Friday, December 28, 2012

My Favorite Live Nude Poetry Book I Read in 2012



It's Thomas Patrick Levy's Please Don't Leave Me Scarlett Johannson

Give it a purchase and a nice review somewhere. Here's why:


O Scarlett I couldn’t look you in the eyes at the diner because you were wearing your apron like a too-small bath towel and I just knew you had a blue Chevy S-10 in the parking lot and my god you were certainly the sexiest person I’ve ever seen carrying a slice of pie to a booth in the back room and even then I knew that you were not real but I kept wiping these drops of coffee off my chin and kept looking around as if there were someone other than you to look at and finally when I left you came after me moving in a rush that smelled of purple candy and when I turned around you were already in your truck and the radio was already moaning MY HEART IS IN MY SHOES and your small fingers were holding a cigarette out the open window and you left me alone with the spatter of wetness your truck’s exhaust left on the cement and I swear the spatter was in the shape of Tom Waits’s face

And Scarlett never mind the run-down motels I’ll drive all night and you can hang your pretty toes out the window while the shadows swallow around us and the only light for miles is the candle my car holds out before us with one hand covering the flame and god you know how I love to hear you sing even when you’re singing THEY BROKE ALL THE WINDOWS so please sing yourself to sleep and let that cold wind come around you like a hush kept so frail and when you get too cold we’ll park in the shadow of an evergreen and you can rest your body against my car’s warm hood

And Scarlett once I watched a man on youtube photoshop your body in reverse and the dress he made you wear I swear was made of thin orange threads of my sweat and I swear to god I couldn’t open my eyes but each frame touched me like the wet of your tongue which makes shapes that can’t exist around my ear and I swear to god sometimes I sleep and dream you don’t exist and when I wake up in your bed there is a veil draped down like an arc of wedding light burst through the ceiling and on the radio I hear your voice and on the radio I see the way you crawl around and I see your knees bare as yellow fields by the freeways and I see your knees crushed carrot-raw on wet hairs of carpet and still each frame is so dark I have to light a candle when we kiss



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jack Gilbert Dead

I heard about this on a poetry listserv from one his close friends.  It doesn't seem to have hit the mainstream media yet. This is a fairly recent article by John Penner celebrating the collected poems. It's a sad damned day for me.


BERKELEY — In a spacious, humane skilled-nursing home, a man sits with his elderly neighbors arrayed in their wheelchairs as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing. Several guests arrive to see the man, and after the last note of "Cheek to Cheek," one of them takes up a microphone and reads a poem.
The reader, startled by a resident's pained moans of distress, stumbles over a word or two of "Looking at Pittsburgh From Paris." He finishes, and the man brightens in his chair and points at his heart, mouthing to a visitor holding his arm, "Me?"
Yes, Jack Gilbert. That's yours.
The poet is 87 and small in his wheelchair, mostly unable to talk, his brain diminished by disease. He is dying. But as for anyone with Alzheimer's or its variants, the end has not come quickly. It is a long receding. More.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poem Draft


Eggs from Anywhere

The codicil to my third will (the official one) reads:
One, don't give nothing to anybody. Take the money
in cash and throw it under the mud-packed wheels
of your car in the bumfuckingest place you can find.
If you can find a place that was on reality TV, cool.

Two, don't eat the nachos from Chili's or the eggs
from anywhere; they are related in that ingestion
might kill a weak woman or a tweaker man. I wish
the birds would not twitter in my ear when I make
decisions. It's fucked up enough in here. I wish for

you, number three, the magic number, that all the days
of your life you will find roses in the tassels of your horse's
mane billowing out into better metaphor and a landslide
of clean fill that temblors down the back roads
of the choked creeks that yield orange rocks, no fish

but the pretty stones stained with runoff and the greasy
pizza pieces left over by a million students who sit on the banks
stoned thinking that they're feeding the fish; god knows
the fish don't eat that shit either. Back to number four,
I'm afraid. I'm afraid all the time. I sit in my closet floor

and caparison myself to no avail. The world wants my body,
I say, and slam the door. Monopoly and Risk fall on my
head, and the little man in the top hat runs into the other
room to fuck my wife. Is that all? the voices say. It simply
can't be all. But that's the thing itself. This IS ALL you get.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Modern and Contemporary Poetry with Al Filreis

This is what's going to occupy some of my time for the next couple months. Over 30K people are enrolled in this free class. Check it out.

https://class.coursera.org/modernpoetry/class/index

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Poetry Publishing in the Post Publisher World

Thanks to Anny Ballardini, for bringing this to my attention.


Dead-tree publishing has been in a quiet, lumbering crisis for many years now. Publishers are understandably confused over their role in a world that exchanges information freely and is stocked with e-book readers and high-tech print-on-demand services provided by some of the largest book sellers in the world. Writers are beginning to challenge the notion that a traditional publishing house is some beneficent entity that must be courted and deferred to. Even the idea of the publishing house, a disjointed amalgam of money lender, talent scout, editor, manager, publicist, ad company and printer, seems challengeable now in a way that would have seemed inconceivable twenty years ago.

But nowhere is the entrenched hold the traditional publisher deeper and more enduring than the field of poetry. While ersatz fan-fiction tops the best-seller lists for mass-market paperbacks, poetry, even in a crass or bastardized form, is largely absent from the mass market altogether.
It’s an open secret that people don’t buy poetry. Some small exception is made for those poets humorous, famous, or dead enough, but by and large the rule holds true. There is not a large publisher in America for which contemporary, literary poetry is an important commercial concern.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Food for Thought: Women Who Write Poetry and Poetry Criticism (Roundtable)

I am intimidated by poetry criticism because I've spent most of my adult life reading fiction and sometimes writing about fiction. As I age, I've been reading much more poetry and much more poetry criticism, which, given my relative lack of experience with the forms, has left me formulating (what seem to me to be) dumb questions, and trying like mad to find answers that make sense. One of the things I've thought about consistently is the role gender and sex play in my reading and in the litworld at large.

Nearly all of my favorite poets are women (my favorite fiction writers are almost exclusively male), usually somewhat combative as regards sexual and gender roles, and aggressively intellectual (and is that a complex idea?? that the women I reference would pillory me for as merely another example of sexism?? like, why can't women be aggressive in the same way that men seem so comfortable with without being labelled as shrill or dykey or, well, you get the point? at least that answer's easy enough).

This roundtable discussion at the Best American Poetry blog points me in different directions, both by suggesting poets I'm not familiar with and more importantly, tweaking my insecurities as a poet and reader of criticism by pointing out how much I don't know about my chosen field and its ready complications.

Here are links to the participants: Sina QueyrasElisa GabbertShanna ComptonJuliana SpahrVanessa Place and Danielle Pafunda,moderated by Sandra Simonds. I'm going to tag a number of my favorite poets as well to see if they feel motivated to weigh in.

Sandra Simonds: For years, much was made of the male-dominated blog comment fields. I’m thinking particularly of Ron Silliman’s blog. It seems like currently group-run blogs are very popular—HTML Giant, Montevidayo and the Rumpus immediately come to mind. The comment fields still seem to be the “front lines” of poetry engagement. Are they still as male-dominated in these forums as they were during the “Silliman-era”? If so, can you hypothesize as to why? 
Elisa Gabbert: It really depends on the blog, who runs it and the kind of environment they create. I’ve seen plenty of blogs/websites that create a “safe” atmosphere for women, mostly by being quite obviously by, for, and about women – see The Hairpin or Jezebel. Her Kind, the new VIDA blog, seems to be an attempt to create a similar space for women writers specifically.

The problem here, such as there is one, is that comment fields turn into a middle-school dance, with the girls huddled in one corner and the boys on the other. The “boys” don’t want to read and comment on the “girl” blogs because they’re either not interested or know they’re not supposed to be; the “girls” don’t want to comment on the “boy” blogs because the “boys” do their best to scare them away. The comments on HTML Giant, for example, are still dominated by young men, though the regular crew seems less aggressively aggressive than they used to be. Even on my blog (I’m the only author, I’m a professed feminist, and I am very welcoming to women who comment), I probably get two or three comments from men to every comment I get from a woman.
I’m ambivalent about this reluctance of women to speak. On the one hand, I understand that they don’t want to get caught up in online arguments (it’s easy to fall into a hole and let it ruin your day) or risk being attacked, which is a very real risk. (Identify as a feminist online and you will be called stupid, whiny, boring, irrational, a bitch, a cunt, a dyke, a man-hater; you will be accused of being on PMS and needing to get laid; you may even be outright threatened with assault, rape, or murder.) On the other, if nobody speaks, then people remain ignorant. Speaking up to asshole idiots in comment fields is tough work and often pretty thankless, but I’m so grateful when I see someone else doing that work – it sets an example, it reminds us that everyone and everything doesn’t suck. I’m not always up for it, but when I am, I try to be that person who points out the logical fallacies and (conscious or unconscious) bias in dumb sexist arguments, knowing that someone out there will be silently thanking me.
There’s also, of course, the fact that women on average work more hours than men for less pay, so, a lot of them probably just don’t have time for the Internet, or can’t justify spending their Internet time in such a manner.

The entire discussion,in case you didn't get the first link: http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2012/08/women-who-write-poetry-criticism-roundtable.html


Friday, June 1, 2012

MFA Poem--for Mather Schneider

via Ron Silliman and Tom Clark:


I’ve heard people argue that there’s an awful kind of poem
called an MFA poem, and usually these people
who hate MFA poems have never earned an MFA,
so the MFA poets argue vehemently in defense
of their craft and their MFAs, and I, an MFA poet
try to agree and say, I’m on the MFA’s team.
We’re right and they’re wrong. Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.
But the truth is, well,

there is a certain kind of poem I was taught to write
when I was earning what my husband calls my mail-order degree
from a low-res program in the Northeast.  And I guess
I would call this kind of poem an MFA poem,
though the truth is, I never learned to write one very well
(though this is one of them, or is trying to be),
but I do see them everywhere now, these MFA poems,
which I despise, not because the poems are bad
but because I was taught how to write them
by this asshole professor (he was such a creep)
who was abusive to women, mostly,
fucked with their heads if not their bodies,
you know the type.  Back then
the women took whatever he dished out
because he was famous I guess.
I hated that, and how he would write poems
about being an asshole, which he was and is,
and about everything and anything else
because, he would explain, everything is happening at once,
so everything is happening in his poems, and happening so fast,
that the past, present, and future are all there in the poems
though nothing is ever really happening
because the poems are usually in some static place

like an airplane seat, where he is safely buckled in,
or a dream, or a therapist's office or a hospital room . . .
He was so often in hospital rooms
because he had just had an appendectomy
or a case of gout or a kidney stone
or gangrene or hemorrhoids or who knows what else,
hypochondria maybe, and usually there was a TV on
(this is America, after all, and everything
is always happening on TV, he said),
and so the I of the poem is always watching
scenes of violence and destruction from far away
while obsessing about himself
and thinking of what the I really wants
which is usually pretty predictable:
a shower, a cup of Starbucks,
a few martinis, a really good fuck.
Yes, he smirked, a good fuck is always nice,
and it’s nice to fuck or use the word, fuck,
in a poem as often as possible
while on TV people are drowning in the mud
at the Grande Island at Angra dos Reis
or being tortured, bombed, or raped in South Waziristan
or maybe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
or they are being massacred in Conakry, Guinea
or dumped into mass graves in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero . . .
and somehow the poet usually picks which crisis
to write about, depending on the sound of the name
of the place.  The poet likes the name of the city of Sarajevo,
for example, because it sounds like music on his tongue
and reminds him of his first love, Sarah De Angelo.
Yes, Sarah De Angelo.  He says her name aloud
as he wonders whatever happened to the lovely Sarah De Angelo
whose name still feels like an ache in his gut,
whose name still fills him with longing and angst,
even now so many years later, even in this hospital room
with horrible scenes of death and disaster playing over and over again,

he thinks only of Sarah De Angelo, and he remembers
the first time he saw her.  He was eleven years old
and new at Saint Charles School in Toledo, Ohio,
and she was wearing a pink frock, pink socks,
and pink ribbons in her yellow hair.  Yes, frock,
he thinks, now that's a word no one uses much
anymore.  Maybe the poem should include
a few more words like that, like slacks perhaps.
Slacks aren’t nearly as nice as a good frock, of course.
But maybe the poet remembers when the girls
were first allowed to wear slacks to school . . .
and there was that distinction, carefully explained
in the dress code manual, between pants and slacks,
between trousers and slacks,
and as far as he was concerned, slacks
were a big mistake.  No one should ever be allowed
to wear slacks, those polyester twills
that made the girls look shapeless and manly . . .
Even Sarah De Angelo looked like a penguin in black slacks.

And at some point (who knows when, but it was never soon enough)
the poet realizes that his poem is getting a bit too long,
and he also notices that the nurse on night duty is wearing slacks
beneath her white gown, and he can't help thinking
of Sarah in a silk white blouse with ruffles and black slacks,
and how he wouldn’t mind if the nurse would linger
a while longer and maybe ask him how he feels for once,
and pretend she gives a fuck about him,
and he then begins to wonder what it would be like
to release the nurse from those double knits.
Maybe he could do her a favor or two,
make her smile, laugh, sigh . . .
but when she rolls her little tray up to his bedside
and hands him a pink pill and a plastic cup, she just says, Take this,
and he does.  Yes, he takes whatever she gives. 

Nin Andrews: Learning to Write the MFA Poem, from The Secret Life of Mannequins, Kattywompus Press, 2011



Monday, April 30, 2012

Poetry on the Brink? Marjorie Perloff


Dejà vu?
What happens to poetry when everybody is a poet? In a recent lecture that poses this question, Jed Rasula notes:
The colleges and universities that offer graduate degrees in poetry employ about 1,800 faculty members to support the cause. But these are only 177 of the 458 institutions that teach creative writing. Taking those into account, the faculty dedicated to creative writing swells to more than 20,000. All these people must comply with the norms for faculty in those institutions, filing annual reports of their activities, in which the most important component is publication. With that in mind, I don’t need to spell out the truly exorbitant numbers involved. In a positive light, it has sanctioned a surfeit of small presses . . . to say nothing of all the Web-zines.
What makes Rasula’s cautionary tale so sobering is that the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety. The national (or even transnational) demand for a certain kind of prize-winning, “well-crafted” poem—a poem that the New Yorker would see fit to print and that would help its author get one of the “good jobs” advertised by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs—has produced an extraordinary uniformity. Whatever the poet’s ostensible subject—and here identity politics has produced a degree of variation, so that we have Latina poetry, Asian American poetry, queer poetry, the poetry of the disabled, and so on—the poems you will read in American Poetry Review or similar publications will, with rare exceptions, exhibit the following characteristics: 1) irregular lines of free verse, with little or no emphasis on the construction of the line itself or on what the Russian Formalists called “the word as such”; 2) prose syntax with lots of prepositional and parenthetical phrases, laced with graphic imagery or even extravagant metaphor (the sign of “poeticity”); 3) the expression of a profound thought or small epiphany, usually based on a particular memory, designating the lyric speaker as a particularly sensitive person who really feels the pain, whether of our imperialist wars in the Middle East or of late capitalism or of some personal tragedy such as the death of a loved one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NaPo #4

Yeah, I know.



Kissing Tolstoy, a Brave Act

Today the trees rustle like people in hell,
every leaf a broad hair on Tolstoy's chin and lip


You have a third-class ticket to the afterlife
and the legend bends down for the buss.


Tiptoe to reach him and remember all
those lovely words sent to die in the ether

when he goes or when you go. Tell Turgenev
and Dos to back the fuck up. He's your man,

Sonya and your grip on his short hair
is tighter than comfort would normally allow

but this is no ordinary marriage and after the kiss
I look into your eyes and feel myself desiccate.


The wind takes me east and west but never north
I am air and wind and sun and rain all at once

as I disappear into a wave of butterflies.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

NaPo #3

I'm close to catching up, I swear.

John Wieners Advises Against the End


I met John Wieners last night alive as you or me.
On Joy Street the light backfired from windows
screened and shut against the lean wind thrown
up from Cambridge Street and the tea-house
we had dinner in, me & John. I asked him about
the Hotel Wentley poems and he gently brushed
me off. I have new things now, he said, showed me
a blank page with a ripped out newspaper snapshot
of Marilyn Monroe. Can't you see it? he said. It's, well,
it's not much but it's better than dying
. We sat in his
apartment after. You're so cynical, he said, hands flitting
like a slowed-down hummingbird, like something that
won't last another moment. I want some ice cream, he
said. And watch out for your friend there. He motioned
to my silent companion, Death. His poems don't suit you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NaPo #2


Third Wheel Blues


Cockatrices in the bedroom!
I told you that shit had to stop,
no more calling animals in
when your surfaces elude the mind.

Some stars streak across the sky
delivering bootylicious nuggets
of light from years and years ago.
I bet they saw the Stones in Boston.

That night Keith shot up onstage,
and they played Sister Morphine
three times before anyone noticed.
I fell in love with you late on an Aerosmith

tour when Skid Row opened and Sebastian Bach
challenged us all to smoke a little Mother Nature.
Now you've broken the hymen of our time
together with a strong hand and a rubber glove

I feel as if I could unsay all those negatives and
you would jump on my back for another ride,
rolling our trousers and walking through the muck
of the Duck Pond in the Common at three am

when no one but homeless people are out
and you feel free to crack jokes about the Dead Pool.
It's a safe bet I still love you and the way the fine
hairs on your arm still rise when I enter a room

might give me the impression some bone-jumping
is in order but your period came four hours ago
and I am a hot mess pleading for attention in a poem.
Please don't make me beg; I love those bacon dog treat

commercials. They remind me of you and I, the way I beg
and you, well, you know what you do. The sun is rising
like a pillow from a removed head. The new day promises
lots of things but sadly, I've found in this poem that despite

all the things I've said to re-woo you, they're nothing
when compared with the love you no longer have for me.
I'll cart up my laptop now and my silly dreams and fly
into the east. That means I'll follow the sun, yes,

and never forget you or your penchant for tiny dogs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

NaPo #1

Guess what I was doing all day?



Big Mutt Blues

Don't want no Bichon Frise, no beagle howling too.
My good German Shepherd, done flown the coop.
I got no luck but bad luck, the damn Basset peed.
2000 bucks to buy a Pug? What the fuck is wrong with me?

                I want a dog, a big old mutt like you used to see,
                Shed like a mofo on my sofa, chase the kids off my street.

Lost my John the Conqueror root, all the ladies say.
just slide that big-eyed puppy over, they line up for days.
Them hotties wearing Ugg boots, got nothing for me.
'less they get down with this big old clown, they just crowding my scene

                I want a dog, a big old mutt like you used to see,
                Shed like a mofo on my sofa, chase the kids off my street.

At the end of the night now, stumbling home mad drunk,
My woman meets me at the back door, calls me a little punk,
I can't argue with her, that much is true,
But I walked in a slick old grin and an ankle-biting cockapoo

                Now I got a dog, tiny boy like I never seen,
                Shed like a mofo on my sofa, keep the women all off my street.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sawnie Morris Interviews Joan Houlihan at Boston Review


This book, and 'The Ay' look extremely interesting.



Joan Houlihan’s third book, The Us, is a fifty-one page sequence of poems recounting the story of an imagined pre-historical culture. The narrative focuses on one of the culture’s members in particular—in a sense, its first true individual—“ay.” Although the book is mythological in its scope, it is lyric rather than epic in its approach, proceeding not with heroic pomp and encyclopedic comprehensiveness but instead with lyric delicacy and attention to carefully chosen particulars. The Us is not monumental, nor is it meant to be.
The Us begins with a table of contents, an “Argument” (which is in fact a synopsis), and a list of the cast of characters. These three elements serve as guide to a vaguely familiar yet unnamed country and time where the living is primitive and the people’s speech is rendered in an English unlike any known before—a broken, thorny idiom that scrambles the linearity we associate with traditional heroic narratives. It is the hobbled tongue of an anti-hero, and with The Us, Houlihan has given us an anti-epic with a scrappy, rebellious underdog placed front and center.