bawdy riddles, anthems to no flag, and answer, and so on

“I will do what I can,” Schiller wrote to Goethe in 1794, “and when the building collapses I will perhaps have rescued what is worth preserving from the fire.”

Despite the fragility of his health, Schiller produced most of his best work over the course of the following nine years. Or should I say because of the fragility of his health?

Why mention that in a response to new books by Alex Caldiero? Because after losing 12 inches of his colon last year (which left him, I told Alex, a semi-colon), Alex has been increasingly aware of his mortality. And that awareness has pushed him to finish projects he has had working on for years.

When Alex’s book Some Love is published by Signature Press next month, it will be the latest in a most remarkable series of recent publications, including sonosuono (Elik Press, 2013), a series of chapbooks, some of which I have written about (click HERE for one example) and the new books pictured here.

Alex Caldiero, A. F. Caldiero, A. A. F. Caldiero, and A. (AIMG_6601.) F. Caldiero, and Alissandru (Alex) F. Caldiero — these are the various appellations asserted by my dear friend Alex on the covers or title pages of these ten new (old) books. New because they have been created in the last few months. Old because they have not been created ex nihilo but ex notebookio. They bear double dates: 1991, 2014; 1989, 2014; 2008, 2014; 2004, 2015; 2007, 2014; 2006, 2015; and so on. Small editions, they are rarities from the moment of creation. My copy of Island Soul (Part One), for instance, is the 5th of 8 copies. The books have passed so quickly from Alex’s hand to mine (and they run from 16 to 120 pages) that I haven’t read them all yet. But I couldn’t help but peek into them. Here some first reports from those initial explorations. First the titles (I love Alex’s titles, once wrote a poem of his titles):



anthem to no flag



TEXTSPIRE “the heartbeats of sleep”

[the title of this little book is two Hebrew letters]

2004 / 2005 / 2006 (a grid book)

and answer

X-ing the Calendar [I wrote about this in an earlier post]

In his foreword to the Bawdy Riddles Alex writes that “The riddles and tongue twisters here collected were gathered in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They were all uttered by women — beautiful, old women who got a kick out of seeing the expression on my face as I sought to unravel their riddles. For the most part, I could not solve a riddle, because my mind was so prejudiced by the content that only obscene replies suggested themselves. This, of course, was the intent of telling these earthy riddles.”

Three examples:

Men with men can do it; Men with women also; But women with women, no. – Holy Communion –

Five little pricks / And one big cock; / Bumpitibump, / Into the twat. – Toes and foot going into the sock –

It goes in hard / And comes out soft. – Pasta –

The book titled bed  is a series of poems about experiences in bed. It is printed on long sheets of off-white paper. Two of the more religious of them:

BED PRAYER lord, lead us lovingly onto our mattresses

BED CONFESSION bless me father for I have slept.

anthem to no flag is a book of over 100 pages, rich with poetry and drawings. Here a representative page: alexanthem And here a poem about (as so many of Alex’s works are) language and meaning:

next you should

write the word fuck

but you don’t want little

children to read it

and you don’t want

certain sensitive or

impressionable people

to read it or hear it

said and have them

get upset and get nauseous

& have nightmares and

get urges they don’t

understand but which

could lead to random acts

of sex or god forbid

self abuse that’s how

it happens that’s how

that thing & things like

it happen and it’s

not worth the risk &

it don’t justify

aesthetic value

saying it not fo’

if you

would I’

not help


problem you



KINESTHESIA3a is, in some ways, the oddest of the books, a book from Alex’s past, a mystical book growing out of a poet’s use and creative misuse of the Hebrew language. Facing pages from the little volume: img005 Island Soul (Part One), printed on 8X10 paper, the largest of these books, if not the longest, contains several self portraits, of which this is my favorite: img006

Mind/body problem posed. Mind/body problem illustrated. Mind/body problem no problem.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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