Bill Kushner’s Walking After Midnight. (Spuyten Duyvil 2011)

I have a stack of books to read by my bedside and a journal. When I finally crawl into bed, usually just after midnight, I pick up the journal and I write one page. Then I start reading the book on the top. Last week I read from Bill Kushner’s new book Walking After Midnight. I loved reading these story poems. Some of them are childhood memories, others veer off into an imaginary life, sometimes like a fairy tale. I found myself more than once lying in bed laughing. I’m putting three that I really liked here.


“I’ll tell you nothing,” he said, as we drove along.
I could almost count the poles as we sped along.
And my father hummed. He was a hummer. I
looked up and saw the clouds holding up the sky.
“You’re not gonna see me,” my father said, “once
we get there.” And then he sort of chuckled, a
funny sound. “I mean,” he went on, “that I am
just gonna disappear.” Ahead, I saw a kid on the
side of the highway, holding out his thumb. The
kid looked hot. The sun was out and it was hot.
I could see he was almost soaking wet in sweat.
My father just drove by. “You could’ve stopped
for him, Dad,” I said. “It would’ve been like a nice
thing to do.” Immediately, my Dad stopped the
car, and we both lurched forward, then back. “You
wanna get out and walk it? he queried. I thought
about it and swallowed. “No, sir, I don’t” “Don’t
what?” “Don’t wanna walk it, sir.” He stared hard
at me for one long minute. I could see the cactus,
sky and the mountains in the far far distance, as he
kept on staring. i could see the kid sort of running
in a funny hop towards us, my father’s car. “So
do we understand each other from now on?” my
father asked me. “Do we understand each other at
last?” Thick silence, and I had to answer. “Yes, sir,
Dad.” “Yes, sir, what, boy? I said yes, sir, what?”
“Sir, we understand each other at last.” My father’s
arms shot up as if in a weird kind of victory. “At
last!” he said, almost breathless. “At last!” By now
the kid had almost reached the car, and he had one
arm out as if to quick grab at the handle of it, my
father’s sky blue car. And I could see the kid’s eyes
kind of crazy scared eyes. “Good,” my father said,
as he gunned the motor, and away we drove real fast.


The witch said, “The deer! The little deer! Run
after the deer and capture him, my little darling,
and you shall be king! So I did what the witch
told me. I ran and I ran, but that little deer was a
fast one, and always leaped ahead, just out of reach.
Suddenly, there I was, in the heart of the forbidden
forest, and I was alone, for the little deer was gone.
“Who is that under me?” asked the talking tree.
“It’s me,” I answered, “your little king.” “You’re not
my little king!” replied the tree. “you’re just a lost
and frightened little boy, aren’t you? Afraid that
someone will eat you? Afraid you’ll never find your
way back home?” “Yes, tree,” I said, for it was true.
“Climb a bit up me, little boy, and I’ll try to protect
you. I’ll try to find someone to guide you out of this
forest you are lost within.” Just then, a riderless
white horse came along. “Oh dear me, oh dear me,”
said the sad horse. “For the Prince of this strange
kingdom and I went out riding, but the Prince he
strangely fell off me, he fell to the ground where he
is now unconscious, and I can’t wake him for the
life of me, oh dear!” “Then let this little boy ride on
you, and take him where the strange Prince lies. I do
believe the boy has the magic to wake the Prince up!”
So there I was, riding on the white horse. “Hold me
tight, boy!” the horse commanded, and soon there we
were before the sleeping Prince. “Do your magic,
boy!” the horse whispered. So I bent over the Prince
who was so handsome why I kissed him on his lips, and
that kiss seemed to do it. The Prince awoke and lifted
his head toward me. “Is it you, boy?” he asked. “Yes,”
I said, “oh yes!” “You’ve saved me, boy! Why I was
lost in a dream of wolves and dragons!” “It was my duty
and my honor, sir!” “Then come and we shall ride back
to my kingdom, boy, and you shall stay at my side forever,
for who knows when I shall need that magic kiss again!”
And so it came true, for I find there is no denying the
command of a handsome Prince. Could I? Could you?


Did you know chiwawas are descended
from wolves? Do not get a chiwawa mad at
you or he’ll bite your head off and eat it for
lunch. I saw a chiwawa eat a sheep once,
and then knit himself a sweater with the
leftover wool. He says you got a secret.
A chiwawa can tell if you got a secret. A
chiwawa can smell your secret in you, and
spell it out. “I’m gonna tell on you, sucka,”
my chiwawa whispers when we go for a walk.
Sometimes I just wanna kill my naughty chiwawa,
but I love my little Chi Chi too much. At night, as
we sleep together, and he howls at the moon in
my ear, I just wanna kiss him all over, my sweet
little sweetheart Chi Chi, my very darling dear.

Rebecca Brown’s The Terrible Girls

Last month I read Rebecca Brown’s The Terrible Girls. It is a curious, combination of dream-story and science fiction, a bit like The Twilight Zone with a touch of sado-masochisism, the characters allowing themselves to be wo-manhandled or doing the handling themselves. The “The Dark House” is one of my favorite.

In “The Dark House” a woman pursues the one she desires, by doing anything and everything for her. She grovels, becomes the coffee-cart girl, the hidden one, serving the conference star, her would-be lover, who blabs on and on at the podium with out-dated information. We have no idea what the conference is about. It’s just in that middle realm of conference twilight zone. Someday, someway the girl will have the one she desires. Just “do things right” and “We are going to be part of a fine and lovely and long and true tradition.” A kiss in the elevator and then out the door they go, running away from the conference. The coffee-cart girl carts the conference star on her back with her twisted ankle across a river and through the woods. Ah, here they are. Now you go away, the dominatrix demands, her ankle apparently recovered. A figure is in the house waiting for the desired-one. Brown carefully avoids telling us whether this figure upstairs is a man or a woman. And then she kicks the coffee-cart girl out and makes love to this other one, leaving the curtain open just a bit, with a promise, perhaps, for the coffee cart girl, too. The coffee-cart girl is a curious character, desiring someone who is so vacant and so demanding, and still wanting her, with a terrible driving desire.

“The Ruined City” reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Everything is ruined and beware of the gangs of roaming girls. No men here except Lord Bountiful. The narrator and her girlfriend hide from the terrible girls who fight over what they steal. The city they left behind before the disaster—they are here now searching for something the narrator left behind, “what was left of me,” something hidden under the mat. “I tried to pick up what they’d hacked from me but I was weak and it was very heavy.” Parts of her body? Too heavy she had to leave “it” behind. Her lover has super psychic powers. Kinesiology? She can hold her hands over the earth. Here it is here, she says. The bag is there and it’s rotted away, “the resurrected heart.” She gets her heart back like the tin man.

When I read these stories, I sometimes have the sense that the fictional writer is writing out of revenge, to get back at some lover, striving for fantastic fictional revenge. And there are these odd objects in each story that are pursued and hunted, usually without resolution, an “it”, a bag, a box, a body part. And the language of the stories moves from straight action and description into poetic prose. It’s very hip writing, laying out with a kind of glee the damage love can do.

New York Poets : Put this on your carendar

Poets for Renewable Energy and Peace:
This October 23rd afternoon program (1-4pm) will feature poets from the war
region, including emerging Afghan-American writers Cihan Kaan, Sahar
Muradi, Zohra Saed, and Yusuf Misdaq. It will also include additional poets,
musicians, and speakers to be announced, and a special group performance of Allen
Ginsberg’s famous anti-nuclear power poem, “Plutonian Ode.” This event is
being produced by a recently created NYC-based group, Poets for Renewable
Energy and Peace (PREP), which hopes to inspire new and growing activism
against war and nuclear energy.

@Theater 80 St. Marks Place & First Avenue in the East Village/Lower East
Side. The admission is $10 that goes to HOWL’s medical fund for artists and
writers. PREP will be selling advance tickets for amounts above the $10, the
difference going to support the group in its beginning stages, All of these
monies are tax deductible. For PREP checks should be made out to the
Committee on Poetry and note PREP: Poets for Renewable Energy.

Reading this Sunday


See the flyer below for a reading this Sunday, August 7th at 3:00 at the Bowery Poetry Club. I am reading with David Henderson and there is a screening of a new film about Diane di Prima.

Photos up on New Flickr Site

I’ve set up a flickr site with photos from my pamphlets and also other photos.

  • My Flickr Page
  • Interview of B Henning & Book Party for LOOKING UP HARRYETTE MULLEN

    Dear Friends,

    An interview of me by Rafael Otto about my poetics is now on online at NOT ENOUGH NIGHT.

    Also for those of you in New York next week, the schedule of events for Harryette Mullen’s readings and our conversation (Book Party for LOOKING UP HARRYETTE MULLEN) is as follows:

    On Friday April 29th, at noon, Harryette will be reading her poetry at Long Island University in the Humanities Building 206 (as part of the rainbow series). Take the Q or R Train to Dekalb Avenue and the entrance near the Humanities Building is at the gate on Flatbush Avenue.

    Later that same day at 7 pm at the Poet’s House (10 River Terrace, dowtown), there is a book party for the book, as well a conversation between Harryette and me. We will be reading from the new book of interviews as well as looking at slides from her new Geneology project and talking about new work.

    On Saturday, Harryette will be reading with two other readers for Cave Canem at 3:00, at 20 Jay Street, Brooklyn, Suite 310A.

    Harryette doesn’t come to New York very often so I hope to see you.

    Thanks & Namaste,



    Two years ago I called my friend, Harryette Mullen, and asked her if she would talk to me about the way she wrote the poems for Sleeping in the Dictionary. I was teaching her book for an MFA course at Long Island University in Brooklyn. It was summer and I had subletted an apartment on Third Street (I was living in Tucson then). I remember sitting on the floor with my computer talking into skype for the interview, for hours at a time and over several weeks. Anyhow, that was the beginning of a very long exciting conversation/interview about Harryette’s book. Neither of us expected this conversation to end up becoming a book. At the time, it was just for my class. Then after I started transcribing, I thought, wow, this should be published. And so we edited and rewrote and re-thought the conversation.

    Then I broke it apart and sent it to various magazines and webzines for publication. Then it became clear that this was in fact a book length interview. So I thought — send it to Rachel Levitsky for Belladonna and see if she is interested. It is definitely political, poetic and feminist. Rachel was excited about the interview and the next thing I knew, I was invited to be part of the collaborative board of Belladonna and working with Martine Bellen to publish the book. Then it occurred to us that an earlier interview I had with Harryette in the 90’s about her earlier books could also work well with this. So the book grew. Rachel’s idea was to include some images to supplement the discussions. I went to LA and photographed Harryette and other places, artwork and related objects. Harryette and I rewrote the interviews again and expanded them. And the book grew some more. Juliana Spahr wrote a very thoughtful introduction. Martine worked diligently and creatively with me to develop, layout, proofread, get permissions, etc (everything). HR Hegnauer did the final layout and a beautiful cover. And now other women on the board and interns are working to get the book in the world.

    I’m a fan of Harryette’s writing (obviously) and I have taught her books for many years. I like the way politics, the ordinary everyday and far-out playfulness intermingle. The book of interviews will be of use to teachers, scholars and poets. And the good news is that you can now order this book by going to the Belladonna Series website. The books will be delivered to the Belladonna office in Brooklyn within a few days. On the website, you can also read more about the book. As you all may know, Belladonna is a non-profit collaborative feminist project, so it’s a great press and reading series to support. The collaborative board is an exciting energetic group of women. Look through the website at the other publishing projects (The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian and many others).

    Here’s the website —

    Also, there will be a book party at the Poet’s House on Friday, April 29th at 7 pm, with a conversation between Harryette and me about the book and about her other projects in the works. Also Harryette will be reading on April 29th at noon at Long Island University, Humanities Building Room 206, at Dekalb and Flatbush (Brooklyn). And on Saturday, April 30th she will read (with Christian Campbell and Niki Herd) for Cave Canum at 20 Jay Street, Suite 310A (Brooklyn). I’ll be at all three of these events. If you are in town, I hope to see you, especially at the party at the Poet’s House (10 River Terrace, downtown, nyc).

    Reading in Seattle, Eugene Or, Portland Or, and Austin Tx

    Next week and the week after I’m reading at the following locations. Fliers are below.

    Seattle Reading

    with Paige Clifton-Steele and Maged Zaher
    Thursday March 24th at 7 pm at the Living Room
    1355 East Olive Way, Seattle, Washington 98122 206-708-6021

    Eugene, Oregan

    Reading with Endi Hartigan
    DIVA Gallery, Saturday March 26 at 7:00
    280 W. Broadway, Eugene Oregon

    Portland Oregan

    Reading with Will Owens
    Spare Room Series
    The Way Post @ 7:30 on March 27
    3120 N. Williams Ave.

    Reading with Kimberly Alidio
    for Skanky Possum / Hoa Nyugen/Dale Smith
    2208 Trailside Drive #A
    Austin, Tx 78704

    James Brown Stop Action by Michah Saperstein

    Here’s a stop action my son, Michah, made of my grandson Logan, jumping to James Brown. It’s funny and beautiful. Check out other photos by Michah at his flickr page:

    February Readings in San Francisco, Berkeley and Tucson

    I’m arriving in San Francisco on Monday the 21st of February and reading at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State on Thursday the 24th at 3:30 (Humanities Building H512) and then later that same day traveling with Steve Katz to Moe’s in Berkeley for a reading there at 7:30 pm (with Steve and Andrew Joron). See the fliers for more information. Then on Saturday the 26th, I’m reading in Tucson at the Drawing Studio with Tenney Nathanson and Charles Alexander.