TRAILER: “From There to There – Bruce Ario, the Minneapolis Poet” (2024)

Bruce Ario (1955 – 2022) was a poet and novelist from Minneapolis. A car accident and traumatic brain injury in his mid-20s forced Bruce to drop out of law school, which was followed by a period of homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness. His health began to improve with a religious awakening, therapy, volunteer work (which included time in Haiti), and, most importantly to Bruce and his legacy, a lifelong interest in writing.

From There to There: Bruce Ario, the Minneapolis Poet is an upcoming (2024) documentary film on Bruce’s life and work. It will be shot in Minneapolis, where Bruce Ario spent his life, and will include footage of scenes described in Bruce’s writing. It will also feature interviews with artists and those who knew him. Our GoFundMe fundraiser will help cover some costs associated with the project: video equipment, travel expenses, advertising, labor and production. Any additional money raised will be used to fund the publication of Bruce Ario’s books.

The trailer can be found here.

Another trailer can be found here.

You can contribute to the fundraiser here.

A poet first, Bruce Ario created the “ario” poetic form, which includes 3 stanzas of 3 lines each, followed by a final line. His poems tap plain speech and startling juxtapositions of image and thought, giving his poetry an “everyman” feel that many readers have come to prefer. Bruce is also author of the coming-of-age novel, Cityboy, which his literary executor, Dan Schneider, has painstakingly reconstructed to its original, rarely-seen version from the 1990s.

Cityboy, Bruce Ario’s Selected Poems, and his Final Poems will be released in 2024 alongside From There to There.

An extended discussion of Bruce Ario’s life and work with Bruce’s literary executor, Bruce’s brother, and the filmmaker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycAD9s57Re8

A sampling of Bruce Ario’s poetry: http://www.cosmoetica.com/UPG.htm#BRUCE%20ARIO

About the filmmakers:

Alex Sheremet is a poet, critic, novelist, and videographer from New York City. He runs the automachination YouTube channel and the AUTOMACHINATION literary magazine, for which Bruce Ario wrote.

Joel Parrish is a poet and photographer from Michigan. He is also providing voice work for the film. Joel’s poetry and photos can be found on his website.… Continue reading →

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Russian Bard, Soviet Poet: Inverting A Century Of Tradition

[This article first appeared in the AUTOMACHINATION literary magazine. To hear our translated playlist of songs spanning the Russian bard tradition, click here.]

Of all the art-objects I had consumed as a child, only a few made it with me into adulthood. At 4, I was given a tape-player, a pair of headphones, and several cassettes of Soviet music—luxury items, by any metric, in the Belarusian summer of 1991, just as they would be for the kids I’d soon meet in New York. The tapes were of varying quality, often veering into bad pop and propaganda, though even these had a level of craftiness and fun missing from most pop. Sometimes, however, I’d come across an artist or a song I’d (much later) recognize as great. This would usually happen as I sat on a park bench alone with my music and a loaf of keks. Because I was rarely at school or had my time accounted for by anyone, there were opportunities to wander, all on my own schedule. My life of absenteeism—that is, my wish to be in my own little corner, of my own construct—probably arose in this period. In retrospect, it helped that the music I was unwittingly feeding my tape-player so often celebrated a rich inner life. This might surprise Western readers, but the advent of Russian bard music brought forth a level of creative disobedience not seen in decades. The effect of musical agitprop—most obvious via Alexander Alexandrov’s “The Sacred War”—was, on the one hand, something for the state to tap, but on the other, would inevitably find its way into the grip of ordinary people. That guitars and voice lessons were hard to come by proved not only irrelevant, but downright supportive of the new art. If this sounds counterintuitive, a deeper understanding of the Soviet bard tradition can help explain some broader principles of art, so that today’s bards (almost always a posthumous honorific) can be better recognized.

It has often been said that the most dangerous time for an autocracy is the period of reform. It is, arguably, also its most fruitful, for it means that everything which was once curbed begins to prowl for an identity. One can see this in pre-Bolshevik Russia, when new poets—as if pointing to upheaval—began to supplant Russian classics. This was put to an end with the murder of Osip Mandelstam and Marina Tsvetaeva, but decades later, such repression merely pushed Russia into yet another crisis. Labeled the ‘Silver Age poets’ only in the 1960s, the Soviet Union had thus identified its own Golden Age with the previous century: a decidedly regressive, even counter-revolutionary sentiment. Perhaps this was an admission that the USSR had taken more than it had replaced. Or perhaps this was simply a means of getting the scent off of its own day—off of men, mostly, without real musical training, drawing on the lessons of war-era agitprop to agitate for their own, more personal (and impersonal) views.

One … Continue reading →

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Like The Last Words Of A House Cat (Lord’s Story)

[This is a transcript for Alex Sheremet’s video essay about Lord, a Scottish Fold cat who recently passed. It originally appeared on the AUTOMACHINATION literary website.]

After Lord had made his decision, he wished to see the world a little. One might as well, he thought. Ever since the arrival of Cookie, he felt agitated, if only with himself. Lord had never been a jealous cat, but watching King—his older brother—groom Cookie, and chase her, and beat her up, he suddenly missed the rough of King’s tongue. He missed the sound of Dad cleaning loosened hair. He missed how Mom would separate them, for he never took this as a punishment. After all, Lord loved to think, and right now, the season was pensive. Yes, summer was ongoing, but the longest day was long behind, and each sunrise felt a little colder. It would soon be Grandmother’s birthday. Had it really been that long? A cat uses up its days so quickly, though there is still so much to do. Lord understood he would not have time to start anything new, but why, he wondered, is everyone obsessed only with beginnings? His mind was of one project—one map—and he intended to complete it.

No time is the right time to leave home. Once Lord accepted this, his definition of home enlarged a little. His map, which marked out a garden, or a tree, now had fences to contend with. He was too old to jump past them, but wise enough to know that all fences doggedly followed lead to termination. Outside, leaves greened the sun and blew its light westward. Bricks assembled seemingly overnight. He would test himself against them, but concluded this was too close to his own domain. Lord needed to go further. He needed to smell strange dirt. To fend off the black snake. To squeeze through things—but what? A rose bush picked on him. Hot gravel insinuated. Not much of a city cat, a neighbor’s shout spooked him into the street, while the sound of engines spooked him out of it. And then there was the struggle with Dad—the comfort of Dad. Seeing Dad’s face, Lord’s instinct was to run to it. He nudged a paw forward and stopped. No—the instinct for happiness was unlike the instinct for knowledge. Dad had always seemed all-knowing, but Lord sensed an opportunity to learn things not even Dad could know. His heart pacing, Lord turned not from Dad, but towards his task.

Lord was not used to the wilds, yet the more time they spent within him, the more he understood. Ants arbored in the grass as well as he did. Mice ate what they could find, then Lord would find them. Now that something big was looking for Lord, he felt decisions more acutely. He learned earthworms hid not from humility, but pride. He learned not every flower was a friend and that this was for the better. He learned instinct was as much honed as … Continue reading →

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POEM: “Thought Our Film Would Say It All”

[This poem first appeared in the AUTOMACHINATION literary magazine. Read more about our film, From There To There: Bruce Ario, The Minneapolis Poet.]

THOUGHT OUR FILM WOULD SAY IT ALL

And then some scumbag wanted money for the footage
Of my friend. Well, HIS friend, as a fact
Was a ponderer’s poet, while he cannot

Think. Well, he IS thinking
Of himself, bobbing down a perfect sea
Storm loosened from the surface

Of our lens. Guess which had a brain
Injury and you’d guess wrong. Say CHEESE
Bitch! Or that’s what HE did at any rate

Offered. Not even poets deserve riches.

* * *

If you enjoyed this piece, consider supporting us on Patreon. This will help the growth of the AUTOMACHINATION literary magazine and the ArtiFact Podcast on our YouTube channel.Continue reading →

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Analysis Of Hart Crane’s BLACK TAMBOURINE

An overlooked perk to taking one’s education into one’s own hands is that you are less prone to being swallowed up by others’ bullshit. You read selectively, at first, and merely accumulate text: poems, stories, whatever, with no real access to others’ thoughts, since you don’t have a university library, JSTOR, or professors giving you the ‘official’ line on whatever it is you are learning. And, of course, there is always an official line – don’t let anyone convince you otherwise – because for all of the supposed diversity of thought in academia, once a perspective takes root, it becomes a bias, the bias a means of re-organization, and the re-organization fads and whims and money. This is, indeed, the typical trajectory of any idea, yet one that is better observed with an example.

Say your item of study is Hart Crane. Say that you’ve gone through his poetry, and would like now to see the hear the consensus. Suddenly, however, you don’t quite know where to begin, because they are all saying things that don’t really cohere with what you have yourself read. Did the misinterpretations start with the bad – and perhaps envious – critic and novelist Waldo Frank, whose 1932 introduction to Crane’s Collected Poems spoke of the poet’s “failure”? I mean, that’s certainly one way to bias an audience: to tell them they’re about to read total shit, then slap them with some of the best poems ever written. Did it trickle out with revelations from some of the biggest names of the 20th century – Eugene O’Neill among them – that they did not even understand Hart Crane’s work? Could it be the difficulty of the poems themselves? Yet Wallace Stevens is just as difficult, if not more so. The difference, of course, is that Stevens enjoyed a historical accident in that he was championed from the very start, thus making him impossible to ignore. Crane, however, was dismissed and even derided, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy – as per fads and whims and money – where ignoring him was the safe thing to do. It didn’t matter whether you were lazy in your appraisals, because everyone else was, too, and if you were ever called out for ignoring a great poet, you could ignorantly declaim that you were in the mainstream, as if this were a proper defense of a terrible idea.

There are, therefore, virtually no close examinations of Hart Crane’s poems online, but too much repetition of the same judgments others have long come to. Yet let us do away with them for a moment and examine Hart Crane’s BLACK TAMBOURINE anew: a short poem that hints at some of the difficulties of his longer, more complex works, but is nonetheless ‘easy’ enough where I do not have to convince a good reader of its general strengths.

Black Tambourine

The interests of a black man in a cellar
Mark tardy judgment on the world’s closed door.
Gnats toss in the shadow of … Continue reading →