the poetry that matters

Spencer Selby

Spencer Selby, poet, artist and film historian, was born  in Iowa City, Iowa, and studied Political Science and Psychology at The University of Iowa. In the mid-1980s he started SINK Press in San Francisco, and coordinated The Canessa Park Reading Series in North Beach from 1987-93. In 1993 he created Selby’s List of Experimental Poetry/Art Magazines. As a website Selby’s List has become an important source of info for innovative writers and artists around the world.


Spencer’s poetry publications include House of Before (Potes and Poets, 1991, Sound Off (Detour, 1993), No Island (Drogue Press, 1995), The Big R (Angle Press, 1999) and Twist of Address (Shearsman, 2007). He also has published five compilations of visual work: Stigma, Malleable Cast, Problem Pictures, Flush Contour and This is Visual Poetry. He currently lives in Ames, Iowa.




The vision came from his left and quickly circumscribed an area where three ghostly burning ships were marauding through city schools. Pupils were searching for gold of Patagonia when a statement was issued denouncing samples gathered to release the secret of perpetual voice projection. Despite the aid of German field glass, some invisible supports were withdrawn from local culture. Replacements used their considerable skills to haunt vagabonds and blind men disfigured before selling clothing in Jakarta. A Japanese expedition visited the island and trekked up a mountainside into oblivion physically real as an architect handling questions to please her therapist. Similar sightings are seldom more than a vague blur where the face should be. Mixing media to document the origin of wondrous events, to construct subject swimming in stream for relief on a hot winter’s day, to avenge lady in white tortured for no apparent reason. This and more put concern in context followed by a snapshot of protest pulled from dumpster and sent by instant message to blow the whistle hovering outside time.


Retreat of a marked man from decades of somnambulism. Half the neighborhood sought comfort opposed by those with classic ribs below the belt. In retrospect the short history denied most accounts to argue prima facie evidence by revising a story known only to the dead man’s father. One sentence was selected with no parallel accessible to research. Why this should be so is set to music praising good health devoid of energy. The man’s notebook listed 1500 separate incidents during which awareness occurred. Early warning failed to stop rays crossing the path of a train that crashed during an experiment that could not be repeated. Clues in hindsight suggest there is an excess of influence pumped through headphones by devout brethren. Looking through the ceiling at a million worlds to anchor one perception of relaxation. A vivid mental map is sealed in marble in a distant city that vanished in the mid-80s. The same source was submerged and nearly perished beneath the New Mexico desert, surviving only because he was given very small doses.


On another occasion a sidereal arc fused with torch beams passing over a fake graveyard imprinted on those surrounding the circle. Miles of cable were required by witnesses whose daring was forgotten in all the excitement involving a foreign power. Several cisterns fed the hermetic engine to confirm progress made by retarded plant growth. Signs of intrigue lead to a maze of false starts, denials and pieces of precious metal used to protect journalists from world opinion. It was feared that full disclosure would encourage imagination somersaulting backwards, moving further and further beyond life conceived in human terms.












Sure if trade was
the dupe in made kinds
of fields borne and notes
put in place by those
who work with germs
like me you and me




Great thing just as
small did go at fear
speech harsh at first
and means will be
wet heads off to
scrounge all this while




Still legs run
from what is sad
and brought up so
they soon are held
far off by names we
can’t seem to match
with look of youth
in face at the door




Say how it seems
to sense I don’t need
speak of help for those
hung in fact through
roots grown like poor
folk thick with pride
in their meal of mush
their milk in hard mass
that some could not bear
a full plate of chance
I blew as well with dust
and dry yoke up the nose




Odd life and sore earth
storms of red on tap
to keep them fat roles
with jaw to let in bait
and push back with
joy so scarce fueled
in streaks raised up
like a torch in midst of
game lost at this time
by art no one can feel
as you do to please show
worth of what is left
in a vague black mirror










Because money in each person
before the abyss


What you come from

mother animal instinct
to be increasingly hidden


Against mind bitter in illusion

Against rich envy in garden sun


Still delicate pale silver
netting clings to veil
as submission to one nature
is remote labor fashioning
cloud of greater meaning


that your double can use
while stuck in traffic caused
by endless delay










Stores compete
with a vacant promise
in this part of town


Outlets dominate
that carry camouflage
as far as the eye can see


So alike and only
thinking of one thing
we have to do


A single danger to avoid
reason to ignore


perfect light
at the start
absorbing what is true




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                                                                                                                 July 6, 2012