Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Some issues also offer Featured Poets, a "The Critic Writes Poems" series, and/or Feature Articles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015



Dear Alain by Katy Bohinc
(Tender Buttons Press, New York, NY, 2014)

I No Longer Believe in the Sun: Love Letters to Katie Couric by Derek Fenner
(Bootstrap, Lowell, MA and Oakland, CA, 2009)


Dear K.

Read your epistolary Dear Alain with interest. 

I thought what's this young poet up to? She's sure got a lot of flirting sexy page turning of words all round and then numbers! too, coming into the mix. Along with mathematics... philosophy... poetry... there's terrific gall and great feminine wile, as well. 

But, like these letters grip (and gripe) so openly with a guy so old!       

Then I thought: well, it's all about the mind really the body is isn't it.

Next I thought about my friend Derek's book I No Longer Believe in the Sun: Love Letters to Katie Couric. The writing adopts this persona, a real at times quite creepy one, of a guy who is obsessively and rather occultly stalking Couric. It's totally fucked up. Astrology, Native American mounds, family history, television weirdness, it's all here, including photos and drawings. Derek documented everything. I mean you know here he is this young guy writing in the voice of a bit of derangement. 

…is it love?



Heyas man,

Bouhin wrote to Badiou: An entire book of letters.

Sorta fucking him in not so graphic terms but sexualized nonetheless. Endearing in a way. Quite charming even.

I thought of yr Love Letters to Katie. Almost perversely I suppose. 

~ Patrick


Dear K,

Online there's video and photos of you reading, seems like from Dear Alain

Do you think Alain watched? …Ever?   I'm sure Slavoj has, huh?

Does reading the letters aloud in front of others contribute to or take away from "the real" within them?

Like when you write: 

 "Everyone likes to think they aren't a crazy lover but the truth is I'm fragile and broken and crying too." 

How's that feel? Read aloud? I don't think you're pushing any kind of confessional gig, so like how's this work for you? 

There doesn't seem to be much distance for your person from the writing at all. You fuck with that, eh?

I've seen Derek read with a red thong in hand, twisting it in his grip, his voice rising in Katie angst.

I've heard of one drunken performance when things got even more out of hand. There was a stage, dark lighting...or maybe not so dark. Boston poets never saw Derek the same again!

Do you think of Dear Alain as sexual harassment?  Are you playing with "the real" or are you playing with playing with "the real." 

That's what I think it comes down to with both these projects.

Apprehensively, but ever,




So Bohinc's book is serious but allusive a bit in specifics.

The hard math is there though, seemingly, even though what do I know about it? Other than if somebody says it is, then I think: Great!

But what works for me best about her book is I believe she means it... like she's not just being coy (tho she's definitely coy at times …it’s also wickedly smart and she doesn’t seem a bit bothered by being labeled a show-off.

I think she's living the writing out and that's always what matters most. No bullshit: Just a giving over to The Real.

There may be dead ends here and there but she's always in the midst of them as they enter in.

Letters, after all, involve gaps between writing. Feelings shift, change of scenarios abound.

Just like how you pick up one book and go to another.

The fingers ever as fickle as the heart

~ piddles


K ~

Is there a line you'd draw between art and life? What if Alain was terrified that you were really like after him for not just a night of romance but a lifetime (for the years he has left) of conjugal bliss?

Is there "a joke" to be "in" on? 

In his Love Letters, Derek's errant doppelgänger slides from one page to the next between addressing Couric, "Katie," with aggressive, if honest, desire:   

"I don't know where to begin if not with the truth---I'm a little drunk tonight and I'm having nasty thoughts of you. It is getting tougher to be away from you, and by "nasty" I mean dirty. God I want to fuck you so bad. It hurts my head, Katie---it hurts my head---it hurts!---I haven't been sleeping" 

To then pleading for/to her as savior, along with a nod to possibly some larger form of spiritual transformation:

"Just pray that God takes care of me and does His will. Outside of you, I've got nothing to live for. I'd love to come and get you so we could run away and raise kittens in Maine or Mexico and be carefree and drink gin on Sundays and sleep whenever we want and read and write each other letters in the same room, but we know my destiny lies on the Great Hopewell Road at the Great Serpent Mound."

In Dear Alain, you write out the personal enmeshed within mathematical/philosophical tones:

"[...] you see the way I conceive of the world is at once traditional and modern. I am creating something new but it builds on the past to embrace the future and the traditional. I like Gauss' projective plane. There infinity is the just horizon but it is also right now. Which is to say that thought and being are not just points on a directional linear trajectory, but that they are sort of a collection of moments which circle back into a complete thing, like a mobius strip no one point being predominant over the other. You might say birth or death begins or ends, but a beginning or an ending do not presuppose directionality in a circle. There are many forms of thought which support the circle view, Hinduism, Eastern concepts of reincarnation, Alzheimer's disease. And to circle back, saying philosophy is the set of all thoughts ever and everywhere, expands on your multiplicity of possible events to go even further to discuss the multiplicity of all possible thoughts and thought systems."   

To then break out at later points in near argumentative rage:


Look I went for the Joycean fucking departure and there's a reason why Ulysses is all about Dublin. I went to the revolution numbed my bonds to kelvin left them with language at the door of progress and I am fucking militant too. I fucking am. But it's not what you say. It's that we can do better than what you say. We can do it with love too.

Now stop, my fucking heart is breaking."

Readers witness you plead:

"What are you doing to me, Alain? What are you doing, what are we doing? Why can't I stop loving you, why? But we're here and I stand and I call it love. We can have it too. We already do. In this moment we make love and it is real and tomorrow it will break you too much logic and infinite and I will stand to say it's true and isn't that all you ever asked? So isn't this all it is? Am i the woman? Am I the man? You need to shove your fixed positions down your thick throat with your tall man hands but right now it doesn'ty matter we agree on this, we are alive at dawn on the horizon and the future will bring us back to reality only if we let it. I need your heart with me this time. I need it back together. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me. I love you."

What drives this writing? I don't mean in terms of "the device" at work in it. 

The public domain of the personal exposure: text as skin?


...but interested,




Bouhinc's letters share with yours that sorta merriment twinkle.

Like you say, "Who owns the sun, Katie Couric?"

She says, "Oh Monsieur Badiou! How lovely to argue with you!"

You're both sincerely pulling the leg of the reader who is at once caught off balance held up in the flourish of intimacy yet ever skeptical of being "let in" on the inner psychosis of a rather unbalanced correspondent.

It's a fun, disturbing at times ride.

I dig it. 

big LOVE

~ paj

Dear K, Dear D,


I'm left not sure whether to fully believe either of yous is truly sincere (tho I do remind myself: But these are characters, Dunagan! Personas yo) in either of your "letters" but also am convinced that taken together there's some near balance struck.

Like an approach to beginning a line of poetry that merges the page as a tangent from the world in which we live.

For instance, D’s truly blue-blooded American protagonist ranting against his own unavoidably waning mental state under da unbearable light of his Goddess Couric represents a die-hard rant against the abysmal nature of our media culture soaked to the bone in misdirected spotlight blitz, that is, American A grade, good old fashioned Capitali$m wor$hip.

That's a good thing... 

One question:

Why didn't either of you date any of your letters?

It's a very pragmatic sort of thing to do.

 . . .

Hmmmm . . .

We should all have a drink some time, the three of us, and write anonymous letters back-n-forth across the table, trading lines round-robin style.

‘til then. 



Patrick James Dunagan books include GUSTONBOOK and Das Gedichtete. Bird and Beckett Books in San Francisco will publish from Book of Kings in 2015. He edited and wrote the introduction for poet Owen Hill's A Walk Among the Bogus (Lavender Ink, 2014). Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works at Gleeson Library for the University of San Francisco.

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