Founder and Editor in Chief Barney Rosset worked ceaselessly on the Evergreen Review until his death on February 21, 2012. Pieces marked with * were selected after his passing; the others on the site were among his selections for publication.
Out of print for over 50 years and more in the mold of Gatsby than Paul Pine, Private Eye, it has enough action and insight to satisfy fans of either.
Prizes aren’t poems; nor are they substitutes for literary criticism.
As a “wish I was born in Olympia” grrrl I understand the desire to make a choice as to who can and cannot look. It’s something always playing out in my head when I’m getting fucked by some John. In my head I’m wishing it was a dick I loved inside of me as opposed to some random that chose me.
The shadows of Miller and Becket
They come to me in a dream
Slavery, the unhealed wound of the birth of our nation, is expiated throughout by nearly every voice, from the Klan to the ghost of Malcolm X.
They were horrified. My mother covered all the mirrors in the house and was still sitting Shiva for me in an effort to shame me into moving back home. I thought of telling him I was an orphan, but before I had a chance, he shook his head.
“You kids today, you want to learn the hard way,” he said.
I noticed that the platform bed had eyebolts screwed into its corners. The metal loops obviously were anchors for ropes. I wondered which member of the couple did the staking out, and which one got staked, or whether they took turns.
Smith calmly dried his incongruously soft, long hands with a paper towel, affixed a sound suppressor from one trench coat pocket to the muzzle of a .45 caliber pistol drawn from another—the standard-issue Homeland Supreme Authority weapon of choice—and, barely giving her a glance, pumped several rounds into our impromptu date.
Miss Pamela ♀ (“The Aunt of Fear”)
invented the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney,
in whose cottage are found invisible clues to the sources
of Ted Nugent, wicked aboriginal stepmother
of Sir Philip Sidney.
wearing nothing but white paint
sit in a circle
The idea of starting A Gathering of The Tribes gallery and performance space was inspired by the Nuyorican Poets Café opening its doors on East 3rd Street in 1989.
My father warned me about Barney the way fathers in fairy tales warn their children about paths that lead to the edge of a cliff or wolves that might wish to befriend us.
In Lenrow’s words, Jack displays an “easy command of the conventions” yet “regularly and consistently introduces insights that prove quite pleasing and give the writing a stamp of authenticity.”
She did not know exactly how the bomb worked, that the levers ticked one diabolical domino into another within the contraption, like the events leading up to this moment, releasing a liquid into a potent powder until the volatile pressure could no longer be contained.
Marina was no believer, new or Old; indeed, her opinion of religion was that it was “bunch of stupid bullshit fairy tales for ignorant idiot babushki with brains like old cabbage,” or words to that effect. Or crap for hypocrites who, during the Soviet era, wanted to assert Great Russian nationalism. As they said, Goditsya–molitsya, a ne goditsya–gorshki pokryvat: “If it fits, pray to it; if it doesn’t, hide it under a pot.”
but she was too busy watching
The Bride of Frankenstein to notice.
I heard the rain like the sharp claws of pigeons on the roof against the windows and an aircraft god knows how high in the sky and I looked into the green bumps of the man’s eyes and looked away and looked again…
The first thing to do was to lock the door. Now nobody could come at him. He deployed an old Herald and smoothed it out on the table. The rather handsome face of McCabe the assassin stared up at him.
Vigilant is visible, make your sign
99% AND WON’T LIE DOWN
This interview was conducted with a member of a group of middle-aged men, all of whom visit Thailand quite often. Usually traveling through Bangkok and Pattaya, they are there to meet or have relationships with genetic women (baby-makers, breeders) who resemble katoeys (Thai transsexuals).
How proud you were pointing out this mask or
that as being Baoule or Dan, the great bird the avenging messenger
I went underground thinking that I radiate too much dominance in real life. That’s not what these johns are looking for. I’m not in visual sync with these teenage wasteland rock and roll babes. I’m older and weirder than that.
beckett gets by although he
has lost interest in everything
I don’t know most people, and I think no one does, no matter how close or intimate they become. I don’t even really believe “knowing” is possible; it’s only a projection of our own obsessive desires. What I did know was that I was thinking too much about what I might know, and it was making me nervous. “Stop thinking,” I thought.
Do you ever look at the subway tracks and think about jumping just as the train’s pulling in? Sometimes I try to imagine blowing my brains out, or tying a rope around my neck and hanging from the sprinkler pipe. I think about dangling there, about being dead, being nothing—the shock of whoever finds me, Candice crying. Anyway, I’d never do that to Stella. Her mother’s practically a bag lady. I can’t split until she’s on her own. She’s going forward and I’m going back. Beware the gluttony of free choice.
What’s with this love affair with guns? With destruction? Of threatening to turn into parking lots entire nations because you disagree with their leaders? Or with this seeming need to run the freakin’ world?
(Where’s Freud when we need him?)
The writing has plenty of snap and is not overly witty, but then it wouldn’t be coming from a go to hell character like this, who gets flack for reading a book once in awhile, including tellingly, James T. Farrell, but can’t see the pointlessness of his actions until they become life-threatening.
The hero is like the hero of all Westerns, a kick-ass stalwart for good—even though Django has his lapses on his way to freeing his wife from a life of slavery. But most modern movies go beyond the older counterparts in that area in their elusive attempt to make characters more fully formed or more, well, real. Hey, we’re good and we’re bad, aren’t we?
On one of the pages was a photograph of a blonde woman, scantily clad in bikini bottoms and a cut-up T-shirt barely covering her breasts. Her interests were physical fitness, fast red cars, and dark handsome men with a great sense of humor. Why do women always want what they can never possibly get? I wondered. I’d settle for anyone with an air conditioner.
The only empress is the empress of yogurt.
We are all alone here and we are dead, I read.
The weather will continue bad, I continue reading.
Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves.
Suddenly I am a black iron ghost; I am not a girl or a critic
If we could gain control, then what?
Or, more to the point, how long? Sea turtles scrim sand beaches,
dig shallow ovals, never to discover the eggs they deposit
turn into pearls of tar.
A foreplay of signs designs passion in the branding
“Got Milk.” Food tastes better cars run faster women look thin.
PVC and cardboard despite the power strips. Think
Somewhere between the giddy buzz of under-aged drinking in the crazy midday sun, and falling in love, thigh-deep in those dirty Atlantic waves, that theme park became my blinking neon expectations. If Coney Island didn’t do something to ya, man, you’d miss the point of living.
Stepping inside, I almost expect to see lamps or candles, hear music, hear a voice from somewhere deep within, shouting out a greeting.
Or a warning.
The déjà vu in this collection is the act of magic one rarely finds in the interplay of image and word, but when one does, amazing us, we sigh and say, “‘ah,’ yet again. ‘Another unique vision — another individual way of seeing things.’”
I thought this sacrifice might help. I could reread the M books we had. We split up anyway and now there’s a lot More bookshelf space and a lot more freedom.
Dr. Dark lives under the 8th Avenue Bridge.
He uses banana peels as currency
And rules the roost of the underground government
I heard that Johnny Depp’s producer
credit was cut from the trailer. Part of the third
shot is faked to be the Hollywood Athletic Club,
which, of course, is now the University of Judiaism.
Eventually, you grew to loathe this circuit of roundabouts. You’d have preferred to scale steel-curtain walls and leap into a coherence of shafts instead, like one of the insect-derived superheroes in movie house serials you’d seen in that theater past the range of numbers, with its slashed-open seats and two men in shabby suits who always beckoned you in. You’d have clambered and then grabbed for the sliding fire escape ladder, if you hadn’t been born with hundreds of tiny fingers in place of hands.
The dinner table
Taking us completely
Watching her, I can’t help but feel jealous.
Isn’t that absurd? Me, the ‘normal one,’
Taxpayer / mortgage holder / careerist,
Nipped by the green-eyed monster over this
Ex-jailbird / ex-tweaker / ex-shoplifter.
I’ve Seen Farmhouses Toppled
Like Stills In Sad Pool hall Portraits
And Clowns Holding Withered Balloons
Alongside Buzz saw Humming Highways
Crying In the Bleached Dry Grass
Holding Maps to the Stars
They say, Thank Mr. Potato Head
Arms, for these, our ski-masks.
They are, of course, black. Any other
color might lose the cinematic quality
of the ski-mask.
Much like a guided tour, then, the book resolutely escorts a reader from one historic milestone to another, the many stops along the way of Spencer’s pilgrimage. Meanwhile, the magic occurs when the heavily deterministic structure of the book fades from a reader’s awareness and individual poems rise to the fore.
A brute dressed in officer garb walked up to the girl. He was sporting a riot mask, plastic shield, hand gun on his left hip and semi-automatic rifle on his right, and an ejection gun over his left breast. He towered over ole 5’5’’ Abe by about a foot and a half.
Come with me, Sir.
Right. Right. Let’s get this over with.
Just go and stand over there, Sir.
The guard pointed to a group of similar brutes standing around smacking their gum looking bored. Some weird machine stood quietly, almost dusty, to their right.
Just wait over there Mr. . . . Mr. Remington.
So then to shield this hypostasis
Will stand a grand iconostasis,
And passing through the royal gate
Sweep up the mess of sin and hate,
And have the priests in Tyvek robes
Invested with aseptic gloves
Between two columns on their knees
Perform the final obsequies.
I have no right to mourn you, the unborn.
And yet I look at the bloody writing
in the lines of my palm, and I read in
the ancient Hebrew, the koph, the daleth,
and the shin from “Kaddish.” The branch ends.
I could tell it wanted to be lit up
like a Chinese New Year -
straight out of Shanghai -
but no one else on the streetcar
looked like they wanted
— Are you talking
to me? Well there’s nobody
else here so you must be
please help… I’m 73
I expected the raunch, the secrets, the sensual descriptions of bodily fluids, the plot point storytelling of the cock, the ease of sex against the hardship of responsibility, the gender identity, and humorous depictions of the dating world. I was surprised by the poignant descriptions of disturbing sex that kept me reading, and by the intellectuals who hooked.
Dim headlights split the seams of dusk into a coming night’s fabric.
Small time hooligans huddle under streetlamp, blowing smoke to the stars.
Window provides view of tavern with poolballs cracking & drunken shouts.
sword, whole ripe
If you go that far into the dark,
that deeply into the black of yourself, a red will grow.
A red that sings the song of time,
and dances the dance of spiral.
Scores of vividly rugged individuals bully, cadge, threaten and beguile us as hyper-literate Frank ’Luc’ Payne and his just freed singing jailbird partner Tanya ride their temperamental motorcycle, a 1969 BSA Lightning, up the West Coast to Portland, battling angst and spouting bitter truths: cynicism is a modern kind of Buddhism; the bedroom is the most dangerous room on earth, reality is a negotiation. There is scarcely a page that doesn’t seethe with splenetic observations. The fact that so many are both funny and resonant makes them a worthwhile substitute for the more conventional stuffing of a novel. Payne is a gin mill Jean-Paul Sartre who has failed to improve himself by any of his literary aspirations. A precise grasp of the mechanics of getting wasted by any means available puts you right there in one sordid scene after another.
What kind of girlfriend sends you a text saying she’s around your house shopping but will see you later when she knows you are for the time being invalid?I don’t need her. I don’t fucking need her. She can shop all she wants. Epiphanies. She drinks too much. She loves her job more than she loves me.More epiphanies. She is a Kenyan. Kikuyu. They killed people in the Rift Valley. The pain killer kills more than my pain. I send her a text message. Carefully worded. I have had enough of this relationship.
I wonder if I can make it to the Farafina Trust/Chimamanda Adichie Writers Workshop in Lagos next week because I am in pain and have only one good leg and have broken up with my girlfriend whom I still love and am very broke and am very high very often… I think of cancelling. But I don’t. I buy a ticket and prepare for Lagos.
He looks me up and down real hoidy-toidy-like as though I’m some sort of low-life plebian, which I guess I am. He says, “Fine.” Then he gazes down Broadway like one of his legions is marchin’ down it or something. At least he speaks English. I don’t know no Latin. When I was back in school a hundred years ago, I couldn’t see no use learning a dead language.
It is nearly impossible not to get drawn into Jake’s wordscapes, filled with warmth, passion, compassion and humanity where, as the title poem suggests, Jazz and Judaism intertwine, intersect, collide, melt and meld. Jake’s is a world where the angel Gabriel gets to blow his horn in a New Orleans funk band, where the “pure music of a jazz groan” comes out of a Golem in Brooklyn. Where Thelonious Monk gets to travel to Jerusalem, give directives, piano through the morning and where Jake even gets to try on Monk’s gloves. As you’ll soon find out, Jake invents worlds that seem convincingly real and presents real worlds that seem to only thrive in a fertile imagination. We are locked into places where abstraction and representation sit side by side with a perfect amount of social shifts and a sense of healing that feels just right. In other words, like good music Jake has found a harmony and balance between all he sees and invents.
Sometimes my temper even surprises me. I look around in a public place – the subway, say, or on a corner waiting for the pinpoints of white light that show the little walking guy – and people shoot me accusing glares. Like I’m waving around my ice pick or something. I hear the echo of foul words, curses sometimes, hateful things. I get so angry I could just spit. Then I realize it had been me. It had been me yelling.
Ben was a huge, severely disturbed middle-aged man with the mentality of a five-year old and a lust for the shoes of his neighbors. Confined to a wheelchair, but powerful and enraged, we learned to handle Ben with humor and respect. When Bill got mad, Bill tended to attack, and Bill kept his anger burning for a very long time. Truth be told, Bill could have been the easiest client to work with had I just let him do his thing trolling the dormitory like the Frankenstein monster on wheels. All he wanted, after all, was a finely scented shoe. He didn’t seem to care who owned the shoes.
crafting a new language based on a circle argument.
Planck and Einstein, big C and little h, humongous
constants standing singularly over all the others.
Quod erat demonstrandum!
But the unhappy Carmen case was fraught
with contradictions, my conscience numb.
We lodged her in our home with no regrets,
her uniforms hung in a bedroom next to ours,
on the bedside table a colour TV set
and bible; cut daily from the garden a vase of flowers.
strange for whoever
eventually moves into this house
I grew up through the beer salt,
broken Pabst bottles, and the splinters
from pool cues that cracked
Curley’s skull and sent two men to Menard.
A cave full of shadows and men stoned,
some still stalagmites while the others,
thick-bearded wolves, prey on packs of floozies,
or bait the preacher’s boy, “He’s a pansy.”
Mapping streets and alleys in the body, ink and scalpel
doctors know them like vagabonds know Manhattan,
drawing a small camera falling like a diving bell
through the veins past all the names in Latin.
Title this: All universes die and go round the carousel,
our matter breaks down, and dances but cannot spit farewell.
I’ve said before in Evergreen that surrealism still provides the dominant impulse in American poetry, perhaps because its ambitious, bottom-line program — that everyday life should be permeated with the playfulness and creative spirit of art – seems further from realization than ever before.
And this influence is felt even by poets who are not avowed surrealists, such as Robert Gibbons, whose latest book can be seen as taking up and reconstructing prominent surrealist themes, just as an avowed American surrealist, Allan Graubard, perhaps the premier American poet in this style, can extend some traditional surrealist tropes in unexpected and psychically satisfying ways.
Fornication! cried the wolf his bands of feet
Cradled in the waxy light her
Sculpting sides encapsulating the mess
This fair world curled like bent copper
And now, as we look over the river, over the hills, there is a helpless unit— what sociologists would call a building, a model, which can shape its identity by taking different forms,— we know that every place tells its own story, everything echoes from its own membrane; the river carries its burden, it leads its destiny to the outfall and the gnarled stumps show the place where terror once passed.
The Cleavage’s voice fades into the background of Lola’s consciousness, odd phrases registering in her mind before dissolving like sugar in water. Instead of listening, Lola watches The Grand Vizier, imagining him working his fingers underneath her thighs and then pressing them apart. She wiggles a little in her seat for his benefit and her own—a motion designed to suggest impatience and horniness. The Grand Vizier sees her and clears his throat. She thinks about Barthes’s word crisis, which she considers more accurate than affair or arrangement. What else, she wonders, could explain why she is driven to concoct one conference proposal after another, stay up late writing papers and articles, double up appointments with students, and take on extra committee work to clear her calendar in order to rendezvous with this short, balding, pushing-sixty, haphazardly groomed scholar in the bathrooms, bedrooms, cleaning closets, kitchen pantries, and fitness center changing rooms of conference hotels and fuck him in every which way they can devise?
Bills are kept in circulation for so long that the old ones either lose the seals, triangles, etc., or predate them. Old bills are faded, frayed, and sometimes Scotch-taped. The really old ones smell so strong that you can imagine, a long chain of owners passing them form hand to hand.
Nigeria is the poster child for what is called “the oil curse”. Major petroleum discoveries around 1970 exponentially increased corruption and economic inequality. Now that much-poorer Ghana has discovered, and started to exploit, its own comparably large oil fields, that nation’s famous good governance will surely be put to the test.
He paced, then he left. I sprang into action, locked the door, stumbling over my own feet to get there quick enough. Then I grabbed a knife for good measure. A proper knife. A very sharp kitchen knife. I caressed its point with my thumb and forefinger. Tracing it back and forth over the edge. He would be back, I was sure of it.
See, he was one of them now. Just another stooge. Another clone spat from the vagina of the corporate machine. And I, well I was playfully being batted by the long talons of LSD. Like a cat playing with a mouse. Deep in its grasp. It was impossible to fight my way out, I just had to lie back and go with it, and hope it didn’t kill me in the process, or that I didn’t kill him.