January 25, 2023

Will Alexander (USA) 1948

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 fictions, plays, conversations, aphorisms, and collections of essays such as Towards the Primeval Lightning Field (1998 / 2014), Sunrise in Armageddon (2006), Inalienable Recognitions (2009); On the Substance of Disorder (2010); Diary as Sin (2011); Inside the Earthquake Palace: 4 Plays (2011); Mirach Speaks to his Grammatical Transparents (2011); Singing in Magnetic Hoofbeat: Essays, Prose Texts, Interviews and a Lecture 1991–2007 (2012); The Codex Mirror: 60 Drawings by Byron Baker & 60 Writings (2015); Alien Weaving (2016); Secrets Prior to the Sun (2016); At Night on the Sun (2017); Across the Vapour Gulf (2017); Phosphenic Threadings (2018); A Cannibal Explains Himself To Himself (2019); and The Contortionist Whispers (2022).

     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.

     He has received a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry (2001), a California Arts Council Fellowship (2002), the American Book Award (2014), and the Jackson Poetry Prize (2016).




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); Exobiology as Goddess (Manifest Press, 2004); The Sri Lankan Loxodrome (New York: New Directions, 2009); Compression & Purity (San Francisco: City Lights, 2011); The Brimstone Boat-For Philip Lamantia (Rêve à Deux, 2012); Kaleidoscopic Omniscience: Asia & Haiti / The Stratospheric Canticles / Impulse & Nothingness (Skylight Press, 2012); Based on the Bush of Ghosts (Staging Ground, 2015); Spectral Hieroglyphics: A Poetic Troika (Rêve à Deux, 2016); The Combustion Cycle (New York: Roof Books, 2021); Refractive Africa (New York: New Directions, 2021); Divine Blue Light (for John Coltrane) (San Francisco: City Lights, 2022)


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 usurpation

with claustrophobia by scarab

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 blatant triangle missives

in thoughtless inversion & drought

above burning shells of crab

above a flood of random burial law

like cobras

or gazelles

or eaglets ruined in stunted cemetery 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 lightning 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 abscess 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 chaparral by misnomer

of splendiferous mirage

& blistering anti-edict


we the dead

transcripting rum & vapor

with demonish lisping trot

with salvos

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 despicable 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

throughout 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 poltergeist & Orisha

part broken in-cellular dove

part glance from floating Mongol bastions


where the spires are butane

where their photographic fractals are implanted 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 gauntlet

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 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