Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poem Draft

First one in some time. It won't last long, so get it while you can.

*poof*

Monday, December 21, 2009

Limberlost Press

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 just bought my second chap from them, Beneath the Chickenshit Mormon Sun, by Bruce Embree, who I'd not heard of. How can you resist that title, though? Between that and the bright yellow-orange color, I was sold. I'm simple that way.

The man himself is another sad casualty--the suicidal poet. No need to say more of that. There is more to him, of course. The words. His style is plain, with nothing you would consider experimental or even contemporary, except for a curious habit of leaving the "I" out his persona's direct address, as you'll see in this poem. I say curious because that missing "I" seems to occur at random throughout the poems. The book lends itself to a staccato reading, the way you might read a bit of prose, and it's born of the Bukowski school. Except,with talent. But, see for yourself.

Beneath the Chickenshit Mormon Sun

It turned out worse than I thought
The champion defended his title
then Eldridge Cleaver came on
to talk about his reason for becoming a member
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Grandma and I damn near fell out of our chairs
Went to town and got crazy drunk
Came back home, called you long distance
after cruising and drooling Mainstreet again

This is my last wish and love poem
It is as follows
Want to hold the wake at noon with plenty of acid and rum
No friends or relatives
Ghost music by Hendrix and the Byrds
drowning all sound
as you fuck me to dust
beneath the chickenshit Mormon sun.


As always, I want to read more of this man, and there's only one chapbook left to find. And I'm on the hunt for it, knowing I have new books coming for Christmas, notwithstanding the fact that we just bought a house and despite the money I'm sure it will cost, I have to have it.

Sometimes, my vice is painful. But if it wasn't painful sometimes, it wouldn't be a vice.

And remember Limberlost Press. These are some of the most beautiful chapbooks I own, and I'll surely be combing through the catalogs to buy more. Check them out.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brian Trimboli: " THINGS MY SON SHOULD KNOW AFTER I’VE DIED"


THINGS MY SON SHOULD KNOW AFTER I’VE DIED

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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Poetry Criticism With Bill Knott




He doesn't avoid his feelings, which I respect.

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.

fugh

The 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
and a dozen workmen slink improbably

on scaffolds butting the dusty ceiling,
cacophony and plastic tarps, the whirr
of drills that mingles with the dryers’

jittery hums, the scissors’ flash,
veronicas of clicks, the coloring, the curling,
the antique cash register,

melodious with its chime. And best,
the liquid gurgle of hands massaging scalps
the row of sinks, twelve hands and six

wet scalps in a line. I’m next, and leaning back
(let me wash it in this big tin basin,
battered and shiny like the moon)

to the hiss of warm water cataracts
and Andrea’s long fingers. But I’m remembering
the girl in N’s story, the girl

she was at six. This is Birmingham,
1962, Rapunzel-tressed girl
whose parents are more glimpsed than known,

the Family Romance, mid-century American-
style, the child fetching ice
for the father’s drink, the far-off lovely

scent of mother’s perfume. More glimpsed
than known, separate phantom lights
edging from beneath closed doors

those nights she couldn’t sleep. Not the Birmingham
of sit-ins, the firehoses trained on
placard-waving crowds. But the Birmingham

of Saturdays when Anne-Marie would arrive
as always on the city bus by six,
before the parents’ cars would pull away.

Then the cleaning until noon, the cooking smells.
And then the big tin basin filled
at the backyard faucet by Anne-Marie,

the long brown fingers in the child’s hair,
the water sluicing, warm from the garden hose,
the soap suds almost flaring, the fingers

ten spokes over scalp and basin, their paths
through the hair and down the child’s back,
the synesthetic grace notes of the hands,

the stitchery, the trill, the body electric,
the fingertip pressure exquisite as it sings,
the braille of here and here and here.

David Wojahn, “The Shampoo (from ‘The Nightingales’)” from The Falling Hour. 1997.


*
Narrative poems like this one exasperate confuse and (increasingly) infuriate me.

First of all, what's Wojahn doing in this hair salon getting his hair shampooed, why doesn't he just shampoo it at home in the shower like most people? He seems to be a regular customer here, since he knows the hairstylist by name (line 23) . . .

In other words, he's doing something most of us don't do, and in reality

most people can't afford to have their hair shampooed at a salon,

he's doing something unusual but he doesn't acknowlege that fact, nor does he offer any justification for this abnormal practice——he's not a moviestar for chrisakes, so why—whatfor?

The poem is from a 1997 book, so presumably this hairparlor scene occurs in the mid '90s, in retrospect a kind of golden age of prosperity for some if not most in the US, post-Cold War surplus and surfeit, the Clinton years of flush expenditures—

the salon's business is booming, its chairs are filled (lines 18/19),

profits are rife and Professor Wojahn can you blame him wants to look as prosperous and spif as your average tv-anchor,

coiffed to the max—

And this is before he gets wound up. Well worth the read.

I remember, in the only poetry class I had with him, the way he would shake the poem-page in his hand, and (in my case) say something 'I just don't understand these line breaks.' Of all the many things he must have said about my work that semester, that's what I remember. And it's helped me. I don't know if I'm better now, but I have his voice in my head whenever I break a line.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Intarwebz Iz Gud 2day: Lynette Roberts and James Dickey



 
 
Yeah. I read a bit of this post by Johnathon Williams in my morning blog constitutional, and liked what I read of Lynette Roberts. 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.

Lynette Roberts, whose poetry was championed by T. S. Eliot and Robert Graves, might fairly be claimed to be our greatest female war poet, and her work constitutes one of the most imaginative poetic responses to modern war and the home front in the English language. Her first book, Poems, was published in 1944, with a blurb from Eliot, her editor at Faber:


"She has, first, an unusual gift for observation and evocation of scenery and place, whether it is in Wales or her native South America; second, a gift for verse construction, influenced by the Welsh tradition, which is evident in her freer verse as well as in stricter forms; and third, an original idiom and tone of speech. Graves called her “one of the few true poets now writing”; “her best is the best”, he declared, while Eliot praised her poems by that most Eliotic of criteria: that they communicated before they made sense. Dylan Thomas, with his usual waspishness about contemporaries, dismissed her as 'a curious girl, a poet, as they say, in her own right'."


When Roberts died in 1995, aged eighty-six, in a west Wales nursing home, her work had been out of print for nearly half a century, and has gone unregistered in histories of British poetry, even those dedicated to that much-maligned period, “the Forties”. “Oblivion” is too dramatic a word for what happened to her – footnotehood probably captures it better. She features in literary memoirs and correspondence as the wife of Keidrych Rhys, the flamboyant poet and editor of Wales magazine, in the letters of Dylan Thomas (who borrowed Vernon Watkins’s suit to be best man at their wedding), Alun Lewis, Robert Graves and others, and in occasional bibliographies of the period’s poetry. Though always an outsider, she cut a stylish figure on the London artistic scene, and was well connected not just with poets but with artists, photographers and designers. Alun Lewis, with whom she exchanged poems, was captivated, describing her as “a queer girl, [who] wears a red cloak and is unaccountable”. She moved in “New Romantic” and “Apocalypse” circles, encountering poets such as Henry Treece, Kathleen Raine and George Barker, while her husband’s close friendship with Dylan Thomas ensured she saw plenty of literary life’s underside. There are glamorous portraits of her by the photographer Ida Kar, less glamorous ones of her digging her garden in wartime by Douglas Glass (known for his weekly Sunday Times “Portrait Gallery”), and a pencil sketch of her, looking unusually serene, by Wyndham Lewis.

Now that I waggle around Google for a bit, I see there's a fair amount of info out there, though none of her poems. I shall have to fuck copyright over and type a few in here as soon as I can. Such wealth. . .

And then there's James Dickey, all over the place. Just look for him, if you care to. I've read him over and over and over, mostly just a few poems, but 'wild to be wreckage forever' is a line that sustains my perpetual adolescence, or did until I read the often-anthologized Sheep Child, after reading which I laughed until I shat my nice new green knickers and had to sally forth to teach undergraduate CW in my Bugs Bunny skivvies and work boots.

 


I have often longed to read this poem aloud--as a sort of intro to my work, maybe--at one of those ultra-serious no-one-breathes readings, introducing it by saying, in my best stentorian voice, "THIS, is a poem about the consequences (beat) of sheep-fucking.

There's more to Dickey than sexing up our animal friends though, beyond the Sheep Child and Cherrylog Road and that horrible Nimblewill Civil War thing, there's a decent novel and an early-middle period of generally stellar poems. Post-Deliverance, though, or from about 1972 or 73, it seems he became a parody of himself, though a vastly entertaining one, apparently, to judge by his speaking engagements. The exhaustive and fascinating biography The World as a Lie I also recommend highly.

Check out my dream office:


From The Creative Writing Guide

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five New Poems at the Dead Mule




I would have said on the Mule, but I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. These are part of the last couple year's work. Poems.

Still radio silence until we get moved into the new house, where I will have an entire room full of books. My library, finally.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Google and Praying Hands

Hello all of you who are Googling 'praying hands' and finding this site. I can't imagine you're finding what you're looking for.

Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?



Monday, October 26, 2009

Robert Nye. . .



another poet I know little about. I saw this poem first on one of the many iterations of Bill Knott'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 out
(If love needs reasons, which of course I doubt):
We’re outcast in this world, and derelict,
Matches from nothing into nowhere flicked.

That is as depressing as any poem I've ever read, and those last four lines seem to me nearly perfect.When I first read it, I had my fingers in the flick position all day long.

The kids wondered about me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poem Hitting Me at the Moment:: Andrew Hudgins, Praying Drunk



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 Drunk

by 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, Make me something to eat. She yelled,
Poof! You’re a casserole!—and laughed so hard
she fell out of the bed. Take care of her.

Next, confession—the dreary part. At night
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.
They’re like enormous rats on stilts except,
of course, they’re beautiful. But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven’t shot one yet.
I might. When I was twelve, I’d ride my bike
out to the dump and shoot the rats. It’s hard
to kill your rats, our Father. You have to use
a hollow point and hit them solidly.
A leg is not enough. The rat won’t pause.
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad
to kill something that wants to live
more savagely than I do, even if
it’s just a rat. My garden’s vanishing.
Perhaps I’ll merely plant more beans, though that
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.
Who knows?
                I’m sorry for the times I’ve driven
home past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist, it looked like a giant wave
about to break and sweep across the valley,
and in my loneliness and fear I’ve thought,
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair—
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.

Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,
that nature stuff. I’m grateful for good health,
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things
I’m grateful that I’ve never had to do
without. I have confused myself. I’m glad
there’s not a rattrap large enough for deer.
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk
into another’s ass, pull out a lump,
and whip it back and forth impatiently
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.
I could have let it mean most anything,
but I was stunned again at just how little
we ask for in our lives. Don’t look! Don’t look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling
schoolkids away. Line up, they called. Let’s go
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed, and got a dirty look. Dear Lord,
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,
which is—let it be so—a form of praying.

I’m usually asleep by now—the time
for supplication. Requests. As if I’d stayed
up late and called the radio and asked
they play a sentimental song. Embarrassed.
I want a lot of money and a woman.
And, also, I want vanishing cream. You know—
a character like Popeye rubs it on
and disappears. Although you see right through him,
he’s there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,
and smoke that’s clearly visible escapes
from his invisible pipe. It makes me think,
sometimes, of you. What makes me think of me
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air
and then looks down. Below his feet, he sees
eternity, and suddenly his shoes
no longer work on nothingness, and down
he goes. As I fall past, remember me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Silence is Not Golden


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:

Cutter

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 
by the forearm, press the brachial artery and try 
   
to ignore her pleading, I just want to die, then Daddy, 
then Daddy again. When all the bad things happen 
   
in the world, someone told me once, God's heart is the first 
to crack, but no one, no thing breaks our silent lock. 
   
I hold her in my arms; my hand fills with her blood. 
Her pale face a giant tear. Her blood sauna-warm. 
   
I wish I could say something shifted in me too. 
But I just wanted my daughter to be well enough 
   
to someday peek at me over the edge of a book 
and smile. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poets New to Me--Farrah Field



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, the Frostian, "I did something, I learned a lesson” mode comes across as sort of stodgy to all except those who love parables. Instead of an amiable stroll in which we can vaguely see what is ahead of us, Field's poems pack a chapter of details into a handful of incisive lines that sweeps the reader to conclusions one is often not prepared for.

Field has the journalist’s eye and ear for detail and the novelist’s sense of tactile invention. The locations and acquired dialects are primarily (but not entirely) southern:



Snakes hang like fingers in branches,
claw through humidity, then S away.

The flashiest metaphor is the final one, a perfect merging of the visual aspect of the metaphor (the “S” you see on the page) with the imaginative (the snake “S’ing” in the scene). But note also the individual snakes hanging together in the air, making a hand through its climate. The two lines concisely evoke the atmosphere of “In Lecompte Bayou,” exceeding only by a syllable an evocative haiku unto itself. More here.

I couldn't find many poems online, and what I did find didn't really approach what I found in the book: Southernisms, sort of, with wild language and unexpected turns, all of which, or many of which, seem grounded in the same concerns I have here and at my other beast, Fried Chicken and Coffee, though the speakers seem perhaps more settled in their insider-outsider identities than I am. I like the opening of 'Possums and Critters Gets Back There' for the way it immediately assumes a level of familiarity, then riffs on Southernisms.


I am part of them like fire insurance and quick
look to the left--kinfolk stare at me by way of cuticles.

Here's another take, from John Cotter at Open Letters Monthly.

Rising, Farrah Field’s first collection, is set in the Deep South and is canny about the deep-southern landscape that popular culture (and William Faulkner, and CD Wright) has made. Poems with titles like, “Self-Portrait in Toad-Suck, Arkansas,” and “Voodoo,” and “Possums and Critters Gets Back There,” set a gothic mood: mud, rot, sex (“If you fuck someone else, I’ll feel it on you”), and superstition. Whereas the first page of Harmon’s book says “Whither,” the first poem in Field’s uses “wither.” In as many poems the speaker falls into a muddy hole, thinks on the drowning of New Orleans, watches the barn where she used to have sex get torn down, and mixes “bleach to clean up the maggots.” More here.

It's my favorite collection I've read this year, I think.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Goodbye to All Them [Or, News You Can Use] by Daniel Nester



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 punch,” Federico García Lorca writes back to his family in Spain in 1929. I share classes with a Troubled South African Poet of Indian Descent, who ululates and laments the absence of servants in her West Village apartment. She brings in handwritten poems, calls her classmates racists. Finally, one night, Star Teacher #1 tells her this is all inappropriate, calls her into her office. We never see her again. Two years later, another student asks Star Teacher #2 what to do when we get out of grad school: Should we apply for teaching jobs, send poems to journals? Her tone is desperate; she really wants to know. Star Teacher #2 pauses, looks at the ceiling—dreaming of his summer house in Vermont, no doubt.

“Try just being a poet,” he says.

People write this down.

My life as New York Poet ends 12 years later, on March 12, 2005, when I announce my intention to move out of town—upstate to a teaching job, the coveted prize for poets—to 312 people on my personal email list. No one responds to this email. From then, it takes all of six months to lose almost 100 poet friends. “Before the late 1960s,” Norman Podhoretz writes in his book Ex-Friends, “I was much better at making friends of strangers than of making enemies of friends.” Podhoretz’s ex-friends—Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, the Trillings—were part of his Family of New York, fellow travelers in the writing scenes of his time. Some of my ex-friends are now successful, some may become famous. By March 2005, after 12 years in New York, it seemed I was much better at making enemies of friends than friends of enemies.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poem Draft

Jesus god, I am so far behind on every commitment I have I want to cry. But I wrote a draft, and here it is, for a couple days, at least, to beat the bots if possible and keep it virgin.


*poof*

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Carol Peters--Sixty Some


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 don't have to worry about tenure or vita-worthy books (pesky academics anyway), this is one way--a good way, with all the control in your hands--to go.

You can also buy her chapbook from Finishing Line Press: Muddy Prints, Water Shine, under the New Women's Voices Series.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Poems from Thieves Jargon

I like my poems; I guess that's all I can say about them. They're not for everybody.


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.




Don't call me late again, knocking your drunk
head on my door. You're a cracked engine block
sitting in the car like always but useless as tits
on a boar hog at least from the outside.
You burned the eggs when I let you cook
that one time and we ended up eating
bear-claws for breakfast and cold coffee.
You shook so badly you couldn't press
the button on the microwave and your whole life
dribbled out of you in sobs like you'd pissed
down my leg. I can only do so much for you,
prop you up when you're about to hit the floor,
buy you Cokes to wet your chapped tongue,
clean your pretty blue cowboy boots of puke,
curse when you kick them against the divot
in the floor near the entrance of my trailer.
You need the heat turned up high and blankets
crowded between your thighs. I left your bra
and panties on last night; I didn't want you
to think I'd taken anything from you but now
I've pretty much decided: I wouldn't piss on you
if you was on fire. This time it's all on you.
I've had enough. I'm only interested in how you burn.


Dear So and So: a gray lick of water pounds your bare feet.
The ocean's heart opens in front of you, a failed embrace.
Cold salt and hard driftwood slam in the eddy between
two immense boulders and a dinghy shudders in its shallow
mooring. The crack of rock on rock fills the air.

You can't write a fair poem about the ocean without the death
of something. Oceans hear you but take revenge in their own
slow time. You shouldn't be out in this rain and wind but yeah:
there it is. I snapped the picture. The very last one.

Walk into a redneck bar in mid-coast Maine in 2022.
In flip-flops and tight jeans, she'll be numbing her ganglia
with gin or by the memory of you putting up sable curtains
on rods at the apartment with the lobster traps outside;

the way you fucked her raw on the tar roof with no blanket;
she picked gravel from your knee abrasions with a whiskey-
soaked washcloth and your Buck knife's dulled blade; it'd been
years since that knife had been near a stone but she sat nude

at your feet. You felt the tips of her breasts glow. Strewn-haired
and damp with sex, she'll turn to you now, glass-tipped,
fornicatory in her slippery movements and she'll nod in disbelief.
It's 2022. 20 years of salt water spitting right in your damned eye.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reading at Thursday Theatre of Words & Music


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

Contact: thursdaytheatreWM@gmail.com

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.
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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 Breaking it all Down was published in 2007 by Sunnyoutside Press.  After editing fiction for the Beacon Street Review (now Redivider) and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Rusty co-founded Night Train, a literary journal which has been featured in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio.

Lilly Roberts is a Northshore poet and photographer.  She received her MFA from The University of Iowa and she currently teaches English and Creative Writing at the Cambridge School of Weston, where she serves as the faculty sponsor of Vault, CSW's literary magazine. In addition to receiving the Lynda Hull Poetry Prize from Crazy Horse Magazine, Lilly has been published in several literary magazines. She is a regular contributor to the online literary and arts journal Art Throb.

KL Pereira has published poetry and nonfiction in numerous journals. She has served as an editor and writer for LiP Magazine, and Whats Up Magazine/Spare Change News, advocacy publications by and for the homeless and underemployed. She teaches writing classes and workshops focused on promoting the power of women’s words and encouraging women to find their voices at The Women’s Center, Center for New Words, East Boston High School, Casa Myrna Vasquez, Freedom House, and Grub Street.

TTWM mission statement:

Thursday's Theatre of Words & Music is a venue to celebrate the imagination and provide a stage for creative works.  We encourage dialogue about product and process as well as the development of a community of committed artists, be they writers, musicians, visual artists or patrons of the Arts.  With its residence in Salem, a historically fertile place where disciplines such as art, oral tradition, mysticism, philosophy and literature have been nurtured, TTWM aspires to make the Arts a more prominent element of the city of Salem and the North Shore Community at large.

Ed Dorn's # 22 From Twenty-four Love Poems



                                               from Jacket

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? ;-)


#22


The agony is beauty
that you can't have that
and sense too. There is
no sense to beauty. It offends
everyone, the more so
in ratio to the praise of it.
And I've known this for a long
time, there has been no
great necessity to say. How
the world is shit
and I mean all of it


Other people thinking about Dorn:

Joe Safdie, from Jacket, "Ed Dorn and the Politics of Love".

Electronic Poetry Center's Dorn collection 

Critical Obsolescence: Ed Dorn Live

Kyle Waugh, from Jacket again, "You Are Sometimes in the Trance of What Is Beyond You": Upheaval, Incantation and Ed Dorn in the Summer of 1968

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tom Clark Remembers Jim Carroll

 

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, according to one of his versions of the story, had come when a representative of Notre Dame took him out for dinner. Jim told the story with great good humor; the Notre Dame man had ordered a spaghetti dinner. Jim had listened politely to the man's talk of the virtues of a Notre Dame education. And then nodded out into the spaghetti.

More.

Some Poems from Scapegoat Review

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.

Abandonment

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 beside the stone wall,
bob-wire stuck in gray old fence posts

while my brother pumped at a red-haired
girl who threw her head back like a horse
straining at a bit only she could feel,
his white cheeks glistening with sweat.

Farm gone, girl gone, Uncle Walt gone
brother/dad unreachable for reasons known
and unknown; I look back through time
and see myself touching myself,

eight years old, consumed by guilt and fire.




How One Word Connotes a Star

Great White sang something about traveling
across your state line. You'd recently
demilitarized your zone with a razor. The idea
had some appeal. Your sunflashed dad and his short-
barreled shotgun proved us too young. I slipped
my cold hand hipward and he busted out the door
in sweatpants and a camo jacket to say
Nice night kids. Lookit that moon!
Hitched his pants skyward and coughed.
I returned my hand to your safe shoulder.
He went to bed dog-howling nervous;
the bedroom light stayed on all week.
In the night sky your navel supernovaed
to the rhythm of my probing tongue
and flared like cinnamon in my mouth.
We lit out for a galaxy of trembling we
worked all night to reach it while the stars
tittered behind their stone-white hands.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Amy Holman: Pastor Among Suspects in Illegal Snake Bust

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.


Pastor Among Suspects in Illegal Snake Bust


Venomous snakes seized in an undercover sting, AP indulges.
42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, one western
diamondback rattlesnake, one fundamentalist pastor, two cobras,
one puff adder, nine true believers, and three cottonmouth
water moccasins. This reminds me of a telephone call

one evening in which my mother spoke of an ancestor—one
of the Virginia Ironmongers—who taught himself
Spanish by pinning words and phrases onto his sleeves as he
tilled the soil, and then went to Mexico as an interpreter
for Maximillian, until the government fell to mayhem,

and he escaped, but then, wading waist deep in the bayou,
he saw a water moccasin approaching. After escaping
that dull earth for better conversations in a decadent dictatorship,
he was to end in a swamp. He paid attention one last time,
watching the water moccasin swiftly swimming

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Ex-Boyfriend Checks In on Saturday Night by Cell Phone

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 leaves
of an old familiar book whose margins
I’ve creased with my fingers and closed
with the certain knowledge I’d open it soon
and feel my way through the details
by heart. It’s not genteel; it’s what I know.
Baby, I’d eat your words raw.

I don’t like those noises in the hum of your line.
Here I am hawk-eared to my cell,
finger stuck in my off ear waiting
to hear you answer and nothing
picks up but my tension, the hillbilly
band in the background twanging
into their next set. There are twenty women,
open books, I don’t want to talk
with here and eighteen men with cutthroat
late-night hearts and cash to spare.
Me with a dollar or two or my own
cold need worth nothing but gas money,
maybe a pat on the ass. While you’re banging
heels on his ass I can leave with women
I don’t want or go home to drink
another beer in front of the TV.

That choice is easy. Susana’s alone
at the bar skinny-legged in her jeans
and long hair loose. While her cunt
warms beneath me I’ll write a new chapter
in her lovely body but I know me.
In the morning I’ll close the book.
Forget every word. Yeah.
Remind me to leave a message
next time. I’ll say please baby--pick it up.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking a Break Now that the Baby's Asleep

An exercise in Youtubery and Googling.



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Reading Kenneth Patchen



The Orange Bears


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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Poetry: Avant or SOQ

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 says about me, but even the sonnet cycle I wrote under the Berrigan influence doesn't seem avant-garde, nor does any of my other work, so I'd have a difficult time placing myself among the poles. Which brings me to the point: Silliman's comments today on Jason Shinder.

I know Shinder's work--and if asked, would say I liked it--only because of a single poem that I read first in a textbook or something---sorry, can't remember where--before it had been published in Ploughshares, in their Spring 2007 issue. Today, Silliman finds himself affected by Shinder's last poems, written, apparently, as Shinder slowly died of cancer. What Silliman posts from this last book seem skilled but ordinary stripped-down poems of a kind and nature you can see anytime in various journals. Strictly SOQ, as Silliman defines it. But, because Shinder had been Allen Ginsberg's assistant, some avant-garde leeway apparently allows him to be praised, for these perfectly ordinary poems. I've read Shinder's books. They all consist of pretty ordinary-to-good poems. In other words, I'd be grateful to eventually publish the number of books Shinder did, but those books are probably not going to change anyone's poetic life. He's one among thousands, really. Except for that one thing, one poem, that I read long ago. It hit me hard. I repost it here for general edification. The poem didn't change my life exactly, but I'll always remember it.

From Ploughshares, Spring 2007:

Hospital, by Jason Shinder

While the machine sucks the black suds

from my mother’s blood and then sends it back
stinking clean into the pistol-tube nailed down

into her chest, I climb out of my shoes and slip

a cotton swab of water between her teeth,
her dentures sliding off the back porch

of her mouth. Nobody knows, never knows,

how she has to pee, wrapped in a diaper.
But can’t. The yellow eggs she ate one hour ago

already the shit in her bowels. And lonely,

head-hanging-from-the-balcony-of-her-body lonely,
darkest-passage-from-the-hairless-vagina lonely.

But brave. But lonely. Because I did not stay all night.

Because I won’t. Because I’m going to pull out
the one bone that hurts her the most and break the back

of every word I ever said to her. The world is evil, Mother,

and I am, too.

This is a great poem, for me, mostly because of its last four lines. What seems a bit too detailed and precise in the previous lines, a kind of quivery ick, suddenly comes into hard focus. Rescued from its sentiment, though, this poem would be nothing, and those late poems of Shinder's seem bereft even of poetic intent. How does one go from praising those lines Silliman quoted, to these much much better ones? And how do we judge the SOQ-Avant tension when the one side, the bloggiest of the blog-powerful avants, chooses the clearly inferior poems to champion?

More importantly, how does a guy like me find his intellectual way among people like this? I mean, Jesus.

Easy answer: I don't. I keep on reading and writing, and making up my own damned mind, growing better informed along the way.