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Poet’s Sampler: Gregg Biglieri

In a series of poems from the last decade, Gregg Biglieri has distinguished himself by the seriousness of his puns. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Biglieri understands the pun not as a marker of some coolly ironic (or “post-ironic”) façade, but as an inescapable mechanism of the texturing of language. In his poems, the pun is a point of singularity at the intersection of diverse strata, smoothing out the striated space of verse with multiple articulations across networks of reference—a sudden shunting at which the direction of thought suddenly flips, sending the mind moving in an inverse retrograde: upside down and backwards across the line (of verse, of thought) that has just been followed. But that change in direction is only part of the velocity of these poems, and the Deleuzian smoothing of their surface affects their speed as well. The apparently rapid writing of these texts—the sense of inscription synchronized to the speed of thinking itself—seeks a reading that idles at just the right rate. Read too slowly and they fail to spark; too quickly and their substantial heat is lost in the flare. Their tachygraphy, moreover, is precisely the dream-time of seemingly slow-motion scenes packed in collapsed sequences and screened for the flicker—a film shot at 24 frames per second but projected back at 16, the mindwork of extended sleepless spells, the note jotted in the dark and unreadable with open eyes, the blind spot between frames, a linguistic hypnagogic fit. Nap time divided by wake speed. Where “nap” is the roughened surface of the weave and the wake is from a surface craft. Gregg Biglieri: nyctalope, scotographer, insomniac par excellence.
—Craig Dworkin

Deleuze (VIII)

Now that we are in
        the house that looks
like language—the words
        are stranger than
the space they occupy
        though they lengthen
like needles they do not
        ease the anaesthesia
the pain of being—
        painless like a bee
its stinger ejected
        & excised from its body
it has lost its point—
        and opened the window
and crawled to the ledge
        and stared at the height
that is a reflex depth
        a wink at the artifice
of surface and the moment
        that does not exist


words are books as eyes
are libraries whose
tangular volumes circulate
meanings that are always on loan

I want to see your juvenilia

innocence is speed/ expedience kills

hands and I hand you a sense of touch
and hand on hand/ also in which a hand
holds a pen/ and is the instrument
of all senses blocked out/ the stage
before you black out/ the sublime is not/
of the text, letters of use and trust
accustomed/ beyond the fetters of the fixed/
the rosy-fingered pathos leads you out
of hell, of text/ into the neck of the
next time/ stands time/ hand in hand/ and
this is only a test

the processing of information between
your senses and mind

poetry is the expression of ideas
in a non-paralytic environment

the clown holds a candle and is made
a saint/ violins (stradi vari) crossdress
the ears are behind the eyes/ ask Icarus

first imagine nothing
and hit the thrusters/ there
whose own light/ in light
this swell of darkness/ settled

even the act of raising my left arm,
shifting the sleeve of my wrist
so that my wristwatch is exposed

is enough to paralyze me without
even seeing the face of the watch,
or the second hand like a moustache
traces a coil that is motile,

first imagine:/ a pulse, a plodding/
applaud a plot where nothing was

Chocolate Lab

I’d like to mix some cement
And sit in it to move you to
Retract your statement
That I am an abstract
Painting waiting to be burned

I’m attracted to magnets
Belly buttons to what they
Signify damned if I know
Damned if you don’t

Split the difference
And I fill the void
But who’s counting
The surprises

Stay down on the planet a while
There’s the imprint of a leaf
On the wall where the paint’s chipped
You’re grinning like a pair
Of coat hangers and when
The smoke hit the only
Thing I forgot to do
Was wink

The Attempter


Somebody holed up in your arms
or made equal to what is nothing

like a body held between tension
wires to someone a kind communication

of a kind, a formal variant sinks its
teeth in to song that holds out promise

to be true because there is never enough
likeness to restrain the repetition of

the past as it pets itself connects
in conversation and snips out the liver,

seed of passion, let her eagles rip
adjust his luck to the tempted gush

whose life is it anyway to devour
this commemoration of what hasn’t

been to what might never be repeated
like night jealous in welcoming chooses

stuff out of which and Michelangelo
a drawing out in coming in now risen

a hemicycle across the prints in silence
suctioned out of dub, bled less to expect

if a zone then a lens still not hearing as one
everything that is not a proper dome cannot be

a mausoleum likely tanned in Masonic garish
as if the moon needed any number of garages

each Egyptian entombed in ionic exhumed
by neoclassical wedding cake columns

to coincide, to knock at the gallery of your head
that barricades as it ladders the inside of the

inside, the starlings turn inside the turning,
with each minor beat articulate a swarm

of thoughts no different really from leafless
branches that could be quills but anxiously

the sky is not paper so writing amplest why
tamped imaginings clue din to sonic cliffs


Something I could have left myself the honor
of saying lets go of itself, the stealth of

the self, this is a detective agency where
the action is bent on tracing and tailing

those red lights, targeting a getaway
to possible brains afflict the either of

like minds attract like minds and yours
shelved under Keatonesque, the baffled

muse becomes you, shifter, without thinking
there is no dive in fire, Ovid vide

because these lines are as kindling things
that comb and come uncouple trust

lust in the Latin tongue annotates its braids
with diet ammo—alloy veto em

a code for eucalyptus lips, a flair for
hiding eggs in sense, an ode to Anubis

a diced phenomenon, elegy for baggage the
grooveless improviso for stutterers ahead of

each couplet its own trompe l'oeil
talisman, phonemes et al do bleed

emotions swept as bay windows curve
acoustic space and hats over our ears

but still talking, slightly ill and chalky
a taste for anonymous segue though

if sound is not following the thread through
then what could have come collapses

by tracking out the map’s trick circle
that opens clout from clouds disarranged

among cumulus sounds busted and choppy
to abbreviate the status of verbs pulled

at eclipse, to think out within each stet the
next word out of your mouth outlandishly

oval, relic luster in a coffered eye dim
caves in at the margin to wattages within


Gregg Biglieri’s chapbooks include Profession, Roma, and Reading Keats to Sleep.

Craig Dworkin is the author of Reading the Illegible and the editor of Eclipse and the UbuWeb Anthology of Conceptual Writing ( He teaches at the University of Utah.

Originally published in the summer 2004 issue of Boston Review.

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