fresh streams, and we say, “I thirst,” to pastures, “I hunger.” Hunger, thirst, safety, slaughter: we learn to call the baton-crack ‘music.’

Now, no shepherd lives on behalf of the sheep, but sheep, on behalf of the shepherd. Whatever is done, is done for the shepherd. Wherever there is water, it is for the shepherd’s thirst. Green pastures, for the shepherd’s safety. Ultimately, the sheep are for the shepherd’s belly.

Instead, we should see the stream and say, “the shepherd thirsts.” When we eat sweet grass, “the shepherd hungers.” When we hear the crack of the police baton, we should say, “the shepherd is a sculptor of murder.”

Learn to call the baton-crack ‘slaughter.’

Now, grammar is the instrument of our oppression. You have said, “to throw away our tools… is foolish,” and I agree. We must learn the tools that carve souls, and sculpt human lives, and demolish cut blocks of stone, and call them ‘living statues.’ We must learn the instruments as they are, we must become thick gongs of beatings. Grammar is a police baton: we must beat and be beaten, learn poetry with our bodies, feel music, be shaped by the blows of grammar.

When poets become students of slaughter, slaughter will become the instrument of our salvation.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Critique of Pure Existence

Future technologists fleeing doomed classrooms of dying Harvards inspired me to Google the following questions, "Do I really exist?" "Is there hope of an afterlife?" and "Is it possible for some comets to emit autonomous frequencies of music even when no other comets are present?" as a way of reconciling the competing urges to "protect the public exercise of reason at all costs" and "die holding the image of a favorite pair of slippers in my mind."

These questions strike me as some of the most urgent posed by our current moment of crisis. The veracity of the claim "Lee Sharks does, in fact, exist" would necessitate a series of corollary truths, namely: 1. All ominous sonnet crowns are mortal; 2. The circumference of any given sonnet crown will be equidistant from the inverse proportion of "true love's kiss;" 3. God exists & the universe has purpose; 4. Sad zombies cry out for sanguinary Moon Base. 

Though I would like to believe that Lee Sharks exists, I contain a tiny Immanuel Kant homunculus inside my human spirit, whose thinking, over the course of a millennial incubation in cryogenic freeze, has developed its former framework of philosophical modernity--wch it now sees as stunted, the mere germ of its mature Enlightenment. From an epistemological system wch might be summed up tidily, if insufficiently, as "Critique of Pure Reason," or, "knowledge within the limits of reason alone," the Kant homunculus inside has systematically developed his thought into an ontological system wch might be similarly caricatured as "Critique of Pure Existence," or "knowledge within the limits of existence alone." 

Point is, inside this more radical philosophical modernity inside the tiny Kant inside me, it is precisely this premise--"Lee Sharks does, in fact, exist"--wch I can no longer take as given; wch I must abandon, if I ever hope to teach bright robots to download "salvation for the human race" directly to their iPhones.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


from Pearl and Other Poems

History of small independent presses
printing tiny runs of 100 copies
of nobody gawnna READ it books =
history of the avant-garde =
history of littachur.

You look back at what we call
literary histry last 100
years or so & what you find
a succession of small & mostly
insular groups, people making
a big to-do about each
other’s books—but actually
each other’s books around a
shared aesthetic—& into a
COMMUNIY—viz. 1863 in Paris,

Exhibition of Rejected Artists
first technically so-called avant-
garde, the rejects of the
school-run popularity contests
& DID something about it—viz.

William Carlos Williams Spring &
ALL—big fresh new book of
American idiom writ by small town
doctor, grew up Puerto Rican
mother Spanish language spoke
@ home—printed 1923 tiny run
of 100 copies not even those
could sell, known to whom? no one
but eZ Pound & co.—now re-released
as stand-alone volume bought
by crowds (in relative terms) almost
a century later—so much depends
upon / a red wheel / barrow—

look back last 100 years literary
succession of “movements”—
after mummery & cheap
parlor tricks of paid academics
pulled away, all that’s left
a handful of rugged individuals
committed to each other’s

from Transcendentalism
à modernism
à Beat Generation à Language:

What difference between Johnnie
HandBinder in the basement hand-
binding by hand bright pages of
bilge fr summary disposal @
CreatASPACE (r OUTERspace)
& yr regular typical official unofficial
avant-garde MOVEMENT /
future of the littachur CANON?

a SCHOOL outside the
SCHOOL—he is eZra
POUND who is
eZra POUND in

channeling eZ Pound right now—
just finished in my chair tonight
reading General eZ’s Italian Radio
broadcasts—that old fascist sure
was a sorry anti-semite f**K—
I don’t feel a bit sorry for him
that they threw him in a metal box,
Italian war camp, prizner uv
WAR & on to St. Elizabeth’s
mental lockdown charged as
TRAITOR for spouting bile
on public airways while Dachau
plugged away a nation over—serves
him right—but he sure did know a
thing or two about how
kulchur works—

Ol’ eZ knew you need
a community, a structure—
you need yr professors &
students & journalists &
propagandists & biographers &
hooligans & printers & presses
& public relations people—you need
yr littachur historians & web
designers, yr administrators
& philologists—& most times
y’re playing every role yrself—

put all THAT together in
competition w/ the school, &
the school will have to write
you into littachur just to
shut you UP—

easiest to see the mechanics
of it in more recent quote
unquote movements, but since
no one KNOWS anything about
any verse writ after 1945, it’s NOT
so easy to see—

yr general lay reader having
in mind as poetry rhymed
couplets, he a Washington Irving
having gone to SLEEP these
past twelve DECADES—

even those claiming the mantle
POET, what it means most
times, is having read & really
comprehended at most two
or three committed verse-workers
of recent years & accounting
himself an EXPERT—

and sadder still, in practical
& relative terms him BEING
a kind of EXPERT—

What yr typical self-published
author lacks, what separates
him from yr official unofficial
avant-garde, is exactly the
kind of cultural capital
the school guards very closely—
& on the other hand the ones
who have the school’s capital,
why—they’re teaching
in its classrooms & publishing
in its magazines & generally
having HEALTH insurance—

they have their reward in
this life!

an avant-garde is a community
outside the school that perpetuates,
for itself, the kind of
cultural capital the school
protects, a community
that has the form of a school
but isn’t one—


to comprehend what’s current
as well as what is past, &
what’s current about
the past and past about
the current: & to use
that knowledge to stand against
the current in the kind of way
that shapes it—

(c) 2014 lee sharks

from Pearl and Other Poems:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What Is Poetry?

from Pearl and Other Poems

If I say it’s a poem, it’s a poem.

If I wanted to be more objective, I might say something like, “If it’s published as a poem, then, historically speaking, it is a poem. If it is widely circulated enough, and if enough people claim loudly enough that it is or is not a poem, then, historically speaking, it will influence our perception of what is and is not a poem.”

And I might go so far as to say that the history of verse is a history of unpoemish innovations that come to be called poetry.

Dickinson comes to mind—we like her so well because she created us out of thin air, crafting unpoemish poems that became central to our definition of what a poem is.

For an earlier example, look @ the way print technology shifted the defining onus of poetry from the aural to the visual, how a piece looks and reads and “sounds” on the page. Dickinson, whose poems are very much poems in this sense—literary rather than musical works—could hardly be termed a poet in this earlier, musical sense, dependent as it is on public performance, vocal talent, instrumental training, &c.

The same people who will cry most loudly that this or that is not a poem—as, for example, is so characteristically true of the response of more pedantic readers to some spoken word or hip hop—are the same who would have told Dickinson that her poems weren’t poems.

There were, maybe, seagulls.

In my experience—and I acknowledge the following as a personal bias that carries little authority into the realm of the objective or even stereotypical—the people who cry “not poem” have tended towards a certain kind of personality and a certain level of skill.

They have been, by and large, individuals with a degree of literacy—institutional, social, cultural, linguistic and otherwise—but not much imagination. (That’s not quite fair—let me at least say, they have not been savants and have had a somewhat restrained sense of vision.) They have also been, I have found, interested less in the substance of rational discourse than its semblance.

A fact that is, to my mind, self-apparent in the relevant claim: “This is not poetry.” This claim tends to be asserted on the basis of a mystical personal authority derived from communion with the universal-historical nature of verse—all while proclaiming itself to be a guardian of objective reason and culture—and is, as far as I can tell, largely impervious to the argumentative force of history, contemporary example, expert opinion, or the dictionary.

(c) 2014 lee sharks

from Pearl and Other Poems:

Stop Reading

Very few people know it, but the secret to great writing is: not reading. 

Once I was an ordinary boy child of indeterminate gender, like Pinocchio, but powerful poems transformed me, first, into Leto Atreides, God Emperor of Dune, and, second, into G. W. F. Hegel, author of Phenomenology of Spirit and Cranium Base Alpha for touchdown of Absolute Spirit on planet earth in Prussia. 

The way I achieved this was based on the simple principle of not reading. I started by avoiding all works of German Idealism, my own included, then proceeded each day to gradually taper my literacy, cutting out anything in the Continental tradition, works of poetry and philosophy, literary and historical works written more than 50 years ago, then any contemporary 'scholarship' or 'criticism,' anything with an empirical, analytical, or evaluative bent, works of genre fiction, pulp novels, the newspaper, comic books, instructions, and signs. 

I got stuck at this phase for quite some time, and it wasn't until I had a breakthrough based on the mystical experience of Nature that I was able to make progress. When I was walking in the woods, a squirrel fell on my head and it occurred to me that I was STILL thinking like a critic, infected with the disease of abstraction and self-examination: I needed to be like the squirrels, the trees, the organic poem that is Nature. 

From that point on I radically reconceived the my task. The only way to eliminate the stubborn dregs of reading that persisted, boil-like, to plague me--the way to fulfill my destiny and become a fully actualized poetic genius and/or godhead and/or Voice of the Ages and/or independently wealthy auteur--was to tear the weed out by its roots, as it were. 

To eliminate reading, I must eliminate thinking. 

To that effect, I immediately instituted drastic changes in the routines of my daily life. I stopped bathing. I stopped wearing clothes. I refused to cook my food. I defecated at will. At long last, the Mystery of Poetry had revealed itself to me, unlocked in the primitive glory of my transformation. An unspeakable, trembling destiny took shape within me, and I, Leto Atreides the 47th, became God Emperor of Dune, also known as the Poet Lee Sharks. My powerful mind control poems now allowed me to regulate the flow of melange on Dune, and also to become a gigantic worm-man, and also to harness the power of friendship, kindness, laughter, and magic. 

And it all started with not reading.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Lee Sharks & Jack Feistfrom Pearl and Other Poems

1.     Compose real poems telepathically, with mind control powers, inside your glorious brain.

2.     You are your own best advocate. Insist the world acknowledge your poems as artifacts of tiny doom. Accept nothing less. Threaten to smash yourself in the face with gasoline and set your hair on fire. Leap over the seats to aggressively stand inside the world’s personal space and get up in its grill. Take this container of Tic-Tacs and smash it on your forehead. Crush each Tic-Tac individually into your eyeballs and ask the world if it likes your poem, and if it likes your poem, then eat your poem: “Do you like my poem? Then eat it.”

3.     Always seek constant approval, then punch your cat in the face.

4.     Arrive alive. Don’t text and drive.

5.     Always write poems all the time.

6.     Never professionalize writing. Professionalism is the last refuge of responsible people looking for work.

7.     Your life is your poem. Take care to write it biographically. Failing that, invent false biographies and post them on Wikipedia.

8.     Get as much education as you can, then murder your education in the face to save it from sloppy education. Get enough education to respect your contempt for education.

9.     Give it all that you have, as deep as it goes, as desperate and total as taking a breath.

10.  Also be pedantic mundane pig-critic of precise punctuation juggling and ruthless crossed-out darling murdering of your own puny sentences. Save every draft and revert to original after enormous work, then drown yrself in the bathtub. Remember: editing is organization.

11.  Be long-sighted prodigy of skeptically believing in nothing, but also believe in destiny, but quietly, and hit yourself in the face for naivety’s sake.

12.  You are a seamstress of words—place each stitch carefully, deliberately. Develop a series of rituals and perform them, without variation, prior to placing each word. Allow the frequency and intensity of these rituals to grow until you spend hours, each day, touching and retouching your left index finger to the tip of your nose in a rhythmic, counter-clockwise motion, in sets of thirty revolutions, in order to place a single character. Spend years of your life shut away from the world, wasting away into an awkward, unhygienic shadow of your former self, and have, to show for it, a two-syllable word of Germanic origins on an otherwise clean, white page. This word will be redoubtable, the bedrock of your writing career. Go on to spend vast sums of personal wealth and total dedication, alienating the remaining handful of long-suffering friends who continue, despite all odds, to solicit the memory of your humanity, in order to learn the arts of metalworking, Medieval alchemy, and font design, recreating a metal-cast, alpha-numeric set of Times New Roman font, from scratch, going broke long before “numeric,” and with only the half-formed germs of the characters W, N, and sometimes-vowel Y.  hat are such retrictio s to  ou?  ou are a poet,  ot a mathematicia .  ou are a creature of steel.  ou  ill  rite a  e  and better  orld, a  orld  ithout the letter   , forgi g it, o e smoki g husk of a  ord at a time. 

13.  Turn over a new leaf. You’re not getting much done like this, anyways, let’s face it. Break the chains of your censoring, conscious mind; tap into the spontaneous well of unconscious human brilliance that springs from the source of dreams. Thwart the stick-in-ass tyranny of your internal editor by making a commitment to write constantly, without ceasing, editing, or even thinking, no matter what, ignoring the anally retentive quips your brain will no doubt make. Make a further commitment: you will not only write, irrespective of internal censorship, but in a way that is unconscionably terrible, on purpose. Your writing will be, by turns, embarrassing, infantile, automatic, and marmaduke poppers—or shall we say, antagonistic to the indoctrination in repressive concepts such as “sentence” and “word” of your reader, who is always, and only, you. Let your writing be a spiritual discipline of Bat-a-rang pancakes and lightly alarm clock, ding—your toast is done.

14.  Always Alka-Seltzer eyelids all the time.

15.  At last, you are ready to make it new, to murder your darlings, to first thought, best thought, to your heart’s content. Your adverb will be the enemy of your verb, the difference between your almost-right word and your right word will be the difference between your lightning bug and your lightning. You are ready to have a spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, then censor the s**t out of it. You are ready to turn your extremes against each other: Unlearn your apple pancakes and burst through the mental barriers; then slow the flood, let the lovely trickle out & edit, edit, edit. Capture spontaneous gem of native human genius, then marshal vast armies of technical knowledge & self-discipline to ensure it glimmers and cuts.

16.  Believe in things like destiny. No really—the path will shatter you so many times your shards will have splinters, your bombshells, shrapnel. By the time you get there—which you probably won’t—even your exhaustion will be tired. Exhaustion of mind and body will have passed so far beyond the physical, and through malaise of spirit, that it will emerge on the other side, as physical exhaustion again. In the face of this, nothing but a little Big Purpose will do. Besides, a little ideology never hurt anyone. Feel free to be all Voltaire with your bad self, in public—but don’t give up.

17.  After all of this, when your will is finally broken (again), and you have given up for the final time (again), start over. The former model wasn’t working. Refashion yourself and your writing. Lather, rinse, usurp your noble half-brother, and repeat, until you get somewhere, or die in the trying.  

18.  Achieve consistency of voice; it is the signature by which you will be known. Your “you” should ring out clearly from each individual letter. In this, the writer is like the salesman. Like a new car, neither the writing’s merits, nor the reader’s needs, will be the final, deciding factor. Ultimately, the deciding factor is you.

19.  Unlike a new car, it is difficult to drive a poem, to use it to get to school or work. Unlike a car salesman, a writer does not wear enormous ties.

20.  Be so consistent that your writing consists in composing the same words, in the same order, creating the some overall voice and style, consistently, over and over, an eternal return of the same. Maintain this disciplined drudgery over the course of years. Let years become decades, and decades, an entire life: You will have “found your voice.” Variety is the spice of life, but consistency is its signature.

20.  Be so consistent that your writing consists in composing the same words, in the same order, creating the some overall voice and style, consistently, over and over, an eternal return of the same. Maintain this disciplined drudgery over the course of years. Let years become decades, and decades, an entire life: You will have “found your voice.” Variety is the spice of life, but consistency is its signature.

21.  Then again, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Throw things up a little bit. One day, put on your hobgoblin hat, the next day, your small mind.

22.  On second thought, re: #16-17: Stop here. You don’t look like much of a writer. Save yourself the trouble of a deep investment that is sure to yield no returns. The prize is big, and not many take it. The Iliad showed us that the prize of writing is life eternal, and taught us to long for that promise; but the Odyssey taught us not to bother. There are many suitors, a single Odysseus. While the husband wends arduously homeward, Penelope weaves impending glory, an evaporating glamour, enchanting them, until he arrives. We are in for a bad end, if we chase another man’s wife, or a prize not rightfully ours. There are many suitors, a crowd of them. They begin as a chittering swarm of bats and end in the very same manner. You cannot have what is not yours. What is yours, no man can take. So, like Emily says,
I smile when you suggest that I delay ‘to publish’—that being foreign to my thought as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her—if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase—and the approbation of my Dog would forsake me—then—My Barefoot Rank is better—

23.  Therefore, take these Sturm und Drang commandments to the trash heap. Return to step 1, as the only useful piece of advice: Compose real poems telepathically, with mind control powers, inside your glorious brain.

(c) 2014 lee sharks & jack feist

from Pearl and Other Poems: