Tuesday, December 02, 2014

2014 Sexiest Poetry Award

Each year it has been a struggle to highlight just one title when there are so many poems I read and keep returning to that I want to include.  This is the 10th anniversary of the award and from now on it will highlight a handful of beautiful, brilliant books of poetry that confront injustice.  The six titles below are books that will always be in my life now, books that shake me awake each time I read them.  Click titles for details.

Dawn Lundy Martin's

Fred Moten's

Jena Osman's

Emji Spero's

TC Tolbert's

Divya Victor's

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 to SAMANTHA GILES for her extraordinary "deadfalls and snares"


Mayakovsky wrote, “Poetry is at its very root tendentious.”  
Well, okay.  Even still, there is a gap between THE FEAR OF BEING FRIGHTENED and BEING FRIGHTENED that only certain poets can close.  It’s a particular wedge of empathy to make a palpable fear for our mortality.  Few poets get us there, hand us over to ourselves like Samantha Giles does.  This new book, “deadfalls and snares” really is a trap where the reader is helpless to do anything but SEE our ruin our torture our inescapable and very complicit gun to the head.  Blink and it still reads as wrenching as it feels.  Samantha Giles has given us the book we have been reading everywhere voraciously to find.  Here it is.  Here you are, give yourself a read, a poet has found you. ((((FUTURE POEM will be publishing her book "deadfalls and snares" in early 2014, it's one of those ESSENTIAL books you will want to own. Here is a sample:

I herded me and me and me into a room in groups of
ten to twenty and stripped me and me and me naked. I
ordered myself to rape myself. I then ordered half of me
and me to sit on the ground and engage in oral sex with
the standing me and me. I gave the me and me two full
Army ration meals and ordered me and me to eat the
entire quantity of food within two minutes. I forced me
and me to consume three liters of water. I would form
a ball of fabric and shove it into my anuses. After this,
I would remove the ball and put it into my mouths,
covered with filth. I also gagged me and me with rags
soaked in hot peppers, and held my nostrils under a
running water faucet.

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 is all about MUSIC FOR PORN by Rob Halpern

Poetry does seek, and courage is what it seeks both day and night. Rob Halpern’s MUSIC FOR PORN (Nightboat Books, 2012) is a book of poems I have been waiting for for years.


"yr role in something boundless makes me impotent, a blank the
war keeps repeating, a bad infinity gone sublime. you come from
the land of ur, forgotten zone of oil and steel. these things extend
the body, my operations of regulatory power. kissing barn wood,
rubbing rock, yr clover grows over everything. it all fades out
beyond the true, my one unwritten sentence, this forest of dying
birds. would that you were only meat"
--(from page 17)

If there is anywhere presently where the machinations of how we are carefully FED the most brutal possible acts of our species it is with faggots and war. The delicate palate of the American Left for inclusivity, albeit through assimilation, cannot negotiate taking a stand against war if it means disallowing faggots their God-given right to kill Arabs with pride. Apparently nothing can calm a nervous populace like a politically correct militia. Halpern does not write overtly about any of these things I say, it’s the historical timing of the publication I note.

The ACUTE timing of Halpern’s book with gay genocide (silent genocide) in American-occupied Iraq, a genocide American homosexual soldiers (closeted or not) helped create, perpetuate, ignore, and fester. Halpern’s book has 9 sections, 9 the indestructible number, each section a departure from the previous section’s form, but never from the unyielding examinations a poet worth their salt will make. Rob Halpern has found his strength in the susceptibility to harm. To linger over the wound is to imagine any hole as an invitation.

"My body keeps channeling so many contradictory feelings around
the figure of a soldier intensity of shame as his body becomes the
object of my violence and my lust. I want to kill him for blocking
my dream of a demilitarized future, and I want to be fucked by
him because the repressive sublimation of his body has become
unbearable, the way the realization that I, too, stand in the way of
that other future has become unbearable."
--(from page 47)

There is a way to read these poems without stopping, let them wash you in the nightmare. The timing of the song will enter and pulse inside no matter how conscious we are of the speed of our reading. What’s also true is that no matter where we read this we will read it again because the pain of this poetry will (without fail) reunite us with a design for the reformation of a hooligan elite. I am completely devoted to proclaiming the gravity of needing these poems!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 goes to Thom Donovan's THE HOLE, and to Samantha Giles's HURDIS ADDO

2011 was an impossible year for keeping up with the amazing poetry being published. To those studying the dead "masters," oh how will you ever catch up to the present?

To make it a tie this year is to say I'm cheating. That's fine! It's essential that the poems I select for this sexiest poem award be sexy, truly sexy in that they are beautifully written and confront the injustices of the world. Political poetry, some call it.

The conversations poets Thom Donovan and Samantha Giles have outside of their books manifest between the covers. BOOK COVERS I mean. A commune, an intentional digging site, an apparition of community they insist in their own ways into being.

These two books have quite seriously changed my life. Two books I will read over and over for the rest of my life.

These two books come at a time when the world truly is waking to the shame, to the courage, to the occupy.

THESE TWO BOOKS are required reading, and I assign them to my imaginary classroom. From the very real murders in Oakland, California in Samantha Giles's HURDIS ADDO, to the "Skin so thin with armor" of Thom Donovan's THE HOLE!

The Sexiest Poem Award is for finely crafted poems confronting injustice. When you read these books I hope you will drop me a line as I would love to talk with you about them. You can reach me at CAConrad13@aol.com

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

2010 goes to Brenda Iijima's "PANTHERING"

Iijima and I have discussed aligning ourselves our bodies our homes our everything to divulging the path out of a selfish world bent on destruction. In "PANTHERING" Iijima shows a path, lit clear.

This was a difficult year to choose just one poem for this award. There are so many amazing books, and we're living in a rich time for poetry, and in that a space for poetry unflinchingly awake. Brenda Ijima's poem "PANTHERING" strikes a loud chord for a new and fearless voice. You can find this poem in its entirety in her new book IF NOT METAMORPHIC, which I highly recommend. I love this book, cover to cover!

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 goes to Frank Sherlock's "Over Here"

Someone recently asked me why the sexiest poem award has to be political, and added, "What's so sexy about politics?" Actually it goes to a "finely crafted poem demonstrating a fearlessness which confronts injustice." Sexy is subjective, obviously, but for me sexy is a tenacious DEFIANCE for culture's endless forms of violence to our fellow humans, other animals and the environment. Abbie Hoffman was sexy right up to the day of his very mysterious death in Philadelphia, Huey Newton, Judi Bari, Marsha P. Johnson, MLK, MalcolmX, Harvey Milk. Meanwhile Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd used to be sexy when they dared to give a shit. Gloria Steinem was sexy until she worked for the CIA and dated Henry Kissinger (what the FUCK was she thinking by the way????). The truly sexy never retires the fight, the Ralph Nader's, Vandana Shiva's, Medea Benjamin's, Penny Arcade's, Larry Kramer's and Amy Goodman's. Or Selma James and her many comrades at The Global Women's Strike. Anne Waldman and her fierce Outrider wisdom. Or kari edwards who continues the fight beyond the grave.

Which brings me to one who fought the grave while fighting the tyranny of culture. Frank Sherlock is the recipient of this year's Sexiest Poem Award for "Over Here," also the title of his book out now from Factory School's Heretical Texts Series (cover painting by the amazing Amze Emmons). Critiphoria Magazine published this online PDF of the poem. "Our true stories have always been different than their / true stories" as he writes, like the best poets who have ever lived, with a clear, untrusting, perfected eye. Sold nothing he doesn't already want to drink.

When I say he fought the grave, the long sequence "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show" in the book is a near-death experience poem unlike anything you have ever read. I gave a talk about it at Kelly Writer's House, a firsthand witness to his remarkable will to live in the back of the ambulance. The definition of Shamanism is tainted these days with the jangle of the cash register and an almost goofy impersonation of anything remotely believable. But in the truer sense of the word, the act, of Shamanism, the shaman is one who has slipped into near death, and come back with new knowledge for the tribe.

The poem "Over Here" was written after the near death experience. Let's not play games here, as this near death experience was exactly that: heart stopped, kidneys stopped, flat line, I was there. And while he needed help to come back with the syringe and the incredibly fine work of one EMT worker named Lynette, his need to, and want to, LIVE, brought life back. While I've always been a huge fan of Frank Sherlock's poems, everything after "Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show" is new in that NEW way that's inimitably new when a choice has been made at an intersection of many choices. And Frank seemed to know exactly which road to take and has not stopped.

There's no room for bullshit in his poems, "In search of local flowers / fists & arrows / are drawn in the soot of each other's skin / Ill lighting from the burning raw fuels can bring anyone / closer w/ the ruinous allure of the hillsides" but much room for never taking time for granted. Essential revelry in the chaos, and time for love in this cesspool of war and lies, "Welcome home now get / back home The oven's been exploded / the bread is still expected This is for you let's eat"

I created a (Soma)tic Reading Enhancement for the book Over Here and other favorite books of poetry from 2009. And to preempt the comments, "You gave the Sexiest Poem Award to Frank? But he's your friend isn't he?" YES, and is it my fault I have such great taste in friends who write such great poems?

BUY THIS BOOK, have a great new year, and take nothing for granted!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

SEXIEST POEM OF 2008 is Anne Waldman and Akilah Oliver's collaborative CD MATCHING HALF

SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE WHO LOVES POETRY AND AMAZING MUSIC, JUST IN TIME FOR holiday stupidity, which is why this CD is important, confronting stupidity.

If you haven't heard the CD MATCHING HALF by Waldman and Oliver (with Ambrose Bye's music), then you haven't heard anything like this, I guarantee you! The political as FIERCE poem as FIERCEST song of 2008! Although I've seen Anne Waldman perform many times over the years, HER VOICE -- have you heard her SING? -- I mean, she can REALLY SING, not just one of the most memorable reading voices of our time! The poem/song "TO SHOW MY FACE" on the CD gives us the incredible and powerful range she possesses in her voice. YOU TOO will be listening to this CD over and over and over! "Not Cleopatra's face, not Emperor Hirahito's face, not an Agrippa at the control, not the face of a tyrant or a super errant knight."

FINALLY, poetry/music that's amazing as poems as much as they are as music! I feel like I've been waiting for this CD my whole life!

The poem/song "CORSET" by Anne Waldman is dedicated to the great Emma Goldman, and the poem/song becomes a very large finger circling around the lives of hard working, sweating factory women, the finger moving DIRECTLY into the center of the circle of the story, to the fascist center, the dark axis.

An excerpt of "CORSET (for Emma Goldman)":

I'll call: arise! and would cast in a daily sweat of labor a struggle a sweet edge that way for it's an energy of daily sweat and toil to be free of the fascisms of how and when and why and why o never free of J. Edgar Hoover but my imagination ever free of the imagination of J. Edgar Hoover who will certainly most certainly have your number in his fractious labor and psychopathic toil even now when he the ghost of fractious J. Edgar Hoover is stalking haunting the work places the meeting places the "commune" of all my sweat and purpose. What is it to be a large woman be-speckled and intent in my libertarian socialist moment you want to call it that why you can call it that and it's so much more but do call it that and you will I'm sure call it that and most dangerous of violence and terror to incite a riot.

"It's Sunday. What happened to Saturday.
As soon named as soon strangeness of living
As soon named as soon strangeness of living"
Track 10 is Akilah Oliver's poem/song "STRANGENESS OF LIVING." Here is where you feel a poet who has taken a long road, nothing taken for granted, nothing left unexamined, no pain that needed to be felt left unfelt. It's a harbor for the world to feel completely alone together. Love is the very last thing taken for granted though, and it's important to understand that, for the poet, for the poem, and for the reader. This is political in the best sense, meaning a political letting NOTHING and NO ONE fuck around with the borders where we need to breathe the clean air. You'll be hearing from her if you do fuck around. Or, as she says in the poem/song, "In other words, leave me alone motherfuckas cause I'm in a position of trust and responsibility then besides, I can't afford to be off my ass." You can hardly believe how much this CD builds, and then you get to THIS poem/song! Here's an amazing excerpt, but when you buy the CD (you really will want this CD, so just shut up and buy it!), you'll get the full impact:

spitting out "prophecy" as if it were bad grammar, back in those goblin days before T spelled out in Oakland, before i had expanded my vocabulary: decedent, aporia, Sheol, elegiac, switchblade.
Spruce is a street to go down. to go down. to look for. so impossible. Anne sends a quotation in the midst of words i wanted: in this impossible break of a single line "had beautiful teeth", "had beautiful teeth", i break while inventing Kentucky bluegrass and alcoholism.
[who knew what a bestseller either of these would be? i'm laughing "all the way to the bank" [as they say] yeah yeah yeah how come you want to treat my baby so bad, how come you want to treat me so bad, baby? good to you,
have i been?
good, to be
Good. To be unknown
To be broken to be
Sentry to be just to
Be good earth I've been back back been back many times been been back here good earth I've been back back many times been back been back here


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SEXIEST POEM OF 2007 is President of the United Hearts' THE BIG MELT

My new friend Rinku just told me today in an e-mail, "You are only the 2nd American I have met since my arrival here in May 2007 who has expressed anger and sorrow at the massacre of the Iraqis in an illegitimate war." How is that possible? Really? But I know it is possible, easily possible. Iraq War veteran Agustin Aguayo spoke in Philadelphia last year at the Quaker Meeting Center about the large number of Iraq War veterans who come home to the US after their tour of duty, only to move to Germany soon after, marry German women, and denounce their US citizenship out of anger at the LEVEL of denial in our country for Iraq. If that information does not fully enter the American Soul, what will? With this war it is our soldiers who are becoming expatriates, not just the hippie poets. Raise your children with that bit of American history, as I'm sure their school books will forget to mention it.

Without a doubt THE BIG MELT afflicted all my senses in 2007 as only the best poetry will do. Written by President of the United Hearts, this book is relentlessly directed at all we wish to deny. READ THIS:

Gentlemen, I think it will get darker
Before it gets lighter, is my nose bleeding?
Undeniably dead but attractive
We'll get it right this time, won't we?
Do we have to go in? [Expletive]
Forests stink of the failure -- what country
(Is it his?) Guarantees complete
Excretions that moisten that
Potential or incomprehensibility
Nature produces comparable to
An invasion that cannot be
Its scheduled no-show disregard.
It's impossible to be an artist
The point of deception
Complete control, pretending control
An attentive eye, the open ear
allegory heavier than rock
Lynndie England and her leash
Go blindly to disaster
Clamped to his genitals
The giant ice shelf splits asunder
"People scare better when they're dying"
This society's crazed
Covered with straps they could not
Stand being free
In the vernacular of the peasantry
Society's unmitigated hate
Looks like a "whopper"
Isolates matrixes gummy 'eligibility'
Inadequately equipped environs
[A persistence of catastrophe]
Build up and never evaporate
Undeniably and reliably
The human body will be an event
This is your cake, and this is your crown
You can go anywhere
The final resting place
The painted ink in the editorial:
We killed each other
In bursts of mud

This is not only excellent writing, it's a poetry with a massive embrace on the problems in front of us, around us, deeply within us. It's not seeing a chain of events but a web of, an undeniably accurate web of, connecting every single action to its resulting deprivation, as accurate as any smart bomb, hopefully even smarter.

The FORWARD of the book is, beautiful to say, at the end of the book! Here is a bit of that FORWARD to get you understanding something about THE BIG MELT as well as President of the United Hearts:

The Big Melt is a collective's assembled response in verse to the 2004 U.S. Presidential election and its aftermath, i.e. the continuing elision and transfer of legislative power to the executive branch (that vast monument of fatuity leaning toward the future like the Tower of Pisa, in which nothing less than the happiness of humankind is being worked out) in every public sector, government, finance, educational, and cultural. That said, it has been mentioned with a measure of confidentiality that I intend to honor that President of the United Hearts (hereafter, PUH, pronounced pooh; a pleasant enough alternative to PUS) is a collective absent the flesh and blood members needed to sustain collaborative endeavors of whatever kind. Be that as it may, PUH's message, urgent and indispensable, is one of gravitas and moral outrage -- it is against the radical right and the misguided timidity of progressives. Further, the work generated within its membership comes from its source, the heartland, the opening zero, the Midwest -- the void it is roomy to lie in. In action against the philosophy of myself, I, the correspondences between PUH's eyes, mouths and ears, however arrayed, pushes what is ours upon ourselves, cultivates its promise in our hearts -- no measuring its innermost play. As voiced by Medea, "but I was rendered speechless / and from there nothing but pain." PUH is capable of taking the abyss of its own communicability upon itself and of exposing it without fear or complacency. Its promise is a bold move to which the reader no longer viewing life from behind the screen of her ego but able to see things in the human world's return (nostos) to splendor willingly succumbs.

If I could afford a thousand copies of one book from 2007 to hand out freely, it would be THE BIG MELT. And 2007 was a year of many terrific books! Factory School published THE BIG MELT, and you can order it HERE or HERE.


Monday, January 15, 2007

SEXIEST POEM OF 2006 is Jules Boykoff's "Commandment #8"

(photo by Brendan Lorber)

Anyone in search of a finely crafted poem demonstrating a fearlessness which confronts injustice will have no option but to turn to Jules Boykoff, hopefully sooner than later.

(a short excerpt from)
Commandment #8


it all began with "awash in petrodollars" waiting at the penned trigger where thirsty cotton hovered thirstily between the never-been-done-before & the-way-it's-always-been

a much warmer regime of Sputnik-driven cool-hunters putting [mis]treated wood into the [mis]fire


a focus group waiting to be focused

a full stopped narco-flower-vendor multiplex tribunal waiting to be big-boxed

a micro-thrillabilly lava lamp on fire in the middle of the sales pitch

velocity money stuck with a bus transfer to cartelized humdrum


commandment #2 being covet thy seed & genes as thy like-minded meth lab [skunk-scuttle skunk-scuttle]

the novelty of the liquidity of water

now square it


A 'good historian' is someone good historians call a good historian


commandment #3 being don't covet thy neighbor's spiritual connections with his powerful icon for capitalism or thou shall besmirch thy cattle-tonic glum hopper with unnecessarily forlorn animosity


aggressive bedazzlement

anticipatory tenement

indisputably disputable





(read the full poem in the book Once Upon a Neoliberal Rocket Badge (EDGE BOOKS, 2006))

Too often these days in the various "experimental" poetry scenes I hear some poets saying, "I don't like poetry with overt political content." Over and over it's said, and said with an assertive tone making me squint, pinch a good squint. Pushing to question the statement seems to go nowhere, which makes me suspicious for several reasons.

Suspicious that this statement is said with such similar pose that it's part of a vernacular, uh, somewhere in the poetry world I believe where it's unfolding for a few. But that pushing to question the statement goes nowhere because, maybe, the origin of it's meaning is unknown to many who mimic the words? It's so hip, so it seems.

That, or, that no one WANTS to retrace the steps for fear of some kind of reprisal?

But what would that reprisal be I ask? It's a rebellious pitch, no doubt, said with such conviction, but why, exactly, and from where, exactly?

It could simply be that these poets are MISSING the brilliance of poetry by, well, Jules Boykoff for instance!

Or, are these deeper, more hidden issues of class and privilege that so many poets seem so adept these days at dancing around and far, far away from when brought up?

While it's a hip and trendy thing to say these days, don't mind me saying "I DON'T FUCKING MIND SOME OVERT POLITICAL CONTENT IN POEMS!" In fact, turning directly toward Jules Boykoff is turning directly to poems few can mould with such affection to be political, universally political. He's got a hold of worlds.

"Commandment #8" is a marvelous example of Jules Boykoff having some of the sharpest edges of the living poem we have. Can be seen. Felt. He is NEVER shy about our feelings coming forward. "Commandment #8" is a milk-filled tit we can all get a hold of, for nourishment for our much needed immunity against fear. Drink that milk! And thank you Jules Boykoff for honest, brave poems! We need these more than ever!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

SEXIEST POEM OF 2005 is Carol Mirakove's "Mediated"

Carol Mirakove is a poet who blows me away on a regular basis. If you STILL haven't read her book OCCUPIED, well, I just have no idea what's keeping you! GET IT! DAMMIT! It's the kind of book you tell friends about, you'll see.

MEDIATED is a poem she read at the inaugural reading of the NIGHT FLAG series in Philadelphia, coordinated by Frank Sherlock. The place was packed, she stood in the frame of the poppy red that separates the stage and the seating.

"Wow! What is this POEM!?" I remember thinking as one of the first lines signals through the smoky room, "[Subject] awake awake psychographic? [End of Message]" we're quiet, with this, listening tight, "Headline: "No Matter How Much Energy We Conserve, We're Still Going to Need More Energy" - President Bush, May 18, 2001(Continued)"

She had us!

Headline: US Warns Hugo Chavez Labeled OPEC Lunatic

[Subject] rock smash scissors [End of Message]

Headline: Prosecutor in Coup Case Assassinated (Continued)

Headline: Poppy Crop Fire Scare Again Tops Economic Charts

[Subject] makes a bedspread & is so taken by the colors & patterns
of the bedspread she only vaguely sees the other objects in the
room - she only sees a fragment of the whole. this happens
because she is, we are, conditioned to - and have deep biological
needs towards - pleasure. [End of Message]

Headline: NAFTA, CAFTA, & the Poverty After (Continued)

Headline: Lula Dubbed Cardoso II, May Yet Have Tricks Up Sleeve

[One Hopes] (Continued)

[Subject] in my bed we are sleeping in the dreaming/nightmare

beds we make [End of Message]

Headline: Boom Hum Factors Mexico's Border, Crosses
Disillusioned (Continued)

Her way of weaving delicate balances of a personal place in the web of national to international is beautiful, but especially helpful, in that we suddenly appear in this world with her as complicit, as hopeful, as certain of Love. Carol Mirakove's "MEDIATED" is a pointer in these ways, and guides the hand over the globe to better investigate the likes of revolutions in Venezuela and Bolivia, and she states, "they won we could be / winning"

WE CAN BE WINNING! Winning what? It's as she writes, "freedom / for / your / freedom !"

If you get the chance to hear her read "MEDIATED" don't give up that chance. THE FACTORY SCHOOL will be publishing it soon in book form, stay tuned for that, sometime in the Spring I believe. And because they are giving such effort, money, etc., I won't publish the poem here for you. Sorry, but we need to support small presses.

But here's another short excerpt:

[ticker] billboard aura, anybone, we are the you in future. a rush at
the bar looks justified. does he have a pet, or a bed, I couldn't hear?
[ticker] the pulls while kids twirl flutes & louts before a fireplace,
eyes, rolled back not out – so as to stand a presence.

let’s get abducted. car seat in the woods, rock horse in the desert &
some tumble. is there noise? yes there is big noise and mind you
even bigger ears. we tall & tangent shadows.

there are five of them & form a rhombus little constellation. & we go
with "them," we go with any "them"s, with all the time in the

let's have all the time in the world.

& not worry that that makes no sense our blazen melee
megaphones. & not worry that all the time in the world might be, in
fact, ecologically brief.

not worry

Keep your attentions to THE FACTORY SCHOOL for the publication of "MEDIATED."

SEXIEST POEM OF 2004 is Charles Bernstein's "Ballad of the Girlie Man"

(many of these notes below were orignally written on 01/04/05 -- in other words, 4 days before Elvis's birthday)

Mr. Bernstein's badass winning poem appears online at MILK MAG. (And is also now the title poem to his amazing new book!)

If I were giving out separate awards for poem and reading of poem, then Mr. Bernstein would have to win both!

When reading the poem in Philadelphia for the 2004 MLA conference he dedicated its reading to the memories of Gil Ott and Jackson Mac Low.

In New York at St. Mark's Poetry Project's 2005 New Years benefit reading he dedicated the reading of the poem to the memory of Jackson Mac Low.

Both times, as a listener, I dedicated my ears to let it be heard and told to the living, everywhere!

If Mr. Bernstein never inspired you ever before, you would not be able to say so after hearing this poem, I guarantee you!

And I wish (like all wishing idiots) that I could have had the MANY fools who know nothing about Language Poetry but claim to know it well and claim to hate it---I wish they could have heard what I heard!

Talking this evening with my friend Matt McGoldrick, he and I agreed that the reading in Philadelphia had much more punch and excitement, a much stronger delivery.