I have this bad habit, you see. I don't read books inasmuch as I read authors. Once I get my hooks into something good, I want it all. Which leads one to unfortunate (but lucky) circumstances like owning everything Peter Matthiessen ever put to paper, an ouevre which will give me lasting pleasure into my dotage, or owning all the volumes in the Poems of the Millenium series. I despair even of completing all the books in my library, let alone the 5 or 6 or 20 new ones I pick up every month. I tell myself I have no other public vices, and I purchase at will.
So, recently, in my desire to buy all the Ed Dorn I could get into my system, I picked up his last book, Chemo Sabe--from Limberlost Press--a beautiful oversize chapbook of poems written as Dorn was dying of cancer. Light holiday reading in other words. The papers on this book are exquisite, the type is large enough to read comfortably--not always the case--and it's generally a fine product before you even get to the words.
I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rivals.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn’t
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings.
I always wished there were people like him in my crit groups--people who just fucking said what they thought regardless of feelings. That's much easier to deal with, I think, than people who read and try to quietly kiss your ass with gentle words when they really hate your work. That's what criticism is for, pointing out the weaknesses. I admit I'm too nice most of the time, though somewhat less so these days, since I'm no longer teacher material--at least in a university. I think everybody is too nice.
Anyway--on to the criticism.
fughThe Shampoo (From The Nightingales) by David Wojahn
How long it must have been, the girl’s hair, cascading down her shoulders almost to her waist, light brown and heavy as brocade: the story I’m
remembering of N’s, remembering as my own hair’s washed and cut, the salt-and-pepper cuneiform to frill my barber’s smock.
Arts and Science is expanding. The wall to the empty shop next door pulled down an…
Yeah. I read a bit of this post by Johnathon Williams in my morning blog constitutional, and liked what I read of LynetteRoberts. I like discovering poets few think of any more (Keith Douglas anyone? Thanks to Ben Mazer for making me aware) or in some cases ever, so this is a great find for me, and I ordered her work.
another poet I know little about. I saw this poem first on one of the many iterations of BillKnott's blog. I don't think it's available anywhere on the 'nets, but I hope people read it here and go look up Nye's work, which, what little I've found of it, is remarkable. This poem appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, May 26th, 2006.
MATCHES (by Robert Nye)
Some matchsticks in a patch of melting tar
Held my attention for at least an hour
One afternoon when I was rising four.
Crouched in the shadow of some willow trees
I stared at them and saw the way love sees,
And all was close and clear and singular.
Three matchsticks in a black hot patch of tar,
One spent, one bent, one still a fusilier
Standing up proud and perpendicular
With fire in his head, my cavalier.
Well, I knelt by them on my naked knees,
Transfixed as always by simplicities.
I loved those lordlings of the molten square,
My puny masters stuck in hot black tar,
Though only now I’ve worked the reason…
If I didn't have an MFA already in fiction, and if I wasn't thisclose to paying off my loans from those first two times around, I would hunt down Andrew Hudgins and make him (by which I mean ask him politely to) be my teacher. What I like most about this piece is how it switches registers on us gleefully and without apology, from the exquisite bathos in the first two lines, the whole first stanza actually, which dials down to the very earnest final four lines. I would like to write a poem that is funny. Any kind of humor would do, honestly, but I aspire to this kind of poem. Someday. Praying Drunkby Andrew Hudgins Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk. Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks. I ought to start with praise, but praise comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you about the woman whom I taught, in bed, this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes. Do you? And after love, when I was hungry, I said, …
I am caught between the snake and the prey right now. Let's hope no swallowing is involved.
Here's a poem which circumstances demanded, though not in the way the poem implies. I just found out that Down Dirty Word nominated it for one of the best of the web anthologies. I appreciate that gesture, Katie and Jim. It wears its spleen on its sleeve, ergo, won't get in. But anyway, here it is:
Between the witching hour and its successor,
I caught her with my utility knife in the open closet,
drawing a dark rill of blood from her forearm;
I watched unsure of what to say or do, frozen,
more or less, in the mountain of air separating us.
Wise words slipped from my mouth like indigo birds
into the caries-colored early evening, supported by
nothing I could draw on from reality. In the end,
this poem will rise and fall on the relative success
of what I should have said, known, thought, or taught.
Before. Instead things fall apart as I grasp her
I'm really enjoying Rising, by Farrah Field. I found notice of the book somewhere on the 'net, but Google has not been forthcoming as to where, so I'm going to link to some other things I found. First, a review by Dan Magers that nearly sums up how I feel about the book:
With the rise of the literary memoir in major publishing houses, it is worth remembering that through the second half of the 20th century until very recently, the memoir was the province of verse. Farrah Field’s Rising has a pervasive energy to get down an account, avoiding the narrative-suspicious modes of Language Poetry and other narrative-resistant forms, while at the same time, digesting the devices of these schools to create poems that lean dynamically against each other. Narrative in contemporary poetry, generally, has to be able to dance more quickly through points of view, voice, and time, as well as through description and reflection. Since the memoir has taken over the first-person singular, th…
If you have a coterie of people with whom you exchange poems and publish each other and do readings and socialize with (and who doesn't?), this essay may make you dump them or move to Fassett, Pennyslvania (it's funny that in that link they say Fassett is located in the Sayre metro area; Sayre has no, uh, 'metro' area, and Fassett is some distance away, another town that no one gives enough of a fuck about to describe accurately, in other words).
Read. You'll feel the uncomfortable frisson of recognition.
I’d like to say I left New York and never looked back, that there was some cloud-parting moment of clarity when I knew I had to stop being a New Yorker, stopped claiming the appellation of New York Poet, and never looked back. But I can’t.
My life as a New York Poet begins at age 26, in seminar rooms near Washington Square, reciting first drafts with sober incantation. Star Teacher #1 orders us to read Poet in New York. I do. “New York has given me the knock-out p…
Carol's book Sixty Some has just been published, each poem a 45 second/up to two minute peaceful meditational space on the page. I've known of Carol's work for years, and though we've never met, I always look for her name in the poetry publishing world; I know it'll be quality. This book is different than many others, in that she's quietly released it with no monetary expectations--it is poetry, after all :-)-- in free PDF and soon-to-be MP3 format. There are dollar-attached versions available for many e-book platforms as well. I encourage everyone--all of you out there--to check out her blog and her publishing site and to buy an electronic copy to support her. There's really no reason this idea shouldn't spread. As for the inevitable stigma attached to self-publishing, I'd simply note that Carol's work has publicly signified for years, and questions of quality and professionalism have already been answered. If you know the work is good, and you…
Car-tire against gravel, rough smell of beer and roasted corn, heat-lightning like a sine wave loops across a pit of gray sky between pole-light and the quiet barn; the low of cows, moonshine slips in like a tongue through the treeless hedge fence; the empty faces of women glow, a child in shirtsleeves gums an apple while the mutt runs a rough circle around the feet of your friends, pissing every time someone raises a hand. Your wife says fuck it. Goes to bed. Shuts the door. Says go ahead and drink. Be with your friends.
Wrong words get said. Your head breaks like a fist against a stone wall, knuckles feeding fire. Somewhere the swollen lips of angels call you home, but before you go smash-mouthed in to the house to watch your kids breathe, stagger into your marital bed, you tongue-kiss a seventeen-year-old, realize the sweetness in her mouth is your own blood.
I'll be reading prose here, and possibly a few poems. Hope you can make it.
What: Thursday Theatre of Words & Music
When: September 24rd @ 7pm
Where: Cornerstone Books @ 45 Lafayette St. in Salem, MA @ http://www.cornerstonebooks-salem.com/
Who: Rusty Barnes, Lilly Roberts, and KL Pereira
Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music features three to four established and emerging writers and artists to read/display/perform their work for the public at Cornerstone Books in Salem, MA on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7pm. An open mic will be held following featured writers/artists--artists are chosen by first-come-first-serve. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
September artists include:
Rusty Barnes has published fiction, poetry and non-fiction in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction. Rusty’s book of flash fiction Break…
The strengthy message here in #22 of 24 Love Songs can be summed up in two lines: ['There is/no sense to beauty. . .' and '. . .How/ the world is shit/ and I mean all of it] What I also like about this brief poem is the interplay between the title of the book and the subject of the poems (love/anti-love (which is not hate)): it's all a mass of contradictions, like love. And I have to say that the shorter poems of the Love Songs and the last book he wrote before dying (Chemo Sábe) seem to me much better and more memorable than the Slinger/Gunslinger poems. These (generally) later poems probably attempt less stylistically, but are more sure-handed, hacked from a soap bar, maybe. Easy to use, but disappear after use. In any case, Dorn is well worth the reading and re-reading, for me, though he'll never become one of my favorites. And doesn't every poet want that, dead or alive? ;-)
from catholicboy.com I'm not really a fan of Carroll--I admit, though, I haven't read anything beyond the Basketball Diaries--but these remembrances by the former editor of the Paris Review make me want to check him out more fully. A poet departs, too soon, and there is a void that will not be filled. From somewhere deep and old the tears well up in the dark night.
When I met Jim in 1967 he was seventeen. He had been leading a triple life: high school All-American basketball star, heroin addict/street hustler, poet.
On scholarship at the elite Ivy league prep academy Trinity School (alums include Humphrey Bogart, Truman Capote, Ivana Trump, Yo Yo Ma, John McEnroe, Aram Saroyan), he had shown unusual abilities on the court. He had played against the city's best (including Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had starred at Tower Memorial, a school in Jim's own Inwood Park neighborhood). His skills had drawn the attention of college scouts. The turning point, acco…
Here are a couple poems I published this past winter. I hope you like them, and furthermore, I hope you'll go and check out the other writers in the Scapegoat Review.
About the poems, yeah. Uh. I am nostalgic for the entropy of some aspects of my childhood.Somewhere along the way, as many of us do, I settled like silt in a pond, and these poems help me blow shit up again as I remember and redact and fake the words into remembrances/poems both real and imagined. The persona in these poems is a complex motherfucker, or thinks of himself that way. It's a good thing he's got a low-IQ translator like me.
I watched Uncle Walt pull a fake tittie
out of his inner flannel shirt,
present it to my father like a gift
he ought to bow and scrape for.
Dad laughed and pulled at his beer,
I went off to watch the older kids
fucking behind the old milk house
on the hay left over from years
and years of farming but the farm
had been abandoned—plows still set
in the high grass besid…
Amy Holman is a writer I don't know at all personally except in the way you tangentially know people who are into the same things you are via emails and such. I published her story Saving a Sister in Night Train some years back, and somehow I forgot or never knew she was a poet as well. Following links today gave me a journal called the November 3rd Club, where I found her poem, a great one. I wish I'd published it. So read some Amy Holman; you won't regret it. The long lines don't wrap correctly here, so you'll need to go to the November 3rd Club site to see the whole.
I'm looking forward to reading Linda Annas Ferguson's Dirt Sandwich from Press 53 this weekend. And digging into Kenneth Rexroth's mammoth collected at some point. I have to write some poems and get contracts out for the new NT issue due 9/15, too. I just got a bunch of chaps from Faux Press I forgot about till just now, so it should be a good weekend. If I can just get some alone time.
Here's one of mine, which many people in the world will reenact come Friday or Saturday night. :-) It was originally published by Mikael Covey in the journal Lit Up.
The Ex-Boyfriend Checks In on Saturday Night by Cell Phone
Remind me never to call you again after you get home late, for the familiar fear of the deadbolt noise, the shifty creak of your linoleum floor, the way you throw your jacket over the sofa and slide from your shoes like a tap dancer long and slow, the way you rattle the bowl
with beer-piss knowing that I’ll crawl between your ankles anyway, part your legs and lips like the leave…
The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I'd left home they'd had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs
Seared by hot slag, their soft trusting
Bellies kicked in, their tongues ripped
Out, and I went down through the woods
To the smelly crick with Whitman
In the Haldeman-Julius edition,
And I just sat there worrying my thumbnail
Into the cover---What did he know about
Orange bears with their coats all stunk up with soft coal
And the National Guard coming over
From Wheeling to stand in front of the millgates
With drawn bayonets jeering at the strikers?
I remember you would put daisies
On the windowsill at night and in
The morning they'd be so covered with soot
You couldn't tell what they were anymore.
A hell of a fat chance my orange bears had!
I don't know if I've ever read a more earnest poem by someone so well-known. That last line, urgh.
I follow Ron Silliman's blog, which is hardly news. Many people do. I like getting the poetry skinny from someone who poetry diametrically opposes my own work.Very often, his comment stream fills with relatively polite invective discussing the SOQ stranglehold on the poetry scene, or advocating for what seem to me to be various coteries of oddballs and nearly non-poets. I like that. I'd do the same thing, if I had a coterie, and I like many of the avant-garde poets I first discovered through his blog.
The thing is, despite some discussion, there seems to be no room in his scheme for a third way, for poets like me who are influenced equally by the School of Quietude and the avant-garde. Are there poets who admit to funneling their influences straight through the middle? If I had to name my influences right now, I'd name Galway Kinnell and James Wright and Kim Addonizio on one side, and Paul Blackburn,Ted Berrigan, and Allen Ginsberg on the other. I don't know what that …