Monday, January 18, 2010

Emergency Haying by Hayden Carruth

If you ever want to know how to properly end a poem, read this. And then admire his beard.


Emergency Haying

Coming home with the last load I ride standing
on the wagon tongue, behind the tractor
in hot exhaust, lank with sweat,

my arms strung
awkwardly along the hayrack, cruciform.
Almost 500 bales we've put up

this afternoon, Marshall and I.
And of course I think of another who hung
like this on another cross. My hands are torn

by baling twine, not nails, and my side is pierced
by my ulcer, not a lance. The acid in my throat
is only hayseed. Yet exhaustion and the way

my body hangs from twisted shoulders, suspended
on two points of pain in the rising
monoxide, recall that greater suffering.

Well, I change grip and the image
fades. It's been an unlucky summer. Heavy rains
brought on the grass tremendously, a monster crop,

but wet, always wet. Haying was long delayed.
Now is our last chance to bring in
the winter's feed, and Marshall needs help.

We mow, rake, bale, and draw the bales
to the barn, these late, half-green,
improperly cured bales; some weigh 150 pounds

or more, yet must be lugged by the twine
across the field, tossed on the load, and then
at the barn unloaded on the conveyor

and distributed in the loft. I help—
I, the desk-servant, word-worker—
and hold up my end pretty well too; but God,

the close of day, how I fall down then. My hands
are sore, they flinch when I light my pipe.
I think of those who have done slave labor,

less able and less well prepared than I.
Rose Marie in the rye fields of Saxony,
her father in the camps of Moldavia

and the Crimea, all clerks and housekeepers
herded to the gaunt fields of torture. Hands
too bloodied cannot bear

even the touch of air, even
the touch of love. I have a friend
whose grandmother cut cane with a machete

and cut and cut, until one day
she snicked her hand off and took it
and threw it grandly at the sky. Now

in September our New England mountains
under a clear sky for which we're thankful at last
begin to glow, maples, beeches, birches

in their first color. I look
beyond our famous hayfields to our famous hills,
to the notch where the sunset is beginning,

then in the other direction, eastward,
where a full new-risen moon like a pale
medallion hangs in a lavender cloud

beyond the barn. My eyes
sting with sweat and loveliness. And who
is the Christ now, who

if not I? It must be so. My strength
is legion. And I stand up high
on the wagon tongue in my whole bones to say

woe to you, watch out
you sons of bitches who would drive men and women
to the fields where they can only die.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Love Your (Poetry) Moves



Oh no, the gargoyle sez, not dis too?

Elisa Gabbert brought this to my attention first, with a list of tricks (many/some/all) poets use in writing their masterpieces. At first I thought it was funny, then I looked in my poems folder. Urgh. Most of these quoted gaffes are actually pretty usable, I think, if you know what you're doing, which is after all how it's done: if you can get away with it, it works. Full list at HTMLGiant. Be sure to check it out, but in case you don't, here's a few to strop your razor with. Mike Young is writing--

Well, I thought that sounded like a terrific idea. So here it is, our stab at cataloging 41 popular moves in “contemporary poetry,” an exercise that’s fraught with peril, what with the competing definitions, camps, roles, and processes of “contemporary poetry,” the nebulousness of calling something a “move,” the inevitable non-definitiveness of such a list, and so on, but hey: dancing is fraught with peril too, and no one’s managed to stop me from doing that. So here we go. 41 moves. With mildly related pictures! In no particular order! Please argue and add in the comments. Many thanks to Elisa Gabbert for the bulk of the work on this list.

1) Exposed revision
Example: Alice Fulton’s “About Face“:
At least embarrassment is not an imitation.
It’s intimacy for beginners,
the orgasm no one cares to fake.
I almost admire it. I almost wrote despise.
1b) Variation: Revision by way of “I mean”
Example: “Confession” by Suzanne Wise:
I can only imagine
how hard it must be for you
to believe me. I mean, to hold
blame. I mean, to be you.
2) Starting a line with the final clause from a previous line’s sentence and finishing it with a single short and often fragmentary sentence.
Example: Jack Gilbert’s “Searching for Pittsburgh”:
The rusting mills sprawled gigantically
along three rivers. The authority of them.
3) Abstract epistolary: Using “Dear [abstraction or common object]” in the title or first line.
Examples: Countless. Dear Body: by Dan Machlin, “Dear Final Journey,” by Lynn Emanuel, which begins, “Dear Noose, Dear Necktie, Dear Cravat”

4) The “blank of blank” construction

Examples: From “Marriage Proposal” by Sarah Messer: “I want to be trapped by the cage of your ribs”
From “Synchronized Swimming” by Angela Sorby: “How did decay work its way into the theater of water”
From “I want you to see me” by Kate Greenstreet: “Red and blue and the white of my transparency”

5) Use of “etc.”

Examples:
From “Mezzotint for A” by Ben Lerner: “My better half had left me so I wrote her hemi- / stiches in the half-light of my halfway house, etc.” Jessica Fjeld’s On Animate Life: Its Profligacy, Organ Meats, Etc.

Fun stuff. Watch this space later on next week. I have some muddling-about ideas on Hayden Carruth that I'm going to put up here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Call for Submissions:A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry

I'm so motivated by this I might even write something new.

From Stacy Lynn Brown:

The editors, Stacey Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz, are pleased to announce a call for submissions for A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry.

We are seeking poems that work within the literary tradition of persona poetry: poems written as dramatic monologues, whose speakers employ masks, or whose character and voice are different from the poet's own.

Please submit up to 5 unpublished poems. We will also consider poems whose rights have reverted back to the author.

All submissions will be accepted electronically. Please send an email to the editors at facesanthology@gmail.com with the poet's name and "Submission for Persona Anthology" as the subject line, with the poems as an attachment.

The submission deadline has been extended to February 15th. We look forward to reading your work!

Reading Basil Bunting and Karl Shapiro today. Bunting surprises me in good ways, Shapiro, not so much.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reasons to Fuck Poetry


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My my my. I found this in Absent recently, through someone's linkage, sorry I can't recall whose. Well worth a read if you've ever tried to ride ol' Poetry into the sunset. If ever you wanted to have hot hairy sex with a satyr, this piece is as close as you'll probably get. Hooraw.


1) Poetry invited you in earnest. Poetry sent you reams of sonnets, ballads, epics, soliloquies, each lingering on every word, drawing you out of yourself and in to another one, pulling you in, tempting you to hover over every syllable, first concealing and then revealing the whole of its nakedness from angry epiphany to epiphany. Poetry is very fuckable, and poetry wants badly to be fucked.



2) Poetry is tired of being confined by the society of those who are paid to do poetry. English professors, high-school English teachers, poetry librarians, and poets at writing workshops all do their best to define a canon of poetry. As paid lovers of poetry, they set a few of their close friends alongside the Bard, Goethe, and two or three multinational poets who are there to prove that they’ve done some homework. They publish in journals, and talk to middle-class, white students in the nation’s elite universities. These individuals, these self-made doyennes, who get paid to make love to poetry, nonetheless defy in their very institutional rigor the kind of open, unlaced escape that poetry has been trying to execute since at least Mallarm√©. If they really loved poetry, they would be helping her do what she really wants to do, which is to remake society. Instead, they grow old and fat, drinking and smoking with a few of their contemporaries, rarely traveling, and never introducing her to new people. Poetry secretly hates them.