Jack Foley



I’m half Irish and half Italian. My two favorite poets are Yeats and Dante.

I lost my faith but I still have my begorrah.

He went on and on about how difficult it was to achieve this poem. He tried once, and it failed. Tried again and it failed. Et cetera. I wondered whether he shouldn’t take up another line of work.

I’m as much a wronger as a writer.

What if mind is a kind of medium?

You won’t discover mind because—it isn’t.

When I hear people say that poetry is “essentially speech,” basically an oral art, I wonder about all that concrete poetry—poetry like E.E. Cummings’ “grasshopper,” poetry that can’t be spoken. Isn’t that poetry?

I used to be 6 foot 7 before we had a child. (Before I took up poetry.)

It is possible, even after all these years, that Plato was wrong.

Picture me as a line of chorus girls. We’re all tap dancing and we need to get off the stage for the next act to come on. So we’re given a “traveling step.” The most famous traveling step of all time is the Shuffle Off to Buffalo. (Jack demonstrates, leaves the room.)

(After dinner.) Why is Jack like Trigger? Because he’s stuffed.

If you don’t have anyplace better to go, you can always go to the bathroom.

The secret to a happy marriage is “Yes, dear.” (Adelle: “Yes, dear.”)

Do tough guys in Brooklyn still say dese and dose for these and those? The Greek words for god and goddess are, respectively, theos and thea. The Roman words are deus and dea…The Romans were tough guys, too! (“Yes, we were,” says William Fasolino.)

What if there is no “best”?


Some grease is natural, some grease is acquired.

KPFA: how do you spell that? (Answer: t-h-a-t.)

Scone, like done; scone, like stone.

There is God, there is Heaven, and there is Chai. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Collage has been called, by Jerome Rothenberg and others, the art form of the twentieth century, and collage by its very nature moves against the idea of private property. Did T.S. Eliot ask permission of all the people he quoted in The Waste Land?

Not collage: collision.

(Angry) These writers are in paper bags. Some of the paper bags are more substantial than others, but they’re all in paper bags. Not one of them has a new idea about the art. Not one of them can write his way out of a paper bag.

Denunciations of our society are easy enough to make--there is a lot in our society that requires denouncing—but, unless the denouncer cops to some sort of complicity, they carry with them a strong egoistic element. The real subject of such screeds is not the society they are supposedly denouncing but the self-satisfaction one feels at being totally in the right. The “text” is the horrors of society—which everyone knows about—but the “subtext” is the ego gratification of the speaker. Such poems are popular for that reason. The audience experiences the pleasure of hearing something they already agree with—so their complacency isn’t challenged. Such speeches change absolutely nothing and, indeed, don’t urge anyone to do anything: they are really an assertion of the status quo. A genuinely political writer such as Bertolt Brecht is interested in transformation, in arousing his audience to action—and he is willing to take the risk of saying the opposite of what he believes in order to stimulate his audience to contradict him.

Sometimes I don’t need to go someplace. I can just send this shirt. (I can just send this hat.)

It’s not that God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.  It’s that he made them MOVE.

God creates ex nihilo, out of nothing: there is no “world” until God “creates” it. The poet’s “creativity” is not like that. The poet inhabits a world which is always impinging upon him/her. The poet “creates” from that world, not from nothing. Consequently, the poet’s “creativity” is significantly different from God’s; it is closer to that of the jazz musician who is always reacting to something given: a set of chords, a tune. But the notion of “creativity” expresses the desire to forget that fact, to imagine oneself as God-like—without precedent, without history.

“Fellow-feeling comes from fondness rather than from cognizance, for things understood are in the mind in the mind’s own fashion, whereas desire goes out to things as they are in themselves; love would transform us into the very condition of their being.” Aquinas.

It’s not that great to turn 70, but you get a good word: Septuagenarian.

She stood before him with a smoking gun, looking down at her husband’s dead body.  “I didn’t do it,” she said.  I believed her.



For me, writing is a joy, even a “refuge,” not a struggle. Perhaps an addiction. I think sometimes that my happiest moments are when I’m writing. At the same time, I don’t think there’s much hope that my writing will survive my death. I’ve written no Waste Land, no Howl, no Coney Island of the Mind—nothing that would thrust me into the consciousness of the “literati.” I had hoped that my choruses would do that, but they didn’t—partly because poetry as silent reading is imbedded so thoroughly in the consciousness of the “literati”—the word is etymologically connected to “letters”—and partly because, though my work is passionately “spoken,” I am no spoken word poet affirming his ego by declamation. I suppose that, coming to the conviction that the work will not last, many people would stop. Why bother? Yet the joy is such that you continue. The knowledge of your death and of the fact that there’ll be no more eating then doesn’t prevent you from enjoying a good meal now. One of my great models is the French writer, Antonin Artaud. German dramatist Heiner Müller states that Artaud wrote “from the experience that masterpieces are accomplices of power. Thought [is] at the end of the Enlightenment, which began with the death of God; the Enlightenment is the coffin in which [God] is buried. Life is locked up in this coffin. THOUGHT IS AMONG THE GREATEST PLEASURES OF THE HUMAN RACE.” Artaud, Müller goes on, “tore literature away from the police.”