Use Your Boredom! Frank’s Letter to the Workshop

Frank Rubino’s letter of invitation and inspiration to the weekly Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Workshop of June 1, 2021

Hi Everybody-

I read an interview by the artist Mike Kelley ( of his contemporary and sometime collaborator, the artist Jim Shaw ( The interview’s from 1998, reprinted in, which you can get for your Kindle (or get the paperback for $847.00)

Maybe I should end it right there.

No, poets. Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw had an $847 conversation:

Mike Kelley names Shaw’s strategies: “you use flows of imagery in your work, whether you want to talk about it through narrative issues, or associative flow, or formal connections… or whatever.”Shaw answers: “I wanted to do a visual version of William Burroughs’ fractured style and make reference to a wide variety of things…” He cites the paintings of James Rosenquist, which, Shaw replies, “present a collage of popular imagery, but are unified by his… painting manner.” 

A few words later, Kelley makes the point that Shaw works, in fact, with “stylistic disunity”

And Shaw talks about becoming tired with the restrictions of series and wanting to work with his own feelings of getting bored before it started to get boring: “I would start off with simple distortions and then then become more convoluted and weird; they would end up really fragmented.”

How does your poem flow? Through narrative, association, formality? What exactly is flowing?

Shaw talks elsewhere of thinking up various “excuses to render” because he likes to draw. Are there tropes or techniques you want to fit into your work all the time? Maybe places or times you want to write about? Does your comfort with these things provide a safety net for your other poetic moves?

What unifies your work? Or, are you, like Shaw, drawn to disunity? Can you put the force which wants to disrupt your unity into your work, thereby creating a more inclusive whole?

Author: dzirilli

poet, cartoonist, editor of Now Culture

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