Jim Leftwich

Some Notes, Expositions, & Other Things on Works by John M. Bennett (2)

The Peel & The Peel Peeled
by John M. Bennett
anabasis / Luna Bisonte Prods 2004

The size of the first poem in The Peel makes me think of a sonnet. I count the lines. There are 13. The poem is not a sonnet, not even a postmodern sonnet (not even a post-Berrigan sonnet). But the eye sees the size and says, hmm, could be a sonnet, so we begin with that idea as a frame, no matter if it fits or not. Maybe it will turn out to be a love poem of some sort (cf. Ted Berrigan's reversal of the Olson/Creeley axiom: content is never more than an extension of form). So, if similar in appearance to a sonnet, then perhaps similar in sound to a love poem (and similar in sense to the shape of the sounds).

The first word is a fragment, "bort". Sense aborted at the outset. But "bort" is also a noun, not in frequent use of late, which means "small, granular, opaque diamonds, used as an abrasive in cutting tools". So maybe we are working with both of these definitions. In the (not necessarily so sullen) art and craft of the poem, culling and cutting, exercised in broad daylight (it is 3:01 on a Friday afternoon, and the wind is howling outside my window).

Lines one and two:

bort a "float" a drain king
"blinkage" wreath your spinner at the

I notice the 'o's: ort, oat, our.
Noticing the 'o's makes me notice the small words lurking inside larger words: ort in bort; oat in float; our in your.
I notice "in": drain, king, spinner.
Rain in drain, kin in king, spin and inner in spinner.
Link and ink and age in blinkage.

Cumulatively, consecutively, disjunctively, in fits and starts (star arts, tar), as layerings and juxtapositions, one way and/or another we will read all of these possibilities, all of this latent potential (hidden in plain view on the surface of the poem):

bort or ort a float oat a drain rain king kin
blinkage link ink age wreath your our spinner spin inner at the

Lines three and four provide more of the similar:

comb flood the truss drinkage ,room
!b lot the prANTS foam ,desk melting

The 'o's, ongoing: omb, ood, oom, ot, oam.
Drinkage: drink, rink, ink, age.
Blot lot.
Prants are traditional names for historical districts in British India. Nonlinear semantics, inevitable encyclopedic context, nomadic reading.
The ants prance, prance and foam. Their desk melting on the beach.

Lines five and six:

on the beach ah groan knob
blazing !urn my leaks my blundered

O's: on, oan, ob.
on the he beach each ah groan roan an knob
!urn... therefore... turn, learn, earn...
blazing !urn turn learn earn my leaks my blundered under red.

Lines seven and eight:

rack sack face swirling nOMbre //blizzard//breath
urned like olives .dust brink ,stung

rack sack face ace swirling whirling nombre om hombre blizzard lizard breath
urned earned like olives lives .dust us brink in rink ink ,stung tongue

Lines nine and ten:

crawl the slobbered beach braying "like
a" pool yr pants' R gazing

crawl raw awl the he slobbered lob red beach each braying ray "like
a" pool yr pants' ants R are (rare) gazing

Lines eleven and twelve:

.the turd combed thin the congregation
blinking on a stool, streaming glass

Look at the 't's, and listen while you look: th, tu, th, th, ti, to.
tur, thi, tio, too.
the he turd combed om bed thin in the he congregation on greg at on.
blinking ink linking king
in on a stool tool
streaming ream am glass lass ass.

Line thirteen:

:yr face is floating )long spring

your face ace is floating oat at long on spring in ring

The Peel Peeled is made up of extraction poems, poems extracted from The Peel, the first one being:


blazing stool

Truss is the fourth word in the third line; knob is the last word in the fifth line; blazing is the first word in the sixth line; and stool is the fourth word in the twelfth line. In search of an extraction pattern, let's look at the second poem in The Peel, and compare the second poem in The Peel Peeled:

sot dust
oily habits left


Sot is the first word in the fourth line; dust is the last word in the sixth line; oily is the fourth word in the tenth line; habits left stammer is most of the last line (for hot habits left to stammer).

Here is the extraction poem and pattern for poem six in The Peel:

tube flag your
ass dryer

Tube is the first word in line seven; flag is the last word in line seven; ass is the next to last word in line eight; dryer is the last word in the poem; crawling is the fourth word in line one.

So far I do not detect a clear, consistent pattern. Perhaps we need a larger sample but for the moment I am going to risk the idea that the words in the "peeled" versions of these poems are chosen not by any counting system but rather by a system (we might say anti-system) of looking and listening.

These "peeled" poems have the feel of modified haiku, similar to Jack Kerouac's notion of an American haiku: "The American Haiku is not exactly the Japanese Haiku. The Japanese Haiku is strictly disciplined to seventeen syllables but since the language structure is different I don't think American Haikus (short three-line poems intended to be completely packed with Void of Whole) should worry about syllables because American speech is something again...bursting to pop." (These “peeled” poems also remind me a bit of the hicucu form, which I invented in 2014 and which Bennett has explored extensively.*)

Twelve of the "peeled" versions also exist as visual poems and are included at the end of the anabasis / Luna Bisonte Prods edition. Each one is written in Bennett's scrawl calligraphy, and is framed by stamped and smear-stamped letters. The covers reproduce two of the "peeled" visual poems in color, with the text of the poems in black and the letteral frames in red. The smear-stamping technique on the front cover makes the red frame appear to be in flames. On the back cover a slightly less frenetic smear-stamping gives the impression of a bleeding frame. The back cover poem is:

bugs and stool
snapping in the wind

reformatted for the vispo presentation as:

bugs           and


   in the wind

The frame rhymes with bugs:

a line of 'T's along the top
a line of smear-stamped 'U's down each side
a line of 'G's along the bottom, with one large 'S' two-'G's in:


Using some of the processes and procedures discussed in this text, I wrote a transmutation of all of 
the poems in The Peel Peeled, La Corteza Pelada, Pelures. I read each line 
across the two pages noted in the section titles, translating the three versions of each line 
into one line. For example

truss           braguero           bandage herniaire
truss bragging eros bandaged hernia

I used that method throughout the book to create my transmutations.


*taken from the textimagepoem blogzine, where it was posted on Wednesday, May 7, 2014:

A Hicucu has three lines. Each line has three syllables. Each syllable has an unspecified number of mutagens, or letters.

Hicucu, ancient Gaia sex-monster teeth-dance-ritual celebration of springdeath wherein we eat our shadows and drink their bloodless blood. Low Theory meets Frenetic Romanticism in an alley behind the shuttered churchbrothel. Anything goes, but not much of it, within very tight constraints. This/It is A Post-Asemic poetics of Pagan Anarchism. It is Less Than Useless, No Doubt destined for the Trashpo Bins of History (don't fuck with history).

jim leftwich

March 2, 2018


The Peel Peeled Like a Cortex Peel Ladder Peeling Lures
transmutations of The Peel Peeled, La Corteza Pelada, Pelures
by John M. Bennett & Carlos Henderson
Luna Bisonte Prods 2005

1 & 2

truss bragging eros bandaged hernia
,knob ,peroxide ,barbecue

blazing stool banking quills in llamas bane of flame

sot dust pulverized boring chin per chances pending due
oily habits left sequin sedan lost habits of our ancestors the habits of scented grass

stammer tartar mudra I beg you

cage foam fuming the jaguar eye-cumin of the spirit
peeled like trance peeled ladders coma rapt with camaraderie

rump spooling sea-olives lasting negligence confessions of fire
"leach my toast" "lick the armies of plain tostada" "livid variations of enduring pain"

3 & 4

meat cloud nubile with cameo the chair nimbus
"washing hats" "the larvae are somber" "essential sorcerers tour the chapel"

tube flag your turban bandit canoe tones draping and fond
ass dryer cicada door decal the griffon is a paper devil
crawling at the gate as a chute

roof clock a nonreligious technoid surly trout of time
waves holes vaguely fateful
-- hole -- eros ajar -- the video

fork couch aura bean buttons
chilling escalator of antic fries on the sun deaf king
basement dome cup puling deals satanic dome of saucy souls

5 & 6

gallant gall bardo gale lard
milk pore parade of leeches boat of lakes
mouth gash breaded couch enchilada deboned impala court of deserts

lung mist nebulous deep pulmonary fatigue
meter medium door quick my sure
cogitation thrum lumber bard cog ignition messy pensive bombardments
"heaving" "oleander" "grand and foul"

mildew wind vent toad mojo vented roulette
heaping phone telepathic phoneme monotony plain as a telephone
the french-fry blooms the paper fritters florets less fright fluorescent

shrugged ham dreaming and jamming the sea encouraged lost home rosy damages renting epaulets from the monster of cool
rug ,hat tape eats ,somber retro napping aprons ,chap pew

7 & 8

elbow code cord
,mirror ,eye-peels ,my roar
tumba spray plume of tomb cumulative caves

gnats plunge my lost blue jeans seam submerged their petite mosquitoes mere redolent visits
rot pagination the page in a coin lode pod rodeo desk best cellar
"poop" "cake" "cake"

beach ,gland ,page player ,gondola ,pegging plagiarist ,gladiator ,gape
"shiny rash" "rose dada brillo ant" "echo chewing clarity"

sinkhole diaper ,yr penal dealer honda hard-on ,you link coil purple crux ,toy
leg swirling plea maze are ammonia to course of apples

9 & 10

pizzle ,ear bowl ping gap ,yes cud dollar ladle oriole poison pee ,is a cruel pouring oriole
runny bed camera mock you header lit pearl mortal view
"barbituration" "barbed bit yr ration" "Barbie touring quests"

donut foam the eyes puma dead or nuts dropping
fridge peeled heal a door peel a door eel-glance
)knock shirt )camp mister gallops )marshmallow chemistry is

tooth dance yr bail dentist too dancer dented ,tap
loomed brush rat seeping pillow rates of insomnia brusque dents the rats nine relevant pasts
,speed ,velcro indents ,vital fitness

urn and luggage puma if equality burns at bagpipes
lake lagging lack
roof techno-sauce lemming meme-trout

11 & 12

slugs , desks ,ash baby sofas ,eye-critters ,askew lime aces ,secret tares ,ardent carbon
fade seed van Essene sieve vanquished
"oil" "acetate" "hull of spiders"

bugs and stool "a bitch of tablature" the beast of bean sausage
snapping in the wind seek as queen in eel vintage fats signs avant

phone cloud ruby delta leaf no discounts by telephone
wave oily vagrants
cleaner limping in a door the ill net toes bent
folded dirt terror double ladder teach a terrier

rooming ,itch assist insists ,combing zone robots ,fig urine nation
cash storm legless tormented by dinosaurs sinning pie masks moon tournament : jeans past the sun
huffed "page" "paginated" Buddhas intimate "page"

13 & 14

pallid wasp carré a vispo pallet carrier armored mare-cage carrion
unfolding in the coffee destabilized/disobedient in the cafe jewels lisp dancing moon cafe

ovulation toilet indoor road ovation toil letters dead intestine
,temple ,tempo low ,temp plea
chug gland tracing gondola ass tragic trapeze pier pouring the sun pays spires

trousered hoover the apartment talons ado aspiring real avenue of moon-pants alone i attend
scoured bed spinnage gyro dealer came fire-gazing the tourniquet of monday at fair imbroglio
"cloys" "impales lagging gear" "knees past longer songs"

flocked like nude congressional grenades comb nude desks the odor of a comma is nothing new
t rash bask aura dance or park
cloud gummer dance bail the pomegranate new blades dancing scent of collated less

15 & 16

couch ,flies divided ,Moscow divided ,much has blue
,cough faucet's ,giraffe toss i do postal essence hex pulsed
neck ghost delicious plectrum cello jam aloof kook co-pay

grunting puzzle romp pecan bees queue grunge one puzzling choir
bloom magneticon magnetic icon floor curds total flurry
shirt act burning acts toad communists enlightened my cheese in the valley of the ruse

spotty flack crotch intrepid pie mask critical of verses public broom perfume
gnat jejune insecticide
against the spit skull contraption lake kale verse inescapable contrails mortal crapshoot

mer mar lame ermine mannikin
lathered lung ramp rampage of enjambed pumpkins jet lava in the chamber of lords
lago bunny cone jitters lake local aces lake

17 & 18

sandwich shifter the eyes viaduct sandwich hell a pair of lions moon sandwich death
dung rabbit cone jello esteemed coil my moon petty lapping rabbit
soughing sea sauce surging avoid the base

eye word dropping out pale abacus ego seeking fury the moth-coils whoring combat
pan impactor imp actor desuming satin nap past dim pacts poles leaping on par with we
burp ,doggy regular dole ,coma periodic rot ,same dog on the chin

Spammy Cage spam in situ Spa Sausalito Celtic
blinking seeping Atlanta on some knoll

ants home is rigged the furnace missing set in tenement parking romaine

yr trousers cloud rubies detusk pantaloons Mayakovsky touring a billion turbulent ants dirt becoming soup
dit whirling dirt sea are ammonia grand poems dancing on the sun "nuanced in pants alone"
"grown" "invest in do" "map peripheral raisin"

19 & 20

ltongue* weenies suit traders' linguini salt chicken sestina i eat with gravy meat treason
Eleguá correction core direction delta Guam blank costumes cork erection
HAM jam on manager of merging glue

crown salad dumpster basket eros deck ornery and salacious lacking crayons the dune-king petty trout batting
lengua cross the tongue-czar cruising quit angular vectors' cat
a road Uncle Amino Acid will trap verse the rest of London

comb yr face wheel pee in a jar too rude to care coffer errata ruseroute derecharger
sock calcium chat us set
mud lode debut
knob periscope lily barbed cliché
roast as sad of rotting ties in the broach

boiled flags band of rascal herbivores the draperies are on leave
)"menudo"( )"triple"( )with "tripping" seas(
cutely salads ,slab in a salad as guano in pita ,losing knee meat racquet pass the salad ,to the horizon
horizonte whoring zone dancing in Dallas

21 & 22

adder ,brain ,trunk scale era ,cereal broke ,basil cavalier ,cerise view ,bedroom
wheels swirl the sea in linear motion lasts until Tuesday these routes are turbulent lion meat coming from the desk of futility

air fair dancing lair

sinking door word pale labyrinth punting the hurdle parole in the port of bells curls
femur lemur just quacks ox
gushing orb botany marmalade mottled
pond charcoal criticality
,tape ,centennial ,Mars


*the spelling “ltongue” is present only in The Peel Peeled, La Corteza Pelada, Pelures and should be taken as a typo. In The Peel and The Peel Peeled (anabasis / Luna Bisonte Prods edition, 2004) it appears in both the original poem and in the “peeled” version as “tongue”.

March 2, 2018


email exchange between Bennett & Leftwich 03.03.2018

JMB: as i just told my brother, who doesn't understand what i do in my writing:

a poet i know is writing a series of essays on many of my books, using a "critical (analytical) approach" that is the first one I've seen that actually works for my stuff. people have tried all kinds of other established approaches, but they never quite seem to get to the heart of the matter

so it's a delight to read what you're doing!

couple comments on The Peel etc:

you're right; the Peeled section was not done by counting anything: it was a reading of (or "listening" to, as you so well put it) an essence of the poem. i've been doing kind of the same thing just recently, by inserting those Haynaku (Eileen Tabios turned me on to the form, which is three lines of 1, 2, & 3 words) in longer poems. Yr Hicucu is a similar form, which i continue to enjoy as well.

The "ltongue" you refer to at the end of yr essay, probably was (i don't remember) a typo, but it's a good one - and i would like it kept - that "lt" or "LT" is a extremely tongued word and perfect there, eh?

Also, that whole last section of your recreation, if a new edition of the tri-lingual edition of The Peel Peeled is ever done, should be included. for a cuadri-lingual edition!

Carlos Henderson, by the way, is an excellent Peruvian poet, who also knows French, obviously, and his French versions are rewritings similar in approach to what you've done. (So the new edition would include The Peel, The Peel Peeled, La Corteza Pelada, Pelures, & Cortex Peel.)

My own Spanish versions are more like "translations" - haw!, forgive me!

ovoid o void,

JL: i'll keep this and add it as a postscript

i agree about that 'l', it should stay

i did fix one thing in an email from yesterday i think, where Mailer Leaves Ham had become Mailer Leaves Him

thanks for sending that note to your brother, i appreciate it. i am enjoying this a lot, and it's good to know that you are too.
i think i understand a lot of what you do as a poet, but obviously it means a lot more for you to say so than it does for me to say so.

thanks John.

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