No one listens to poetry.

December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

 — Jack Spicer, “Thing Language,” from Language, 1964.

A fool’s love is like verse poor in the making

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the first edition of Proensa, Paul Blackburn's translation of the troubadour poets.

From the first edition of Proensa, Paul Blackburn’s translation of the troubadour poets.


It is worthless to write a line
if the song proceed not from the heart :
nor can the song come from the heart
if there is no love in it.

Maligning fools, failing all else, brag
but love does not spoil,
but countered by love, fills,
fulfilling grows firm.
A fool’s love is like verse poor in the making,
only appearance and the name having,
for it loves naught but itself, can
take nothing of good,
corrupts the rhyme.

And their singing is not worth a dime
whose song comes not from within the heart.
If love has not set his roots there
the song cannot bud from the heart : whence
my song is superior, for I turn to it
mouth    eyes    mind    heart
and there is the joy of love in it.
And the binding glance is food for it
and the barter of sighs is food for it
and if desire is not equal between them
there is no good in it.

God grants me no strictness to counter my desire
yet I wonder if we afford its acceptance,
responsible for what we have of it. Though
each day goes badly for me
fine thought at least will I have from it
though no other thing :
for I have not a good heart and I work at it,
a man with nothing.

Yet she made me rich, a man with nothing.
Beautiful she is and comely, and the more
I see her openness and fresh body, the more
I need her and have smarting.
Yet so seldom her fine eyes look on me
one day must last me a hundred.
Yet her fine body—
when I gaze on it, I
grow like a canso, perfect.
And if desire is equal between us
the desire enters my throat.

— Bernart de Ventadorn (ca 1150-1180). Trans. Paul Blackburn, Proensa, Mallorca: Divers Press, 1953.

What rose shine in the midst if his usual thorny bramble of Marx Brothers scholarship and scrambled invective

December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Read Edward Dahlberg but pay no attention to anything he says. He is so critical and cantankerous, so grum, small, and jealous, that if you took him at all seriously he would drive you as batty as he is. The quotations he burdens his work with are never to the point, and, as he is incapable of placing two sentences in logical order, such a thing as a quiet, scholarly paragraph let alone essay or chapter is outside his reach. But he is the poet of sentence design, and the quirk that shocks you with delight in the half-dozen books he has left behind is not an accident nor the inkling of an army of virtues the thought of which staggers the imagination, but itself is the hand-tended bloom. What rose shine to stumble on a sentence of his so filled with helium you squeak like a mouse tumbling back and forth anywhere in five thousand years while doing the eternity samba in the pansy bahianas of Carmen Miranda the Brazilian cadaver—what rose shine in the midst if his usual thorny bramble of Marx Brothers scholarship and scrambled invective. As a matter of fact I like this glitter and have thrown myself at his feet, for he is a great pure writer in the sense that he will sacrifice any meaning however important that he may have made it out to be for any flourish or conceit, and he would sell his soul to the devil and mine too for the power to write one unalterably beautiful sentence.

— Irving Rosenthal, Sheeper, 1967.

The fact of reality and the pressure.

December 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Had I lived some years ago, I think I would have been a moralist, i.e., one who lays down, so to speak, rules of behaviour with no small amount of self-satisfaction. But the writer isn’t allowed that function anymore, or no man can take the job on very happily, being aware (as he must be) of what precisely that will make him.

So there is left this other area, still the short story or really the tale, and all that can be made of it. Whereas the novel is a continuum, of necessity, chapter to chapter, the story can escape some of that obligation, and function exactly in terms of whatever emotion best can serve it.

The story has no time finally. Or it hasn’t here. Its shape, if form can be so thought of, is a sphere, an egg of obdurate kind. The only possible reason for its existence is that it has, in itself, the fact of reality and the pressure. There, in short, is its form—no matter how random and broken that will seem. The old assumptions of beginning and end—those very neat assertions—have fallen way completely in a place where the only actuality is life, the only end (never realized) death, and the only value, what love one can manage.

It is impossible to think otherwise, or at least I have found it so. I begin where I can, and end when I see the whole thing returning. Perhaps that is an obsession. These people and what happens to them here, have never been completely my decision—because if you once say something, it will lead you to say more than you had meant to.

As the man responsible, I wanted to say what I thought was true, and make that the fact. It has led me to impossible things at times. I was not obliged, certainly, to say anything, but that argument never made sense to me.

— Robert Creeley, preface to The Gold Diggers, 1953.

A world detached from the necessity of recording it / Nature is the hint to composition.

December 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.

A world detached from the necessity of recording it, sufficient to itself, removed from him (as it most certainly is) with which he has bitter and delicious relations and from which he is independent — moving at will from one thing to another — as he pleases, unbound — complete

and the unique proof of this is the work of the imagination not “like” anything but transfused with the same forces which transfuse the earth — at least one small part of them.

Nature is the hint to composition not because it is familiar to us and therefore the terms we apply to it have a least common denominator quality which gives them currency — but because it posesses the quality of independent existence, of reality which we feel in ourselves. It is opposed to art but apposed to it.

— William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, 1923.

Time does not move. Only ignorance and stupidity move.

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Time does not move. Only ignorance and stupidity move. Intelligence (force, power) stands still with time and forces change about itself–sifting the world for permanence, in the drift of nonentity.

William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, 1923.

End of year. A thanks to say goodbye to 2014.

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Time to wrap up the (busy) musical 2014.

In January, Asheq Akhtar’s Fervent Arts released his beautiful, haunting, “Exiled,” with a soundtrack by me and Tim Noble:

In April, Tim and I again shared our collaborative efforts with the release of the fourth full-length Hallock Hill album, Kosloff Mansionon Hundred Acre Recordings. Peter Ward made three videos for the release, including my favorite for “Farewell, pale corpse of many sins”:

Within a month, Tim came to New York and we performed on Dan Bodah’s Airborne Event on WFMU. Downloadable archive here. In June, Tim and his musical partner Paul Newland released their third album as The Lowland Hundred on Exotic Pylon. I deny bias when declaring it the best album of the year.


In August, my friend Adam Frost co-hosted the first Northern Routes New Music Festival at the 1794 Meeting House in New Salem, Massachusetts. It is a gorgeous place to play and listen, and it was filled with three days of diverse, inspiring music.

I finally made it to Cafe Oto in London in September. My first time there was as a performer, so a bit of a pressured introduction. I opened for and played one song with The Lowland Hundred, meaning that in one year I performed with Tim Noble on two continents, released an album with him, and planned two more… We live 3200 miles apart, mind you.

Thanks again to Ash Akhtar for working his camera, and capturing some of the Oto show:

The full show is on Soundcloud:

Dan Bodah invited me back again for a show in November, this time at WFMU’s new performance space in Jersey City: Monty Hall. It’s a special place, with excellent sound and staff, sitting beneath one of the most hallowed record collections in the world. A special thanks to Dan for his continued support and for welcoming me not once, but twice, in 2014.

After two years of fumbling on electric guitar, I came home from Monty Hall and put everything in my electric rig in the closet. It feels right to let the acoustic carry me through the winter. Inspired by Peter Ward’s videos, I began to work on my own, starting a series of occasional videos that capture my recording methods. Improvisational moments, made quickly and shared. A reflection of how things were when I made The Union.

2015 will see more of these videos, I suspect, as well as the release of the fifth Hallock Hill album, Folsom Cave, by MIE Music.


Part of the winter will be spent organizing a recording trip into the mountains of my youth. A very exciting project, with details to come.

A sincere thanks to everyone who listened to Hallock Hill this year, bought a record, played a track on the radio, wrote a humbling review, or came to one of the shows and supported the great venues who graciously invited me. And thanks to all who’ve written or spoken to me: the music doesn’t end when the last notes trails off into the background. In fact, it only begins then. Here is to a happy and peaceful New Year.








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