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H_NGM_N Books

Russell Dillon – Eternal Patrol

Forklift Books 2013

Page Length: 82

Retail: $15


There was something nearly traceable

within us, horse-like and holy.

Without this field, there would be

an unnamed vacancy between trees.

Here: A photograph where your face

is obscured by blurring snowflakes.

Gloam-lensed, a moment before

inviting me into your papier-mache home.

Maddening how, in this home, in this storm,

I fear most the lightning and not the rain,

the improbable over the certain. A sound

from the map room: mellifluous, stupid river.


“Each Combustible Fluid Ounce in its Divorcing” (12-3)


Russell Dillon’s debut collection from Forklift Books, Eternal Patrol, radiates bioluminescent longing and maniacal ache. Dillon’s poetry fuses the energy of ecstasy with the reflective intensity of a mind that catches itself thinking helplessly into an abyss of terrible beauty. It is poetry that proceeds from the force of its diction: image-driven and unencumbered—it roams the lyric landscape like a hand over goosebumped flesh—gently electric, felt and feeling, vulnerable and terrified to life by the force of contact.


The inaugural release from Forklift Books, an imprint of indie mainstay H_NGM_N Books and the perfect-bound extension of contemporary American poetry’s OG of DIY, Forklift, Ohio, Dillon’s book sets the tone for a press that straddles the fuck you aesthetic of punk culture and the bleeding heart, rose-ravaged hands of the Romantic literary tradition. Certainly present in Dillon’s work is the unmistakable legacy of Dada, Surrealism, the Beats, and, most prominently, the “Last Avant-Garde” of the New York School of poets: Rimbaud, Tzara, Breton, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and John Ashbery. Dillon’s poems often speak plainly and powerfully, imbued with energy derived from bright, sprawling diction.


Let’s get something straight: the quivering bolts

of your empire portray a certain innocence

but are not nearly a match for the fits of your sky.

Yes, the four doors of the heart fly open, slam shut,

though the motion’s symbiosis is never quite explained.


“More Mid- than -Western” (25)


And yet Dillon’s participation in this lineage highlights a distinct strain of avant-gardism: the reflective vulnerability of Apollinaire, Robert Desnos, Frank O’Hara and, perhaps the closest kin to Dillon among these greats: James Schuyler, whose meditations often defy the stereotypical chattiness of the New York School, which Ashbery once cleverly conceded as superficial, “all the way down.” There is very little of the superficial in Dillon’s poetry: it radiates from the core of things out into the plains of observation.


The air, and its oceans, they want to break into you.

I’m bringing this, and my ignorant translation of light.

It is Christmas morning. Your mother is crying,


and so are you, both trapped or dead beneath this ice,

within these pressures, these peekings, these tiny bits of glass.


“Eternal Patrol” (63)


Dillon’s poetry is a fever dream from which he refuses to wake, except to pull the reader into his warmed blanket fort filled with wonderfully grave play. In this regard, he is yet another bright-burning acolyte of Dean Young, his generation’s single most influential poet. But while some Young-ites err into the only-momentarily-interesting crack and sizzle of dizzying association, Dillon, like Young himself, divines within chaos the drone of mortality.


A horse throws its show, and all over is the sky.

I have been given a lot of drugs lately, but have taken very few.

I never feel the weight that I am when reading it from a scale,

but oftentimes the weight that I feel goes unmeasured.

Seeds, water, and good soil, yet still the earth does not roar

when we slam into it with our shovels. Rather, it resists us by

not turning. On one side of the bridge there is a suicide view,

on the other an out-to-sea-ness that is attacked by larger boats.

These tasks, and everything about finance, are quite foreign to me,

but when the fires start, I understand completely.


“Damage Damage” (64)


Dillon moves with his feet to the earth, even as he wanders it restlessly with his head stowed in innumerable clouds. This ambulatory, meditative intensity largely eludes the tradition of the avant-garde and finds its source instead in the great English Romantics: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and John Clare. Like these poets, Dillon relies on pastoral imagery and the refuge of Nature as a place of both chaos and order. More contemporary examples of this, and more proximate to Dillon’s own poems, are James Wright, Gary Snyder, James Galvin, Robert Hass, and Louise Gluck. What unites these poets is the conviction that the real is really real and that poetry can make it so. The result is a brutally elegant navigation of high-stakes beauty, a notion perfectly captured by this collection’s title. When a submarine goes missing, it is said to be on “eternal patrol”—the image conjured is a vessel roaming beneath the surface of the sea in perpetual investigation of the unknown depths from which the living can never return. Dillon’s collection is such a vessel: as unexpected and awesome as a creature that has evolved to see in perfect darkness.

And then there was our great envy of the painters,

how it all became an agreement with our sisters,

that light alone would reveal their breasts

to be our mothers’ breasts, like a map into

the backstreets of a small town burning.

There are terrible places in this world, but

people know our names there, so we return.


“Collect Call from the Hague” (29)


Russell Dillon’s Eternal Patrol feels its way through the dark: reaching for anything that might offer orientation. What makes this wandering artful and potentially salvific is that Dillon’s hands can see what they feel, and that the mind to which they’re attached has the words to make real for us their feeling.



butcher knife


A special transmission / from outside of scripture / pointed directly / up inside / the heart of man / I twist mine / the part most red / skyward / toward my lord / or whatever holy something / might want / even me / a teenage symphony / a pure system of spasms / wrecked with sex / I stretch what’s left / along the distance / as real as my skull / the skeleton sang / and so I pray / catch for us the foxes / I sing / catch for us / the little foxes / what fuck up the vines / my southern brain / my southern spine / gone black / but bright / laid straight / made new / next to a northern soul / she was a girl / cast as the girl / in my movie / my god / I touched her / to touch you / to allow the day / to save itself / to become a scene / in full flower / inside the city / of the dead / I escape / unlit / yet afloat / the ferry takes me / to where they wait / for me / the useless trees / of some distant shore


Damage is not why / we come to damage / it’s the same as my stranger / is not always your stranger / an accident in nature / is an accident / in every automatic day / even here we are / an awesome silence / in the black out beauty hour / he’s a happy slaughter / the man made of anger / and light and / the angel’s slang / I am spitting on something / I love / an image / the way a ray of skin / attacks a girl / is how I am ready to go / a flesh toned surrender / the worst joke ever / is the real question / I am asking you / not to return


Ben Kopel is the author of VICTORY, released by H_NGM_N Books in 2012. He’s currently at work on a new collection of poems, possibly titled Sutras of Love & Hate.


The last installment of this month’s Poem of the Week is a special one: three poems by Paul Violi—poems originally published in his first full-length collection In Baltic Circles by Kulchur Foundation in 1973 and now reissued by H_NGM_N Books.

When choosing poems these last three weeks, I had Paul in mind, and it wasn’t hard to cull from the multitudes of former Paul Violi students whose work (and lives) have been influenced by him. I could fill a whole year of Poem[s] of the Week with Violi-inspired verse. Which isn’t to say Paul encouraged his students to imitate his style (you can’t ape wit, charm, and unrelenting curiosity) nor that he had a heavy hand when editing his students’ poems (on the contrary, he knew just how to nudge you in the right direction—your direction).

Before Paul passed away suddenly in April 2011 of pancreatic cancer, he was working on the reissue of In Baltic Circles with H_NGM_N. Recently released, the new volume includes an introduction by Nate Pritts and an afterword by Matt Hart, with the original 1973 cover portrait by Paula North.

“It is my hope,” says Pritts in his introduction to the reissued 192-page-volume, “that by making this book available again, new and return readers can joyously remember that the antidote to indifference is zany generosity, to counter detachment with a limitless range of feeling.” It is that “limitless range” that makes reading Paul Violi so exhilarating, perhaps most inspiring—and for which I’m most thankful.

–Allison Power, November 2011

(Special thanks to Ann Violi, Charles and Paula North, Tony Towle, Matt Hart, and H_NGM_N Books.)

***Paul Violi Memorial Reading: Friday, December 2, 6:30 PM, The New School

Theresa Lang Community and Student Center,
Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor.

***In Baltic Circles can be purchased here and here.



__East on 7th Street
like portraits, dusty oils, an old immigrant
sitting behind each window

White monster garbage truck
grinds up yesterday

____grim tramp in the alley
____rummaging through cans
_____drops a scrap into his burlap bag
_______and totters away

____________Sway-back Pegasus
moseying over toward the park
_________and a few spades
bopping locomotive

But the street a stream
_____________Mira! Mira!
kids dragging their girlfriends
into the open priapic hydrants

__Fast clouds over the hot day
smell of moisture in the air
and suddenly trees
anxious and lively
__________below the imminent rain

include girls dancing
and a muffled rock beat

_____long hair tossing

___________saying climb on me

_____________welcome to the sky


My tooth aches and a drowsy numbness pains
__my head; the gas the dentist gave me
sent me soaring through a pinhole in the sky
__It was, to my estimation, Zero Hour


Throwing books out of high windows
________only to see them descend again
later, as I sit under the lamp
____and the wasted moths fall into my lap

It’s a difficult habit to break


Planes lost in the fog, monotonous lullabies,
They’ll drone on for a while, they’ll sputter
and crash and briefly disturb the crickets

but then, my white hour, we will finally sleep


A housing development continues its glacial
movement through the hills
Impossibilities flounder on the opposite horizon

. . . yank the paper out of the typewriter, crumple
it up, toss it on the floor
The cat pounces, struts away triumphantly holding
the paper in its mouth like a bird


In a large, unfurnished sunlit room
a man nails an extraordinary book to the floor


I went to my favorite restaurant
and ordered a typewriter
While I typed I watched this typewriter
eat corn off the cob


O hollow autumn skies rusty madness
fumes of red voyages down wooden streets

Your clowns bore me
The exhausted women in the willow trees
have thrown their costumes under the setting sun
I don’t believe in the benefits of an eight hour sleep
I will prolong this fatigue as long as possible
Chaos will wear my composure like a wound
The wind will polish my nose


There is a fly in the room
with a reward on its head
Heinrich Himmler looked like a fly
No, Joseph Goebbels looked like a fly
Heinrich Himmler looked like a bookworm


You klutz, you can’t scribble without drawing a pile of rope


The radio announcer finished playing his selection
and addressed the panel.
___Dr. Sandler was convinced the music was an early
___concerto by Haydn.
___Dr. Salmaggio doubted this very much but tended
___to agree.
___Dr. Winetz scoffed at these speculations: “All
of what you say is mere words, he protested, I have
no respect for them whatsoever, they are much
too subservient to your thoughts!”
___I, myself, found the discussion worthwhile
but couldn’t give it the attention it undoubtedly
deserved and continued shuffling through the house,
pants down around my ankles, searching for toilet paper.


The nights were as black as carbon paper
and the days
were exact copies of all the rest.



This elevator is not working today.
Just consider it an anonymous eulogy.
Please use the 53rd Street entrance.
Thank you for your cooperation—

_______________The Management


Will everyone have a front row seat
Do our eyes appear as headlights
Does the glow increase while we think
Explain these nipples on my chest
Where was the Land of Cockaigne
What about the face of Charlemagne
Why warts
Did someone discover the wheel by stepping
_on his fingers at the brink of a hill
Can you appreciate the modulations of a vicious belch
Where are the plays of Menander
Does the Loch Ness Monster ring a bell
Do impure souls lend color to the flames
Do you find these myths entertaining
Or superfluous
Am I a Calvinist
Whither Martin Bormann
Has someone already asked you these questions
Have I already asked you these questions
How will I know you’re not lying
How will you know you’re not lying
Is perfection comforting
What if it isn’t

Photo: Paul Violi and daughter, Helen, ca. 1973. Courtesy of Ann Violi.


Paul Violi wrote eleven books of poetry during his lifetime, including Overnight, Fracas, The Curious Builder, and Likewise, from Hanging Loose Press, and a selection of his longer poems, Breakers, from Coffee House Press. Widely published and anthologized both here and abroad, he received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, as well as grants from the Ingram Merrrill Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and a John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001 he received The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Violi was born in New York in 1944. He grew up in Greenlawn, Long Island, and graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Art History. After a stint in the Peace Corps doing map completion and survey work in northern Nigeria, Violi traveled extensively through Africa, Europe and Asia. Upon returning to New York he worked for WCBS-TV, then for various newspapers and magazines. He was managing editor of The Architectural Forum from 1972—1974 and worked on free-lance projects at Universal Limited Art Editions, researching correspondence of poets and artists and assisting Bucky Fuller while he wrote the text to Tetrascroll. As chairman of the Associate Council Poetry Committee, Violi organized a series of readings at the Museum of Modern Art from 1974 to 1983. He also co-founded Swollen Magpie Press, which produced poetry chapbooks, the poets and painters anthology Broadway edited by James Schuyler and Charles North, and a poetry magazine called New York Times.

Waterworks, a short selection of his early poems from Toothpaste Press, appeared in 1972, and Kulchur Press published In Baltic Circles the following year. Bill Zavatsky’s Sun Press published two of Violi’s books, Harmatan, a long poem set in Nigeria, in 1977 and Splurge in 1981. In 1993 he curated an exhibit “Kenneth Koch: Collaborations with Artists” for Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, U.K., and his art book collaborations with Dale Devereux Barker, most recently Envoy; Life is Completely Interesting, have been acquired by many libraries and museums. The expanded text of their first collaboration, Selected Accidents, Pointless Anecdotes, a collection of non-fiction prose, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2002.

Violi taught at colleges and universities, public and private institutions—New York University, The Dalton School, Sing-Sing, Stevens Institute of Technology, Bloomfield College, State University of New York at Purchase, Scarsdale Teachers Insititute. At the time of his death, he was teaching in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and in the graduate writing program at New School University.