May 10, 2010

Will Alexander

Will Alexander [USA]

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Will Alexander grew up around the violence that has plagued this area for decades. The only child of working class parents, he attended Washington High School, avidly participating in school sports. In 1972 he graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing.

In the mid-1970s the noted Black poet, K. Curtis Lyle, a founding member of the Watts Writers Workshop, met with Alexander and others at his home and at an incense business run by musicians Ray and Ernest Straughter. This period was also marked by a twelve hour dialogue in San Francisco with the surrealist poet Philip Lamantia which had an enormous effect on him. Through those gatherings Alexander began confirming the power of works of his readings of Bob Kaufman, Octavio Paz, and Francophone Negritude writers such as Aimé Cesaire and Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo--all poets who would strongly influence his subsequent poetry and, later, the visual art he had begun creating. Their themes of cosmic isolation from society and interior discovery strongly affected him, and helped him to what he describes as an “alchemical metamorphosis,” which drew him away from his intense involvement in sports to his participation in the arts.

In 1987 he published his first book, Vertical Rainbow Climber, which already contained the heady mix of metaphor and sophisticated language that characterizes so much of his work. A short chapbook, Arcane Lavender Morals, followed in 1994, with new books-including The Stratospheric Canticles, Asia & Haiti, Above the Human Nerve Domain, and Towards the Primeval Lightning Field following throughout the 1990s. In 2009 New Directions published Alexander's collection of poetry, The Sri Lankan Loxodrome. His writing represents a complex distillation of images from many fields, including botany, astronomy, psychology, physiology, mysticism, and history. He has also written novels and dramas.

Alexander has performed throughout the country, and has taught courses at the University of California at San Diego, Naropa in Boulder, Colorado, and Hofstra University. He was the recipient of a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry in 2001 and a California Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry in 2002.


Vertical Rainbow Climber (Aptos, California: Jazz Press, 1987); Archane Lavender Morals (Buffalo: Leave Books, 1994); The Stratospheric Canticles (Berkeley: Pantograph Press, 1995); Asia & Haiti (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); Above the Human Nerve Domain (New York: Pavement Saw Press, 1998); Towards the Primeval Lightening Field (Oakland: O Books, 1998); The Sri Lankan Loxodrome (New York: New Directions, 2009)

For a large selection of Alexander's readings on tape, click below:

from “Haiti”

“...these undistingushed dead
become known as that anonymous
heritage, les Morts.”
-Maya Deren
Divine Horesement: The Living Gods of Haiti

with blackened altering transmissives
with burning nerve length & schisms
twisted in piercing soils
in dark pre-maturity & rage

we the dead
we the pressure & the cyclone of Haiti
savage with usurption
with clastrophobia by scarob
by blood loss & groaning
we who’ve taken spikes from our entrails
from suns we’ve had exploded in our nostrils
we who were spawned in harassment
in catastrophic silicate meanderings
in acidic neural complexity
corrupted & slashed
in lightless x-ray vacuums

we who swelter in cold & heatless malachite
in blatent triangle missives
in throughtless inversion & drought
above burning shells of crab
above a flood of random burial law
like cobras
or gazelles
or eaglets ruined in stunted cemetary icon

it is we who speak
with a sun of splinters spewing from our heart
from our thorax burning with intestinal moray explosion
the Africa of Songhai & Mali
of original reptile wisdom
the first gatherers of wool
through sun
through apertures spinning
in a ruptured lighning gorge

the dead
who blister
who channel poltergeists from lightless peeling rums
as spies
as wild omega charges
beyond ruthless murdering dossiers
beyond the Tontons & their terror
we float
above abcess torrents
above the bloody belladonnas
& the microbes & their seas
so we emit
lesser bodies of dying
lesser holocaust driftings
therefore we burn
in the bloodless heat of whispers
in stony cloves & disjunctives
in raw botanical monsoons

whenever the crops boil & disease themselves as acid
there is malaria by forgery
starvation under gemstone
as if treachery had been launched
throughout a shadow of bodies
throughout the reign of ominous modernity
where we shift between sulphur & limbo
there is a discourse of bodies
of chapaarral by misnomer
of splendiferous mirage
& blistering anti-edict

we the dead
transcripting rum & vapor
with demonish lisping trot
with slavos
by diorama & plague
by the very principle of pain
split apart & cyclonic

as for the souls of our two former killers
Papa Doc
with his rotted & greenish blood
with his consort
the Madame
ailing in her rubies & bones
we accuse them
with every quarter of their accursed mandibles
with every dispicable vibration as owls
their gestures
their veins as leopards turned around in a mirror
grown from themselves lashing out as monsters

we see them now
throughut a wrenching prolapse through the kingdoms of hell
caged by the demons
within the macerated bones of mutual self-bleeding...

(from Asia & Haiti, 1995)

The Impalpable Brush Fire Singer

he is not an urn singer
nor does he carry on rapport
with negative forces within extinction

he is the brush fire singer
who projects from his heart
the sound of insidious subsduction
of blank anomaly as posture
of opaque density as ash

he distanced from prone ventriloqual stammer
from flesh
& habit
& drought

the performer
part poltergeis & Orisha
part broken in-cellular dove
part glance from floating Mongol bastions

where the spires are butane
where their photographic fractals are impalnted with hypnosis

because he allegedly embodies
a green necrotic umber
more like a vertical flash or a farad
posing like a tempest in a human chromium palace

therefore his sound
a dazed simoom in a guantlet
a blizzard of birds burned at the touch of old maelstroms

because he gives off the ordour of storms
this universal Orisha
like a sun that falls from a compost of dimness
out of de-productive hydrogen sums
out of lightless fissures which boil outside the planet

he sings at a certain pitch
which has evolved beyond the potter’s field
beyond a tragic hummingbird’s cirrhosis
surmounting primeval flaw
surmounting fire which forms in irreplaceable disjunction

under certain formations of the zodiac he is listless
he intones without impact
he synodic revelations no longer of the law
of measured palpable destinations
because he sings in such a silence
that even the Rishis can’t ignore

as though
the hollow power which re-arises from nothingness
perpetually convinces
like a vacuum which splits within the spinning arc of an
intangible solar candle

such power can never be confusedly re-traced
it adumbrates & blazes
like a glossary of suns
so that each viral drill
each forge
casts a feeling
which in-saturates a pressure
bringing to distance a hidden & elided polarity

like a subjective skill
corroded & advanced
he sings
beyond the grip of a paralytic nexus
where blood shifts
beyond the magnet of volume
where the nerves no longer resonate
inside an octagonal maze
stung at its source by piranhas

(from Above the Human Nerve Domain, 1999)

Inside the Ghost Volcano

With the body of a morbid hanging doll
my aura burns
by shifts
by ambles
by mirages

by the sun in its primordial morass
summoned from a spectral locust feast

through electric bartering grammes
as if a spectrum had been transmogrified
across the sum of exploded solar windows
amidst motions of viral infamy
of sudden discharge pontoons
of magical lyncean sails above ships of pure vitrescence

by empty Minoan game dogs
debating oxygen as form
debating menace as ideal
as one listens to fire
in dense eruptional gullet
in hanging hydrogen mirrors
so that each image is shifted
back & forth
between gales & the apparition of gales

so that
unicorns from Çatal Hüyük
cease to condense as forms of the earth
but take on the body of enigma as transparence
as blackened meteor in abstraction
the sun no longer quantified
by strange caledrical posses
but becomes
balletic differential
which ceases to quarrel
with the magic of fragment as schism

as mist
as a power cast before oasis

because the game dogs
the unicorn mirrors
spun as a wakeless ocular thirst
as a conjured distance
evolved from the force of a aclarified activity

like a darkened water as shock
as scale which looms as humidity
then the eyes always focused
as pleas for hushed exhibits

(from Above the Human Nerve Domain, 1999)

Impulse & Nothingness

These dense geranium surges of thought
protracted through steaming anthrax waters
concerned with the coronal aspects of contingency
these sabbatical athanors in which nothingness looms
without image
without the doctrinal plummage of a fixed event
without the mesmeric square of Talmudic rigidity
when one is transfixed by intention
by the the Messianic force fused with the illusive intensity
of impulse
shot into the grainy broach of nothingness

there exists the sense of bleached equators
the suicidal aching of secondary sunfish

one then gives off the odour of a pentacostal heresy
& one no longer lives in an aura of the weakened
with the weakened
one stands like a bolt
facing the electrical debris of an ochlocracy in pain
staggered by the knife of its own surgeon’s riddles
by a rabid scalpel cutting at its ribs
by a deboned pleurisy rumbling in its vision

as I reach into this nothingness
I am abandoned by associates
psychically spat upon by contemporaries
a reflex
against one condemned by the interests
of the secular nerve field

this I
a target
with an intense circulation of acid in the veins

so everything that I snare
always half plunged into eclipse
all my description
subject to electro-ballistical analysis
an analysis of my own achievement
which ironically has no power to engulf me

so I remain suspended
between light & the imageless arcana of extinction
& the emotions
those electrical cadavers
weave themselves like sickened medicine in my thorax

as to my name
it has become an exploded ravens’ dyscrasia
an excresence
walking around with my eyes
like a series of neurological sunspots

& in speaking
I remain corroded with intensive tedium rejoinders
with my bones squirming at an angle of pathological
nightmare edicts
a cauldron of metacarpel tsunamis
as a result
I feed on the carking magnificence of lonliness
on the nomadology of cacti & sores

I count my companions as enemies
those obedient nomenciator’s covering up those abbreviated
prolusory murders of the spirit

& so as a scar
as one given up to the guerilla domain of
cosmic prolepsis
I am always a figure
a metal hormone found in a basket
floating on broken sea bird’s blood

on both sides of my eyes a parenthetical numbness
a painful but voided exogen climaterics
in which I wander through intensive flytrap grasses
weaving myself to death while humming in-doctrinal ballets
a shapeless fumatory witness
suffering like a cipher
or a metamorphic anagram
spying on shapes in the darkness

(from Impulse & Nothing, unpublished)


From “Haiti”
Reprinted from Asia and Haiti (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995). Copyright ©1995 by Will Alexander. Reprinted by permission of Sun & Moon Press.

“The Impalpable Brush Fire Singer” and “Inside the Ghost Volcano”
Reprinted from Above the Human Nerve Domain (New York: Pavement Saw Press, 1998). Copyright ©1998 by Will Alexander. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Impulse and Nothingness”
Reprinted from the manuscript, “Impulse and Nothingness,” unpublished. Copyright ©2004 by Will Alexander. Reprinted by permission of the author.


rizoma said...

Hello,my name is Luca Paci. I translated La ragazza Carla by Elio Pagliarani into English. Would you be interested in publishing some extracts on your blog?
Thanks Luca

charles said...

Just came across this page as I'm preparing to share Will Alexander's Compression & Purity with students in a poetry writing class. Each time I read or hear Will's work, it's a wonder, an opening, perhaps, as he might say, the "I being blur who shapes the empyrean"

Thanks for posting this page, and this blog.

-- Charles Alexander